Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
William Saletan, in Slate (March 19, 2004):
If you oppose George Bush's policies, or if you're supported by anybody who opposes George Bush's policies, you're anti-American.
That was the message of the 1988 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush, who suggested that his opponent from Massachusetts was against the Pledge of Allegiance. Now it's his son's campaign message, too.
Facts don't matter when you run on this theme. In June 1988, George H.W. Bush said of Michael Dukakis,"I'll never understand, when it came to his desk, why he vetoed a bill that called for the Pledge of Allegiance to be said in the schools of Massachusetts . I'll never understand it. We are one nation under God. Our kids should say the Pledge of Allegiance."
The bill Dukakis vetoed didn't" call for" the pledge to be said. It imposed criminal penalties on teachers who failed to start the day by leading students in the pledge. The Massachusetts Supreme Court told Dukakis it was unconstitutional. But never mind. According to Bush, Dukakis was against saying the pledge and being one nation under God.
History repeats itself. Last week, George W. Bush aired a TV ad in which the following charges appeared on the screen for nine seconds:"John Kerry's Plan: Weaken Fight Against Terrorists";"John Kerry's Plan: Delay Defending America."
What was Bush's evidence for the first charge? His campaign cited four Kerry quotes . In the first, Kerry called for"replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time." In the second, Kerry called for"provisions to guarantee that there is not this blind spot in the American justice system that there is today under the Patriot Act." In the third, Kerry said,"I voted for the USA Patriot Act in the Senate right after 9/11 to advance our security at home, but I am concerned that Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department is abusing the powers conferred on it by that act." In the fourth, Kerry said,"We are a nation of laws and liberties, not of a knock in the night."
Among those four statements, I count zero in favor of weakening the fight against terrorists and two in favor of protecting American security. But never mind. According to Bush,"Kerry's Plan" is"Weaken Fight Against Terrorists."
Dilip Hiro, author of Iraq: In the Eye of the Storm and Secrets and Lies: Operation"Iraqi Freedom" and After, A Prelude to the Fall of U.S. Power in the Middle East?; in www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, run by Tom Engelhardt (March 19, 2004):
Enough hard facts have surfaced since the war on Iraq a year ago to enable us to plot fairly accurately the path that President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair followed, culminating in the Anglo-American invasion of a country that posed no imminent threat to the United States, Britain, or any of its neighbors.
In the blame game currently being played in Washington, members of the Bush team are pointing their fingers at Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress for providing misleading or exaggerated intelligence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But the responsibility for propping up Chalabi and his cohorts rests with the very same officials who are now feigning anger at their own henchmen.
It was the U.S. government that funded the INC's Intelligence Clearance Project. And it was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who set up his Office of Special Plans (OSP), which provided a channel outside of the established intelligence agencies, for the INC to feed its information directly to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney, who is for all practical purposes the executive prime minister to a president uninterested in and incapable of running the day-to-day administration of his government.
Out of this incestuous amplification arose the myth of Iraq's WMD stockpiles. It was an example of political judgment and decision-making preceding actual hard intelligence.
The source of what has happened in Iraq is none other than President Bush himself and his obsession with regime change in Baghdad from the day he assumed office. According to The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill , written by Ron Suskind, based on his interviews with former Treasury Secretary O'Neill and 19,000 official documents, at the first National Security Council meeting on January 30, 2001,Bush asked"Condi [Rice], what are we going to talk about today?" In her seemingly pre-scripted response, she said,"How Iraq is destabilizing the region, Mr President."
Then followed a presentation by CIA director George Tenet in which he rolled out a large, grainy aerial photograph of an Iraqi factory on a table:"A plant that produces either chemical or biological materials for weapons manufacture." The NSC members hovered over the picture, nodding. But O'Neill, a former Chief Executive Officer of Alcoa, an aluminum manufacturing company, said,"I've seen a lot of factories around the world that look a lot like this one. What makes us suspect that this one is producing chemical or biological agents for weapons?" All that Tenet could offer was circumstantial evidence.
"From the very first instance, it was [Bush's obsession] about Iraq," O'Neill told Sixty Minutes ,"It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The President was saying, ‘Go, find me a way to do it.'"
