Monday, June 4, 2018

CONFESSIONS OF A RECOVERING POLITICAL OBSERVER


THE WONDER IS PEOPLE STILL VOTE

After a lifetime of political immersion, I ignored most of this provincial election.
I'll vote Tory because the incompetent Liberals bordered on fraud and the New Democrats want to give away even more of my money to the lazy, the unions, and every special interest group that has even a vague leftwing cachet.
 Naturally the teachers and civil servants want the Tories to lose.
I have covered politics since I was thrown out of my first council meeting in Whitehorse as editor of the onlyYukon newspaper. Then I had my vote thrown out in my first election when the territory court decided there had been too much fraud and voided the federal election.
My introduction to politics and journalism.
 My first taste of international media came via the same election when my story in Time magazine about the strange election in the land of the midnight sun appeared with seven errors not of my making.
 You would have thought I was a political reporter for the Star.
Since then it has been too many decades of covering elections, turning down invitations from three parties to be a candidate myself, and thousands of columns and editorials on politics.
Once upon a time, I thought the greatest thing in the world would be to represent voters, whether as a trustee, councillor, mayor, MPP or MP. My proudest family boast was that my father had been chairman of the Toronto school board. Now who knows who that is, and who cares?
Over the years, most politicians seemed to fail us. So when the parties came calling, I said no, even when victory was practically guaranteed.
That got easier every year as elected representatives, which I thought was honourable work, slid down the slope of public opinion past even journalists.
I was at three recent gatherings which once would have been a hotbed of political debate - several hours of meetings of the CNE board, a Ryerson University reunion with three fellow grads of the class of '58, and a family party celebrating the 80th birthday of my cousin Paul Plewes.
I was surrounded on these occasions with avid critics and current and former political partisans who have been mayors, deputy mayors, councillors, senior party officials, MPPs, reporters and failed candidates.
In the day, there would have been fire in the air, along with cutting insults, volleys of facts and ambushes of insider data.
Not now. I am sad to report that for too many, and it was illustrated at these occasions, the battlefield is silent, littered with broken promises and pools of indifference and contempt. The voter hates the choices.
One reason is the fatigue over being bribed with our own money, and excesses being justified with lies and cheating.
Another cause is the 24-hour news cycle and the desperate search for news by skeleton staffs so what passes for political coverage is used to fill the yawning expanses and is often boring and shallow.
Then there is the poor quality of the candidates. It matches the reporting.
A third cause is social media and a general contemp by too many for facts and their acceptance instead of lies and hokum dreamed up propagandists and egotists who couldn't report what was happening in a flea circus.
It's difficult to be a good reporter. It's even more difficult to be a good columnist. Yet we are surrounded by fools who think they can play journalist without ever leaving their couch.
So the U.S. now is ruled by a corrupt president who has lied and cheated his entire life. And in Canada we have a minor drama teacher who inherited money and a family reputation.
In Ontario, the only choice is so flawed, it's enough to bring one to tears. The Ford family is a caricature sketched by a drunk -  a boring father and awful mother produced one bumbling clown who became mayor and another smarter son, both of whom won simply because they preached a populist message that conventional politicians waste money and are lazy jerks.
They promised change, the most seductive of all political messages, because so many hate how we have been  governed. So they go for a Trump and a Trudeau despite their huge flaws of personality and inexperience,  and Ford is a real possibility despite being a lurching rookie.
Thank heavens there are good Conservatives who can prop Ford up, including Christine Flaherty who should have won as leader. Give me this lawyer who raised triplets and was a good cabinet minister instead of this strange premier and a union flunky who may have been a good steward.
Since we have to have an election because that is the way democracy works despite this contempt for what it is producing, let's go with some women and men who promise us real change instead of old ways to give money to all the civil servants and teachers and bureaucrats and consultants and ad flunkies and....

Saturday, May 5, 2018

REVISITING WHITE HOUSE PRESS DINNERS


WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF "FAKE MEDIA" BOYCOTTED LIES?

