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Caustic newsman Pegler vanished, couldn’t stop stepping on big toes

Who’s who In 1941 Time magazine polled its readers for candidates for its Man of the Year award. Readers responded: 1. President Franklin Roosevelt, 2. Josef Stalin, 3. columnist Westbrook Pegler.

Westbrook who? Although Pegler had dominated the newspaper columnist business for more than a decade, won a Pulitzer Prize, was the talk of journalism, and became the star of both the Scripps-Howard and Hearst chains, he is today largely unknown.  He was converted into non-celebritywestbrook-pegler status because the affronted nabobs of newsdom and academia have ignored him for decades except for a few disparaging remarks whenever his name came up in print.  He had tread upon too many aching progressive toes to be forgiven. Truth be told, Pegler clomped on nearly everyone’s toes. His hard-bitten philosophy divided humanity into two classes, those in authority and the little people. The big shots were his natural prey. Among the hugest of the VIPs was the family of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the nation’s labor unions, rapidly burgeoning under the New Deal administration and many riddled with corruption.  Both Pegler targets were the most revered icons of American liberals whose wounded response was, “How can he do this to us?”

They well may ask, because Westbrook was a registered Democrat and one of Roosevelt’s most enthusiastic early supporters.  Unfortunately for the president, Pegler was one of those absolutely honest people who could not abide flaws in persons or institutions he admired.  Regardless of the person’s contributions to the nation, any hint that he had feet of clay, itchy palms, corruption, or a lack of basic humanity brought down the Pegler wrath.

Antics of the Roosevelt tribe soon disenchanted the columnist. Mother Eleanor seemed to be striving for public acclaim and glory while the kids appeared to be trading on the family name for earthly riches. As for papa Roosevelt, Pegler accused him of overruling his military experts to award $40 million in contracts to industrialist Howard Hughes for two aircraft, the F-11 and the HK-1 (popularly named the Spruce Goose, which flew only once). Continue reading

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Where were you when? Historical events energize our flabby memories

President Kennedy and Jackie in Dallas

“Where were you when?…” It’s a fascinating memory game. Where were you when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? When World War II began?  When those planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11?

Adolf Hitler

It illustrates the fact that most of our days are not significant enough to recall. Memories have to be jogged by some event, a war, disaster, or a murder. But just recalling the event isn’t enough.  Our event has to be so stunning, horrifying, or thrilling that  you can remember where you were at the time and often what you said or thought.

I can’t answer for anyone else, but the moment President  Kennedy was shot I was in my basement, sitting on the floor.  I had stepped through the basement door into the dark interior, and my foot landed on the tines of a carelessly placed rake whose handle rose swiftly and smacked me smartly between the eyes. I collapsed and assumed the sitting lotus position for what seemed like ages, counting the comets and stars shooting before my eyes. Continue reading

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