Quite instructively, something that should have happened didn't happen in the nation's capital over the past few days. None of our nation's leaders -- of any political tendency, so far as I could see -- paid any notice to Marlon Brando's death, or life.
And, at first glance, of course they didn't. Wasn't there something too weird and threatening about the guy, things too bohemian, unresolved, and even absurd about his life? What kind of national icon was Marlon Brando anyway?
The most remarkable thing about John Kerry's selection of John Edwards as his running mate is that Kerry was actually responding to the wishes of his party. Across the nation over the past several months, there was a groundswell of support among Democrats for adding Edwards to the ticket -- a groundswell unprompted by any organization or distinct constituency within the party. And this was something new under the sun.
Vice-presidential options don't engender groundswells. I cannot think of a single instance in 20th-century American politics -- certainly not since the first election of Franklin Roosevelt -- when ordinary members of one of the two major parties coalesced around a vice-presidential pick before the presidential candidate did.
Hey, you! The snarl in the suit! Yeah, you, Dick Cheney: Go **** yourself!
Phew! I feel better already, and I used only asterisks. Our vice president gets a rush when he goes in for the stronger stuff, the kind of words to which we columnists would never expose our thoughtful readers. But we have it from Cheney himself that after he encountered Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy on the Senate floor and told him what to do, he "felt better afterwards."
My mother's trouble with dubious authority goes back at least as far as her one-girl crusade on behalf of Abraham Lincoln. The authorities she antagonized on Abe's behalf were her history teachers at her Nashville junior high school, back in the late 1920s.
"Some of them were Confederate war widows," she says. "All of them were old biddies. And they said horrible things about Lincoln."