Cyber Vacancy; 'Post-Truth Era' Potholes; Kubrick's Eye; 'Goodnight Moon'

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, May 23, 2018. On this date in 1910, Robert and Maude Brown, transplanted Missourians living in an upscale neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, welcomed the second of their three children into the world.

Early on, Margaret Wise Brown revealed herself to be a little girl with a vivid imagination and a way with words. Here’s an example: Although she didn’t understand the song’s political implications, one of her favorite tunes was “Dixie.” Actually, 5-year-old Margaret didn’t even know the real words to “Dixie.”

The first verse (“Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton”) was pretty straight-forward, but the second verse at that time wasn’t “Old times there are not forgotten,” as it is today. It was “Cinnamon seed and sandy bottom.”

In Leonard S. Marcus’ excellent 1992 biography of Ms. Brown, he re-creates the way Margaret heard the song as a 5-year-old. “I thought Dixie Land and Sandy Bottom were two little girls,” Brown recalled. “I envied them and cherished them, as a child does imaginary playmates, and I never understood why Dixie Land kept looking away.”

I’ll have more on this woman — and her famous bedtime story — in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ , which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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Congress, Worried About Cyber? Fill a Key DOJ Position. Megan L. Brown the Senate that further delays in confirming a new head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division is making cyberspace less safe.

Playing Into the Russian Narrative. In Part 3 of our with Gen. Michael Hayden, the intelligence expert discusses the “post-truth era,” in which adversaries attempt to sow confusion through disinformation.

5 Facts You Need to Know About Criminal Justice Reform. In RealClearPolicy, No Labels for recent prison reform efforts by the administration and Congress.

How Dodd-Frank Hurts the Little Guy. In RealClearPolicy, John Webster that Congress‘s change to the law will benefit small banks.

Steel Tariffs Hinder U.S. Energy Growth. Mark Green in RealClearEnergy.

A Fundamental Challenge to U.S. Leadership Abroad. In RealClearWorld, Bruce Stokes that re-establishing pro-American sentiment and confidence in U.S. leadership should be a high priority for the Trump administration.

Why Low-Yield Trident Nuclear Weapons Make Sense. Matthew Costlow for a change in submarine-launched ballistic missiles in RealClearDefense.

Plight of Teachers’ Salaries Is Traceable to a Few Key Developments. In RealClearMarkets, Gary Burtless the roots of the protests in a handful of states.

Stretching Reduces Tumor Growth in Mice. RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy on the results of a new study.

How Kubrick’s Photography Influenced His Moviemaking. In RealClearLife, Evan Bleier a museum exhibition that examines the great film director’s work for Look magazine in the 1940s.

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Margaret Wise Brown’s father was a difficult man who’d rebelled against his own father — Margaret’s grandfather — a Missouri politician named Benjamin Gratz Brown. Although he could be uncompromising, the subject of B. Gratz Brown’s stubbornness was nothing to be ashamed of: He was a militant abolitionist.

Brown helped launch the Republican Party in Missouri, worked during the Civil War as an anti-slavery Democrat to keep Missouri in the Union, and caucused as U.S. senator with the “Radical Republicans” who found Abraham Lincoln’s policies insufficiently fervent. In 1872, Brown ran against Howard Greeley for the presidential nomination of the Liberal Republican Party, which he helped found. After losing that fight, he became Greeley’s running mate on a ticket that was adopted by the Democratic Party, which had the insurmountable challenge of running against Ulysses Grant.

His granddaughter, born 108 years ago today, attended college in Roanoke, Virginia, and then began a literary career, not to mention a colorful personal life. An athletic and eccentric beauty, Margaret enjoyed the company of women as well as men, was engaged to a Rockefeller heir when she died suddenly from an embolism at age 42 in Paris, and never mothered children of her own.

Yet over the years, tens of millions of parents used her books, one in particular, to put their children to bed. That story, “Goodnight Moon,” was destined to be a classic. It was published in 1947, five years after “The Runaway Bunny,” a popular coloring book. Was it truly a paradox, as a Life magazine writer assigned to profile Brown believed, that an author known for gentle depictions of bunnies enjoyed hunting rabbits in real life?

“Well, I don’t especially like children, either,” Brown offered as a rejoinder. “At least, not as a group. I won’t let anybody get away with anything just because he is little.”

To writer and media critic Katie Roiphe, this observation was more than a quip intended to keep a writer off-balance. Roiphe offered a more nuanced explanation: “One of Margaret Wise Brown’s offhand descriptions of childhood,” , “makes me think that she is nearer to childhood than the rest of us, inside it in a way that most of us can’t quite imagine or get to.”

In other words, it wasn’t children who confused her, but the world of grown-ups.

“Is it possible that the most inspired children’s book writers never grow up?” Roiphe added. “By that I don’t mean that they understand or have special affection or affinity toward children, but that they don’t understand adulthood, and I mean that in the best possible sense. It may be that they haven’t moved responsibly out of childhood the way most of us have, into busy, functional, settled adult life.”

Moreover, not all of childhood is benign, or features mice running around bedrooms, or full moons seen from nursery windows. It can also entail heartbreak, as it did for a mother who wrote a letter to publisher HarperCollins on 50th anniversary of “Goodnight Moon.”

The publisher had invited readers to leave comments on its website. Here is one, posted in 1997:

“I hesitate to send in a very personal story, but I want to share a different aspect of the power of this little book. … I have read ‘Goodnight Moon’ to my two sons since the oldest was born in 1980,” the woman wrote.

“When I was 42, I found out that I was going to have a daughter. ‘Goodnight Moon’ was Georgia‘s first and her favorite book. She kissed the kittens and waved to the moon. She begged all of us to read it to her, but it was our 10-year-old son, Walker, who was most often found sitting with her reading the story.

“Georgia died in 1994 in an accident on her second birthday. Five hundred people crowded into the church to comfort us and to comfort each other. Walker, who has learning disabilities and has had a hard time learning to read, got up to read ‘Goodnight Moon.’ He was visibly nervous, but several pages in, he forgot all about the people crowded into the church, and he read unhesitatingly from the heart. A friend sitting beside the children‘s librarian from our public library noticed her lips moving as she silently recited the words of this beloved book along with him. Later, we realized that she wasn‘t the only one.

“Of all the events of that week, of all the music, talk and readings at the funeral, it was ‘Goodnight Moon’ that brought the greatest comfort. Thank you, Margaret Wise Brown, for this enduring book and thank-you HarperCollins for honoring it.

“Goodnight stars,
Goodnight air,
Goodnight noises everywhere.” 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter .