‘I saw my entire life flash before my eyes,’ part II

My time-travel adventure at the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room of the Library of Congress felt like binge-watching reruns of old newscasts. It brought back memories of stories going back to the 1960s — the man on the moon (1969), hijackings of passenger airplanes to Cuba (1970s) and the Clintons’ failed attempt to pass health care legislation (1993-1994); of newsmakers — famous, infamous and everything in between (twice presidential candidate Ross Perot, John Wayne Bobbitt and British pop star Adam Ant); and of brands that no longer exist (Woolworth stores, the Montreal Expos baseball team, Trans World Airlines and Napster).

I also found numerous U.S. political news stories that reminded me of French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s aphorism, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” and made the flashing of my life before my eyes seem to be on a loop.


There were mid-1970s stories about Watergate, which appears as a non-moving traffic violation when compared to what we witnessed during the Trump administration. There were stories about political corruption, one titled “Quirky Ohio Congressman on Trial for Corruption.” If the image of a polyester-suit-clad, Captain-Kangaroo-coiffured politician popped into your mind, you are right: it’s former Rep. James A. Traficant. According to this 2002 AP story, he was “accused of accepting gifts and favors from constituents in exchange for lobbying in Washington.” Two decades later, it sounds rather quaint.


One of the biggest political stories of 1993-1994 was President Bill and Hillary Clinton’s push for health care reform, an effort that eventually failed. Remember the “Harry and Louise” multimillion-dollar ad campaign funded by a health insurance lobby group? OK, but did you know that in 2002, the lovely couple resurfaced in a TV ad, advocating human cloning?

A 1994 story, “Hillary Doll Burned at Stake,” informed readers of a Kentucky rally where someone “poured gasoline on (Hillary Clinton’s) effigy, which hung like a scarecrow in a dress.” “A country band played,” the story continues, as the effigy was set ablaze. That was probably the first execution or conviction of Hilary Clinton in effigy. She was burned in Pakistan (2011) and India (2014); dressed in stripped prison garb in Pennsylvania (2015); inside a witch’s costume in Iowa (2015); in prisoner clothes while flying on a broom in Maine (2015); and hanging from a crane in southern Oregon (2016), wearing a fuchsia-color bra, next to a sign that said “Vote Trump.”


I also found headlines that seem to burst out of last week’s newspapers. A Nicholas von Hoffman column (1976) that lamented the “Death of Logic” was inspired by statements made by Democratic Rep. Larry McDonald of Georgia against the National Council of Labor Relations, which he denounced as a Marxist, avowedly pro-Russian entity. Elevated to the presidency of the John Birch Society in 1983, McDonald had a well-earned reputation as champion of anti-communist, anti-abortion, anti-busing and anti-gun control causes.

The life of the anti-Soviet congressman ended like a hybrid of a Tom Clancy novel and “Airport” (the movie): bad weather delayed his August 28, 1983, Atlanta-to-New York flight; because of that, he missed his connecting flight to Seoul, South Korea; rather than take the next Pan Am flight, he opted for cheaper Korean Airlines tickets, scheduled to fly two days later; at a stopover in Anchorage, Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina (who was attending the same meeting) invited McDonald to join him in another flight, but McDonald refused. A few hours later, Soviet fighters fired on the plane he was flying, killing him along with all crew and passengers.


A couple of editorials/stories about future politician Donald Trump caught my eye. A Calvin Trillin 1989 op-ed bore the title: “Donald Trump, the Man with the Skyscraper Ego.” It recounted the future president’s efforts to inflate his wealth to appear in Forbes’ wealthiest people lists. Trillin opined on a New York Observer poll that revealed Trump had a 94% recognition in New York City. The future president’s reaction was classic Trump: “Hey, I am very flattered … But I just wonder who the other people are.”

Then there was a 1994 article entitled “Chuck Jones Sentenced up to 4 Years.” “Who is Chuck Jones and how was he connected to Trump?” you are entitled to ask. Jones admitted to a “sexual relation” with Trump’s second (then current) wife Marla Trump’s shoes and boots. Yes, you read it correctly, her shoes, which he had stolen along with assorted pieces of lingerie. Upon his conviction, Jones said outside the courtroom that “the jury was wrong, and we plan to appeal this.”

Readers can reach Luis Martinez-Fernandez at LMF_Column@yahoo.com.


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