I have sifted the fallout from the White House Correspondents' Dinner and concluded that despite some chicken-shit commentary from media who have been covering too many politically-correct protests and got infected, I'm firmly on the side of ridiculing politicians.
In my blog about my memories of the dinner, I grumbled about Michelle Wolf at this one separating her good lines with foul expanses. This doesn't mean I thought she should be cast into outer darkness for her criticism of the president and his White House denizens, including the official liar who doesn't even seem embarrassed when the boss is caught out on another whopper.
Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher and all the professionals who earned their spurs doing stand-up who have refused to cry Wolf because of her gutter bits are correct in saying that Trump and his staff deserve to be roasted here on earth before they go on to burn in Hell for their utter contempt for truth, facts and the ordinary Joes and Janes who haven't bought their way into Republican hearts. (Assuming this lot have them.)
The president, who has been counterfeit since 1980, likes to talk about "fake news." Now he certainly is an expert at fabrication. But he needs the media to distribute this insult for him. Why then do we go along?
It has been left to the comics to be the most effective weapon against his bluster, although they should use more rifles than blunderbusses.
I have written thousands of columns, editorials and blogs. I even have been called upon anonymously to help write putdowns and gags for speeches about major figures, including premiers and prime ministers.
Now it's easy to write diatribes, as jerks demonstrate hourly in social media, but it's much more difficult to be subtler and clever in your lines.
So I have often sought advice from those who also have had to write for living...but have to be funny too.
 I remember grilling the greats, like Jack Benny on an exercise walk down Yonge Street to the Royal York Hotel. (And if you don't know who he was, that master of timing and the stare with one hand to the mouth, then you haven't done rudimentary homework in judging comedy.)
I'm told that when you write a humorous column or a roast routine, you start by putting down every  pun, crude gag, insult and double entendre that you can think of. Let it all hang out, from toilet humour to slander to rusted kitchen sink. Then you go through with a thick black pen and take out almost all of it. What's left can be funny.
The problem with Wolf is that she needed a good editor, one that would let her say almost everything  she wanted, but would get rid of the worst smut. If you get rid of the groaners, then the rest is funnier.
Of course even when Donald Trump sticks to the Teleprompter script written by his confused and terrorized staff, he Trumps the worst line delivered by Wolf who just did what she was supposed to do and then is criticized by media apologists who don't have her guts.
You know if the Washington media were really serious about criticizing Huckleberry and the mistruths of her regular briefings, they just wouldn't show up. Boycott the liars and let Trump and Fox marinate in  their swamp.
Then the rest of us could watch old TBS movie classics and take a break from the weird reality of this weird reality president whose behaviour for more than three decades has been worse than anything that Wolf could say.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

