President Bush Forces Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Step Down (November 8, 2006)

Donald_rumsfeld The morning of November 8, 2006 was dreary and rainy but I was in good spirits for two reasons.  First, the results from yesterday's mid-term elections were very positive as both houses of Congress returned to Democratic control.  Second, I was getting paid for a research project I had recently completed about the U.S. Hispanic market.  I went up to Chelsea at around noon to pick up my check from the research company I did the project for.  From there I walked over to my bank to deposit it and while standing in line at HSBC I heard the surprising news on CNN that irascible Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was stepping down. 


Singin_in_the_rain This news bulletin was like a beam of sunshine breaking through that day's clouds.  Even better was the fact that for some reason the president decided to wait until after the election to make this announcement.  Therefore, it was of no benefit to Republican candidates.  This news made the day's pouring rain (the most of any day this year, a record-setting 3.60") more than bearable.  In fact, as I walked home I felt lighthearted, just like Gene Kelly in his famous rain-splashing scene in the the movie Singin' in the Rain.  At long last there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel - and in two more years we would be delivered from evil. 


Gore vs. Bush: Too Close to Call (November 7, 2000)



In the early evening of Election Day, Nov. 7, 2000, I was running on the treadmill at the gym (Crunch Fitness) watching news coverage as I warmed up for my weight workout.  The early returns looked promising for Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic candidate (and my choice).  In fact, NBC had just projected him to be the winner in Florida.  This encouraging news gave me a lift during my workout.  However, by the time I returned home an hour later the state's 25 electoral votes had been taken from his column as Florida was now "too close to call".  This was quite an unusual development.



Voting results 2000 election


I stayed up until nearly 2 AM, and then for whatever reason I chose to keep the TV on as I slept.  (At least I was able to lull myself to sleep knowing that former First Lady Hillary Clinton had won her race in New York for the US Senate.)  I awoke to the same uncertainty as when I crawled into bed - the race had yet to be called.  And this is how it would stay for the next five weeks until the Supreme Court decided in Bush's favor - thus beginning an 8-year nightmare for the nation.  (Books by CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and renowned Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz discuss the standoff in Florida.) 




The craziness in Florida, with its confusing variety of ballots, caused me to reflect on how those in the advertising research field (my profession) so often disparage Nielsen for its measurement of TV audiences - using techniques which go through rigorous methodological review.  How curious that its methods are held up to such greater scrutiny compared to the jerry-rigged system used to elect the President - undoubtedly the most important individual in the world.   








Americans Taken Hostage In Iran (November 4, 1979)

Iranian_revolution_1979A new pope, the Village People and the 3-Mile Island meltdown all upended the world order in 1979.  But the year's biggest news story was the revolution in Iran, which had major implications for the U.S. since the revolutionaries considered us its greatest enemy (the "great Satan") because of our support of the Shah during his 27 years in power.  To retaliate they instituted an oil embargo, worsening America's already floundering economy.  Their enmity towards us worsened in late October when president Carter allowed the Shah to enter the U.S. to receive cancer treatment.  


American_hostages_iranHowever, the year was a momentous one for me as I graduated college (Penn State) and joined the workforce, hired at New York ad agency Scali, McCabe, Sloves where I worked in its media department.  Seven months after beginning my job a furious mob broke into the U.S. embassy in Tehran (in response to the Shah coming to the U.S.) and took 54 American employees and diplomats hostage. 


TIMEMagazine_HostageCrisisEndsI was anxious over this turn of events because there was talk that the U.S. might reinstate the draft and go to war.  (And less than two months after the hostages were taken the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.)  However, after a number of months that possibility seemed to have passed, even if it took more than a year before the hostages were released (444 days, to be exact, with their release occurring the day of Ronald Reagan's inauguration in January 1981).


Ben_affleck_argoAll of my feelings of anxiety from this grim time in U.S. history came flooding back in 2012 when I went to see Ben Affleck's new movie, Argo, about six Americans who managed to escape the U.S. embassy in Tehran when it was overtaken.  The film perfectly captures the pervading sense of despair, impotence and anger felt in America at that time.  





