“Baseball”, Major League Baseball executive Branch Rickey said, “is a game if inches.” Mere inches distinguish strikes and balls. Tags are missed by inches. Runners are thrown out by inches. Would-be home runs go foul by inches. There is a very close line between winning and losing. This is true of any sport – tennis, football, hockey, lacrosse, soccer. You name it. This axiom, this “it could have gone either way” approach can be simultaneously comforting and confounding when your team loses. How comforting to think that the other team is just inches better; but how infuriating to think that you might have been mere inches from victory. Perhaps what tips the scale is whether one is predisposed to thinking the glass is half full or the glass is half empty. A propensity for pessimism can be oppressive in sports.
Obviously in addition to the inches, strategy and psychology and experience and tenets of physics and barometric pressure and wind and weather also determine the outcomes of games. And prior to the inches there is the recruitment and the analysis and the practice and the weight-lifting and the physical conditioning and then even more analysis are also factors in who is victorious and who is defeated.
And then there is luck. Ask New York Met Mookie Wilson whose lazy ground ball rolled through Red Sox Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series. Ask Derek Jeter whose fly ball was deflected by baseball fan Jeffrey Maier in game 1 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and the Orioles in 1996.
Politics, like baseball, is surely a game of inches. Nate Silver doing county by county analysis in Ohio; then engaging street by street voter demographic analysis in Cleveland. Rasmussen and Zogby and Quinnipiac do the polling which provide percentage points with margins of error which suggest it’s anyone’s race.
I am with Hillary Clinton. I am with her with enthusiasm. I am with her proudly and excitedly at what it means for my daughters. I am with her not only because I loathe her opponent, but because I genuinely like her. I am with her because karmically, her opponent can just not win. I am with her because I do think his supporters are deplorable – their embracing of ignorance and their complete lack of comprehension about what it means to respect life; to respect a life. I believe she is a good person who has dedicated her life to serving our children and women. She is clearly one of the toughest who has ever run for the office of President. She is clearly one of the most experienced who has ever run for the office. I think the dearth of enthusiasm for and surrounding her candidacy stems from the fact she is a woman. But I also understand that part of the dearth stems from the emails, from the three decades of white noise regarding her ethics, from the scandals of her husband, still rippling through the country. I don’t agree with it – but I understand it. I empathize.
Some of the fundamentals of physics surely apply to politics as well. Principles of momentum and leverage and energy and force also seem to inform the way candidates position themselves and move through space and time. And, as in baseball, weather affects political outcomes.
Luck, as it does in most things, plays a factor. I am not suggesting that Hillary Clinton has been “lucky” – on a list of character traits “lucky” would surely be well below intelligent, driven, pioneering and tenacious – but luck is a factor. She was born into a family that valued education to parents who thought that her professional career should not be determined by gender. That was rare in those days. She was born to parents who could afford Wellesley. She was accepted to Yale Law School where she met future husband Bill Clinton. Luck, though none would dare it call that, has also created the absence of what would surely have been her biggest political foe.
In my sophomore year in college, I had the good fortune of taking a class called Introduction to Religion taught by the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., who is now the President of Fordham University. We had to do all these papers and in the course of so doing, McShane learned I was a huge fan of the Kennedys. He was not. When I asked him why not, he said something incoherent about Ted Kennedy and abortion. In reality, he was just really really mad that Ted Kennedy’s nephew, William Kennedy Smith, then in the midst of a rape trial, had just bought a Labrador puppy and named him “McShane”.
McShane married my wife and I on July 10, 1999. During the homily he contritely quoted JFK’s inaugural speech and spoke beautifully about how marriage is an inauguration of two people starting a life together. Six days later, JFK Jr. perished when his plane crashed into the waters of Vineyard Sound off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. We were on our honeymoon and returned to a New York City that was certainly transfixed and seemingly transformed by the loss of one of its favorite citizens.
