Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
[Mr. Ponte hosts a national radio talk show Saturdays 6-9 PM Eastern Time (3-6 PM Pacific Time) and Sundays 9 PM-Midnight Eastern Time (6-9 PM Pacific Time) on the Liberty Broadcasting network (formerly TalkAmerica). Internet Audio worldwide is at LibertyBroadcasting .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-866-GO LOWELL (1-866-465-6935). A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.]
DAN RATHER HAS ALWAYS BEEN STRANGE. But as the veteran CBS Evening News anchor approaches his 73rd birthday this Halloween and the sunset of his career, the lengthening shadows cast by his latest controversy have begun to expose how eccentric, megalomaniacal and devoid of ethics and judgment he for decades has been.
Daniel Irvin Rather was born October 31, 1931, near Houston in Wharton, Texas. Less than two years later his grandfather John Daniel Dan Rather, namesake of both baby Dan and his pipeline supervisor father, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In 1953, Rather graduated with a degree in journalism from Sam Houston State Teachers College. He had already been working for Associated Press and then United Press International and a few radio stations as a stringer reporting stories that happened in Huntsville north of Houston. But being in college gave Rather a semester-by-semester student deferment from being drafted into the Korean War.
After Rather graduated, the way he got around being eligible for the draft was he joined a reserve unit Army reserve, wrote B.G. Burkett, co-author of the book Stolen Valor. Rather dropped out of the reserves as soon as the Korean War ended in armistice. Whether Rather used journalist or related politician connections to get into the Army reserves, as he would later accuse President George W. Bush of doing in the Texas Air National Guard, is unknown.
Former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg in his 2002 best-seller Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News described a confrontation with the anchorman: Rathers voice started quivering, and he told me how in his young days, he had signed up with the Marines not once, but twice!
This was inaccurate. Rather signed up once with the Army reserves and once with the U.S. Marines. Rather, wrote Burkett after studying his military record, was discharged less than four months later on May 11, 1954 for being medically unfit He couldnt do the physical activity. As a boy, Rather had suffered from rheumatic fever, reported veteran UPI journalist Wes Vernon.
Ever since Dan Rather has described himself as a former U.S. Marine, after spending roughly the same amount of time in Marine Corps training before being rejected that now-Senator John F. Kerry spent in Vietnam. This, wrote Burkett, is like a guy who flunks out of Harvard running around saying he went to Harvard.
Returning to journalism, Rather worked at the Houston Chronicle 1954-55. In 1959 he became a television reporter for KTRK-TV in Houston, then moved to rival KHOU-TV, where by 1962 he had worked his way up to station news director. CBS network executives saw Rathers dynamic work as a reporter covering Hurricane Carla from Galveston in 1961, and in 1962 he was hired as a correspondent for CBS News. He would, quite by accident as his autobiography described, be the first journalist to report that President John F. Kennedy had died. In 1964 Rather was promoted to cover the White House for CBS.
The loose journalistic ethics that have characterized Rathers entire career were soon evident. Rather would go with an item even if he didnt have it completely nailed down with verifiable facts, wrote Timothy Crouse in his best-seller about presidential campaign coverage in the Nixon era The Boys on the Bus. If a rumor sounded solid to him, if he believed in his gut or had gotten it from a man who struck him as honest, he would let it rip. The other White House reporters hated Rather for this. They knew exactly why he got away with it: being handsome as a cowboy, Rather was a star at CBS News, and that gave him the clout he needed. They could quote all his lapses from fact .
During a 1974 press conference with President Richard Nixon, the president indicated that the next question belonged to an ABC reporter, but Rather butted in: Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather of CBS News. Mr. President By now other reporters were jeering Rathers brazen, unethical behavior, prompting President Nixon to joke: Are you running for something? No, sir, Mr. President, Rather replied arrogantly, Are you?
CBS executives debated whether to fire Rather over the White House incident. But veteran anchorman Walter Cronkite was nearing retirement, and CBSs attempt to hire NBCs Tom Brokaw was scrapped after it became public. Rather was the brightest star the Tiffany network had to succeed the avuncular Cronkite.
Dan Rathers first broadcast as the new Anchorman and Managing Editor of the CBS Evening News took place March 9, 1981, weeks after Ronald Reagan had been sworn in as President. The anti-Republican bias in Rathers own reporting was already widely recognized, but the Texan as Managing Editor of the news now imposed his slant on all newscast reporting, not just his own. Every bad economic story mentioned Reaganomics, a label Rather ceased using after economic news turned good. In one surreal report by correspondent Ray Brady, Reagans success in ending predecessor President Jimmy Carters double-digit inflation was reported as bad news bad, said Brady and Rather, because with no rise in the cost of living, welfare recipients would get no cost of living increases in their welfare checks.
During the 1988 presidential race Rather, after making much of the alleged Iran-Contra affair, confronted then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Bush hit back, asking Rather if he wanted viewers to judge his entire journalistic career by a 1987 incident in which, in a fit of pique that a tennis broadcast had delayed his newscast, Rather walked off the set, leaving affiliate stations with six minutes of dead air. I would have fired him, said Walter Cronkite of Rathers petulant, hotheaded, egotistical and unprofessional behavior. Theres no excuse for it. Rather has evidenced a personal animus for President Bush and Bushs son George W. Bush since that confrontation.
As CBS News ratings slid downward, CBS has frantically tried to improve Rathers image with everything from putting him in sweaters, to teaming him 1993-95 with co-anchor Connie Chung. CBSs handlers have had the Texan use folksy sayings that have come to be known as Ratherisms, e.g., This race is shakier than cafeteria Jello, or Governor Bush would probably be as mad as a rained-on rooster. For a time they had Rather end each broadcast with the word Courage. None of these gimmicks have halted the Rather ratings slide, which continues.
Rather is now viewed by many not as a serious journalist but as an American eccentric and pop-culture icon. Since trekking into Afghanistan to report live on the Soviet invasion dressed as a Mujahadeen, Rather has been widely referred to as Gunga Dan. After he was assaulted on the street by a man who kept saying Kenneth, what is the frequency? this phrase inspired a hit song by the pop group R.E.M. Rather has become a figure for satire and ridicule on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere.
Rathers leftward bias, as Bernard Goldberg warned, is one reason for the rising average age and declining number of CBS viewers. If it returned to fair and even-handed reporting CBS might win back the trust of viewers, but Rather is apparently unwilling to employ non-liberal producers or reporters.
Dan Rather has almost always deflected questions about his bias and lapses in journalistic ethics by dismissing all who question him as partisans. Sigmund Freud coined a term for this psychological condition projection the innate tendency to project ones own traits onto others, e.g., of a thief to assume that everybody else is a thief. Those who call me a partisan, says Rather, are obviously partisans.
"You have to understand that Dan Rather is Richard Nixon," Goldberg in Bias recounted a colleague telling him. "If he sees you as an enemy even for a second, you're an enemy for life. And like Nixon, Rather must destroy his enemies [and] has become what he detested."
Who among us have not lied about somebody? said Rather to Fox News Channel host Bill OReilly regarding the veracity of President Bill Clinton. I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.
Rather apparently believes that his longstanding pattern described by Crouse of presenting rumors as fact, or apparently even outright lying and rule-breaking, are entirely acceptable so long as they advance a liberal agenda. One example of this, dubbed The First Rathergate by National Review reporter Anne Morse, was a 1988 documentary in which Dan Rather purported to interview Vietnam veterans about atrocities they had committed. It resembled an hour of John Kerrys 1971 testimony before Congress describing U.S. soldiers as war criminals that instantly became anti-American propaganda for the Soviet Union. But as Morse documented, everything in Dan Rathers documentary was a lie.
If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House, said Rather during an interview with President Clinton, wed take it right now and walk away winners. Such are Dan Rathers morals and ideals, but note that as a monarch of media he speaks in the royal we.
But while he has done nearly-sycophantic interviews with Hillary Clinton, Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein, Rather over the years has demonstrated almost-unrelenting hostility and negative statements regarding Republicans and conservatives. His outright confrontations with Presidents Nixon and George H.W. Bush are examples of this.
Goldberg in his 2003 book Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite quotes a typical Dan Rather news story: The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor.
I think Dan is transparently liberal, Rathers CBS colleague Andy Rooney told CNNs Larry King during a 2002 interview. I always agree with him, too. But I think he should be more careful.
The current controversy over forged memos and Rathers attack on the son of his longtime nemesis President George H.W. Bush continues several old Dan Rather patterns of behavior. To understand its context, we should examine some key details.
In 2001 Dan Rather helped the Travis County Democratic Party raise $20,000. Please join us for an evening with DAN RATHER read the invitations that, as Brent Bozell of Media Research Center reported at the time, arrived with an RSVP envelope asking for $1,000 for the Democratic Party. Rather later claimed he did not know the event, created by and for his activist, politically-ambitious daughter, was a fundraiser. When asked about it by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, Rather said he wouldnt be surprised if critics used the incident to call him a closet Democrat. Im going to get that criticism, said Rather, whether I deserve it or not.
Rather, according to columnist Liz Smith, also took part in a 1988 fundraiser for Democrat Ann Richards in New York City that gathered up money in buckets used in 1990 to elect Richards Governor of Texas. Rathers comrade Governor Richards lost her bid for re-election to George W. Bush.
Travis County, Texas includes the liberal capital city Austin. The county party for which Rather appeared at that 2001 fundraiser is heavily connected with local Democratic money man and lobbyist Ben Barnes, the third biggest fundraiser for Democrats in the United States. Barnes appeared on the same 60 Minutes II feature in which Rather first displayed his apparently-forged documents. Barnes claimed in that interview to have used political influence to get a young George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, a claim Barnes own daughter has said her father told her was a lie. Rather, in introducing Barnes, told the CBS audience nothing about the shipwreck of Barnes political career amid a bribery and stock fraud scandal, nor that Barnes stood to become very wealthy as a toll-collecting gatekeeper for White House favors if John F. Kerry were elected President. This column on September 8 did, documenting Barnes sordid and sticky-fingered past. Barnes has raised at least $500,000 in campaign contributions for Kerry.
These apparently-forged memos were sent to CBS, according to the Washington Post, from Abilene, Texas. The suspected faxer Bill Burkett is represented by lawyer David Van Os, former chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party. Burkett has been a Democratic Party activist in Travis County, and has said that he gave his information to John Kerrys presidential campaign via Kerry spokesman former Georgia Senator Max Cleland.
It seems likely that Barnes and Van Os both attended the Dan Rather fundraiser for this county party in which both remain major players and spoke with Rather there.
Dan Rathers story, based on apparently-forged documents, could have caused the defeat of President George W. Bush in Novembers election. Because Mr. Rather seems always to have regarded himself as having the moral right to topple elected presidents and thereby put others more to his liberal liking in power, he as an un-elected ruler of the national media ought to face the same kind of scrutiny he applies to others.
