Committed to the First Amendment

We Thank You So Much

I was standing beside the bed of a kid who was just coming out of the ether after an operation," Bob Hope once told BROADCASTING & CABLE. "He had seen our show in the Pacific a few months before. Just as he opened his eyes, he looked up and smiled. He grabbed my hand and said 'Hello, Bob.' I asked him how he felt, and he said, 'A lot better—now.'" It was, said Hope, in Washington for a bond drive in the 1940s, "the greatest thrill I ever had. When somebody says that to you, there is nothing you can say. There are no words." Then there was the nurse who said after a Hope show: "It's a shame we can't bottle this and give it to them in small doses."

In a way, it was bottled and given to everyone in small doses, in large thanks to radio and, later, TV. Arguably no broadcast entertainer had a bigger impact on the 20th century than Hope. Partly it was longevity, but mostly it was quality, not quantity. Hope was funny, the Seinfeld-and-then-some of his day. Armed with a joke file ultimately in the millions, top writers and great timing, Hope was the best. And, as befitting the consummate emcee, his was humor of inclusion (stereotypes of the era excepted), topical but clean, political but primarily without an agenda.

It was clear he liked people and loved making them laugh. And rare among entertainers, his heart was as big as his ego. As a canny businessman and a multimillionaire many times over, he didn't have to travel to entertain the troops well into his sixties, and seventies, and eighties. He was the single biggest supporter of the American soldier since they shouldered muskets at Lexington and Concord.

Upon hearing the news of his death at 100 last week, one caller on Sam Donaldson's radio show suggested that Hope should be flown to the rotunda, an honor befitting a president—or Bob Hope.

A Good Soldier

The criticism of FCC Chairman Michael Powell over his media-ownership rule revamp is perfectly understandable given the passion of anti-deregulation forces, and so long as it is confined to the issues in dispute. The ad hominem attacks are out of line, however, and do not reflect well on those who make them, regardless of how high their dudgeon. One congressional opponent went so far as to suggest Powell was "ruining" the agency.

What Powell has been doing is holding to his long-held principles about the marketplace while he tries to hit the constantly moving target of a biennial review at the direction of Congress and under the deregulatory eye of the conservative D.C. circuit. He has said quite clearly that, if his boss—Congress—wants him to do something other than what he is doing, it needs to say so in language that is also clear to the courts. He is acting like a serious regulator rather than a politician. Like it or not, he is doing exactly the job he was hired to do and doing it well.