Barack Obama Elected President (November 4, 2008)

Timecover_obama_elected History would be made regardless of who won the 2008 presidential election, held on November 4.  Either the US would have its first African American president, Barack Obama, or its first female vice president, Sarah Palin.  I voted before going to work and waited in line for a little more than an hour at my polling place at an NYU dorm in Greenwich Village, which was across the street from Washington Square Park.  Happily, the sun was shining and the line of voters was buzzing with anticipation.  And although I had been a supporter of Hillary Clinton during the primaries I was happy to cast my ballot for Obama. 





I watched election coverage on CNN when I got home from work that night.  I planned to go to the gym but got caught up in the very encouraging returns, especially from traditional "red" states such as Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina.  Later in the evening I called my mother in Pittsburgh to talk about the impending good news.  Then as soon as the polls closed in California (11PM in the East) CNN declared Obama the winner.  The streets in my Greenwich Village neighborhood erupted in wild cheers as if the Yankees or Mets had won the World Series.  And the partying atmosphere continued all night.





Obama's acceptance speech in Chicago was somber but inspiring.  A few minutes earlier he and his family had walked onto a large stage in front of one million ecstatic supporters, a setting that seemed almost European in style with its pomp and pageantry.  At one point a crowd shot showed Jesse Jackson wiping away tears.  Meanwhile Obama's opponent, John McCain, gave a very gracious concession speech.  As usual his wife Cindy, looked stunning in a chic yellow-gold outfit (and likely thrilled that the campaign was over) - in contrast to the peculiar choice of a dress that Michelle Obama wore. 



 Obama elected usa today


Previous blog posts I've published about two other presidential elections:

Jimmy Carter Elected Over Gerald Ford (Nov. 2, 1976)

Gore vs. Bush:  Too Close to Call (Nov. 7, 2000)

Jimmy Carter Elected President Over Gerald Ford (November 2, 1976)

Carter_vs_fordSince 1960 there have been four very close presidential elections*.  One of them - 1976's race between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford - happened to be the first I voted in (but I voted by absentee ballot since I was away at college at Penn State).  Ford was the incumbent, immortalized by Saturday Night Live's Chevy Chase for his clumsy (albeit congenial) nature.  Meanwhile Carter came out of nowhere (nowhere being Plains, Georgia) - trailblazing a path that future Democratic presidents Clinton and Obama would also take.   


Jimmycarter_1976campaign A month before the election Carter made a campaign stop at the Beaver Valley Mall which was adjacent to campus.  It was Saturday morning and a group of us walked there to see if we might catch a glimpse of him.  I got close enough to snap the photo to the right (as you can see, of poor quality), but a bit too close for the Secret Service agents when I ducked under some barricades.  I'm sure if it had been 30 years later I would have been tackled and 'cuffed rather than just pushed back.   






Donkey_elephant The autumn of '76 was also memorable because I had my one - and only - girlfriend at that time (I came to the realization that I was gay the following summer).  And what sticks with me about this election was that Carrie was a Ford supporter.  This was hard for me to reconcile because I had the naive notion in my head that everyone in my circle of friends would have similar political leanings.  After all, how could someone I enjoyed being with have such a different view when it came to politics?  (I had a similar feeling when I joined Facebook and was taken aback by troubling political comments made by some of my "friends".)  It just so happened that ours was a short-lived relationship and this would be one of the final nails in the coffin.  





Carter_mondale On Election night I had sign-in duty at my dorm, a co-ed building in which girls lived on one side, guys on the other.  Members of the opposite sex were required to sign in to visit the "other side" after 8:00.  I heard election returns in piecemeal fashion and was in bed long before Carter was declared the winner at 3:30 AM (I had to be up early for my 8:00 philosophy class.)  His victory was delivered by Ohio, which he won by just 0.27% - beating Ford by 11,000 votes out of four million cast.  Of course, I was delighted - even more so because it gave me bragging rights over Carrie and her vexing choice.  (Post script: 33 years later Carrie and I became reacquainted on Facebook).


To read more about their respective presidencies two books to consider are The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. and Gerald R. Ford.


*The other elections were 1960 (Kennedy vs. Nixon), 1968 (Humphrey vs. Nixon) and 2000 (Gore vs. Bush).      

Anita Hill Testifies Against Clarence Thomas (October 11, 1991)



Oct. 11, 1991 was a Friday, and that afternoon I was sitting in my office at ad agency NWAyer when I heard on the radio news of the rather contentious confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.  Anita Hill, a former colleague of Thomas', had made allegations about lewd comments he made and sexual harassment she had been subjected to when they worked together (he was her manager at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)  Curious, I walked down the hall to the office of the director of national broadcast buying to watch some of the live testimony on his TV. 


