Roundup: Media's TakeFollow Roundup: Media's Take on RSS and Twitter
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
[Norman Solomon is co-author, with Reese Erlich, of “Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You.” His columns and other writings can be found at www.normansolomon.com.]
Top officials in Washington are now promoting jitters about Iran’s nuclear activities, while media outlets amplify the message. A confrontation with Tehran is on the second-term Bush agenda. So, we’re encouraged to obliquely think about the unthinkable.
But no one can get very far trying to comprehend the enormity of nuclear weapons. They’ve shadowed human consciousness for six decades. From the outset, deception has been key.
Lies from the White House have been part of the nuclear rationalizing process ever since August 1945. President Harry Truman spoke to the American public three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Calling the civilian-filled Japanese city a “military base,” Truman said: “The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”
Actually, U.S. planners had sought a large urban area for the nuclear cross hairs because -- as Manhattan Project director Gen. Leslie Groves later acknowledged -- it was “desirable that the first target be of such size that the damage would be confined within it, so that we could more definitely determine the power of the bomb.” Thirty-five years later, when I looked at the U.S. Energy Department’s official roster of “Announced United States Nuclear Tests,” the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were on the list.
We’re now six decades into the Nuclear Age. And we’re farther than ever, it seems, from a momentously difficult truth that Albert Einstein uttered during its first years, when the U.S. government still held a monopoly on the split atom. “This basic power of the universe cannot be fitted into the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms,” he wrote. “For there is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world.”
Today, no phrase could better describe U.S. foreign policies -- or American media coverage -- than “narrow nationalisms.” The officials keep putting on a proudly jingoistic show, and journalists report it without fundamental challenge.
So, any whiff of sanity is conspicuous. Just before Thanksgiving, when the House and Senate voted to cut funding of research for a new line of tactical nuclear weapons including “bunker buster” warheads, the decision was reported as the most significant victory for arms-control advocates since the early 1990s. That’s because the nuclear-weapons industry has been running amok for so long.
While Uncle Sam continues to maintain a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying life on Earth, the American finger-wagging at Iran is something righteous to behold.
Current alarms, wailing about an alleged Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons, are being set off by the same Bush administration officials who declared that an invasion of Iraq was imperative because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. As we now know, he didn’t.
But that hasn’t stopped the Bush team from launching the same kind of media campaign against Iran -- based on unverified claims by Iranian exiles with a track record of inaccuracy and a clear motive to pull Washington into military action. Sound familiar?
We ought to be able to recognize what’s wrong with U.S. officials who lecture Iran about the evils of nuclear-arms proliferation while winking at Israel’s arsenal, estimated to include 200 nuclear weapons.
When Einstein called for “the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world,” he was describing a need that news media ought to help fill. But instead, mostly we get the official stories: dumbed-down, simplistic, and -- yes -- narrowly nationalistic. The themes are those of Washington’s powerful: our nukes good, our allies’ nukes pretty good, unauthorized nukes very bad.
That sort of propaganda drumbeat won’t be convincing to people who doubt that a Christian Bomb is good and a Jewish Bomb is good but an Islamic Bomb is bad. You don’t have to be an Einstein to understand that people are rarely persuaded by hypocritical messages along the lines of “Do as we say, not as we do.”
... [H]ow [did] the Democratic Party [get] to the place where it is a party of appeasement in the approach to war and a saboteur of the war when it is underway. How did the Democratic Party get to the point where its leaders would break a fifty-year tradition of bi-partisanship in foreign policy, and over matters of war and peace? How did it come so powerfully under the influence of an historically anti-American left as to allow its presidential politics to be dominated by that left?
The short answer to these questions is that the leftward slide of the Democratic Party began with the McGovern campaign, when the anti-Vietnam left marched into its ranks and assumed positions of power in its congressional party. Obviously, the circumstances of the Iraq war and the movement to oppose it have a lot to do with the Howard Dean campaign, in particular, which was funded this left and driven by its passions, and whose success in the primaries turned John Kerry and John Edwards against the war. It also has a lot to do with the fateful decision of Jimmy Carter and Al Gore to make the war a partisan issue and break a half-century's tradition. But even before this moment it has to do with the McGovern campaign of 30 years ago, which was the original "anti-war" political campaign, demanding that America abandon its ally in Vietnam and leave the field of battle. Virtually all leaders of the anti-Iraq movement, including most of the leaders of the Democratic Party who supported that movement, were veterans of or affected by the anti-Vietnam campaign.
The left has never learned the lessons of Vietnam, a fact underscored by the way in which Howard Dean and Ted Kennedy and leaders of the movement against the war in Iraq invoked the history of Vietnam as though it showed that they were right and their opponents were wrong. As you probably know, I began my life on the political left and was one of the founders of the movement against the Vietnam War. My parents were, in fact, card-carrying Communists, and my first political march was against an even earlier war. I was nine years old in 1948 and marched down 7th Avenue with my parents and their political comrades in New York chanting, "One, two, three, four, we don't want another war." "We" called ourselves "progressives" and supported the Progressive Party candidacy of Henry Wallace, who had once been Franklin Roosevelt's Vice President but was now a captive of the Communist left. The war we marched against was Harry Truman's "Cold War" to prevent Joseph Stalin from conquering more of Europe than he had already acquired. The peace movement of that time wanted Stalin to "liberate" Eastern Europe, which he had in fact enslaved. This campaign was the seed of the anti-war movements of Vietnam and Iraq, and also of the political left's influence in the Democratic Party. George McGovern began his political career in the Progressive Party's 1948 campaign against the Cold War. The Democratic Party of Harry Truman was committed to the Cold War. But as far as the peace movements are concerned, not much has really changed in 50 years.
As a post-graduate student at Berkeley in the early Sixties, I was one of the organizers of the first demonstration against the Vietnam War. It was 1962 and I can tell you as someone who was there, everybody who organized that demonstration was a Marxist and a leftist who thought the Communists were liberating Vietnam the way Michael Moore thinks Zarqawi is liberating Iraq. By that time, I was a "new leftist," disillusioned with the Communism of my parents' generation, so I was aware that the North Vietnamese Communists were not Jeffersonian democrats as people like Jane Fonda and John Kerry seemed to think they were. I avoided the Winter Soldier Investigation into American "war crimes" that John Kerry and Jane Fonda were part of. Jane Fonda was an idiot (useful, to be sure) who had embraced the Communists and committed treason. Perhaps John Kerry didn't grasp that fact. He got himself in bed with people who had a hatred for the United States as intense as their current hatred of George Bush.
It is a curious hatred, suggesting that Democrats have collectively flipped their lids in their zeal to win this election. You may say many things about George Bush, but this is a decent, capable man. You may differ with George Bush, but he is not a "moron" or a bumbling incompetent. No one runs a successful national election campaign and a successful presidential administration without judgment that is fundamentally sound. This is a man you can disagree with, but you can't belittle or hate George Bush without those attitudes reflecting on yourself.
In 1973, President Nixon signed a truce in Vietnam and withdrew our soldiers. John Kerry and Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden conducted a campaign to persuade the Democrats in Congress to cut all aid to South Vietnam and Cambodia. When Nixon went down in Watergate, the Democrats cut the aid as their first legislative act. They did this in January 1975. In April, the Cambodian and South Vietnamese regimes fell. This is a particularly important fact to remember, because this is exactly what Terry McAuliffe has proposed for Iraq now - that we cut and run. In 1975 the Democrats cut military and economic aid to the two regimes we had been defending against the Communists. As a result, the Communists won. Within three years the Communist victors had slaughtered 2.5 million people. The blood of those people is on the heads of John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean and people like myself. The difference between the four of us is that I understand now what we did then, and they apparently don't. That is why I'm not going to vote for John Kerry in this election.
If we cut and run or are defeated in Iraq, there will be a bloodbath when we leave. The jihadists will slaughter our friends, our allies, and all of the Iraqis who are struggling for their freedom. But this bloodbath will also flow into the streets of New York and Washington and potentially every major American city. The jihadists have sworn to kill us all. People who think America is invulnerable, that America can just leave the field of this battle, do not begin to understand the world we are in.
The 9/11 attacks took $600 billion out of the American economy and bankrupted the airlines industry, which required a $15 billion bailout. The hotel industry has barely recovered. Suppose the terrorists had attacked again after 9/11. Suppose there had been terrorist attacks in the major shopping malls around Christmas season, as was threatened at the time. If they had carried out such attacks, the terrorists could have taken down the whole American economy and, with it, the world economy. Then you would have seen governments fall. Perhaps the government of Pakistan would have been one of them, a nuclear power with a huge radical Islamic presence. What is the Democratic Party leadership thinking when they conduct a scorched-earth war against a sitting President and jeopardize the security of 300 million Americans for political gain?
The really terrible step in this political process, as I have already mentioned, was taken by Jimmy Carter and Al Gore who made the war a partisan issue right after President Bush went to the UN in September 2002. Carter and Gore poisoned the politics of the debate over America's war policy and sowed bitterness into the nation's soul. As a result, we now confront the terrorists and the world with nation divided over the issue of the war. As it happens, the only America that can lose a war is one that is divided.
The War At Home
The root cause of the division in this war, as in the war in Vietnam, is a left that is alienated from our national purpose. It is a left that in the Cold War gave moral and political support to our Communist enemies and in this war has entered an unholy alliance with radical Islam. This left is not just at war with our efforts in Iraq; it is also at war against our homeland security defenses. It may surprise you to know that there are already more than 350 American cities which, under instigation of the political left, have signed pledges to refuse to cooperate with Homeland Security, particularly in regard to the protection of our national borders. Georgetown University, where I am speaking tonight, is a leading player in this seditious effort. David Cole is a Professor of Law at this university and an intellectual leader of both the movement against our borders and against the Patriot Act, our first line of defense. Not coincidentally, he is also a lawyer for indicted terrorists.
The inspirer of the anti-Patriot Act movement, which conducts its activities in the name of civil liberties, is Sami Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida. In 1996, Al-Arian founded an organization called the National Coalition for Political Freedom to oppose the anti-terrorism act. This act was passed at the behest of the Clinton Administration in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. Al-Arian opposed the act because it allowed the use of secret evidence in terrorist cases. It was hardly constitutional issues that motivated Al-Arian, now a leading figure in the civil liberties left. Al-Arian's real motivation for opposing the act was that his brother-in-law had been arrested under its provisions. Both Al-Arian and his brother-in-law were leaders of Palestine Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization responsible for the suicide bombing deaths of more than 100 people in the Middle East.
Sami Al-Arian is a colleague of David Cole, the ACLU, and the National Lawyers Guild, leaders of the movement against the Patriot Act. They still defend al-Arian even though he is now a federal prisoner under a 120-page indictment. Although he was exposed by journalists in the early 90's, the government could not arrest him because of legal obstacles that blocked their investigations, obstacles that were only removed by the Patriot Act. For nearly a decade, al-Arian was protected by the president of the University of South Florida, Betty Coster, who is currently the Democratic Party's candidate for the U.S. Senate in Florida.
Sami Al-Arian is hardly alone. Lynne Stewart, a National Lawyers Guild attorney, has also been indicted by John Ashcroft. Like Al-Arian, Stewart is defended by the ACLU and the American Association of University Professors. The Middle Eastern Studies Department at this university, headed by John Esposito, has spent years throwing a smoke screen over terrorist groups, defending terrorist leaders like Sam al-Arian, pretending that they are no threat to the United States and claiming, along with Salon.com and The Nation magazine, that the head of Palestine Islamic Jihad is being persecuted by Ashcroft simply because he's a Muslim and a Palestinian.
Lynne Stewart is now under indictment by Ashcroft for helping her client, the blind sheik Abdel Rahman, who masterminded the first World Trade Center bombing, to conduct his terrorist activities in Egypt. Lynne Stewart is on record saying she believes the terrorists are liberationists and freedom fighters. For Stewart, Abu Musab, al-Zarqawi and the Abdel Rahman are freedom fighters. And she collaborated with the blind sheik in conducting his terror. Stewart is a hero of the legal left, and she tours law schools like Stanford and perhaps Georgetown as a guest of their faculties. It would be a cold day in hell before Georgetown's Law School would honor John Ashcroft as a guest.
How is it possible that people who think of themselves as advocates of social justice can lend aid and comfort to Islamic radicals who behead people and blow women's heads off with AK-47s when they are suspected of having sexual relations outside of marriage? How can self-styled progressives embrace these people? They embrace them under the logic that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and their enemy is the United States. They do it under the delusion that is common to all radicals. It's the radical analog to the 72 virgins that await jihadists in heaven. Think of how sick our enemy is. The Muslim martyrs in Palestine kill their own children by strapping bombs to them, to 14-year-olds, and telling them if they blow up Jewish 14-year-olds -- and if they are lucky enough to bemale -- they will go straight to heaven and get 72 virgins. They're committing mass murder to get into paradise. That is exactly what the left does. Why does the left want to destroy America? To get into paradise. Call it socialism, call it Communism, call it social justice. It's a dream of paradise that is so enticing it will justify any crime necessary to achieve it.
The radical left does not understand that the root cause of social problems is humanity. There will never be a socially just world because the world is always going to be run by human beings, and human beings are in their nature corrupt, selfish and fallible. If you don't understand that, you are simply delusional, in denial. Thus radicals have the same goal as jihadists, which is paradise. And the same enemy, which is the Great Satan, i.e., us. You cannot read a page of Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn or Michael Moore and not understand that America is the great Satan, the root of the world's evil, worthy of destruction. It is this faith that forges the unholy alliance.
To confront our enemy we must reverse the perception. The mantra of the left is the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Out of simple consideration of self-defense, we must adopt the view that the friend of my enemy is my enemy.
If history teaches us anything, it is that Presidents cannot lie about major political events that have potentially serious ramifications--particularly those relating to war and peace--with impunity. In almost all cases, the problem or issue that gives rise to the lie refuses to go away, even while the lie complicates the President's ability to address it. He must now address not only the problem itself but also the ancillary problem his lie has created. Karl Kraus once mused, with only slight exaggeration, that many a war has been caused by a diplomat who lied to a journalist and then believed what he read in the newspapers. The tendency for leaders to believe their own propaganda over time is one form of what first CIA agents and, later, political scientists have come to call "blowback." One feature of blowback is that its effects are almost always portrayed as unprovoked, often inexplicable actions, when in fact they are caused by actions initially taken by the government itself.
The point here is that in telling the truth to the nation, Presidents may often have to deal with complex, difficult and frequently dangerous problems they would no doubt prefer to avoid. But at least these are genuine problems that would have arisen irrespective of the leader's actions. This is, after all, inherent in the job description. But once a President takes it upon himself to lie to the country about important matters, he necessarily creates an independent dynamic that would not otherwise have come about, and we are all the worse for it.
Had FDR told the truth about Yalta to the country, it is far more likely that the United States would have participated in the creation of the kind of world community he envisioned when he made his secret agreements. John Kennedy's deception about the nature of the deal to which he agreed to insure the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba also proved enormously detrimental to his hope of creating a lasting, stable peace in the context of cold war competition. Lyndon Johnson destroyed not only his ambitious hopes to create a "Great Society" but also his own presidency and most of his political reason for being. And Ronald Reagan, through his lies about Central America, created a dynamic through which his advisers believed they had a right to initiate a secret, illegal foreign and military policy whose aims were almost perfectly contradictory to the President's stated aims in such crucial areas as dealing with governments deemed to be terrorist. ...
Alleging war crimes where none may exist is morally repugnant and legally wrong
'HE'S f---ing faking he's dead. He's faking he's f---ing dead," screams a soldier. The video then shows a US marine with his rifle at the ready. A shot is fired at an Iraqi leaning against the wall of a mosque. Blood splatters the wall. A voice says:"Well, he's dead now."
