The number one album today in 1970 was Santana’s “Abraxas”:
Former president George W. Bush gave an impassioned, eloquent speech on the current moral, civil, and political climate in the United States and across the West.
John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, gave less formal, but arguably more powerful, remarks in the briefing room yesterday. Kelly scolded a Democratic congresswoman, Frederica Wilson, and, really, the entire country, much like a disappointed father or grandfather might.
Meanwhile, John Kelly is being hailed by most conservatives as a heroic champion of moral verities and a brilliantly effective defender of the president of the United States, while liberals — particularly of the piss-from-a-great-height MSNBC variety — are denouncing Kelly as, at best, an enabler of the president and, at worst, a racist.
I’m disgusted with a great deal of this, but rather than argue against any of that, I want to ask you to entertain a thought experiment. Imagine, if just for a moment, that all of you who fall into one of these camps are entirely wrong.
What if President Bush was aiming his fire at Democrats and liberals? What if Kelly was actually lecturing his boss?
If you can take off the partisan blinders and restrain your tribal instincts, it’s not all that hard to see it that way.
“Disagreement escalates into dehumanization,” observed the former president, who was infamously depicted on the cover of the Village Voice as a vampire sucking the blood out of the Statue of Liberty. “Too often,” Bush continued, “we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions — forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.”
Imagine for just a moment that this wasn’t aimed at white supremacists or spurious nationalists or self-described “deplorables,” but at the legions of identity-politics peddlers who insist that white people — particularly white men — are metaphysically incapable of shedding their privilege and racism. Envisage the possibility Bush had in mind a fourth-rate comedian who held up Donald Trump’s decapitated head or a late-night talk-show host who called Trump “Putin’s c**k holster.” Or maybe, just maybe, he had in mind not Donald Trump, but Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, who said:
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” [Hillary Clinton] said to applause and laughter. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And, unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”
Also in his speech, Bush warned that “our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
Is it so outlandish that he had in mind the liberal and leftist icons who claimed that 9/11 was an inside job? Could this not be aimed at Spike Lee, who entertained the possibility that Bush blew up the levees in New Orleans? Might those words land with sufficient force on those already determined to turn the tragedy in Niger into an elaborate ruse? Might he not have in mind the people who started with the conclusion that Trump colluded with the Russians to win the election and worked backwards from there? Might he not be aiming his remarks at the author of Democracy in Chains (a National Book Award finalist!) — a fabulist’s work of near fiction about how free-market economics is a secret racist conspiracy? Do these slings and arrows fall so short of Jane Mayer’s ongoing effort to turn the Koch brothers into James Bond villains?
Is there nothing in Bush’s warning about the failures of socialist centralized planning and the dangers of protectionism for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and their legions of fans to ruminate on? Couldn’t his call to revere constitutional principles find some purchase in the legions of ignorant miscreants who think the First Amendment has exceeded its sell-by date? Or perhaps in Donald Trump’s predecessor, who thinks our Constitution is a living, breathing document whose true meaning can only be found through the magical powers of empathy?
President Bush observed that our “discourse” has become “degraded by casual cruelty.” If you’re a liberal and your only response was “Take that Trump!” you really haven’t been paying attention, and you surely don’t have a Twitter account. You probably missed Joe Biden telling African Americans that Mitt Romney wanted to “Put y’all back in chains.” You missed the SNL writer who, on inauguration day, said ten-year-old Barron Trump “will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.”
Now let’s turn to John Kelly’s remarks.
I have no novel interpretation of his discussion of the sanctity of the fallen and the sorrow of their loved ones or of the gratitude we should have for their sacrifice. Those remarks were so powerful because they were rooted in every kind of truth — factual, moral, and, most movingly, personal. This man and leader of men, this father of the fallen, knows of what he speaks.
The more controversial remarks came later. Kelly said:
You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.
Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought — the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.
Many liberals increasingly despise Kelly and other members of the administration for “enabling” Trump. But among many conservative critics and skeptics of Donald Trump, there is an enormous wellspring of gratitude and admiration for Kelly, James Mattis, and H. R. McMaster. Fairly or not, it is widely believed that these patriotic military men are protecting the country — and the commander in chief himself — from Donald Trump’s worst instincts and inadequacies. It is a difficult job for all of the familiar reasons, not least among them the president’s staggering, glandular vanity. Scolding the president directly is the surest way to get him to follow the worst course of action.
So while it may not be the case, it’s nonetheless useful to imagine that Kelly’s intended audience wasn’t the press or the American people, but the president himself. The man surely knew the president was listening.
The trends Kelly alludes to are real and lamentable, and they predate Donald Trump’s arrival on the national political scene. But it strikes me as indisputable that Trump personifies these trends, and if Kelly were not trying to do his job, he would acknowledge that.
Perhaps Kelly was criticizing the Gold Star Khan family in his remarks about the convention. But he could just as plausibly have had the president in mind. We need not rehearse all of the ways in which Donald Trump — who has bragged of his adultery and sexual assaults and who has insulted women’s looks — has less than an exemplary record of honoring the sanctity of women.
I understand that many Christian groups have convinced themselves that Trump is an instrument of God, but let us not delude ourselves that he is also a man of God.
“Why do I have to repent?” Trump once asked Anderson Cooper. “Why do I have to ask for forgiveness if [I’m] not making mistakes?
As for the dignity of life, if Jane Mayer is to be believed — admittedly a big “if” — the long-time pro-choice president mocks Mike Pence for his views on abortion.
