Our First Ladies are a National Treasure – Sunday Political Brunch—April 22, 2018
Sunday, April 22, 2018
“Beating Around the Bushes” – This is a family that, like the Kennedys, is now in its fourth consecutive generation in America politics. They are simply interwoven in the fabric of this country. Barbara Bush was the daughter-in-law to Senator Prescott Bush (R-CT); wife to President George H.W. Bush; mother to President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and grandma of Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. The family dynasty is by no means over, with Jeb Bush still viable on the national stage, and his son George P., just getting his political sea legs.
“The Kennedy Kin” – Quite honestly, the only other woman in American history that can match Barbara Bush is Rose Kennedy. Rose was the wife of British Ambassador Joe Kennedy; mom of President John F. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy; grandma of Rep. Joseph Kennedy II (D-MA); and great-grandmother of current Rep. Joe Kennedy, (D-MA). There were many other elected Kennedys, too, within each generation.
“Of Politics and Pain” – One of the things I found remarkable about Barbara Bush and Rose Kennedy was their compassion for others, despite great personal loss in their own lives. Rose Kennedy lost two children in World War II, and then two sons to assassination. Barbara Bush lost a daughter to leukemia at a very young age. And, many people forget that First Lady Jackie Kennedy lost two children before her husband’s assassination. The tremendous grief they must have endured, especially while living in the public spotlight, is unfathomable. Yet, they endured, and their contributions post-tragedy were remarkable. I remember once talking about this in a college lecture I delivered and someone said, “But these are incredibly rich and powerful families.” My response was, “Pain is pain; and grief is grief. I can’t imagine what it must be like to bury a child, whether you’re politically-powerful, rich, poor, or in the middle.”
“Covering Jackie’s Funeral” – One of my most enduring memories of being a reporter in Washington, DC, was covering the burial of Jackie Kennedy Onassis at Arlington National Cemetery. No press was allowed at the graveside service, but we could share a pool feed of the event. With all due respect, that is too sanitized for me, although I do think it was respectful of the family. So, I set up along the long driveway to the public entrance of the cemetery hours ahead of the funeral cortege. Suddenly I heard a man singing the most off-key, horrendous rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. His singing was bad. Yet, he was waving a large American flag, and his passion and grief were palpable. When I interviewed him afterwards he was in tears, saying something to the effect of, “I came to this country from the West Indies. I never would have become what I have, without President Kennedy and his wife.” He was grief-stricken as the hearse carrying her casket passed us by. I’ll never forget him!
“Who’s My Favorite First Lady?” – It’s a tough call, but I am going to say Betty Ford. It’s interesting, some First Ladies are very politically active and outspoken (Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama), and some have been more quiet and reserved (Pay Nixon and Laura Bush). Some were clearly behind-the-scenes, influential political operatives (Eleanor Roosevelt and Nancy Reagan). But who had the longest imprint on America? I say Betty Ford. First, she dealt with breast cancer publicly and with candor (back then you couldn’t even say breast on TV). Then she dealt publicly with addiction. The openness and availability of non-judgmental substance abuse treatment in this county - for decades now - is all due to Betty Ford.
“Sometimes it’s the Small Things” – One of the more understated First Ladies in my lifetime was Lady Bird Johnson. While some of the others I mentioned here took on heavyweight issues such as health care reform, drug use, literacy, nutrition, and substance abuse treatment, some were forceful and effective on other issues. Lady Bird’s issue was highway beautification. You must remember the Interstate Highway System launched by President Eisenhower was still in its infancy through the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Lady Bird fought for limiting the number of billboards, and led a crackdown on littering. The fact that we can drive cross-country in such beauty is a testament to her passion and legacy.
“Why the Political Spouses Matter?” – I refer here to First Ladies, but more and more we are seeing First Gentlemen across the land. Folks, these are critical, important, and influential people. I’ve often felt sorry for political spouses, many of whom did not seek the spotlight, but were thrust on stage. But they are very crucial in our process, because they have the ear of a president, governor, senator, or all the way down to town council member. Political spouses can have great influence, and will say things to their partner that no one else will. When President George W. Bush told Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to “bring it on” in 2001, when he got back to the White House quarters he says First Lady Laura Bush scolded him, saying in effect, “Are you crazy? What were you thinking?” In short, political partners matter!
Who was your favorite First Lady and why? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the Mountain State
Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017
Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level
Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017
Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)
Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.
When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?
Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?
Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...
Definitely be voting: 78%
Probably be voting: 13%
In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?
Right track: 39%
Wrong track: 45%
Don't know/Refused: .6%
What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?
Jobs and economy: 21%
State budget: 9%
Corruption/Public integrity: .8%
Don’t know: .9%
Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?
Changed for the better: 35%
Changed for the worse: 16%
Not changed at all: 43%
Don't know/Refused: 5%
Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?
Changed for the better: 26%
Changed for the worse: 19%
Not changed at all: 54%
Don't know/Refused: 1%
Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?
Net: Approve: 28%
Definitely approve: 15%
Probably approve: 14%
Net: Reject: 67%
Probably reject: 19%
Definitely reject: 48%
Don't know: 4%
Could you please tell me your age?
Don't know/refused: 1%
What was the last grade you completed in school?
High school grad: 16%
Technical/Vocational school: 1%
Some college: 23%
College grad: 34%
Graduate degree: 24%
Don't know/refused: 1%
The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).
$50,000 or less: 27%
More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%
More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%
More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%
$150,000 or more: 13%
Don't know/refused: 17%
What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?
Black or African American: 6%
Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?
Never heard of: 0%
Cannot rate: 3%
Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%
Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%
Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 8%
Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%
Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%
Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%
Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%
Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%
Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%
- Sunday Political Brunch: The Roy Moore Fallout—December 17, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch: Is this a Franken-Stein Strategy?—December 10, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch: Tax Reform - To Infinity And Beyond? - December 24, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch: The Top Political Stories of the Year - December 31, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch: The Irish Connection - January 7, 2018
- Sunday Political Brunch: Why Republicans Had to Pivot on Roy Moore—November 26, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch: Why is South Carolina Such a Pivotal State—November 19, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch—October 22 - Could There be a “Trump Effect” in 2018?
- Sunday Political Brunch: Is Republican Party at a Crossroads?—October 29, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch: President Trump Had a Roller Coaster Week—November 5, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch - The Perils of Party Infighting—November 12, 2017
- Sunday Political Brunch: The Intersection Of Math And Politics
- Sunday Political Brunch: Trump’s First Year Report Card—January 21, 2018
- A ‘Topsy-Turvy’ White House—Sunday Political Brunch - March 18, 2018
- Could Trump’s Erosion Become a Political Avalanche?—Sunday Political Brunch March 11
- The Sunday Political Brunch—March 25, 2018
- Time for a Political Smackdown Sunday Political Brunch April 1, 2018
- The Race to the Primary Finish Line - Sunday Political Brunch April 8, 2018
- Of Political Turning Points - Sunday Political Brunch March 4
- It’s a Pot Luck Sunday Political Brunch – February 25
- Sunday Political Brunch: Before and After the Storms—January 28, 2018
- Sunday Political Brunch: The Intersection of Sports and Politics - February 4, 2018
- Sunday Political Brunch: This Year’s Political Valentines
- Sunday Political Brunch—The Looming March Madness of Politics February 18
- On the Road Again on the Political Trail - The Sunday Political Brunch, April 15