What if a document from Dan Rathers past revealed information that suggests he engaged in criminal behavior, violated the ethical standards of journalism, and engaged in activities so reckless, irresponsible and self-destructive that they could be impairing his judgment today? Is Dan Rather man enough to answer the hard questions about this genuine document that he has demanded President Bush answer about Rathers fake documents?
This Rather-incriminating document, in fact, exists. My column here at FrontPage Magazine laid it out in detail five years ago, and also framed a set of precise questions for Dan Rather to answer. The irony, of course, is that if Dan Rather were interviewing a Republican President named Dan Rather, these are exactly the kinds of questions to which a reporter with his skill and determination would demand answers.
Twenty-four years ago Dan Rather gave a remarkable interview to journalist Cliff Jahr. It appeared in, of all places, the July 1980 issue of that news-breaking national magazine Ladies' Home Journal under the title "Soft Side of a Tough Anchorman." You can find it at any large public library. In it, asked about his children in a era of widespread drug use, Rather is quoted by Jahr: "I told them if you're hell-bent to try pot, and I suspect you will be, then try it at home around people who care about you."
When Jahr asked if the anchorman himself had smoked marijuana, Dan Rather in part replied: "As a reporterand I don't want to say that that's the only contextI've tried everything. I can say to you with confidence, I know a fair amount about LSD. I've never been a social user of any of these things, but my curiosity has carried me into a lot of interesting areas."
Jahr quotes Dan Rather as continuing: "As an example, in 1955 or '56, I had someone at the Houston police station shoot me with heroin so I could do a story about it. The experience was a special kind of hell. I came out understanding full well how one could be addicted to 'smack,' and quickly. When the children were fairly young, and there was so much emphasis everywhere on drugs, it was not possible for them to tell me I didn't know what I was talking about."
As the CBS Evening News managing editor, Dan Rather would undoubtedly dispatch investigative reporters to Houston to interview every person who knew, or had heard rumors about, Republican candidate Dan Rather's drug experimentation. And he would report every shred of solid (negative) information or perhaps even rumor that could be found.
This confession raises some interesting questions that might be posed Sixty Minutes style thus:
Mr. Rather, were you aware that if you had no proper prescription from a licensed doctor authorizing such heroin use that you were committing a felony punishable by long-term imprisonment in Texasand that whoever helped you would be an accomplice in this felony?
Mr. Rather, when you reportedly told Cliff Jahr 'I know a fair amount about LSD,' how many times have you taken this mind-altering substance? Where? Have you experienced 'flashbacks,' one of the reported long-term aftereffects of using this drug, while preparing or doing a newscast or driving a car? What exactly happened in your mind on that strange day you disappeared from a newscast for six minutes during a tennis match? What other 'interesting areas' involving drugs has your curiosity carried you into? What was the most recent date or year you used illegal drugs?
Mr. Rather, did you tell CBS of your prior drug experimentation when they offered to hire you? If so, please name the CBS officials you informed of your drug use. If not, do you believe CBS should be entitled to fire you in light of learning that you engaged in such reckless felonious lawbreaking behavior?
Mr. Rather, modern research is finding that even a single use of certain powerful mind-altering drugs such as heroin, LSD or amphetamine can create new circuits, permanent new pathways in the brain, and that this is one of the reasons these drugs can quickly become addictive. Have you had any craving to repeat your heroin experiment? Were your perceptions or feelings about life and the world permanently changed in any way by your drug experiences? How has it affected your political view of the world?
Mr. Rather, do you believe that those who turn to CBS News and rely on you to give them and their children clear-headed, reliable information and a role model of responsible professional behavior should be informed of your experimentation with mind-altering illicit drugs?
A top-notch reporter like Dan Rather would not rest until he'd gotten answers to these questions and dozens more from any Republican Presidential candidate who had apparently boasted in a nationally published interview of using marijuana, LSD and heroin.
But the press rarely scrutinizes itself, and as one of the Olympian gods of
news Dan Rather will almost certainly remain above press questions that he would
face were he a mere mortal or U.S. president.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, in the WSJ (subscribers only) (Sept. 20, 2004):
Thou art so pitiful,
Poor, and so sorrowful,
Yet of great treasure full,
Russia, my Mother!
Citing these stirring words of the poet Nekrasov, Vladimir I. Lenin, the new dictator of Russia, published on March 12, 1918, his reasons for moving Russia's seat of government from St. Petersburg (Petrograd) to Moscow. Amid the chaos, confusion, and violence of those revolutionary days, Lenin, having just five days earlier entrenched himself in the Kremlin, proclaimed:
"Russia will become mighty and abundant if she abandons all dejection and all phrase-making, if, with clenched teeth, she musters all her forces and strains every nerve and muscle. . . . work with might and main to establish discipline and self-discipline, consolidate everywhere organization, order, efficiency, and the harmonious co-operation of all the forces of the people, introduce comprehensive accounting of and control over production and distribution -- such is the way to build up military might and socialist might."
Moscow -- which centuries earlier had been the capital of Ivan the Terrible but was demoted to the status of a provincial town when Peter the Great opened a window to Europe by constructing St. Petersburg as his new capital -- thus once again became Russia's epicenter. And so it remains to this day, with Lenin's slogans eerily anticipating Vladimir Putin's recent justification for centralized power.
It is important to recognize that to the Russians the Kremlin is more than just the seat of government. It epitomizes the centralizing tradition of the Russian autocracy. It is a tradition that is fearful of any regional autonomy, of any genuine decentralization, a tradition that fosters the chauvinist paranoia that political pluralism will almost inevitably precipitate the breakup of Russia itself. That mentality fitted well into the Stalinist notions of central planning, and it fit well into the bureaucratic mentality of the KGB with its ethic of suspicion and hierarchic discipline. For products of the KGB, such as Mr. Putin, it is axiomatic that if Russia is to be "mighty, all-powerful," it must be ruled from the top down.
[Irwin M. Stelzer is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard.]
Economist friends who have served in government like to joke that after a newly arrived president has finished admiring the Oval Office, he starts hunting for the secret room containing the knobs that control the economy. It's always a fruitless search. Still, presidents are not completely powerless to affect the economy.
Since World War II, the economy seems to have performed better under Democratic presidents than under more overtly pro-business Republican chief executives. Republicans from Dwight D. Eisenhower through George W. Bush presided over economies that grew, on average, at an annual rate of about 2.6%. By contrast, the gross domestic product under presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton rose, on average, at about a 4% rate. Only three presidents left office with the unemployment rate higher than when they were sworn in: Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.
Shareholders also have done better when Democrats resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Between 1953 and the end of the Clinton administration, share prices averaged about a 10% annual increase when Republicans controlled the White House, well below the 15% during Democratic administrations. If the more-than-10% decline in the Standard & Poor's average during the current Bush administration is included, Republicans have been even worse, relatively speaking, for shareholders. But the healthy-profits picture makes it premature to include President Bush in this tally, as share prices might recover by year-end.
Interest rates tell a different story. During the administrations of Kennedy, Johnson and Carter, interest rates rose. Clinton is the only Democrat in modern times to leave office with interest rates lower than when he was sworn in. Republican presidents, on the other hand, typically depart with interest rates lower than when they moved into the White House. Only Nixon, he of wage-and-price controls, left Washington with rates up; Ford, Reagan and both Bushes presided over falling rates.
A president's economic performance is affected by many factors. For one thing, every president inherits an economy shaped by his predecessor. Nixon inherited the inflation caused by Johnson's unwillingness to choose between guns and butter during the Vietnam War. And George W. Bush took over a weakening economy. Clinton was luckier: He was handed a recovery that began in the last months of George H.W. Bush's single term, and a banking system newly restored to health.
Some presidents squander their inheritance; others build on it. Former President Bush frittered away the tax and regulatory reforms bequeathed to him by Reagan; Clinton capitalized on the peace dividend left by Reagan by putting the fiscal house in order.
Then there are what former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said he feared most:"Events, dear boy, events." Johnson had Vietnam; Carter, the emergence of the OPEC cartel; George W. Bush, Sept. 11....
So is John Kerry a war hero or a medal-grabbing phony?
Each time that I've written about President Bush's dalliance with the National Guard, conservative readers have urged me to scrutinize the accusations against Mr. Kerry. After doing so over the last week, here's where I come out:
Did Mr. Kerry volunteer for dangerous duty? Not as much as his campaign would like you to believe. The Kerry Web site declares, "As he was graduating from Yale, John Kerry volunteered to serve in Vietnam - because, as he later said, 'It was the right thing to do.' "
In fact, as Mr. Kerry was about to graduate from Yale, he was inquiring about getting an educational deferment to study in Europe. When that got nowhere, he volunteered for the Navy, which was much less likely to involve danger in Vietnam than other services. After a year on a ship in the ocean, Mr. Kerry volunteered for Swift boats, but at that time they were used only in Vietnam's coastal waters. A short time later, the Swift boats were assigned exceptionally dangerous duties up Vietnamese rivers. "When I signed up for the Swift boats, they had very little to do with the war,'' Mr. Kerry wrote in 1986, adding, "I didn't really want to get involved in the war."
Did Mr. Kerry get his first Purple Heart for a self-inflicted wound? That's the accusation of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who say that the injury came (unintentionally) from a grenade that Mr. Kerry himself fired at Viet Cong. In fact, nobody knows where the shrapnel came from, and it's possible that the critics are right. It's not certain that the Viet Cong were returning fire. But the only other American on the boat in a position to see anything, Bill Zaldonis (who says he voted for Mr. Bush in 2000) told me, "He was hurt, and I don't think it was self-inflicted."
Did Mr. Kerry deserve his second and third Purple Hearts? There's not much dispute that the second was merited. As for the third one, the Swift Boat Veterans' claim that he received it for a minor injury he got while blowing up food supplies to keep them from the enemy. But documents and witness accounts show that he received a shrapnel wound when South Vietnamese troops blew up rice stores, and an injured arm in a mine explosion later that day.
Did Mr. Kerry deserve his Bronze Star? Yes. The Swift Boat Veterans claim that he was not facing enemy fire when he rescued a Green Beret, Jim Rassmann, but that is contradicted by those were there, like William Rood and Mr. Rassmann (a Republican). In fact, Mr. Rassmann recommended Mr. Kerry for a Silver Star.
Did Mr. Kerry deserve his Silver Star? Absolutely. He earned it for responding to two separate ambushes in a courageous and unorthodox way, by heading straight into the gunfire. Then he pursued one armed fighter into the jungle and shot him dead. According to Fred Short, a machine gunner who saw the event, the fighter was an adult (not the half-naked teenager cited by the Swift Boat Veterans) who was preparing to launch a grenade at the boat. "Kerry went into harm's way to save the lives of the guys on the boat," Mr. Short told me. "If he hadn't done that, I am absolutely positive I would not be here today." Mr. Kerry's commander said he had wanted to give him an even higher honor, the Navy Cross, but thought it would take too long to process.
Did Mr. Kerry exaggerate his exploits? Yes. For example, he has often said over the years that he spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia as part of the secret war there. Others who served with him confirm that on Christmas Eve 1968 (not Christmas Day) he got very close to the border, and possibly even strayed across it. But it doesn't seem to have been, as Mr. Kerry has suggested, a deliberate incursion into Cambodia.
