Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman

I am deeply saddened to hear of Paul Newman's death. He was an extraordinary actor, race car enthusiast, humanitarian and philanthropist.

He had an apartment near our home on New York's Upper East Side. I would see him in the magazine shop, walking the streets of Carnegie Hill--with no entourage--and in local restaurants. On a couple of occasions I said hello to him and he warmly responded. I last saw him about a year ago at the local Italian restaurant. He was having dinner with his wife, the brilliant actress Joanne Woodward. I was with my daughter and I pointed him out to her. As she looked over to him, he acknowledged us with a nod and smile. "Zoe," I said, "he is one of the greatest actors of my lifetime."

Paul Newman made a positive difference for many children suffering from cancer. As magnetic a presence as he was on the screen, his life was a powerful example of "giving back" that everyone should emulate. God bless you Paul Newman.

Game Saver

Senator John McCain edged out Obama in tonight's debate. Neither candidate landed a fatal punch and neither candidate made a major gaffe. But with the McCain campaign struggling over the nation's financial crisis and growing doubts about Governor Sarah Palin, McCain's supporters no doubt were pleased with his performance tonight.

Senator McCain was on the offensive most of the night while Senator Obama appeared at times to be stressed and back on his heals. Remarkably, Obama failed to repeatedly tie McCain to the unpopular economic policies of President George Bush.

Neither candidate was willing to clearly state their position on Secretary Hank Paulsen’s controversial bail out proposal, though both agreed on the need for oversight and limits on executive pay. Obama did not bring up McCain’s campaign suspension or his possible role in derailing bipartisan negotiations. Obama scored points on his plan to cut taxes for the middle class while accusing McCain of proposing tax cuts only for the wealthy.

McCain first landed a punch on earmarks, special budget items approved at the request of a member of Congress. He tagged Obama with requesting several hundred million dollars worth as senator. McCain pledged to cut government spending, saying that the federal budget had grown excessively over the past eight years. And he accused Obama of proposing several hundred billion dollars of programs in his campaign that would increase the budget. Obama rebutted these charges indicating he had a way to pay for them.

McCain’s hardest punches were on Iraq. He criticized Obama’s failure to support the surge and his lack of recognition that it had succeeded. McCain mocked an answer Obama had given a few weeks ago to Fox News that the surge had “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.” Obama focused on his judgment as demonstrated by his very early opposition to the Iraq war and his oft-stated position that it took our eye and resources away from fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan.

Senator McCain seemed more at ease and he seemed to connect with the viewing audience. Obama seemed uncomfortable at times, too frequently squinting and raising a finger to be recognized. Obama was very deferential, often stating “I agree with Senator McCain on that point.” McCain did not return the favor. In fact, at times McCain’s posture and expression seemed to indicate disdain for the Illinois senator.

Senator McCain talked plainly and was able to effectively use several campaign taking points. Obama seemed flatter (bad makeup), more thoughtful and, for the most part, he showed little passion. McCain showed himself as worldly, wily and a deeply experienced veteran, while Obama appeared to be the serious, knowledgeable and smart.

Two presidential debates remain, and one between the two vice presidential candidates. In the end, tonight's presidential debate was not the game changer that the Obama campaign was hoping for. McCain, despite all the turmoil of the past 48 hours, proved once again he is a formidable opponent. For him this debate may have been a game saver.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Debate the Economy

Senator John McCain's campaign is melting down. And sadly this great American hero continues to use desperate tactics, deception and distortion which is increasingly damaging his campaign.

McCain's latest tactic is to "suspend" his campaign and to request that Friday's presidential debate from the University of Mississippi be delayed. Certainly, the historic financial crisis facing our country today is potentially catastrophic. But wouldn't it be a better idea to change the topic of the debate to the financial crisis and the domestic economy? The debate can be moved to Washington DC, near the Capitol Building.

Americans need what has been lacking for the past eight years, strong leadership. Wall Street needs to see that someone with a clear vision and firm hand will take control of the economy. What better way to inform Americans than an economic debate between the two presidential candidates.