I was taken aback by Hill's frank testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, e.g., Thomas' comment about a pubic hair being on a can of Coke on his desk during a meeting with her (perhaps the most ignominious brand mentions of all time?).  Never before had words such as these, or for that matter, "penis" and "oral sex" been talked about so openly in a public forum.  (This was seven years before the references to the semen stain on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress.) 


The riveting "he said/she said" testimony continued throughout the afternoon and into the evening (when Thomas got his chance at rebuttal).  In addition to watching some of it at the office I continued watching the coverage at home before and after I went to the gym and then after traveling out to New Jersey to spend the night at my boyfriend's apartment.




Four days later Thomas was approved in a very close vote in the Senate.  In fact, the 52-48 vote was the closest confirmation vote of the 20th century.  (By comparison, Elena Kagan was confirmed this summer by a 63-37 vote, Sonia Sotomayor by 68-31 and Chief Justice John Roberts by 78-22.)  The book The Prince & the Pauper: The Case Against Clarence Thomas provides an essay that offers background into Thomas, an analysis of his confirmation as well the political process that resulted in his selection. 




In 2018 this unpleasant skewering of Hill was brought to mind when another Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of attempting to rape her in 1982 when they were teenagers in Maryland.


Brett kavanaugh





Marveling at History Through the Covers of TIME Magazine

Newsstand2When I was growing up magazines were always found in our house.  We had subscriptions to Time, Sports Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, Look, Money and Consumer Reports.  Thrown into the mix were subscriptions my older sister had to Cosmo, People and Rolling Stone.  And I had my own subcriptions to Jack & Jill (when I was in grade school), Weatherwise and Baseball Digest.  And I've always been drawn to magazine covers. During my sophomore and junior years at Penn State I stapled covers from various magazines to the ceiling of my dorm room to give it a unique look.  (I still collect covers that catch my eye and I've amassed a nice collection.)


Until this decade, when newsweeklies began struggling mightily for relevance due to the draw of the Internet, there was a certain cachet attached to appearing on the cover of TIME Magazine (however, unlike Rolling Stone, a song was never written about it).  Since it began publishing in March 1923 approximately 4,600 covers have been published.  I recently surveyed these covers and was mesmerized by the wonderful review of US and world history they provided.  




In Times's first few decades covers were relatively uninspired B/W portraits but they slowly evolved and became more eye-catching, incorporating a mix of styles, e.g., photographs, collages or illustrations.  (Covers of the past decade feature noticeably more white space.)  Some were created by well-known artists of the day such as Andy Warhol (first cover, below), Peter Max (middle cover) and Robert Rauschenberg.  Many covers around Christmastime had a religious theme depicted by beautiful paintings.  Covers can be purchased through Time's website; those featuring the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Leonard Bernstein or Jackie Kennedy, for example, are great conversation pieces and make great wall decorations.






As the 1950s progressed cover subjects began to touch upon societal trends and issues.  Many were topics that would have never been discussed in polite company in the first 40 years of Time's existence, e.g., homosexuality, date rape, domestic violence, herpes.  Surprisingly, some social issues of current concern, e.g,. suburban sprawl, salt intake, women's changing roles, obesity, were featured as cover stories 15-25 years ago.






Of course "anyone who was anybody" in the fields of politics, culture and entertainment, religion and sports graced the covers over the years.  However, some personalities slipped through the cracks.  For instance, Judy Garland, Truman Capote, Hank Aaron and Coco Chanel are some of the "movers and shakers" of their time not to get a cover.  And it wasn't until 30 years after his death that Babe Ruth appeared on the cover. (Determining those who haven't been on the cover can be a great parlor game.)




A number of handsome coffee table books are also available including 75 Years of TIME Magazine Cover Portraits and TIME: The Illustrated History of the World's Most Influential Magazine.  In closing, here are a handful of other classic covers:





Time_magazine_ ojsimpson






Tina Fey Portrays Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live" (September 13, 2008)

First_fey_skit_as_pailin I hadn't planned on watching the kickoff of Saturday Night Live's 2008-09 season on Sept. 13 because I didn't expect Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps would be worth watching as guest host.  However, since I had just finished watching the 11:00 news I figured I'd hang around to see how SNL would begin.  And I was rewarded big time as it opened with a joint address by Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.  Amy Poehler had been impersonating Hillary for well over a year and her portrayal was hilarious as usual.  However, I was mesmerized and delighted by Tina Fey's portrayal of Palin - she resembled the Alaskan governor/Republican VP nominee to a remarkable degree.  (This episode delivered SNL's highest rating in seven years.)


