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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- May 24, 2015

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – I was thinking this Memorial Day weekend about famous people who have served this country in wartime, some of whom were killed in action. You’d be hard pressed to see famous athletes, musicians and actors serving their country in battle these days, but decades ago they had no hesitation. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“American Patrol” – Big Band leader Glenn Miller was one of the most famous Americans to die during World War II. He persisted in enlisting in the Army, after being rejected by the Navy. Miller was - by the early 1940s - a world-class musician, but thought his band-leading skills in the military would be inspiring to the troops. He rose to the rank of Major before his plane disappeared over the English Channel in December, 1944. Miller didn’t have to serve, but his patriotism demanded it. “American Patrol” was among his best known compositions.

"'Say Hey’ Service" – Willie Mays is arguably the greatest athlete ever to play the game of baseball. He was an All Star in 24 seasons, and with 660 career home runs, he ranks fifth on the all-time home run list. But how many more could he have hit, and might he be ranked number one? We’ll never know. In 1952, after his Rookie-of-the-Year season, Mays was drafted to serve in the Korean War. He missed most of that season and all of 1953. Aside from ranking 5th in home runs, he’s 11th among the all-time hit leaders. He came back from war for a stellar career, but one wonders where his stats would be had he not missed those two seasons. The always-classy Mays has never complained a peep!

“A ‘Pyle’ of Honors” – It is a rare occurrence when a reporter is honored and revered for his or her wartime coverage. Sometimes journalists must report truth that an honored military and the nation do not want to hear. That said, good reporting during war or any other time is a critical and sometimes painful attribute of a thriving democracy. Ernie Pyle was a World War I veteran who served as a civilian war correspondent in World War II. He was killed by enemy sniper fire in Japan in 1945, just four months before the war ended. Pyle was revered for his brutal, unvarnished war coverage, which won him the Pulitzer Prize, as well as the longstanding respect of his nation and his professional colleagues.

“General ‘Wonderful Life’” – I confess, Jimmy Stewart is my favorite American actor. While “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Philadelphia Story” and “Harvey” get all the headlines, my favorite of his movies will always be “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” Stewart was an accomplished private pilot years before World War II began. He was twice rejected for enlistment because of his age (mid 30s) and his low weight (140s). In any case, he was finally allowed in, but was used as an instructor pilot stateside, in part because of his Hollywood fame. He resented that, too, and argued for combat missions. He eventually flew dozens of them, including the bombing of Berlin. Following the war, Stewart remained in the Reserves, retiring with the rank of Major General. Now that’s an American patriot and hero!

“Modern Day Hero” – I believe Patrick Tillman is an authentic American hero. Tillman was a college football star, then a three-year NFL player with the Arizona Cardinals. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Tillman gave up a million-dollar pro football career to help his nation fight terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004 Tillman was killed – at first report, by enemy fire, but later confirmed to be by friendly fire. The Pentagon’s mishandling and lies about Tillman's death and the subsequent press coverage of it became a national embarrassment. Some felt it tainted Tillman’s legacy, which was wrong, wrong, wrong! He died defending his country and certainly had nothing to do with the gross distortion of the truth. The name "Pat Tillman" is synonymous with "Hero." End of story!

“The Kennedy Honors” – There are those who love the Kennedys and those who despise them. But, when called upon, they stepped up and served. Joseph Kennedy, Jr., was only 29 years old, but was already planning a political career laid out by his father. As the eldest child of Joseph Kennedy, Sr., he was eyeing a Congressional race to pave the way for an eventual White House run. Joe Kennedy, Jr., died when his Navy plane crashed in the English Channel in 1944. His brother John was nearly killed a year earlier in the Pacific Theatre, when his Navy PT-109 was cut in half during combat with the Japanese. John was elected President in 1960.

“Not Bush League” – Certainly the Republican equivalent of the Kennedys of that era is the Bush family. Prescott Bush became a Republican Senator from Connecticut. His son George H.W. Bush was a Navy pilot in World War II, who was shot down and left for dead in the Sea of Japan. The fact that John F. Kennedy and George H.W. Bush each narrowly escaped death in the Pacific and that each persevered to become President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States just amazes me.

“Hands on Approach” – Despite being a U.S. House member in 1941, Rep. Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) enlisted in the Navy and served in the South Pacific through 1942. Yes, he was a special envoy for President Roosevelt, but he was in combat situations assessing the war effort. Johnson could have passed, but didn’t.

“Why All of This Matters?” – Well, it matters; then again it doesn’t. My first point is that, in more idealistic generations, famous people didn’t hesitate to serve; and many did so honorably, even losing their lives. But, they garnered special attention just by virtue of their fame or stature. In truth, most military veterans – including those who die – are just ordinary people, doing extraordinary things. I dedicate this week’s column to Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua "Chachi" Corral, from my former hometown of Danville, California. I knew him from Little League baseball, where his dad and I were both coaches. He was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2011. No, his last name is not Kennedy, nor Bush, nor Stewart, nor Mays. But his service and his sacrifice were equal, if not greater, and must never be forgotten. God bless his family and those of other fallen heroes this weekend.