Or Senator McCain, is this delay a tactic? Did you notice that your poll numbers are beginning slip? Are you having difficulty in coming up with a clear position on the Paulsen plan? Are you embarrassed that Freddie Mac paid your campaign manager's company through last month? Are you rethinking your position on deregulating healthcare, the same position you have advocated for years for banking? Are you worried that First Lady Laura Bush says Governor Sarah Palin lacks foreign policy experience?

More than 40 million television viewers would tune in for this first in a series of four debates, including one between the two vice presidential candidates. These debates will be a major factor in how millions of people cast their ballots this November 4. The debate's experienced moderator, PBS's Jim Lehrer, can ask economic questions, and give both you and Senator Obama ample time to spell out your views.

Today we are faced with financial crisis of historic proportions. Its affects are being felt around the world. This is the time for answers, ideas and leadership. Do not delay Friday's presidential debate. Move it to Washington and change the topic to the economy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Friendly Confines

Farewell to Yankee Stadium, the house that Ruth built. Some of baseball's most historic moments have been played out on this venerable old stage. Thanks for the memories! However, my link to America's great pastime was formed at Wrigley Field on the north side of Chicago, at the corner of Addison and Sheffield.

Wrigley Field is where I first saw baseball more than 50 years ago. My father took me to see the Cubs on one glorious and sunny summer afternoon in August. The outfield walls were covered with ivy, the grass was a vibrant green and the infield was a reddish brown. As we sat in the first row between home plate and the Cubs dugout, I looked out on the gigantic hand operated scoreboard in centerfield with its big clock and array on national league pennants streaming above in the breeze.

Even then Wrigley Field was like an old baseball glove, well broken in and very comfortable from any position. Built as Weegham Park in 1914, the project cost a staggering $250,000 and took an amazing seven weeks to complete. It was constructed to house the Chicago Whales, part of the Chicago Federal League, and had a capacity of 14,000. The Cubs began playing at Weegham Park in 1916, and the park was renamed Cubs Field in 1920. Six years later the field was named after chewing gum magnate William Wrigley.

On that first visit I remember how small Wrigley Field seemed. From my seat I could hear the players talking with each other. I could hear the infielders chatter, "hey batter batter, swing!" I could hear the umpire's emphatic calls, "steeeee-rike!" The on deck batting circle was right in front of me. There the now legendary Ernie Banks would warm up while waiting to bat. He looked over and smiled at me, was that a wink? Banks was not only a feared home run hitter, he also was a wonderful role model for all young boys. He called Wrigley Field "the friendly confines," and would often say "let's play two!" Until 1984 all Cubs games in Wrigley were only played only during the day. Then local ordinances were loosened to allow some night games, and lights were installed.

During subsequent visits I would see such greats as Henry Aaron, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Kofax, Don Drysdale and Casey Stengel, to name a few. I would frequently try to arrive at the park in time for BP, batting practice. My friends and I would chase down foul balls hit into the stands. We pretty much had the run of the park before the game started. I remember arriving with a friend early one summer's day and encountering a bunch of players getting off a bus. I had many of them sign my scorecard. The signatures included Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Roy Campenella, Johnny Podres, and Pee Wee Reese. These were the Brooklyn Dodgers!

From 1920 to 1971 Wrigley Field was also the home of the Chicago Bears. I attended a few of their games over the years. I saw the remarkable Gayle Sayers run for more than 100 yards against the powerful Green Bay Packers. Bears founder and coach George Hallas would stand on the sidelines while Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Willy Galimore and Billy Wade fought in the trenches. Great Bears like Sid Luckman and Red Grange, the galloping ghost, played here on cold winter Sundays. In 1963 the Bears were World Champions.

I understand how special Yankee Stadium is to New Yorkers. For me, Wrigley Field will always be my home. And this year I hope that the Cubs will bring Wrigley Field its first World Series championship. In fact, let's play two!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Maconomics 101

During the primary campaign Senator John McCain once admitted to the Wall Street Journal editorial board that he "really doesn't understand economics." When I first read his remarks I assumed the Republican presidential candidate was just being modest.