Sarah palin and hillary clinton on snl



Palin_playing_flute It was this skit that acquainted me with NBC.com.  As the weeks went by I'd go onto the website and watch it repeatedly (as well as other Palin skits that aired in the next two months).  I'd find myself replaying the lines in my head when I was in the shower, at the gym or on the subway.  It gave me such pleasure.  However, I couldn't fully enjoy the hilarity of these skits because I worried somewhat that the publicity they generated might actually benefit Palin, especially since, in my mind, Fey's portrayal made her seem benign - and almost likable.  Furthermore, I feared that these skits would be bittersweet if the McCain/Palin ticket prevailed over Obama/Biden in the election - similar to how the constant jokes about Bush/Cheney weren't so hilarious to me because, at the end of the day, they were still in office - and that wasn't funny at all.  Happily, my fears were unfounded and I now laugh with utter abandon whenever I watch these golden SNL clips.   



Israeli Team Massacred at 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich (September 5, 1972)

Munich72 Up until today the 1972 Summer Olympics had been about the sterling performances of U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz and Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut.  Sept. 5 was the day after Labor Day, and the first day of the new school year for me, where I was starting the 10th grade at Sto-Rox High School.  When I returned home from classes that afternoon is when I first heard word that terrorist guerillas from the Palestinian Black September movement had taken athletes from the Israeli team hostage. 





Later that night at a little past 10:00 I was getting ready for bed.  My father was dozing in the living room in front of the TV and my mom was out bowling in her Tuesday night league.  I had my bedroom door open so I could listen to the Olympics coverage when I heard ABC Sports anchor Jim McKay give a brief update on the situation that ended with the words "they're all gone".  Nine of the hostages and five of the eight terrorists had been killed at the airport in a bungled rescue attempt (two other Israeli athletes had been killed at the beginning of the ordeal at the Olympic Village).  It was very distressing news to hear before going to bed.





Although I was aware of earlier acts of terrorism in the Middle East this one was by far the most audacious.  And distressing news from the Olympics continued later in the week, but in a very different vein, when the U.S. Men's basketball team was upset by the archrival Soviet team after a very controversial call in the closing three seconds (a play that was replayed repeatedly).  It was the first time the U.S. team failed to win the gold medal in that event.




(An in-depth account of the guerilla incident is provided in the book One Day in September: The Full Story of the Munich Olympics Massacre & the Israeli "Wrath of God" Revenge Operation.)  


John McCain Chooses Sarah Palin As His Running Mate (August 29, 2008)

Palinmccain Huh?  That was my dumbfounded response when I turned on the 11:00 news the night of Aug. 29, 2008 and heard more about Republican presidential nominee John McCain's choice for running mate.  Earlier that day (the Friday of Labor Day weekend) I thought he had selected Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.  Turns out it was the governor of Alaska he had chosen, 44-year-old Sarah Palin.  (Interestingly, this announcement was made on McCain's 72nd birthday.  Perhaps it was a way to deflect attention from this AARP fact?)  And suddenly the 2008 presidential campaign became a lot more interesting - and bizarre.  


Tim.pawlentyI was basking in the afterglow of Barack Obama's acceptance speech from the night before at the Democratic convention when I saw a New York Times News Alert in my in-box on my office comptuter  Quickly skimming it I was under the impression McCain had chosen Pawlenty - it made sense since I'd read on a number of occasions that he was a leading candidate.  I suppose my brain stopped processing once it saw the first two letters of the last name - the same as Palin's.  I had read about Palin a number of weeks earlier in an article in The New Republic, but it wasn't in regard to her being in consideration for the VP slot, just that she was a rising star in the Republican Party.





Game_Change McCain's head-scratching choice certainly injected a jolt into the 2008 campaign.  And it became a ratings bonanza for Saturday Night Live when Tina Fey impersonated her to great acclaim in sketches during the show's September and October telecasts.  The book Game Change offers a riveting account of the thinking behind the decision to select Palin and its ramifications it had on the presidential campaign (spoiler alert: Obama was elected president).