Scott Simon

Michael Rodriguez is both a military man and a muse. Years after President George W. Bush sent him into war, the two men now call each other friends.

Rodriguez was a U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret who served from 1992 to 2013. He's featured in President Bush's book of portraits of more than 60 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who served in wars under his watch. It's called Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors.

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The Academy Awards are Sunday night. But that's just what we call a peg for what I really want to talk about.

This spring marks the 45th anniversary of The Godfather.

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

Francis Coppola's film is smartly scripted, beautifully acted and gorgeously directed. It's one of those special films you can see every few years and notice something new each time. It's an opera, really, where the arias are story lines about love, blood and America.

We keep on learning from great lives.

On Oct. 16, 1939, just weeks after Germany invaded Poland and Britain was at war, Winston Churchill, who had warned of Germany's wicked and avaricious ambitions, was called out of political isolation to become First Lord of the Admiralty and drafted an essay in which he asked, perhaps himself as much as anyone who would read it, "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

It's been a hard week in Peoria.

William Ryan Owens, the Navy Seal who was killed in a raid in Yemen, was from Peoria, Ill. Defense Secretary James Mattis said, "He gave his full measure for our nation."

And the Caterpillar company announced that after more than 90 years, it is moving its world headquarters from Peoria to Chicago. It is hard to overestimate the blow this is to Peoria.

I am surrounded by Mary Tyler Moores: smart, strong, independent women who have enriched the news business, and, for that matter, our world.

When Mary Tyler Moore died this week, at the age of 80, a lot of women in the news business — and women who are lawyers, teachers, accountants, and software engineers — cited Mary Richards, the role she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1970 to 1977, as an inspiration.

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The great British actor John Hurt has died. He got his start early, said he appeared in front of an audience for the first time when he was just 9 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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No poem was read at President Trump's inauguration yesterday. Inaugural poems are fairly recent traditions. But poems might've abounded in the minds of many people. I thought of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Populist Manifesto No. 1."

The one best wish I think I have for the country as a new administration comes to office is that there is a revival of respect.

It can be depressing, especially on these days that celebrate a peaceful and democratic transfer of power, to recount the many times this year political rhetoric got coarse, boorish, and even cruel.

I want to be fair about this. But in the news business, we can't pretend that one candidate didn't utter more of those kinds of remarks than any other; and he won.

There is a funeral service for Ashley Theriot in Pensacola, Fla. today. She was just 32, and a gifted freelance writer.

The death of a vibrant young person is a tragedy in all ways. But the person who dies can leave a gift for someone else to go on. That can be a flesh and blood blessing.

Ashley Theriot returned from Colombia on Jan. 1 and began to have seizures. She turned out to have a rare tear in the artery of her brain stem.

The 17-year-old son of a new congressman became a kind of celebrity this week by being just a little naughty. Or maybe trying to appear a little naughtier than he may actually be.

We won't repeat his name, although it's easy to discover. I think a 17-year-old has the right to make a mistake that won't follow him for the rest of his life, including six years from now, when he applies for a job; or in 12 years, when he wants to get married; or in 20 when his children see a picture and ask, "Dad — is that you? What were you doing?"

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I always had a wonderful time in Fidel Castro's Cuba, and usually wound up feeling bad about it.

The island is beautiful, the people even sunnier: warm and friendly, especially to Americans. The responsables — government minders — assigned to each reporting crew would tease me about being from Chicago.

"Your mobsters used to run this place," they'd say. "Sam Giancana, The Godfather. You made our men bellboys and our women prostitutes." And then they'd treat you to mojitos and fabulous music.

A lot of us live in bubbles. The bubbles that took some pot-shots this week are the ones in which pundits, reporters, and other opinion-flingers who seemed dead-solid-certain that Hillary Clinton would be elected president of the United States on Tuesday live, work, breathe the same air, and seem to exhale similar opinions.

I know baseball is not real life.

