GOP's Missing Plan; Biden's Surge; Auden's Elegy
Good morning, it’s Monday, May 20, 2019. I hope you had a nice weekend. Tyler Gaffalione certainly did. Guiding his mount War of Will up the rail on a fast track at Pimlico, the rider and his horse won the 144th Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
The media couldn’t say enough of Bodexpress, the winless colt who threw his jockey at the start and then ran the race anyway, but the real story was Gaffalione. Talk about karma. He was aboard War of Will in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago when front-running Maximum Security veered into their path: Gaffalione could have been killed, but he didn’t even file an objection. Two other jocks did, however, and the winner was taken down. On Saturday, all of that was behind him.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet that we won,” Gaffalione said Sunday. “After … the trouble in the Kentucky Derby, I'm just simply happy for the horse. He deserved it most of all.”
On this date in 1937, British poet W.H. Auden published “Spain,” a paean to the anti-fascist side in the Spanish Civil War. I’ve written about Auden once before in this space, but it was so long ago, I trust you won’t mind hearing about him again. I’ll have a further word on Auden -- and why one of his poems belongs in a newsletter that is typically about American history -- in a moment.
First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
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GOP Needs a Health Care Plan, Not an Immigration Plan. Tom Bevan warns the president and his party that RCP’s latest survey shows voter sentiments are significantly stronger regarding health care reforms than for other issues.
Did Biden’s Pop in the Polls Mean Anything? Sean Trende has this analysis.
Biden Preaches Unity to a Nation “Sick of Division.” Phil Wegmann reports on the former vice president’s campaign stop in Philadelphia over the weekend.
“Moderate” Steve Bullock Is an Extremist, and a Coward Too. Frank Miele explains why the governor of his state wouldn’t get his vote for president.
The Lessons of Poynter’s Retracted “Unreliable News” Blacklist. Kalev Leetaru offers his take on the botched attempt to wave advertisers off of websites trafficking in misinformation.
Trump Lives Up to His Promises -- Including Taking On China. Kelly Sadler applauds the president for addressing China’s unfair trade practices.
Bridging the Religious-Secular Divide. Peter Berkowitz spotlights a new book that addresses the thorny subject.
Spy vs. Spy Euphemism at the FBI. In RealClearInvestigations, Eric Felten reports that for all the bureau’s denials that it uses spies, the evidence suggests otherwise.
The Low-Tech Mugging of Huawei. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny lays out his objections to the Commerce Department’s decision to block the Chinese company and its affiliates from obtaining U.S.-made goods and software.
Why Americans Love “Jeopardy” Hot Streaks. In RealClearLife, Evan Bleier examines the fascination with James Holzhauer’s domination on the nightly game show.
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As Europe led the world into chaos in the 1930s, many Western writers and intellectuals gravitated to the banner of the anti-Franco Popular Front, many of them actually going to Spain, some even to fight. Their numbers included James Lardner, who lost his life in combat. Among the others were Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Neruda, Lillian Hellman, John Dos Passos and George Orwell, who singled out Auden’s poem “Spain” for particular praise.
Auden himself grew disillusioned with the excesses of the anti-Franco forces, particularly regarding their rough treatment of clerics and the Catholic Church. He eventually renounced his support for the cause -- and even his own poem, which had been published on May 20, in 1937.
But Spain’s troubles were only the start of upheaval in Europe, and Auden wrote another poem, “September 1, 1939,” that has stood the test of time on both sides of the Atlantic. Not that Auden would have minded, but lines from that poem have been reprised by Americans with widely disparate political outlooks. Republican speechwriters have used his words to tout the nobleness of volunteerism in the waning days of the Cold War. Liberals in New York trying to make sense of 9/11 employed lines from the same poem.
In a speech drafted by conservative wordsmiths Peggy Noonan and Craig Smith, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush used the phrase “a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky” at his 1988 presidential nomination acceptance speech. He mentioned “points of light” again in his inaugural address, the imagery and language inspired by “September 1, 1939.”
Similarly, another sentiment showed up on T-shirts and posters after the 9/11 attacks: “We must love one another or die.” That one is borrowed directly from Auden’s poem.
On May 20, 1946, nine years to the day after he wrote “Spain,” Auden became an American citizen. Having arrived on these shores as war clouds formed on Britain’s horizon, Auden (at age 31) taught at various universities, fell in love with a handsome 18-year-old poet named Chester Kallman, answered the call of his draft board (but failed his physical), and reconnected with the church of his youth.
Today, thanks to the magic of movies, his best-remembered poem is “Stop All the Clocks” (although the writer himself titled it “Funeral Blues”). Featured in “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” it goes like this:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let airplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics