Do you remember when George W. Bush made the state visit to Beijing, and at the end of a speech, he attempted to walk out of the conference room, but chose a locked set of doors? He pulled and pulled and the doors wouldn't budge; finally, his Chinese hosts led him to another exit:
It was, like most things Mr. Bush did during his presidency, an extremely uncomfortable thing to behold.
In the interests of political balance, Jimmy Carter's speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention easily equals Bush's door troubles. Carter had barely outlasted challenger Ted Kennedy in a long, ugly primary battle. The party was deeply divided, the nation mired in what Carter himself called "a malaise": the economy was a mess and the Iranian hostage crisis extended from weeks to months and we were becoming familiar with a nightmare called Love Canal. Lousy times, indeed. Carter, seeking to unite his dissolute troops, invoked the name of a recently deceased lion of the Democratic Party, the much beloved Senator Hubert Horatio Humphrey of Minnesota. We have lost a hero, a warrior, Carter declaimed, a man "who would have been one of the greatest Presidents in history -- Hubert Horatio Hornblower, um, Humphrey!" Even watching it on tee vee, you could feel every ounce of energy drizzle out of Madison Square Garden. Carter looked like a man who knew that his political career was over, an utterly defeated, completely humiliated man. I haven't been able to find a photo of that, but this image of a conventioneer sums up the moment:
I was in high dudgeon in my last post. I'm still probably going to take a break, but then again, I woke up four times last night, thinking about Thomas More, and I feel guilty, so who knows? The guilt cocktail that is produced when a Catholic converts to Mormonism, the Monongahela of Catholic guilt joining with the Allegheny of Mormon guilt to create one super river, a mighty Ohio of guilt, makes any other psycho-religious conscience pangs you can muster -- Jewish guilt, Lutheran guilt, Mennonite guilt (if there is such a thing; I know they make quilts, I'm not sure about guilt) -- look like a kid playing with a garden hose by comparison.
Anyway, I mentioned the Battle of Agincourt, but I messed up the Shakespeare reference. Hubert Horatio Hornblower! am I embarrassed! It hit me this afternoon that "screw your courage to the sticking place" is from Macbeth; Henry's speech is about "a band of brothers." It's the St. Crispin's Day speech. (If you're interested, Lawrence Weschler writes an interesting essay about Shakespeare's take on Agincourt in his Vermeer in Bosnia.)
So I apologize for that, cabbage soup. And now to find an unlocked door...