What do those who served with him say? Some who served on other boats have called Mr. Kerry a hypochondriac self-promoter. But every enlisted man who was with Mr. Kerry on various boats when he won Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars says he deserved them. All praise his courage and back his candidacy. "I was there for two of the Purple Hearts and the Bronze and Silver Stars, and he earned every one of them," said Delbert Sandusky, in a typical comment. "He saved our lives."
The bottom line? Mr. Kerry has stretched the truth here and there, but earned his decorations. And the Swift Boat Veterans, contradicted by official records and virtually everyone who witnessed the incidents, are engaging in one of the ugliest smears in modern U.S. politics.
Noam Chomsky, at TomDispatch.com (Sept. 16, 2004):
[Noam Chomsky is a Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. In addition to Hegemony or Survival, America's Quest for Global Dominance (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books), he is the author of numerous books on linguistics and on U.S. foreign policy.]
As Colin Powell explained the National Security Strategy (NSS) of September 2002 to a hostile audience at the World Economic Forum, Washington has a"sovereign right to use force to defend ourselves'' from nations that possess WMD and cooperate with terrorists, the official pretexts for invading Iraq. The collapse of the pretexts is well known, but there has been insufficient attention to its most important consequence: the NSS was effectively revised to lower the bars to aggression. The need to establish ties to terror was quietly dropped. More significant, Bush and colleagues declared the right to resort to force even if a country does not have WMD or even programs to develop them. It is sufficient that it have the"intent and ability'' to do so. Just about every country has the ability, and intent is in the eye of the beholder. The official doctrine, then, is that anyone is subject to overwhelming attack. Colin Powell carried the revision even a step further. The president was right to attack Iraq because Saddam not only had"intent and capability'' but had"actually used such horrible weapons against his enemies in Iran and against his own people''-- with continuing support from Powell and his associates, he failed to add, following the usual convention. Condoleezza Rice gave a similar version. With such reasoning as this, who is exempt from attack? Small wonder that, as one Reuters report put it,"if Iraqis ever see Saddam Hussein in the dock, they want his former American allies shackled beside him.''
In the desperate flailing to contrive justifications as one pretext after another collapsed, the obvious reason for the invasion was conspicuously evaded by the administration and commentators: to establish the first secure military bases in a client state right at the heart of the world's major energy resources, understood since World War II to be a"stupendous source of strategic power'' and expected to become even more important in the future. There should have been little surprise at revelations that the administration intended to attack Iraq before 9-11, and downgraded the"war on terror'' in favor of this objective. In internal discussion, evasion is unnecessary. Long before they took office, the private club of reactionary statists had recognized that"the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'' With all the vacillations of policy since the current incumbents first took office in 1981, one guiding principle remains stable: the Iraqi people must not rule Iraq.
The 2002 National Security Strategy, and its implementation in Iraq, are widely regarded as a watershed in international affairs."The new approach is revolutionary,'' Henry Kissinger wrote, approving of the doctrine but with tactical reservations and a crucial qualification: it cannot be"a universal principle available to every nation.'' The right of aggression is to be reserved for the US and perhaps its chosen clients. We must reject the most elementary of moral truisms, the principle of universality -- a stand usually concealed in professions of virtuous intent and tortured legalisms.
Arthur Schlesinger agreed that the doctrine and implementation were"revolutionary,'' but from a quite different standpoint. As the first bombs fell on Baghdad, he recalled FDR's words following the bombing of Pearl Harbor,"a date which will live in infamy.'' Now it is Americans who live in infamy, he wrote, as their government adopts the policies of imperial Japan. He added that George Bush had converted a"global wave of sympathy'' for the US into a"global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism.'' A year later,"discontent with America and its policies had intensified rather than diminished.'' Even in Britain support for the war had declined by a third.
As predicted, the war increased the threat of terror. Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges found it"simply unbelievable how the war has revived the appeal of a global jihadi Islam that was in real decline after 9-11.'' Recruitment for the Al Qaeda networks increased, while Iraq itself became a"terrorist haven'' for the first time. Suicide attacks for the year 2003 reached the highest level in modern times; Iraq suffered its first since the thirteenth century. Substantial specialist opinion concluded that the war also led to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
As the anniversary of the invasion approached, New York's Grand Central Station was patrolled by police with submachine guns, a reaction to the March 11 Madrid train bombings that killed 200 people in Europe's worst terrorist crime. A few days later, the Spanish electorate voted out the government that had gone to war despite overwhelming popular opposition. Spaniards were condemned for appeasing terrorism by voting for withdrawing troops from Iraq in the absence of UN authorization -- that is, for taking a stand rather like that of 70 percent of Americans, who called for the UN to take the leading role in Iraq.
Bush assured Americans that"The world is safer today because, in Iraq, our coalition ended a regime that cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction.'' The president's handlers know that every word is false, but they also know that lies can become Truth, if repeated insistently enough.
There is broad agreement among specialists on how to reduce the threat of terror --keeping here to the subcategory that is doctrinally acceptable, their terror against us -- and also on how to incite terrorist atrocities, which may become truly horrendous. The consensus is well articulated by Jason Burke in his study of the Al Qaeda phenomenon, the most detailed and informed investigation of this loose array of radical Islamists for whom bin Laden is hardly more than a symbol (a more dangerous one after he is killed, perhaps, becoming a martyr who inspires others to join his cause). The role of Washington's current incumbents, in their Reaganite phase, in creating the radical Islamist networks is well known. Less familiar is their tolerance of Pakistan's slide toward radical Islamist extremism and its development of nuclear weapons.
As Burke reviews, Clinton's 1998 bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan created bin Laden as a symbol, forged close relations between him and the Taliban, and led to a sharp increase in support, recruitment, and financing for Al Qaeda, which until then was virtually unknown. The next major contribution to the growth of Al Qaeda and the prominence of bin Laden was Bush's bombing of Afghanistan following September 11, undertaken without credible pretext as later quietly conceded. As a result, bin Laden's message"spread among tens of millions of people, particularly the young and angry, around the world,'' Burke writes, reviewing the increase in global terror and the creation of"a whole new cadre of terrorists'' enlisted in what they see as a" cosmic struggle between good and evil,'' a vision shared by bin Laden and Bush. As noted, the invasion of Iraq had the same effect.
Citing many examples, Burke concludes that"Every use of force is another small victory for bin Laden,'' who"is winning,'' whether he lives or dies. Burke's assessment is widely shared by many analysts, including former heads of Israeli military intelligence and the General Security Services.
There is also a broad consensus on what the proper reaction to terrorism should be. It is two-pronged: directed at the terrorists themselves and at the reservoir of potential support. The appropriate response to terrorist crimes is police work, which has been successful worldwide. More important is the broad constituency the terrorists -- who see themselves as a vanguard -- seek to mobilize, including many who hate and fear them but nevertheless see them as fighting for a just cause. We can help the vanguard mobilize this reservoir of support by violence, or can address the"myriad grievances,'' many legitimate, that are"the root causes of modern Islamic militancy.'' That can significantly reduce the threat of terror, and should be undertaken independently of this goal.
Violence can succeed, as Americans know well from the conquest of the national territory. But at terrible cost. It can also provoke violence in response, and often does. Inciting terror is not the only illustration. Others are even more hazardous.
In February 2004, Russia carried out its largest military exercises in two decades, prominently exhibiting advanced WMD. Russian generals and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that they were responding to Washington's plans"to make nuclear weapons an instrument of solving military tasks,'' including its development of new low-yield nuclear weapons,"an extremely dangerous tendency that is undermining global and regional stability,... lowering the threshold for actual use.'' Strategic analyst Bruce Blair writes that Russia is well aware that the new"bunker busters'' are designed to target the"high-level nuclear command bunkers'' that control its nuclear arsenal. Ivanov and Russian generals report that in response to US escalation they are deploying"the most advanced state-of-the-art missile in the world,'' perhaps next to impossible to destroy, something that"would be very alarming to the Pentagon,'' says former Assistant Defense Secretary Phil Coyle. US analysts suspect that Russia may also be duplicating US development of a hypersonic cruise vehicle that can re-enter the atmosphere from space and launch devastating attacks without warning, part of US plans to reduce reliance on overseas bases or negotiated access to air routes.
US analysts estimate that Russian military expenditures have tripled during the Bush-Putin years, in large measure a predicted reaction to the Bush administration's militancy and aggressiveness. Putin and Ivanov cited the Bush doctrine of"preemptive strike''-- the"revolutionary'' new doctrine of the National Security Strategy -- but also"added a key detail, saying that military force can be used if there is an attempt to limit Russia's access to regions that are essential to its survival,'' thus adapting for Russia the Clinton doctrine that the US is entitled to resort to"unilateral use of military power'' to ensure"uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources.'' The world"is a much more insecure place'' now that Russia has decided to follow the US lead, said Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution, adding that other countries presumably"will follow suit.''
In the past, Russian automated response systems have come within a few minutes of launching a nuclear strike, barely aborted by human intervention. By now the systems have deteriorated. US systems, which are much more reliable, are nevertheless extremely hazardous. They allow three minutes for human judgment after computers warn of a missile attack, as they frequently do. The Pentagon has also found serious flaws in its computer security systems that might allow terrorist hackers to seize control and simulate a launch--"an accident waiting to happen,'' Bruce Blair writes. The dangers are being consciously escalated by the threat and use of violence.
Concern is not eased by the recent discovery that US presidents have been"systematically misinformed'' about the effects of nuclear war. The level of destruction has been"severely underestimated'' because of lack of systematic oversight of the"insulated bureaucracies'' that provide analyses of"limited and `winnable' nuclear war''; the resulting"institutional myopia can be catastrophic,'' far more so than the manipulation of intelligence on Iraq.
The Bush administration slated the initial deployment of a missile defense system for summer 2004, a move criticized as" completely political,'' employing untested technology at great expense. A more appropriate criticism is that the system might seem workable; in the logic of nuclear war, what counts is perception. Both US planners and potential targets regard missile defense as a first-strike weapon, intended to provide more freedom for aggression, including nuclear attack. And they know how the US responded to Russia's deployment of a very limited ABM system in 1968: by targeting the system with nuclear weapons to ensure that it would be instantly overwhelmed. Analysts warn that current US plans will also provoke a Chinese reaction. History and the logic of deterrence"remind us that missile defense systems are potent drivers of offensive nuclear planning,'' and the Bush initiative will again raise the threat to Americans and to the world.
China's reaction may set off a ripple effect through India, Pakistan, and beyond. In West Asia, Washington is increasing the threat posed by Israel's nuclear weapons and other WMD by providing Israel with more than one hundred of its most advanced jet bombers, accompanied by prominent announcements that the bombers can reach Iran and return and are an advanced version of the US planes Israel used to destroy an Iraqi reactor in 1981. The Israeli press adds that the US is providing the Israeli air force with"`special' weaponry.'' There can be little doubt that Iranian and other intelligence services are watching closely and perhaps giving a worst-case analysis: that these may be nuclear weapons. The leaks and dispatch of the aircraft may be intended to rattle the Iranian leadership, perhaps to provoke some action that can be used as a pretext for an attack.