Is it a war crime? Many have rushed to judgment answering in the affirmative. Likewise, others confidently declared that the entire US-led battle in Fallujah was a war crime before it had barely begun.
War crimes are abhorrent.They offend basic notions of humanity that should apply even in the brutality of war. But prematurely rushing to judgment, alleging war crimes where none may exist is morally repugnant and legally wrong. It debases the very notion of a war crime. If the laws of war are to mean anything, their application must depend on a forensic examination of the facts.
Yet, so often pre-emptive cries of war crimes are driven by political motivations, not legal determinations. That is why international law suffers a credibility problem. Its biggest supporters often end up undermining it the most. Whether the US marine committed a war crime raises difficult questions. Suffice to say there is more to the story than one moving picture. Was the Iraqi"hors de combat"? How do the Geneva Conventions apply, if at all, to irregular insurgents who ignore the laws of war?
The embedded NBC journalist, Kevin Sites, who filmed the shooting, reported that dead and wounded insurgents have been booby-trapped, killing one marine and injuring others. Other reports said insurgents dressed in National Guard uniforms, ambushed the unit. Some insurgents behaved like soldiers at 500 metres but morphed into civilians as marines closed in.
So how do we properly judge the actions of this soldier when the enemy so firmly rejects the laws of war? To kill or be killed often requires a split second, instinctive response from soldiers especially when confronting the deadly combination of urban combat and guerilla warfare found in Fallujah last week. In the context of all relevant facts, the military investigation will determine whether this soldier acted in self-defence. Until then, claims that the US marine committed a war crime are ill-informed.
More grotesque is the claim by former diplomat and academic Tony Kevin in The Sydney Morning Herald on the day the battle began that this US-led attack was a war crime -- and for having soldiers in Iraq, Australia was morally complicit in these war crimes."This will be no neat, surgical strike," Kevin wrote."To get the measure of this, think of the Warsaw rising in 1944, or the Russian army's destruction of the Chechen capital, Grozny."
To compare coalition and Iraqi forces trying to restore law and order in Fallujah before January's democratic elections with the barbarous actions of Nazis in Warsaw in 1944 is morally offensive and intellectually bankrupt. To get a measure of Warsaw, as Kevin beseeches us, consider that Heinrich Himmler's orders to the Nazis talked of"every inhabitant to be killed","no prisoners to be taken" and"every single house to be blown up and burned".
In his book, Rising 44, historian Norman Davies says those orders were taken literally. More civilians died on each day of that 63-day battle than died on September 11, 2001."No one was spared -- not even nuns, nurses, hospital patients, doctors, invalids or babies." On August 5, four days after the uprising began, an estimated 35,000 men, women and children were shot dead by the SS.
It was rare for the Nazis to punish their own soldiers but men under commander Bronislav Kaminski entered Warsaw's Radium Institute, a hospital for female cancer sufferers, raping patients and staff. Those protesting were killed. The hospital was then looted and torched. Kaminski's depraved actions were too much even for the Nazis. He was put to death for"perpetrating excesses".
Only those unconcerned with facts and blinded by political motivations, by a knee-jerk anti-Americanism, could mention Warsaw in 1944 in the same breath as Fallujah in 2004. The same can be said of Kevin's comparisons with Grozny, a town reduced to rubble by months of bombing by the Russians in 1999.
These hysterical claims suggest that international law is too easily exploited by political mischief-makers. That is why the US refuses to recognise the new International Criminal Court, vested with power over war crimes.
When firepower is required, we look to the US for help. Yet such is the anti-American sentiment, US soldiers are more often labelled war criminals than government-sponsored butchers in Darfur, Sudan.
Even more problematic, some laws of war are simply dangerous in the current climate of terrorism. The original Geneva Conventions sought to govern future wars between nation states that agreed to the laws of war. But increasingly the new battlefield involves a moral, ethical and legal asymmetry between regular soldiers who abide by the laws of war and terrorists who have no constraints.
International law has failed to confront this dilemma. Third World states pushed for the 1977 Protocol, which augments the Geneva Conventions, to enable them to internationalise certain wars. It allows some civil wars to be deemed wars of national liberation and irregular fighters posing as civilians in these wars can be classified as combatants and, when captured, as POWs, making them immune from prosecution for what would otherwise be terrorist acts.
The US rejected the Protocol, pointing out that not every addition to international law is a noble sign of progress. In his advice to the US Senate on January 29, 1987, president Ronald Reagan said:"We must not, and need not, give recognition and protection to terrorist groups as a price for progress in humanitarian law." A wise decision then, it is even wiser now.
Increasingly, international law is becoming the last refuge of scoundrels as non-state terrorists claim the rights conferred by various instruments but reject the concomitant obligations.
If international law is to gain credibility, it will need to address that deadly reality.
It is the most glaring contradiction in our Constitution: a nation of immigrants that excludes anyone who is not born in the United States from becoming president. While long criticized, it went largely unchallenged until Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California and his fans discovered that he couldn't become"The Presinator" because of his Austrian birth.
It is hardly the stuff that inspiring constitutional movements are made of, but, then again, one takes what one can get when it comes to constitutional reform.
The problem is found in Article II, Section 1, which limits the presidency to"a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution," who is at least 35 years old and has been a U.S. resident for 14 years.
Many historians believe this rule was created by opponents of Alexander Hamilton to keep him from being president because of his birth in the West Indies. Though this was likely an interest of some framers, Hamilton could have claimed eligibility since he was a citizen when the Constitution was adopted and had been a resident for 15 years.
The main purpose of the provision appears to be simple insecurity. The United States was a young country surrounded by foreign conspiracies -- real and imagined. The concern was that a foreign-born leader could lead the country back under English rule.
The eligibility provision was written for a different people and a different time. It now strikes a decidedly xenophobic note in an otherwise inclusive document. More important, the exclusion is an insult to the immigrants who built this nation -- 20 million since 1907.
The 'Arnold factor'
The"Arnold factor" has helped push this issue to the forefront, but it may also distort the debate. This month, TV ads will start to run in favor of a constitutional amendment. Unfortunately, the sponsors are Schwarzenegger zealots, and the ad is framed around him.
It is doubtful that such a cult of personality will sway the needed two-thirds of both houses of Congress or three-fourths of the states needed to amend the Constitution. Indeed, another group has announced its own ads opposing the"Arnold amendment." A far better argument is found in the simple fact that the eligibility requirement is anti-American and illogical.
If applied strictly, the rule could have been used to challenge the very founders of our nation. Technically, George Washington was not a citizen when the Constitution was adopted because ratification was completed by the first nine states, which did not include Virginia. Likewise, our second president, John Adams, spent 1778-88 in Paris and other foreign capitals, raising some question as to whether he was in residency for 14 years.
From that dubious beginning, the provision became even more curious as it denied the nation some of our best and brightest. Consider a brief list of citizens barred:
* More than 700 immigrants who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for outstanding bravery in war, or any of the 60,000 immigrants currently serving in our military in Iraq and elsewhere.
* U.S. business and intellectual giants such as industrialist Andrew Carnegie (Scotland) and economist John Kenneth Galbraith (Canada).
* Past Cabinet members, including three secretaries of State: Christian Herter (France), Henry Kissinger (Germany) and Madeleine Albright (Czech Republic).
* Leading politicians, including the governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm (Canada) and Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif. (Hungary).
Given our dismal crop of homegrown candidates from the two major parties, citizens should be struggling to expand the pool of candidates. Heck, if we are shopping in the entertainment area, we could have picked someone who really knows how to deliver a"girlie man" joke, such as Bob Hope (United Kingdom), or someone who can pronounce the penultimate syllable of words, such as Alex Trebek (Canada) of Jeopardy!
GREEK LAWYERS are threatening to sue the Hollywood makers of the new film Alexander the Great for depicting the king as bisexual. Oliver Stone's casting of Colin Farrell as a bottle blond has sparked a backlash from traditionalists.
"This is pure fiction and not a depiction of Alexander," said Yiannis Varnakos, a lawyer. He is demanding that the film-makers add an opening credit stressing that the Hollywood account is fictional.