And then there’s the larger theme of Kelly’s remarks: the role of sacrifice, particularly the ultimate sacrifice paid by our military. President Trump has said he always felt like he served because he went to a military academy for high school (one strains to contain laughter at the thought of Trump’s boosters accepting that answer from a Democrat). But when the call came, he discovered bone spurs in his feet. Trump is hardly unique among politicians in getting deferments. But he is unique in how he talks about sacrifice.
At the Democratic Convention, Khizr Khan echoed some of Kelly’s sentiments when he said, “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Trump used the occasion to criticize Khan’s wife for staying silent. When Stephanopoulos asked Trump what sacrifices he had made, this was the best he could offer:
I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.
I’m no expert, but it seems to me that boasting of one’s success is a poor substitute for the Christian virtue of humility and an even poorer analogue to the sacrifice of the Khans.
I am open to the argument that Khan should not have politicized his son’s death, though it is hard for me to second guess a father in such circumstances. But even if you think Khan was in error, can you deny that Trump took a bad situation and made it worse? (Spare me the four-dimensional-chess explanations).
Again, it may just be a fanciful thought experiment, but I would like to think that Kelly was, in his own subtle way, appealing to Donald Trump’s own conscience and saying “Enough” in the only way he could. But here’s the important point: Even if that was not Kelly’s motivation, even if Bush was not aiming his fire solely leftward, the wisdom in their remarks stands on its own and should have purchase across the ideological spectrum.
I hope readers can appreciate that this has not been an exercise in “whataboutism.” What I am trying to do is illustrate that both Kelly and Bush had something important to say to the people cherry-picking the bits they want to endorse or take offense at. When I praised Bush’s speech on Twitter yesterday, the immediate response from scores of people was, in summary: “Bush has no credibility because he didn’t denounce Barack Obama’s transgressions.” Others, predictably, bleated about how “Of course a Never Trumper would like that speech!”
If one takes this partisan myopia seriously, one cannot call for civility, for the rule of law, or for civilizational confidence and the free market unless one first makes it clear that the current president is both blameless and awesome. One cannot denounce “white supremacy” — on the day an avowed white supremacist spoke in Florida — without Trump’s cheerleaders saying, “How dare you say that about me?” Well, if you’re not a white supremacist, then maybe he wasn’t talking about you? But you cannot deny that such people exist. And if you take the position that denunciations of white supremacists are attacks on all Trump supporters, how does that help your cause?
I have no doubt that I have made my own contributions to the crappy state of American politics. Some longtime readers of mine write me every week to complain that they miss the “old” me who always went for the jugular. I think I still do enough of that where warranted, but if I’ve learned anything from the last few years (particularly while working on a book about all the themes Bush talked about on Thursday), it’s that my “side” isn’t immune to the zero-sum logic of tribalism.
On Thursday, I recorded a podcast with Jeffrey Goldberg (no relation) for The Atlantic. He wanted to know what it’s like to be “ideologically homeless.” I told him I’m not ideologically homeless at all. I’m more ideologically grounded and confident than I’ve ever been. What I am is politically homeless, and that’s something new for me.
As a conservative, I certainly believe that most of our problems today have their roots on the left. But as a Republican by default, I also believe that the blame for our woes is fairly widely distributed. George Bush has his flaws, and I’ve pointed out many of them over the years. But conservatives, of all people, should understand that there are no perfect messengers, because there are no perfect people. Bush’s speech — and Kelly’s remarks — can be read on their own merits, and we all — all — have something to learn from them, not least Donald Trump.
Josh Kraushaar looks at the influence of Steve Bannon:
In the wide world of politics, there are two different types of campaign operatives: strategists and tacticians. The best-known figures in campaigns are big-picture strategists who come up with an overarching vision for a candidate. They’re complemented by the numerous tacticians who implement that strategy through messaging, targeting, and fundraising. David Axelrod was the forward-thinking strategist who branded Barack Obama as the candidate of hope and change, while David Plouffe was the tactician who executed that vision to perfection. Karl Rove was the engineer behind George W. Bush’s political juggernaut, while campaign manager Ken Mehlman played a critical nuts-and-bolts role in his winning reelection campaign.
The problem within the Trump White House is that too many people fancy themselves as mini-Machiavellis, and not enough people know how to get things done—whether it involves imposing a travel ban, passing health care legislation, or merely coordinating with appropriate agencies.
The threat by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon to go after sitting Republican senators with primary challenges is a textbook case of someone who holds a grand vision of politics but hasn’t demonstrated the ability to put tactical bite behind his bark.
To his credit, Bannon understands the grand contours of Republican politics these days better than many GOP insiders. President Trump has transformed the Republican Party into a more populist, nationalistic vehicle closer to Bannon’s worldview than to the prevailing sentiment at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Republicans are far more trusting of Trump than their congressional leadership. And anyone who’s tagged as being part of the Washington “swamp” will be on the defensive, forced to build back credibility with voters in an antiestablishment mood.
But Bannon has never shown any expertise in the nitty-gritty work of winning congressional campaigns. At Breitbart last year, he promoted numerous primary challenges to sitting members of Congress, none of which were victorious. The publication’s efforts to bruise House Speaker Paul Ryan were embarrassing; its preferred candidate lost by a whopping 68-point margin. Breitbart challenged candidates endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in three primaries (Alabama, Arizona, and Indiana) and lost badly in all three. Bannon opportunistically jumped into last month’s Alabama Senate race, taking credit for a victory in which his favored candidate (Roy Moore) had already been leading by double-digits.