Since then, and on several occasions, candidate McCain has stated that this country's "fundamentals" are sound. Of course, I thought he was speaking of the economy. Or maybe he was paraphrasing Republican President Herbert Hoover, who said, "no one can rightly deny the fundamental correctness of our economic system."

When I hear the term "fundamentals" in the context of bank failures, increasing unemployment and rising prices, I think of financial measurements. The business publication Forbes actually provides a definition on its web site: "The qualitative and quantitative information that contributes to the economic well-being and the subsequent financial valuation of a company, security or currency." For businesses, information such as revenue, earnings, assets, liabilities and growth are some of the fundamentals. Analysts and investors analyze these to estimate the value of an asset.

Of course, McCain is a maverick. McCain often sees things differently than the Washington establishment. He even eschews the Internet. So it was no surprise when yesterday, at an evening campaign stop, Senator McCain provided a whole new definition for the word fundamentals: "the American workers." Therefore, when McCain says the "fundamentals are sound," he means that the American workers are skilled, hard working and resourceful. Conversely, when Democrats say the fundamentals are not sound, they are unfairly and foolishly attacking American workers.

McCain plays if from the gut and he has proven, from time to time, to have good instincts. Certainly the selection of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate shook up the campaign and has brought him into a virtual tie with Obama/Biden. But today the fun is over. The economy is in dire trouble. The ripple effects of today's financial crisis will be felt by all Americans for years to come.

Now is not the time to play word games. Now is the time for strong economic leadership.

President Herbert Hoover also said, "Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt." I only hope that there will be something left for my child to inherit.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


The McCain campaign has launched a massive political surge which has stunned and disoriented the Obama campaign. But can Senator John McCain sustain his offensive, much of which is largely based on distortion and diversionary tactics?

The American economy is deeply distressed and many Americans are suffering. Home foreclosures are at an all time high, banks are failing, gas prices have skyrocketed, wages have lagged, unemployment has dramatically increased and millions of jobs have gone overseas. Health care and education demand solutions. America is conducting two very difficult wars, Iran and Pakistan are major concerns and the Russian bear has awakened. (No doubt Governor Palin can see that from Alaska.) Meanwhile, the American military is stretched to the breaking point while Congress is paralyzed by partisan bickering, self-interest and lobbyists.

Since the Republican convention, the McCain campaign has come out vociferously against lipstick on pigs, scrutiny of Governor Sarah Palin, community service and left wing bloggers, who they lump in with mainstream media and the Democratic Party. Over and over, McCain declares himself a maverick uniquely qualified to fix Washington, which he says is broken and has lost trust with Americans. McCain does not mention he has voted with President Bush 90% of the time and has served in the U.S. Senate for almost three decades. Nor that Governor Palin was for the bridge to nowhere before she was against it, that she did use lobbyists and she has received earmarks.

If elected President, McCain says he will reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. Yet his campaign commercials are inaccurate, misleading and nasty. Among other distortions, McCain ads falsely state that Obama will raise taxes on the middle class, and that he approved sex education for kindergarteners. McCain dismisses criticism by saying, "this is a tough business." He has repeatedly said that the tone would improve if Obama accepted his proposal for weekly town hall debates. Sure, believe that and I have a bridge to nowhere to sell you. Just how long will it be until Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers are again featured in GOP ads?

The Republican base is energized while some Democrats are growingly concerned that Obama will lose. Nonetheless, there are still millions of Americans who will look to the debates for answers to the many vital issues facing our nation before making their choice.

Meanwhile, will Senator McCain, a true America hero, lift his campaign out of the gutter and again inspire all Americans? Probably not, because negative tactics work. Irish poet and writer Oscar Wilde best summarized American politics when he said, "Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Righteous Kill

Two legendary movie stars pack a real wallop in Jon Avnet's police thriller, "Righteous Kill", which premiered last night in New York City.

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino team up for two marvelously powerful performances as long-time partners on the New York police force. Their characters are gritty, authentic and righteous. It is classic De Niro and classic Pacino and it is the first time they have joined forces for an entire movie. Jon Avnet masterfully balances these mega-watt stars while allowing a strong supporting cast to shine.

