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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres




© Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte/Corbis.


"In all the rarefied rooms through which he moved with leonine grace in the prime of his life, Ben Bradlee benefited from a singular gift: everyone he encountered wanted to be like him or with him. He wore the honor as lightly as one of his trademark bold-striped shirts. Since Bradlee’s prime constituted (more or less) the last half of the 20th century—and a few good years of the 21st—his admirers amounted to an honor roll of his era. Not for nothing did he call his memoir A Good Life, a title that he suggested, with typical insouciance, was better than Personal History, the Pulitzer-winning memoir of his Washington Post patron, Katharine Graham. Bradlee’s self-confidence was the stuff of legend, and, as the saying goes, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. When he walked through the newsroom of the Post that he single-handedly had made (in Post editor Meg Greenfield’s words) 'dangerous to people in government,' he clanked between the waist and knees (as he would have himself confessed). Lesser men, and lesser journalists, would have given their 'left one' (as he also would have put it), to have a tenth of his talent, fame, or wealth. His pedigree was Brahmin and his blood was blue. His maternal great-uncle, Frank Crowninshield, was the founding editor of Vanity Fair. He spoke grammatically perfect French with an unyielding Boston accent. He survived four years of naval service on destroyers in the Pacific during World War II and made a splash as Newsweek’s man in Paris in the golden days of the postwar 1950s. But his greatest break came through a willful bit of luck, when he found himself the Georgetown neighbor of his fellow Harvard graduate, Senator John F. Kennedy, when they and the world were both still young. They shared parties and children and drinks and danger. (And, if Kennedy had had his way at the last birthday party of his life, they might have shared Bradlee’s second wife, Tony, too. Tony confessed decades later to V.F.’s Sally Bedell Smith, for her book Grace and Power, that J.F.K had chased her around the presidential yacht during a long and bibulous nightwhich Bradlee claimed was news to him.) When Kennedy became president, Bradlee enjoyed access to the White House that was then extraordinary and that would be inconceivable today. Did he know of Kennedy’s sexual recklessness? To his last sentient day he insisted he did not, explaining that they had mostly been together in the company of their wives, where such exploits would have been unlikely conversational grist. A fair point, but an asterisk on history’s ledger all the same.  " (vf)





"A friend once remarked that Ben Bradlee was 'a man's man,' to which my wife replied, 'he's also quite a woman's man.' Woman or man, it was hard to find anyone as engaging and fun to be around as Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, who died tonight at age 93.  He was arguably the most significant newspaper editor of the 20th century, taking the Washington Post from a very good local paper to one of America's three great national newspapers. It was under Bradlee that the the Post broke, and owned, the Watergate story that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon; published the Pentagon papers over the fierce opposition of the government which took the case, unsuccessfully, all he way to the Supreme Court; and hired and developed some of the greatest journalists in the  U.S. His charm was unsurpassed, his instincts almost unfailing and he had, as someone once said, the guts of a cat burglar. For 40 years, as presidents came and went, Ben Bradlee and his wife, Sally Quinn, were monuments of Washington. One of my few regrets in a long career in journalism is never having worked for Ben. Others can retell his extraordinary feats as the Post executive editor. I have personal story that only could be Ben Bradlee. There was a marvelous Newsweek reporter, John Lindsay; in the 1960s, Ben had been his bureau chief. John was as pure Boston Irish as Ben was Brahmin. Lindsay also was an insightful political reporter.
In the mid-1980s John was dying of cancer. Ben had a party to celebrate John while he still was active. You might think that could be maudlin. It wasn't one bit. It was gloriously fun, full of journalistic war stories, barbed witticisms and lots of high spirits. It probably was the only Georgetown party ever attended by West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd. Lindsay had covered Richard Nixon, and while he was no fan of the ex-president, they had formed an inexplicable bond of sorts. I called the former president's office to see if there was any way Nixon might call John that evening. When the aide asked where -- those were the days before mobile phones --I gulped and said at the home of Ben Bradlee, the editor who played such a critical role in bringing down Nixon.
In the middle of the party, John was summoned to take a call. There was the unmistakable voice on the other end. 'They said I would never go to China and I did,' Nixon declared. 'They said I would never call Ben Bradlee's house, and I just have.'" (Al Hunt)



Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


"It seems nearly certain that Democrats will lose the Senate in two weeks, returning Congress to Republican control. The topic of conversation in Washington has now shifted to what the next two years might look like. And the short answer is, 'Not pretty.'Thankfully, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — who will likely become Senate majority leader — has not been shy about previewing the Republican strategy. 'We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,' McConnell told Politico. 'That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.' Speaking with a group of donors, he was even blunter: “In the House and Senate, we own the budget,” he said, according to a recording obtained by The Nation. 'So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board.'Let’s unpack what McConnell is saying. Republicans winning the Senate does not mean that they will be able to pass any legislation they like. For one, Democrats would be able to filibuster bills in the upper chamber. More important, President Obama would be able to veto any legislation that ended up on his desk — something he has seen need to do just twice thus far in his presidency. In other words, Democrats would be able to obstruct most Republican legislation, and will have to compromise if they want to construct any of their own. What could Republicans and Democrats come together on? There is a short list. Trade promotion authority — easing the way for the White House to pass two gigantic new pacts under negotiation — seems like a strong possibility, as does the passage of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Corporate tax reform is less likely, but potentially doable. Republicans also might pass a pared-down version of immigration reform, expanding visas for skilled immigrants and beefing up border security without touching the thorny question of what to do with the 12 million undocumented individuals already here. Democrats might not like it, but they might find such legislation hard to filibuster or to veto." (NYMag)











Oscar receiving guests with the Queen of Spain.


"Oscar de la Renta died this past Monday at age 82 (July 22) at his home in Kent, Connecticut. He had been ill and inconvenienced by cancer for the past several years. I use the word 'inconvenienced' because he continued to work and live almost as if it were nothing more than that.I didn’t know him but I was in his spheres of interest many times and had the opportunity to observe him. He was a very polished fellow publicly. Elegant, refined, and relaxed with it, right up until the end. The last time I saw him was at the Couture Council’s lunch at Lincoln Center at the beginning of Fashion Week in September. He looked noticeably gaunt for really the first time, although he was tanned, and bright eyed and smartly dressed in a greige suit and blue shirt. He had a sartorial style that was not just like, but reminiscent of, Fred Astaire. There was Technicolor to it, even with the greige. n the past couple of years there were a few times when word was going around sotto voce that Oscar was dying, with perhaps only days remaining. A few days later he would be out at an event, or showing his collections, or hosting a dinner for the Queen of Spain, or traveling to Lake Tahoe for his annual collection for some fundraising gala. I was told that even when he was having his chemo treatments, he went straight from the hospital to his office and his work. What more do we need to know about the essence of the man. He was ambitious and driven from the beginning. But he seemed to have worn it the way he wore those grey suits -- smartly and elegantly. In his work there were always the bright colored Latin frou-frou to his classic designs that gave them class and wit. He altered with the times but the personal sensibility was always his signature.The Couture Council of the Museum at FIT honored him a couple of years ago at their Fashion Week lunch. He was looking good, despite the sotto voce reports (which may very well have been accurate in terms of expectation). He had turned 80 that year and was still youthful in his comportment and appearance before his public." (NYSD)

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