Browsing Tag

politics

When Mitchell Met Nixon (Book Excerpt)

In honor of the premiere of Gaslit, the Watergate-era drama starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn as Martha and John Mitchell, enjoy an excerpt from Nixon in New York looking at the origins of what was, arguably a far more consequential relationship for John.

At first glance, John Newton Mitchell wasn’t an obvious choice for campaign manager. The bald-headed, gruff-mannered, perpetually pipe-smoking bond lawyer had never even worked on a political campaign before, let alone run one. Unlike many of Nixon’s political intimates, Mitchell had no longstanding relationship with the former vice president—they had met, briefly, during Nixon’s congressional days but didn’t get to know each other until after Nixon moved to New York.

It wasn’t even clear what Mitchell’s political ideology was, let alone whether it was consistent with Nixon’s. In a 1973 profile of Mitchell in the New York Post, one longtime associate couldn’t recall ever having a single political conversation with him. In fact, he could have easily gone to work for the Democrats. Mitchell’s former press secretary, Jack Landau, would reveal in 1993, five years after his old boss’s death, that Mitchell had been offered an interesting opportunity in 1960: helping run Jack Kennedy’s campaign. According to Landau, Bobby Kennedy had met with Mitchell and tried to convince his fellow future attorney general to join the team. Mitchell demurred, but years later, after everything that had happened with Nixon, he seemed to have second thoughts. “If I had it all over to do,” Mitchell said with a smile on his face, “I’d run Jack Kennedy’s campaign.”

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The Big 2-5-0

America’s semiquincentennial is coming up. Or is it a sestercentennial? Or bicentennial-and-a-quarter?

Whatever you want to call it, it’s America’s 250th birthday. Planning commissions are already meeting to figure how to properly commemorate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. If history is any guide, commemorative coins will be part of those plans.

Will it be like 1876, when the U.S. Mint produced an official centennial medal? Or will it be like 1926, when it produced a sesquicentennial commemorative half dollar? Or 1976, when it produced new bicentennial reverse designs for circulating quarters, half-dollars and dollar coins?

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Why Isn’t There a Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Coin?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has his own holiday (although some states have combined it with holidays recognizing people who were antithetical to his beliefs and teachings).

He has his own postage stamps.

He has schools, monuments, songs and in most cities, he has his own street — although those roadways don’t always have the best rep. (As Chris Rock once said: “Martin Luther King stood for non-violence. Now what’s Martin Luther King? A street. And I don’t care where you live in America. If you’re on Martin Luther King Blvd, there’s some violence going down!”)

One thing he doesn’t have is a U.S. Mint-issued coin. Why is that?

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Not-So-Wonderful Tonight: A Review of Eric Clapton’s COVID Singles.

It’s not easy being an Eric Clapton fan these days. Yeah, we’ve overlooked a lot over the years. The racist comments about immigrants. The many personal failings. Most of his 80s output. His techno album (yeah, that really happened).

But his reinvention as a COVID-19 anti-vaxxer and anti-mitigation protestor has been too much for a lot of his fans (myself included). In fact, it seems to have completely consumed him to the point where it’s become difficult to separate the political advocate from the artist.

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Career Killers: “Witness” by Katy Perry

It’s strange to think that Katy Perry’s career as a major pop superstar could be over.

Between 2008 and 2016, Perry released three multi-platinum albums and amassed 18 Top 30 singles as a lead artist, including nine #1 hits. Her 2010 album, Teenage Dream, produced a record-tying 5 number one singles (only Michael Jackson’s Bad has managed to match that). She’s been credited with selling 143 million records worldwide, putting her ahead of Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Lady Gaga, Adele, Britney Spears and many others.

That track record of sustained success should have protected her career from being completely derailed by one flop. And yet, plenty of critics and observers wrote her off after 2017’s Witness, with some even wondering if her decline marked the end of an era in pop music. Perry’s career choices since then have only seemed to confirm that her best days are behind her. In 2018, she went to the place where many music careers go when they’re on life support — the judge’s table at American Idol. Then, she did what a lot of over-the-hill pop stars do when they start to transition to being a nostalgic act: she announced a Las Vegas residency, which is scheduled to begin in December. Meanwhile, her 2020 album, Smile, landed without much fanfare and became her worst-selling record since her 2001 self-titled Christian music debut, when she was still known as Katy Hudson.

So what happened?

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The Olympics: A Great Excuse for Commemorative Coins

Here are some things that are almost always true of the modern Olympic Games:

  • They’re really expensive and end up costing the host city a fortune.
  • For two weeks, the Olympic Village turns into a scene from Caligula.
  • The host country will always issue commemorative coins.

As the 2020(1) Summer games wind down, I thought I’d show off some of my Olympic coins:

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Barber Coins: Were They Really ‘Beneath Contempt’?

When an 1891 contest to determine new designs for the dime, quarter and half-dollar went bust, it played right into Charles Barber’s hands. The Chief Engraver for the U.S. Mint had wanted to design the coins himself, and when the contest failed to yield any worthy designs, he got his wish.

