Changing History

The Ken Burns/Lynn Novick PBS series on the Vietnam War has set me to thinking about how history changes.

For human beings, it changes mainly because individual humans make decisions that bend the “arc.” We study the decisions of presidents, the discoveries of scientists, the work of artists and humanitarians, the leadership of Generals.

People of merit and substance.

But the American who was the most influential in changing our history in the last part of the Twentieth Century was not a person of merit or talent or even great skill.

A nobody, really.

It was Lee Harvey Oswald.

The only thing of note or importance Oswald ever did was purchase a mail order 6.5x52mm Carcano Model 91/38 infantry rifle and one day in Dallas kill John F. Kennedy. At Least John Wilkes Booth was a well known actor before he assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

Yes, I believe that in killing John F Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald bent the “Arc” of History toward a darkness of spirit and confidence  that cover us still like a shroud.

Had  Kennedy lived there is no way to know for sure how things would now be different but we do know what happened after his death.

The war in Vietnam escalated to the greatest tragedy of our national lifetime since the Civil War. We revisit it nightly on PBS. We feel it daily in the political and societal mores of our nation. Our sense of who we are as a peoples and where we stand in the World is different.

Had Kennedy lived I believe that after he was re-elected in 1964 (which by the time of his death already appeared highly probable) he would have ended American military involvement in Vietnam instead of escalating it.

I believe we would have then been better off as a peoples, better off as a nation and respected leader in the World.

About Vietnam, Kennedy told Walter Cronkite in September 1963:I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Viet-Nam, against the Communists.”

That he said in pubic. According to several people close to Kennedy, he told them privately that after he was re-elected and free from any political imperative he would absolutely withdraw. I talked to one of them.

Mike Mansfield, the Senate Democrat leader of the time, who after his Senate career served as the U S Ambassador to Japan, was by the 1990s fully retired. However, now in his own ‘90s, Mansfield was still coming down to his downtown Washington office.

I called him on the phone one day and he took the call.

“Senator,”  I said, “I hear that you were one of the people President Kennedy told that after he was re-elected he intended to withdraw our military forces from South Vietnam. Is that true, did he tell you that?”

“Yep, that’s what he told me,” replied Mansfield.

“Can I come down to your office with cameras and interview you about that,” I asked?”

“Nope,” said Mansfield. Mike always was a man of few words.

But my feeling is not just based on what Mansfield or others said Kennedy told them.  After all, Lyndon Johnson early on in his presidency confided in his friends he wasn’t keen on getting further involved in Vietnam.

In fact, when Johnson was running for election in 1964, he actually said in a public speech: “we are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

Anyone’s mind can change, including Kennedy’s.

However, there is a difference about the two men that makes a big difference in evaluating their similar expressions about withdrawing from Vietnam.

John Kennedy had been taken in – I believe the expression is “rolled “ – by the CIA with the Bay of Pigs plan in 1961. And in the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962, the Pentagon Military brass and most of his own staff and civilian “gray beard” advisors were all for bombing the Soviet missile sites in Cuba and against the last minute  “deal” Kennedy made with Khrushchev which probably prevented World War III from erupting. The Brass was wrong and Kennedy saw that he was right.

By the fall of 1963, Kennedy, tested in difficult circumstances, felt sure of his own judgement and certainly was no longer intimidated by four stars on anyone’s shoulder. Finally, when re-elected, there would be (as he reportedly said) no more personal political consideration to take into account.

On the other hand, Johnson came to the presidency is some awe of the military (particularly the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Maxwell Taylor) and of the Kennedy administration civilian “hawks” whom he had inherited and kept on – McNamara, Bundy and Rusk.

They were for pushing ahead. And with the American pubic still wanting to “fight the dirty ‘commies’ wherever they were found” and looking ahead to another term with the election of 1968, Johnson found himself in a quagmire he didn’t fully understand and couldn’t handle.

That’s the difference. That’s why I believe Kennedy would have done what he told his friends he would do whereas Johnson didn’t do what he had told the public he would.

And all this because the nobody Lee Harvey Oswald made a decision and took rifle and History in hand.

