THREE DAYS AWAY

CANN)Ginny and I took a short vacation this year, a brief jaunt to the near upstate that we have never visited. First stop was at Saratoga, the Revolutionary War battlefield where the British didn’t know they lost the war, but they did. A splendid victory by Horatio Gates, Daniel Morgan, Isaac Poor, the not-as-yet disgraced Benedict Arnold, a savvy Pole named Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and a bunch of other rebels over the charming, entertaining Johnny Burgoyne and his army of British grenadiers and German Hessians. Underbuilt and undesigned, at least by the standards of most Civil War sites, the battlefield could use investment. Saratoga was a complex battle fought in several actions over several days, principally October 7, 1777, and the park just doesn’t do justice to the complexity, or to the significance of the outcome. Still, we got some nice pictures. Above left, that’s me, in my family’s traditional pose with cannon, this time a British piece. TADBOOTGRENLeft, a marker to Kosciuszko; the Boot monument, which salutes Arnold but does not mention his name; Ginny rocks a grenadiers helmet.
After the battlefield, we headed to Saratoga Springs. With its Victorian mansions, charming race track, grand public spa and elegant park, Saratoga Springs is as beautiful a little town as one can imagine. We maestaspabspasolhappened to arrive at the start of Travers Week, the biggest week in the track’s year, and presumably in the town’s as well. Everybody wa buzzy with the news that American Pharaoh would be running in the signature race. If we had any notions of staying for the contest, they were doused by the news that the event was already sold out, and that even spots at viewing parties in bars were getting scarce. We settled for a great dinner at Maestro’s, on the veranda of an grand old bank building on Broadway (above left), followed the next morning by a relaxing mineral bath at the vast Roosevelt Spa (top, right. Ginny at spa, center right; sign marking the home of Solomon Northrup, author and hero of Twelve Years A Slave.)
We then drove to Cooperstown, also a lovely town, though rather smaller, and far more parochial in its interests, than the artsy-horsesy-spasy Saratoga. We went for late afternoon cruise on the beautiful Otsego Lake, which is better known as Glimmerglass, the name alaJames Fennimore Cooper gave it. After another very good meal at Mel’s 22, where I had a terrific burger with brie and avacado, we had an uncomfortable night in our small hotel room. The maitress d’ at the restaurant praised the town, but said it was “dead” in the winter. With a population of 3000 and the nearest movie theater 20 miles away, I completely believe her. On Wednesday we toured the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was underwhelmed. The place really needs to be modernized; there is far too much clothing and too little video. Then it was home. bb

GO GIANTS!

image1It’s a lucky guy who has a friend like Paul Lindstrom, who shares his Giants pre-season tickets. Thanks, pal. It was a typically inconsistent pre=season game, but it was great to get out, and to spend time with Paul and his daughter Nadia, and to see the Giants prevail over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Above: Paul and I have a counting contest. Below left: Paul and Nadia. Below right: Eli Manning and company.
pauleli

THE SUMMER OF TRUMP

DonaldMany people were surprised that Donald Trump shot to the top of the Republican presidential polls (in an NBC poll today, he has 19% percent, to Scott Walker‘s 15% and Jeb Bush‘s 14%), but that’s only because they allowed their own tastes to prevent them from getting an accurate view of this gargantuan personality. Trump is large and comical figure–vain, blustery, selfish, self-indulgent, a bully, a baby–but he is also smart, articulate, rich, very good at calling attention to himself, at grandstanding, at making more out of whatever little or much he has accomplished. And he has accomplished a great deal–longevity, for one thing. He has been a front page of the tabloids public figure since the eighties, which is no mean feat; what few peers he has, like Madonna and Al Sharpton, are mostly jogging in place while he is riding high. He has written a bestseller, been the star of a highly rated television show, and built big buildings and casinos and golf courses. He knows how to dish it out and how to take it, and he is not afraid to mix things up. He knows, as Warren Zevon said, “the name of the game is to get hit and hit back.” Among his media spectacles, he has made a number of blatantly fraudulent runs at public office that all seemed to evaporate whenever he had to get serious.

This one might still get evaporate, although it has gone on longer and gone deeper and created more furor than any of his previous stillborn efforts. He has owned the summer. His outrageous comments about Mexicans and his nasty, ignorant comments about John McCain have done nothing but catapult him to the crowded, splintered, directionless herd of Republican contenders. More than anyone in that field, he has a real constituency, a real claim to a body of voters.

And they are a potent group. They are the Tea Party group, an angry, aggrieved bunch of mostly working class white people who don’t like what progress is looking like in the mid-early 21st century. They have been a formidable group. They have won a lot of local races, and ousted a lot of middle of the road Republican officials. Because they are decentralized and committed, they can have a disproportionately large influence in primary elections and caucuses. I have already predicted that Trump will go deep into the primary season; the truth is, I see no reason to believe that he cannot win the nomination. The longer he sticks around, the more credibility he will develop. The more people vote for him, the more other people will find him acceptable. He will pass through the membrane of legitimacy.

One of the problems is that there is no one in the field who seems to match up well against Trump. Jeb Bush still seems like a reluctant candidate; I have never seen a presidential candidate with less passion. He never seems to be enjoying himself. One could see Trump having a bit of a rough time with people like Rick Perry and John Kasich, meat and potato governors whose in the trenches experience contrasts with Trump’s glamorous gunslingerism. But they have not broken through. One can see people like Rand Paul and Lindsay Graham, like sharp-tongued picadors scoring points against him, but they can only bloody Trump, not beat him. There is no august personage who can flatten him, no Ronald Reagan who could just chuckle at him and make him irrelevant. Nor is there a high road that can work, nor a low road. Trump is the product of belief–a focus group of New Hampshire Republicans done by Bloomberg found them echoing Trump’s own line on himself: his presidency would be `successful” and “classy”; he “speaks his mind;” he is “one of us.” They are responding to his style, and like all things involving style–clothes, music, decor–you can’t persuade someone who likes it that it’s wrong. You can only wait for them to like something else. You can only run as hard and as smart as you can, and hope to be there when tastes change.