Now Bannon is swinging wildly against every single Republican senator on a ballot (except Ted Cruz), even those who are popular back home and have been loyal Trump acolytes. He’s been furiously trying to recruit credible challengers, but the leading candidates he’s promoted—like Chris McDaniel in Mississippi and Erik Prince in Wyoming—have loads of personal baggage. All the money from the deep-pocketed Mercer family won’t be able to make up for tactical deficiencies in the emerging operation.
Bannon has only as much influence outside of the White House as Trump allows. His ability to generate momentum behind insurgent challengers rests on the premise that the president is behind their candidacies. So it was significant that Trump tweaked his former adviser in a show of solidarity with McConnell in the Rose Garden on Monday. “Some of the people that he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that, because frankly, they’re great people,” Trump said.
Trump went even further than that in private conversations with Republican congressional leaders, pledging to protect Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Deb Fischer of Nebraska from intraparty opposition, according to two GOP sources familiar with the discussions. Both senators were unusual targets for Bannon, given that they have been Trump loyalists and reliably conservative votes.
But both are on Bannon’s hit list: He is trying to recruit Prince, a former Blackwater chairman and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—to challenge Barrasso, one of the six GOP senators in party leadership. And he’s been in conversations with former Nebraska state Treasurer Shane Osborn about challenging Fischer, according to a source familiar with Bannon’s recruitment strategy, even though Osborn ran unsuccessfully as the establishment candidate in a hotly contested 2014 Senate primary.
The GOP senator at serious risk of losing a primary—Jeff Flake of Arizona—is in trouble because of his own self-inflicted war with the Republican base, not because Bannon has made a difference in the race. By writing a book slamming the president and the fecklessness of his party’s leadership, Flake’s standing immediately collapsed with GOP voters back home. He’s now in such precarious shape that Republican insiders expect him to mull retirement early next year if his numbers don’t rebound. The one thing keeping Flake afloat is that Bannon has failed to land a credible primary opponent against him. Bannon has now settled on supporting Kelli Ward, a hard-line former state senator whose personal baggage and underwhelming primary performance against Sen. John McCain make her a deeply flawed alternative.
Watching Bannon make threats against entrenched Republican senators is like watching an armchair fantasy-football player manage a professional football team. By riding shotgun during the final stretch of Trump’s campaign and serving as a White House adviser for seven months, Bannon clearly sees himself as the brains behind the Trump presidency. He’ll quickly find that beating Hillary Clinton may look like child’s play compared to toppling entrenched Republican senators with ample resources behind them.
Bannon endorsed former Democrat Kevin Nicholson against Sen. Leah Vukmir (R–Brookfield) in next year’s U.S. Senate race, with this result on Breitbart:
As conservative businessman and U.S. Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson sweeps up grassroots support from key organizations in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race, the candidate backed by the Washington establishment in Wisconsin is flailing when pressed on whether she will support Mitch McConnell for U.S. Senate Majority Leader.
State Sen. Leah Vukmir, at one time in her career a grassroots conservative who ended up aligning with the establishment over the past several years, dodged when the Associated Press asked her on Tuesday whether she would back McConnell for Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate.
According to the Associated Press—who interviewed her—“Vukmir would not say Tuesday whether she would support ousting McConnell, even though she believes ‘in some regards’ he is blocking President Donald Trump’s agenda.”
This revelation comes after Great America PAC, a key pro-Donald Trump Super PAC, has thrown its official endorsement and weight behind Nicholson in the race after Nicholson vowed to oppose McConnell continuing in his leadership position amid the Senate Majority Leader’s failure.
Stephen K. Bannon, the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist who was the CEO of Donald Trump’s successful general election presidential campaign, met with both Nicholson and Vukmir recently. Nicholson, as his campaign confirmed to McClatchy wire service and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel among other outlets, pledged that he believes McConnell should no longer be the U.S. Senate Majority Leader. Vukmir has refused to oppose McConnell for Majority Leader.
I haven’t taken sides on the Senate race yet, but this makes me more inclined to support Vukmir, not a Breitbart-backed candidate. Vukmir is as Republican as it gets in this state, and this attack on Vukmir on an issue that not 1 in 1,000 Republicans care about demonstrates grotesque ignorance on Bannon’s part.
You may recall that Breitbart backed Paul Nehlen in the First Congressional District Republican primary last year. That got Nehlen all of 16 percent of the GOP vote against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R–Janesville). As GOP strategist Brian Fraley put it on Facebook, “Kevin Nicholson needs to distance himself from this garbage in short order.”
The number one song today in 1961:
A horrible irony today in 1964: A plane carrying all four members of the group Buddy and the Kings crashed, killing everyone on board. Buddy and the Kings was led by Harold Box, who replaced Buddy Holly with the Crickets after Holly died in a plane crash in 1959:
Today in 1976, Chicago had its first number one single, which some would consider the start of its downward slope to sappy ballads:
The headline may be hyperbole (Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees? The Saints’ trading their entire draft pick collection to get Ricky Williams? The Vikings sending their future to Dallas for Herschel Walker?)
But if you’re making a list of bad pro sports player transactions, you must include the Packers’ infamous “Lawrence Welk” trade, made today in 1974, for quarterback John Hadl. The trade is known as the “Lawrence Welk” trade because, the joke goes, it took “a-one and-a-two and-a-three” in draft picks. The truth, however, is far worse — two first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and a third-round pick to the Rams.
Hadl was a good quarterback in the American Football League for the high-flying San Diego Chargers …
… before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams:
Packer fans who don’t remember this hideous decision (because the unconscious mind often blots out trauma) might well wonder what would possess someone to make that kind of trade. The answer is explained by Pete Jackel:
There was little time left on the morning of Oct. 22, 1974. The heat in Dan Devine’s Lambeau Field office had reached tropical levels and this had nothing to do with where his thermostat was set.