As soon as the Pentagon's Afghanistan war ended in January 2002, Bush turned to Iraq. According to Rowan Scarborough, the Washington Times ' Pentagon correspondent, and the author of Rumsfeld's War , Bush signed a secret National Security Council directive establishing the goals and objectives for a war on Iraq, one of the classified documents Scarborough obtained, on February 16, 2002.
Little wonder that, soon after, Bush would tell three senators having a meeting with Rice at the White House,"We are taking him [Saddam Hussein] out." And he purportedly said the same thing to Blair when the British leader visited him in early April.
It was in the course of their talks on September 6-7 at Camp David that Blair formally agreed to participate in a war against Iraq, provided Bush sought endorsement for military action from the United Nations Security Council without giving up his option to act unilaterally if that failed.
They also decided that in order to focus world attention on Iraq's WMD and pressure Iraq to allow the UN to resume inspections, Britain should publish a dossier to show that the threat of Iraq's WMD was real. The task fell to Blair because both leaders agreed that a British document would carry more credibility in the Arab and Muslim world than an American one. Such a dossier would also assist Bush in securing a Congressional vote in early October for the authority to declare war on Iraq.
Three days later a draft of the British dossier, Iraq's Programme of Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government , was sent to Tenet in Washington. On September 13, Tenet expressed reservations to the statement:"Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons... Uranium to be used for the production of fissile material has been purchased from Africa." This led to a modified version, whereby"recent intelligence... indicates" that"Iraq has purchased large quantities of uranium ore, despite having no civil nuclear program that would require it."
But suddenly, on September 16, the Iraqi government said that UN inspectors could return to Iraq"without any conditions." Once that happened, the raison d'etre for the British dossier disappeared. It had achieved its aim without being released. Any rational leader would then have aborted the project. But not Tony Blair.
Indeed, a new paragraph added to the dossier on September 19 claimed that, anticipating the arrival of UN inspectors, the Iraqi government had already started hiding its WMD. How Britain managed to collect raw information about Iraq's instantaneous concealment activities, assess it, and draw a conclusion about it within 72 hours must remain a matter of wonderment and awe in the annals of intelligence.
The dossier that was released on September 24 was titled Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction . What got many British politicians and citizens worked up was the claim in the document that Iraq's chemical and biological weapons were ready to be fired within 45 minutes of an order being issued by Saddam. Given that the Iraqi dictator allegedly possessed up to 20 medium range missiles, his warheads could have reached two British bases in Cyprus. This would have constituted an attack on Britain.
In the hullabaloo that followed soon after and erupted again at the time of Lord Hutton's Inquiry in August 2003, no witness or expert noticed that the Bush administration made no mention of this 45-minute scenario, even though the Pentagon had beefed its troop presence in neighboring Kuwait by tens of thousands in September 2002. All somebody had to say was:"How come the US, which has so many soldiers in Kuwait did not raise the fearsome scenario of them being hit by Iraq's WMD, for which Iraq's known, permissible short range missiles would have sufficed?"
The moral is that when two or more parties collude to concoct"facts," it is not always possible for them to synchronize their misinformation/disinformation/lies. That is how those who have broken the law collectively often get caught: their individual stories do not tally.
Another major Bush-Blair statement -- that they had exhausted all avenues of peaceful resolution of the crisis before declaring war on Baghdad -- has now turned out to be a lie. On November 7, 2003 the New York Times and the Guardian reported that Saddam Hussein had offered a deal in February 2003 meant to satisfy Bush and Blair on all the important aspects of the crisis: weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Middle East peace process, access of American oil companies to Iraqi petroleum, and the democratization of Iraq.
According to these reports (confirmed by all the parties involved), Saddam proposed that up to 2,000 FBI and CIA agents be dispatched to Iraq to look for its WMD anywhere in the country. He pledged that he would go along with any deal to which Israel and the mainstream Palestinian leadership agreed. He promised to give US oil corporations a share in the exploration and extraction of oil in Iraq. And he promised free and fair multiparty elections in Iraq under international supervision in two years.
