June 4, 2008

Kingfish Vs. He-Coon: Encore

Again, I've gotten a wry reaction from comparing Lawton Chiles to Huey Long. Don't misunderstand, I'm not talking about honesty, integrity, and ethics in government. I'm comparing legacies and personalities in order of magnitude, not quality.

The simple fact is that most Americans cannot pick their own governor out of a police line-up, much less recall former governors.

What governor from days past stands out even today for larger-than-life gun-toting spunk? The "Kingfish," Huey Long. Heck, they just made a remake of All The King's Men a few years back starring Sean Penn. Few remember much that Long did other than cause trouble and rule with an iron fist, but he is remembered. And he is connected to his state in way that's unique and colorful. I know that when I think about Louisiana, in my mind's eye I see Huey up on the stump, shaking his fist at the free press, flanked by glowering state troopers. That's Louisiana politics in a moment. People still tell stories about Long's glory days.

Does Massachusetts evoke any single politician in your mind? Maybe Teddy Kennedy. But certainly not a governor I'd wager. William Weld? Don't think so. Michael Dukakis. Nope.

How about Maryland...nobody comes to mind as someone whose roots in the state are legendary.

For Florida, both Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham come to my mind actually.

For Georgia, Sam Nunn comes to mind as representing the best in peach politics.

For Mississippi, nobody is conjured up.

For South Carolina, I think of John C. Calhoun and Strom Thurmond. Not governors.

Which brings me back to Lawton Chiles and Huey Long.

No comments: