The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The new memoir about the Kennedys, “The Nine of Us,” is a lyrical looking glass into a time that feels forever lost — when the richest class felt a deep obligation to give back to the people, to serve in the military and politics. The “to whom much is given, much us expected” motto was a mantra in the Kennedy summer compound in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Excellence in all things was encouraged, from riding to sailing to writing thank you notes. On these pages, a clear-eyed sister tells the tale of their younger, vibrant selves.

The scene is set from the beginning, a sharp contrast from the gaudy gold and chrome Trump Tower:

“The white house looked over the sea … an overgrown Cape Cod cottage with white wooden shingles and black shutters. … The white house was full of activity, chatter and laughter. Full of books on shelves and sports gear in closets. And especially full of children.”

Oh, it brings back the old days, of New England zest and camaraderie, a ready wit and willingness to get skin in the game. Touch football, anyone?

Then there were debates over dinner — you had to be scrubbed and dressed for dinner — on the raging issues of the day. “What would you do if you were president,” their father drilled them. Jack, the lover of history and books, would be 99 years old today. The striking Joe, the oldest, was the one groomed for the job, but he volunteered for a dangerous mission in World War II and got blown from the sky. He was the first to shatter the Kennedy family idyll. Jack, in a way, got elected to run by his family first. The ironic, impossibly cool Jack almost had no choice, as the second oldest son.

The author Jean Kennedy Smith is the only living one of the nine Kennedys born between the teens, ’20s and ’30s. At 88, the former ambassador to Ireland remained as the key holder of certain stories and insights about their youth, all nine of them. She and the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy were the youngest, and her character portraits of her sisters, brothers and parents come from that vantage point.

Who knew that the intense Bobby had a pink and black spotted pig named Porky that went with him everywhere? He also tended to rabbits, all manner of animals and made friends easily. “You have a lot on the ball,” his father Joe wrote to his third-oldest son.

A charmed moment is a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a stamp collector, to young Bobby, a fellow philatelist: “Perhaps sometime when you are in Washington you will come in and let me show you my collection.” Indeed, the boy did.

Smith suggests that her brother Bobby was the secret favorite of her parents, Rose and Joe Kennedy, Irish-Catholic Boston stock. Rose’s father, Honey “Fitz” Fitzgerald was the beloved mayor of Boston — political royalty.

Singing “Sweet Adeline” and reciting the classic “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” poem was the stuff of their childhood.

Joe’s dying young was followed by their sister “Kick,” a lively presence who married an Englishman destined to be a duke. She, too, died young in a plane crash. Eunice was “sporty” and such a force she might have been president if she wasn’t a girl. She founded the Special Olympics.

There are London days in Jean’s teens, as father Joe served as the ambassador to the Court of St. James (and gave Roosevelt bad advice about Germany and staying out of the war).

Nothing but the best might as well be written between the lines. Yet the Kennedys have a gift of being inclusive in their exuberant privilege, not running rampant with it simply for vainglory. You feel that you, too, are sailing on Nantucket Sound that summer day. Teddy, with the sweetest social nature, became a great sailor till nearly the end of his days, at age 77. He was the only brother to “comb gray hair,” as the elegiac Irish line goes. The artist Jamie Wyeth painted his friend Teddy sailing into the light.

Jack’s light touch comes through a letter to Jeannie: “I am most pleased to hear from you and am fully conscious of the honor.”

Call me nostalgic, because that’s exactly what I am this Thanksgiving.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

IMAGE: AFP Photo

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Keep reading... Show less

Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}