Imad Hage, acting on behalf of Saddam, met Richard Perle, then chairman of the US Defense Policy Advisory Committee Board, in the lobby of the Marlborough Hotel in central London on March 7, and then they went to an office nearby and there for two hours Hage outlined the Iraqi offer to Perle. But so determined was Bush to invade Iraq that he refused point blank to consider Saddam's offer and resolve the crisis peacefully.
This was in stark contrast to the softly, softly manner in which the Bush administration had been handling – and continues to handle -- the issue of the WMD of North Korea, another member of the so-called Axis of Evil. There has been remarkable delinquency on the part of politicians and pundits in pointing out this disparity
Equally absent has been an effort to compare and contrast Haiti and Iraq. Recent developments in Haiti show that democracy has failed to become established there. It is a small republic, occupying only a third of the island of Hispaniola, which is in the backyard of the United States. Yet, Washington's efforts since 1971 -- when dictator Francois Duvalier died -- to install democracy there have proven futile.
If this is what the US has to show for its democratization mission, worldwide, in Haiti after 33 years of trying, what chance is there for democracy, planted by invading Anglo-American armies in faraway Iraq, to take root?
Justice Anthony Scalia, in defense of his decision not to recuse himself from the case before the Supreme Court involving Vice President Dick Cheney (March 18, 2004):
... For five years or so, I have been going to Louisiana during the Court’s long December-January recess, to the duck-hunting camp of a friend whom I met through two hunting companions from Baton Rouge, one a dentist and the other a worker in the field of handicapped rehabilitation. The last three years, I have been accompanied on this trip by a son-in-law who lives near me. Our friend and host, Wallace Carline, has never, as far as I know, had business before this Court. He is not, as some reports have described him, an “energy industry executive” in the sense that summons up boardrooms of ExxonMobil or Con Edison. He runs his own company that provides services and equipment rental to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
During my December 2002 visit, I learned that Mr. Carline was an admirer of Vice President Cheney. Knowing that the Vice President, with whom I am well acquainted (from our years serving together in the Ford administration), is an enthusiastic duck-hunter, I asked whether Mr. Carline would like to invite him to our next year’s hunt. The answer was yes; I conveyed the invitation (with my own warm recommendation) in the spring of 2003 and received an acceptance (subject, of course, to any superseding demands on the Vice President’s time) in the summer. The Vice President said that if he did go, I would be welcome to fly down to Louisiana with him. (Because of national security requirements, of course, he must fly in a Government plane.) That invitation was later extended— if space was available—to my son-in-law and to a son who was joining the hunt for the first time; they accepted. The trip was set long before the Court granted certiorari in the present case, and indeed before the petition for certiorari had even been filed....
My recusal is required if, by reason of the actions de-scribed above, my “impartiality might reasonably be ques-tioned.” 28 U. S. C. §455(a). Why would that result follow from my being in a sizable group of persons, in a hunting camp with the Vice President, where I never hunted with him in the same blind or had other opportunity for private conversation? The only possibility is that it would suggest I am a friend of his. But while friendship is a ground for recusal of a Justice where the personal fortune or the personal freedom of the friend is at issue, it has tradition-ally not been a ground for recusal where official action is at issue, no matter how important the official action was to the ambitions or the reputation of the Government officer.
A rule that required Members of this Court to remove themselves from cases in which the official actions of friends were at issue would be utterly disabling. Many Justices have reached this Court precisely because they were friends of the incumbent President or other senior officials—and from the earliest days down to modern times Justices have had close personal relationships with the President and other officers of the Executive. John Quincy Adams hosted dinner parties featuring such luminaries as Chief Justice Marshall, Justices Johnson, Story, and Todd, Attorney General Wirt, and Daniel Webster. [Memoirs of John Quincy Adams 322–323 (C. Adams ed. 1969) (Diary Entry of Mar. 8, 1821).] Justice Harlan and his wife often “ ‘stopped in’ ” at the White House to see the Hayes family and pass a Sunday evening in a small group, visiting and singing hymns. [M. Harlan, Some Memories of a Long Life, 1854–1911, p. 99 (2001).] Justice Stone tossed around a medicine ball with members of the Hoover administration mornings outside the White House. [Memoirs of Herbert Hoover (1952).] Justice Douglas was a regular at President Franklin Roosevelt’s poker parties; Chief Justice Vinson played poker with President Truman.