But such “decisions” can cut both ways. Consider what happened in the case of a young man, about Oswald’s age, named Georg Elser.

Georg Elser saw that the leader of his Country was heading toward war and resolved to do something about it.

He successfully installed a bomb beside the podium where the leader was to speak. He set it to explode at 9:20 pm, midway through the time set for the speech. The bomb exploded right on schedule, raining down the roof on the speaker’s podium and killing eight people but not the man Elser was after.

At the last minute the Speaker, Adolf Hitler,  moved his speech up by thirty minutes and when the bomb went off in November of 1939 Hitler had departed the podium eight minutes earlier.

Now, think how the World might have changed, how many millions of people might have been saved, if like Oswald, Elser had succeeded.

Just one nobody and eight minutes could have changed the “arc” of History for the better.

Something to think about.

 

 

 

Sons Of Bitches And Other Freedoms

Donald J Trump is free to call people he doesn’t like or agree with “sons of bitches” and want them fired for what they’ve done. You and I may disagree with him, may think less of him for his insult to others, but he can do it without any penalty or sanction from Government (if his action costs him your vote in the next election, that may be a “penalty” but that’s your call, not Government’s).

The Founding Fathers of our Republic enacted a brilliant Constitution but then worried it hadn’t been specific enough in safe guarding citizens liberties as against Government Control or Penalty so they enacted ten amendments to the Constitution (called the Bill of Rights).

James Madison wrote the First Amendment which protects five freedoms from Government Control or Interference. And Freedom of Speech is one of them.

Sure, there are a few exceptions. In 1969, after decades of court decisions that postulated false premises beginning with Justice Holmes famous dictum (later overturned) that there is no right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre,” the Supreme Court found that even speech advocating violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan is protected under the First Amendment, unless the speech “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” But there is no exception which will allow Government to punish Donald J Trump because he calls football players who do things he doesn’t like “sons of bitches.”

Madison and his colleagues had in mind protecting the “market place of ideas” that the philosophers John Milton and John Stewart Mill advocated. Like the other free market places which sort through goods and services, casting out those which don’t work and rewarding those that do work, the unfettered ability to raise a new thought is even more important than the ability to market a new soap.

The First Amendment gives us the freedom to express our idea (thought, view, feeling, etc.) whether anyone else likes it or agrees with it. Because – just because – it might be the best idea for the future but if not allowed to be expressed, “who knew?”

In my imagination, I can only suppose the first person in olden times who publicly argued against “drawing and quartering,” the method of executing a thief by strapping his four limbs to four different horses which were then loosed to run in four different directions, thus tearing his body limb from limb, was perhaps himself “drawn and quartered” for such heretical speech against the public order (soft on crime, you know). But that idea of his prevailed because with the passage of time people in the “marketplace” decided such punishment was cruel and was therefore abandoned.

To put it bluntly, and finally simply, The First Amendment was not written to protect popular speech. If we all like what someone says, why the speaker needs no protection to speak – we congratulate that person as thoughtful and right. It is the very speech with which we initially disagree, it is unpopular speech, that needs protection.

And thanks to James Madison and his colleagues, Donald J Trump and the rest of us have it!

But guess what? The First Amendment also protects the right of those people Trump condemned as “sons of bitches” to do what he didn’t like.

They said nothing that could be heard but “Speech” as protected by the First Amendment is not necessarily verbal. What they “said” could be seen.

Madison and the Courts after he wrote understood that “speech” can take other forms to express beliefs. They knew that expression of ideas in non-violent silent ways is just as important, often even more powerful, than verbal speech. Throwing the tea into Boston Harbor told the British what the colonists thought about the “tea tax” in a more effective way that shouting against it in the village square.

When India’s Mahatma Gandhi drew hundreds of thousands to march silently with him against British rule, the British could not stand.

When Martin Luther King, Jr., used his march to Selma (along with his oratory) to move a nation further along the road to racial justice, the police with their clubs and truncheons could not prevail.

When young people (and old people) in the 1960s and ‘70s wore T-shirts with anti-Vietnam war slogans and burned the American flag in protest of what their Country was doing, all the power that Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon could muster could not stop the nation from eventually going their way.