WHITE HOUSE PRESS CLUB DINNERS


WHEN FAMOUS PEOPLE RIP FAMOUS PEOPLE

"Those were the days" I thought as I was watched the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
Nope, I wasn't recalling when Archie Bunker shocked the world in All In The Family (he really didn't but the political correct had to pretend) but my trips inside the American bubble to mingle with the famous and those who wished they were.
I also wasn't remembering when the dinner's guest comics were clever and funny like Stephen Colbert and not killing their good lines with foul expanses of dubious humour like Michelle Wolf.
Early Sun expeditions were legendary but our trips to Washington were great even by those standards. Led by Doug Creighton, the Sun founder and a delightful Pied Piper, the Sun mafioso used to invade the White House dinner because we owned the Houston Post, one of the larger U.S. newspapers that died a couple of decades ago. (One of Doug's few mistakes came when he bought the Post rather than the Chicago Sun-Times. Most directors wanted Chicago.)
The dinner's a magic time in Washington. The city's pretty with blossoms, the summer humidity not yet soaking, but mainly because major politicians spend a lot of nice time cozying up to major journalists even if they would never dare confess that in public.
 On this journey, there was a special tour into White House corners the public never sees. Some  Americans got annoyed when I pointed out an error in the plaque on a Truman portrait and was indiscreet enough to remind them it was nicknamed the White House after it was painted to cover scorch marks left when we burned it after winning the War of 1812.
Toronto used to have a great weekend when the Toronto Press Club flourished. The Byline Ball, revue and dinner that invited media greats like Walter Cronkite. Corporations and pols rushed to have receptions for three days.
Both Doug and I had been press club presidents and missed the decline and eventual death of that fine time of media smoozing. So we threw ourselves into this similar Washington weekend with abandon.
We had so many notables at our reception before dinner that no one really caught the name of a tiny U.S. cabinet minister who was pulled in by Don Hunt, one of the three Sun founders. Don who was quite large had reverted to his days as a rowdy sports reporter and had found the minister in a hotel hall.
Doug viewed his colleague's kidnapping with more humour than the minister's security detail. "Is Don carrying that guy or just dragging him?" he asked me. Fortunately the perplexed minister found out the friendly giant ran the Post before his guards were ordered to rescue him.
The dinner was a cross between a World Series game and the Academy Awards.
The Sun/Post had two tables.  I was sitting beside Miss Universe, whose date was a famous Texas congressman named Charlie Wilson. (Tom Hanks played him in the movie Charlie Wilson's War from a book that detailed how Charlie wangled huge sums for the CIA in Afghanistan.)
Across the table were Ken Taylor and his wife Pat. I tried to wiggle insights out of our former ambassador about his sheltering of the Americans trapped in Iran in 1979 but the dinner roar took the moxie out of major questions.  ( Ben Affleck's mischievous movie Argosy which downgraded Taylor and the Canadian role was far in the future.)
The star of the dinner was, of course, an actor who never rose above supporting roles. Yet Ronald Reagan was a better president even at the end with his Alzheimer's than Donald Trump is on his best day.
The mood was mellow and the applause was warm. Then Reagan, a great talker, rattled his sabre and got standing applause when he reminded us about his bombing of Muammar Gaddafi (there are many spellings.)
I did not stand. After all, he was boasting about bombing the home of the Libyan leader in a raid where two sons were wounded and Gaddafi claimed his four-year-old adopted daughter was killed. (The West still doesn't know if that's true.)
I looked over at Charlie Wilson, who was such a blithe spirit operating from his hot tub that he was nicknamed by colleagues as "good time Charlie." But Charlie wasn't standing either. And he had been a naval officer. "I don't think you clap or stand when you injure the innocent family of a leader," I said, and Charlie nodded his support.
It's hard from TV to grasp how the dinner has evolved from what used to be a grand party. Now it appears everyone is posing for the nearest camera. It doesn't help when CNN gives us those endless panels as we wait for hours to judge the latest verbal assassination.
I don't know why the correspondents' association bother with one comedy hitman when no one can top Donald Trump as a clown. The dinner audience is sophisticated enough to figure out his lies, and all the Trump supporters watching on TV will swallow any fib from his supposed fortune to his supposed accomplishments.
Poking this president with a stick of humour is like expecting a porcupine to feel the prick of a pin.
The dinner in this form has been ruined by the man who didn't come to dinner. CNN is going to have fill a Saturday night some other way, perhaps with Senate mud wrestling.
.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

DEATH OF MANDELA'S WIFELY BURDEN


A VIOLENT SHOWBOAT

Nelson Mandela and I stood under a tree awkwardly eating a buffet lunch while bodyguards watched suspiciously within grabbing distance and the elite of the world press circled waiting for their chance.
Mandela had lined up for the food at the Nijo Castle with hundreds of publishers and editors gathered for the prestigious annual conference of the International Press Institute in Kyoto.
But they weren't as quick as me to slide in behind him in the queue for food and chat about what he liked to eat. Turned out his favourite food came wrapped in nostalgia about his childhood - maize  porridge.
I followed him to the shade of the tree, having established a weird rapport when earlier we had crashed head-on into each other on an elevated walkway as we surveyed the famous 15 rocks in what is said to be the most famous Zen garden in Japan, Ryoan-ji, a raked gravel "garden" where the Japanese come to meditate. (It's also called Temple of the Dragon at Peace.)
 Neither of us had paid enough attention to those walking towards us. I'm big, but he was an inch taller and hard from a youth as a boxer and those awful years in the quarry of his prison on Robben Island. Still I almost launched him into air since he was 73. And that would have been a dangerous fall that would have snapped bones. But I managed to grab him and haul him back up to safety while his bodyguards behind him glared in horror. "Gawd, I almost wiped out the guest speaker," I said as we both grimaced in bruised embarrassment.
So I had really made an impression.  Thank heavens, I thought.  My wonderful and difficult boss, Doug Creighton, reluctantly paid for the trip during Sun budget cuts after telling me I had better get an "exclusive" interview with Mandela. (I hate media labelling interviews as exclusive if they are with famous leaders or personalities who live in the media spotlight. and are interviewed constantly.)
After a few mild questions not to alarm him since this was a touring day, I asked just what he was doing in Japan at exactly the same time as his wife's notorious trial for kidnapping and murder was starting in South Africa. (In this story, the dragon was not at peace but back home in court.)
He studied me in silence, then slowly said: "We have good lawyers. They were good for the family. They were in the struggle."
There were other questions that day and the next, after he asked "the Canadian who hits so hard" what I thought of his speech defending his African National Congress in a forum that included such luminaries as Robert McNamara, the former U.S. defence minister.
I told him it would have been better if he had written the speech himself. Mandela challenged me on that, but laughed when I pointed out that he hadn't known when he got to the end and had turned the last page expecting to find more.
Yet it was his almost painful response to my questions about Winnie, the beauty for whom he left his first wife, by all reports a gentle nurse, that I remember most about this encounter with a remarkable man who bloomed in world stature and acceptance for his compassionate leadership despite his beginnings in the bloody terrorism of the ANC.
A year after this, he decided to stop being polite in public about the woman who was lionized for her struggle against the brutal apartheid regime even as she was attacked as the cruel den mother of a deadly vigilante group which beat and murdered any opposition. He separated from Winnie as she  flaunted her nickname of Mother of the Nation, then several years later sued for divorce for being so blatant in her infidelity that "I was the loneliest man when I was with her."
Mandela married again, this time happily. When he died, he left Winnie nothing, and his family squabbled over his will. She died April 2, but that will not end the controversies over her corruption and cruelty and her many roles with the ANC government that so often is an affront to the decency and honesty of the leader who  brought it to power.
Unfortunately, there are those who choose to ignore the calamitous history as apartheid was strangled  and now portray Winnie as the valiant woman who wouldn't be hobbled by men or apartheid thugs. Her obituary in Time by a former UN official skips over the trial of her gang for the murder of the youth where witnesses just happened to disappear. (Of course the UN staff are always painfully politically correct when it comes to gender and whatever myth the power blocs dictate. Just look at their  dishonesty over Israel.)
Winnie was the firebrand who believed in tires of fire hung around necks as well as in oratory. Only a great man could have survived her to continue to be respected by all who met him, even if it was just for two days long ago on a foreign island.





