If you’re over 60 and a fan of the nightly Turner Classic Movies, you probably see him as I do. He’s the mumbling, stuttering freshman senator in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” arms flailing about, knocking over cups and papers, losing his voice while fighting corruption in the Senate.

He’s one of the cowboys twisting lassos in the corral, the way Jimmy Stewart made them famous. Yep! Jimmy Stewart goes to Washington. That’s Beto O’Rourke.

Other than the physical stuff, I know little about Beto. Of course, I love the name. Not “Beto,” which is catchy and makes a great poster name. It’s that Irish “O’Rourke.” How Irish is he? It’s irrelevant. It’s his delivery I enjoy.

I confess that I’m still learning about Beto. It seems to me that while I was paying so much attention to that guy in the White House, Beto jumped out of nowhere, a wild boy from El Paso, Texas, a loose-limbed, uncombed rebel in shirtsleeves and jeans, with a strong nose and big teeth. Jimmy Stewart in “Winchester ’73” or “Man from Laramie,” or anything.

While I wasn’t looking, Beto was out there catching everyone’s attention. Then there he was running for senator from Texas against the sleazy Ted Cruz, the former Canadian Hispanic who refuses to use his baptismal name, Rafael.

Yes, Beto lost, and now he’s back with $6.1 million in campaign funds in his wallet.

Obviously, I’ve always been influenced by the movies. I once wanted to vote for the actor Ralph Bellamy because he looked like Franklin Roosevelt, and Bellamy wasn’t even running.

So there was Beto on a table somewhere in a Texas coffee shop, swinging around like a young Jimmy Stewart or Will Rogers, making folks duck every time he swung around to make a point. I’ll bet O’Rourke will likely be the only candidate who won’t need his own sign language interpreter on the trail.

I like the kid, but can I spend four or eight years with all that blue shirt and faded jeans thing? I don’t know yet.

Then there’s old Bernie. I’ll tell you the truth, and I’ll bet you agree with me. “Bernie” has become the name so ingrained in me that I have trouble remembering his last name. It’s just Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.

I’m looking it up. Here it is. Sanders, Sanders, there he is. Bernie Sanders.

I confess, in a perfect world, I could live with that old mensch in the Big Chair. He’s got that comforting delivery my first landlord in the Bronx had.

That was Mr. René Roquette, a French Jew who survived the Holocaust. René and his wife, who virtually adopted me, would check me over as I came down the stairs heading out on a date. She would straighten my tie, brush the hair out of my eyes, and check my smile.

“You got gum in there?” she’d ask, pointing at my mouth.

René would punch his finger in my chest

“Don’t try to impress with a taxi. Take her home on the A Train.”

When you’re young and Irish and feeling lost in your first Bronx apartment up on Jerome Avenue and Shakespeare Street, you get used to that gentle schmoozing, and to tell the truth, this elderly schlemiel misses it.

OK. Bernie. The first Jewish president. Wouldn’t that be something? How can any liberal Democrat not love that?

First, take Johnny Carson’s opening line about the weather: “Boy, it’s hot.”

Ed McMahon and the entire audience would shout, “How hot is it?”

So Bernie. How Jewish is he? Who cares. It’s irrelevant. For me, it’s his delivery, the wiggly fingers making a point, the Brooklyn accent. Vermont? Gimme a break. Bernie is pure Flatbush. You ever try to get a chocolate egg cream in Vermont? Does anyone in Vermont even know that there is no egg and no cream in an egg cream?

To me and the millions of young people who still have their “Bernie” hats from the 2016 election, it’s irrelevant.

Next week: The women.


J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.