And yes, when Athletes bow a knee or raise a fist in the air or otherwise decline to participate in the patriotic gestures of our Country, they are making statements about American discrimination and American justice which will be tested in the “market place” not just by the majority sentiment of the moment. The first real protests against the Vietnam war were met at the time with near-solid opposition by the vast majority of Americans but tested true in the flowing course of history.

So go ahead Donald J Trump, call the people who say and do things in silent protest of our Countries actions unpatriotic “sons of bitches” and go ahead athletes and others with your silent protests against things you see as wrong and want changed. The market place of Ideas will consider it all and History will tell us who was right.

I have no doubt in the case raised by Donald J Trump that once again, history will tag him with the one word he fears most of all – LOSER!

For those who disagree with the First Amendment’s protections, I say you’re welcome to go to some other Country that restricts free speech. The Soviet Union was one such Country and Ronald Reagan, who loved to tell jokes about the Soviets, had one about Free Speech.

He said a Soviet and American were arguing one day about which Country allowed the most free speech. The American said “Why, I can go into the Oval office, pound my fist on the desk and tell President Reagan I don’t like the way he’s running the Country.

“So can I,’’ said the Soviet, “I can do the same thing.’’

“I can go into President Gorbachev’s office in the Kremlin, pound my fist on the desk, and tell him I don’t like the way President Reagan is running his Country.” Telling Gorbachev off about the way he was running his Country was not in the cards.

So, if you think it’s better elsewhere, all I can say is goodbye…

…and good luck.

 

 

Our National Popinjay Strikes Again

One, at least this “one,” can not keep up with Donald J Trump and his “stream of consciousness (unconsciousness)  speeches, harangues, faux pas(s), tweets and babbles.

While you’re still digesting the implications of threatening to destroy, utterly destroy, North Korea and its twenty five million people, he races on quicker than a March Hare or perhaps a Mad Hatter, assaulting the senses and numbing the brain.

Here are just a few of the latest Trumpisms.

Trump went to Alabama, ostensibly to support the candidacy of Senator Luther Strange in next Tuesday’s Republican primary. Strange is opposed by former Judge Roy Moore who was removed twice from his post as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court because he refused to follow the legal orders of Federal Courts (particularly the Supreme Court of the United States). But never mind, Moore is ahead in the polls.

Trump said he was there to support the candidacy of Luther Strange but that both candidates  in the primary were  good men and he would enthusiastically support Moore if Moore won.  Thanks for coming, Donald.

Actually, Trump was there to support himself.

He delivered a ninety minute stream of consciousness harangue mostly about himself, his greatness his enemies, his grievances, his hatred of the press, his visions of the Wall and other fantasies.  He would jump from topic to topic in mid-sentence, the whole being an incoherent mess. Truly a “pudding with no theme.”

There was a special moment when he jumped on NFL players who have not respected the American flag by kneeling or otherwise not participating in singing the national anthem. Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

The various player “sons of bitches” labeled thus by Trump are firing back, of course. Sort of reminds one of the present invectives hurled to and from Washington and North Korea.

Please take the time to read the “write through” of his appearance in Alabama as written by Washington Post reporter Jenna Johnson. But read while sitting down and if you are so inclined with a stiff drink in your hand (or two Aleves). Here is the link.

http://wapo.st/2wNUDbs?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.43b9207de414

Then there are the latest “tweets” the morning of 9/23. Trump sees the looming, final, defeat of the seven year Republican effort to Repeal and Replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act which has made it possible for millions of low income Americans to obtain health insurance.

And with Senator’s John McCain and Rand Paul voting “no,” opponents need just one more Republican vote and once again, the seven year long Republican rant against and promise to replace the Affordable Care Act will go down to defeat.

Naturally in one of his “tweets” Trump complained once again about McCain. Here, our national popinjay who “deferred” his way out of serving in the military at a time McCain was imprisoned and tortured in North Vietnam has the gall, the chutzpah to hammer McCain. Why, as my late friend and Carter press secretary Jody Powell might say about this “That’s like being called ugly by a frog.”

McCain will certainly not bow to Donald J trump.