He had to do something before it was too late.
In his mind, he had no choice but to place that long-distance call to Los Angeles.
For more than three years as the Green Bay Packers’ coach, Devine had struggled to find a quarterback of the future. And on that Tuesday morning nearly 30 years ago, Devine’s own future in Green Bay was never more imperiled as this quarterback subplot intensified to new heights.
Devine’s Packers, who had followed up a miraculous 10-4 record in 1972 with a 5-7-2 disappointment in ’73, were in serious trouble. The night before, a Watergate-weary nation had witnessed the listless Packers slump to 3-3 following a 10-9 loss to the Chicago Bears in a Monday night game at Soldier Field.
More distressingly, it had become obvious that Jerry Tagge, Devine’s hand-picked quarterback of the future for the Packers – Tagge was drafted in the first round in 1972 -Ê was never going to succeed. The kid who had led Nebraska to back-to-back national championships in 1970 and ’71 simply could not translate his limited passing skills to the NFL level.
And Devine, who doubled as general manager, no longer could afford to stay with a quarterback who had led the Packers to just three touchdowns in the previous 17 quarters. Not with a 19-22-4 record in Devine’s three-plus seasons in Green Bay.
The heat was on.
“I can’t say I saw him being panicky, but I feel he probably was about that time,” said Packers historian Lee Remmel, who was in his first year as public relations director for the team in 1974. “Things were going badly and they got worse.”
Had circumstances played out differently, the immensely talented Archie Manning, the No. 2 overall selection in the 1971 draft who had fallen out of favor with the pathetic New Orleans Saints, might have been Devine’s savior. Devine had apparently agreed to a tentative trade the previous week to bring the then 25-year-old Manning to Green Bay, but fate intervened.
On the afternoon of Oct. 20, Bobby Scott -Manning’s projected successor with the Saints – had gone down with a knee injury in a game against the Falcons at Atlanta and was lost indefinitely. The Saints had no choice but to go back to Manning, killing the deal with Green Bay and drastically altering history.
“We were playing in Atlanta and Scotty got hurt and that kind of nixed it,” Manning said. “I was in the middle of all that trade stuff. I had heard it was Green Bay. I was being shopped and I remember there were several things going on with the Giants, 49ers, Packers, Saints and Rams.”
Devine also had held discussions with Gil Brandt, then the player personnel director of the Dallas Cowboys, about 31-year-old Craig Morton. But Morton had mostly been a backup to first Don Meredith and then Roger Staubach since entering the league in 1965 and Devine desperately wanted an established starter.
This lingering issue just had to be resolved once and for all.
Scott Hunter hadn’t worked out as the Packers’ quarterback. Neither had Jim Del Gaizo, for whom Devine had been panicked into squandering two No. 2 draft picks to the Miami Dolphins in 1973. And Tagge, who finished 1974 with one touchdown pass and 10 interceptions, was a bust, too.
Enough was enough.
So on the morning of Oct. 22, 1974, a desperate Devine placed that call to Los Angeles.
And then he mortgaged a franchise’s future, paying the staggering price of two No. 1 draft choices, two No. 2 picks and a No. 3 to the Rams for John Hadl.
As great as Hadl had been, he was 34 years old. And regardless of Hadl’s credentials, there’s no way anyone other than Devine could justify paying that price for a quarterback who was clearly in the twilight of his career.
It was a panic-inspired trade that stirred a buzz through the National Football League that persisted for weeks.
“It was one of those things where you couldn’t believe anybody would do that,” said Ron Wolf, then general manager of the Oakland Raiders.
“It was a hard trade for me to understand,” Brandt said. “It was not a good trade for them (the Packers).
“What happens is, people make a trade because they feel that trade can maybe get them into the playoffs or win a championship for them. But I remember there were a lot of people who said, `I can’t believe that Green Bay gave up that much for a 35-year-old quarterback.’ ”
And to this day, the lop-sided nature of that trade lingers in Green Bay.
“It was the worst trade in Packers history, without a doubt, and one of the worst in pro football history,” Remmel said. “That trade deprived us of two No. 1 picks, two No. 2s and a No. 3. It was pretty hard for his successor, Bart Starr, to rebuild the football team without those premium draft choices.”
The trade was made with the Rams, and Jackel provides an interesting detail:
Playing mostly during an era when rules made life so much more difficult for quarterbacks, Hadl passed for 33,503 yards and 244 touchdowns in a career that lasted from 1962-77. His primary receiver during his years with the San Diego Chargers was Lance Alworth, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1978.
While with the Chargers from 1962-72, Hadl developed into one of the great quarterbacks of the old American Football League. Five times he played in the Pro Bowl as a member of the Chargers. And a man who was one of the last NFL quarterbacks to wear a number higher than 19 (Hadl wore No. 21) passed for more than 3,000 yards in a season three times and threw for 20 or more touchdowns in a season six times while with San Diego.
Furthermore, the guy was indestructible, never missing a game during his 16-year career because of an injury. …
By 1973, though, Hadl was in need of a change of scenery. At least in part because of his difficult relationship with Chargers offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker – who went on to hold the same position with the Packers under Starr -ÊHadl was traded to the Rams for defensive end Coy Bacon and journeyman running back Bob Thomas prior to the 1973 season.
Bacon and Hadl were both coming off Pro Bowl seasons at the time. It would be the last time a trade involving players who had appeared in the Pro Bowl the previous season was consummated in the NFL until this year, when the Washington Redskins traded cornerback Champ Bailey to the Denver Broncos for running back Clinton Portis.