Immediately after the National Security Strategy was announced in September 2002, the US moved to terminate negotiations on an enforceable bioweapons treaty and to block international efforts to ban biowarfare and the militarization of space. A year later, at the UN General Assembly, the US voted alone against implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and alone with its new ally India against steps toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. The US voted alone against"observance of environmental norms'' in disarmament and arms control agreements and alone with Israel and Micronesia against steps to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East--the pretext for invading Iraq. A resolution to prevent militarization of space passed 174 to 0, with four abstentions: US, Israel, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands. As discussed earlier, a negative US vote or abstention amounts to a double veto: the resolution is blocked and is eliminated from reporting and history.
Bush planners know as well as others that the resort to force increases the threat of terror, and that their militaristic and aggressive posture and actions provoke reactions that increase the risk of catastrophe. They do not desire these outcomes, but assign them low priority in comparison to the international and domestic agendas they make little attempt to conceal.
Copyright C2004 Aviva Chomsky, Diane Chomsky and Harry Chomsky
[Reader's Note: The footnotes to the well-sourced"Afterword" to the paperback edition of Hegemony or Survival have been removed from this version. An expanded version of the afterword is also available as part of an expanded e-book version of Hegemony or Survival.]
Reprinted by arrangement with Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Stephen Hayes, in the Weekly Standard (Sept. 20, 2004):
LAST WEDNESDAY, CBS News's 60 Minutes II aired a report that strongly challenged George W. Bush's service in the National Guard. It's a story that has been explored dozens of times in the past five years. Two things in the 60 Minutes II story made it fresh--or, in newsroom parlance, gave it a peg. Ben Barnes, who served as attorney general in Texas at the time of Bush's service, claimed that he had been pressured to help Bush avoid going to Vietnam. But there were problems with Barnes's story, not least that he had previously, and rather specifically, denied the account he gave on 60 MinutesII. (Republicans questioned Barnes's motive, too, pointing out that he is a lifelong Democrat who has raised significant money for John Kerry's presidential campaign.)
The second news peg was more important. 60 Minutes II had obtained"new documents" from the"personal files" of the late Jerry Killian, Bush's commanding officer. That the documents were unearthed some 32 years after the activities they describe must have greatly excited the CBS producers who worked on the story.
According to an Associated Press story, the Killian memos"say Mr. Bush ignored a direct order from a superior officer and lost his status as a Guard pilot because he failed to meet military performance standards and undergo a required physical exam."
If accurate, then, the memos would provide documentary evidence to support the long-circling rumors that Bush received preferential treatment to get out of serving in Vietnam.
But almost immediately, the authenticity of the typed memos was questioned. Although CBS claimed to have had them reviewed by document experts, numerous forensic document examiners interviewed last Thursday by THE WEEKLY STANDARD and several other media outlets concluded that the documents were likely forgeries.
"These sure look like forgeries," said William Flynn, a forensic document expert widely considered the nation's top analyst of computer-generated documents. Flynn looked at copies of the documents posted on the CBS News website."I would say it looks very likely that these documents could not have existed" in the early 1970s, he says, when they were allegedly written.
Several other experts agreed."They look mighty suspicious," said a veteran forensic document expert who asked not to be quoted by name. Richard Polt, a Xavier University philosophy professor who operates a website dedicated to the history of typewriters, said that while he is not an expert on typesetting, the documents"look like typical word-processed documents." He adds:"I'm a Kerry supporter myself, but I won't let that cloud my objective judgment: I'm 99 percent sure that these documents were not produced in the early 1970s."
Philip Bouffard, another document expert who plans to vote for Kerry, reviewed the documents at the request of Bill Ardolino, a weblogger who runs INDC Journal. Says Bouffard:"It is remotely possible there is some typewriter that has the capability to do all this . . . but it is more likely these documents were generated in the common Times New Roman font and printed out on a computer printer that did not exist at the time they were supposedly created."
Sandra Ramsey Lines, a document expert from Arizona, told the Associated Press:"I'm virtually certain these were computer-generated."
The experts pointed to numerous irregularities in the Killian memos that aroused their suspicions. First, the typographic spacing is proportional, as is routine with professional typesetting and computer typography, not monospace, as was common in typewriters in the 1970s. (In proportional type, thin letters like"i" and"l" are closer together than thick letters like"W" and"M". In monospace, all the letters are allotted the same space.)
Second, the font appears to be identical to the Times New Roman font that is the default typeface in Microsoft Word and other modern word-processing programs. According to Flynn, the font is not listed in the Haas Atlas--the definitive encyclopedia of typewriter type fonts.
Third, the apostrophes are curlicues of the sort produced by word processors on personal computers, not the straight vertical hashmarks typical of typewriters. Finally, in some references to Bush's unit--the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron--the"th" is a superscript in a smaller size than the other type. Again, this is typical (and often automatic) in modern word-processing programs.
There are also problems with the substance of the memos Killian allegedly authored. One of the memos, dated May 19, 1972, recounts a telephone conversation Killian is to have had with Bush."I advised him of our investment in him and his commitment. I also told him I had to have written acceptance before he would be transferred, but think he's also talking to someone upstairs."
But as Byron York of National Review points out, Killian signed off on a"glowing report" about Bush on May 26, 1972, just one week later. Lt. Col. William D. Harris authored the memo praising Bush."Lt. Bush is an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer," it read."He eagerly participates in scheduled unit activities." Killian signed below a statement indicating he agreed with Harris."I concur with the comments and ratings of the reporting official."
Killian's son and widow also claim that Bush's commanding officer liked Bush and would have been unlikely to have authored the memos."It just wouldn't happen," Gary Killian told the AP....
Malcolm Dean, in the Guardian (Sept. 15, 2004):
It was easier 25 years ago to predict the future. As the first extract in this 25th anniversary edition of Society demonstrates (see page 2), we got our first projection right. For the first time since the welfare state was established after the second world war, it was no longer possible in 1979 to forecast that society was going to continue getting better following the election of Margaret Thatcher.
For millions of poor people this proved true. No other developed state except New Zealand suffered such a brutal reversal of rising prosperity for all. In the space of two decades, the numbers of children living below the poverty line almost trebled with one in three (a staggering 4.5 million all told) stuck there when Labour returned in 1997.
Thatcher ducked and weaved throughout the 1979 election avoiding revealing what was already apparent, that she was going to take an axe to social policy spending particularly social security. The first sentence of her first white paper summed it up: "Public expenditure is at the heart of Britain's present economic difficulties." Ironically, public expenditure increased as a proportion of GDP with the huge increase in unemployment in the 1980s, but drastic squeezes were applied to social security and social services.
By the time New Labour saw the light - two years in from its 1997 victory - all public services were financially impoverished and deeply demoralised. Throughout Thatcher's reign public services were derided for the way they spent money rather than made it. Even the people's priorities - health and education - were denied the resources needed.
The extent of the squeeze was dramatically documented in December 2001, in the devastating interim report from Derek Wanless, former head of the NatWest bank, who, in his independent review of spending on health for the Treasury, concluded that the cumulative underspend on health services in Britain, compared with the European average over the previous 30 years, had reached an unbelievable £267bn.
The public turning point came earlier when in November 2000, at a special Downing Street press conference in pre-election mood, Tony Blair declared: "Who can seriously doubt that Britain has been chronically underinvested in for over 20 years? We have the fourth biggest economy in the world. Yet we do not have the fourth best public services. I lay the blame for that firmly at the door of underinvestment."
Confirmation of how Labour has changed the public spending agenda came in June this year when the first of its five five-year plans was published, continuing a record investment in health. The NHS budget is already twice what it was in 1997 in cash terms (£67bn as against £33bn) and is due to rise to £90bn by 2008. Not to be outdone - and to the fury of the Daily Telegraph, which wanted to know what had happened to Tory tax cuts - Michael Howard promised to spend even more.
Future predictions in 2004 are more difficult. Social historians will undoubtedly
pay handsome tributes to Labour's social policy goals. Its boldest remains its
bid to abolish child poverty within 20 years, which now has a second vaguer
aspiration, ending pensioner poverty, attached. Most independent experts believe
it will meet its first target - lifting a million children above the poverty
line by next year. The subsequent three million are going to be more difficult,
with many of the first million having been "low hanging fruit" just
below the poverty line. Current plans to end pensioner poverty face similar
challenges. About a third of the two million pensioners below the poverty line
are failing to take up the means-tested benefits that would lift them out of
WASHINGTON - It is President Bush's most reliable applause line as he campaigns for re-election.
"I had a choice," he says of the decision to invade Iraq and force Saddam Hussein from power.
"Do I take the word of a madman, forget the lessons of September the 11th, or take action to defend America?" Bush asks his audience."Given that choice, I will defend America every time."
The bloody postwar insurgency in Iraq, which the president recently acknowledged he had failed to anticipate fully, has long been regarded as one of the biggest potential obstacles to another Bush term. But with less than two months to go until Election Day, the situation in Iraq is posing a sharply reduced threat to the president's re-election chances.
Today, more voters say they trust Bush, rather than Sen. John Kerry, to manage the conflict in Iraq, reviving a Bush advantage that his Democratic challenger had neutralized earlier this summer. That shift reflects several factors, including the way Republicans have effectively put Kerry on the defensive over Iraq, a difficult issue for the senator because of his shifting statements and positions over the past two years.
But the heart of Bush's success in blunting the risks that the Iraq violence poses to his re-election chances has been a relentless effort to tie the war directly to the Sept. 11 attacks. 'Morphing' the issues
"That's what Bush has been doing. He doesn't separate them," said Ed Sarpolus, a Michigan pollster."His uptick in the polls, it's all a result of morphing those two issues together."
Recent public opinion surveys show the country roughly split over Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq. But among independents, the key swing-voter group, 50 percent disapprove of his handling of the war and only 40 percent approve, according to a recent CBS News poll.
"To say that the war at this point hasn't hurt Bush probably oversimplifies matters. It's hurt him, but not as much as it might have," said Adam Clymer, political director of the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey."And that's because he has fairly successfully connected it up to terrorism, al-Qaida and Sept. 11, and because Kerry has not managed to establish himself as a real alternative."
Last week's Republican convention, which helped lift Bush to a clear lead in the presidential contest for the first time, was devoted in large measure to reviving memories of Sept. 11 in advance of today's third anniversary. Bush plans to mark the occasion by attending a religious service of remembrance in Washington, by observing a moment of silence at the White House and focusing his weekly radio address on the anniversary. Kerry will attend a commemorative event in Boston.
Today, throughout American public life, the memoir -- and its attendant cash advance -- are regarded simply as another retirement benefit, like lifetime health care. Presidents, cabinet secretaries, generals and senior bureaucrats hardly have time to cash their first pension checks before their editors start demanding manuscript pages. Everyone has a story to tell and every story is for sale. Marshall's example may have seemed extreme to his contemporaries, but it was intelligible. Today, it seems not simply quaint and charming -- perhaps a little priggish -- but also odd, even alien.
