Jefferson-Jackson Day…

A few weeks ago the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s hosted it’s annual dinner. The only reason anyone outside of New Hampshire payed attention to it is because Alec Baldwin was the keynote speaker and offered up a firebrand soundbite that said in part, “we need to overthrow the government.” I’m utterly indifferent to Alec Baldwin and his speech isn’t what really caught my attention in the article from the Union Leader.

The thing I found interesting was the trouble New Hampshire Democrats seem to have at leaving the “name” of their dinner alone. Once upon a time it was known as the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.” Of course the Democratic Party no longer celebrates Jefferson or Jackson, despite their being lions of the young Democratic Party. In 2016 it became the Kennedy-Clinton Dinner. By 2018 throwing over Jefferson and Jackson for two of the 20th century’s noted philanderer presidents suddenly felt like a bad idea too. So this year they settled on hosting their first annual Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner. She’s at least a (mostly) non-controversial figure in Democratic circles.

I only note this because I’ve been watching the great upswell over the last several years that tells us we’re supposed to be embarrassed by our history – that we should hide it, hide from it, and only dare speak of it in hushed tones. Well, I suppose Democrats in New Hampshire are free to be embarrassed by whatever ruffles their garters. If men like Jefferson and Jackson are no longer welcome in their pantheon of heroes, they’re surely welcome to find a home in mine.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Note: I usually let each edition of WAJTW stretch broadly across three topic areas. On rare occasions, I feel compelled to focus in on just one. This is one of those weeks.

Because I refuse to let my social media feeds descend into a single ideology echo chamber, I’m seeing a lot of posts screaming that Justice Kennedy is a “bad man” or has “betrayed the country” buy announcing his retirement. While everyone is entitled to have and voice their opinion, the simple act of having or voicing that opinion doesn’t necessarily make you right.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is 82 years old. He was first appointed to the federal bench by President Gerald Ford. Take a breath and let that sink in. He was appointed to the US Court of Appeals in 1975 and elevated to the Supreme Court in 1988. Take another breath. That means he has been serving his country as a judge for more than 40 years – longer than I’ve been alive and certainly longer than the angsty millennials who seem to make up the largest block of those calling him a “traitor” have been around.

I don’t always agree with Justice Kennedy’s reading of the law, but after entering his 9th decade and serving 43 years on the federal bench, I’d say he’s entitled to move off into retirement any damned time he wants to. If you think an 82 year old man wanting to retire is an act of political cowardice, I suspect you’re the one who has a particularly craven view of politics.

Here’s a pro tip – if you can’t somehow manage to see life through any lens other than politics, go outside for a while, or pick up a book, or watch a movie, or do whatever you need to do to get your head a little unfucked. Seriously. Do it. You’ll thank me later.

They all look alike… usually

When you spend enough time on the road, most hotel rooms have a tendency to blend together to the point where it’s hard to tell a Marriott, from a Hilton, from a Holiday Inn. For the average road warrior, the only part of a hotel you really notice is whatever it is that isn’t working in the room you happen to be in that week. Occasionally, though, a hotel really stands out… and not in that “Eww… there’s a hairball in the tub and a dead mouse under desk” kind of way.

Being first and foremost a lover of history some hotels simply have better stories than others. The best of those are usually reserved for the grand old hotels in the downtown of major cities. Some of these places are past their prime, but some of them have endured as symbols of elegance from on generation to another. It’s been my good fortune to spend the last two nights in one of the latter.

The Hilton Fort Worth was built in the 1920s as the Hotel Texas. Built at a time when cattle drives still ran through the heart of downtown and Fort Worth was in the process of became a center of the Texas oil boom – with money comes political influence… and where there’s influence, there are politicians looking to earn or cash in on favors. On November 21, 1963 President Kennedy arrived in Fort Worth as part of a five-city swing through Texas. The presidential party booked out two floor of the Hotel Texas, with the grandest suite looking out over downtown Fort Worth and Main Street.

On the morning of November 22nd, the president addressed a crowd that had gathered in the early morning rain before delivering formal remarks in the hotel’s ballroom. Following this breakfast speech, the Kennedy motorcade departed the Texas, following an agenda that would carry the president to a scheduled speech in Dallas at noon. Kennedy never made that speech, of course, and the Texas became inextricably linked with one of the darkest moments in American history.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to spend the last two nights at the Fort Worth Hilton, though I can’t help but think of it a the Texas, and I am deeply grateful to the kind staff who allowed me to visit the Kennedy Suite and have a few brief moments of communion with real American history. There was something about it being a hotel room, albeit a ridiculously well appointed hotel room, that reminded me that despite the pomp and ceremony, presidents aren’t anointed; they’re elevated from the people and will return to the people at the end of their term as they have in unbroken succession since the beginning.

I had a moment today. I don’t get those very often any more… and I kind of wish I did.