[J. Simon, Independent Journey: The Life of William O. Douglas 220–221 (1980); D. McCullough, Truman 511 (1992).]
A no-friends rule would have disqualified much of the Court in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, U. S. 579 (1952), the case that challenged President Truman’s seizure of the steel mills. Most of the Justices knew Truman well, and four had been appointed by him. A no-friends rule would surely have required Justice Holmes’s recusal in Northern Securities Co. v. United States, 193 U. S. 197 (1904), the case that challenged President Theodore Roosevelt’s trust-busting initiative. [See S. Novick, Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes 264 (1989) (“Holmes and Fanny dined at the White House every week or two . . .”).]
James Rainey, in the LAT (March 18, 2004):
In a campaign that has seen candidate Howard Dean infamously appeal to"guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," many political scientists, historians and gender experts say that a good portion of the presidential image-making in 2004 will center on masculinity.
Driving the paternal imperative, they say, is the anxiety many Americans feel because of the war in Iraq and the threat of terrorist attacks at home.
"When you have a war going on, usually the macho factor will prevail," said Joan Hoff, a Montana State University history professor and former president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency."Bush feels it's to his advantage to keep foreign policy as a major issue. But when that comes up, I think you are going to see a lot of 'Who is tougher than whom.'"
The televised images of machismo may be as overt as Bush powering along the Maine coast in his father's cigarette boat or Kerry exchanging slap shots and forechecks on the hockey rink. But the manly theme also will be cast in more subtle and euphemistic terms, as pundits talk about the candidates'"authenticity,""decisiveness" and"toughness."
"There is no doubt that one of the things that Bush has going for him, even with some people who otherwise wouldn't like him, is that he seems decisive and a leader," said Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociologist and gender expert."For many people that links to maleness."
But both the president and the senator from Massachusetts need to be careful that their embrace of traditional masculine roles does not become forced, Schwartz said, lest they become perceived in that most un-macho of roles — the poseur. Think Michael Dukakis in 1988, clad in an oversized helmet and perched atop a tank.
American politicians have not been above feminizing their opponents dating back to the era of powdered wigs, playing on the stereotypical notion that only the"manly" can lead.
Some critics of the day called Thomas Jefferson"womanish." In 1840, President Martin Van Buren — accused of wearing a corset and taking too many baths — lost to William Henry Harrison. The challenger purportedly took care not to be seen in the tub.
Adlai E. Stevenson found himself belittled as"Adelaide" in two unsuccessful 1950s presidential confrontations with Dwight D. Eisenhower, the retired war hero. And in 1984, onetime movie cowboy Ronald Reagan made swift work of Walter F. Mondale, who was labeled a"quiche eater" by Republican true believers....
From NPR's "All Things Considered" (March 16, 2004):
ROBERT SIEGEL: In this season of national argument over same-sex marriage, we're taking a look at two historical controversies over marriage and the law. Yesterday, we heard about polygamy and, today, racial intermarriage, or miscegenation as it was called. From the earliest Colonial times until the 1960s, the marriage of two people of different races was illegal in much of the country. Historian Peggy Pascoe, who teaches at the University of Oregon in Eugene , says laws against intermarriage were the longest-lasting form of legal racial discrimination in America .
Professor PEGGY PASCOE ( University of Oregon ): They were in effect in 30 states, every Southern state, the vast majority of Western states, some of the states on the border like Indiana . And they weren't declared unconstitutional till 1967, when the US Supreme Court finally issued its famous decision, Loving vs. Virginia .
SIEGEL: Until that time, there actually was a law in Virginia that made it illegal for a white and a black to marry.
Prof. PASCOE: There was. In all the states that had these laws, there were prohibitions on marriages between whites and blacks, but that was not the extent of the prohibitions. A dozen states prohibited whites from marrying Asian-Americans. A dozen more prohibited whites from marrying Indians. Nine states prohibited whites from marrying Filipinos. And even that wasn't the end of it. Arizona prohibited whites from marrying Hindus. My own state of Oregon prohibited whites from marrying native Hawaiians....