And what do your think the two Republican Senators McCain joined to stop the last attempt – Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – will do this time?

One or both will almost surely vote NO.

Trump used to blame the Democrats when they refused to join in the repeal effort. But recently he has found an easier target to set up for the blame. The Republicans, particularly Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. But that certainly doesn’t bother him. Trump is no Republican, he has his own party – the party of Trump.

Finally, before I end my own “rant,” a further word about nuclear destruction. Those two boys  continue to hurl viscous curses at each other “madman,”  “Dotard,” and threaten each with nuclear destruction. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerously serious.

You don’t need a reminder of the danger from me. But take a moment and listen to an old song by the Sons of the Pioneer they recorded at the dawn of the nuclear age titled “Old Man Atom.”

It truly applies today. Here is that link.

And so long until next time.

 

Trump’s World: Planet of the Apes

Donald J Trump, in his first address to the United Nation’s General Assembly, laid out his vision of the World.

It is the World that the philosopher and social scientist Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) saw where every man wars against every other man, where the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

In suggesting ways to change this, Hobbes laid out an agenda for organizing society that is credited with being the foundation of civilized order today. While not all of his ideas have been accepted, basic ones of Equality, Justice, Co-operation among nations and Governments – as Lincoln put it – “of the people, by the people and for the people” have been accepted.

Today, that is basically the Vision of the United Nation’s Charter which binds member nations to work in  collective International Co-operation in the pursuit of Peace.

That is not  Trump’s Vision.

There are many soothing words in his U N speech that seem to endorse respect for the wishes of other nations, for the importance of co-operation among nations, for an understanding of and appreciation for the diversity of life and thought in this world.

He pledged this: “In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.”

But this invocation of Ronald Reagan’s famous Vision of “A shining city on the hill” is belied by the clear message to the World that some of his soothing words attempted to soften.

Trumps Vision of how to reform and improve this cruel and brutish World is this:

1-The United States will put its own interests First. And if those interests cramp or even harm other nation’s interests, so be it.

Trump said: “Our government’s first duty is to its people. To our citizens. To serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values. As president of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries’, will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

Well, yes, every president properly says the safety of Americans is his first duty. But the rest of it says to the World, we will decide what our needs and rights and values are. If we wish to impose a religious test on immigrants, we will do it. If we need to impose trade restrictions that favor us at your expense, we will (try) to do it. And so forth. The era of “Ugly American” is back.

2-Flowing from the first point is the second that the United States will co-operate with other nations but on its own terms; the implication is that “co-operation” is a one way street, not a give and take.

That is the law of the jungle, the “survival of the fittest,” a phrase coined by the philosopher Herbert Spencer and adopted by Charles Darwin in explaining the natural selection in species stemming from gene evolution. In blunt words, Trump is saying we, the richest most powerful nation on earth, will call the tune and good luck to the rest of you at the dance.

Should other nations follow Trump’s advice to also put their own interests First the chances of  successful negotiations among nations would seem to be near impossible.

3. The United States will protect itself from the threat of attack as it sees fit; when and how are not open to International decision, restriction or review.

The threat from North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and its bellicose leader is real and growing but the action to counter it that Donald J Trump promised he is prepared to use if necessary was truly breathtaking.

Trump told the  U N General Assembly:  “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea (Bolding added).

Totally destroy. Are we talking civilians, women, children, the total population? Pray not!

And we don’t know whether he is including pre-emptive action or only after a military attack from the North. But the words of his threat are scary in themselves.

What a mature leader might say is something like “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to use military force to the extent necessary to remove the threat.”

Not Trump.

Measured language reflecting measured thinking is not his style.

And it is “as sure as God made little green apples” that Trump’s over-the-top threat will only get a return over-the-top threat from North Korea and what aside from energizing his political base at home and scaring the rest of the world does he accomplish by using the language of an angry child – nothing good.

Further, Trump was speaking to an assembly of nations that banded together to assure the peace, to use force only authorized by the world community of nations.

Yes, the U N Charter’s famous Article 51 says reasonably: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security….” Nowhere in the Charter does it say nations can attack others first  (a view in the name of self defense advanced a few years ago by former Vice President Cheney).”

