Thad Cochran – one of the best to ever serve Mississippi
For a man who was elected to the U.S.House of Representatives in 1972 and the U.S. Senate in 1978. Sen. Thad Cochran left quietly when he retired earlier this month. Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed by Gov. Bryant to serve until the November 2018 special election. Headlines have been dominated by Cochran’s health, who Bryant would appoint to take Cochran’s place, what state Sen. Chris McDaniel would do, and the possible candidates in the special election. During almost 50 years of writing about Mississippi politics, I have met the good, the bad, and the ugly of the many politicians who have held or sought office in our state. There is no question Cochran has been and always will be one of my favorites.
I first met Cochran in 1972 when he, Trent Lott, and a college professor named Carl Butler were running for U.S. House seats and I was the state campaign manager for the very longshot, even hopeless campaign of Gil Carmichael who was opposing powerful Democrat James O. “Big Jim” Eastland. Carmichael was in the senate race because James Meredith was running as a Republican and Clarke Reed and other state leaders were horrified Meredith might be the GOP nominee for the senate in November. The Meridian car dealer was put in the primary to defeat Meredith. One of the big events of the campaign was when then Vice President Spiro Agnew was coming to Mississippi to endorse the four congressional candidates. At the time, Agnew was even considerably more popular in Mississippi than President Richard Nixon. This was, of course, before
William F. Buckley, Jr. died eight years ago. The celebrity columnist, author, founder of National Review magazine, and host of the long running TV talk show “Firing Line”, has rightly been called the “undisputed godfather of modern conservatism.” I don’t think it’s any kind of stretch to say there was no more influential leader of conservatism in America than Buckley. It is also not a stretch to suggest there would not have been a governor or President Reagan without Reagan’s good friend, William F. Buckley. Reagan himself said Buckley was “perhaps the most influential journalist and intellectual in our era.” The author of more than 60 books, including some non-fiction, it is a pleasant surprise that eight years after his passing we can enjoy another Buckley book. “A Torch Kept Lit – Great Lives of the Twentieth Century” is edited by journalist James Rosen, a Buckley protégé and frequent contributor to National Review. This delightful book is Rosen’s collection of more than 50 of the best obituaries and eulogies written by Buckley. Buckley’s writing about the deceased, in both his syndicated column and in National Review, covered a very wide range of individuals. The list includes presidents such as Eisenhower and Johnson, his own family members, other public figures such as Churchill, Barry Goldwater, and Martin Luther King, Jr., writers and entertainers like Truman Capote, Johnny Carson, Elvis, and Norman Mailer and others like Nelson Rockefeller and Eleanor Roosevelt. “A Torch Kept Lit” is a totally delightful and entertaining read.
Buckley on Lyndon Johnson
One of my favorites: Buckley said when Johnson felt the urge to act like a statesman, “he lies down until he gets over it.” Buckley described LBJ as “a man of his most recent word.”
My instructions from Clarke Reed: “Don’t bug him, boy”
I had one personal encounter with Buckley. During the 1970s, I had left my home in Ocean Springs and was living and working in Jackson on a statewide campaign. At the time,
Editor’s Note: This column was first published on Mar. 20, 1980 as part of Wayne Weidie’s syndicated column series, “The Political Scene,” which ran through 43 newspapers in the state of Mississippi and spanned from 1970 to 1990. Political Scene columns will be periodically republished on The Weidie Report.
March 20, 1980 — The demise of John Connally’s presidential campaign also returned Haley Barbour home to Mississippi. Since last September, Barbour had been a fulltime staffer in Connally’s abortive campaign for the presidency. Long regarded as one of the state’s most astute political operatives in Republican ranks, Barbour was Connally’s regional coordinator for seven southern states. Barbour was joined in the Connally camp by two other of the state’s GOP heavyweights, Clarke Reed of Greenville and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
Connally was expected to be a more formidable challenger. Upon his return to Yazoo City last week, Barbour gave major credit for Connally’s poor showing to campaign finances. Barbour won’t say that more money would have assured Connally of the GOP nomination, but feels that if the money problem had not been so acute, Connally would have at least had “a chance to have a chance.”