Category Archives: Politics

Clinton And Trump Debate In Westport!

The 2016 presidential campaign is one of the most polarizing in American political history.

Whether you’re with her, him or none of the above, passions run high.

So when the League of Women Voters — a non-partisan organization — was searching for a safe space where Westporters could watch Monday’s debate, they chose the most (small-d) democratic place they could find: the Westport Library.

The event will be as welcoming as possible. It begins at 8 p.m. with light refreshments, courtesy of the Library Café and LWV.

Local author and former NBC and Fox News journalist/media critic Eric Burns will provide an introduction before the 9 p.m. debate. At 10:30, Burns will moderate a public discussion about what was heard (or not).

I’m not a betting man. But I have followed this presidential race/train wreck quite closely.

So I bet that if you go to the library on Monday, whatever you hear afterward will be a lot more insightful than much of what passes for the “debate” itself.

clinton-and-trump-debate

Larry Aasen Buttons Up

In 1928, Larry Aasen’s father returned home to North Dakota from the national Democratic convention. He brought his young son an Al Smith pencil.

The souvenir is long gone. But Aasen — in his 90s, and a longtime Westporter who with his fellow politcally activist wife Martha has attended “many” national and state conventions — amassed over 2,000 other buttons, posters and assorted mementos.

Aasen mounted some in wooden frames. He donates others — worth at least $15 each to collectors — to local non-profits, to sell at silent auctions. They raise $100 to $150, he says.

Though Aasen is an avid Democrat — and his collection skews that way — his collection is non-partisan. His Republican memorabilia dates back to Wendell Willkie. He trades for some of them. Others come from his many GOP friends.

jfk-posterStarting tomorrow (Wednesday, September 21), his favorites will be on view at the Westport Library’s lower-level Riverwalk display case. They include a Woodrow Wilson button, and posters for FDR and JFK. The exhibit runs through (of course) Election Day.

An opening reception is set for Thursday, September 29 (6 p.m., McManus Room).

Aasen will be there. He’ll tell stories about his buttons — and his political life.

Like this one. In the 1950s, he was in Kansas City on business. He found out where Harry Truman often parked, to walk to his office. Sure enough, early in the morning, the former president drove through heavy snow, got out and prepared to walk.

There were no Secret Service agents around. Aasen asked if he could walk too.

Martha and Larry Aasen.

Martha and Larry Aasen.

They talked about politics, including Aasen’s native North Dakota and Martha’s Mississippi.

Somehow the discussion turned to the disputed presidential election of 1876. As Truman recounted how — 80 years earlier — Rutherford B. Hayes beat out Samuel Tilden, Aasen says, “he really got worked up.”

There’s no question who Aasen is voting for this Election Day. He’s met Hillary Clinton many times, he says, going back at least 20 years.

“People don’t realize how many times she’s been in Westport for fundraising,” Aasen says.

At the opening reception next week, maybe he’ll pair his “I’m With Her” button with one that says “We Want Willkie.”

wendell-willkie-button

Old Barn Gets New, Progressive Life

Normally, I would not post a story about a political fundraiser — even one whose goals (helping Democrats regain the Senate) I agree with.

But this has a neat little back story that makes it “06880”-worthy. (And yes, I’d do the same if there’s a similar tie-in for a Republican fundraiser.)

Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston own one of the most visible properties in Westport. Their handsome home — with gorgeous gardens and a wide lawn — sits on the corner of Evergreen and Myrtle Avenues, kitty-corner from Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

A while ago, Steve and Rondi bought an 1870 barn. It belonged to their next door neighbor Estelle Margolis, and her late husband Manny. The new owners spent nearly 2 years restoring it, then repurposing it as an office for Steve.

It’s enjoying a wonderful new life, while honoring Westport’s historic roots.

rondi-charleston-and-steve-ruchefsky-barn

Manny Margolis was similarly known for his devotion to America’s past and present. An attorney with a lifelong devotion to civil liberties and civil rights, he brought a draft refusal case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — and won.

As a member of Westport’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Manny was a strong advocate for low and moderate housing regulations.

Manny Margolis was a World War II veteran.

Manny Margolis was a World War II veteran.

He and Estelle — his wife of 52 years — spent years at peace vigils in Westport.  They began during the Vietnam War.  For 6 years they stood together on the Post Road bridge, protesting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. (Estelle still does.)

Manny was a staunch Democrat. Estelle still is. So, Steve and Rondi say, they’re thrilled to host an event this Sunday (September 18, 4 p.m.) that would have been dear to Manny’s progressive heart.

The fundraiser is for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Senator Jon Tester of Montana — the organization’s chair — will attend; so will Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock.

Manny Margolis will be there in spirit.

(For information on Sunday’s fundraiser, email frankiel@dscc.org)


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Hillary Clinton’s Westport Lover

Six years ago — shortly after Seth Schachter moved to Westport — someone knocked on his door.

The daughter of an elderly neighbor across the street did not offer a welcoming apple pie. Instead she asked, “Do you know who lived in your house?”

Seth had no idea. She said she’d be back in a few minutes.

The neighbor’s daughter returned with a copy of a 1999 Globe story. (The supermarket tabloid, not the well-regarded Boston newspaper.) It showed a photo of Schachter’s new house — next to the White House.

Globe photos of David Rupert's house, and Hillary's.

Globe photos of David Rupert’s house, and Hillary’s.

Turns out that 17 years ago, Gail Sheehy wrote Hillary’s Choice. The biography of the then-First Lady included an account of the “tempestuous” relationship between Wellesley College student Hillary Rodham and David Rupert, a government major at Georgetown University (where, coincidentally, a classmate was Bill Clinton — who had not yet met his future wife). Rupert and Hillary met when she spent her junior summer in Washington.

After the book came out, reporters hoping for more scrambled to find the First Lady’s former boyfriend. They found him on Rustic Lane, off Greens Farms Road — in the house Schachter now owns.

The reason Rupert was such a catch — and why satellite trucks raced to Westport — was because of Sheehy’s provocative writing. She said that Hillary kept the relationship “secret from some of the people in her life.”

She added: “Rupert was every bit as abrasive and competitive as Rodham.” But “he liked her spunk.”

David Rupert and Hillary Clinton, while they were dating.

David Rupert and Hillary Clinton, while they were dating. The Globe called him a “Jim Carrey look-alike.”

By 1969, Sheehy wrote, their long-distance relationship was suffering. However, Rupert “discovered something unexpected about Hillary: get her away on a weekend, and she could be playful.” (He did not tell Sheehy whether his girlfriend “inhaled,” but urged the author to “read between the lines.”)

Rupert felt he was Hillary’s “first true love.” In another book — Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal, author William H. Chafe calls Rupert “her second serious boyfriend.”

And the Globe story quotes a neighbor of Rupert’s — presumably from Westport — as saying, “He was the man who made a woman out of Hillary.”

As a student at Yale Law School, Hillary made weekend trips to Bennington, Vermont, where Rupert had moved. But their differences grew, as neither was willing to relocate to accommodate the other.

In the Globe‘s words, “they would argue about politics, the Vietnam War — and make up with passionate love.”

Rupert and Hillary dated for almost 3 years. Her college friend Nancy Pietrafesa told Chafe, “they had an intense love affair.”

In the final stages of their relationship, Rupert told Sheehy, “I never stated a burning desire to be President of the United States. I believe that was a need for her in a partner.”

David Rupert, around 1999.

Instead, he headed toward the non-profit sector — “all very noble, but not where Hillary wanted to go.” He earned a master’s degree in management — from Yale, ironically — and became an executive with both public and private organizations.

(The Globe story called Rupert “pretty darn successful himself … happily married and living in a $500,000 house in Westport, Connecticut.”)

Back then, Rupert knew of Hillary’s relationship with fellow Yale Law student Bill Clinton. In fact, they started going out while she was still dating Rupert. “If you care for him, then go for it,” her boyfriend told her about Clinton.

Which brings us back — almost 30 years after they split — to the 1999 Globe coverage. A headline teased “Hillary’s Affair with Jim Carrey Look-alike.” The story compared Rupert’s Rustic  Lane house with hers — at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The full Globe story, with all its details.

The full Globe story, with all its details.

The Globe noted that when Chelsea Clinton discovered a photo of Rupert in her mother’s album, Hillary called him “a very special friend from a lot of years ago.”

I knew David Rupert. I spoke with him a few times about his brush with fame. Mostly, he was amused. I pressed him for details about his former girlfriend, but he kept mum.

He lived long enough to see her become not only First Lady, but also senator from New York and Secretary of State.

But he did not live to see Hillary Rodham Clinton become the 1st woman nominated by a major party to run for president of the United States. (And, no doubt, for Rupert himself to be rediscovered by the media). He died in May of 2009, at 61.

Which makes Seth Schachter’s Westport house just a minor — but very intriguing — footnote to American history.

The story on Hillary Clinton's romance with David Rupert was overshadowed by Globe stories about

The story on Hillary Clinton’s romance with David Rupert was overshadowed by Globe stories about Paul McCartney, Jackie Onassis, even Annette Funicello.


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Trump And Hillary: JP Vellotti Compares The Rallies

Alert “06880” reader/photographer JP Vellotti is an equal-opportunity political rally-goer.

On Saturday night, he attended the Donald Trump rally at Sacred Heart University. Afterward, he sent photos and a report to “06880.”

Here’s Part 2 of his journey to Election Day:

There was a lot to process after the Trump event. Having never been to a political function, I wondered if his rally was a normal state of affairs.

The next day I checked out Hillary’s website, to see if she had any events planned nearby (other than the $34,000-per-person dinner in Greenwich).

To my surprise, there was an event Monday in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I clicked the link, and got a ticket. I don’t have $34K, but I do have enough for a tank of gas.

At 5:30 a.m., I headed 150 miles west on I-84. It’s a nice drive. I was early, but that helped me get a great spot close to the stage.

The same type of vendors were there as at the Trump rally, selling pins, hats and t-shirts. They seem to be price-fixed, no matter which party (all overpriced and low quality). Bernie Sanders merchandise was marked way down.

Hillary pins - JP Vellotti

There were about the same number of protesters in the parking lot — all peaceful. I’m not quite sure what the people with the giant inflatable spliff were protesting (or supporting).

It was really interesting to see both sides. I don’t think a lot of people can say they did that, especially in a 48-hour span.

Part of the anti-Hillary protests.

Part of the anti-Hillary protests.

I’d be interested to hear what Hillary said at the $34K event, versus this free one in Scranton. I especially wonder how she can tell the people of Scranton certain things will be done with money that comes in from the wealthiest 1% paying their fair share of taxes.

I imagine some of that 1% paid to see her in Greenwich. Are they ok with her plan? Maybe she laid it out in greater detail during the dinner? I’ll never know.

Unlike the Trump event, there were no vulgar t-shirts or pins — or chants of the same, from the crowd or candidate.

The arena was much larger, but it was closed off to nearly the same size as the SHU Pitt Center. Both events were hot, but nothing beats the Trump rally heat.

Hillary’s event had a live, local coffee shop-type band. They played mellow songs like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” then funk like “Superstition” and “ABC.” They did not repeat anything.

The Trump rally blasted mostly the Rolling Stones (who asked him to stop using their songs) and Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” (an odd choice). His playlist repeated 3 times, and the crowd noticed. He also had an opera tune in the mix.

The crowds were almost equal in size — about 5,000. The demographics were again very similar — a bit younger in Scranton, predominantly white, but with more outward signs of diversity (buttons, pins, hats for various causes).

Hillary crowd - JP Vellotti

Much of the same speeches from both sides were snippets from the primaries. The Scranton one had a bit of hometown flavor, because of Hillary’s and Joe Biden’s roots there. Both told funny anecdotes.

Biden was a dynamic speaker. He made his speech feel personal, like your uncle was telling you something important. He also gave direct facts and statistics about consequences of things like dismantling NATO. He said he was off to Kosovo immediately after the rally, to assure them of America’s support.

Vice President Joe Biden.

I thought the talk in Scranton would be more about factory workers and old mills. Not at all. There was no relishing in the past for the American worker, which is the sense I got from Trump’s speech.

Hillary outlined her agenda at a high level. There was no badgering of the press, no name calling, and no Democratic version of “Lock her up!” She did wonder if Trump will ever release his tax returns.

Hillary speaking - JP Vellotti

Both Clinton and Biden came to the front row, and worked the crowd for a very long time. I was amazed at how close I could get. I believe Trump left as soon as he was finished, but I couldn’t see that side of the stage so I don’t know for sure.

Hillary after event

After the event, I walked over to Sonic to get something to eat. I met an 83-year-old Korean War vet named Daniel. He had been undecided, but will now vote for Hillary.

JP Vellotti's new friend, a Korean War veteran named Daniel.

JP Vellotti’s new friend, a Korean War veteran named Daniel.

I bought him lunch, thanked him for serving our country decades before I was born. And then it was back on I-80, to Westport. Without a limo.

Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden leave Scranton. (Photos/JP Vellotti)

Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden leave Scranton. (Photos/JP Vellotti)

Trump’s Thunder

Alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti graduated from Sacred Heart University in 1994.

When he heard that Donald Trump would speak at his alma mater — just 9 miles from downtown Westport — he decided to attend. His role, he says, was solely as “an observer.”

The rules were strict: No posters, banners, signs, professional cameras with detachable lenses, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks or GoPros. There was also “no dress code,” whatever that means.

JP was impressed with the professionalism of the Westport Police Department, part of the very tight security detail.

He also was surprised at the diverse demographics represented — including many folks he knows from Westport.

As Trump finished, JP says, thunder boomed. An announcement urged attendees to stay inside. JP took his chances with the weather, and sprinted through the downpour.

Here’s some of what he saw:

Plenty of vendors sold wares outside the Sacred Heart arena. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Plenty of vendors sold wares outside the Sacred Heart arena. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Part of the crowd, estimated at 5,000. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Part of the crowd, estimated at 5,000. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

A Donald Trump -- and Israel -- supporter. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

A Donald Trump — and Israel — supporter. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

The Republican presidential candidate speaks. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

The Republican presidential candidate speaks. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

This woman's shirt reads "HIllary You Suck." (Photo/JP Vellotti)

This woman’s shirt reads “HIllary You Suck.” (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Despite the sign, there was not a lot of respect inside Sacred Heart's William H. Pitt Health & Recreation Center, says JP Vellotti.

Despite the sign, JP Vellotti says there was not a lot of respect inside Sacred Heart’s William H. Pitt Health & Recreation Center.

Meanwhile, outside the Sacred Heart arena, a small “Love Trumps Hate” demonstration took place. Roy Fuchs took this photo:

(Photo/Roy Fuchs)

(Photo/Roy Fuchs)


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Ev Boyle: Reporting From 2 Conventions

If you’re like me, you spent the past couple of weeks processing everything you saw and heard during the Republican and Democratic conventions.

If you’re like Ev Boyle, you did that too — but with a special perspective. The 2001 Staples High School graduate was on the scene — including the floor — in both Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Ev’s official title is associate director, University of Southern California Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. He organizes programs and events in government, journalism and technology.

Ev Boyle (left) never knew who -- or what -- he'd see next. This was outside the Republican National Convention.

Ev Boyle (left) never knew who — or what — he’d see next. This was outside the Republican National Convention.

But he’s also a political junkie. So working with Annenberg professors like David Eisenhower (Ike’s grandson, Nixon’s son-in-law) and Geoffrey Cowan (former director of the Voice of America, author of a recent book on presidential primaries) is a dream come true.

Ev brought 6 student-journalists to the 2 conventions. “We pushed our students to go in with open minds and hearts. We wanted them to talk to as many people as they could.” They — and Ev — did exactly that.

They reveled in breakfasts with delegates, the controlled chaos of floor sessions, and random sidewalk meetings with everyone from Katie Couric and Samantha Bee to Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson and UK Brexit leader Nigel Farage (who knew either of them were at the conventions?).

Ev realized that being on the floor was interesting and special — but it was also cramped, hot, and hard to know what was happening. “You could see and hear a lot better on TV,” he notes.

Marjorie Margolies — a former Pennsylvania congresswoman, and Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law — helped arrange a meeting with former presidential candidate John Kasich. The Ohio governor famously stayed away from the convention in his home state — but he met the Annenberg group for a long, insightful conversation.

Ev Boyle (3rd from right) and David Eisenhower (next to Ev) heard political insights directly from Governor (and former presidential candidate) John Kasich (4th from left).

Ev Boyle (3rd from right) and David Eisenhower (next to Ev) heard political insights directly from Governor (and former presidential candidate) John Kasich (4th from left).

Texas Republican congressman Pete Sessions — chair of the House Rules Committee — was especially “kind and accommodating” to the group, Ev says.

Delegate breakfasts were particularly intriguing. At California’s — on the 1st day of the Democratic convention — Ev and his students heard the thunderous boos from Bernie Sanders supporters that greeted Nancy Pelosi and others. That incident did not get a lot of press, but it presaged the California delegation’s actions through the rest of the week.

Ev and his group learned something everywhere they went. In Cleveland, 100 congressional pages — ages 15 to 24, from all 50 states — gathered. When asked how many had supported Donald Trump from the beginning, no hands were raised.

Two other questions: How many were Trump supporters now? How many were “Never Trump”? Ev says they were split 50-50.

Republican and Deomocratic symbolsEv helped his young student journalists seek out interesting stories. They interviewed hotel workers, female Trump supporters, a delegate who at 17 years old was younger than they, and Democratic officials who switched parties to vote for Trump.

The 2 conventions provided “an eye-opener into the process of politics,” Ev says.

And stories he can tell through the 2020 election.

“Hey, Hillary! Can Tony Come Out And Play?”

From 1955 to ’58, Jeff Schon lived in Westport. He moved back in 1998. He’s now a well-known executive, specializing in software, internet, TV and publishing.

Jeff left here when his father — an oil executive — was transferred to Beirut. But every other summer, Jeff visited his grandparents back in the States.

They lived at 230 Wisner Avenue in Park Ridge, Illinois — the town where Jeff’s mother had grown up.

Jeff Schon at 13, in 1965. He thinks it was Flag Day -- and his family flew both the American and Lebanese flags.

Jeff Schon at 13, in 1965. It was Flag Day — and his family flew both the American and Lebanese flags in front of their home.

The Chicago suburb was like many early-’60s towns. Kids played touch football in the streets, under a canopy of elms. They caught fireflies at night. They wandered in and out of each other’s homes.

During their time in Park Ridge, Jeff’s parents got to know the neighbors across the street, at 235 Wisner. They had a boy — Tony — the same age as Jeff.

Occasionally, Jeff rang their doorbell. Tony’s older sister would answer.

“Hey, Hillary! Can Tony come out and play?” Jeff asked. He didn’t pay much attention to her.

“As a 10-year-old boy, a 14-year-old sister hardly exists,” he says. “I just wanted Tony for touch football.”

By now you’ve figured it out: Tony was a Rodham. Today, his sister — who occasionally babysat for Jeff’s younger sister Christine — is known as Hillary Rodham Clinton.

From left: Tony, Hughie and Hillary Rodham with their parents, Hugh and Dorothy.

From left: Tony, Hughie and Hillary Rodham with their parents, Hugh and Dorothy.

Jeff has not kept up with his summertime friend Tony. But years later, he remembers Tony’s older sister.

“This just shows you how small the world is,” Jeff says.

“Traveling from Beirut to a small suburban street, I’m connected to possibly the next President of the United States.”

In 1992 -- when her husband Bill was running for president -- Hillary Rodham Clinton responded to a letter written by Maggi Schon, whom she once babysat for. In 2008, Maggi was at the Democratic convention -- as chair of the Democrats Abroad delegation.

In 1992 — when her husband Bill was running for president — Hillary Rodham Clinton responded to a letter written by Maggi Schon, Jeff’s mother. In 2008 Jeff’s sister, Christine Schon Marques (whom Hillary once babysat for) attended the Democratic convention — as chair of the Democrats Abroad delegation.

Jeff Schon today.

Jeff Schon today.

Compo Guards Save Lives, Offer Life Lessons

Westport’s lifeguards are superb. They’re well-trained, well-skilled, friendly and fun. (They’re also very tan and quite fit.)

Compo Beach-goers know that the guard shack offers more than first aid. There’s tide and temperature info; warnings — and an always intriguing Quote of the Day.

Yesterday’s was particularly noteworthy:

Compo lifeguard sign

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Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Marc Lasry Is With Her

Marc Lasry — the billionaire hedge fund manager/Milwaukee Bucks co-owner — is a noted Hillary Clinton fan. Just 3 months ago, the prodigious fundraiser opened his Beachside Avenue home for an event featuring the Democratic presidential candidate’s husband, a guy named Bill.

Last night, Lasry talked up Clinton’s candidacy with PBS interviewer Charlie Rose.

Alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti watched his fellow Westporter with interest.

But one subject did not come up.

“I wonder what Lasry thinks of her line promising to make the ultra-rich pay their fair share of taxes,” Vellotti says.

Mark Lasry and Charlie Rose talk about Hillary Clinton. (Screenshot/JP Vellotti)

Mark Lasry and Charlie Rose talk about Hillary Clinton. (Screenshot/JP Vellotti)