Thank You, James Earl Jones

A little Star Wars news:

James Earl Jones Has Retired from Voicing Darth Vader, Signed Over Rights to Recreate His Voice

This hit me a lot harder than I was expecting it would.  Star Wars in general and Darth Vader in specific were a huge part of my childhood and much of that had to do with Jones’s voice.  I think that anyone of a certain age can remember trying to imitate the way that Vader spoke.

(Originally, George Lucas pictured Orson Welles as the voice of Vader.  It’s hard to imagine.  Even with his great voice, I think Welles would not have been as intimidating or memorable as Jones.)

James Earl Jones is 91 and has a long history of great performances.  If anyone’s earned the right to retire and take it easy, it’s him.  I hope he enjoy his retirement and I hope he knows how much he sparked the imagination of an entire generation.

Don Young, R.I.P.

You can count me amongst those who was shocked to hear about the passing of Don Young, who has served in the U.S. House as Alaska’s only Congressman since 1973. He was the most senior member of the House and had already announced that he would be running for reelection in 2022. Young’s seat will now be filled by special election. Republicans would be favored under normal circumstances. Under the current circumstances, they’re even more favored than usual.

Since the news of his death was announced, one story that’s been circulating about Don Young concerns the time that, during a House hearing about whether or not to ban bear traps, he stuck his arm in an actual trap in order to demonstrate that it wasn’t as painful as it looked. Don Young was a tough, old school politician and, during an era when so many House members view their district as a stepping stone to hire office, Young was devoted to Alaska.

It’s the end of an era. Don Young, R.I.P.

What If Colin Powell Had Run In 1996

Colin Powell passed away on Monday.  He had been ill for a while, with cancer and Parkinson’s.  Unfortunately, despite being fully vaccinated, he has also contracted COVID.  It’s sad to say that his death will be used as propaganda by both sides.  No sooner had he died then some people were claiming his death proved the vaccine was useless while others were blaming the unvaccinated, as if Colin Powell caught COVID while shopping at Walmart.  The truth is that the vaccinated can still spread COVID and breakthrough infections do happen but usually, the vaccination reduces the severity of them and makes COVID much easier to survive.  Unfortunately, Powell was in his 80s and already severely ill, which put him in the number one risk group when it comes to dying from COVID.

I’ve seen a lot of debate about Powell’s legacy.  I’ll leave that for others.  I will say that Colin Powell is at the center of one of the most intriguing What If questions of American history.  What If Colin Powell had run for President in 1996?  At one point, polls should him not only winning the Republican nomination but beating Bill Clinton as well.  Could he have done it?  It’s an interesting question.  Powell did briefly explore a run and when he revealed that he was far more moderate on certain issues than most Republicans, his numbers did slip a little.  Though he was still leading most primary polls, the slippage was enough to reveal that Powell was vulnerable.  I can only imagine Pat Buchanan coming after Powell in New Hampshire.

If Powell had managed to win the nomination while running as a moderate, could he have beaten Bill Clinton?  Would he have maintained his polling lead or would Clinton have been able to exploit Powell’s inexperience as a candidate.  Again, it’s hard to say.  I think Powell would have struggled as a candidate because, like most generals, he was used to be being in charge and having his every order followed by people who could be court-martialed if they failed to do their job..  He would have had a difficult time adjusting to the world of politics.  The idea of a general running for President is one of America’s greatest political clichés but only Grant, Eisenhower, and Zachary Taylor were able to jump directly from military service to the presidency.  (Even George Washington served in the colonial legislature.)  It’s easier to imagine Powell being a modern-day Winfield Scott, a respected general who desired the presidency but could never make the transition from leading soldiers to inspiring people to vote for him.  Since Powell ultimately announced he would not run in 1996 (and I can still remember how shocked people were when he made his announcement), we’ll never know.

In Memory of Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts, the drummer of the Rolling Stones, died today at the age of 80. He passed away peacefully in London, surrounded by his family.

This one is hitting me hard. Charlie Watts was one of my drumming heroes. He was also the underrated glue that held the Stones together, the steadying influence that controlled the chaos that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards released on stage. He was a key member of the band but, because he was so self-effacing, he was often underrated. In many ways, he was the perfect drummer. While the lead singer and the lead guitarist prowled the front of the stage, Watts stayed in the background and produced the beat that propelled the Stones’s best songs.

Not only was Charlie Watts one of the best drummer, he was also perhaps the best dressed drummer to ever grace the stage. By most accounts, Charlie Watts a gentlemen, through and through, one who stayed loyal to his wife despite the temptations of the road and who often viewed touring as member of the world’s most dangerous band with a bemused wit. Reportedly, he was the only member of the band to openly cry when they first learned that co-founder Brian Jones had drowned. In the documentary Gimme Shelter, while Mick Jagger remains detached while watching the Hell’s Angels kill Meredith Hunter while the Stones perform at the Altamont Free Concert, Watts is clearly upset by the violence unfolding on the monitors before him.

Charlie Watts, R.I.P. You shall be missed.

Richard Lamm, R.I.P.

Richard Lamm has died. He was 85.

Today, Richard Lamm is a forgotten figure but, for several years, he was a big deal. He served as governor of Colorado from 1975 to 1987 and he was a part of the “New Democat” movement that included Bill Clinton and Gary Hart. Lamm was nicknamed Governor Gloom because he always framed everything in apocalyptic terms. Lamm famously said that he supported euthanasia because the elderly sometimes have a duty to die so as not to overburden the social safety net.

Lamm ran for President in 1996, as a candidate for the Reform Party nomination. As soon as Lamm announced he was running, Ross Perot announced that he would be a candidate as well. It’s been speculated that Perot encouraged Lamm to run specifically so Perot could then beat him at the Reform Convention. In the summer of 1996, I was 13 and already getting into politics. C-Span aired the Reform Party Convention and I’ll never forget the look of shock, horror, and anger on Richard Lamm’s face as he realized that Perot had essentially set him up. Lamm ended up getting 34% of the vote in the Reform Party’s national primary. Perot received the other 66%. While I doubt Lamm would have made much of an impact if he had won the nomination, nominating Lamm probably would have allowed the Reform Party a chance to escape from Perot’s shadow. As it is, the Reform Party went from being a mini-major party to a political joke in the span of just one election cycle.

(It’s always amazed me how the Reform Party could go from nominating Pat Buchanan in 2000 to Ralph Nader in 2004.)

Richard Lamm, R.I.P.