Wednesday, March 7, 2018

CHRIS STOCKWELL'S METEORITE


QUICK FROM THE LIP

It symbolized the political meteorite known as Chris Stockwell that after he died of cancer at 60 - far too soon - there was no service but friends gathering in a Bloor St. W. pool hall to lift a glass to his memory.
Now The Crooked Cue is a vast improvement on the seedy ones of my youth where I lived, or died on the black, as I shot more snooker than I studied. (No drinking from a brown bag in the corner here either!)
Except Chris was once a young star in Toronto politics, both municipally and provincially. He played for keeps not on green baize but the carpets of power.  He had blazed there but then collapsed to a dreary end triggered by an expense account scandal involving a trip to Europe where he had been treating the family after marital difficulties. He was allowed to resign.
Yet he had once glowed in the media with apt quotes and fiery feuds. A veteran from his wars recalled Stockwell as one of the fastest man with a quip he had ever seen, one reason Chris made such a great Speaker in the bear pit of the Legislature where faltering words can blight a career.
Chris came from a family used to being in newspapers. His grandfather had been a character as the Argo trainer. His father Bill had been an acting mayor, veteran councillor and top administrator at the Ex and in GTA municipalities. He still is a Wasaga Beach councillor.
The Stockwell were so woven into city life that they kept the Grey Cup one winter behind the living room couch and the mother grumbled it made dusting difficult.
Chris was a terrible student because of dyslexia but he made up for early difficulties by a populist appeal, fearless common sense and a dislike of lazy BS from his colleagues that got him elected at only 25. A Tory who wasn't afraid to say the Grits could be right on the odd issue.
I recall a column I wrote supporting him when he ran later for Board of Control in Etobicoke. (We no longer have controllers, which were elected across a municipality and formed a cabinet selected by the people. Pity we don't because some tame councillors selected by mayors for their executives couldn't supervise a doghouse.)
Chris distributed thousands of copies of my column around the suburb. And one of the incumbents, David Lacey, sued me for libel, and Chris for the reprint, because I had punned on his last name, calling him Lazy because he walked through the job. So cool you weren't sure he even voted.
Chris had no money and phoned me quite upset. I told him that being sued was no big deal.
 I was named as Editor in all the legal actions against the Toronto Sun as well as suits against my column, and had never lost even though the complaints could be weird. One of the three from Jack Layton claimed damages because he had run into an "illegally placed" Sun box with his bike. A restaurateur sued, mainly, I think, because I wrote he used too much garlic on the steaks. And Anne Johnston, a friend who had once asked me at a municipal convention to beat up a Newfoundland mayor who had made a pass at her on the dance floor, sued me for a reason that I had never quite understood. It seemed the lawyer wanted the work.
I took pity on Chris in this case and talked the Sun lawyer, Alan Shanoff, into representing Chris as well, for free. Then Shanoff phoned one day saying that our interests, and those of Stockwell, had now diverged and Chris should get his own lawyer.
So I recommended a friend, a lawyer very well connected in Conservative and legal circles. And Chris and this lawyer waited while I laboured through the prelims, such as Examination for Discovery. Lazy, I mean Lacey, finally dropped the suit. Even though I don't think the lawyer did much for Chris, he charged him $35,000, as Chris lamented to me after he got over his shock.
Oh yes, the position of Etobicoke controller paid $32,000 a year.
Life often is unfair.  As Chris discovered then, and in the last years of his life, when all the promise had flickered out and he, once a lauded Speaker and capable cabinet minister, couldn't even get appointed by his former colleagues to fill out a term in a vacant riding.