Mr Stone says he had a historian on the set to ensure the accuracy of such scenes as Alexander embracing his best friend, Hephaestion. The film opens in Greece next month.
Gary Silverman, in the London Financial Times (Nov. 20, 2004):
... Richard Hofstadter, a US historian whose works are required reading for anyone trying to understand the election, called it the "paranoid style in American politics". Hofstadter's insight was that US conservatives have little interest in conserving. They are people who feel they have been cheated out of what was rightly theirs, or what they imagined to have been theirs.
" America had been largely taken away from them and their kind," he wrote four decades ago of the people he described as pseudo-conservatives. "The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals."
This sensibility requires enemies, and there has been plenty in US history - Masons, Mormons, Catholics, blacks, Jews, bankers, communists. What was remarkable about the Republican campaign was its choice of enemy.
The US has real enemies - the people who knocked down the World Trade Center come to mind. But the Republicans went looking for the enemy within. And for my money, this foe was best described by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, in a speech that rocked the Republican convention.
He called them "girlie-men".
It was sort of a joke, because the term girlie-man was popularised by two US comedians who used it on the Saturday Night Live TV show to poke fun at Schwarzenegger. By using the phrase, Schwarzenegger was being self-deprecating and sending a message to his half of the political divide at the same time. This is the paranoid style in its postmodern phase.
Mr Schwarzenegger's choice of language was also subtle in the sense that the phrase could mean different things to different people. For many Bush voters, it translates into homosexual, as the vote for state proposals to ban gay marriage showed. But for others, girlie-man can work on a metaphorical level, as a term for the people they fear will let the country down - people who think too much (column writers, for example).
This view has deep roots in US history. Since the early days of the republic, Hofstadter wrote, there has been the idea that "the curiosity of the active mind" is "too trivial and ridiculous for important affairs". Two centuries before John Kerry was portrayed as a flip-flopper with a soft spot for the French, Thomas Jefferson got the same treatment. One foe said Jefferson's principles "are seasoned with such a profusion of French garlic that he offends the whole nation".
Fundamentalist Americanism eventually combined with fundamentalist religion to create a new breed Hofstadter called the "one-hundred percenters".
They "tolerate no ambiguities, no equivocations, no reservations and no criticisms" and they consider this "kind of committedness as evidence of toughness and masculinity". Schwarzenegger is this kind of tough guy. "To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy," he told the convention, "I say: don't be economic girlie-men."
It was all straight out of the Hofstadter that I read at school - until the cameras cut away to show the governor's wife, the television personality, Maria Shriver. That was the hard part, for me.
She is Bobby Kennedy's niece and seeing her sitting there with the crowd laughing at the girlie-men stirred something in me. That's not fair to her - love is blind and all that - but that's the way it was....
Peter Steinfels, in the NYT (Nov. 20, 2004):
World War II saw a breakdown of this kind of traditional distinction between enemy forces and civilian populations. The civilians were finally judged to be as liable to direct attack as the former. The bombings of Germany and Japan were extended not only to hit traditional military targets, but also to wreak widespread death and destruction on civilians in hopes of breaking the enemy's morale.
That wartime collapse of an ancient moral distinction carried over into cold war military planning, which often contemplated civilian deaths in the millions as a consequence of direct nuclear attacks or even biological warfare against population centers.
Attitudes have changed. One reason, admittedly, is the existence of more discriminating weaponry. Another reason is the sense that much of what distinguishes the legitimate uses of military power from terrorism hangs on the special moral consideration given civilians. It is true that in the 1991 Persian Gulf war or the intervention to block ethnic cleansing in Kosovo the destruction of dual-use public works like power plants and communications and transportation systems raised a new category of moral questions. But the postwar suffering of civilians that resulted would scarcely have gnawed at Western consciences to the extent it did had not the goal of sparing civilians become so vigorously affirmed.
This evolution in attitude appears all to the good. Unfortunately, the recent debate about tallying civilian casualties in Iraq has raised questions about its seriousness.
Three weeks ago, The Lancet, the British medical journal, released a research team's findings that 100,000 or more civilians had probably died as a result of the war in Iraq. The study, formulated and conducted by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University and the College of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, involved a complex process of sampling households across Iraq to compare the numbers and causes of deaths before and after the invasion in March 2003.
The 100,000 estimate immediately came under attack. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain questioned the methodology of the study and compared it with an Iraq Health Ministry figure that put civilian fatalities at less than 4,000. Other critics referred to the findings of the Iraq Body Count project, which has constructed a database of war-related civilian deaths from verified news media reports or official sources like hospitals and morgues.
That database recently placed civilian deaths somewhere between 14,429 and 16,579, the range arising largely from uncertainty about whether some victims were civilians or insurgents. But because of its stringent conditions for including deaths in the database, the project has quite explicitly said,"Our own total is certain to be an underestimate."
It has refrained from commenting on the 100,000 figure, except for noting that such a number"is on the scale of the death toll from Hiroshima" and, if accurate, has"serious implications." ...
The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park here is, in a word, Clintonesque.
Like the presidency it will portray, like the man himself, Bill Clinton's new presidential library is a mix of substance and flash, dusted with scandal, wrapped in drama, and boasting a roster of celebrities at its opening this week.
At $ 165 million, the glass and steel structure in an old warehouse district is the most expensive presidential library ever built - costing more than twice the price of George H.W. Bush's depository in College Station, Texas. It's also the largest.
In other words, it's Clintonesque.
"The Clintons are one of the most exciting political couples in modern times," says Skip Rutherford, president of the Clinton Presidential Foundation."You have a former president who is still immensely popular and a former first lady who is a senator. That's what makes this library so different from the others."
The country's 12th presidential library opens this week with a star-studded fete rivaling a presidential inaugural. Always a celebrity friend, Mr. Clinton lured U2's Bono and The Edge to perform at Thursday's opening event.
Clinton was scheduled to honor Whoopi Goldberg along with 100 other African-Americans before Aretha Franklin performed Tuesday night. The partying actually began last weekend and continues nightly, with Clintonistas reliving the 1990s and many of them, not so subtly, looking ahead to 2008, when another Clinton might be on a presidential ticket.
Oh, yes, President Bush will be at the ceremony Thursday, too.
While all modern presidents celebrate their libraries' openings with pomp and circumstance, Clinton's revelry is by far the most glamorous of any former president.
The 150,000 square-foot Little Rock museum, archives, public-service graduate school, apartment space for the Clintons, and foundation offices sit in a 30-acre park on the banks of the Arkansas River, in what was once a ratty warehouse district.
The building, certified as environmentally friendly, is designed to resemble a bridge, and so echo Clinton's 1996 campaign theme of a bridge to the 21st century. Architectural historians call it the most modern specimen in the state - though to some Arkansans, it's more evocative of a an 18-wheeler without its cab.
Clinton's choice of an urban area rather than a remote hillside (such as Ronald Reagan's presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.) or a college campus (Lyndon B. Johnson's at University of Texas, Austin) has proven a boon to Little Rock. Since Mr. Clinton chose the downtown site in 1997, more than $ 1 billion in economic investment has poured into the area. The goal all along has been to transform the city into a tourist haven with an emphasis on Clintonland.
Just as his presidency was clouded with controversy - Whitewater, Travelgate, impeachment - so Clinton's library has suffered its own share of setbacks.
In 1997, city leaders offered Clinton the warehouse district acreage. He took it. The city was soon embroiled in lawsuits. Property owners challenged the use of eminent domain to claim the land for a presidential library. Another citizen tried, unsuccessfully, to block the use of taxpayer money (revenue bonds) for the project.
In 2001, an 1899 depot was discovered enshrined in an aluminum building on the site. Preservationists fought for the building, but eventually lost the fight in court and the depot was destroyed.
At another point, protesters picketed city hall when the city decided to name the street in front of the library President Clinton Avenue It ultimately compromised: Only half the street was named after him.
Controversies, of course, are hardly unique to the Clinton library. Boston's John F. Kennedy Presidential Library didn't open until 1979 because of location and architectural issues. The Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta faced problems when an access road threatened local historic neighborhoods.
