Quite a mixed bag

Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion - David Brinkley

This was a quickie fill-in book which I've had on my shelf for a while; it finally made its way to the top. When I originally picked it up wherever I picked it up, I thought it would be a brief memoir of some sort - but what it actually is is a collection of a number of the one-to-two-minute closing commentaries from This Week With David Brinkley from 1981 - 1996. Something a little lighter, so that viewers did not come away from the show too down-hearted after all of the talk of recession and murder and drugs.

And some of these are very light-hearted - like the story of the boy (in New Haven, CT - I don't think I remember that) who ran away, and took up residence at the bottom of his apartment building's elevator shaft. He leeched power for a small TV and, I believe, a hot plate, and was only discovered because building residents wondered why the elevator smelled like hot dogs every night. Some are more thoughtful than cheery, such as a note on the death of Benny Goodman in 1986.

But they aren't all filler and light-hearted; in fact, most are opinion pieces on events in Washington and more localized politics. At first I wasn't too thrilled by the then-timely now-contextless commentaries - but then I realized that a great many of them are still timely, and for the ones that aren't it's strangely fascinating to read about something that was screamingly urgent and vital twenty years ago which is barely a blip on most radar now. Perspective. And it's oddly comforting to read something like this, from December 26, 1982:

We might all hope that 1983 is a good year in all respects, 1983 standing alone, because it doesn't need any troubles of its own. It will inherit enough from 1982, and none of them will go away at midnight this Friday. The year 1983, for example, will inherit a recession spread around the world - 12 million unemployed, the first soup kitchens we have seen in a generation. It will inherit a Washington establishment spending close to $200 billion it does not have; a Congress that would like to bail itself out by raising taxes but can't; a Social Security system that if not rescued will very soon run out of money; and various industries - automobiles, steel, and so on - devastated by imports at least equal in quality but lower in price. And more. Our town here, Washington, regardless of who is in power, cannot fix all of this. But after a generation of promising to solve every social economic ailment, it has led people to expect Washington solutions, and so it will try a number of them. The good news is that the mathematics of probabilities shows that if they try hard enough, sooner or later, by accident or otherwise, somebody will do something right. It does seem that it's time, preferably in 1983, for the probabilities to go our way.

Make all the numbers, dates and dollar amounts, bigger: Things don't really change. Comforting, and also scary.

August 3, 1986

Next week Congress will be voting to set a new and higher federal government debt limit, to give the Treasury power to borrow still more money.

Sound familiar?

That happens quite a bit in this book. It's sharp and smart and often funny, and surprisingly relevant. I was wishing for more like the boy in the elevator shaft, but what I did get was, in its way, more useful.

Longer review on my blog.

Source: http://agoldoffish.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/everyone-is-entitled-to-my-opinion-david-brinkley