While Chicago's streets teemed with loud whoops and waving banners as the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, 18 more people were killed over two days on the south and west sides of the city. The number of homicides in Chicago has surged past 600 this year. 2016 could be the city's deadliest year in nearly 20, and the people in those afflicted neighborhoods, usually a long way from Wrigley Field, will remember this year more for their losses than any World Series victory.

Every week we get emails and tweets from people who say they are so appalled by this year's election campaign they no can longer pay attention to the news. Then they often go on to give us full details about the latest incident in the campaign that's so repulsed them.

A lot of Americans say they are disgusted by this year's election. And the data says they can't get enough of it.

I have a special respect for political losers. Losing can reveal a candidate's character in a humbling, vulnerable moment.

An Ohio politician who lost a race for governor once explained to me that most politicians are used to being popular. They were often class officers and top athletes as kids, who become lawyers, professors, or business owners. They get used to people listening to them, and laughing at their jokes.

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this week. His selection was surprising. He is the first artist to receive the award for a body of work that is almost entirely songs. But while there were critics, there was also a lot of acclaim, even from outstanding longtime novelists, including Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and Salman Rushdie, who called Mr. Dylan, "the brilliant inheritor of the Bardic tradition."

Now Play Nice, Children

Sep 17, 2016

There was no moderator of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. There was a timekeeper, usually some respected town elder in Alton, Freeport or Galesburg, Ill., who would keep track of how long a candidate could speak, then say something like, "Thank you, Mr. Lincoln. Your turn now, Sen. Douglas," and vice versa.

But there was no moderator. Each candidate spoke in turn. They asked each other questions directly. They could accuse each other of being wrong, or not telling the truth, face to face, and did.

What's in a name?

The Chicago White Sox, mired in in the middle of the American League Central division, announced this week they've signed a 13 year deal to rename the park where they play Guaranteed Rate Field.

Guaranteed Rate is a home loan company, headquartered in Chicago.

But as Rick Morrisey wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, "Guaranteed Rate Field. You're kidding, right? Was Year End Clearance Sale Stadium already taken?"

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The phrase, "America First" was invoked a few times at this week's Republican convention. That slogan comes with a lot of echoes, and you might wonder how much the people who chant it now really know about its history.

The America First Committee was founded in 1940 by a group of Yale students, many of whom would go on to distinguished careers, and funded by prominent Chicago business leaders. It was one of the largest peace organizations in U.S. history, with more than 800,000 registered members.

I'm getting a little tired of all this pivoting.

Pundits and analysts — which, by the way, might be a good name for a new bar in Georgetown — say that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Bernie Sanders are, must, or are soon expected to "pivot" into some new strategy for the fall campaign.

What would you consider "the best selfie ever"?

A shot of yourself alongside the pope, the president, Angela Merkel, Lin Manuel Miranda or Steph Curry?

This week Ben Innes, a health and safety auditor from Leeds, Great Britain, used those words to send out a photo in which he posed with the man who hijacked his plane.

The hijacker has what looks like a suicide vest of explosives strapped to his chest. Ben Innes is grinning.

Now is the time to pick up a Pataki for President bumper sticker. Or a Huckabee button, a Jim Webb yard sign, or keychains, ballpoint pens, and window scrapers imprinted Jindal, Paul, Perry, Chafee, Walker, Graham, Santorum, Lessig, and O'Malley for President.

It's already a kind of autumn in the cycle of a presidential campaign, in which candidacies have a last burst of color and fall to the ground.

Greggor Ilagan, a Hawaii county councilman who is running for the state senate, decided to try to reach that vital demographic of young voters by appearing on social networking sites. And also Tinder, a dating app.

When he announced his candidacy last summer, Mr. Ilagan told local Hawaii press he would rely more on social media than campaign fund-raising to reach voters.

Greg Ilagan said on his profile page, "I bet we can find common ground on issues and make a positive impact around us."

That sounds Jeffersonian.

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Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Soldiers must face many dangers - exhaustion, battle, loneliness and MREs.

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