Jewish World Review March 16, 2011 / 10 Adar II, 5771
'Another Snout at the Public Trough
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | If you're looking for a three-word explanation for why so many Americans grow so cynical about government, you could do worse than this one:
Erma Fingers Hendrix.
That's the impressive name of an alderwoman here in
Reading that little news item transported me back more than half a century, and reminded me of how little things change in politics.
A story: Long ago and in another century, the 20th, my youthful ambition was to write the definitive history of
I never finished that history, any more than the Kingfish ever became president, his plans having been cut short by an encounter with an assassin in the lobby of the soaring new
How describe that skyscraper of a Capitol building? It's a mix of classical, art deco and what might be called the international fascist style of the 1930s -- as towering as The Kingfish's political career. It would prove his tombstone; he's buried on the grounds.
In the course of my researches that summer, I was in a very different kind of building that day to interview Huey's brother Julius, who had long been estranged from Huey and the whole Long machine.
At one point in his own political career, revealing the inborn flare of every Long for sweeping rhetoric, Julius had described his distinguished younger brother and head of state as "the greatest political burglar of all times."
Toward the end of his life, Mister Julius was practicing law in
As soon as you walked into the dingy little lobby, you were in the world of
The practiced anecdotes unfolded to the rhythm of the oscillating fan at his feet that sweaty August-in-
And then, like all things, the interview was over and Mister Julius and I headed out together.
On the way down in the rickety old elevator, who should get on but my own brother, who practiced law on one of the lower floors. And who should be with him but a friend who'd grown up with us in the old neighborhood and now had become a minor cog in the Long machine. By then the machine had been inherited by Huey's younger brother Earl, aka Uncle Earl. And my brother was congratulating our old boyhood friend -- effusively -- on his appointment to some well-paid sinecure in state government.
My brother's Southern accent would deepen on these ceremonial occasions and his praise thicken like an overdone roux. Aspiring politicians tend to have an infinite capacity for flattery, and the less important the office they've attained, the more praise they can absorb. And my brother was laying it on. As we proceeded down, it occurred to me that he was descending in more ways than one that sultry day.
As for old Julius, he said nary a word. Till we got to the ground floor, where the elevator door slowly creaked open. Only then did
There you have the definitive summary of what makes so many Americans develop, shall we say, a certain skepticism when one more politician confuses the public interest with his own. It was a familiar type in the last century -- and still is. Some things never change.
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