If the contemporary American psyche has a concrete analog, it is EBay -- always open for business, a vast and invisible auction in which anything can be bought and sold and everything has a price. A life is just another commodity, and if it includes public service, that's an extra -- sort of like leather seats -- and worth whatever the market will bear.
If Ken Lay and the Enron crooks had not come a cropper, sooner or later, they'd almost certainly have started trading reputation futures. After all, what publisher wouldn't want to hedge a little of the risk that comes with today's seven-figure advances?
All of this brings us to the delicate question of an author with a good and well-deserved reputation, Gen. Tommy Franks, whose memoir,"American Soldier" (Regan Books, 590 pages, $27.95), is currently near the top of the bestseller lists.
It's easy to see why. Franks and his collaborator, Malcolm McConnell, have produced an energetic, engaging and genuinely informative book of considerable interest. So-called collaborative biographies -- books by celebrities who hire a professional to do the actual writing -- now constitute a recognized genre in American publishing. While wholly within the conventions of the form,"American Soldier" deserves to be ranked near the top of its class. Teamwork was a hallmark of Franks' military career and he clearly did not stint, as many celebrity"authors" do, when it came to working with his collaborator.
The requisite recitation of epiphanic childhood anecdotes is deftly and economically accomplished. Some, such as Franks' inadvertent discovery that he was adopted, are genuinely moving and recalled with an authentic delicacy of emotion. Similarly, his recollections of how he failed to appreciate adequately his hardscrabble parent's effort to provide him with a comfortable childhood, his academic failure at the University of Texas and his subsequent neglect of his family while on active service are given without excuse or maudlin guilt. Franks is the worthy son of the solid parents he obviously holds in such affection.
The Army, through whose enlisted ranks he rose, clearly is his other great love. But what makes Franks' book of obvious value is his account of his tenure as commander in chief of United States Central Command, and his conduct -- first of the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and, subsequently, against Iraq. Franks' accounts of his dealings with President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- with whom he developed a particularly close relationship -- form a useful complement to Bob Woodward's bestselling"Plan of Attack," which reconstructed the run-up to the second Gulf war.
There's no mystery as to why Rumsfeld, the military reformer, was drawn to Franks and the general to the technophilic secretary. Drawing on the lessons he learned as a field commander in Operation Desert Storm, Franks believes he devised a new, highly mobile war-fighting strategy that advances Carl von Clausewitz's famous dictum that concentrated forces are the key to victory."To achieve victory, Clausewitz advised, a military power must mass its forces at the enemy's 'center of gravity.' But the victory in Desert Storm proved that speed has a mass all its own."
Back then, there were blacklists. Now, we've got no-fly lists. Then, we had the Doomsday Clock. Now, we've got the looming Code Red terror alert.
Schoolchildren trained a generation ago to duck for cover under their desks (as if that was protection from a nuclear bomb!). Now, they are parents who fine-tune their families' terror evacuation plans (and wonder: Can we really escape?).
We live once again in an era defined by fear, just as we did through nearly half the 20th century, during the Cold War.
Though it's been only three years since the Sept. 11 attacks launched the United States onto a war footing, it's clear, from all indications, that the war on terror is likely to go on and on. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, compared the war on terror to the Cold War recently and noted the latter conflict took 40 years to win.
In three short years, we've already become accustomed to fear.
In profound ways, fear is redefining our lives, as well as the paradigm of our politics. Unlike the presidential election of 2000, this time we're voting with fear as a backdrop. Fear factors into our daily plans. We're reflexively responding to it, expecting the worst, as when that pepper spray episode on K Street last week seemed like a terror incident and sent the stock market tumbling. From fear.
Fear is real, even justified. But it is also a problem, some scholars say, for one of the greatest lessons of the Cold War is that we should be afraid, very afraid, of the things fear can make a society do. Just say the word: McCarthyism.
During the Cold War, we feared the"fellow travelers" in our midst. Now, we fear"enemy combatants." And the Constitution has again become a battleground over the rights of all citizens in order to protect us from a few.
But the fear of this age is very different.
"I think things are worse now, because it's the fear of the unknown," says Jerrold M. Post, professor of psychiatry and political psychology at George Washington University. He is former director of the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior.
Our enemy today is very different from the communists of the old Soviet Union, he says.
"We knew them, and we knew we could count on their sensibility that they didn't want to be destroyed any more than we did."
But now, the enemy is a shadowy global network of Islamic militants whose hatred knows no national boundaries, who don't abide by the rules of war, who could be anywhere -- even right here -- ready to strike again. And unlike the Cold War days, when mutually assured destruction (known, yes, as MAD) kept both us and the Soviets from going over the nuclear edge, our enemies these days want nothing more than to die, taking mass casualties with them.
And so we wait. It's a matter of when, not if. We focus our fear everywhere, which means nowhere, since we don't know what we're looking for. So Metro plans evacuation drills. So the World Bank and IMF still soldier on under Code Orange, as targets. The days of duct tape may be behind us. But we need only reflect today on life and the tragic loss of it to realize that fear has unpacked its bags and moved into our homes.
It's kept us vigilant. But it's also become the political weapon of choice. We saw that during the Cold War, too. It was Sen. Arthur Vandenberg who created an enduring adage when he advised President Harry Truman to"scare the hell out of the country" to get his agenda through Congress. Some have come to believe that terror alerts and target lists have been used to stoke perhaps more fear than is necessary.
"Fear is essentially a political emotion, and a politically manipulated emotion at that," says Michael Ignatieff, director of the Carr Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
"So we have to be wary, as citizens, of any political leader who says 'Be afraid. Be very afraid. And vote for me and you'll be safe.'"
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin chastised shouting protesters at UC Berkeley Tuesday night and won a standing ovation from sympathizers who came to hear her defense of racial profiling and World War II Japanese internment camps.
Despite a din of noise from demonstrators outside that sometimes competed with Malkin's remarks, the chief organizer of the event, UC junior Amaury Gallais, said Wednesday that he was pleased with the outcome and that the disruption"was nowhere near what we expected." Gallais is managing editor of the California Patriot, a conservative campus magazine that co-sponsored Malkin's talk with the Berkeley College Republicans.
The reaction to Malkin's speech, recorded by a bank of TV cameras, was closely watched in part because of past disruptions of conservative speakers on a campus famous as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement.
Malkin, author of the newly published"In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror," completed her talk in the packed, securely guarded, 226-seat lecture hall without significant interruption.
She occasionally paused briefly when the shouts of"Shame!" and other chants from about 75 protesters in the lobby outside grew louder.
"Outside, they're yelling, 'Shame,'" she said."I think the real shame is that people are too closed minded to actually consider the evidence ... the shame that people here at an institution of higher education and learning don't really understand what a liberal education truly is."
At the end of the talk, it was announced that a planned book-signing had been canceled"due to security reasons," and Malkin exclaimed,"Thank you, Free Speechers." However, university officials said event organizers were told that the sale of books without permission was against campus rules, and no permission had been obtained. Gallais said Wednesday he canceled the signing because he was afraid Malkin could be injured by protesters rushing the stage, and that he made the decision before being told of the campus rule.
Under pressure from the ever-vigilant American Civil Liberties Union, Los Angeles's political leaders have agreed to remove a Christian cross from the county seal and, in the process, tangled with traditionalists promising a fight to keep the emblem as it has been since 1957.
A new design, commissioned after the ACLU threatened legal action against"an impermissible endorsement of Christianity", will be considered by regional leaders next week.
The cross, squeezed into one corner of the seal also occupied by a representation of the Hollywood Bowl and a couple of stars - one for film and one for television - has disappeared from the proposed replacement.
But its defenders, who previously appeared ready to accept legal advice that the ACLU would most likely win any court case, are agitated by the disappearance of the centrepiece: Pomona, pagan goddess of orchards, and her armload of horticultural goodies.
She has been replaced by a representation of a Native American woman, apparently dressed by Pomona's fashion designer and bearing a large bowl.
Gone, too, are the three oil derricks that represent one of southern California's original sources of cash wealth, displaced by a drawing of a building, said by Janice Hahn, a city councillor, to resemble nothing so much as a Wal-Mart store.
It is intended to represent the San Gabriel Mission, one of a chain stretching through the state and built by the same Spanish missionaries who, historians allege, reduced the status of the Indians to virtual slavery. However, lacking a cross to confirm its identity, it could be a cinema.
Ms Hahn, whose father, Kenneth Hahn doodled the original design as a guide for a professional artist, is expected to lead the charge against the new look on the grounds, as she told the Los Angeles Times, that its proponents did not have a mandate to undertake such a radical revamp.
The other principal elements are intended to honour the industries that built the regional economy, including fisheries, which are represented by a tuna fish. Pearlette, a champion dairy cow, retains her place, but her successors are being pushed far into the hinterland under pressure from housing developments.
Also untouched is the San Salvador, a Spanish galleon sailed into the city harbour in the 16th century by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, and callipers and set-square honouring designers, builders and engineers, today best represented by the architect Frank Gehry.
William Kristol, in the Weekly Standard (Sept. 13, 2004):
Fortunately, we had a resolute president named Truman, who, with the American people, persevered, knowing that a new democracy at the center of Europe would lead to stability and peace.
George W. Bush, at the Republican convention
Those policies--containing communism, deterring attack by the Soviet Union, and promoting the rise of democracy--were carried out by Democratic and Republican presidents in the decades that followed.
Dick Cheney, at the Republican convention
It was Democratic president Harry Truman who pushed the Red Army out of Iran, who came to the aid of Greece when Communists threatened to overthrow it, who stared down the Soviet blockade of West Berlin by flying in supplies and saving the city. . . . [O]ne-half of Europe was freed because Franklin Roosevelt led an army of liberators, not occupiers.
Zell Miller, at the Republican convention
In a time of deep distress at home, as tyranny strangled the aspirations to liberty of millions, and as war clouds gathered in the West and East, Franklin Delano Roosevelt accepted his party's nomination by observing . . .
John McCain, at the Republican convention
WHOSE PARTY was it in New York last week, anyway? Bush, Cheney, Miller, and McCain mentioned Franklin Roosevelt a total of seven times and Harry Truman twice--always favorably. John Kerry, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton, speaking in comparable slots at the Democratic convention, mentioned Truman not at all and Roosevelt a grand total of once, when the presidential nominee announced, "So now I'm going to say something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech: Go to johnkerry.com."
So the break between the World War II/Cold Warrior Democrats and the post-Vietnam Democrats is complete. The Clinton-Gore-Lieberman tickets tried to bridge these two camps, and succeeded, at least electorally: In 1992, 1996, and 2000, somewhat hawkish and interventionist, more or less pro-first Gulf War Democratic tickets won popular pluralities for the first time since Vietnam (with the exception of the narrow victory Watergate gave Jimmy Carter in 1976). In governing, the Clinton-Gore team also tried to bridge the two tendencies in their party.