Months after that, we saw Father McShane again at another wedding. He was his typically ebullient self. When he saw me he took me aside and told me that he knew that JFK Jr. and his wife and sister were still alive and living on an island off the coast of Ecuador. I laughed and he continued to look at me stone faced. He said that no one besides Ted ever saw the bodies and that he just knew they, tired of the perpetual paparazzi and privacy invasions, had faked their own demise and were still alive. I liked this.
Had he not been forced to fake his own demise, JFK Jr. surely would have run for the New York State Senate seat vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And he surely would have won. Would he have run for president in 2008? Probably not since learning the lesson his father learned when Estes Kefauver defeated his dad for the vice presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in 1956. Who is Estes Kefauver you ask? Exactly.
Are there televisions on islands off the coast of Ecuador? McShane was provided scant details about what their lives were like. Is JFK Jr. aware of what is happening now? If so, he would have seen how bleak things seemed a few weeks ago. And he would have gotten off that island (probably rowed a kayak he had hand-whittled up the Pacific Ocean and into California waters) and announced that he was running for president.
Imagine him roller blading into the debate, wearing the same sweat pants and beret and a J Crew rollneck sweater circa 1999 over a plaid flannel shirt in which he used to rollerblade through Central Park. Imagine him. He would politely interrupt whomever is speaking, gaze into the camera and apologetically but self-assuredly let America know that he did not perish on July 16, 1999 in the waters of Vineyard Sound off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. He would let us all know that he and Carolyn have been living on an island off the coast of Ecuador for the past 17 years and that it has given him time to do a great bit of soul-searching. His skin would have a beautiful Ecuadorian hue. He would remove his beret, shake the sand out of his now salt and pepper hair, gaze into the camera and announce to all of the U.S. citizenry that he has decided to run for president. Just imagine the wave of civility and hope and change and awesome that would follow.
Of course, Hillary Clinton would faint and JFK Jr. would give her flawless mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Probably with tongue. She would be disappointed that she won’t be president but then she would be all, “I just got mouth to mouth resuscitation from JFK Jr. With tongue, bitches.” And she would be happy. Donald Trump would be even more dumbfounded than usual. JFK Jr. would do that thing of when a guy pretends to hit another guy to see if he would flinch. Trump would flinch. Trump would be humiliated and do that thing of when a humiliated person half slithers and half crawls away.
JFK Jr. would gaze back into the camera. He would let America know that he doesn’t really know much about the “issues” or “the challenges ahead” because he and Carolyn have been living on an island off the coast of Ecuador for the past 17 years. America would find this self-awareness and humility endearing. Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, as though on cue, would also roller blade into the arena. She would wear linen capris and a leopard print coat and be followed by a giant wind fan which would blow her beautiful blonde locks playfully but sensuously about her face. She would leave the intoxicating scent of hibiscus and coconut in her wake as she rollerblades by. She would be followed by the family dog, an English Springer Spaniel named Friday, and three flawless children.
JFK Jr. would answer questions. Someone from ABC News would ask about fighting ISIS. JFK Jr. would say, “Isis? What’s Isis?” He would sense this was bad and then say, “Ich bin ein Berliner” and the place would erupt in cheers.
There would be no further questions.
JFK Jr. would look for a running mate. Knowing there is a bin of “Kennedy / Johnson” bumper stickers left in a big Rubbermaid bin in JFK’s garage, JFK Jr. would want to find a running mate named Johnson, to save money. It can be any Johnson – Pete Johnson from Pittsburgh or Tommy Johnson from Tallahassee or Connie Johnson from Cleveland. It really doesn’t matter which Johnson he picks. Nor does the first name of the Johnson have to be alliterative with the city in which that Johnson is from. It can be Debra Johnson from Philadelphia. Nor does the Johnson have to be from a swing state. Any Johnson from any state would do. Even Rick Johnson from Baltimore. Even Gwendolyn Johnson from Atlanta. Even those Johnsons.
JFK Jr. would call random people from the phonebook from his Nokia 3210 phone asking for their support. He would get all the support even though his Nokia cellphone is from 1999 and sort of staticky. He would tell the volunteers that the 19 day campaign would be grueling and exhausting but that – with their help – they can win. All the people would volunteer.
