Headless horseman

Posted: Nov 02, 2004 12:00 AM

Nobody was more delighted than historian David Hackett Fischer when former presidential adviser and commentator David Gergen described a defeated Democratic candidate as "an economic Paul Revere."

Whether Gergen intended it to mean a heroic messenger of alarm, or a messenger who failed to reach his destination, did not matter. Mere mention of Paul Revere was enough for Fischer to cite the phrase on the very first page of his book, "Paul Revere's Ride."

It's a 445-page historical adventure that this columnist's high school daughter, Kerry, was recently assigned to read by her teacher. And when she was finished, she passed it to me because, frankly, I knew very little, if anything, about Paul Revere. Now I understand why.

Fischer is the Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University, and has written two books this year ("Washington's Crossing," just nominated for a National Book Award, and his latest, "Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas," released on Oct. 28), reveals in the introduction:

"Professional historians have shown so little interest in the subject that in two centuries no scholar has published a full-scale history of Paul Revere's ride. During the 1970s, the event disappeared so completely from academic scholarship that several leading college textbooks in American history made no reference to it at all."

The cause for such neglect?

Fischer cites "a broad prejudice in American universities against patriotic events of every kind," reinforced by "popular movements called multiculturalism and political correctness."

"As this volume goes to press," the professor notes, "the only creature less fashionable in academe than the stereotypical 'dead white male,' is a dead white male on horseback."


Environmentalists take note: 2004 has seen the lowest ozone smog levels in this country since states began measuring back in the 1970s.

Preliminary data reveals that the number of days exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's tough new eight-hour ozone standard declined an average of about 50 percent from 2003, which also was a record low smog year, reports Joel Schwartz, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

He credits a combination of continuing emissions reductions and cool wet weather.

"But the weather is only part of the story," the researcher insists. "During the last 30 years . . . never have smog levels been anywhere near this low."


Sen. John Kerry yesterday was as busy Monday as . . . a pig?

That's what Vice President Dick Cheney suggests, summing up the last day of presidential campaigning.

"He's trying every which way to cover up his record of weakness on national defense. But he can't do it. It won't work," Cheney said. "As we like to say in Wyoming, you can put all the lipstick you want on that pig, but at the end of the day, it's still a pig."


So, former President Bill Clinton, who will take the Election Day cake?

"I have seen a lot of crowds," Clinton said, "and I've gotten pretty good at sensing which way the momentum is going. And let me tell you, this year the atmosphere is electric, and the momentum is clearly going in the direction of the Democratic Party."


We'll be summoned from slumberous state
To endorse the quadrennial slate;
Then it's back to the grave,
Where we'll try to behave
Till the conclave of 2008."

- F.R. Duplantier


White House correspondents came face to face earlier this week with supporters of President Bush, who were "standing and sitting" in the press filing center at one of the last campaign stops, William Douglas, of Knight Ridder newspapers, writes in the official White House pool report.

"They were not the friendliest folks in the world when we politely asked them to leave," Douglas notes. "One took a snappish attitude . . . and huffed about why should he leave because the liberal media hasn't helped Bush."


We got some intriguing feedback on the heels of our item about candidates' chances of being elected president increasing by the number of pets they own.

"I noted you did not mention 1928," writes Jerry L. Wallace of Oxford, Kan. "In that year, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover ran against Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York. I do not know how many pets Hoover had at the time, but I do recall that Governor Smith maintained a small private zoo at the executive mansion in Albany. . . .

"After his defeat, Smith moved to New York City and was forced to part with his zoo. His friend, Robert Moses, who was then New York City park commissioner, jokingly appointed him 'honorary night superintendent' of the Central Park Zoo, which was close to Smith's apartment.

"Actually, Smith did receive a set of keys to the zoo buildings, and on occasion would take friends over to visit the animals after the zoo had closed."


Whether watching the Boston Red Sox sweep the World Series or the Washington Redskins crawl their way back to the Super Bowl, a sporting event is the one arena in which a person is not subjected to partisan politics.

A political-free zone, if you will, where Democrats and Republicans, for a few hours at least, put their political differences aside. Instead of chanting "Four more years" or "Kerry US Forward," they are united, hoisting identical placards that read "Reverse Bambino's curse" or "Bring back the Hogs."

Sports, President Bush says, and the sanctuaries of their play, are a means to reach people of all political persuasions.

"The idea of people watching sports and cheering for a team is . . . part of the social fabric," the president states in the just-released book, "The Games Do Count: America's Best and Brightest on the Power of Sports," by Fox News Channel morning host and sportscaster Brian Kilmeade.

And don't think for a minute that when the Republican-minded Bush clan comes together for a family reunion that the latest antics of the Democratic Party are discussed.

"As a family, we may be involved in politics, but when we get together, the talk is usually about sports," says Bush, once a part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. "The fish we caught, the golf we played, things like that."

Similarly, Bush has come to learn that sporting events know no international boundaries, and that discussing sports with various heads of state beforehand helps break down barriers.

"I like to find out what sports different world leaders played before I meet them," the president reveals.

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, interviewed in the same book along with fellow sports enthusiasts like Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, J. Dennis Hastert and Joseph R. Biden Jr., says participating in myriad sports in his early years taught him the values of discipline and adversity.

"You can't play sports without losing sometimes, and in losing you learn something about grace and how to act under pressure," Kerry says. "These are all things that can help you later in life. I think it made me a better naval officer and a better warrior. In fact, it taught me a lot about politics."


Outside the sporting venue, it's politics as usual.

Take this past weekend, when President Bush directed his campaign motorcade to make a U-turn into the empty parking lot of Wisconsin's Lambeau Field, home to the Green Bay Packers.

"It's nice to be at Lambeau Field," Bush told a few bystanders, not the least being the White House correspondents who trailed him.

"It's good to be at LamBEAU," he repeated, emphasis on the second syllable.

That made the reason for the brief stop all the more clear. It was the president's way of reminding football fans, many of whom vote, that his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, referred to it as Lambert Field.