The bridge was blown up by Iraq, and by the early success of Howard Dean. Dean imploded, and John Kerry--the next most dovish of the serious candidates--was there to pick up the pieces. A dove who was a Vietnam vet--how politically perfect! He could win the Democratic nomination and the general election. Or could he? Kerry's dovishness may well go too deep for general election voters. He opposed the first Gulf War. Before that, he was a leader in the fight against Reagan's Central America policy, and against Reagan's defense buildup. Even earlier, in 1971, he had linked his call to cut and run from Vietnam to an indictment of "the mystical war against communism" and of a U.S. policy that was "murdering" 200,000 Vietnamese a year. In 2003, he joined a few Senate Democrats to oppose the $87 billion supplemental appropriation for Iraq and Afghanistan.
No one believes these stances are in the tradition of Roosevelt and Truman--or John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey. It is the alternative Democratic tradition of, say, Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern, of Cy Vance and Warren Christopher, that moves Kerry, and that now utterly dominates the Democratic party.
Which means the Roosevelt-Truman tradition is there for the taking. President Bush can follow up on the success of his convention by moving to take it. He can start explicitly appealing to this tradition and its representatives. On the stump, he could discuss FDR, who also ran for reelection in wartime. Bush could liken his task at the beginning of the war on terror to that of Harry Truman early in the Cold War (he might want to do this in the swing state of Missouri). Bush could quote John Kennedy. He could pay tribute to Scoop Jackson (say, in the swing state of Washington).
A minority party becomes a majority party by absorbing elements of the other party, changing them and itself. On taxes and crime and welfare, the GOP has won over much of FDR's working class, while adjusting its stance to the welfare state. On social and cultural issues, the GOP has won over God-fearing Democrats while modifying its cultural disposition. Now is the moment to complete the realignment by embracing a robust and bipartisan patriotism. And there is the advantage that Ronald Reagan (who had been a Democrat) has already shown the GOP how to do this--how to be an all-American party, as it were, proud of American principle and willing to use American power.
This is, after all, the core of Bush's foreign policy. It is what divides Bush and Kerry. To frame the choice in a big way--and then to win big--could make 2004 more than a transient electoral victory. It could establish the Republicans as a real majority party--as the Roosevelt-Reagan party, as the Truman-Bush party--with a governing majority and a governing doctrine that could shape America's future....
Hugh Hewitt, in the Weekly Standard (Sept. 9, 2004):
[Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends Upon It. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.]
IN THE SPRING of 1985 Ronald Reagan struggled with a Democrat-dominated Congress for authority to ship aid to the Nicaraguan Contras fighting the spreading grip of the Sandinistas on their Central American country. There was quite a lot of heated rhetoric and over-the-top theater. The Sandinistas even staged a donation of ambulances to their side from American survivors of the Lincoln Brigade from the Spanish Civil War.
On the eve of a major Senate vote on the issue of aid, John Kerry and Tom Harkin jetted off to Managua for a weekend of intensive talks with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. The pair departed after holding a press conference to announce a study which listed dozens of supposed lies that the Reagan administration had told Congress and 15 allegations of law breaking (the study was done by the hard-left Institute for Policy Studies). Kerry and Harkin returned with a three page"peace proposal" given to them by Ortega.
Then-secretary of State George Shultz was outraged."It's presumably not lawful for citizens to appoint themselves as negotiators for the United States," Shultz declared."Members of Congress have every right to travel to Nicaragua to review the situation, but we cannot have a successful policy when they take trips or write 'Dear Commandante' letters with the aim of negotiating as self-appointed emissaries to the communist regime." Shultz called for the censure of the two senators. Charles Krauthammer, writing at the time, accurately observed that"[a]t their arrival home, only the umbrella was missing." Senator Richard Lugar remarked that"[m]ost Republicans were absolutely enraged with the Kerry-Harkin mission. That was absolutely the last straw." The Los Angeles Times reported anger among moderate Democrats as well, who" complained privately that the Harkin-Kerry trip made their party look pro-Sandinista."
But Kerry got exactly what he wanted from the trip: A front page profile in the Style section of the Washington Post days after his return. Myra MacPherson, the Post reporter, apparently accompanied the dynamic duo, and provides some tremendous quotes:
*"'Look at it,' Kerry said as their plane touched down here Thursday night. 'It reminds me so much of Vietnam. The same lushness, the tree lines.'"
*"'If you look back at the Gulf of Tonkin resolution,' Kerry said, 'if you look back at the troops that were in Cambodia, the history of the body count, and the misinterpretation of the history of Vietnam itself, and look at how we are interpreting the struggle in Central America and examine the CIA involvement, the mining of the harbors, the effort to fund the contras, there is a direct and unavoidable parallel between these two periods of our history.'"
*"'[I]n all our talks,' said Kerry, 'we found no enthusiasm, even among those who are for the contras, for keeping this war going.'"
*"Kerry responded, 'I believe Nicaragua understands beyond any doubt the United States will never tolerate a Soviet or Cuban base here. But we've got to create a climate of trust. Look, let's try it! It's better than killing people. Then if it doesn't work there will be a lot of congressmen and senators who will feel betrayed and won't have much hesitation about making a change. I see an enormous haughtiness in the United States trying to tell them what to do. Our economic squeeze on them is very sad. The whole population is suffering."
*"Kerry standing by says, 'Do we want to see the body bags coming back again.'"
*"Kerry is more optimistic. 'I don't think Congress would let it happen. I think there is a very strong sensitivity just ingrained in people like me, Harkin and Gore by virtue of the Vietnam experience that sounds alarm bells. I think all across the Hill there is a generational feeling, even with those that didn't go. I don't think it's isolationist. I'm not. I think it's pragmatic and cautious about what we can achieve.'
"Kerry shakes his head as he takes one last look at Nicaragua from the air.
"'Say if Costa Rica were defenseless and there were an attack by Nicaragua, there are treaties where we could come to their defense. But starting something is another matter. One of the great lessons of Vietnam, for God's sake, was 20 years of effort there! Ten years training, 10 years with our own; we created the fourth largest army that didn't want to fight. These are just poor people, no money, no food, just like Vietnam, and they are just trying to stay alive.'
"'They just want peace. They don't want their daughter getting blown away on the way to teach! Or their sons disappearing. It's just terrible. I see the same sense of great victimization. The little kids staring wide-eyed and scared. It really hits home the same way as Vietnam. Sending our own troops? I just don't think Congress or the people will allow it.'
"Kerry sighs. 'If we haven't learned something by now about talking rather than fighting . . .'"
In February, 1990, Violetta Barrios Chamorro of the National Opposition Union, a collection of all the anti-Sandinista parties, was elected president in elections brought about by the U.S. economic embargo of the Sandinistas, pressure from the Contras, and mediation from neighboring governments. Daniel Ortega has twice attempted to return to power via elections, in 1996 and 2002. He has twice been defeated.
Kerry was wholly wrong about Nicaragua, about the limits of American power, about the applicability of the Vietnam experience outside of Vietnam, indeed even about the lessons of the Vietnam War. Kerry's instinct in 1985 was appeasement of Ortega, and there is no reason to believe that his fundamental views, quite visibly revealed in his mission to Managua, have in any way evolved to a more mature understanding of the nature of America's enemies or the use of American power. John Kerry: Wrong about Vietnam. Wrong about the Sandinistas. Wrong about the Soviets. Wrong about Iraq. The wrong man with the wrong ideas at the wrong time.
Do Republicans play a rougher game of politics than Democrats?
The question has been tossed around since Vice President Dick Cheney, in apparently unscripted remarks, suggested last week that electing the Democratic ticket in November would invite a devastating terrorist attack.
The Democrats cried foul, but of course there's no referee in politics. And neither party has a monopoly on ruthless, unscrupulous campaigning. It just seems that the Republicans are, today at least, more adept at the black art of attack politics, according to historians and flummoxed Democratic partisans.
"I don't think there's any question they're better at it than we are," said James Carville, the Democratic warrior-consultant who admitted to being envious of his Republican counterparts' merciless brand of campaigning. "But I'm fixing to do what I can to change that slightly."...
Lee Atwater, President George H. W. Bush's chief strategist in 1988, left the battlefield scattered with corpses, including that of the hapless Tom Turnipseed, a South Carolina Congressional candidate in 1980 who had the misfortune of running against one of Mr. Atwater's clients. Mr. Atwater was accused of whispering to reporters that Mr. Turnipseed had undergone psychiatric treatment in college, and when Mr. Atwater was asked about it, he said he would not respond to allegations from someone who had been "hooked up to jumper cables."
In 1988, Mr. Atwater engineered the senior Mr. Bush's victory with unrelenting attacks on Michael Dukakis, including the advertisement featuring Willie Horton, the black convicted murderer who escaped on a weekend furlough and raped a white woman while Mr. Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts.
George W. Bush and his chief strategist, Karl Rove, learned the Republican rules of the game during that successful campaign, and perhaps learned even more in the elder Mr. Bush's loss in 1992 to a more agile and hungrier team of Democrats led by Bill Clinton.
Mr. Clinton and his rapid-response style of campaigning were a throwback to an era of more hard-nosed Democratic politicians. Lyndon Johnson was one of the dirtiest campaigners Texas ever produced. His House and Senate campaigns were legendary for their viciousness, and his presidential campaign advertisement against Barry Goldwater in 1964 of a girl plucking a daisy before a nuclear mushroom cloud makes Mr. Cheney's remarks this week sound like a reading of "The Pet Goat." John and Bobby Kennedy, with their mobster friends, their union muscle and their rum-running father, were hardly pushovers in the contact sport of electoral politics.
"Both parties think the other will stop at nothing, so they impute to their opponents their own worst tendencies and are quick to retaliate for some fancied grievance," said Lewis L. Gould, professor emeritus of American history at the University of Texas and author of "Grand Old Party: A History of the Republicans," published last year.
"Politics ain't beanbag," Professor Gould said, citing
the famous maxim of Mr. Dooley, the creation of the satirist Finley Peter Dunne.
"But that said, the recent Democrats seem to lack an instinct for the jugular
or are more burdened by scruple or believe in the old Progressive view that if
you give the public the facts they'll see through the lies. Republicans have more
of a sense that the public likes to be entertained and that issues are essentially
dull. They play a harder brand of hardball."...
"As long as everyone is talking about what did or did not happen 35 years ago in Vietnam," writes Matt Miller, columnist and fellow at the Center for American Progress, "they're not talking about the candidates' rival visions for the future, or domestic policy differences between the parties that are huge."
Of course, the Bush campaign's scurrilous lies about Kerry's record as a war hero must be challenged forcefully. But what ever happened to the important debate about the costs of war in Iraq--we've just passed the grim milestone of 1000 US deaths-- particularly at a time in which poverty is rapidly growing?
In February 1968, when poverty and another war weighed heavily on people's minds, Robert F. Kennedy, as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on employment, manpower and poverty, held two field hearings in Eastern Kentucky to explore the causes of Appalachian poverty and gauge the success of Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty programs.
