Op-ed: Natalie, Jeb and Ben

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, January 5, 2016 5:56pm
  • Opinion

I’m among those who mourn the death of Natalie Cole. I didn’t know her personally — only through her singing, but that was enough to make me a devoted fan. She leaves behind a long list of recordings and performances that marked her as a star. Her voice and style stood alone, but she was never able to shake the attachment to her father in the public mind. When we thought of Natalie Cole, she was most often described as “the daughter of Nat King Cole.” In spite of her prodigious talent, she still was “daughter of.” Her inheritance was, as the saying goes, both a blessing and a curse. But even for those of us who loved Nat’s music, Natalie shined on her own.

Which brings us to Jeb Bush. He’s not only “son of” but also “brother of.” Unfortunately, in spite of his family’s presidential legacy, it’s beginning to look like he hasn’t done much shining on his own, at least not lately. He’s had all the connections needed to amass a huge financial war chest, but Jeb just hasn’t really gotten traction. Once again, we read stories about how the campaign operation is switching tactics and spending tons of money. Is it to crush the opposition and surge to victory in Iowa? No, it’s to avoid an embarrassment. Anything worse than a fifth-place showing in the caucuses will be considered failure. FIFTH PLACE? Whatever happened to the bromide “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”? Apparently, Jeb Bush’s goal is less lofty: He desperately wants to not lose. But at least maybe that’ll be his last game plan before the Iowa caucuses.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson has even more turmoil swirling. His top three campaign leaders decided that the time had come to pack it in, to take their job and shove it. They had grown weary of the sniping from Dr. Carson’s old buddies, particularly Armstrong Williams. Williams makes it a point to insist that he’s not connected to the presidential run, that he is Carson’s business manager. But he has made the campaign part of the business and has been all over it. Finally, the political pros said that they’d had enough of the meddling and flew the coop.

Carson put out a statement saying this was a good time to shake things up: “As we enter a new phase of the campaign cycle, it is necessary to invigorate my campaign with a strategy that more aggressively shares my vision and world-view with the American people.” By the way, this “new phase” begins less than a month before the caucuses. With all the evangelicals among Iowa Republicans, Carson must put on a very strong showing to demonstrate how well he can do with his natural base. He’ll need to overcome the growing impression that he’s befuddled and out of his league in the political ballgame.

Even these resignations were clumsily handled. A few days before they occurred, Carson had given interviews promising a shakeup. But when the stories came out, he denied it and blamed the media as usual for misreporting. Then, the aides “resigned.” Through all his klutziness, Carson manages to always appear serene, insisting in one famous tweet, “It is important to remember that amateurs built the Ark and it was the professionals that built the Titanic.”

That bit of wisdom was shared with us when he was cresting. Now, to torture the metaphor, he’s crashed into an iceberg. He’s put a retired general in charge, Robert Dees, a guy he met in church. Gen. Dees has no campaign experience.

Natalie Cole’s most memorable performance was, aptly, the song “Unforgettable,” the technological duet she recorded with her late father, who had the original smash hit. The Bushes and Carsons of this world are on the cusp of finding out whether their campaigns will endure or whether they will become entirely forgettable.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: We must refuse to reward ugly political tactics

With our vote we have to show that extremism and dishonesty do not win the day

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Lisa Murkowski represents everyday Alaskans

While working for Lisa, I witnessed her considerable command of the issues