Gabriel Heatter was one of America's most recognizable voices during the 1930s and 40s. Heatter [1890-1972] was a preeminent radio commentator whose nightly sign-on -- "There's Good News Tonight!" became both his catchphrase and his caricature. Working in a far, far less media-driven and cynical time, Heatter earned a reputation for being a morale-booster during some of this nation's darkest days. As popular and revered a figure as ever graced American media, Heatter regularly received fan-mail thanking him for . . . well, for just being Gabriel Heatter. One letter-writer gushed: "Thank God for Gabriel Heatter, who makes it possible for us to sleep at night."
Imagine, if you will, any media personality -- whether of the left, the right or the militant-far-middle -- beginning a broadcast with such a saccharine salutation as "There's Good News Tonight!" He or she would likely be accused of being nothing better than a bathetic fool. Amazing to what tenebrous depths we moderns have all sunk.
Throwing fistfuls of caution to the winsome winds of yesteryear, I too declare "There's Good News Tonight!" [or, to be more accurate, 'this morning.']
"Harrumph!" cry out cynical masses.
"Balderdash!" shout the jaded hoard.
"What's so good about the news tonight?" demand the hoi polloi? "Are you so brain dead as to be unaware that while the NSA is listening in on our conversations, the have-mores are getting even more and the polar icecaps are fast becoming tepid puddles, that illegal aliens are storming our citadel, Christianity is under attack and the Kansas City Royals have lost 13 straight?"
Oh yes, we're aware of all that, but nonetheless, there is good news out there. To wit:
- As of the moment [Friday, May 26, approximately 11:00 a.m.], the Dodgers have won 7 straight and Nomar Garciaparra is hitting the cover off the ball as if it were 1999 all over again.
- Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, despite their absurd Nuremberg defense ["we didn't know what was going on"] were both found guilty of innumerable counts of fraud and destroying the lives of literally thousands of American investors. If all goes right, they will be eligible for parole in the early 23rd century.
- House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have actually -- and finally -- found something upon which they can agree: that the Bush Justice Department crossed an inviolate line by raiding the offices of Representative William Jefferson. This -- and a host of other niggling issues -- are beginning to put a strain on White House/Congressional relations.
- Congressional Republicans, fearful for their political lives, are beginning to distance themselves from Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld et al. Moreover, it would seem that they are finally beginning to understand that their boss is in a race with Tom Cruise for who can suffer the most precipitous decline in public popularity.
Along these lines, there's plenty of good news brewing out here in the American political hinterland. In preparing a new edition of my book The Congressional Minyan: The Jews of Capitol Hill, I conduct interviews with members of Congress and various candidates who, in my estimation stand a good chance of victory in November. One thing that impresses and excites me is the quality -- the caliber -- of the Democrats running for office. They are far from being the directionless, brain-dead ultra-left, latte-slurping sensualists that the boys and girls at FOX portray them to be. Time and again, I find myself talking with men and women who are far more positive, energetic, dedicated, and visionary than the folks they are seeking to replace. In the main, our conversations deal with "the politics of the possible." These are people whose concerns are the concerns of "Mr. and Mrs. America and All the Ships at Sea:" security [both national and economic], universal health care, education, global warming, jobs, and an end to that "culture of corruption" which has reached epidemic proportions in Washington. What I have not been hearing is all that ponderous prattling about "God, Guns & Gays," the Republicans' less-than-holy trinity.
This is not to say that this new breed lacks a moral compass or anchor. Quite the contrary. These men and women are every bit as religious as those who wear their faith like some designer hair shirt. Where they differ is in the understanding that faith -- like words -- are irrelevant without actions.
Florida State Senator Ron Klein, who is running a remarkably hopeful campaign to unseat 13-term incumbent Clay Shaw is a perfect example of the sort of candidate who makes us say that "There's Good News Tonight!" A member of the Florida Senate since 1996 [he served in the lower house for four years prior to that], Klein is the sort of man for whom politics is not a profession, but rather an avocation -- a way in which to put his values to work on behalf of people. To a man like Senator Klein, health care is a moral issue. Global warming is a moral issue. Peace in the Middle East is a moral issue. In speaking with him, one hears next to nothing about what is economically viable or advantageous. Rather, he talks about what is right, proper and utterly necessary. The senator is that enviable mix of idealist and pragmatist, of wide-eyed optimist and veteran realist. Nowhere in our conversation did he once -- not once -- mention anything about his opponent. To Senator Klein, campaigns are not about tearing one's opponent apart limb by limb, but rather setting out a positive agenda of action that can and will affect the lives of the people he represents. His are not the politics of fear and preachy, exclusive divisiveness. Rather, his is the campaign of hope, dedication and inclusiveness. Senator Klein will make an exemplary member of Congress.
Senator Klein is but one of dozens upon dozens of challengers across this great land who could actually score upset victories come November. For this to happen however, it will take a lot of money, a lot of people power, and a lot good will. I for one believe that people from Vermont to California and from Florida to Washington State possess all three. Goodness knows we've got the candidates.
May the Good News continue to be ours . . .