The movie centers on the hunt for a serial killer and the intensely competitive internal relationships at police headquarters. Carla Gugino is riveting as officer Karen Coreli, who is very professional but very sadistic. There are no soft and fuzzy characters in this stark, blunt and hard-hearted movie. Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo put in strong performances as tough cops driven to crack the case first. And Curtis Jackson, a.k.a. "50 Cent", is very believable as a Harlem drug dealer and nightclub owner. He certainly knows first-hand about this role.

Viewers will find this movie most surprising!


The Zeigfield Theater is just off 54th and 6th avenue. A line of invited guests stretched from the theater for almost two blocks around the corner to 55th Street. Most guests picked up tickets for their assigned seats at "will call," but confusion and party crashes slowed the process to a snail's pace.

Susan Zirinsky and I were stationed near the entrance, at the head of the red carpet. On one side of the carpet, crowds of adoring fans crushed against security barriers trying to get a picture, a handshake or just a nod from one of the arriving stars. On the other side, throngs of press snatched brief interviews with cast members as they headed into the theater.

"50 Cent" looked as if he had dressed at the GAP. He is powerfully built at 5'11", and has a nice smile and pleasant demeanor. He looked more like a college football star than a guy who once dealt cocaine in the Bronx and who was shot nine times in 1990. But his large hip-hop security entourage was certainly true to their background.

Mickey Rourke's complexion looked very rough. His face was alternatively bloated and scratchy. I imagine his years boxing have taken their toll, although he has certainly enjoyed the good life. He seemed at ease walking the red carpet, smiling but clearly relieved to get to the end. He did not have a role in the movie.

John Leguizamo seemed a bit intense and very focused as he said his hellos. Daniel Wahlberg, wearing a slightly askew paperboy hat, seemed very relaxed as he waved to the crowd.

The crowd buzzed and then roared as Al Pacino and Robert De Niro made their way down the red carpet. They both exude the same magnetism off the screen as on it. Pacino stopped to sign some autographs, De Niro seemed more impatient to get inside.

Chevy Chase, Mayor Giuliani and his wife, Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts were among those in attendance.

Mingling with the stars is interesting, but this whole scene is often so artificial. For the most part stars love the attention and energy around the red carpet. A few stars try to look unfazed or disinterested in the clamor, they attend only to show support for their film. The stars' extended retinues clog up traffic while trying to look important and cool. Everyone wants to get on Entertainment Tonight. A flood of publicists and event producers try to act important, this could, after all, be their 15 minutes.

The after party took place in a cavernous mid-town warehouse on New York's west side. The hip-hop music was so loud, bouncing off the walls and shaking the building, that conversations were carried out by leaning over and talking directly into someone's ear.

After digesting my stuffed pork and chicken sausage, I gave "Righteous Kill" further thought. Will a $60 million cop movie, with two aging super stars, and with little that is appealing to most women, do well in the box office?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Alas, there comes a time in every child's life when they will want their own dog. That time came a few years ago when our then eight year old daughter, Zoe, pleaded and even pledged to help care for a new dog. She had already selected a name: "Agony." I was not optimistic.

Days later Zoe and I bought a beautiful yellow Labrador puppy at the neighborhood pet store. We brought the feisty little dog home and tried our best to train her. But Agony was quite a handful. That night, shortly after she got home from work, Mom had a severe allergic reaction (or panic attack). After a night of personal agony, Mom's brother agreed to take Agony home with him and end our agony. He renamed her Daisy and she is now a beautiful ninety pounds.

Zoe and I tried again a few months later. This time we wanted a small hypoallergenic dog with a calm temperament. Working through a breeder, Zoe and I were introduced to a four-pound four-week old Maltese with sweet eyes and shy demeanor. Moments later Zoe was carrying her "Cleo" home.

Cleo immediately became the center of attention in our household, the Empress. She demanded body contact with a human at all times. First she would offer her butt and seem to say, "I like you, give me a scratch." She backs into your leg or sits on your foot if you are standing. She jumps up into your lap and offers you her back if you are seated. She will stalk you from room to room, even up and down the stairs. She never wants to be alone.