"All presidential libraries face controversy," says Lynn Scott Cochrane, director of libraries at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
[Editor's Note: The original piece in USA Today is much longer.]
Traveling around the world in the past few months, Colin Powell would occasionally come to the back of his plane, where reporters sit, to reflect on the long arc of his career and marvel at how a poor boy from the Bronx rose to become the nation's chief diplomat.
The conversations were nostalgic, almost wistful, and often dealt more with the promise of the past than the realities of the present.
Few rsums are as packed with accomplishments as Powell's: secretary of State, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, national security adviser, recipient of multiple military decorations and two Presidential Medals of Freedom.
In announcing his resignation Monday, Powell pointed to diplomatic successes on his watch, such as solidifying U.S. relations with China, India and Pakistan and increasing U.S. foreign aid.
"I think we've accomplished a great deal," Powell said.
His enormous popularity at home and abroad afford him the opportunity for even more accomplishments. But as he prepares to leave the State Department, there is a nagging sense of unfulfilled promise about Powell, who has had one of the most distinguished public service careers of any black American.
When Powell became secretary of State, it was assumed he would be a major figure, setting U.S. foreign policy for a president who took office untutored in international affairs. But President Bush listened more to Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- Powell's likely successor -- in planning a muscular U.S. role in the world.
"It is not so much what he did but what he could have done that the administration did not take advantage of," says retired Marine general Anthony Zinni, a Powell friend who briefly served as State Department envoy to the Middle East."I don't think the administration adopted his philosophy of moderate realism, but leaned toward" a more hawkish view that"put Powell on the outside" on many issues, Zinni says.
Outgunned by hawks
Administration hawks persuaded Bush to try to remake the Middle East by toppling dictators and installing democracies; Powell, whose service in Vietnam made him wary about the use of force, strongly cautioned Bush about the costs of going to war, according to published accounts.
Some historians fault Powell for lacking a strong alternative vision of the world that could compete with the one the hawks were advocating."That lack of boldness on his part puts him in a second tier of secretaries of State," says Douglas Brinkley, a historian who directs the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans.
Others say Powell tried as hard as he could to moderate policies but accepted defeat when overruled."People have to be sensitive to the reality that, at the end of the day, there is only one administration foreign policy," says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank, and a former senior State Department official under Powell."Powell operated within that context; he didn't create the context."
Powell's legacy will be largely one of facilitating two wars. In Afghanistan, he successfully built international support to oust the Taliban regime that had harbored Osama bin Laden; in Iraq, he had striking diplomatic success at first but then faltered.
Inside the administration, Powell helped persuade Bush to go to the United Nations to seek broad backing for toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein."I strongly recommended a diplomatic approach first," Powell said in an interview with the USA TODAY editorial board Oct.18."He took it to the U.N."
[Editor's Note: The original piece is much longer.]
A year ago, more than 100,000 anti-American demonstrators stomped through the streets of London as President Bush met with Prime Minister Tony Blair about the troubled aftermath of the Iraq war.
But at a nearby hotel where U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was scheduled to speak, people who said they despised Bush stood waiting, hoping to win Powell's autograph.
A former four-star general, hero of the Persian Gulf War and the first African American secretary of State, the 67-year-old Powell leaves office as he came: deeply respected and the most popular man in the Bush administration. Yet many analysts consider Powell -- a man who reaped success throughout his life -- a disappointment in a job that once seemed perfect for him.
"Never has a secretary of State taken office with such great expectations and left with such meager results," said Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Democrats and moderate Republicans loved what they believed Powell stood for, viewing him as a leading voice of moderation in an administration known for hawkish positions. But some fault him for failing to halt what they saw as a rush to war in Iraq, for making the administration's case for war before the United Nations and for failing to resign when he lost major foreign policy battles.
"He's a good soldier, and a good soldier who oversees unwise policies does not fare well in the history books," said Michael Krepon, former president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a Washington think tank.
Two foreign diplomats said they felt sorry for Powell, believing he lost the battle with administration hawks over Iraq policy and fought to an uneasy stalemate over Iran and North Korea.
"He would have been a great secretary of State of another president," said a senior European diplomat."There was a kind of mismatch, a casting error," between Bush and Powell, the diplomat added.
Many liberals think Powell's reputation was tarnished after postwar revelations contradicted his presentation to the United Nations Security Council in which he asserted that Iraq possessed banned weapons.
But so-called neoconservatives in the administration whose views on foreign policy dominated Bush's first term viewed Powell as a reluctant cheerleader for the president's agenda. They made no secret of their desire to see Bush replace Powell at the president's earliest convenience.
So for liberals and neoconservatives alike, said Philip H. Gordon of the Brookings Institution,"he has failed, because for the liberals, he's just shilling for this neoconservative administration, and for the neocons he's not really on the team."
As Powell's star fell, his future became an object of speculation. An article on Slate.com in February was titled,"The Tragedy of Colin Powell." A GQ magazine story in June portrayed Powell as a"Casualty of War," hard at work salvaging his legacy.
Outside Washington, Powell's standing was scarcely in danger. His approval ratings have fallen from 88% shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to 68% last month, according to the Harris Poll. But the same polls suggest that he's more popular than Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, every other Cabinet member, and leading politicians of both parties.
"He's a rock star," said a State Department official.
"He could have waltzed to the nomination in 2000 had he chosen to run" as a GOP presidential candidate, said Andrew Kohut, director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center in Washington.
For four years, Secretary of State Colin Powell lent his hard-won credibility and stature to an administration that largely ignored his counsel in world affairs. He let himself be used as the public face for policies that in private he opposed and that, in some ways, directly contradicted much of what he claimed to believe in.
And tragically, in a historic speech before the United Nations that will be remembered as the most important moment of his public career, Powell laid out an argument for invasion of Iraq that time would reveal to be mostly false.
However, while others in that difficult situation might have quit, Powell chose to soldier on, resigning only now as President Bush prepares for a second term. Powell's reasons for staying this long are his own and will perhaps be explained more fully when he returns to private life. But it seems obvious that the concept of duty formed in a long military career played a role in his decision. The former Army general had signed up to serve four years, and he stubbornly did so; he had consented to follow Bush as his commander in chief even when he disagreed, and, out of respect for the office, he did so.
Powell also saw himself as serving both the president and the country by trying to act as a moderating force within an administration in which moderation was all too rare. For outsiders, it's difficult to gauge how effective he was in that role; in fact, historians will argue about that question for decades to come.
Part of their answer will undoubtedly depend on what happens in the next four years, with Powell retired and someone else filling the role of secretary of state for Bush. A handful of names have already surfaced as possible replacements, from the disastrous Paul Wolfowitz to the relatively moderate John C. Danforth.
None, however, will have Powell's independent stature, and that's cause for concern.
Every administration needs internal voices willing and able to raise questions about policy, and this one needs those voices more than most. Bush puts a great deal of emphasis on loyalty, which is understandable. It's dangerous, though, to confuse disagreement with disloyalty, and Bush and his staff already have proved themselves prone to that mistake.
Amid all the postelection tumult, it's easy to lose sight of what President Bush did -- and did not -- accomplish in his reelection victory this month.
Bush didn't build as commanding a presidential majority as some coverage has suggested, but he did significantly strengthen the Republican hold on Congress. One key question for the next four years is whether he can use that strong position on Capitol Hill to build a broader national coalition that would establish a more secure GOP edge in presidential contests.
Measured by contemporary standards, Bush won a solid, even decisive, victory. With his 51%, he became the first president since 1988 to win a majority of the popular vote.
He expanded his vote among Latinos, a key to maintaining the GOP's advantage in Florida and the Southwest. He cemented the Republican hold on rural and fast-growing exurban counties. Like Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, he demonstrated that a culturally conservative and tough-on-security message could make inroads among both married women and blue-collar men.
In all, Bush increased his margin of victory in 20 of the 30 states he won last time and reduced the Democratic margin in 11 of the 20 states he lost in 2000. With turnout surging, he won more popular votes than any of his predecessors. And he attracted this support in a difficult climate marked by an uneven economic performance at home and a grueling war in Iraq.
