Dick ’n’ Ted, &c.

President Richard Nixon (right) and Vice President Spiro “Ted” Agnew (left) at the 1972 Republican National Convention, August 23, 1972 (Richard Nixon Presidential Library / National Archives)
On Nixon, Agnew, Palin, ‘Karens,’ Trump, mask-wearing, an early hoopster, and more

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W hen it comes to vice-presidential selection, I always think of Nixon. Now, you may say he didn’t mean it, but he had a formula for vice-presidential selection that I think is very sound.

You have to ask, first and foremost, Would the person make a good president? Second: Would he make a good vice president? Third: Would he make a good candidate? A good campaigner, a good running mate?

In 1960, Nixon ran with Henry Cabot Lodge — the son of Massachusetts who had been a U.S. House member, a U.S. senator, and our ambassador to the U.N. Later, he would be ambassador to South Vietnam, ambassador to West Germany, and our guy at the Holy See.

The next time around, in 1968, Nixon ran with Spiro “Ted” Agnew, the governor of Maryland. He ran with him again in ’72 — and Agnew was forced to resign the next year. Then Nixon chose Ford, which was inspired, in my opinion.

Anyway — I like the Nixon formula, whatever Nixon himself did in practice.

• As you remember, McCain picked Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska. She had been governor for less than two years. Do you know the same is true of Agnew? He had been governor for less than two years.

• I don’t know how much time you spend on social media, but the name “Karen” has become an epithet. A “Karen,” according to this usage, is a white woman — always white — who is overbearing, self-loving, and nasty. Probably racist, too. She is the type to demand to see the manager.

I have known some wonderful Karens in my life — I mean, girls and women named Karen. I hate that their name has been appropriated for this purpose.

(I know, tell it to the Dicks.)

(You remember that, once upon a time, “dick” meant “detective.” In 1940, W. C. Fields starred in The Bank Dick.)

• Stick with names for a moment: A tweeter was tweeting conspiracy theories at me, including one involving “Weinstein.” It turned out the guy (or gal) meant “Epstein” — Jeffrey Epstein, not Harvey Weinstein.

You know the iceberg/Goldberg joke, right? If not, go here.

I also think of a limerick by Robert Conquest, the late, great historian, poet, etc.:

That wonderful family Stein —
There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein.
Gert’s poems are bunk,
Ep’s statues are junk,
And nobody understands Ein.

• When I was in high school, there was a book called “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” It was a huge bestseller. These days, one way or another, I hear that real men don’t wear masks — which is absurd.

I think of a point made by my friend and colleague Jonathan V. Last: If President Trump embraced mask-wearing — if he himself wore a mask now and then — objection on the right to mask-wearing would drop instantly. Not quite to zero, but close.

A young friend of mine in India wrote, “It’s still beyond me how wearing masks in the midst of a pandemic has become a tribal issue.” Well, anything under the sun can become a tribal issue. “Pass the salt” can become a tribal issue.

Explicitly now, Trump has called mask-wearing “politically correct.” (See this report.) I was anti-PC before it was cool, so to speak. But I don’t see much of a connection between wearing a mask and political correctness.

Mask-wearing can be taken too far, of course. But mainly, I think, it is a matter of common courtesy — and not something for conservatives, or anyone else, to disdain.

• The impression has taken hold that balloting by mail disadvantages Republicans. Trump is doing all he can to further this impression, of course. The thing is, political pros will tell you this is not so. Jeb Bush made the point to me in a podcast earlier this month. Older voters, in particular, like to mail it in (so to speak). I hope this issue receives more attention — and sober attention — as the weeks and months roll on.

• Last Sunday, the president tweeted,

A lot of interest in this story about Psycho Joe Scarborough. So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that? An affair? What about the so-called investigator?

Etc.

A Republican congressman from Illinois, Adam Kinzinger, responded,

Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.

I thought, “A pair of Republican testicles. They ought to be put in a museum.”

• My colleague Scott McKim told me he was “AFK.” “What does that mean?” I asked. The answer: “away from keyboard.” Another day, my colleague Scott Immergut said, “NM.” “What does that mean?” The answer: “never mind.”

I am learning these initials, slowly but surely. I remember the first time someone said to me — e-mailed or texted me — “TTYL.” I had to ask her, but I have known “Talk to you later” ever since.

Well, Scott Immergut introduced me to the Patinkins — more specifically, to videos of Mandy Patinkin and his wife, Kathryn Grody, made by one of their sons. (The senior Patinkins are in theater, television, and movies.) The videos are delicious — especially this one, in which the son quizzes his parents about social-media initials.

I hate to tell you, I think I’ve watched it three times.

• I have a slew of language items for you, but I think I’ll put them in abeyance (as Bill Buckley would say) and just provide one music link: here. That is a personal note (from me) on Krzysztof Penderecki, the late composer.

• A few weeks ago, I was talking with my friend Ed Klum, a hotshot athlete and coach in Michigan. We were talking about basketball, race, and America. He told me a story about Bob Harrison.

Ed and Harrison played on the University of Michigan basketball team right after the war. One day, they were playing at Ohio State, and something really ugly happened as the Michigan team went to and from its locker room: Some fans threw things — soda bottles? — at Harrison and cussed him out. They called him a “nigger.”

That’s par for the course, you might say. Par for the nasty, terrible course. But here’s a wrinkle: Bob Harrison was not black. He was on the swarthy side, as people used to say.

Curious, I did some Googling around.

Bob Harrison was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1927. His dad was of the Winnebago tribe of Oklahoma. Bob grew up poor but found the Boys Club at age nine. That was a stroke of good fortune.

At the club, some kids were playing basketball. One of them got hurt. Someone asked Bob, “Would you like to play?” Bob didn’t know anything about basketball. But he made his first two shots — the first two shots he ever took. He decided that basketball was the game for him.

When he was 13, and in eighth grade, his team crushed an opponent 139 to 8. You read that right. And Bob scored all 139 of his team’s points.

After the University of Michigan, he went to the NBA: the Minneapolis Lakers, in particular. He was part of three NBA-championship teams in Minneapolis. Later, he played for the Milwaukee Hawks, and the St. Louis Hawks, as they became. In 1956, Harrison was an All-Star. He finished his playing career with the Syracuse Nationals.

Then he coached — at two colleges: Kenyon and Harvard.

Would you like to hear Bob Harrison in a little clip? Go here. He is describing a shot he hit in the 1950 NBA Finals — a buzzer beater, from nearly half court. “One of those once-in-a-lifetime deals,” he says.

And here is a longer clip — of Harrison being interviewed a few years ago. What a gent, he is.

Speaking of gents, let me go back to Ed Klum. He reminded me the other day about the 1947–48 season. Ed, Bob Harrison, and the rest of the Michigan team went to Madison Square Garden in New York for the NCAA tournament. In the round of eight, they faced Holy Cross. Uh-oh. That meant Bob Cousy.

It did not go well for the Wolverines, who lost 63–45.

But Ed likes to quip, “I held Bob Cousy scoreless.” How’s that? Well, Ed went into the game with 27 seconds left — during which time Cousy did not score.

One of Michigan’s best players was Pete Elliott, an amazing athlete. He was an All-American quarterback who earned twelve letters at Michigan: in football, basketball, and golf. He was also a fun-loving guy, not averse to pranks and such.

After the game against Holy Cross, he went to the opposing team’s locker room and handed his jock strap to Bob Cousy. “You faked me out of it all night,” Pete said, “so I figured you should have it.”

Thanks so much for joining me, my friends, and see you soon.

If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

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