Cleo is the official greeter in our home. She barks and runs to the front door when the doorbell rings. She will enthusiastically greet whoever is at the door, wiggling her tail, jumping up and down and sniffing the person. If it is someone she knows she will insist on being picked up so she can lick their face. On the other hand, if you try to leave her alone at home she will hide under a bed in an effort to avoid being confined to quarters.

Cleo understands several words. For instance, she knows that "outside" means she's going outside. We have been forced to speak in code. The word "walk" is now the reverse: "klaw." But Cleo appears to be catching on so we are now considering switching languages. What's Chinese for walk?

Cleo will not go out in rain, snow, cold or heavy winds. In other words, in weather unsuitable for an empress. Assuming the weather is good enough to take Cleo for a klaw, she zigzags from smell to smell. She avoids walking on sewers or sidewalk grates. She plants her paws firmly when she wants to stop. If I don't want to stop I will continue to pull. This is called taking Cleo for a "drag."

When it is time to "do her business" Cleo will suddenly lunge for the curb, tugging her escort along. She then walks in progressively tighter circles, like an airplane landing on an aircraft carrier, until she drops her load. She immediately tries to flee the bombing scene, as if the load is about to explode.

Cleo will eat only certain foods. She eschews most dog foods, preferring some human dinner at the kitchen table. Over time she has developed a real knack for getting what she wants. At first she put on the sad pose of a real victim, "a few scraps for the poor?" After several months she began hitting me in the thigh with her front paws, "will you give me some food!” Then she started barking very loudly, "I demand food now or I will annoy you to death with my incessant barking." Now she has begun pushing her bowl across the room to the kitchen table, then she bangs the bowl with her paws, "put the food in here!" Maltese are definitely smart dogs.

By the way, the veterinarian says Cleo is too fat. She weighs in at 6.8 pounds, one pound more than is normal for a dog her size. That means she has to lose more than 20% of her current weight. If such a demand were made of me I would have to lose thirty pounds or more!

Cleo's weight may have something to do with her latest bad habit, snoring. Like a majority of dog owners, our dog sleeps with us at night. Maybe Cleo has sleep apnea? No matter, it would be hard for our family to impose and enforce a strict diet on Cleo. But we are cutting back on her snacks and increasing her exercise.

Which leads to this final point. You know how Zoe pledged to take care of Cleo as a condition for getting a dog in the first place? Feed, clean up and regularly play with the dog? Surprise, surprise, this responsibility has fallen to the adults.

But, your royal highness, we wouldn't want it any other way!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Mad Dog

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Libya to meet with its mercurial leader, Muammar al-Gaddafi. Her visit illustrates how U.S-Libyan relations have evolved in the twenty years since President Ronald Reagan called Gaddafi "the mad dog of the Middle East."

Colonel Gaddafi became de facto leader of Libya in a 1969 coup. As part of his new "Islamic socialism," he took control of large companies and imposed Islamic morals, banning alcohol and gambling. Emulating Mao's Little Red Book, Gaddafi spelled out his socialist-Islamic philosophy in his Green Book. Published in three volumes in the late seventies, it was required reading for all Libyans.

In practice, Gaddafi ruthlessly and violently ruled his country. His government sent out hit squads to suppress opposition abroad. Nine Libyan dissidents were murdered during this period, five in Italy. In response to Gaddafi's growing terrorism, the U.S. Government invalidated all American passports for travel to Libya in December 1981.

Gaddafi, finding himself the center of international attention, sent out word he wanted to meet with the world's press. At that time, I had been assigned to temporary duty in the CBS News London bureau where I produced foreign stories for the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Like a flash, I was dispatched with a correspondent and a crew to the scene.

It was a cold and snowy night when we boarded our chartered jet at London's Gatwick airport. The pilot informed us that we were not cleared to land at Tripoli International Airport. This news was a bit unsettling, to say the least. But our plane took off and flew to Nice to refuel. As we stepped off the plane in the mild Mediterranean night our crew checked to see if we had received clearance. When we reboarded the aircraft we were informed that clearance had not been given. After a brief discussion, we decided to continue on to Tripoli.