Yet by the standards of previous reelected presidents, Bush's victory looks much more modest. Since the formation of the modern political party system in 1828, 11 presidents have won a second term, while four more -- Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson -- won election after completing the term of a president who died in office.
No single measure captures the extent of a presidential victory. The sheer number of voters that Bush inspired to turn out demonstrated impressive strength. But on several key indicators, Bush's victory ranks among the narrowest ever for a reelected president.
Measured as a share of the popular vote, Bush beat Kerry by just 2.9 percentage points: 51% to 48.1%. That's the smallest margin of victory for a reelected president since 1828.
The only previous incumbent who won a second term nearly so narrowly was Democrat Woodrow Wilson: In 1916, he beat Republican Charles E. Hughes by 3.1 percentage points. Apart from Truman in 1948 (whose winning margin was 4.5 percentage points), every other president elected to a second term since 1832 has at least doubled the margin that Bush had over Kerry.
In that 1916 election, Wilson won only 277 out of 531 electoral college votes. That makes Wilson the only reelected president in the past century who won with fewer electoral college votes than Bush's 286.
Measured another way, Bush won 53% of the 538 electoral college votes available this year. Of all the chief executives reelected since the 12th Amendment separated the vote for president and vice president -- a group that stretches back to Thomas Jefferson in 1804 -- only Wilson (at 52%) won a smaller share of the available electoral college votes. In the end, for all his gains, Bush carried just two states that he lost last time.
Another trend explains why all of this might matter to more than just historians: Throughout American history, the reelection of a president has usually been a high-water mark for the president's party. In almost every case, the party that won reelection has lost ground in the next presidential election, both in the popular vote and in the electoral college.
The decline has been especially severe in the past half century. Since 1952 there have been six presidential elections immediately following a president's reelection. In those six races, the candidate from the incumbent's party has fallen short of the reelection numbers by an average of 207 electoral college votes and 8.4 percentage points in the popular vote.
Because his margin was so tight, Bush didn't leave the GOP with enough of a cushion to survive even a fraction of that erosion in four years. Even if the GOP in 2008 matches the smallest electoral college fall-off in the past half century -- the 99-vote decline between Reagan in 1984 and George H.W. Bush in 1988 -- that would still leave the party well short of a majority.
Observed one way, the 2004 election result wasn't all that different from 2000: Almost every state went the way it did four years ago, and the popular vote was still relatively close. Even the voters' ranking of undefined"moral values" as the top election issue is nothing new. In the 2000 and 1996 elections,"moral/ethical values" (again, without definition) rated as the No. 1 election issue in the Los Angeles Times exit poll.
Politically, the United States has gone from being a 49-49 nation to a 51-48 nation, with Republicans more firmly on top.
But beneath that veneer of stability, the tectonic plates of America's culture wars are shifting. Particularly among religious conservatives, the feeling is strong that this is their moment - that they have returned one of their own to the White House, and now it's payback time. Suddenly, with Supreme Court vacancies looming, the overturning of nationwide abortion rights seems within reach. In the states, more gay-marriage bans are in the works.
For social conservatives, the chance to turn back a cultural revolution that arguably began with the invention of the birth-control pill - which in turn launched the sexual revolution and the anything-goes sensibility of the 1960s - has been a long time in coming. And it has taken the steady growth of religious-conservative involvement in mainstream politics to bring the movement to where it is today.
Gay marriage, abortion, stem cells
Since the '60s,"the society and the culture have moved to the left, almost consistently, over the years, and as a result, Americans who have traditional views on social values have become increasingly alienated and even angry," says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia."That has now fully manifested itself in our politics."
The starkest example of that is the swiftness with which the gay-marriage movement has been stopped in its tracks. Only a year after the Massachusetts high court legalized gay marriage, 13 states have passed initiatives banning the practice. Gay-rights activists are now operating cautiously, seeking to preserve gains, such as benefits for same-sex couples, rather than push for new ones.
But for most politicians in most states, same-sex marriage is an easy issue; nationally, a clear majority opposes it - a consensus that goes well beyond the conservative religious community.
Other items on the religious-conservative agenda aren't so clearly in sync with mainstream opinion, including opposition to abortion rights. Though many Americans are uncomfortable with abortion, most oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized it nationwide. In the 2004 election exit poll by a consortium of media, only 16 percent of voters said they oppose abortion in all circumstances, a figure that has largely held steady since the 1970s.
Even among social conservatives, the agenda is not monolithic. Several Republican senators who oppose abortion rights - including Orrin Hatch of Utah, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and John McCain of Arizona - support expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, in opposition to the president and the leadership of the religious right.
And remember that 16 percent of voters who oppose all abortions? Of those, 22 percent voted for John Kerry.
Within scholarly circles, there's even a debate over whether a culture war exists in America at all. Morris Fiorina of the Hoover Institution argues in a new book that while the political parties and pundits present a nation riven by a deep ideological divide, most people hold moderate views on even the stickiest social issues.
Looking for moorings, ballots in hand
The sense of threat to American values had already been exacerbated by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And in 2003, when Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, followed soon by gay wedding ceremonies in other states (most of them Democratic-leaning), the world that Americans knew changed again.
For a lot of people, especially after 9/11, the Massachusetts ruling represented"too much destabilization to their traditional moorings," says Felicia Kornbluh, a historian at Duke University. She looks back to the period right after World War II, a time of great uncertainty as the cold war was starting."We do know that one of the ways Americans responded to that was intense emphasis on the family."
By last spring, there were signs that cultural issues - God, guns, abortion, and gay rights - could tilt the election to Bush.
In a May survey, Republican pollsters Whit Ayres and Jon McHenry found that attitudes in swing states looked more like those in Republican states than in Democratic states. For example, in Republican states and swing states, voters opposed civil unions for gay couples by double-digit margins, while voters in Democratic states supported civil unions overwhelmingly.
"Ohio is not California," says Mr. McHenry. He and Mr. Ayres noted in a column in June that all these cultural issues created a"mosaic" that allows voters to determine whether a candidate looks at the world as they do.
All the attention to the role of" culture" in the outcome of the Nov. 2 vote may also refer to differing public perceptions of the candidates themselves. Senator Kerry's cultural persona - an elite, reserved Bostonian who windsurfs - felt alien to many people in middle America, and could have hurt him at the polls more than any of his issue positions. Bush's simple, blunt rhetoric, delivered with a Texas twang and religious references, belied his own elite background.
In the end, the president beat Kerry on"leadership" by a wide margin. At a time of post-9/11 uncertainty, that may have been the most important election message of all.
... Arafat led the movement for another 36 years, until he died last week in a Paris military hospital. That he had never achieved an independent state was viewed by a spectrum of observers as proof of his failings as a leader. Arafat had seen his legacy differently.
"We have made the Palestinian case the biggest problem in the world," he told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly last month, when he was still in Ramallah, and in the mood to reflect on his accomplishments. "One hundred and seven years after the [founding Zionist] Basel Conference, 90 years after the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Israel has failed to wipe us out. We are here, in Palestine, facing them. We are not red Indians."
That achievement, viewed in context, was considerable. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been as symbolic as it was military, and the task for Arafat and a generation of Palestinian leaders was to meet the power of Israel's founding narrativea people persecuted by European fascism, escaping to a land "without a people," where they would make the desert bloomwith a compelling counternarrative. Racism also dogged their efforts, evidenced in the ceaseless caricatures of Arafat and the Palestinians that transcend any legitimate comic or discursive value.
Arafat's movement managed all this with few friends: just occasional, unreliable suitors. The U.S. and the Soviets pursued their own agendas, and so did the Arab governments. Solidarity was a compact between Palestinians and a worldwide audience of conscience.
While Arafat's dramas played in the headlines, the Palestinians soldiered on. In exile, they had distinguished themselves, many of them well educated and professionally accomplished. At home, or in the refugee camps in neighboring Arab countries, despite abysmal living conditions, they created a culture of rights: Anyone who has visited Palestinian towns notes the fluency of even young children in complex matters of international law.
