The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, December 11, 2003  

Together With Miscellany: December 11

POLITICAL NOTES: Gee whiz, even Richard Nixon thought Ronald Reagan was “strange.” And more: Nixon found Reagan not “pleasant to be around,” “an uncomfortable man to be around,” and “not one that wears well,” adding “on a personal basis [Reagan] is terrible.” The quotes come from newly released White House tapes. No surprise: Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman is there agreeing with every word Nixon says. . . . The Washington Post reports today that the CIA is going to create an Iraqi intelligence agency. Down how many roads already traveled, and with disastrous results, does the Bush administration intend to take this country? . . . Message to “Old” Europe: Forgive them their debts but step aside while we take all the good stuff. . . . One of these days maybe a reporter, an editorialist, a columnist, or even a politician will make the fairly obvious observation that “the problem” with the Democratic presidential debates isn’t that there are too many candidates, it’s that the questions are so stupid. . . . Meanwhile, George F. Will may not have copies of the president’s pre-debate briefing books -- yet -- so for now he’ll just play third-base coach, at least until Karl Rove calls. . . . David S. Broder, known respectfully, I think, as “Dean Broder,” is just so confused. “Al Gore’s decision to intervene early -- and especially his call on Howard Dean’s rivals to ‘close ranks’ behind the governor -- is one of the more eccentric developments in modern political history.” Really? “Eccentric”? Ranking right up there, one supposes, with the presidential aspirations of H. Ross Perot and Lyndon LaRouche, George H.W. Bush’s selection of former Sen. Dan Quayle as his running mate, the Republican Senate whip’s cries of “Bring Out Our Nearly Dead” preceding roll call votes so former Sen. Strom Thurmond could be wheeled in to the chamber, Nancy Reagan’s repeated consultations with astrologers, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

MISCELLANY: It looks like Campbell Soup Co. heiress Mrs. Samuel M.V. (Mary Louise Dorrance Hill) Hamilton, known affectionately, I think, as “DoDo,” might be in some trouble arising from her investment in The Moshulu, a restaurant on a ship docked in Philadelphia at Pier 34 when that same pier collapsed into the Delaware River in May 2000, killing three people . . . Enough already with Hugh Heffner. Who cares what he does, says, or thinks? . . . QVC’s favorite designer, Diane von Furstenberg, can’t imagine a woman heading Gucci. What does she know? She’s married to Barry Diller. . . Hey, Pledge Week, what a great idea!

BOOK NOTES: I just finished reading two books that I highly recommend. First, The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (mentioned here November 26, though that was after I had completed the first four chapters), an extraordinary novel that takes you into the mind of an exceptional autistic man, his search for identity, self-respect, dignity, love, and a possible cure. . . . Second, The Meaning of Everything, by Simon Winchester (a gift from a generous reader), a history of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, which is far more interesting than it sounds, and written in prose clear and precise enough to keep you firmly within its grasp, but interspersed with enough unfamiliar words to make you long for your own copy of the OED, or at least teach you a thing or two. Winchester, author of the also excellent (and related) book, The Professor and the Madman, redeemed himself with The Meaning of Everything, squashing painful memories of his just plain awful Krakatoa.

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