Bruni, Axelrod, Katz, and the President’s Barber
by AMB. RICHARD W. CARLSON
June 7, 2012
Frank Bruni is a liberal op-ed columnist and a food writer for the New York Times. He is a 48-year-old reporter who has been at that newspaper since 1995. He was a reporter at the Detroit Daily News for five years before that.
Bruni is an experienced journalist and writes well, sometimes even persuasively, though his declamations on New York restaurant cuisine - he was the Times' food reviewer for a number of years -- are more appealing to me than his sob sister views on American culture and politics. I will get to his latest Oprah-esque Obama silliness in a moment, a column in which he lays out the "emotional appeal" of Obama as a reason for the re-election of the most incompetent and destructive president in living memory.
At the Times, Bruni partially filled the spacious loafers of R.W. "Johnny" Apple, a talented writer who spent his more than 40 professional years at the Times traveling to 100 countries and charging up a perfect storm of expenses to his employer while he wrote grandly about his moveable feasts. Later in life he was joined in his food and wine travels by his 2nd wife Betsey, whose expenses the Times paid as well. Johnny Apple died six years ago, not of a gluttony-induced heart explosion, as many assumed would occur, but of thoracic cancer.
I knew both Johnny and Betsey and Johnny's first wife Edith Smith. They married when Edie was Vice Consul at the U.S. embassy in Saigon and Johnny was covering the war for the Times. They later divorced when he was the Times' London bureau chief and later still she went to work for me at the Voice of America in Washington.
In 1982, Apple married Betsey Pinckney Brown, a charming, roundish gourmand like Johnny, and the wife of one of his best friends, a Washington lawyer named Preston Brown, a good guy who was also a friend of mine. (Preston's father was John Mason Brown, the legendary New York Times drama critic and a columnist, "Seeing Things," whose work I read weekly in the Saturday Review of Literature, to which I subscribed beginning around 1950 until the magazine collapsed twenty years later after Mr. Brown's death.)
Preston told me that he knew his marriage to Betsey was doomed the night of a dinner party at the Brown home in Georgetown. Betsey was a talented cook and had prepared an elaborate dinner. Johnny Apple, their longtime friend, had arrived early, taken off his sports jacket and was in the kitchen watching Betsey rolling pastry dough as Preston mixed drinks in the other room. As Preston walked by the kitchen he glanced in. Apple was standing next to Betsey, innocent and cherubic, both of their backs turned as she kneaded the dough. On the back of Apple's dark trousers, centered on one cheek of his butt, was the perfect outline in flour of Betsey Brown's hand.
Frank Bruni grew up as a pudgy, dorky Mama's Boy. His initials are FB and the other kids called him, no surprise, Fat Boy. He was an outsider and his mother had him join her on various diets. He and his mother were on Dr. Adkins Diet when he was pre-pubescent in the early 70's. I know all this because Frank Bruni wrote a book about his bulimia (90 percent or more of Bulemics are women) his pill-popping, and other emotional problems. It was called Born Round: The Secret History of a Fulltime Eater. He came out as the New York Times first openly homosexual columnist a couple of years ago. ("But I know that from the moment I felt romantic stirrings, it was Timmy, not Tammy, who could have me walking on air or wallowing in torch songs and tubs of ice cream.")
This is some of what Frank Bruni had to say recently:
"FORGET your political affiliation. Never mind your assessment of his time in office so far. If you have any kind of heart, you're struck by it: the photograph of Barack Obama bent down so that a young black boy can touch his head and see if the president's hair is indeed like his own. It moves you. ...
David Axelrod, one of the chief architects of Obama's political career, (said): "It doesn't take a big leap to think that child could be thinking, ‘Maybe I could be here someday.' This can be such a cynical business, and then there are moments like that that just remind you that it's worth it.
Axelrod's words, meanwhile, are a reminder that more than three and a half years after Obama made history as the first black man elected to the presidency, he still presents more than a résumé and an agenda. He still personifies the hope, to borrow a noun that he has used, that we really might evolve into the colorblind, fair-minded country that many of us want. His own saga taps into the larger story of this country's fitful, unfinished progress toward its stated ideal of equal opportunity.
Race is the obstacle he has overcome, the trail he has blazed... That's a war for hearts as well."
Certainly no cynicism in that old David Axelrod, a character so oily and dishonest that the evil oozes from him like a sponge under your foot.
My friend Lucianne Goldberg's comment on Bruni's column: "More proof that liberals are in a state of arrested adolescence."
Remarkable to me that the New York Times would waste space on something like this when the country is on a collision course with disaster. As Neel Kashkari, former Assistant Treasury Secretary in the Bush administration, now head of Global Equities for the investment management firm Pimco, wrote in the Washington Post, "Many politicians in both parties recognize that the United States is on an unsustainable fiscal trajectory, with the Congressional Budget Office forecasting a deficit this year of almost 8 percent of gross domestic product, the federal debt hitting 90 percent of GDP this decade and an entitlement spending crisis on the horizon." We are at the edge of the cliff.
Forty three million Americans are on food stamps, (including many millions of people, Mayor Bloomberg, who spend their free food money on sugar drinks rather than tofu and bean sprouts.) Our president, who wanted to close the terrorists' prison in Guantanamo Bay and bring them all to trial in New York City, and thought water-boarding was heinous "torture," we now learn, spends every Tuesday personally deciding what terrorism suspects will be killed abroad in extra-judicial drone strikes.
As I write this column, Obama was just feted at a series of fundraisers in Chicago that brought him more than $5 million. One of those parties was hosted by his friend Marilyn Katz, a former leader in the notorious Students for a Democratic Society. As the Chicago Tribune said about her, she "once advocated throwing nail-studded planks in front of police cars, back in the SDS days when the group was alleged to have thrown cellophane bags full of human excrement at cops and cans of urine and golf balls impaled with nails." Alleged? They did that and a whole lot worse. Try bombings. And did you see Obama giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the loathsome left-winger Dolores Huerta, the labor activist and ardent International Socialist, a nasty woman who loves Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. I once covered her anti-American antics as a reporter in California. Obama thinks she is wonderful.
And speaking of haircuts, German Public Radio and the UK's great Daily Mail on Line (but not the New York Times) tell us that Obama's barber from Chicago, a fellow who goes by the single name of Zariff, is quietly flown to the White House twice a month for those haircuts Frank Bruni likes so much. Mr. Zariff refused to tell the Daily Mail who pays for his cross-country flights 24 times a year.
No matter whether it is Obama or the taxpayer it seems wasteful and frivolous and stupid to me, like re-electing Obama as president would be.
Ambassador Richard Carlson was a journalist, the Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, U.S. Ambassador to the Seychelles, and now is co-Chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He writes a column regularly for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and the Charleston Mercury.