Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

We got some culcha this afternoon

A friend got us free tickets to see Ken Howard starring as Tip O'Neill in According to Tip. For those of you that didn't get political until this election, let's do a recap of the greatest Speaker of the House ever, Congressman Thomas P O'Neill of North Cambridge, MA. Tip was my congressman for many many years, and he was an amazing person who understand that politics is about the people he represented and his job was to make their lives better. He was a real man of the people and he didn't need to throw around Joe SixPack references to prove it.

The play centered around Tip's political career, first in Massachusetts as a state representative that rose to become the first Democratic Speaker of the House before deciding to tackle national politics with a run for Congress in 1952. O'Neill moved to Washington and became a back bench Congressman, taking the seat John F. Kennedy left vacant. O'Neill first became noticed in national politics when he changed his mind about the Vietnam war and broke with Lyndon Johnson to be an outspoken opponent of the war. While other politicians that were against the war were voted out of office, Tip had many colleges in his district and those students helped keep Tip in office to be a vocal opposition of the unpopular war.

In a quick rise up the ranks of the house officers, O'Neill became Majority Whip, then Majority Leader, and finally rose to the top of the house as Speaker in 1977. O'Neill wasn't a big fan of Jimmy Carter, who he liked as a person, but thought didn't understand the least bit about how Washington worked. When Carter lost to Reagan, Tip became a target of Republicans who viewed him as an old liberal pol. O'Neill called Reagan the most ignorant man who had ever occupied the White House. O'Neill also said that Reagan was "Herbert Hoover with a smile" and "a cheerleader for selfishness" and "an amiable dunce." He also said that Reagan's policies meant that his presidency was "one big Christmas party for the rich." Privately, O'Neill and Reagan were always on cordial terms, or as Reagan himself put it in his memoirs, they were friends "after 5PM." Reagan once compared O'Neill to the then-popular arcade game Pac-Man in a speech, saying that he was "a round thing that gobbles up money".

O'Neill retired from Congress in 1987 and died in 1994 of colon cancer.

The play was a one man recitation of Tip's political life through the various Presidents he served under. From JFK, who was a personal friend all the way up to Ronald Reagan, who he couldn't stand, there were excellent comments on the most significant points in each administration. All through the show the obvious things that made Tip so likable and so unusual in Washington shone through. His sense of humor, his love of a bit of Irish Whiskey, his regrets about leaving his family in Cambridge while he lived in DC during the week, his nightly card games with his congressional buddies... all of those were evidence of what a regular guy he was. An extraordinary guy as well, he was a real champion of the poor and downtrodden, he knew his constituents, and he loved his job. The play depicted Tip as he was, not as how he might have been. Because it was so well done, it brought me to tears because I loved Tip. I mean, I really really loved him. And I miss him to this day.

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Blogger Daisy said...

I always enjoyed Tip's perspective on Reagan. "amiable dunce" says it all. And that's before alzheimer's set in!

13/10/08 9:39 PM  

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