This week, John Malpede, a performance artist from Los Angeles, is staging RFK in EKY, a re-enactment of Kennedy's visit to Eastern Kentucky. "Reality has been accommodating to us," Malpede observed in a recent interview in the New York Times, where he discussed his hope that history could refocus our political debate on poverty and the costs of war at home.
Under President Bush, the rich have gotten richer, the middle-class has shrunk, and the ranks of the poor have expanded. In 2003, according to the Census Bureau's latest statistics, America's poverty rate jumped from 12.1 percent to 12.5 percent. Currently, some 36 million Americans live in poverty, while the country endures the worst child-poverty rate of any industrialized nation. Some 45 million Americans went without health insurance in 2003.
In sharp contrast, under the Bush Administration, to cite one figure, the top 50 outsourcing companies paid their CEOs, on average, $10.4 million in 2003--a nearly 50 percent increase over a year earlier. The gap between the relative prospects of rich and poor in the age of Bush is driven home by Executive Excess, a new report released by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy, which documents that, "If the minimum wage had increased as quickly as CEO pay since 1990, it would today be $15.76 per hour, rather than the current $5.15 per hour." (Click here to view the report.)
Remembering RFK's visit to Kentucky is a useful way to reframe the 2004 political debate and articulate a vision of what is possible in this country. As Malpede says of his play: "The idea is to revisit a moment in history that was significant to the community and see how it resonates now."
In the fall of 1965, the death toll for American troops in Vietnam quietly passed 1,000. The escalation in the number of American forces was just underway, the antiwar movement was still in its infancy and the word "quagmire" was not yet in common usage.
At the time, the Gallup Poll found that just one in four Americans thought sending troops to southeast Asia had been a mistake. It would be three years before public opinion turned decisively, and permanently, against the war.
Four decades later, the passing of the 1,000-death benchmark in another war against insurgents has been accompanied by considerably more public unease. Polls registered a steady increase in the number of Americans who believe the war in Iraq was not worth it, peaking at over 50 percent in June. Americans, it seems, are more skeptical about this conflict than about Vietnam at roughly the same moment, as measured in body counts.
How many casualties will Americans tolerate? Will continual insurgencies, like the uprisings in Falluja and Najaf, break down Americans' already tepid support for the war?
For a variety of reasons, military experts and historians say that for now, support is likely to remain steady. The stark experience of Sept. 11 and the belief among many Americans that the fighting in Iraq is part of a global conflict against terrorism have made this war seem much more crucial to the nation's security than Vietnam, they say.
"The Vietcong didn't so much as toss a firecracker into the United States," said Maurice Isserman, a history professor at Hamilton College and co-author of "America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960's."
"There was fear of nuclear war and Communist subversion and espionage," he said. "But the reality is, no American died in the continental United States during the cold war. There was nothing comparable in the 1960's to that image of the twin towers falling."
Moreover, American patience with the war in Iraq is likely to endure significantly longer because there is no draft, historians say. As long as the military remains an all-volunteer force, they say, war and death could remain distant abstractions for most Americans.
"When people don't face the decision of having to fight, it's pretty hard to get mass support for an argument that we should get on boats and leave tomorrow," said Melvin Small, a history professor at Wayne State University and author of "Antiwarriors: The Vietnam War and the Battle for America's Hearts and Minds."
There are also broad differences in the scope of the two wars that could affect the tide of public opinion.
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson began a huge escalation of the Vietnam War that eventually brought American troop levels to over half a million. By 1968, the weekly death toll was over 500.
No such escalation is envisioned in Iraq, where the deadliest month was last April, when 134 troops were killed. And though the 1,000-dead milestone was reached faster in Iraq, it seems unlikely the toll will keep pace with Vietnam, where it exploded after 1965, reaching over 58,000 by the war's end.
But if Americans are likely to remain supportive of war for the near future, how long will their patience last? The same military experts and historians say the tipping point in Iraq could come well before it did in Vietnam, in part because of the memory of Vietnam itself.
"The crucial point comes when the country feels it is not going to achieve its goals," said Robert Dallek, the presidential historian. "People say it took years to build opposition to Vietnam. But the difference is that the war in Iraq stands in the shadow of Vietnam, and people remember Vietnam. And so there already begins to be widespread feeling that this is a quagmire."...
James Chace, in the NYT (Sept. 12, 2004):
The debate over why the Bush administration launched the war in Iraq is now at full tide. The American people were told that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, that the Iraqi regime was in contact with the international terrorists of Al Qaeda and that the most effective way for the United States to prevent Hussein from attacking America and its interests in the Middle East was to wage a preventive war. We now know from the Senate Intelligence Committee's report that the Bush administration's key judgments were wildly overstated and unsupported by the underlying intelligence information.
John B. Judis, a senior editor for The New Republic, proposes a deeper reason for the war, one that the president and his entourage have cited as central to their thinking: their belief that America could bring democracy to Iraq. A democratic Iraq would then serve as a model for its neighbors, almost all of which are authoritarian states. Judis sees this new democratic imperialism as a throwback to the imperialistic policies of Theodore Roosevelt before becoming president and of Woodrow Wilson's interventions, especially in Mexico, during his early years in the White House. In an enlightening interpretation of American history, Judis expresses the hope that George W. Bush and his successors will soon understand the folly of imperialism as did Roosevelt and Wilson.
Roosevelt, Judis writes, regretted the annexation of the Philippines, and showed no further interest in acquiring territory. (The revolution in Panama, which the United States backed in return for using Panamanian land on which to build the canal, was not an imperialist venture, according to Roosevelt; the Panamanians may have had a different view, but nobody asked them). A firm believer in regional balances of power, Roosevelt also suggested well before Wilson did that the great powers should form a ''League of Peace, not only to keep the peace among themselves, but to prevent, by force if necessary, its being broken by others.''
In his imperialist moment Wilson said his aim was to make sure ''our neighbor states in this hemisphere'' would give liberty to their peoples. But when Wilson sent 6,000 troops to Veracruz to replace the Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta, he discovered that the American forces, instead of being greeted as liberators, ''inspired riots and demonstrations all over the country, and united Huerta with his opponents.'' Wilson finally gave up on his military adventurism in Mexico. ''The country is theirs,'' he concluded. ''Their liberty, if they can get it, is theirs, and so far as my influence goes while I am president, nobody shall interfere with them.''
Wilson, however, never gave up on his belief that the United States had a special
mission in the world. As he said a few years before he became president, ''every
nation of the world needs to be drawn into the tutelage of America.'' In World
War I he came to believe America could not spread its ideals or system of government
simply by setting an example for others. People everywhere, he declared, ''are
looking to us for leadership and direction.'' The League of Nations was to embody
his hopes for remaking the world in the American image. But Wilson's dream died
in Congress, when the Senate refused to ratify the treaty establishing the League....
"Mr. President, you and I know that…if service or non-service in the [Vietnam] war is to become a test of qualification for high office…our nation would never recover from the divisions created by that war."– Sen. John Kerry on the Senate floor, 1992.
The narrowly partisan opponents of the current War on Terrorism, panicked by the pro-war president’s double-digit lead in the polls, have drudged up their archaic ace-in-the-hole: the president’s service record in the Air National Guard. This issue is growing so old, it should have whiskers. The latest round of 527 commercials target alleged gaps in George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard. This time, a group named"Texans for Truth" is airing ads questioning whether George W. Bush ever flew in the Alabama National Guard in 1972. They charge, among other things, that Bush missed a physical examination, proving he never fulfilled his duty. Having had this issue vetted during two races for governor of Texas, one Republican primary and two presidential elections, the public has shown itself content with Bush’s affirmative answer. The last time the Left trotted out this charge – only six months ago – a young lady Bush dated in 1972 even confirmed that he completed his training in Montgomery. The facts show George W. Bush served honorably in the National Guard from 1968-73, volunteering the most hours when the country was most likely to call on him and decreasing his flight time as the nation pulled out of Vietnam. Weighing their records on balance, George W. Bush’s service record appears far more commendable than John Kerry’s.
The Facts on Bush’s National Guard Duty
George W. Bush entered the Texas Air National Guard upon graduating from Yale in May of 1968. For the next two years, Bush would fly almost non-stop for 80 weeks, making his Reserve duty a full-time job. From May 1968-69, he earned 253 flight points, more than five times the required annual minimum for Reserve members. He earned nearly 100 points more than that the following year. From 1970-72, he earned more than twice his minimum each year.
In 1972, he famously asked to be transferred to the Alabama National Guard, so he could work on a political campaign. He earned only 56 points from May 1972-73. In the summer of 1973, he earned another 56 points in just two months and was granted an honorable discharge six months before completing his six-year commitment. It is this latter portion of service the Left has seized upon. Non-veterans Terry MacAuliffe and Michael Moore have (falsely) described Bush as"AWOL" during this time. Others wondered how Bush could be allowed to turn in fewer hours in 1972-3 than he did the four previous years. The president’s opportunistic critics overlook the context of his Guard service: the conditions of the Vietnam War.
Bush entered the Guard at the high water mark of Lyndon Johnson’s escalation policies. By 1969, more than half-a-million U.S. soldiers were stationed in Vietnam. After the inauguration of Richard Nixon, the Republican who campaigned on a platform of"peace with honor" began the first significant troop withdrawals: 75,000 by the end of 1969. Through his policy of"Vietnamization," Nixon recalled another 170,000 American troops by 1971. Despite these improvements, the American presence was significant.
It was during these years that George W. Bush logged the largest number of flight hours; precisely when he was needed the most, during the period of greatest likelihood he would be called into active duty for his country. According to his superiors, that service proved exemplary; Bush’s commanders peppered his five-plus year service record with commendations. In 1970, an evaluator raved Bush" clearly stands out as a top notch fighter interceptor pilot," calling the future president"a natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for leadership." How prophetic.
Over the next two years, the pace of President Nixon’s troop draw-downs would accelerate faster than he intended. This is also when the president (intentionally) decreased the number of draftees, soon phasing out conscription altogether. The last American ground troops were removed on August 23, 1972. Seven months later, Nixon pronounced,"The day we have all worked and prayed for has finally come," as he withdrew the last American troops from Vietnam in March 1973. And this was when George W. Bush put in only the minimum fly time necessary – when he was least needed and least likely to be called into service.
By 1972, the services were overrun with grounded pilots. In yesterday’s edition of The Hill, Byron York quotes retired Colonel William Campenni, who flew with Bush in 1970 and 1971. Campenni recalled:
In 1972, there was an enormous glut of pilots. The Vietnam War was winding down, and the Air Force was putting pilots in desk jobs. In ’72 or ’73, if you were a pilot, active or Guard, and you had an obligation and wanted to get out, no problem. In fact, you were helping them solve their problem.
By the time Bush put in for an early discharge, after he met all the fly time required, the Air Force was scrambling to shed unneeded officers, and there was no American presence in Vietnam whatever. The services welcomed the departure of a reservist who had logged far more than his required hours and would merely sit idle for six months. They had no war to fight; even the"real" servicemen had been called out– to the chagrin of democratic South Vietnamese. At the insistence of Congressional Democrats, who had Nixon over a barrel thanks to Watergate, America was AWOL from this battle, and our allies would pay the price.