There would be approximately 800 “Kennedy/Johnson” bumper stickers in a Rubbermaid bin in JFK’s garage. JFK Jr.’s volunteers would adhere the “Kennedy/Johnson” bumper stickers on approximately 800 automobiles.
JFK Jr. and his volunteers would make yard signs. They would use Crayola markers and poster board that they buy from Staples. They would put the signs on some lawns. They would make T-Shirts. They would buy T-shirts from the Gap and then some fabric paints from A.C. Moore Craft Supply Store. They would paint “Kennedy/Johnson” on the T-shirts. On the back they would write “2016”. Some of the volunteers would draw stars and things.
JFK Jr. and Carolyn would take the next few days to relax and get acclimated to society. This would be like that thing of when Crocodile Dundee came to America. Except JFK Jr. and Carolyn would do their acclimating with grace and aplomb.
Things would not always be smooth for the newly re-emerged JFK Jr. Trump would ask to see his birth certificate. JFK Jr. would merely glare at him and Trump would apologize. The Trump children would be very mean to JFK Jr. They would be mad that they would never be like JFK Jr. They would be jealous of him. Baron Trump would try to hack into JFK Jr.’s Palm Pilot from 1998. But he would be unable to do so. The Palm Pilot would be rendered impenetrable by JFK Jr.’s aura. Carolyn Bessette Kennedy – her hair tossed about playfully by a Central Park autumn breeze would slowly chew on a blade of grass while eating a picnic lunch on the lawn in Central Park and be named the most glamorous woman alive. Melania would try to replicate this scene but would fail because eeewwww, grass.
Additionally, Ted Cruz would say that his candidacy is unconstitutional. JFK Jr. and Ted Cruz would meet. The meeting would not go well. It would be like that thing in Disney movies of when two different animal species meet in the forest and they can’t really authentically communicate because they are two separate species. Then it would be like that thing you see on National Geographic when the one species realizes it is hideous and gross and has lettuce in its teeth and salad dressing on its chin so it runs away into the forest as Ted Cruz, realizing he is hideous and gross and has lettuce in his teeth and glistening Ranch dressing on his chin, Cruz would turn around and run into the wilderness.
America would instinctively know that there can be no better person than JFK Jr.
JFK Jr.’s volunteers would walk around and knock on doors. They would put up their lawn signs and wear their new Kennedy Johnson T-Shirts. There would be a TV commercial for “JFK Jr. 2016” campaign. It would be a 30 second commercial. 15 seconds of the commercial would be that photo of him saluting his father’s coffin in 1963. The remaining 15 seconds of the commercial would be a picture of him running down the beach shirtless. There would be no words in the commercial.
During the next couple weeks, JFK Jr. would go on talk shows. A couple days before the election, Sean Hannity would start a rumor that this is not really JFK Jr. and that the re-emerged roller blading man is a cyborg from Kenya. Or an Isis robot. But no one would believe him. No one would care about Sean Hannity any more. The jubilation that comes from knowing JFK Jr. is alive would make everyone smarter and kinder and more civil.
On November 8, JFK Jr. would get all the votes. Even Sean Hannity’s. Even the Trump children’s votes. But when JFK Jr. sees the Trump children’s votes he would make a face like the face you make when you bite into a Ecuadorian mango that is not yet ripe and then JFK Jr. would crumple up the paper on which the Trump children cast their votes and toss their votes over his shoulder into a giant mud puddle. JFK Jr. would get like 175% of the vote even without the Trump children’s votes. JFK Jr. would get Hillary Clinton’s vote too. She would be happy to retire and play with her grandchildren. Plus she got to tongue with JFK Jr. bitches.
The Kennedy family would visit the White House around Christmastime, before the inauguration. Sasha and Malia would be frolicking with Bo on the front lawn under a lightly falling snow. Friday and Bo would fall in love like that thing of when in Disney movies the dogs eat spaghetti. JFK Jr. would crawl under the desk in the Oval Office like he did when he was little. America would be great again.