SIEGEL: As you said, at least, I guess, 30 states has miscegenation laws that made this illegal, but that meant there always were states where it wasn't illegal.
Prof. PASCOE: Yes. And over time, what that meant was that couples who wanted to marry learned a sort of geography of evasion. And if they wanted to try to marry, they would learn which states they could go to and find licensing clerks that would issue them licenses, and then they would return to their own state. That did not always provide the protection that they wanted. It wouldn't necessarily defend them from an inheritance case or other kinds of legal challenges. But it did, in many cases at least, give them marriage licenses.
SIEGEL: This could ultimately serve as some historical precedent for what we're about to see if different states treat same-sex marriage very differently. Typically--I mean, do states set aside their own view of marriage in order to honor another state's laws, or typically not?
Prof. PASCOE: Well, in the case of miscegenation law, most state marriage codes had provisions that said that a state would ordinarily recognize as valid marriages made in other states. And a couple of states-- California was one of them--upheld that even when it came to miscegenation law. But the vast majority of states found ways to make exceptions to that policy.
Elisabeth Bumiller, in the NYT (March 14, 2004):
The 2004 presidential campaign has opened with a snarl.
President Bush and Senator John Kerry, two gentlemen from Yale, wasted no time attacking each other eight months before the election. Last week alone, Mr. Kerry called Republicans" crooked" and"lying" in off-the-cuff comments, then refused to apologize to what he called a"Republican attack squad." Mr. Bush accused Mr. Kerry of trying to"gut" American intelligence services, and he authorized a television ad charging that Mr. Kerry"would raise taxes by at least $900 billion" and weaken national defense. Mr. Kerry fired back with an ad asserting that he had never called for such a thing and wanted to cut taxes for the middle class.
"Doesn't America deserve more from its president than misleading negative ads?" the announcer intoned.
Probably not, at least if history is any guide. Washington's 2004 political class may be deploring the nasty tone of the fledgling campaign and wondering what awful things Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry will be saying about each other come October, but historians remain unimpressed. Negative campaigns are American.
While voters may complain that every campaign seems the most negative ever, contrarians say they serve a useful purpose. In a democracy with a free press and a robust public debate, attacks can be informative and compelling enough to make voters pay attention.
Politics have always been a spectator sport in the United States. As at football games, it is not enough to root for your own team. You have to denigrate the other.
In addition, the country has always been divided by race, region, economics and class, leading to vitriol between the two men representing each side of the divide.
That said, for all the debate about whether Mr. Bush has diminished himself by going negative so early, the Bush-Kerry matchup has not been particularly negative, at least not yet, by historical standards. More important, their attacks have been about substance that voters can learn from, like national security and taxes.
"People have not begun to sling mud," said Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations."So far it's amateur hour - no illegitimate children yet."
Mr. Mead was referring to the mother of all negative campaigns, the 1884 race between Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine, a Republican senator from Maine. The race is perhaps best known for the attack line"Ma! Ma! Where's my Pa?" which Republicans chanted at Cleveland, who while mayor of Buffalo had an illicit relationship with a widow who bore him a child. Democrats had a response:"Gone to the White House. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Historians say Cleveland probably would have lost had it come out closer to Election Day. As it was, Democrats had time to fight back. They painted Blaine as a corrupt businessman who ended a letter with the instructions,"burn this." But it became public, and Democrats broke into song:
"Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine!
The con-ti-nen-tal liar from the state of Maine."
One of the nastiest campaigns was one of the first. In the election of 1800, Vice President Thomas Jefferson was tarred as an agent of the French Revolution, while President John Adams was decried as a monarchist; after Jefferson won, his enemies spread the story that he had a slave mistress, Sally Hemings.
Generally, the campaigns of the 19th century were meaner than the ones today, in large part because the newspapers of the era took sides and were often subsidized by the political parties."There was almost no restraint on what could be said in the partisan press," said Bruce J. Schulman, a professor of history and American studies at Boston University."Party organizations were much stronger, and the partisan attachment of voters was much more loyal. Politics then was not about trying to convert voters based on issues. There were more or less no swing voters. It was all about getting your army of voters to the polls."
