THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Old film echoes today’s threat

TALK ABOUT PRESCIENCE. On my recent birthday, I got lucky. For the hundredth time, I got to see Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one of the greatest movies of all time. Frank Capra, the phenomenal director, gets the credit for most of it. In this era of Trump, when the norms of this Republican Democracy are being corrupted again and again, this great film, produced in 1939, shows the potential for the downfall of our principles and reminds us how close this country is coming to a major meltdown and a change to a fascistic/totalitarian form of government.

The basic plot revolves around a corrupt boss in an unnamed state who wants to build an unnecessary dam. He is juxtaposed with a young man, an interim appointment to the Senate, who wants to build a boys’ camp in that same natural spot. We see all the Washington sights, with a particular emphasis on the statue of Abraham Lincoln and the truths embodied and printed on his memorial that, incidentally, was created very close to where I live in the Berkshires.

The movie really gets going when Mr. Smith, who has been framed and pilloried by the hometown boss, gets up on the floor to filibuster. He reads everything from the U.S. Constitution to all the other documents he can find. It is fascinating that in watching this film from so long ago, we can see the playbook of Donald Trump so many years later. Trump, of course, is morally corrupt. We are now hearing accusations that the president instructed the U.S. Ambassador to Britain to make sure an important match is played on a golf course that he owns. Trump denied that he did it, but he has lied so many times that many of us do not believe him. Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Fight with Gov? Not smart

AS I REMEMBER, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon used to talk about his “jurisdiction.” Who would have thunk that the concept of jurisdiction would make a major comeback in the days of the COVID-19 pandemic and yet another scourge known as Donald Trump. We have a president who is insisting that his powers are paramount to that of governors, mayors, state legislatures and both houses of Congress. In Gunsmoke, Matt Dillon was a U.S. marshall and that made him more important than the lesser sheriffs and law enforcement folks in his jurisdiction. Ditto the legend of Wyatt Earp, who was both a local law enforcement guy and a U.S. marshall. Of course, that is all fiction.

Today, we are seeing jurisdictional fights all around us. Just take New York, for example. Unless you have difficulty with hearing and seeing, you are well aware of the bad blood between Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and his adversary, the Democratic mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. We all know that the two guys don’t like each other very much. Cuomo is riding the waves (as we used to say on Fire Island) with a polling rating above 65%, while poor de Blasio is down in the basement. I’m not sure what the origins of that fight are all about. Part of it may be that at one point, both men had their eyes on the White House. Both will deny it until the moment one or the other of them decides to run. In the competition between Cuomo and de Blasio, Cuomo has certainly prevailed. Read more…