These facts have not killed the liberal media’s outcry over the story – for the fourth or fifth time. Although Bush has turned over all his service records – including some the military, according to regulations, should have destroyed decades ago – while Kerry has stonewalled on his, the mainstream media pounced on the Bush story (just as they ignored the Swiftboat Vets’ ads at the height of that controversy). And though every media outlet in the country hinted at a Bush connection to the Swiftboat Vets operation, only former Republican Representative Joe Scarborough had the decency to investigate the background of these new"independent" campaigners. On his show last night, Scarborough pointed out that"Texans for Truth" organizer Glenn Smith had been a consultant for MoveOn.org, promoted the anti-Bush book Bush’s Brain, and was an associate of both Paul Begala and Ann Richards.
Making Political Hay on Vietnam
In response to these false and despicable ads, a prominent senator known as a war hero stated:
I am saddened by the fact that Vietnam has yet again been inserted into the campaign, and that it has been inserted in what I feel to be the worst possible way…The race for the White House should be about leadership, and leadership requires that one help heal the wounds of Vietnam, not reopen them…We do not need to divide America over who served and how.
No, it was not John McCain. OK, that was Senator John Kerry discussing Bill Clinton’s draft evasion on the Senate floor in 1992. In the 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry has been injecting Vietnam into the discussion at every opportunity. During his ridiculous midnight campaign rally after President Bush’s speech at the Republican National Convention, Kerry again played the Vietnam card:"The Vice President called me unfit for office last night." (He didn’t.)"Well, I'll leave it up to the voters to decide whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of duty." The conventional wisdom agrees: Kerry’s Purple Hearts trump Bush’s flights over the Gulf of Mexico. However, a closer look reveals Kerry’s war service record not be an advantage over Bush’s complete record at all.
Bill Clinton claims that during Vietnam, John Kerry responded to his nation’s call with an Isaiah-like,"Send me." As usual, Clinton trimmed the facts to fit his story. Kerry went into the service in 1966 after petitioning his draft board for a deferment so he could study in Paris. (Kerry did not say,"Send me"; he said,"Non, merci.") John O’Neill’s Unfit for Commandsummarizes Kerry’s actions after the board denied his request:
Kerry decided to enlist in the Navy ... The top choice was the Navy Reserves where the duty commitment was shorter and a larger proportion of the period could be served stateside on inactive duty.
John Kerry's service record indicates that on Feb. 18, 1966, he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserves, status"inactive," not in the U.S. Navy.
Interestingly, Kerry would later equate George W. Bush’s service in the Reserves with going to Canada.
In December 1968, the Navy sent Kerry into Vietnam for the most celebrated four-month tour of duty in combat history. The Swiftboat Vets have raised troubling questions about nearly every aspect of Kerry’s service, including the conditions under which he was awarded all his medals. It appears Kerry put himself forward for Purple Hearts every time he scratched himself, racked up three medals, then got himself sent out of harm’s way on an arcane technicality forgotten by most men (including his commanding officers). Kerry petitioned for his third Purple Heart – probably the result of a self-inflicted grenade wound received on March 13, 1969, which he fibbed about – and asked to be sent stateside within four days. (On the Dick Cavett Show in 1971, he would claim he agonized for weeks over whether to leave the Mekong Delta.)After being sent home in April of 1969, Kerry asked his commanding officer, Admiral Walter F. Schlech Jr.,"to tell his boss that his conscience dictated that he protest the war, that he wanted out of the Navy immediately so that he could run for Congress." So Kerry, too, left the service to work on a political campaign – his own. (He lost.) Unlike President Bush, though, he did not ask to be transferred to another state to complete his mandatory service; he left the service altogether – at the height of American involvement, to demonize his fellow countrymen.
Also unlike Bush, Kerry had not yet completed the prerequisites of service: specifically, to serve six more months. George W. Bush identified with and supported the troops by flying the most hours when American GIs were putting in the heaviest sacrifices and left only after civilian command completely withdrew American troops from Vietnam. Kerry would ask to be sent home from the heat of battle when troop strength was at a near-record high, then demand to be released even from domestic service, for reasons of" conscience." Six months after his discharge in January of 1970, John Kerry would begin agitating with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Although still a member of the Naval Reserves (he did not leave that service until 1978), John Kerry personally met with the North Vietnamese communists in Paris in 1970, a violation of the Logan Act and certainly an act bordering on treason. It was at this time he supported the"People’s Peace Treaty," a communist propaganda agreement calling for a total, immediate, unilateral American withdrawal from Vietnam.
In early 1971, he would hold the infamous Winter Soldier Investigation with Jane Fonda and a host of false veterans while his"band of brothers" continued to face deadly fire from"Victor Charlie." Even those"Winter Soldiers" who had actually set foot in Southeast Asia have since admitted their stories were contrived. One such veteran, Steven J. Pitkin, swore in an affadavit last Tuesday:
During the Winter Soldier Investigation, John Kerry and other leaders of that event pressured me to testify about American war crimes, despite my repeated statements that I could not honestly do so. ... Kerry and other leaders of the event instructed me to publicly state that I had witnessed incidents of rape, brutality, atrocities and racism, knowing that such statements would necessarily be untrue.
Pitkin later said,"[Kerry] did what I call extreme coaching" of witnesses.
A mere six months after this performance, John Kerry addressed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971, where he claimed American GIs had:
raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in [a] fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam….
North Vietnamese jailers used Kerry’s words to torture American POWs, including John McCain. Paul Galanti, who spent more than six years in captivity and volunteered on McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, said the North Vietnamese often cited Kerry personally:"They wanted us to…confess to war crimes and killing babies and all this other stuff. They kept talking about Vietnam Veterans Against the War, they had seen the right way and…they had crossed over to the peoples' [i.e., Communist] side."
A few months later, Kerry would be the one contemplating violence, attending a VVAW meeting in which that body would consider assassinating a U.S. senator.
Kerry, in other words, served four months, was sent home after three scratches (including one self-inflicted wound to the buttocks) and immediately began giving Americans enemies torture fodder to use against his old Navy buddies in the Hanoi Hilton. During the same one-year period, George W. Bush was racking up 137 flight points, wearing the uniform of his country. He would continue to do so until after America’s involvement in the war ended. Bush’s Guard service, deeply rooted in his sense of patriotism, is beginning to look better and better. And Kerry’s service – every moment filmed for his political posterity, every loophole exploited out of self-preservation – is beginning to look less appealing every moment.
And who knows what we’ll find out after John Kerry releases all his service records?
Alain de Botton, in the NYT (Sept. 6, 2004):
[Alain de Botton is the author of "How Proust Can Change Your Life" and "Status Anxiety."]
The most remarkable feature of the modern workplace has nothing to do with computers, automation or globalization. Rather, it lies in the Western world's widely held belief that our work should make us happy.
All societies throughout history have had work right at their center; but ours - particularly America's - is the first to suggest that it could be something other than a punishment or penance. Ours is the first to imply that a sane human being would want to work even if he wasn't under financial pressure to do so. We are unique, too, in allowing our choice of work to define who we are, so that the central question we ask of new acquaintances is not where they come from or who their parents are but, rather, what it is they do - as though only this could effectively reveal what gives a human life its distinctive timbre.
It wasn't always like this. Greco-Roman civilization tended to view work as a chore best left to slaves. For both Plato and Aristotle, fulfillment could be reached only when one had the command of a private income and could escape day-to-day obligations and freely devote oneself to the contemplation of ethical and moral questions. The entrepreneur and merchant may have had a nice villa and a heaping larder, but they played no role in the antique vision of the good life.
Early Christianity took a similarly bleak view of labor, adding the even darker thought that man was condemned to toil in order to make up for the sin of Adam. Working conditions, however abusive, could not be improved. Work wasn't accidentally miserable - it was one of the planks upon which earthly suffering was irrevocably founded. St. Augustine reminded slaves to obey their masters and accept their pain as part of what he termed, in "The City of God," the "wretchedness of man's condition."
The first signs of the modern, more cheerful attitude toward work can be detected in the city-states of Italy during the Renaissance, and in particular, in the biographies of the artists of the time. In descriptions of the lives of men like Michelangelo and Leonardo, we find some now familiar-sounding ideas about what our labors could ideally mean for us: a path to authenticity and glory. Rather than a burden and punishment, artistic work could allow us to rise above our ordinary limitations. We could express our talents on a page or on a canvas in a way we never could in our everyday lives. Of course, this new vision applied only to a creative elite (no one yet thought to tell a servant that work could develop his true self: that was a claim waiting for modern management theory), but it proved to be the model for all successive definitions of happiness earned through work.
It was not until the late 18th century that the model was extended beyond the artistic realm. In the writings of bourgeois thinkers like Benjamin Franklin, Diderot and Rousseau, we see work recategorized not only as a means to earn money, but also as a way to become more fully ourselves. It is worth noting that this reconciliation of necessity and happiness exactly mirrored the contemporary re-evaluation of marriage: just as marriage was rethought as an institution that could deliver both practical benefits and sexual and emotional fulfillment (a handy conjunction once thought impossible by aristocrats, who saw a need for a mistress and a wife), so too work was now alleged to be capable of delivering both the money necessary for survival and the stimulation and self-expression that had once been seen as the exclusive preserve of the leisured.
Simultaneously, people began to experience a new kind of pride in their work, in large part because the way that jobs were handed out took on a semblance of justice. In his autobiography, Thomas Jefferson explained that his proudest achievement had been to create a meritocratic United States, where "a new aristocracy of virtue and talent" replaced the old aristocracy of unfair privilege and, in many cases, brute stupidity. Meritocracy endowed jobs with a new, quasi-moral quality. Now that prestigious and well-paid posts seemed to be available on the basis of actual intelligence and ability, your job title could perhaps say something directly meaningful about you.
Over the 19th century, many Christian thinkers, especially in the United States, changed their views of money accordingly. American Protestant denominations suggested that God required his followers to lead a life that was successful both temporally and spiritually. Fortunes in this world were evidence that one deserved a good place in the next - an attitude reflected in the Rev. Thomas P. Hunt's 1836 bestseller "The Book of Wealth: In Which It Is Proved From the Bible That It Is the Duty of Every Man to Become Rich." John D. Rockefeller was not shy to say that it was the Lord who had made him rich, while William Lawrence, the Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts, writing in 1892, argued, "We, like the Psalmist, occasionally see the wicked prosper, but only occasionally,'' adding, "Godlin ess is in league with riches."...
A firm belief in the necessary misery of life was for centuries one of mankind's most important assets, a bulwark against bitterness, a defense against dashed hopes. Now it has been cruelly undermined by the expectations incubated by the modern worldview.
Now perhaps, as many of us return from summer vacations, we can temper their sadness by remembering that work is often more bearable when we don't, in addition to money, expect it always to deliver happiness.