But the 20th century had its low moments, too, like the 1948 race between Thomas E. Dewey and the incumbent Harry S. Truman. An Oct. 26 headline in The New York Times captures the campaign's tenor:"President Likens Dewey to Hitler as Fascists' Tool."
Shelby Steele, a fellow of the Hoover Institution, and author of A Dream Deferred: The Second Betrayal of Black Freedom in America (Harper Collins, 1998), in the WSJ (March 18, 2004):
It is always both a little flattering and more than a little annoying to blacks when other groups glibly invoke the civil rights movement and all its iconic imagery to justify their agendas for social change. I will never forget, nor forgive, the feminist rallying cry of the early '70s:"Woman as nigger." Here upper-middle-class white women -- out of what must have been an impenetrable conviction in their own innocence -- made an entire race into a metaphor for wretchedness in order to steal its thunder.
And now gay marriage is everywhere being defined as a civil rights issue. In San Francisco, gay couples on the steps of city hall cast themselves as victims of bigotry who must now be given the"right" to legally marry in the name of"equality" and"social justice." In the media, these couples have been likened to the early civil rights heroes whose bravery against police dogs and water hoses pushed America into becoming a better country."I don't want to be on the wrong side of history," a San Francisco radio host said about gay marriage."Maybe we're looking at thousands of Rosa Parks over at city hall."
So, dressing gay marriage in a suit of civil rights has become the standard way of selling it to the broader public. Here is an extremely awkward issue having to do with the compatibility of homosexuality and the institution of marriage. But once this issue is buttoned into a suit of civil rights, neither homosexuality nor marriage need be discussed. Suddenly only equity and fairness matter. And this turns gay marriage into an ersatz civil rights struggle so that dissenters are seen as Neanderthals standing in the schoolhouse door, fighting off equality itself. Yet all this civil rights camouflage is, finally, a bait-and-switch: When you agree to support fairness, you end up supporting gay marriage.
But gay marriage is simply not a civil rights issue. It is not a struggle for freedom. It is a struggle of already free people for complete social acceptance and the sense of normalcy that follows thereof -- a struggle for the eradication of the homosexual stigma. Marriage is a goal because, once open to gays, it would establish the fundamental innocuousness of homosexuality itself. Marriage can say like nothing else that sexual orientation is an utterly neutral human characteristic, like eye-color. Thus, it can go far in diffusing the homosexual stigma.
Brendan Miniter, in the WSJ (March 17, 2004):
John Kerry is right about one thing: He's no Michael Dukakis. A look at the record shows that in his bid for the White House in 1988, Massachusetts' then-governor ran to Mr. Kerry's right on national defense. Mr. Kerry has not repudiated his opposition to the weapon systems Mr. Dukakis promised to support.
Everyone remembers the pathetic image of Mr. Dukakis riding around in a tank while wearing a goofy helmet. But few remember why he staged that photo-op in the first place. Mr. Dukakis was fighting to overcome the impression that he had what Henry Kissinger called a "visceral, negative" attitude toward the military--a fatal problem for a Cold War presidential candidate.
Being part of the Democratic Party was a hindrance. Many Democrats spent much of the 1980s fighting for the nuclear-freeze movement. Mr. Kerry joined the movement in 1982, during his successful campaign to become Mr. Dukakis's lieutenant governor, and he used many of its appendage groups in Massachusetts when he sought an open Senate seat in 1984. These were the intellectuals behind the rabble in the streets who protested things like deploying nuclear missiles to Turkey to counter the Soviets SS-23s.
But they did much more than oppose building or deploying nukes. They believed so strongly in "mutually assured destruction"--neither side would start a nuclear war if it was clear neither side could win such a war--that they also opposed just about any weapon system that would give America a tactical advantage over the Soviets. That's why President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (which opponents derided as "star wars") was so vehemently opposed. And it's why Mr. Kerry and others voted against funding Trident II submarine launchers, stealth bombers and even the M1 Abrams Tank.
