The Super Bowl will be played tomorrow in Atlanta, but ratings in New Orleans will be abysmal because of the infamous blown call. The game is being boycotted by most locals: Dr. A and I are going to two non-watching parties. I’m unsure if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be burnt in effigy at either soiree. One of them is a birthday party so perhaps there will be a Goodell pinata. Probably not: my friends Clay and Candice have a small child and the sight of Goodell is traumatic to most New Orleanians.
New Orleans and Atlanta have a longstanding and intense rivalry. And not just in football. They’ve topped us economically but we have better food as well as charm up the proverbial wazoo. Saints fans are also disappointed not to be Super Bowling in Atlanta because they’re losing out on some trash talking opportunities. So it goes.
This week’s theme song was written in 1967 by Louisiana native Tony Joe White who died last fall at the age of 75. Rainy Night In Georgia is a song that proves the adage that the best songs are sad songs: “looks like it’s raining all over the world.”
We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the songwriter’s original, Brook Benton’s 1970 hit version, and a mournful 2013 interpretation by Boz Scaggs.
Let’s put away our umbrellas and jump to the break. We’ll try not to splash land.
Since I just went on about NOLA’s metropolitan nemesis, here’s some Little Feat:
While we have Georgia, Georgia on our minds, we begin our second act with a segment about the only American president from the Peach State.
Carter-Kennedy: There are generational differences in how people view Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Younger Democrats focus on his genuine accomplishments whereas those of us who were there take a dimmer view of the Carter era, especially his disastrous 1980 campaign.
The generation gap is fueled by Carter’s superb (one of his favorite words) post presidency. I’m old enough to recall his being dubbed “the most conservative Democratic president since Grover Cleveland” by many observers. They were not far wrong. That’s why Ted Kennedy challenged him in 1980.
A trademark of all Carter campaigns was a fast start followed by a fade at the end. In 1976, he built an early lead but lost many of the late primaries to Frank Church and Jerry Brown. The same thing happened in the general election as Gerald Ford closed fast to make it a squeaker.
In 1980, Carter employed the so-called Rose Garden strategy and let surrogates, particularly Vice President Mondale, do the campaigning. His justifcation was the Iran hostage crisis but it led to the same pattern in the Democratic primaries: a fast start and a wobbly close. Kennedy hit his stride when it was too late to win enough delegates but the damage was done.
I supported the Kennedy challenge but wished that the Carter-Mondale ticket had been flipped. I preferred Fritz to Grits. And the Veep understood how much trouble they were in after the annus horribilis of 1979. Team Carter was convinced they could paint Ronald Reagan as an extremist ala Barry Goldwater in 1964. As a Californian, I knew it wouldn’t work: Reagan was a pragmatic Governor and, more importantly, a magnetic campaigner.
Election night 1980 was a major bummer. Carter’s support collapsed at the beginning of November and it turned into a Reagan wave as the GOP gained 12 Senate seats. Carter made matters worse by conceding hours before the polls closed in many states. Some distinguished veteran Democratic senators lost their seats as a result: Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh, George McGovern, Frank Church, John Culver, and Warren Magnuson were among nine incumbents to lose. Many of the defeated Senators blamed Carter’s premature concession for their defeat. I concur.
Jimmy Carter was decent on foreign policy but he was a terrible politician. It’s one reason I take a dim view of his administration. His defeat moved the country to the right and helped make a former movie star POTUS. As a young Congressional aide, I heard a joke that went around Democratic circles. It was said that Tip O’Neill’s epitaph would be: “Never met a man he didn’t like except for Jimmy Carter.” Then Senate Democratic leader, Robert Byrd, felt the same way.
That brings me to the reason for this long essay about Jimmy Carter. Jon Ward has written a book about the 1980 race, Camelot’s End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That Broke The Democratic Party.
There are two excerpts online. The first one in Vanity Fair discusses Kennedy’s decision to run and the reaction of Team Carter. It’s a vivid reminder of the antipathy and disdain felt by both candidates.
The second excerpt can be found at Politico magazine. Jon Ward takes a look at the messy 1980 Democratic Convention. Carter wanted an “armpit picture” with Kennedy and did not get it. The challenge was a major factor in Carter’s loss to Reagan but Jimmy was as much at fault as Teddy.
Let’s move from the bitter to the sweet.
Calvin & Alice: One of my favorite non-fiction writers is Calvin Trillin of The New Yorker. I’m particularly fond of the Tummy Trilogy, which recounts Trillin’s gustatory exploits in the company of his beautiful and brilliant wife, Alice.
I just learned that Trillin has written a play about his remarkable marriage to Alice who died in 2001. Trillin recently sat down with the Cut’s Rebecca Traister to discuss the play and his relationship with Alice.
While we’re on the thrilling subject of the Trillins, check out his classic 2006 tribute to his beloved wife, Alice Off The Page.
It’s impossible to top Calvin & Alice so let’s segue to our regular features.
The Weekly GV: I became a diehard Gore Vidal fan upon reading Burr. I still have the tattered paperback that I’ve read multiple times even though it’s rather torn and frayed.
This week’s quote comes from that masterpiece by the Master wherein he writes about Thomas Jefferson in the voice of Aaron Burr:
[From Aaron Burr’s journal]: Jefferson was a ruthless man who wanted to create a new kind of world, dominated by independent farmers each living on his own rich land, supported by slaves. It is amazing how beguilingly he could present this contradictory visions. But then in all his words if not deeds Jefferson was so beautifully human, so eminently vague, so entirely dishonest but not in any meretricious way. Rather it was a passionate form of self-delusion that rendered Jefferson as president and as man (not to mention as writer of tangled sentences and lunatic metaphors) confusing even to his admirers.
Vidal himself had a higher opinion of Jefferson despite obvious qualms about his views on slavery and TJ’s attempt to reconcile the “peculiar institution” with his authorship of the Declaration of Independence.
Are you ready for our favorite stolen feature? Ready or not, here it comes.
Separated At Birth: Yeah, I know, I’ve already used this image in a post about Kellyanne Conway’s cartoon villainy but seeing her side-by-side with Cruella de Vil never gets old.
Saturday GIF Horse: We’ve all seen the infamous blown-call from the Saints-Rams game way too many times. It’s time to relive one of the greatest moments in New Orleans sports history: Steve Gleason’s blocked punt against the Atlanta Falcons in the first post-Katrina/Federal Flood game at the Super Dome.
Steve Gleason became a local hero after that play. He’s an even bigger hero after his courageous battle against ALS and the good works that he and his family have done for those afflicted with that dreadful disease. Thanks, Steve.
I made a lot of jokes about the first rule of holes during the Trump shutdown. The Insult Comedian is still digging with his talk of a national emergency. Out next feature takes a look at hole digging; literally, not figuratively.
Weekly Vintage Music Video: Peter Gabriel’s promo videos were among the best during the heyday of MTV and VH1. The video for Digging In The Dirt is every bit as good as the one for PG’s breakthrough hit, Sledgehammer.
Are you ready to get down and dirty? I thought so.
Let’s close our virtual super bowl boycott party with some music from a Georgia born and bred bluesman, Blind Willie McTell.
Saturday Classic: McTell recorded the sessions that became Atlanta Twelve String in 1949. It was forgotten for many years but after the Allman Brothers Band championed his music, the album was released in 1975.
That’s it for this week. The last word goes to Democrats in disarray at the 1980 convention at Madison Square Garden.