Arafat, of course, had traded his life for the cause. Wearing secondhand military fatigues, with sunglasses in various states of vogue and one of his two kaffiyehs as an ascot, he pressed Palestine's case in capitals where he thought he could get it heard, even the ones that, in retrospect, he might have done well to avoid.
While the notion that Arafat never ideologically abandoned armed struggle is unsupported, he never convinced the world that he opposed attacks on civilians, a mistake that came back to haunt him after September 11. His critics called terrorism part of his character, while those closer to him recognized a leadership flaw; rather than banishing militants who hurt the cause, he often sought to co-opt them.
The most serious concerns about Arafat came, of course, from Palestinians themselves. That debate was vigorous, especially during the years of the Oslo accords. Palestinians demanded of their government freedoms, transparency, and the right to participate in the rump of land they had so far regained through negotiations with the Israelis. Arafat, insecure as a governor, started to resemble a tyrant, imprisoning dissidents, hoarding power, and refusing to quash the network of cronyism that had sprung up around him. The protests against him came not just from militant groups like Hamas, but also from secular intellectuals.
But when George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon tried to sideline ArafatBush, in part, because it fit his odd strain of liberation theology, and Sharon because he didn't want to give up any landPalestinians rallied around the leader who they knew had stayed too long, incensed at the interference in their business....
It's time to let Democrats in on a little secret. America is a land of perpetual rebirth and reform--always has been. That's why George W. Bush gets a pass on whatever he did before he found Jesus and swore off drinking. And it's why Bill Clinton received the benefit of the doubt over his "youthful indiscretions" in 1992. And it is why John Kerry probably would have been given a pass on his anti-Vietnam War activities, if only he could plausibly claim to have seen the error in calling his fellow veterans war criminals and equating America with communist Vietnam.
As Democrats search for an American value they can embrace, they also might want to consider that voters tend believe in American exceptionalism--that this nation is a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world. Put these two ideas together and what Donna Brazile will discover as she mixes with the common folk at Denny's and Applebee's is while Americans may complain about the daily struggle of their lives, they expect hardship on the path to a better life. It's the old biblical story of wandering in the wilderness in order to find the promised land, which is how Jonathan Edwards explained it to the generation of Americans who would turn out to fight the Revolution. And it's a much more appealing story for a nation that still identifies more with life on the frontier than it does with John Edwards's story of "two Americas."
What Americans will not tolerate is pessimism, defeatism and stagnation. It's not for nothing that Jimmy Carter's presidency ended amid an era of "stagflation." When Mr. Carter put a sweater on in the Oval Office and told Americans to get ready to start accepting less, he might as well have resigned. Ronald Reagan won the presidency in a landslide in 1980, promising a brighter, better and stronger America. Four years later he won in a walk talking about "morning in America."
Americans don't want to make do with less or accept defeat. They want a new beginning, a fresh start, a rebirth. Franklin D. Roosevelt knew he couldn't offer the same old tired solutions to the greatest economic crisis to beset the nation. Instead he offered the New Deal, itself a derivation from his cousin Teddy Roosevelt's Square Deal decades earlier. Bill Clinton similarly understood this and ran for president as a "new Democrat"--a Democrat who would be tough on crime, strong on defense and not a big spender. ...
Fred Barnes, in the Weekly Standard (Nov. 15, 2004):
WHY DO PRESIDENTS stumble in their second terms? Four reasons. They try to govern without a real agenda, having exhausted their policy initiatives in the first term. Their wisest and most competent aides and advisers leave and are replaced by less talented people. They suffer from bad relations with Congress as a result of past scuffles and disagreements. Or they are brought down by a scandal.
President Bush need not suffer from any of these in his second term. He has an agenda, a combination of leftover issues--such as making his tax cuts permanent--and the reformed entitlements of his new "ownership society." If he acts quickly, Bush can cajole his best advisers into staying another year or two. He can smooth relations with Congress by strategizing with Republican leaders, while also warming to a few Democrats. And he can pray for no scandal.
A president without an agenda is at the mercy of his opponents. Think of Bill Clinton in 1997. His main goal was fending off House speaker Newt Gingrich. So he made a deal to cut taxes and move toward a balanced budget. That amounted to accepting Republican policies, not pursuing his own. He was politically neutered. Then he got caught up in the Monica scandal and you know the rest.
In contrast, the Bush agenda is bulging. His unfinished business consists of tax cuts, an energy bill to increase oil and gas production, tort reform, faith-based programs, and filling judgeships with conservatives. All of these were thwarted in the Senate by
Democratic leader Tom Daschle, whose defeat may have a chastening effect on Democrats. "That has to send a message to the party," says Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman. "That kind of intractable opposition doesn't work."
Maybe the message will take. In any event, Bush will need Democratic allies to bring about individual investment accounts in Social Security, to introduce free market forces into our health care system, and to create incentives to saving. The White House has Democratic senators in mind: Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, the four senators from North Dakota and Arkansas. Bush hopes to make tactical alliances with one or more of them without abandoning his principles. "No one's saying it's easy," an aide comments. "It's hard." That's putting it mildly.
Then there's the national security agenda: Iraq and the war on terrorism and the campaign to spread democracy. That should keep the president focused. The Iraq election in January and the need to clean out Falluja will require enormous attention. So will Iran and North Korea. Likewise, efforts to improve relations with European countries, perhaps the only thing John Kerry convinced the nation that Bush must do to further American foreign policy. And all this touches on the matter of keeping good people. In national security, the indispensable person is not Secretary of State Colin Powell or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld but Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. To keep Rice, Bush might have to elevate her to secretary of state. He'd be smart to do it.
The performance of White House staffs and cabinet departments often deteriorates in second terms. This doesn't have to happen, especially if Karl Rove remains as senior adviser and political director. Rove is one of those rare individuals as adept at substance as at politics. He has brought coherence to Bush initiatives, seeing to it that they make both policy and political sense. Besides, others at the Bush White House are afraid of crossing him, which is good. It cuts down on freelancing.
ON ELECTION DAY, Establishment big shots were certain that America wanted change and that the suave, sophisticated challenger had to beat the blunt, plain, downright embarrassing incumbent. All day long they were certain. At midnight the famous radio commentator H.V. Kaltenborn summed up the position: Harry Truman was 1.2 million votes ahead, but Thomas Dewey was going to win. At 4 A.M., Kaltenborn issued an update. Truman was more than 2 million votes ahead, and Dewey was still going to win. At 10:30 the next morning, Dewey sent Truman a telegram of concession.
When it was all over, Truman's victory margin was 4.4 percentage points; Bush's margin is a little thinner. But Truman won without a majority: He got 49.5 percent of the popular vote. (There were two bonus candidates that year: the "Progressive" Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond the Dixiecrat.) George W. Bush is the first president in 16 years to win an absolute majority.
The elections of 1948 and 2004 resemble each other in many ways. But there are deeper analogies in play too. The plain-spoken moralist for whom religion matters greatly, the common man who seems too small for the presidency but is confronted in office by a cataclysm that re-creates him; who rises to the challenge and transcends it; who faces a tough re-election battle and wins it; who redefines the nation's mission in the world and emerges a hero--that is a traditional American story. It is Lincoln's story. (In summer 1864, prominent Republicans wanted to find a
stronger candidate.) No president matches Lincoln's greatness, but in modern times this was Harry Truman's story; and today it is George W. Bush's also.
In 1948, the Democratic incumbent beat the Republican challenger. The year 2004 saw a replay of that election upside-down--which tells us something about the current meanings of "Democrat" and "Republican." Today the Democrats are the timid reactionary party with strong isolationist tendencies. Today "Democrat" equals "Reactionary Liberal." Republicans are the bold internationalist progressives--the "Tory Democrats" envisioned by Benjamin Disraeli, creator of modern conservatism, and by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, its late-20th-century champions.
