I saw my whole life pass before my eyes, part II, by Luis Martínez-Fernández

My time-traveling adventure at the Library of Congress’ current newspapers and periodicals reading room felt like reruns of old newscasts. It brought back memories of stories dating back to the 1960s – the man on the moon (1969), the hijackings of passenger planes bound for Cuba (1970s) and the Clintons’ failed attempt to pass legislation on health care (1993-1994); newsmakers – famous, infamous and everything in between (two-time presidential candidate Ross Perot, John Wayne Bobbitt and British pop star Adam Ant); and brands that no longer exist (Woolworth stores, the Montreal Expos baseball team, Trans World Airlines and Napster).

I also found many American political news stories that reminded me of French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s aphorism, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, and made the flash of my life before my eyes seemed to be on a loop.


There were stories from the mid-1970s about Watergate, which comes across as an immobile traffic violation compared to what we witnessed under the Trump administration. There were stories about political corruption, one called “Quirky Ohio Congressman on Trial for Corruption.” If the image of a politician wearing a polyester suit and wearing a captain kangaroo has come to mind, you’re right: it’s former Rep. James A. Traficant. According to this 2002 AP article, he was “accused of accepting gifts and favors from voters in exchange for lobbying Washington.” Two decades later, it looks rather quaint.


One of the biggest political stories of 1993-94 was President Bill and Hillary Clinton’s push for health care reform, an effort that ultimately failed. Remember the multi-million dollar “Harry and Louise” ad campaign funded by a Medicare lobby group? OK, but did you know that in 2002, the charming couple resurfaced in a television commercial, advocating human cloning?

A 1994 story, “Hillary Doll Burned at Stake,” informed readers of a rally in Kentucky where someone “poured gasoline over (Hillary Clinton’s) effigy, which hung like a scarecrow in a dress”. “A country band played,” the story continues, as the effigy was set on fire. This was probably the first execution or conviction of Hillary Clinton in effigy. She was burned in Pakistan (2011) and India (2014); dressed in stripped prison garb in Pennsylvania (2015); inside a witch’s costume in Iowa (2015); in prison gear while flying on a broomstick in Maine (2015); and hanging from a crane in southern Oregon (2016), wearing a fuchsia-colored bra, next to a sign that reads “Vote Trump.”


I also found headlines that seem to spring from last week’s newspapers. A column by Nicholas von Hoffman (1976) lamenting the “death of logic” was inspired by statements made by Democratic Representative Larry McDonald of Georgia against the National Labor Relations Board, which he denounced as a Marxist entity and pro-Russian. Elevated to president of the John Birch Society in 1983, McDonald had a well-deserved reputation as a champion of anti-Communist, anti-abortion, anti-busing and anti-gun control causes.

The anti-Soviet congressman’s life ended as a hybrid between a Tom Clancy novel and “Airport” (the movie): bad weather delayed his August 28, 1983, Atlanta-New York flight; because of this, he missed his connecting flight to Seoul, North Korea; rather than take the next Pan Am flight, he opted for cheaper Korean Airlines tickets, which were due to fly two days later; during a layover in Anchorage, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina (who was attending the same meeting) invited McDonald to join him on another flight, but McDonald declined. A few hours later, Soviet fighters fired on the plane he was piloting, killing him and all the crew and passengers.


A few editorials/stories about future politician Donald Trump caught my eye. A 1989 editorial by Calvin Trillin bore the headline: “Donald Trump, the Man with the Skyscraper Ego.” It chronicled the future president’s efforts to inflate his wealth in order to appear on Forbes’ richest people lists. Trillin gave his take on a New York Observer poll that found Trump had 94% recognition in New York. The reaction of the future president was a classic Trump: “Hey, I’m very flattered… But I’m just wondering who the others are.”

Then there was an article from 1994 titled “Chuck Jones Sentenced to 4 Years”. “Who is Chuck Jones and how was he related to Trump?” you are entitled to ask. Jones admitted to having a “sex” with the shoes and boots of Trump’s second (then current) wife, Marla Trump. Yes, you read that right, his shoes, which he stole with matching pieces of lingerie. During his sentencing, Jones said outside the courtroom that “the jury was wrong and we plan to appeal.”

Stories of celebrities, crimes and celebrities who commit crimes in next week’s column.

Luis Martinez-Fernandez is the author of “Revolutionary Cuba: A History” and “The Key to the New World: A History of the Beginning of Cuban Colonization”. Readers can attach it to [email protected] To learn more about Luis Martinez-Fernandez and read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www. creators.com.

Photo credit: Pexels on Pixabay

Elizabeth J. Harless