Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Curtain Falls on Two Class Acts

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Curtain Falls on Two Class Acts

Article excerpt

The talking heads can argue about whether it was a vote against the president, against the party, against liberalism, about whether it was the revenge of the white male voter or the reaction of the middle class.

And the Republican pols can spout pieties about working together for the American people while Newt Gingrich goes straight for the neck flesh, calling names, talking trash, practicing his patented brand of "I'm-OK-You're-Scum" attack politics.

But one thing I know for sure, looking back on this election. And that is that this country lost its two most compelling and charismatic political figures when Mario Cuomo was rejected by the voters of New York and Ann Richards by those in Texas.

Nobody knows better than we reporters how annoying the governor of New York could be, how hypersensitive and self-righteous.

"Lincoln had bad press too," Cuomo once mused. Write a sentence he thought did him wrong, and he'd track you down, from airplane, car, Albany and talk you to death with St. Augustine, Thomas More and Yogi Berra.

Ah, but what talk it was. What other contemporary elected official could have a major publishing house collect his speeches, as introspective and uncompromising as the man himself?

"We campaign in poetry," he said at Yale in 1985, in what seem now prophetic words. "But when we're elected we're forced to govern in prose. And when we govern - as distinguished from when we campaign - we come to understand the difference between a speech and a statute. It's here that the noble aspirations, neat promises and slogans of a campaign get bent out of recognition or even break as you try to nail them down to the Procrustean bed of reality."

The governor is who he is: In an age when the self-made man has given way to those constructed by consultants, that is worth celebrating. So, too, is Richards, a woman with a nuclear reactor of a personality and her own wiseacre way with words.

On the stump, she likened her opponent's criticism of her record to a husband's criticism of his wife's ironing - lots of hard work with little recognition: "He says: `Why did you fold 'em and put 'em in the drawer? I like 'em on the hanger. …

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