Probably not to be. Probably when the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. told me that JFK Jr. was alive and living on an island off Ecuador he was mollifying me, assuaging my sorrows. As teachers are wont to do.
But it’s a good reminder that like baseball, politics is a game of inches. Whether talking about margins of error in polling or whether one bumps into her future life partner at a law library at Yale or whether one was able to read his flight instruments on a July flight to Martha’s Vineyard.
 Mr. Rickey is also the man who signed both Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente to their major league baseball contracts. He is also credited with saying, “Ethnic prejudice has no place in sports, and baseball must recognize that truth if it is to maintain stature as a national game.”
 The relationship between bad weather and lower levels of voter turnout is widely espoused by media, political practitioners, and, perhaps, even political scientists. Yet, there is virtually no solid empirical evidence linking weather to voter participation. In their paper, “Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections” published in the August 2007 issue of The Journal of Politics, Brad Gomez, Thomas Hansford and George Krause examine the effect of weather on voter turnout in 14 U.S. presidential elections. Using GIS interpolations, they employ meteorological data drawn from over 22,000 U.S. weather stations to provide election day estimates of rain and snow for each U.S. county. They found that, when compared to normal conditions, rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1% per inch, while an inch of snowfall decreases turnout by almost .5%. Poor weather was also shown to benefit the Republican party’s vote share. Indeed, the weather may have contributed to two Electoral College outcomes, the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections.
 My wife is a college counselor for a private high school in Baltimore and in addition to all the other factors, there are so many arbitrary factors which go into a college admissions decision. The mood of the decision maker not least among them.
 On a continuum of whether Hillary Diane Rodham was lucky or unlucky in meeting Bill Clinton, the needle is probably somewhere in the middle. Though one wonders what each would have done or could have done had they not met the other in the Yale Law Library in 1971. What if it had been raining that day and Hillary decided to stay in her dorm to study torts? What if she sat Hillary told the story earlier this year on the Steve Harvey show, how she approached Bill in the Yale Law School library and said to him, “If you’re gonna keep looking at me and I’m gonna keep looking back, we at least ought to know each other’s names. I’m Hillary Rodham, who are you?”
 Prior to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, Kennedy held a pro-life position because of his Catholic faith. In a letter to a constituent, dated August 3, 1971, he wrote, he opposes “the legalization of abortion on demand” saying, “While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized – the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old. When history looks back at this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.” Kennedy’s reversal on this issue became a source of continuing dispute between him and the Catholic Church.
The Catholic pro-abortion movement was actually hatched at a meeting at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Mass., on a hot summer day in 1964. Leading theologians and Catholic college professors advised the Kennedy family on how to accept and promote abortion with a “clear conscience.” The former Jesuit priest Albert Jonsen, emeritus professor of ethics at the University of Washington, recalls the meeting in his book “The Birth of Bioethics” (Oxford, 2003). He writes about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School; and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran, to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion. Mr. Jonsen writes that the Hyannisport colloquium was influenced by the position of another Jesuit, the Rev. John Courtney Murray, a position that “distinguished between the moral aspects of an issue and the feasibility of enacting legislation about that issue.” It was the consensus at the Hyannisport conclave that Catholic politicians “might tolerate legislation that would permit abortion under certain circumstances if political efforts to repress this moral error led to greater perils to social peace and order.” Father Milhaven later recalled the Hyannisport meeting during a 1984 breakfast briefing of Catholics for a Free Choice: “The theologians worked for a day and a half among ourselves at a nearby hotel. In the evening we answered questions from the Kennedys and the Shrivers. Though the theologians disagreed on many a point, they all concurred on certain basics . . . and that was that a Catholic politician could in good conscience vote in favor of abortion.”
 He was acquitted.
 My wife and I were 26 and 28 respectively and at the apex of the wedding invitation cycle. We went to 14 weddings that year.
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