Friday, March 2, 2018

MAROONED IN COSTLY U.S. HOSPITALS BY OHIP


WHAT'S $85,000 IF YOU'RE NOT PAYING

Another in the long series of horror stories about Ontarians trapped in American hospitals with their horrendous charges because OHIP and the health ministry and hospitals claim they don't have one empty bed here.
This time the patient from London ended up in St. Catharines because closer hospitals weren't willing to rescue him from a Mexican hospital where he languished for more than a week after a fall burst vessels in his brain.
The family calls the experience, including being ignored by the ministry,  "unbelievable." But having endured the same atrocious disinterest from Ontario's medical system, and knowing of too many other cases, and remembering all the Legislature questions that showed the health minister really didn't care that much (and the medicrats cared less) I know tragically it's very believable.
I wrote about how Toronto hospitals refused to let me be flown back from West Virginia in 2011 in a six-part Toronto Sun series titled "hospital hell." My bills for eight days there totalled $85,000. Then when an air ambulance delivered me to that awful hospital, St. Joseph's, the lead doctor refused profanely to my frantic wife to admit me. He finally gave in to two sets of paramedics, perhaps because the air ambulance staff was refusing to fly me back to Charleston, as I struggled to get off the stretcher to punch the fat arrogant bastard harassing Mary.
I became seriously ill with a gall bladder infecting every cm. of my body cavity on April Fool's Day. My three sons came from three countries to support my wife. Even though they have six degrees among them, including U of T and Harvard, and are strong challengers to any system, even though my Toronto doctors include the noted and powerful Heather Ross and Bernie Gosevitz, no Ontario hospital would take me.
As I wrote the Sun series, I talked to Deb Matthews, the health minister and a major player at Queen's Park. She promised to have a task force look into the costly dilemma that I posed to her.
Ontario hospitals have a policy that Canadians needing a hospital bed in Ontario are at the bottom of the eligibility list if they are in an American hospital because they already are being accommodated in a health system. Except American charges are appalling and will bankrupt most families unless they have travel health insurance.
I did have insurance. Except TIC Claims, the company representing some major Canadian insurers, refused to pay, pretending there had been problems with the questionnaire before the policy was granted. My intro to the notorious con that is the travel medical insurance scam was TIC sending a copy of the refusal (but not sending me the original) to OHIP on July 11, which timestamped it on August 15, and notified me on Oct. 3.  TIC never talked to me in any way.
As one sympathetic specialist told me later, if the health ministry and the travel insurance industry screwed me deliberately or through incompetence, even though I was well-known as a columnist and editor who had served on a hospital board for two decades, with friends who served on or even chaired other hospital boards, even though I was a patient who could actually get the health minister on the phone, can you imagine how badly ordinary Joes and Janes without a bit of clout get treated.
Even though it took me a year to recover from the bed sores from St. Joe's, I had enough energy to go to war against TIC. I also wrote 54 letters to hospitals, paramedics, specialists, and assorted agencies, and told two collection leeches to go take a flying leap in Lake Ontario.
I enlisted Ross and Gosevitz and all the initials and titles that march behind their names. The family was mad at Gosevitz, feeling he hadn't done enough to get me home, but he volunteered the name of another of his patient, a "pitbull" lawyer who just loved to sue travel insurance companies because of their numerous infamous attempts to evade responsibility.
I didn't need him eventually, but it certainly was another ordeal. Nine months after I became so sick I spent three months in four hospitals and had to learn to walk again, the travel insurance sharks paid up. OHIP and the ministry never did a damn thing other than ignore me. Matthews moved on, the policy leaving us at the bottom of the priority list if you're stuck in a foreign hospital never changed, and MPPs are still getting up in the Legislature to complain their constituents are not being helped by our health system even when they're at their most vulnerable.
It's a disgrace, just like most of what happens these days under this corrupt Liberal regime which spends more time covering their ass and wasting millions on PR and ads where they try to put lipstick on the donkeys of their botched administration.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

