Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Jim Wright and Me

Belfast, Maine.

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright died May 6 in Fort Worth at age 92, having previously survived 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, two years as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a very lethal motorcade through the streets of Dallas, and one very irate phone call from me.

It was the early 1980’s.  Jim Wright, a Democrat, was House Minority Leader, and Central America was on fire.  The Reagan administration was selling arms to Iran, and giving at least some of the proceeds, illegally, to its darlings, its “freedom fighters,” the Contras fighting to topple the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua.  Reagan gravely warned us that Nicaragua was but a two-day drive from Harlingen, Texas – if you don’t take too many bathroom breaks.

I was living in Austin, Texas, and watching the news when Jim Wright came on the television and said something about Nicaragua that really got under my skin.  I no longer remember what he said, but it was enough to spur me to grab the phone and call the capitol switchboard.

The other end: “House of Representatives, may I help you?”

Me (in my gruffest voice): “Jim Wright!”

The other end: “Just a moment, please.”

The other end: “Representative Wright’s office, may I help you?”

Me (still gruff): “Jim Wright!”

The other end: “Just a moment, please.”

The other end: “Hello?”

Me: “Is this Jim Wright?”

The other end: “Yes, it is.”

Me: “Mr. Wright, this is Lawrence Reichard from Austin, and…”  And I proceeded to read the riot act to the sitting House Minority Leader.  After a while he interrupted me.

Jim Wright: “Excuse me, who did you say you are?”

Me: “I’m Lawrence Reichard from Austin, and…”  And I read him some more of the riot act.  And after a while he interrupted me again.

Jim Wright: “Excuse me, do I know you?”

Me: “No, but…”  And some more riot act.  And again he interrupted me.

Jim Wright: “I think I’m gonna hang up now.”  Click.

Jim Wright was a decent enough sort.  Not every House Minority Leader will take my phone calls.  He helped broker a deal that had the U.S. stop aiding the Contras in exchange for the Nicaraguan government agreeing to a ceasefire with the Contras – which is kind of like my saying I’ll agree to stop defending myself if you agree to stop attacking me.  It was a way for the Reagan administration to save face amid the utter ruin and failure of its Contra War policy, which was popular neither here nor in Nicaragua.  Put it this way, Reagan had much better luck in Grenada, where all four branches of the U.S. military, working diligently together, successfully trounced some 14 Cuban construction workers in just a few short days.  Say what you will about Ronald Reagan, unlike our last two presidents, the man knew when to pick up his marbles and go home.  In Beirut he had the wisdom to withdraw after a bombing killed 241 U.S. servicemen in their barracks.

Jim Wright was an interesting man.  On November 22, 1963, he was riding in President Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas when JFK was assassinated by someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald.  And in an extremely unusual move for a Speaker of the House, he essentially conducted foreign policy by personally negotiating with a foreign government – the Nicaraguan government, over the U.S. proxy war against Nicaragua.  Wright ended up resigning as Speaker, and later from the House altogether, because of scandals that today would make one blush for their modest scope.  Michael Parenti, prominent critic of our current national security state, believes Wright was forced to resign because he was probing too deeply into CIA covert action in Central America.  If true, that’s the last time we’ve seen that much courage emanating from Congress – or anywhere in Washington.

Leading the House GOP charge against Wright was none other than then-Congressman and current political talking head Newt Gingrich, who later resigned his own post as Speaker of the House under his own cloud of ethics violations.  Some trace the dissolution of civil Washington discourse and politics, and the rise of GOP viciousness and obstructionism, to the dismantling of Jim Wright and the rise of Newt Gingrich.

And last but not least, Jim Wright became an unwitting poster child for all that is wrong with Voter ID bills and laws when, at the age of 89, having served 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and two years as Speaker of the House, Wright was not allowed to vote in the 2012 election because he didn’t have ID.

Goodbye, Jim.  Take care.  And don’t worry, you won’t see Newt Gingrich where you’re going.

Lawrence Reichard is an underemployed freelance editor and writer currently residing in Belfast, Maine. He can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com.

More articles by:

Lawrence Reichard lives in Belfast, Maine, and can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com.

October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What is Truth?
Michael Doliner
Were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a Mistake?
Victor Grossman
Cassandra Calls
Ralph E. Shaffer
Could Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing Ended Differently?
Vanessa Cid
Our Everyday Family Separations
Walaa Al Ghussein
The Risks of Being a Journalist in Gaza
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal and Treachery—The Extremism of Moderates
James Munson
Identity Politics and the Ruling Class
P. Sainath
The Floods of Kerala: the Bank That Went Under…Almost
Ariel Dorfman
How We Roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s Agent of Imperialism
Joe Emersberger
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s Assault on Human Rights and Judicial Independence
Ed Meek
White Victimhood: Brett Kavanaugh and the New GOP Brand
Andrew McLean, MD
A Call for “Open Space”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail