March 2, 2009 [LINK / comment]
The grandfather of modern news-talk radio has signed off the airwaves for the final time. The legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey passed away at the age of 90, ending a career in broadcasting that goes back over a half century. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1918, and during his high school years he hung around KVOO radio station, launching his spectacular career through sheer gumption. His reputation slowly grew during the 1960s as he made Chicago his home, and his influence gradually spread from the Midwest across the country. His career was capped in 2005 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. See ABC Radio Networks.
And now ... the rest of the story: I vividly remember Paul Harvey's daily TV news briefs when I was growing up in South Dakota. Harvey's flat Midwestern accent, with just a hint of a drawl, was familiar and comfortable to the people I grew up with, and his Main Street sensibility resonated deeply. He was critical of President Richard Nixon's adversaries during the Watergate scandal, but he finally realized that Nixon was a blemish on the nation's honor and had to go. Harvey's afternoon radio bit -- "The Rest of the Story" -- was always full of fascinating and thought-provoking historical vignettes that ended with a good moral of the story -- sometimes conservative, sometimes just plain virtuous.
Relentless optimism and devotion to informing the public were what characterized Harvey's radio and TV career. He has been warmly praised by contemporary radio pundits such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, but they just never learned the deeply sincere quality of personal grace that Harvey exuded. You might disagree with Paul Harvey, and you might think his faith in American Main Street values was deluded or outmoded, but hardly anyone actually disliked him. Many millions of Americans will remember him very fondly for several decades to come.
The comment by Rahm Emanuel that Rush Limbaugh has become the de facto leader of the Republican Party has provoked a tiff between El Rushbo and the actual GOP leader. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said that Limbaugh is an "entertainer" who often makes ugly remarks, a mild criticism that sounds about right to me. I think Rush still has an important role to play in advancing the conservative cause, but because the Conservative Movement of late is so intolerant of any deviation from right-wing orthodoxy, Steele's words rubbed many Republicans the wrong way. See politico.com.
Too bad. I hope this doesn't mean that Steele's days at RNC are numbered. He is exactly the kind of forward-looking -- i.e., not dogmatic -- conservative leader that the GOP needs so desperately.
In the context of the Obama administration's plans to "transform" our nation, the news that the Dow Jones dropped another 300 points today -- to less than 7,000, for the first time since 1997 -- casts a pall over the future of capitalism -- or does it? Don't forget that some observers may be deliberately talking the market down in hopes of cashing in on some bargains. On the other hand, the risk to investors posed by President Obama's proposed large-scale redistribution of wealth may drive the market down much further.
President Obama has named two more replacement cabinet nominees, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services (instead of Tom Daschle), and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke as Secretary of Commerce (instead of Bill Richardson and then Judd Gregg). Sebelius is well regarded as competent, but her association with pro-choice leaders has angered anti-abortion groups. She will have less authority over health care
nationalization reform than Daschle would have had, as someone else will serve as head of the White House Office of Health Reform. See the Washington Post.
Accordingly, I have updated the tables of basic information on the Cabinet, Congress, and the Virginia government, all of which appear in the right column of the Politics blog page.