BILLY GRAHAM'S PROSTITUTES


CHARLES TEMPLETON SAVED HIM FROM SCANDAL

The warm stories about the passing of that legendary evangelist Billy Graham skip over that an important figure in his formative years had been Charles Templeton, a true renaissance man who  dominated the media of his home city of Toronto several decades ago.
Chuck Templeton was successful in just about everything he did, from his first job as a sports cartoonist to his last days as a TV commentator/inventor/writer/personality before Alzhemier's wiped him out in 2001.
In a strange deal that would take pages to outline, I as Editor got Templeton to write a column for me in exchange for the Sun running excerpts from one of his books and giving him valuable publicity.
Templeton, despite a major career in radio, TV and as managing editor of the Toronto Star, had never written a  column, and so he set to his new task by bugging me about what actually a columnists did (I had written thousands of columns at that point) and becoming a charming and fascinating friend.
Finally he decided that I wasn't paying him enough to justify all the extra time he was spending agonizing over the words. He had books he wanted to write with Rev. Robert Schuller (once one of the most famous tele-evangelists preaching from Crystal Cathedral) and there were inventions to patent like the one about a teddy bear that you put in the microwave so it would be nice and toasty beside the baby.
We met to hash it out at Winston's, then one of the best and most noted restaurants in the land, and stayed from noon into the evening. And, of course, as Templeton had once been one of the most famous evangelists in the world before he stunned the same world by becoming an agnostic, and my mother had been a Toronto Bible College grad and missionary, we argued religion.
Finally we got to Billy Graham, who Templeton had hired as the first preacher when he founded Youth for Christ. In my youth, it was one of the most famous Christian organizations in North America.
David Smith, the retired Liberal senator/lawyer with a father and brothers who were ministers, recalls Templeton preaching at the old Varsity Stadium, dressed in gleaming white from collar to shoes, at a Youth for Christ rally that was the top attraction that day in the city. He dominated the stage.
Many books and biographies recall Graham and Templeton preaching their way through Europe in a  tour before the famous crusades that Graham and local churches organized throughout the world from London to Seoul that attracted millions of worshippers. Graham finished each service with a renowned altar call in his distinctive baritone, and hundreds of "sinner"s would come forward to pray and be born again in front of the stage while a massed choir sang a muted and haunting Just As I Am.
During the long lunch at Winston's, Templeton reminisced about the early days. "We got into Paris one Saturday and we were so tired from jet lag that we couldn't sleep. So Billy called my room and said let's go for a walk. We strolled around the Arc de Triomphe in the evening and Billy got energy back and became quite enthusiastic. You know, Chuck, he said, this is really a friendly city. "They say people in Paris aren't, but look at all these pretty young women smiling at us."
Chuck said he stopped him right there, incredulous that his friend could be so naive. "Billy," I said,
''they're prostitutes, hookers, they're looking for business."
Templeton told me that Billy just didn't believe him, so he urged Graham to watch what happened. And  men approached the "friendly" women, and then they left the circle, presumably to the little hotels that cluster near the Arc. Graham finally conceded that just maybe Templeton was right. But his was an approach of love. He always wanted to think the best of people.
I asked Templeton, who had been the best man when Graham got married in 1943 to the love of his life, Ruth, whether he had left any mark on his old friend as they went their separate ways, Graham to become the main preacher of the United States, pastor to presidents, Templeton to become a leading figure in Toronto.
"I told him to stay away from love offerings. You know, it was common at revival meetings, whether in the old tents or downtown churches, for the collections to go to the preacher. I said that would raise too many questions, too many opportunities for critics to say that evangelism was just another way to make a lot of money. So I told Billy to put himself on a modest salary and never make any secret about what he was getting paid and what his expenses were. So he did that his entire life."
When I as a fallen Baptist watch the old telecast of a Billy Graham crusade, or listen to the hymns of the Gaither Gospel Hour, I go back decades to the tent-and-sawdust world when in the sweltering heat outside some town in Southern Ontario the insects would buzz around the bare bulbs and the visiting evangelist would preach fire-and-brimstone warnings that made the book of Revelation seem like a page in the local weekly.
Graham led the way with an upraised Bible from the outskirts of towns to the downtown of cities and the capitals. Some evangelists had done it before in explosions of publicity and then flamed out, but Graham lasted because his message was of salvation, not of solicitation, and his Canadian friend was one reason for that success even as he lost his faith.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