In what proved to be his only full season with the Rams, Hadl was clearly revitalized. Surrounded by talent that included wide receiver Harold Jackson and running backs Lawrence McCutcheon and Jim Bertelsen, Hadl earned NFC Most Valuable Player honors after passing for 2,008 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Behind Hadl, the Rams improved from 6-7-1 in 1972 to 12-2 in ’73. It appeared the Rams, under first-year coach Chuck Knox, were entering a prosperous new era with Hadl at the controls.
“He meant everything to us that year,” Knox said. “He was the Most Valuable Player offensively in the National Football League that year. The Rams had won very few games the year before and then we went 12-2. We lost two games that year with John Hadl at quarterback. We got beat by Minnesota 10-9 and we lost a tough game in Atlanta 15-13 when (Nick) Mike-Mayer kicked five field goals on us and we had a touchdown for an interception called back.
“John Hadl was an inspiration. He was a great player and he was just everything you could want in a quarterback and a person.”
But the magic didn’t last. Hadl seemed to be missing something in 1974, when the Rams lost two of their first five games. When he completed just six of 16 passes for 59 yards during a 17-6 loss to the Packers on a rain-swept day at Milwaukee County Stadium Oct. 13, Hadl was benched in favor of James Harris.
Nine days later, Hadl would become a Packer.
I remember the trade, though I do not remember Hadl’s playing against the Packers just before he played for the Packers.
The trade gave the Rams three first-round draft picks, which they used to draft three players who were Rams for a long time — defensive tackle Mike Fanning, offensive guard Dennis Harrah and offensive tackle Doug France.
Meanwhile, the late Don Klosterman, the Rams’ general manager, was giddy over his windfall from a desperate coach.
“Green Bay came to us with an offer you can’t refuse,” Klosterman said. “As Carroll Rosenbloom (the Rams owner at the time) has always said, we strive for continuity. The draft choices leave us in excellent shape.”
While Klosterman and Rosenbloom are no longer around to speak of the trade from a historical context, Knox remembers it as one that the Rams simply couldn’t pass up.
“They had a football coach there (Devine) who also had control of personnel,” Knox said. “He could make trades or whatever and he didn’t have to go through a lot of people. So he wanted a quarterback very badly and Carroll Rosenbloom and Don Klosterman decided that we would be able to get along – we had a very good football team. We had James Harris and (Ron) Jaworski and quarterbacks like that.
“So we decided that two ones, two twos and a three, that’s probably one of the greatest trades made in the history of the National Football League. We got some good football players out of that mix and, in five years there, we won 54, lost 15, tied one and won a divisional title five straight years.”
As for the 1974 Packers, well …
With Jack Concannon serving as stopgap quarterback as Hadl learned a new offense with the greatest of urgency, the Packers lost two more games to drop to 3-5, three games behind the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Central Division. When Hadl finally made his first start for the Packers Nov. 10 against the Bears at Milwaukee County Stadium, the division race was all but over.
Under Hadl’s guidance, the Packers surged to three straight victories, but then lost their last three to finish 6-8. There was only so much Hadl could do with pedestrian receivers the likes of Barry Smith and Jon Staggers, with a rapidly fading John Brockington (who averaged just 3.3 yards per carry that season) lining up behind him.
During his abbreviated season with the Packers, Hadl completed 89 of 184 passes for 1,072 yards, with just three touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Devine’s mistake was this: He greatly overestimated the talent that would surround Hadl when he pulled the trigger on the trade. That reality was underscored by the fact the Packers would have just two winning seasons (1978 and ’82) between the time Devine left Green Bay in 1974 and Mike Holmgren arrived in 1992.
Devine’s desperation move had failed. This partnership between Devine and Hadl had lasted just 54 days. …
“Let me tell you this one,” Hadl said. “He was getting blown out in Green Bay and we were down in Atlanta for the last game and it was raining about a foot a second. Anyway, the game is over, we go in and I say, `Coach, I’m sorry this thing didn’t work out.’
“He said, `John, don’t worry about me. They’re going to announce me as the head Notre Dame coach tomorrow.’ I couldn’t believe that. He knew that before that game was over!’ “
Then came Bart Starr to replace Devine as coach and general manager:
Going into the 1975 season, there was reason to believe the old Hadl might re-emerge. Starr had been hired to replace Devine and it was a reasonable assumption that two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history would combine to comprise an ultimate braintrust. …
Nothing, though, not the arrival of Starr and not the return of No. 21, could salvage this season. The reality was, the 1975 Packers almost had expansion-team talent with players on offense the likes Pat Matson, Keith Wortman and the over-the-hill Ernie McMillan, Bruce Van Dyke and Brockington.
Gale Gillingham, one of the greatest guards in NFL history, was so disgusted with the team’s offensive direction that he sat out the 1975 season after Starr refused to trade demand. And Hadl, playing behind a makeshift line, was left to run for his life most of the season as he tried to pass to his new receivers, Ken Payne and Steve Odom.
“They were nice guys, but they just weren’t NFL caliber, most of them,” Hadl said. “We had Kenny Payne, who was a real tough kid. He was pretty good. Odom was fast. But there was the time factor throwing the ball. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we had to adjust our routes a little bit and get rid of it a little bit quicker.”
It was an unmitigated disaster. The Packers, losing eight of their first nine games, finished 4-10. And Hadl, playing his only full season in Green Bay, completed 191 of 353 passes for 2,095 yards, but with just six touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Meanwhile, there was no help on the way. They had not drafted until the 47th pick in 1975. And if Starr had not traded future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round choice, the Packers wouldn’t have made their first selection in 1976 until the 72nd pick.
