Flashback

Flashback

Ocean City Cop: Aug. 1997

By From the August 1997 issue

The spring of 1962, age 21, I became a policeman for the summer in Ocean City, Maryland, a ten-mile-long island on the Atlantic and the state's most popular summer resort.

To hear cops on TV shows like "America's Most Wanted" tell it, they all joined the force because they wanted to "give something back to the community" or because police work is "about helping people." Etc., ad barfum. TV cops these days all sound like that scary-looking Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Also, they are lying. They wanted to be cops so they could be paid to be adrenalized; to see trouble and drama and dark emotion; to chase cars and people, to exercise authority, to exact a little justice, maybe to impose their will on somebody else. Or maybe they just needed a job.

I certainly had my motives. The strongest of them was that I wanted to be a writer. I thought being a cop would help me psyche people out, license me as a kind of pragmatic shrink to analyze the orb's patients up close.

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Hill 1969

By From the August 1993 issue

(Editor's Note: Memorial Day and post-Vietnam era liberal presidencies haven’t always been made for each other. This year’s Veterans Affairs scandal is showing our current commander in chief in the worst possible light. Twenty-one years ago, his draft-dodging predecessor was perhaps in an even dicier position. Just to be safe, Bill Clinton’s team made sure to keep Vietnam veterans protesting his appearance at the memorial wall in Washington far away from the actual site. A nice reminder of the Obama team’s effort to shut off access to the war memorials on the Mall in our nation’s capital during last year’s so-called government shutdown. David Clayton Carrad, whose report we flash back to here, was near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day, 1993. It was an ugly, sobering event.)

On Memorial Day this year I got up and caught the 8:22 a.m. train to Washington, D.C., and headed for the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Wall to join the protest against Bill Clinton's presence there.

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How to Keep Pressure on the Sandinistas: Jul. 1989

By From the July 1989 issue

Editor's Note: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is back in the news again as a possible “Establishment” candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. But there was a time when he considered perhaps more Reaganite than his father, who had just been elected president. Consider the two un-ghosted columns he wrote for us in 1989. The first (republished last week) reveals him to be unabashedly Jack Kempian and supply-siderish, the second (below) solidly anti-Sandinista and pro-democratic regarding Nicaragua. Among conservatives in those days, he and not his brother George was regarded as the young Bush to watch. Perhaps today’s right is being too quick to dismiss him?

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The Capital Gains Mandate: Jun. 1989

By From the June 1989 issue

Editor's Note: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is back in the news again as a possible “Establishment” candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. But there was a time when he considered perhaps more Reaganite than his father, who had just been elected president. Consider the two un-ghosted columns he wrote for us in 1989. The first (republished below) reveals him to be unabashedly Jack Kempian and supply-siderish, the second (to come next week) solidly anti-Sandinista and pro-democratic regarding Nicaragua. Among conservatives in those days, he and not his brother George was regarded as the young Bush to watch. Perhaps today’s right is being too quick to dismiss him?

No, it wasn't Willie Horton or the Pledge of Allegiance—the issue that took the prize for sheer demagoguery in last year's presidential campaign was, of all things, the capital gains tax rate. And the candidate who led the charge in misrepresenting what the issue was all about was Governor Michael Dukakis, who, with class-warfare rhetoric, argued that a cut in the tax would be a "$40 billion giveaway for all of Bush's rich friends."

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A Lonely Visionary

By From the December 1987 issue

“Sorry to bother you, but haven’t we met before? Aren’t you…what’s his name?”

“I doubt you’d know my name,” he said. “Nobody does these days.”

There was a trace of bitterness in his voice, just enough to prod my curiosity. On the whole, he was quite an ordinary looking old man, around seventy-five I would guess, with a flabby face and a bald head. But there, right on the top of his forehead, was the painfully familiar huge purple mark resembling the outlines of some exotic land on the globe. Perhaps South America, or even India…. I could swear I’d seen him before.

We were sitting in a bar on Fisherman’s Wharf, the most crowded spot in San Francisco, where you can run across anybody from this or the next world. California, as you know, has the reputation of a weird planet: if there are ghosts, this is their homeland. There is no way of knowing who you might see across the table. Was this fellow one of Hollywood’s old faces, a character from a great but unjustly forgotten movie? He looked a bit like Edward G. Robinson, or someone from The Untouchables.

“Have I seen you on television?”

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Thomas Jefferson: A Scientific Man — Aug.-Sep. 1978

By From the August-September 1978 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence
By Garry Wills / Doubleday / $10.00

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The Truth About Abe Was Astonishing Enough: Apr. 2000

By From the April 2000 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln
By Richard Slotkin

Henry Holt/478 pages/$27.50

Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest
By Jan Morris

Simon & Schuster/205 pages/$23

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R.I.P. Ronald Wilson Reagan: Jul.-Aug. 2004

By From the July-August 2004 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


Ronald Reagan has finally been freed from the dark and lonely silent shroud that had imprisoned his spirit and silenced his voice for over ten years. What a perversely cruel purgatory for such a gregarious and brilliantly communicative man.

We now grieve for him, for his extraordinarily lovely, loyal, and courageous love, Nancy, and for ourselves. But we may now also sing—lift our voices in praise and thanks for the gifts that this gentle, humble, gracious giant bestowed upon America and the tens of millions of people on this planet who now live in freedom because Ronald Reagan heard their pleas and became their voices. We could not eulogize him while he was alive, but we may now give words to long pent-up emotions, relive memories, and express gratitude for the liberty, prosperity, and confidence that he returned to and preserved for us during his lifetime.


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A Great General—And Not a Bad President Either: Jun. 2000

By From the June 2000 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity 1822-1865
By Brooks D. Simpsons

Houghton-Mifflin/533 pages/$35

President Grant Reconsidered
By Frank J. Scaturro

Madison Books/137 pages/$35.50; $16.95 (paper)

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Counting the Costs of Clintonism: Nov. 1998

By From the November 1998 issue

In honor of president's day, the Spectator will be republishing this week essays and reviews on our nation's best — and worst — leaders.


The one hilarious moment in the sad and disgusting Clinton saga came at a fundraiser in Cincinnati. Pursued by his own manifold sins, lies, and impeachable offenses, the president managed a straight face as he assured the audience that the real scandal was a "Washington obsessed with itself instead of America." This, from a man whose self-absorption is legendary, if not pathological, at least deserves an Oscar for best self-parody.
 We have come, at long last, to the end of the Clinton presidency. Whether he is removed from office or continues as a disdained and powerless figurehead, he is through. But the difference between impeachment and political impotence is crucial. It will be a test of the American people. If the head of the most corrupt and malign administration in our history is suffered to remain in office, however crippled, it will be a clear sign that we have turned a corner, that American morality, including but not limited to our political morality, is in free fall.

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