NIPPLES AND LBJ


THE RAUNCHY SIDE OF U.S. POLITICS

The National Post reminded us with a page on Lyndon Johnson on Jan. 27 of just how foul mouthed and oozing of sexual shenanigans the White House was decades before Donald Trump brought  his coarse preening, lies and daily cheating to the American presidency.
It also perked out of my memory one of the nicest power couples that Mary and I ever met in our travels. This occasionally took us to the International Press Institute annual conference packed with world names in politics and the media who spoke and performed, and then yarned into the wee hours as booze chased caution and slander suits.
Lucianne Goldberg, the author and literary agent,  stood out, just as she did in every arena from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the bear pits of Washington to the casting couches of Hollywood. And her husband, Sidney, head of the NANA syndicate, was an agreeable host at the parties that formed around the couple after the sessions of IPI, the gathering of editors and national leaders crusading for freedom of the press and of expression. (The noted conservative critic, Jonah, is a son.)
If Nelson Mandela didn't come to us in Capetown, Bishop Tutu did, and Mandela saw us in Kyoto. If it wasn't the president of the host country to welcome us, it was the opposition leader who probably jailed the president by the time the next IPI conference was held in another troubled country.
And Lucianne knew every former VP and Secretary of State on the speakers' circuit.
To place her for those who remember her name but can't remember why, Lucianne persuaded her friend Linda Tripp to record her many conversations with Monica Lewinsky and to make sure the infamous dress survived from the legendary encounter with Bill Clinton. She was a central figure in that scandal,
just one of the notorious anecdotes in which Lucianne played, since she wandered through presidential campaigns for years after interning at the White House. So when she dropped the name of a famous politician over a drink, she usually gift wrapped it with salacious details.
When she gossiped about authors and movie stars, she did so with the assurance of someone who had sold her novel about high-priced call girls,  Madam Cleo's Girls, to Hollywood for just under $500,00. And she did it twice. (If anyone has a copy, please email me because my autographed one has frayed  after Mary loaned it to so many friends.
I remember many conversations with Lucianne over the sexual side of politics, not that my names matched hers.
There was mine about the provincial cabinet minister who died while having hot sex at the King Edward. The body was moved, by one of those aides who do those kind of chores, back to his suite at the Park Plaza so the widow back in the riding could report the next day how her husband had died peacefully in his sleep.  (I have never read about this incident.)
There was a reporter with a national rep working for me who was so drunk when he was trying to get back to his desk in the press gallery in the Parliament Buildings that he went in through a first-floor window. Since it was the middle of the night, it meant he landed inside on a couch on which reclined a politician and his aide, and they weren't sleeping.
There was a premier who cavorted at a far north lake with young Japanese acrobatic twins, which was the mildest of the gossip told me by an opposition leader. Indeed he starred in many stories.
Mild stuff compared to Lucianne's notebook of scandal. She knew, of course, all about the famous encounters of JFK, like in a broom closet in Macey's, but then Kennedy was quoted as saying if he didn't have intercourse every day, he got a migraine.
So I asked her about LBJ who always has fascinated me. How could such a coarse man - he was said to often scratch any part of his anatomy, including his balls, no matter where he was  - get such major  legislation as the Great Society through the Congress?
Lucianne said she was only 18 and riding up alone in an elevator with LBJ on one of those muggy  afternoons. (Before air conditioning, Washington was considered a tropical posting for British diplomats.)
She was wearing a flimsy blouse because of the heat. The President of the United States reached out and pinched both of her breasts because as POITUS explained briefly, "I really like to see titties stand up."
The 36th president didn't run again because of the unpopular Vietnam war, not because of the uncouth behaviour that revolted many around him. Things are changing in such areas, they hasten to assure us, but are they really when there are too many voters (and some Canadian voices raised approvingly too) who are willing to tolerate far more than LBJ's antics in the 60s just as long as they seem to get what they want from a leader who has cheated in everything from marriage and business to politics and decency.