Mr. Dukakis understood the political reality that he had to close his party's credibility gap on defense without alienating politicians like Mr. Kerry. So he tried to have his cake and eat it too. Mr. Dukakis promised to cut funding for SDI but not to kill the program altogether. He also offered qualified support to the Trident II and stealth bomber projects as well as to consider ways to get around his budget concerns regarding Midgetman missile launchers. But the bulk of his military program called for spending more money on "traditional" military hardware. He wanted more tanks, not more nukes.
To pull off this feat, Mr. Dukakis drew close to "Defense Democrats" like Rep. Les Aspin and Sen. Sam Nunn, then chairmen of the Armed Services Committees in their respective chambers. He wanted to show that he wasn't the equivocating "liberal," Vice President George Bush said he was, but in fact had the support of hawks within his party.
On Sept. 11, 1988, a group of Defense Democrats made a public show of meeting Mr. Dukakis to press him on, among other things, dropping the "ifs" and "buts" when voicing support for stealth bombers and Trident II missiles. After the meeting they publicly proclaimed him to be sound on defense. The next day Mr. Dukakis went into the tank for the famous photo.
Thomas H. Lipscomb, in Oregon Magazine (March 15, 2004):
The anti-war group that John Kerry was the principal spokesman for debated and voted on a plot to assassinate politicians who supported the Vietnam War.
Mr. Kerry denies being present at the November 12-15, 1971, meeting in Kansas City of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and says he quit the group before the meeting. But according to the current head of Missouri Veterans for Kerry, Randy Barnes, Mr. Kerry,who was then 27,was at the meeting, voted against the plot, and then orally resigned from the organization.
Mr. Barnes was present as part of the Kansas City host chapter for the 1971 meeting and recounted the incident in a phone interview with The New York Sun this week. In addition to Mr. Barnes's recollection placing Mr. Kerry at the Kansas City meeting, another Vietnam veteran who attended the meeting, Terry Du-Bose, said that Mr. Kerry was there.
There are at least two other independent corroborations that the antiwar group Vietnam Veterans Against the War, of which Mr. Kerry was the most prominent national spokesman, considered assassinating American political leaders who favored the war.
Gerald Nicosia's 2001 book â€œHome To Warâ€ reports that one of the key leaders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Scott Camil,â€œproposed the assassination of the most hard-core conservative members of Congress,as well as any other powerful, intractable opponents of the antiwar movement.â€The book reports on the Kansas City meeting at which Mr.Camil's plan was debated and then voted down.
Mr. Nicosia's book was widely praised by reviewers as varied as General Harold Moore, author of â€œWe Were Soldiersâ€; Gloria Emerson, who had been a New YorkTimes reporter during the Vietnam War, and leftist Howard Zinn. Mr. Kerry himself stated in a blurb on the cover that the book â€œties together the many threads of a difficult period.â€ Mr. Kerry hosted a party for the book in the Hart Senate Office Building that was televised on C-SPAN.
Another source is an October 20,1992, oral history interview of Scott Camil on file at the University of Florida Oral History Archive. In it,Mr.Camil speaks of his plan for an alternative to Mr.Kerry's idea of symbolically throwing veterans' medals over the fence onto the steps of the Capitol during the Dewey Canyon III demonstration in Washington in April of 1971.
â€œMy plan was that, on the last day we would go into the [congressional] offices we would schedule the most hardcore hawks for last â€” and we would shoot them all,â€ Mr. Camil told the Oral History interviewer. â€œI was serious.â€
In a phone interview with the Sun this week, Mr. Camil did not dispute either the account in the Nicosia book or in the oral history.He said he plans to accept an offer by the Florida Kerry organization to become active in Mr. Kerry's presidential campaign. Campaign aides to Mr. Kerry invited Mr.Camil to a meeting for the senator in Orlando last week, but they did not meet directly.
Mr. Camil was known to colleagues in the anti-war movement as â€œScott the Assassin.â€ Mr. Camil told The New York Sun he got the name in Vietnam for â€œsneaking down to the Vietnamese villages at night and killing people.â€