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Chip Drago
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A Political Conversation

On family relations, Alabama's political past,
the nation's political present, publishing news, Moliere & a 'barbed wire enemy'

RJ: Good morning Alabama folks --

By accident I just discovered that George Packer, one of the superstars of the current New Yorker staff, is the grandson and great grandson of George Huddleston, Jr. and Sr., who served in Congress from Birmingham for much of the 20th Century. One of "the fallen five," George Jr. was knocked off with the other four during the Goldwater tsunami in 1964 -- never mind that he was a solid conservative who had served for five terms.

If memory serves, Huddleston lost to John Grenier, a Cajun Catholic. But I'm not sure about that.

I see Alabama's two Democratic congressmen voted against the health care bill. I guess (Artur) Davis did so to advance his race for governor. I wish I were still there, so I could vote against him. Ditto for Bobby Bright.

The one constant in Alabama politics -- hinted at in V.O. Key's "Southern Politics" -- is, give 'em enough time and they will always vote against their own economic interests.

JEB: "I remember Huddleston the younger for his red hair and engaging style. I’ll pay closer attention to his grandson. I think you are right about Grenier. As I recall, he also made a run for governor.

Well, what a vote. Like many others, I stayed up into the wee hours, happily keyed up. The Republicans’ solidarity is dicey strategy. If they start playing guerilla politics with this bill, a good many are likely to be picked off.   To stick with the military metaphors, I wonder why at least some of those with one arm left after (Mitch) McConnell’s twisting would have called the attention of their caucus to Chancellorsville, where the great Lee divided his army and won. (As opposed to Gettysburg, where he kept it whole, continued  fighting, and, well ... let’s change the subject.) I have my eye on (U.S. Sen.) Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), who has a gift for diplomatically differing from more rabid Republicans.

If I were still writing editorials, I’d grab that Key inference and run with it."

RJ: I believe Grenier ran for the Senate, against Sparkman, in 1966. His compatriot Jim Martin ran against Lurleen (Wallace) that year for governor. They both learned what happens to upstart amateurs who get cocky and take on the pros. Grenier died just a couple of years ago. Jim Martin, who is a rather engaging fellow who became somewhat moderate in later years, is still around, close to 90. Huddleston Jr. died very young -- around 50, I think.

MBT: I was talking with Bert Nettles about that 1966 political season the other day. Martin was supposed to run against Sparkman but the Repub brain trust instead decided to go with a Martin v. Lurleen and Grenier v. Sparkman line-up. The newspaper editor who just died (Hollis Curl?) was vociferous
in his opposition to moving
Martin away from the senate
race. He believed, maybe
correctly, that Martin
would've beaten Sparkman but the Repubs didn't have anyone who could beat a Wallace in 1966. Curl was a member of the state GOP executive committee. He was very agitated when the committee decided on the altered match-ups.   

RJ: You have the history right. But Hollis Curl, who was editor of the Wilcox Progressive Era and who had a lot of trouble with self-control, was dead wrong. Sparkman would have beaten Martin just as handily as he beat Grenier.

I think my recollection was faulty about Grenier beating Huddleston. It was John Buchanan, who subsequently moderated, was defeated, and founded People for the American Way, which Republicans quickly acronymed as PAW. There were five Republicans elected in the Goldwater sweep -- Edwards in Mobile, Dickinson in Montgomery, Andrews in Anniston, Martin in Gadsden, and Buchanan in Birmingham. The only opposed Democrat to squeak by was Armistead Selden of Greensboro -- and he later ran as a Republican for the Senate and was defeated (by Jeremiah Denton).

Any rational analysis shows that all five won because Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights bill of 1964, which forced Wallace out of the Democratic presidential primaries with his tacit endorsement of Goldwater.

WG: You are so right, RJ; the Alabama delegation stinks. We've had phone calls from 'em all.They've lost their support in this household -- and they know it.

At breakfast Saturday morning two guys at the table were cursing the Health Care legislation. I pointed out that they were both retired Air Force officers, both still have government-subsidized jobs (double-dipping), both buy their liquor and groceries on Maxwell AFB, never paying local taxes, and both get their high-priced socialized medical help wherever they wish to find it. Of course, they both declared, "We're good citizens and we oppose socialized medicine." Sure, I said, for everybody else.
I'm afraid political life has not changed much since my early 80's book "Elephants in the Cottonfields."

I think you're going to like "Fighting the Devil in Dixie" which will be out in January. After all, you're
one of its heroes.

RJ: I can't wait to read "Fighting the Devil."

But I think you may have intended the message for all in the group. The group is essentially a handful of friends of the legendary Pierre Pelham.

WG: By the way, the subtitle to 'Fighting" is 'How Civil Rights Activists Took on the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.'
Pierre was indeed legendary and a great man to be a friend of. There goes that preposition again. All
out of whack.

DB: You boys are mighty smart but you have not spent enough time in South Alabama. Taking the long view, on a good day to do so, I note that 2010 is the 200th anniversary of “The West Florida Revolution of 1810” under the ORIGINAL “Bonnie Blue Flag that Bears a Single Star," led by among others the local lawyer amazingly named “Joseph P. Kennedy” [no ties to Montgomery Advertiser suggested], against “Spain”, whose king at the time was Napoleon’s brother Philip, which revolution was stringently opposed by the local “Federal Judge," Territorial Judge Harry Toulmin, a Unitarian student of Uber-Unitarian Joseph Priestly in England, appointed by Thomas Jefferson to be the territorial Federal Judge of the Mississippi Territory. So -- right-wing lawyer-fighting liberal Godless federal judge almost a decade before Alabama statehood—the theme of Alabama’s history. Did Joseph P. Kennedy tell Judge Toulmin he needed a “barbed wire enemy?" As Nimitz’ radioman radioed Halsey at Leyte Gulf: “the world wonders."

DB: I see my spellcheck changed “enema” to “enemy,” without my noticing. Not bad, all told.

What was the Moliere play in which the hypochondriac was told by his physician son-in-law that he ought to just become a doctor himself, and take the medical exams, and no matter what the symptoms, no matter the question, give the answer “irrigate the patient!” and pass, and he did.

I don’t think the modern generation even knows what an enema is."



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