An important man, &c.

The president’s jobs man, Gene B. Sperling


Finally, I think I’ve mentioned in this column a friend of mine who has been in public life for decades. A few years ago, he said something like this: “I’ve read a range of newspapers, magazines, and books for 50-plus years. I have read all points of view. From now on, I’m not going to read anything I disagree with. I’m not going to read anything that’s going to make me upset. I’ve paid my dues. I’m done.”

Now, we may not admire this stance — but I think we can all understand it. Anyway, a final excerpt from the Berlusconi profile:

The one lesson he took from Margaret Thatcher, he says, he took too late.

She once asked him to describe his working day. Up at 7:30, he told her, work all day. Then at 1:30 am read the next day’s papers, get angry, and then sleep for five hours. “Really?” she said. “You read the newspapers?” “What do you do then, Mrs. Thatcher,” Berlusconi asked her. She answered, “I read only the articles that speak well of me and my government, which my head of press brings to me in the morning.”

I spotted a headline that said, “Handel Denounces Planned Parenthood.” I thought, “Wow — not only a genius composer, but such sound political-social views!” Alas, it was Karen Handel, who had resigned from the Komen foundation. To see an article on this controversy, go here.

Speaking of music (sort of), my column in the new City Arts is on clarinetists. Go here. We are in an outstanding — a great — age for clarinetists. I think I mention about ten in this article, and could have gone on . . .

Now to golf. I loved something Ernie Els said. It appeared in an article on long putters. (I’m not talking about people who make long putts. I’m talking about putters — clubs, instruments — that are long.)

Ernie Els once criticized the use of belly putters, but switched to one late last year and said: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

Again, love it.

I also loved something Michelle Obama said — so help me, I did. According to this article, she and the comedian Jimmy Fallon had a kind of play day at the White House. Childhood obesity and all that. She beat Fallon “in a climactic potato sack race.”

Afterward, he said, “It doesn’t matter if you won or lost.” She said, “It matters.”

A little language? Let’s go back to that article on Silvio Berlusconi. We read, “In any case, he says, ‘money is not so important.’ Generations of Berlusconi’s have already been amply provided for.”

Think about that apostrophe-ess — “Generations of Berlusconi’s.” A flat mistake? Or deliberate? I think you can, kind-sorta, make a case for it.

Let’s have a little mail. Last week, I had a column mentioning Rob Portman, the Republican senator from Ohio. I have long wanted him to run for president. He knows as much as the best staffer, yet he’s the officeholder — a very strange combination. Also admirably self-effacing — but not so self-effacing that he doesn’t run for office, at a very high level.

I received several letters from Portman fans. Here’s a bit of one of them:

Hey Jay,

. . . I’m a recent Michigan Law graduate, and in May Rob Portman spoke at our commencement. A lot of students didn’t like his DOMA support [a reference to the Defense of Marriage Act], and some organized a walkout. About a quarter of the students walked out, and about half stayed and wore rainbow pins.

Rob was very respectful, and got a lot of respect in return. He said it was a great thing that people have the conviction to walk out on a speaker with whom they disagree strongly, and that we have a country in which we can do that. He even joked that, if he knew he was speaking, he’d walk out too, but for other reasons.

One more letter, not related to Portman, but related to my hometown:


Was at an extended-family gathering over the weekend. I didn’t know some of the in-laws. One of them was on the far side of the room. When a host approached him and asked (as hosts do), “What do you need?” he answered, “Socialism!”

Later, this in-law and I engaged in a conversation. We got onto the subject of airports. He mentioned National, adding with a sneer, “I can’t call it Reagan!”

As our discussion continued, I asked, “Where do you live?” He said, “Ann Arbor.”



A final item — the last known World War I veteran has died. She was Florence Green, age 110. You can read about her here. When asked what it was like to be 110, the Englishwoman said, “It’s not much different to being 109.”



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