Had Devine not panicked into overpaying for Hadl, the Packers would have been in position to draft such quality players as Dennis Harrah, Russ Francis, Louie Wright, Tom “Hollywood” Henderson, Fred Dean and Doug English.
Instead, what Devine left behind was utter chaos.
Ironically, during a time when Starr was trying to build something out of so little, Devine, who never could find a quarterback in Green Bay, found one at Notre Dame.
Maybe you heard of him. His name was Joe Montana.
Starr had to clean up Devine’s mess by trading Hadl, former All-Pro cornerback Ken Ellis and two draft picks to Houston to get quarterback Lynn Dickey, which meant that Hadl cost five draft picks to acquire and a player and two more draft picks to get rid of him. One wonders how often Starr must have asked himself why he agreed to take the job without an available first-round draft pick for his first two seasons, though as with Devine and other Packer GM/coaches, Starr’s draft record wasn’t the greatest.
Dickey joined the Packers in 1976, then missed part of the 1977, all of the 1978, and part of the 1979 seasons after suffering a broken leg. Dickey didn’t play a complete season until 1980, though he was one o the NFL’s better quarterbacks of the early 1980s, once he had some actual talent around him.
If new quarterback Brett Hundley doesn’t play well today, there will be great clamor to pick up a quarterback this week, since the Packers have a bye week. Be careful what you wish for.
Today in 1964, EMI Records rejected a group called the Hi-Numbers after its audition. Who? That’s the group’s current name:
The number one song today in 1957 …
… came from a just-opened movie:
The number one song today in 1967:
That point was proven again, inadvertently, by the Packers 23–10 loss to Minnesota Sunday. The far bigger loss was Rodgers’ season-ending injury, the second broken collarbone in his career. This one is far worse, though, because while Rodgers was able to come back before the end of the 2013 season after his left collarbone injury …
… this injury will undoubtedly end Rodgers’ season, and, given that Tony Romo’s collarbone break moved him to the broadcast booth, could end Rodgers’ career.
Readers will be happy to know I stoked the speculation about who would replace Rodgers, such as …
- Romo. (He grew up a Packer fan in East Troy.)
- Colin Kaepernick. (He also is from Wisconsin, though suing your employer for collusion when no team wants to sign a subpar quarterback who also is more trouble than he’s worth off the field makes him unlikely to wear the green and gold. Besides that, the Dolphins lost their starting quarterback for the season, Ryan Tannehill, and signed Jay Cutler instead of Kaepernick.
- Brett Favre. (He’s 48, and while George Blanda played until he was 48, Blanda was a kicker the last few seasons of his career.)
- Other former Packer quarterbacks, who are either far too old (Lynn Dickey) or were Quarterbacks in Name Only (Green Bay native Jerry Tagge, Scott Hunter, Jim Del Gaizo, and others from the Gory Years), plus former UW quarterback Joel Stave, who is not currently employed by the NFL.
The only suggestion that had any chance of occurring, at least as of now, was, or is, possibly acquiring Tayvon Hill from the Saints. Hill looked good in training camp, but the Packers weren’t able to cut Hill and then sign him to the practice squad because the Saints (perhaps ironically, Sunday’s opponent) signed him away.
One of this blog’s political maxims is that doing nothing, policy-wise, is better than doing the wrong thing. That is true more often than not with acquiring quarterbacks. The number of pickups that work out (Y.A Tittle to the Giants, Ron Jaworski to Philadelphia, Jim Plunkett to the Raiders, Doug Williams to Washington, Trent Dilfer to the Ravens, Brad Johnson to Tampa Bay, Carson Palmer to Arizona, Peyton Manning to Denver) are dwarfed by those that do not (Bobby Layne to Pittsburgh, Fran Tarkenton to the Giants, Joe Namath to the Rams, Bert Jones to the Rams, Jim McMahon to the Eagles and Vikings, Jay Cutler to Da Bears, Carson Palmer to Oakland, Jeff George to anywhere, and one particularly bad acquisition whose anniversary is Sunday). And every single listed acquisition that worked took place in the offseason, not in the middle of the season.
Backup Brett Hundley, who didn’t look good at all after Rodgers’ injury, will start against New Orleans Sunday. The Saints rank 20th in pass yards given up, but eighth in run yards given up, which is bad news for a team that probably would like to run the ball and take some pressure off their new starter. The Saints are 21st in scoring defense, but given that they appear to be better on run defense than pass defense, the Packers are probably going to have to beat them through the air with their new quarterback.
The upside is that it’s much, much harder for quarterbacks to come into a game and play well. Well, everyone except for …
I could watch this 100 times and still be entertained by (1) Favre’s pass to Sterling Sharpe, which occurred despite Sharpe’s rib injury; (2) Favre’s perfect touchdown pass to Kittrick Taylor, Sharpe’s replacement who the announcers didn’t know; and (3) Chris Jacke’s extra point that occurred despite his holder, Favre, not holding on to the football.
That clip doesn’t show how Favre’s day began, with five quarterback sacks and three lost fumbles. The Packers had more fumbles (seven) than points (three) in the first three quarters, and a comeback seemed so unlikely that radio announcer Jim Irwin was laughing when he pointed out before the Packers’ final drive that the Packers could win with a touchdown and an extra point.
Though this doesn’t help …
… it’s easier to prepare for a game when you have all week to prepare for a game, instead of a minute or so.
So what will the Packers do Sunday? Former Packers defensive back Matt Bowen:
Gone is the security blanket of the league’s best player. I’m talking about that comfort level for not only the Green Bay offense, but also those guys who play defense and cover kicks for a living. And they will also question how, or if, their roles will be impacted moving forward.