As we flew across the darkened Mediterranean Sea, under a crescent moon, I thought about whether we would encounter Libyan fighter jets. My anxiety increased when we saw the first glimmer of lights from the Libyan shoreline. Since it was three in the morning, I assumed their air defenses were on high alert. But, to my relief, as we approached the airport, our plane was cleared to land.

We were shuttled to a distant runway where we sat in our parked aircraft for nearly a half hour. Finally a couple of vehicles pulled up to our plane and we identified ourselves as members of the press. We were driven to the terminal where we turned over our passports and were offered pear juice in exchange. While I could have used a stiff gin and tonic, the juice was comforting and tasty. We spent three hours in the terminal, and, as the day's first light poured over Tripoli, we were driven to the Beach Hotel. The darkened lobby was quiet; the front desk was unmanned. It took another hour for someone to check us in and guide us to our rooms.

My room, which was in the basement of the hotel, had a single window looking out on the patio. I settled in and quickly fell asleep. When I awakened, I ventured outside onto the nearby beach wondering how the locals would react to an American. Indifference. A little later we were informed of an anti-American demonstration. Several dozen demonstrators waved Libyan flags, Arabic banners and spouted a lot of vitriol in what would become a daily event.

We spent several days waiting for an audience with Gaddafi. One night I listened in my room to my portable short wave radio as the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the Superbowl. On another night we were invited to dinner at the home of a foreign diplomat where we enjoyed Libyan food and beer. The Islamic moral code did not apply to the diplomatic community.

We talked every day with an impatient CBS News foreign desk looking for a story. "Nothing going on here other than a small demo," we would reply. Finally, and on short notice, members of the foreign press were driven to meet with Gaddafi. As we arrived at a building called the People's Jamahiriya (a word meaning state of the masses), our camera equipment was taken away from us by security. The press was herded into a large room where we waited for more than an hour.

Suddenly a number of vehicles loudly announced their presence as they pulled up outside. The worlds press stirred with anticipation. A couple of Libyan officials walked into our room and we all stood at attention. A moment later, Colonel Gadaffi walked slowly into the room, scanned his eyes over the press gathering, and continued on out a door on the other side of the room. He didn't even pause or wave.

A few minutes later one of Gaddafi's aides came back into our room and announced, "There will be no press conference, you go home now!" With that security led us back to our buses, returned our equipment to us, and had us driven back to our hotels. No one knew what "you go home now" meant at first. But subsequently we were told that it meant, "leave the country."

The "all knowing" CBS News foreign desk, nonetheless, still believed that Gaddafi would talk to the press. We were ordered to stay put. But the foreign desk was now occupied with a huge international story, Marshall law had been declared in Poland. This development was page one news everywhere in the world. And I would come to find out that Gaddafi did not want to face the press now for fear he would be relegated to the back pages of the world's newspapers. There would be no Time cover for the "mad dog of the Middle East." It was as simple as that. Finally, even the foreign desk relented, and we returned to London on our chartered jet.

A quarter of a century later I found myself smiling when I read that Condoleezza Rice and her party had been kept waiting for more than a hour at their hotel by Gaddafi prior to their meeting. Gaddafi had previously described Rice as "my darling black African woman." When at last she met him he did not offer his hand, rather he put it on his chest, a typical Arab greeting for women. The only real news was that there had been a meeting.

Gaddafi is one of a kind. Thank God.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin has Punch!

Governor Sarah Pailin's performance last night was a tour de force. She has lifted the clouds of uncertainty for Republicans and given them new hope. But will she be a shooting star, or will she become a permanent light on the national stage?

Republicans had a very good night Wednesday, culminating with the official nomination of Senator John McCain. Speaker after speaker landed tough punches against their opponents and lauded praise on McCain's service to his country. There was more red meat served up last night in the St. Paul Convention Center than in the Oklahoma Stockyards.

Republicans have launched their own surge in an effort to put the focus back on Obama's lack of service because it is their best chance of winning. The Democrats have responded by putting the spotlight on the economic failings of the past eight years and tying it squarely to President Bush and, by association, John McCain.

Last night's convention was truly energizing and exciting. But some of the so-called "facts" presented by Republican speakers about the Democrats were inaccurate, most distasteful and reflective of mean-spirited partisan politics at its worst. Also, right out of the Karl Rove/Richard Nixon political playbook, Republicans deployed the old blame the "liberal" media gambit.