Do you know someone who died serving this great country? Post their names and your thoughts by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: www.diablovalleyflagbrigade.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- May 17, 2015

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – Over the past several weeks, we’ve been handicapping the Presidential candidates as they officially jumped into the race. Then we got sidetracked with some other news, so let’s jump back into the chase for the White House on the Republican side. We’ll “brunch” on that this week:

“Huckabee Plus” – Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) is in. He has assets, including being a man of few means from Hope, Arkansas, rising to a successful run in the Governor’s mansion for twelve years, and even playing in a rock n’ roll band. Sound familiar? Yes, he has similar chops to former President Clinton; and history could repeat itself, albeit from the other end of the political spectrum. Huckabee is nationally known, and he now lives in Florida - a must-win state for the GOP. He also campaigns on a simple “flat tax” agenda, under which everyone would pay the same rate. It’s a bumper sticker issue - easy to remember!

“Huckabee Minus” – He’s going to face tough questions about having okayed the early release of a prison inmate, who went on to kill four police officers in Washington State. Yes, this is the Republican version of the Willie Horton issue; and in politics the opposition has a long memory. Expect Democrats and even his fellow Republicans to grill him on this. Huckabee is also a conservative Baptist minister. That is sure to get him many conservative Republican votes, but it's perhaps off-putting to GOP moderates and certainly to many Independents. He will need lots of middle-of-the-road votes to win the White House.

“Fiorina Plus” – Like Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina was raised in a middle-to-upper-middle-class family, with politically active parents who wanted their daughters well educated. Clinton went to Wellesley and Yale; Fiorina, to Stanford and MIT. While on opposite sides politically, they are two women who have risen to the top of male-dominated professions: Clinton in politics, Fiorina in business. Each is truly a pioneer. Fiorina was the first woman to lead a Top-20 American company. In a year when the female vote will prove most critical, she has the chops to go toe-to-toe with former Secretary of State Clinton.

“Fiorina Minus” – Much like Mitt Romney, Fiorina is going to be attacked for her success. Yes, Hewlett-Packard laid off thousands after its merger with Compaq; and Fiorina was eventually ousted as the tech-sector bottomed out. Romney, too, faced criticism for downsizing and outsourcing jobs overseas. Despite this, both of their ventures became extremely profitable and later involved creating thousands of new jobs. It’s the ebb and flow of economic cycles. But Fiorina is more likely to be judged harshly for perceived failures than to be lauded for perceived successes. Is it fair? Is it, in part, sexist? Stayed tuned, as the jury is still out! Mrs. Clinton faces similar hurdles on some of her history, too.

“Carson Pluses” -- Doctor Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, is the darling of the political right. A black conservative, a self-made man, and one with a firebrand stump speech, he is a real crowd pleaser. Also, he’s part of a small, but growing, force in America’s minority communities which is questioning the racial politics of the past fifty years. Even if Carson is not the nominee, can he pull significant votes to the GOP that used to be loyally in the Democratic camp? Again, he could be a factor.

“What’s Their Role?” – From my perspective, each of these three is, at best, a long shot; but each could have an impact in the race. Huckabee could be the link to religious conservatives, no matter who becomes the nominee. In 2008 and 2012, John McCain and Mitt Romney failed to get that key GOP constituency to the polls, and their party lost. Perhaps Huckabee can get the faithful to the polls and help his party win. Fiorina could be a spoiler. As a Vice Presidential running mate, or as Treasury Secretary designee, she could pull significant female votes from Hillary Clinton. As mentioned, Ben Carson could attract new minority votes to the GOP. Keep an eye on all of them!

“Who Else Is In?” – In previous weeks, we have looked at Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio on the GOP side. Now there are six declared Republican candidates. More could be on the way, including former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL); former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX); Governor Scott Walker (R-WI); and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA). On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is in; so, too, is Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Other likely entrants include former Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI); former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD); and Vice President Joe Biden, of Delaware. The Republicans are definitely in for a free-for-all; but the Democrats could be, too.

“The Dynamics” – It’s very rare for either party to retain the White House after a two-term Presidency, although there have been a few exceptions. Still, the prospect of the nation’s first female President or Vice President could change all of that. My prediction is that if Hillary Clinton is indeed the Democratic nominee, Republicans will field a female VP candidate to try to split the female vote. Republicans need to do better among women, but they don’t need to win the female vote outright in order to win the White House.

Who is your choice for nominee for President in both parties? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: WhiteHouse.gov

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