Remember, Rodgers could create instant magic. That’s something you can’t replace. And in those first 24 hours after the injury, the emotions of the team ride all over the place. Up, down, sideways. Once the squad gets through that period, however, the coaching staff can start to revive hope. …
The job of McCarthy now is to develop a custom call sheet that fits Hundley, one that will maximize his ability within the core offense and also hide his weaknesses. The staff can’t ask him to play like Rodgers. And it starts by sitting down with the quarterback to identify the concepts that make him comfortable.
What does Hundley like, and what does he want thrown in the trash? And break it down by field position and game situation. Ask him for his favorite red zone routes, the deep ball shots he loves or play-action concepts he can execute. And don’t forget about the quick game. Throw slant-flat, curl-flat. And get the ball out.
From there, it’s about packaging those concepts with the complete game plan. McCarthy doesn’t want his young quarterback to throw the ball 40 times a game, so we should expect a more balanced call sheet. Run the rock with Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones. And commit to it.
But also show more spread looks, sprinkle in the run-pass options to create open windows and call for some QB-designed runs. He brings another dimension to the offense with his athleticism that can generate some stress for opposing defenses. And that includes movement passes.
The Packers can widen the field and get away from those static formations by using shift/motions. Force the defense to declare coverage (zone or man) and give Hundley the exact matchup he wants. With the arm strength to push the ball outside of the numbers and attack the deep middle of the field, Green Bay can mix alignments to create some big-play opportunities.
In a way, the Packers can expand a bit from a play-calling perspective. And they can do that without limiting Hundley. Forget about reducing the call sheet or being conservative with the No. 2 under center. This is an opportunity for McCarthy to be aggressive while massaging that game plan to fit Hundley.
Hundley is the guy for at least the next 10 games and into January, if the Packers extend the season into the playoffs. Yes, McCarthy promoted Joe Callahan from the practice squad, but he is adamant that he’s rolling with Hundley. The former UCLA star is his new No. 1.
Now, the Packers have to help Hundley succeed. Again, he’s not going to be Rodgers. No one is. But with a loaded group of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adamsand Randall Cobb at wide receiver, the big body of Martellus Bennett in the middle of the field and a run game that can provide real balance, Hundley is in a pretty good spot. And even with the slight transition period, Hundley can give the Packers a chance to compete in a wide-open division.
Remember: Matthew Stafford is banged up in Detroit. Sam Bradford has taken only 89 total snaps for the Vikings. And the Bears are playing rookie Mitchell Trubisky. Hundley and the Packers are a threat in the NFC North.
I am pretty sure Sunday is going to be Hundley’s audition. If he doesn’t play well, with the bye week coming up next week, there will be intense pressure on the Packers to get another quarterback, or fans will rightly conclude that the Packers are throwing in the towel on the season, despite their already having won more games than I had figured to this point. (I had them losing to Seattle and Dallas on the way to a 11–5 season.)
Rachel Lu reviews Charlie Sykes’ How the Right Lost Its Mind:
A long time ago (two years, actually), there was a sort of person we referred to as a “full-spectrum conservative.” Full-spectrum conservatives supported traditional morals, free enterprise, and a strong public investment in national security. For this group, 2016 was not a good year.
Trumpian populists effectively set fire to the proverbial three-legged stool. The full-spectrum conservatives of yesteryear were faced with a choice: move quickly or else find yourself on the ground. Many moved. Some took the fall. And few took the latter course quite so spectacularly as Charles Sykes, the radio host whose March 2016 interview with Donald Trump helped send the real estate tycoon spiraling into a dramatic primary loss in his home state of Wisconsin. Sykes won that battle, but he and his associates went on to lose the war. Now he’s compiled his thoughts on conservatism’s decline into a new book, How the Right Lost Its Mind.
If nothing else, the book is a triumph for this reason alone: though he clearly views Donald Trump’s election as a catastrophe (both for conservatism and for America), Sykes manages to discourse on the problem for 274 pages withoutallowing the Mogul to hog the spotlight. It’s refreshing to find a discussion of right-wing politics that doesn’t veer into yet another attempt to chart the murky waters of Trump’s fevered brain. Instead, Sykes wants to understand how the party of Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley could have degenerated to the point where a frivolous attention-seeker ducked out of a Democratic Party fundraiser just in time to take the GOP on a cosmic joyride.
Here’s the core of Sykes’ answer: Right-wing media created a fever swamp of misinformation, fanaticism, and resentment, which ultimately derailed the party and American politics.
That’s not the whole story, of course. Sykes spreads responsibility for the disaster across multiple parties. He explains how cranks and crazies spent decades clamoring for satisfaction, until the din finally drowned out serious discussion. He chastises the illiberal left, whose relentless, hysterical bullying put millions of Americans on the defensive. He throws a spotlight on exploitative PACs (especially in the late Tea Party era) that repeatedly amped up the rage, mainly for the sake of lining their own pockets. Polarizing figures like Jim DeMint come under fire for removing some of the “safety features” that might have averted the catastrophe and for politicizing organizations that had long been respected for their serious and measured perspectives. Finally, Sykes criticizes the Republican Party for failing to adapt to the changing needs of the electorate. An approving glance is thrown to Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, and their fellow reformocons, who spent years begging the GOP to rein in cronyism and attend to the concerns of the middle class.