Governor Sarah Palin's selection was huge! She was a surprise pick and few Americans had even heard her name before last Friday. Of course, the media went into overdrive to fill the information vacuum. She had not been intensely vetted by the McCain campaign until just before the announcement of her selection. There are still legitimate questions to be pursued about whether she abused her power as Governor, about her use of lobbyists and earmarks, whether she was for the "bridge to nowhere" before she was against it, did she reform government, or even if she truly qualified to be one heartbeat away from the presidency.

Sadly, a handful of blogs raised vicious and inaccurate rumors. And the National Enquirer, which sunk John Edwards, is now hot after a story involving Governor Palin’s personal life. The Internet has changed the landscape and users must be cautious about what they read on the web. I would argue that the “established” or “mainstream media” actually provides the country a great service by thoroughly investigating information and killing the smears.

Now Senator McCain, in the spirit of bipartisan unity, will your campaign end its silence and unequivocally denounce all the vicious and inaccurate rumors constantly being spread by bloggers about Obama? Or is that a bridge to nowhere?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ike Pappas

Few journalists were as driven to get the story as Ike Pappas. Ike died yesterday at the age of 75 near Washington DC. He was a respected and well-known correspondent for CBS News from the early 60's until he was laid off in 1987 in a major corporate cutback.

Ike didn't just walk into a room. "Okay, what's going on?" he would thunder. Intensely wound, he would insist on answers, he needed to know now! He was blunt, honest and impatient. He was a serious and committed journalist who pursued his profession with great energy and integrity.

In 1963, Ike Pappas became broadcast history. Following the assassination of President John Kennedy, Ike waited with other reporters in the basement of Dallas police headquarters as Lee Harvey Oswald was being transferred to a cell.

"Do you have anything to say in your defense?" he shouted to Oswald. Just then Jack Ruby brushed by Ike and fatally shot Oswald. "There's a shot!" Ike shouted. "Oswald has been shot. Oswald has been shot. A shot rang out, mass confusion here. All the doors have been locked." He paused, "Holy mackerel." His report on WNEW radio is still amazing today.

Ike went on to CBS News where he covered the Viet Nam war. He then served as a CBS News bureau correspondent in Chicago. He was already a legend when I arrived in 1976. He frequently covered the auto industry in Detroit. I actually saw a sign at the Ford world headquarters communications office, "Answerable only to God and Ike Pappas." His impatience would occasionally get the best of him. He covered many disasters and plane crashes. There was a story, maybe apocryphal, that while interviewing a tearful relative who had lost a loved one, he suddenly stopped the interview. "10 seconds, 10 seconds, your answer has to be 10 seconds. It's for the Evening News!"

He was transferred to the CBS News Washington bureau and was assigned to the Pentagon. He was highly regarded by the Pentagon staff and became an almost daily contributor to the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. His presentation was always no-nonsense and to the point. You could trust him. The nation got to know Ike as part of the elite CBS News Washington bureau team. His name even frequently appeared in the New York Times crossword puzzle; "Pentagon correspondent."

He had made it. He was the son of Greek immigrants who owned a delicatessen in the Flushing section of Queens, New York. He worked his way through Long Island University and spent two years in the Army. He found his way into journalism literally by accident. After he wrecked three trucks the Army assigned him to "Stars and Stripes."

While I have many great memories of my time working with Ike, I remember how he enjoyed life. When he was based in Chicago, he would frequently take us to dinner in that city's booming Greek town on Halsted Street. When he walked the streets or entered a restaurant, the people would shout his name. He was a hero, and everyone seemed to know and love him. These people were his extended family.

In 1981, I was assigned to cover the war in Beirut. When I first arrived I received my orientation in a French restaurant overlooking Beirut from the Chouf Mountains. Ike greeted me, "what's going on?" He was there holding court and in his element: a great story and a wonderful restaurant. We posed together for a picture outside the restaurant. He gave me a big bear hug and said, "Hey, Joe, let's go get'em!"

Thanks for the memories Ike.