For friends and admirers of Marilyn Hagerty, the North Dakota columnist whose straightforward review of the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks recently went viral, it’s been exhilarating to watch the blogosphere move in to mock her and come away humbled by the strength and charm of this seasoned newspaperwoman of the Plains.
There might seem little left to add after the front-page story in today’s Wall Street Journal by Marilyn’s son, James R. Hagerty, a 30-year veteran of the WSJ and the International Herald Tribune in Hong Kong, London, Brussels, Paris, Atlanta, New York, and now Pittsburgh. His piece about his suddenly celebrated mother stresses substance – her work ethic (at 85, she writes five pieces a week for the Grand Forks Herald, the daily long edited by her late husband), her good cheer in the face of swinish condescension, and her flair for human interest stories like those collected in Echoes, still available on Amazon. The unstated subtext: It was no simpleton who raised this reporter.
Partaking of the family modesty, James Hagerty omitted mention of his accomplished sisters, both lawyers. Gail, a mother of three, is presiding judge of the state district court in Bismarck. She’s married to a justice of the North Dakota supreme court.
Their sister Carol, my friend for 35 years, had an adventurous legal career in Washington, D.C., Tokyo, and Denver before marrying a rancher and continuing her practice from the family place on the South Platte River. In her forties, she gave birth to a son and twin daughters. Carol died last December, after a rapid decline from ALS. Here’s the column Marilyn Hagerty wrote after her daughter’s death. It may convey why so many of us cherish her as gallant and wise.
In the tradition of the proverbial carpenter and his nails, if you're Barack Obama, every political problem looks like 2008. Today, the DNC signaled its willingness to use 2008's rhetoric to win in 2010 with a half-hearted rallying video recorded by Obama asking his base to show up at the polls in November.
It's the same message Obama used to pitch Creigh Deeds for governor in Virginia, Jon Corzine for governor in New Jersey, and Martha Coakley for Senate in Massachusetts. It's also the same pitch he made for health care—the one instance in which it actually worked, at least on the Hill, but health care's numbers are still about on par with Corzine's, Deeds', or Coakley's.
Spot political problem, apply speeches, lather with inspirational rhetoric, repeat. What Obama seems to miss, however, is that his inspirational rhetoric worked because he himself was inspirational. Conferring his inspiration upon any old hack Democratic cause or candidate that comes through the DNC has not proven fruitful.
In this video, he is Barack Obama. He is the man whose problems are still inherited. He is the man who fights the health insurance companies... whose product he's requiring that every American buy, battles the big banks... who bankrolled his campaign, and stifles special interests... with whom he meets behind closed doors to hash out deals on legislation. And, he posits, all of this should inspire those who voted for the first time in 2008 to vote again on behalf of all the uninspiring Corzines, Deedses, and Coakleys who will in some unspecified way guarantee the uplifting change at sometime in the unspecifed future that Obama himself has not delivered. Fired up and ready to go!
It's hard to say whether this is more pathetic and phoned in or cynical and disingenuous. They're neck-and-neck. Obama uses what Ben Smith at Politico calls "unusual demographic frankness," when he exhorts, "young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women" to come to the polls. Drudge calls it the "race card," though like Ed Morrissey, I'm not sure I'd go that far.