Kerry 2004 was a lot like Dewey '48: the stylish Establishment candidate. No one could figure out exactly where he stood, but it didn't matter. He was bound to win. Bush 2004 was a lot like Truman '48: the unstylish former businessman. Both men served in the National Guard. (Truman's unit was sent to France during the First World War, and the future president served with distinction.) Bush, like Truman, did fine in local politics, was well liked by all sorts of people--but never planned to be president. Bush, like Truman, took office with no clear worldview or plan of action--but with non-negotiable moral principles. Both men developed a worldview and plan of action when they needed to, and moved up boldly to take their places in the front line of world struggle and the long line of American heroism.
Bush and Truman each redefined America's world mission for a new era by reapplying traditional American principles. When Truman became president on the death of Franklin Roosevelt in April 1945, World War II was still underway and Soviet Russia was America's more-or-less trusted ally. Roosevelt had been reluctant to heed Churchill's worried warnings about Stalin. To Churchill it was increasingly clear that Stalin would be a dangerous man after the war, with much of Eastern and Central Europe in his gigantic, triumphant Red Army's grip. Truman was uncertain at first. But before long, the Soviet Empire reared up like a killer tidal wave, and it was up to Truman to decline or accept the challenge--to lead America's retreat back into its isolationist hole or to stand up to Stalin and announce: "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." He accepted the challenge. In March 1947 he proclaimed the Truman Doctrine in a speech to Congress. "I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure." That remained U.S. policy until the Cold War was won almost half a century later.
Whether one views the war in Iraq as a noble effort in democratization or a brutal exercise in imperialism, there can be little doubt that it has proved the proverbial "bridge too far" for those who planned and, like myself, supported it. While much has been made of the strategic missteps the Bush administration has made since the Saddam Hussein regime was toppled, it seems likely that even the best-executed occupation would have been a daunting prospect.
What we are witnessing is a legacy of history and geography - factors often denied by both liberal and conservative interventionists - catching up with America. Had our political leaders considered such factors, I suspect, they might have avoided some of the disasters of the occupation. These factors should also give President Bush pause as he plans to "spread freedom" in his second term. To see all this clearly, one must look at the campaign in the Persian Gulf region not as an isolated effort but as the culmination of a decade-long effort to bring the vast lands of the defunct Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and Asia into the modern world and the Western orbit.
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, communist satellites like Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary promptly evolved into successful Western democracies. This transition was relatively easy because the countries boasted high literacy rates, exposure to the Enlightenment under Prussian and Hapsburg emperors, and strong industrial bases and middle classes prior to World War II and the cold war. In retrospect, it seems clear that only the presence of the Red Army had kept them from developing free parliamentary systems on their own.
But the idea that Western-style democracy could be imposed further east and south, in the Balkans, has proved more problematic. Beyond the Carpathian mountains one finds a different historical legacy: that of the poorer and more chaotic Ottoman Empire. Before World War II, this was a world of vast peasantries and feeble middle classes, which revealed itself in Communist governments that were for the most part more corrupt and despotic than those of Central Europe.
Unsurprisingly, upon Communism's collapse, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania struggled for years on the brink of anarchy, although they at least avoided ethnic bloodshed. Of course, Yugoslavia was not so lucky. Though democracy appears to have a reasonably bright future there thanks to repeated Western intervention, it is wise to recall that for 15 years it has been a touch-and-go proposition.
Undeterred, Wilsonian idealists in the United States next put Iraq on their list for gun-to-the-head democratization. But compared with Iraq, even the Balkans were historically blessed, by far the most culturally and politically advanced part of the old Turkish Empire. Mesopotamia, on the other hand, constituted the most anarchic and tribalistic region of the sultanate.
In addition, the Balkans are affixed to Central Europe, and were thus a natural extension of it as NATO expanded eastward. Iraq is bordered by Iran and Syria, states with weakly policed borders and prone to radical politics, which themselves have suffered under absolutism for centuries.
Western intellectuals on both the left and right underplayed such realities. In the 1990's, those supporting humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia branded references to difficult history and geography as "determinism" and "essentialism" - academic jargon for fatalism. In the views of liberal internationalists and neoconservatives, group characteristics based on a shared history and geography no longer mattered, for in a post-cold war world of globalization everyone was first and foremost an individual. Thus if Poland, say, was ready overnight for Western-style democracy, then so too were Bosnia, Russia, Iraq - and Liberia, for that matter.
That line of thinking provided the moral impetus for military actions in 1995 in Bosnia and in 1999 in Kosovo: interventions that reclaimed the former Yugoslavia into the Western orbit. But the people who ordered and carried out those interventions, liberal Democrats in general, were canny. While they agreed with the idealists' moral claims, they realized that it was the feasibility of the military side of the equation that made the interventions ultimately worth doing. Yes, they also favored democracy in places like Liberia, but they were wise enough not to risk the lives of Americans in such endeavors. They intuited that a modest degree of fatalism was required in the conduct of international affairs, even if they were clever enough not to publish the fact.
It is not true that the Democrats didn't show sympathy toward fundamentalists during the campaign. They did -- just to the wrong ones. Islamic fundamentalists received a great deal of understanding and tolerance from the Democrats. John Kerry made a point of showing sensitivity to the Islamic community and for it earned numerous endorsements from Muslim Imams.
Perhaps herein lies a new strategy for the Democrats: What if they treated Christians as respectfully as they treated Yasser Arafat? What if they extended to Christianity the tolerant understanding they extend to Islam? Maybe from time to time the Democrats could refer to Christianity as a religion of peace.
One would think a party that can canonize a de facto terrorist and jihadist like Arafat could tolerate a Southern preacher or two. Jerry Falwell has never blown up an airplane like Arafat, but Democrats wouldn't be caught dead in his company. They approach traditional Christians and Jews with grave, grave reserve, usually putting a sinister construction on their motives (equating, for example, their opposition to same-sex marriage with hatred), but they have no problem embracing the Arafats openly, romanticizing their violence as the revolutionary struggles of a victimized religious minority.
Imagine if a Texas Christian addressed the United Nations assembly with a pistol in his holster. The assembled would boo hysterically. But Yasser Arafat brought his trademark pistol to the U.N. and the gun-control liberals in the audience jumped to their feet in ecstatic applause. (The footage of Arafat striding into the hall captures what a hot dog he was when he wasn't killing people.)
A regular lodger at the Clinton White House, Arafat feasted at the left's table for decades even as he killed Americans and Jews in the name of Islamic jihad. Arafat had killed more Americans than O.J. but Clinton treated him like his Kato Kaelin. Now Democrats are buzzing about which American dignitary should pay their respects at his funeral. How come Colin Powell isn't going? they pout.
The question should be: Why is America sending anyone at all? Arafat was a terrorist America used to deny a visa. Now we are sending flowers and dignitaries to his funeral?
Before Clinton turned Arafat into a prized ward of the state, the State Department wouldn't let him into the country. "The U.S. Government has convincing evidence that PLO elements have engaged in terrorism against Americans and others," read its 1989 visa denial. "The most recent sign of Mr. Arafat's associations with terrorism was the presence at the Algiers session of the Palestine National Council this month of Abu Abbas, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO who has been convicted by the Italian judicial system of the murder of an American citizen, Mr. Leon Klinghoffer." "The PLO, through certain of its elements, has employed terrorism against Americans," it continued. "Mr. Arafat, a chairman of the PLO, knows of, condones, and lends support to such acts; he, therefore, is an accessory to such terrorism."
When Rudy Giuliani ejected Arafat from a concert held in New York City in the 1990s, the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer wrote him a note of gratitude. A proxy for the KGB and Islamic jihadists globally, Arafat has been linked to innumerable killings, from the shootings at the Munich Olympics to the Swiss airplane that blew up over Tel Aviv to the slaughter of religion pilgrims at Lod airport. Yet all of this is forgotten, even though as Giuliani pointed out at the Republican Convention the coddling and honoring of Arafat cast the foreshadows of 9/11. A Western world that could give Nobel prizes to those most determined to destroy it signaled to Osama bin Laden that it was too flabby and self-hating to defend itself.