With Mother’s Day this Sunday, I’d intended to write about my late mother, Thelma Neworth and her interactions with JFK, Martin Luther King and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others. That is until, Donald Trump put the country in a constitutional crisis. With echoes of Richard Nixon, Trump shockingly fired FBI Director James Comey in a cowardly fashion. (Comey found out on TV.) The dismissal occurred just as Comey was expanding the investigation of Russian interference in our elections. Coincidence? I think not.
Trump purportedly terminated Comey for mishandling Hillary’s emails, which is laughable because on the campaign trail he praised Comey for that. Trump’s presidency is 113 days old but it feels more like 1013. I’m reminded of Gerald Ford’s post-Watergate quote, “Finally our long national nightmare is over.” Sadly, ours may be just beginning. (Meaning, we need a Special Prosecutor!)
During Watergate, 47 members of the Nixon administration went to prison. In Reagan’s Iran-Contra, even more went to the pen. (And I don’t mean became writers.) Trump often brags he breaks records, so who knows.
This also raises Trump’s mental state. Reportedly, a la Bogart’s Captain Queeg in the “Caine Mutiny,” Trump screams at the TV and rails at aides during coverage of the Russian investigation. And seemingly the opposite of “draining the swamp,” he’s added 26 lawyers to the White House Counsel. On those depressing details, let’s return to Mother’s Day and some of Thelma’s life.
During the Great Depression, my mother dropped out of UCLA to help support her parents and politically became an FDR democrat. Growing up, I recall at my mother’s friends houses where it was common to see a framed photo of FDR on the wall as his having been, to them at least, the country’s savior.
As a young woman my mother always belonged to Democratic Clubs. Two decades later, in 1960, she helped Ted Kennedy organize Democratic Clubs throughout the state to support JFK that fall. But it was her association with the California Democratic Council, (imagine Tea Party but for liberals) founded in 1952, that vaulted my mother into the big time of grassroots politics.
CDC came into being to diminish Democratic back-room politics. Democrats in power weren’t exactly thrilled that ordinary citizens wanted to make them more transparent and accountable. That said, compared to the hate-filled Trump era, the CDC days seem so hopeful. It’s actually tragic how corrupt and dangerous to our democracy, the Trump administration is and we’ve just started.
Hopefully the thin-skinned Trump will be gone sooner than later. That said, then we’ll have Mike Pence, who likely wouldn’t have won re-election as Indiana’s Governor. (Does Pence believe therapy can “convert” homosexuals into heterosexuals because it worked on him?)
Back to the CDC, as a teenager, I unwittingly got them and myself in hot water. There was a rather goofy political campaign to ban pay toilets because they violated “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (I’m quite sure Thomas Jefferson never had to cough up a nickel to take a leak.)
Frankly, I thought this “movement” (pun intended) was hilarious. I even typed the campaign a letter saying I was interested in helping when, in fact, I was going to lampoon it in my high school newspaper. Unfortunately, not having any typing paper, I used the back of CDC stationery thinking nothing of it. Little did I know, the campaign excitedly thought CDC was taking up their cause.
Needless to say, I got in a bit of trouble. (Which I seem to do even to this day.) Ironically, by 1974, pay toilets were banned throughout the country thanks, in large part, to four high-school students in Pennsylvania. Go figure.
Meanwhile, back in 1958, CDC dominated the mid-term elections in California . (Like the Tea Party did in 2010.) As a result, my mother, a CDC officer, was put in charge of the seating at the 1960 Democratic Convention at the L.A. Sports Arena. She dealt with JFK, RFK, Teddy, LBJ, Adlai Stevenson, Eleanor Roosevelt and many others. Amazingly she took it all in stride. (I got to attend the convention, which, at 16, was a huge deal!)
My mother was even invited to the lavish party to celebrate JFK’s nomination held at Peter Lawford’s beach house here in Santa Monica. A huge JFK fan, I waited up well past midnight to see if my mother talked to him.
To my horror, she told me that she personally saw JFK climb a wall and ditch the secret service to rendezvous with Marilyn Monroe. Incredibly naive, I refused to believe it and, in frustration, accused mom of being “another Hedda Hopper.” (My dad gave it to me big time the next day.)
If your mother is still alive consider yourself lucky and wish her Happy Mother’s Day because I can’t with mine. Then again, I suppose I just did.
Note: During Wednesday’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Trump banned U.S. Press but Russian photographers were permitted. Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com