Unfortunately for Barber, his victory would prove to be Pyrrhic. Be careful what you wish for.

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Jack Bauer’s Greatest Hits (UPDATED)

Originally published in 2010 prior to the end of 24‘s original broadcast run. Updated to include 2014’s 24: Live Another Day, as well as some additional content.

“Nice work, Jack. Have you noticed that there’s always a body count wherever you go?” — George Mason

“He said you were a born killer. Is that true?” — Jonathan Wallace

During his time on 24, Jack Bauer killed a lot of people. Main characters. Supporting characters. Featured stars. Unnamed Extras. You name it, Jack has probably killed it. As such, it was very difficult to narrow down the list of Jack’s greatest moments. And let’s face it. He also had plenty of badass moments where he didn’t kill anyone – instead relying on his wit, charm, resourcefulness, and powers of persuasion.

So, in honor of one of my favorite shows, I give you “Jack Bauer’s Greatest Hits” (A/K/A “The Moments that Made Amnesty International Cringe”).

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Bush v. Gore: The Coin

In general, I try to avoid coins issued by private mints. They tend to have very little numismatic value and can even be of dubious legality. In fact, they aren’t legally “coins” since they aren’t issued by a government. Instead, they are often marketed as “rounds.”

But when the private Washington Mint released this silver round in 2000 amidst the uncertainty over who won that year’s Presidential election, I jumped at the chance to buy it. For one thing, I’ve always been a sucker for political-themed exonumia – especially Hard Times Tokens.

For another, this unique two-headed coin with a bust of Al Gore on one side and George W. Bush on the other with each man named as the 43rd President of the United States really captures just how bizarre that entire period was. Between the retracted concessions, hanging chads, organized “riots,” court battles and hand recounts, it seemed like every day provided a new twist and turn as we tried to determine just who had actually won Florida – and therefore the election.

Apparently, the Washington Mint had already been working on an inauguration medallion and had prepared busts of both Gore and Bush. Not knowing which one they would get to use, and inspired by a Tonight Show sketch shortly after Election Day about ways to determine the winner, the Mint got the idea to make the two-headed coin. They even sent two coins on Nov. 13 to Jay Leno to use for a possible skit. Ultimately, after another month, Gore conceded following the Supreme Court’s decision stopping Florida’s recount.

I figured the coin was relevant now since this is the first time since 2000 where one major-party candidate challenged the outcome of a Presidential race. This time, however, enough states have certified their returns to give one candidate a clear majority in the Electoral College, and there have been multiple lawsuits filed in several states instead of just Florida. Those lawsuits aren’t going well, though, which probably explains why there haven’t been any two-headed Joe Biden/Donald Trump coins.

Good as Gold

When it comes to numismatics, one of my biggest regrets is not buying more gold coins in the early 2000s.

Counterpoint: For most of that time I was either a poor post-undergrad, a poor law student, or a poor post-JD. Buying gold probably wouldn’t have been a good use of my money — at least not compared to rent, utilities and food.

The price of gold tends to move inversely to the overall health of the economy — going up when the economy is poor as investors like to use it as a hedge against falling stock prices, weakened dollars, inflation, and all sorts of other economic markers, and going down when those markers are strong. Thanks to the 1990s economic boom, gold prices were low throughout most of that decade leading into the early 2000s. In fact, things were so great that the price of gold had cratered to around $253 per ounce in mid-July 1999 — the lowest it had been since 1979 (a year later, I nearly bought a beautiful Saint-Gaudens double eagle for $300, but decided I couldn’t spare it). But like any sustained period of economic euphoria, you never see the crash coming until it’s too late.

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Silver (Dollar) Anniversary

UPDATE (12/17/2020): The House bill was passed via unanimous consent in the Senate. Assuming the President signs it, looks like we’ll be getting those new Morgan and Peace Dollars after all.

UPDATE (01/05/2020): The President signed the bill into law.

I attended two coin conventions in 2019, and one thing they both had in common was that there was no shortage of Morgan and Peace Silver Dollars available from the many vendors on the bourse. There was such an abundance that Scrooge McDuck could have bought every single silver dollar with whatever pocket change he happened to have (assuming he wears pants – Donald doesn’t, so why should he?), loaded them into a wading pool and gone for a dip.

By this time next year, there could be even more Morgan and Peace dollars hitting the market — provided that Congress can get its act together.

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If I Had A Nickel…

… For every time I wrote about powerful individuals who played outsized roles in numismatic history, I’d have, like, a few nickels. Hey, I’ve only been doing The Coin Blog for a year or so.

We’ve seen how interest groups, U.S. Mint officials, Representatives, Senators (lots and lots and lots of Senators), and even a guy who wanted a paid vacation have willed certain coins into existence.

When it came to the creation of the nickel, we have a rich industrialist who had lots of powerful friends in Congress and wasn’t afraid to use his influence.

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