In this litany of blame, Sykes also examines himself. Personal regret is not the book’s most prominent theme, but it’s there and seems sincere. Sykes explains how an increasingly polarized political landscape desensitized sincere conservatives (himself included) to rhetoric that should have raised red flags. When the left sees racists and fascists behind every tree, conservatives become practiced at countering such allegations, dismissing them as paranoid or just politically opportunistic. Looking back at the lunatic accusations that were slung at John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan, it’s easy enough to understand how conservatives got to that point. Unfortunately, wolf-crying children don’t keep the monsters at bay.
Now the monsters are out in full force (as evidenced by the massive popularity of sites like Breitbart.com and Infowars). That brings us back to the issue of media. With so much blame to go around, it’s interesting that Sykes’ scathing indictment devotes so much space to the right-wing media figures who, in his assessment, sacrificed principle in pursuit of their private venal interests. Trump was the least conservative Republican candidate in living memory, but the right’s media outlets still unrolled the red carpet for him, mostly in a bid for relevance. Fox News (though initially a bit resistant to Trump) was desperate to be kingmaker. Rush Limbaugh was anxious to recover some of the status he lost in his unseemly flame war with Sandra Fluke. Matt Drudge and Steve Bannon wanted to be titans of internet traffic, and to that end were happy to give a platform to fanatics, crazies, and fire-breathing demagogues. Stoking and stroking is a lucrative business.
Is it unfair to pile so much blame on media personalities? Media is Sykes’ own business, so it’s natural for him to focus on the thing he knows best. Even if you think that Sykes is excessively influenced by personal bitterness, there’s still a point worth pondering here, especially for readers (and writers) of the right-wing media: Isn’t it basically true that this is one of the newer elements in the American landscape? If we think our republic is in sorry shape nowadays, how should we think about developments in media that seem overall to be correlated with a nationwide increase in anxiety, polarization, and despair?
Of course it’s never enjoyable to turn a critical eye back on ourselves. The left has plenty of failings worth discussion, as Sykes knows well, having personally written whole books about the defects of the Academy and the entitlement state. Conservatives are likely to agree that the left’s cultural bastions are well stocked with hypocrites, bullies, and rent-seekers, and they surely have much to answer for today.
This, however, is nothing new: The universities, mainstream media, and Hollywood have leaned left for decades already. That didn’t stop conservatives from winning some major political victories in the 80’s and 90’s, before Fox News, and in the earliest days of right-leaning talk radio. Today the political right has constructed its own complete alternative media, but Americans seem anything but hopeful. Are there connections worth probing here?
The bracing experiences of 2016 obviously led Sykes to re-evaluate his own place in the media landscape. Honest conservatives of all stripes could benefit from considering that tumultuous year through his eyes. Even if you like Trump and are happy with some of the things he’s done, you should still be willing to ask: Why was it possible for so many people to shift positions so dramatically, in such a short space of time? What does that tell us about our commentariat?
Jonah Goldberg captured this problem rather well in his famous “body-snatcher” column. Here’s my own analogy for how anti-Trump conservatives experienced 2016. You show up for a sporting match, decked out in your team’s colors, riding a wave of fan enthusiasm. As the game goes on though, people around you start casually flipping their shirts inside-out to reveal the colors of a completely different team. Quite soon, you find that you’ve become one of the outliers in a “hostile” section, though you’re pretty sure you haven’t moved at all. Who knew you were one of very few fans who came unprepared with a non-reversible jersey? Bewildered, you turn to a friend who just switched her shirt.
“Can you explain why you just did that?” you ask.
“Did what?” she says.
This large-scale transformation was naturally most disillusioning for “true fans” like Sykes, who was quite happy to regard free enterprise and ordered liberty as foundational principles for American conservatism. One needn’t share all of his political views, however, to agree with his concerns about a media that seems to be bobbing recklessly on a surging torrent of populist emotion. Do our opinion-makers actually believe things, or do they just say whatever is necessary to keep traffic high?
Populist sympathizers tend to address these questions by returning to their rhetorical safe spaces: Trump’s virtues, the GOP’s vices, and the egregious failings of the left. That’s kind of missing the point, though. The reversible-jersey episode couldn’t be adequately explained through statistical analyses of the relative strengths of the competing teams. A fan who changes his jersey mid-game is really missing the point of fandom, which should be a kind of participation in the struggle for victory. In a similar way, a commentator who tethers his views to popular opinion is missing the whole point of commentary. It’s not supposed to be mere entertainment; it’s supposed to be part of a communal struggle towards a greater understanding of the truth. If principles are just rhetorical furniture in an ongoing conversation game, what is to keep us from spiraling off into ever-further levels of illiberalism, repression, and lunacy?
Individual cases can be hard to judge, but the broader trends Sykes describes are depressingly easy to understand. You don’t keep your site traffic high by telling readers things they don’t want to hear. From the perspective of an individual writer, saying “the said thing” is a whole lot easier than struggling to discern the truth (and then persuade a possibly unsympathetic audience). Populism is bad for the nation, but it’s very good for business (if your business is to capture clicks and eyeballs). And once the ship starts to move, most media figures would rather move with it than be left treading water with George Will and Charlie Sykes.
Sykes argues that as of today, the political left needs an autopsy, while the right needs an exorcism. Some commentators have remarked, dubiously, that there doesn’t seem to be anyone available to perform such a ritual. Who today has the media control of a Buckley, or the electrifying personality of a Reagan?
One never knows when a great thinker or statesman might appear on the horizon. In the meanwhile, we need to draw strength from the realization that ideas have power. True ideas have particular power. The inane yammering of shills and demagogues can only hold sway for so long. We must continue to pursue greater understanding, so that when the fey mood passes, someone will have a message worth hearing.