Stand Up, Miss Jean Louise — Charlie Pierce on the truth Harper Lee taught us.
There are a handful of movie scenes that make the room very, very dusty for me. It’s predictable. I’ve seen the movies hundreds of times. I know the scenes are coming. It doesn’t make any difference. The blurring occurs like an autonomic reflex. The Marsellaisescene in Casablanca is one. So are the last couple of scenes from Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero. (“Ah, bugger it. I meant to say cheeri-o.”) Dorothy’s farewells, especially to the Scarecrow, is another, as is the moment Harry Bailey says, “To my big brother, George, the richest man in town.”
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”
Harper Lee, who died on Friday at 89, taught so many of us how first to read a book without pictures. (Whenever I am reminded that To Kill A Mockingbird is somehow as equally revered as that unlikable mess, Catcher In The Rye, I despair of American youth.) She taught us what simple humanity was before we were old enough to put a name to it. She taught us–gently, as was the fashion of the times–that there was something very wrong at the heart of the America in which we were being raised. I know it’s fashionable now to deride Lee’s masterpiece as a tepid depiction of the segregated South in which she was raised. (And let us be charitable and forget the unseemly circus surrounding Go Tell The Watchman.) But, when I consider these arguments, I am reminded always of what Frederick Douglass said in the aftermath of the murder of Abraham Lincoln:
Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.
It was 1960 when Lee published her book. Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney were still alive. So were Viola Liuzzo and Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Addie Mae Collins and Denise McNair and Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were still going happily to Sunday school at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. I like to believe that, even if we didn’t know it at the time, even if it were only subconsciously, Lee’s book gave millions of schoolchildren something to stash away in ourselves to make sense of what was coming to the country and to determine for ourselves on which side justice was arrayed. I believe, given the sentiment of its times, To Kill A Mockingbird became genuinely subversive over the following decade.
And, anyway, it was beautifully written, which counts, too. Stand up. Miss Lee’s passing.
The End of the Road — David A. Graham in The Atlantic on Jeb Bush ending his run.
Almost all presidential campaigns end in failure. But few complete an arc as dramatic as Jeb Bush’s bid: Once considered a highly unlikely candidate, Bush surged almost immediately upon his entry into the pole position, then almost as quickly fell out contention and became a punch line.
Bush announced on Saturday night that he would leave the race, after a disappointing finish in South Carolina on Saturday. “The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision,” he said. “So tonight I am suspending my campaign.”
It followed an excruciating week of campaigning—a week in which the Jeb finally brought his brother to campaign as a desperation step, tried contacts for the first time in his life, lashed out at pundits and his rivals, and practically begged voters to believe in him.
What will Jeb Bush’s legacy in the 2016 race be? For a one-time frontrunner, the answer is precious little. It’s hard to see much policy impact, and given his standing in the polls, hard to see much political impact. In the final months of the campaign, Bush tried to position himself as Trump’s top assailant, attacking him during debates and on the stump—whether because he thought that would benefit him or because he figured he might as well help the party out on his way out. His major impact, however, may be the damage he did to his former protege Marco Rubio. First, by staying in the race well past the time when he realistically had a chance, Bush clogged up the “establishment lane” Rubio needs to consolidate. Secondly, Right to Rise unloaded on Rubio for weeks, trying to weaken him to Bush’s benefit. It didn’t help Jeb, but it might have hurt Marco. Rubio heads to Nevada, after finishing abreast of Cruz in South Carolina—and that’s the highest he’s finished so far. Maybe Rubio would have faltered anyway, but if the race comes down to Cruz and Trump, expect a great deal of establishment finger-pointing at Bush and Right to Rise for destroying Rubio’s chances.One thing that can be said for Jeb Bush’s candidacy is that he foretold his own fate at the start.
“I don’t know if I would be a good candidate or a bad one, but I kinda know how a Republican could win, whether it’s me or somebody else, and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive,” he said at a Wall Street Journal event in December 2014, adding that a GOP nominee must be willing to “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”
There were a few cringeworthy moments—like the contacts—but in general, it’s a credo that Bush kept to. While he wasn’t above attacking rivals, he was never comfortable adopting the tactics of a Trump or a Cruz. He tried to stay positive. Whether Bush was capable of winning the general election is now only a matter of speculation, but he was willing to lose the primary to do it.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—As America’s bridges, roads, and other infrastructure dangerously deteriorate from decades of neglect, there is a mounting sense of urgency that it is time to build a giant wall.
Across the U.S., whose rail system is a rickety antique plagued by deadly accidents, Americans are increasingly recognizing that building a wall with Mexico, and possibly another one with Canada, should be the country’s top priority.
Harland Dorrinson, the executive director of a Washington-based think tank called the Center for Responsible Immigration, believes that most Americans favor the building of border walls over extravagant pet projects like structurally sound freeway overpasses.
“The estimated cost of a border wall with Mexico is five billion dollars,” he said. “We could easily blow the same amount of money on infrastructure repairs and have nothing to show for it but functioning highways.”
Congress has dragged its feet on infrastructure spending in recent years, but Dorrinson senses growing support in Washington for building a giant border wall. “Even if for some reason we don’t get the Mexicans to pay for it, five billion is a steal,” he said.
While some think that America’s declining infrastructure is a national-security threat, Dorrinson strongly disagrees. “If immigrants somehow get over the wall, the condition of our bridges and roads will keep them from getting very far,” he said.
Doonesbury — Six of seven.