The Resurrection of Robert Young

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Robert Young has made a remarkable political comeback, made all the more remarkable by the fact that Mr. Young has been dead for many years. You didn’t know Robert Young was in politics? Then you are either very young or have not been paying attention — or both.

I noticed the political value of Robert Young more than a quarter of a century ago, when former President Gerald Ford published his memoirs, titled A Time to Heal. Until then, I thought Ford, who became President because Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace nearly a year before President Richard Nixon did, was an accident who had happened to happen. But when I saw his memoirs, I realized at once that he was America’s physician, waiting for an ailing nation to recognize the need for his healing touch.

The cover of the book showed a profile of Ford looking rather pensive, while smoking a pipe. The picture clearly was meant to convey the idea that the former president, who lost his bid for reelection in a remarkably close contest with that ol’ peanut-picker, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, was a thoughtful man who would always follow the first rule of Hippocrates: "First, do no harm." Jimmy Carter promised he would never lie to us. What made Ford somewhat reassuring was his unspoken commitment to the task of ensuring that truth would never kill us in an overdose. Truth may often be painful, but it should never be fatal.

Looking at that picture, it occurred to me at once whom the former president was emulating. A TV series that was quite popular when Ford was president was Marcus Welby, M.D. The kindly, gray-haired gentleman playing Marcus Welby was, of course, Robert Young. Ford was still working on his bedside manner when the America the patient ran out of patience and chose a new doctor.

It is remarkable we were permitted to do this when the federal government had not yet authorized a "comprehensive health care plan." But we Americans have an annoying habit of holding elections at regularly scheduled intervals and we tend to turn out in force when we are ready to turn out whatever F-troop regime is occupying the White House at the time. We had decided that, whatever the man’s personal virtues may have been, it was time for Ford the president to go. Take two aspirin, Jerry and avoid strenuous activities, like running for president, from now on.

Ford, now 93, is still lingering in retirement, but Robert Young has come back in a reprise of his most famous TV role. The cover of Newsweek after the fall’s election showed the former President George H.W. Bush in the foreground, looming rather large, while "Georgie," the semi-honorable "incrumbent" looked small in background. The headline: "Father Knows Best?"

The neocons and others who helped propel the current President Bush to the White House may have had another TV series in mind. Mission Impossible, perhaps. Or, given the younger Bush’s western roots, Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys. Maybe even Bonanza, with the script altered to put Ben, "Hoss" and Adam Cartright into semi-retirement, while Little Joe steals the show. Instead, we got a remake of Dukes of Hazard — without Jessica Simpson.

What might the sequel be in the last two years? Well, if I were George W. Bush, I would be a bit more restrained in rejoicing over the death sentence for Saddam Hussein. As Robert A. Taft, whom you might call as a "Paleoconservative," warned about the Nuremberg trials, they set a troubling precedent. If the world takes a notion to expand the trial and sentencing of war criminals, Bush’s war-making activities, "cutting off limbs and lives, making orphans and widows out of children and wives," may get some unfavorable reviews. What famous character of the movie and TV screens will Bush resemble then? Well, David Janssen comes to mind. Harrison Ford, too.

Stay tuned for The Fugitive, next on the Bush Family Network!

Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.

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