But Trump has never endorsed Article 51 of the Charter, and only reluctantly endorsed NATO’s Article 5, because both say that ultimately it will be the U-N or NATO that has the final say on sorting out outcomes when  member states are involved in armed attacks.

Finally, Trump called on the U N to head off the need for him to make good on his threat (he criticized nations that continue to trade with North Korea – are you listening China – and called on them to stop) but if “forced to defend” ourselves or our allies by totally destroying the North, Trump made no mention that he would need authorization from the  U-N or anyone else to do it.

 

4. Notwithstanding denials, the United States now intends to be the “world’s policeman.”

Consider  Trump:

– reiterated his recent vow to “win” in Afghanistan (winning not being defined).

-threatened to declare Iran in non-compliance with the six power nuclear treaty, thus invalidating the treaty endorsed by our European allies. Iran already has responded with words that make it clear that if the treaty is abrogated,  it will then resume its nuclear program.

-declared the situation in Venezuela under dictator Nicolas Maduro “completely unacceptable, and we cannot stand by and watch…We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.”

Military action? Trump didn’t say but the implication of a “red line” having been established for sending in U S troops is there.

There is much more and I invite everyone to read the full text of Trump’s U N speech which is said to have been written for him by Stephen Miller, a long time associate of former White House Strategist Steve Bannon (now returned to run Breitbart).

And who is Miller? I can do no better than to “lift” a portion of his description that appears in Wikipedia:

Stephen Miller (born August 23, 1985) is U.S. President Donald Trump‘s senior advisor for policy. He was previously the communications director for then-Alabama senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He also served as a press secretary to Republican U.S. Representatives Michele Bachmann and John Shadegg.

Miller has acted as Trump’s chief speechwriter and is credited with authoring the president’s “American carnage” inaugural address.[1][2] He has been a key adviser since the early days of Trump’s presidency and was a chief architect of Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from several Middle Eastern countries. Miller rose to national prominence on February 12, 2017, when, during a morning of television appearances defending the travel ban, he appeared to question the power of the judiciary to limit the executive’s role in setting immigration policy…Miller has been criticized on multiple occasions for making false or unsubstantiated claims regarding public policy.”

Donald J Trump read Miller’s speech but that does not necessarily mean he fundamentally agrees with its every point or, for that matter, any of its points. Although the tough, uncompromising talk certainly sounds like him.

As we’ve seen, Trump reverses himself, makes up and changes his mind, speaks loudly or softly – all  depending on what he believes at any given moment enhances his public adulation and benefits his overwhelming need for applause, beginning but not limited to his Base.

He can campaign loudly vowing to deport the DACA children, thrilling his Base, then appear to make a deal with Democrats to legalize their presence in the United States, pleasing the rest of us, then when the Base pushes back in horror at the apparent betrayal, backtracking into, where (?)…well, we don’t know yet.

Trump is controlled by his own selfishness and vanity and while that can play into anybody’s agenda it is dangerous.

But allow me to end this gloomy view of Trump’s speech to the U N on a light note.

Trump began his speech to the U N by boasting of his accomplishments:

He said: “Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8. The stock market is at an all-time high, a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth, the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time, and it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense. Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been.”

Oh, Donald, you are so great and the fact you felt the need to explain that to the United Nations is almost “sweet.”

it sort of reminds one of the day after the deadly march in Charlottesville you were asked whether you intended to visit the city and without bothering to answer the question took the occasion to say:

“I know a lot about Charlottesville. It’s a great place that has been badly hurt over the last couple days. I own one of the largest wineries in the United States. It is in Charlottesville.”

By all means, let’s not forget to buy a bottle of Trump wine.

Makes the thought of total destruction of North Korea go down a little easier!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do We Men Listen When Women Speak? Are You Kidding!

Ruth Marcus, a truly talented op-ed writer for the Washington Post, asks the question “Where Are All the President’s Woman?”

Here’s the link.

http://wapo.st/2fpUu8p?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.bb06a3e2f66c

She cites the statistics and asks: “How can it be, in 2017, that only four of 23 Cabinet-level staff members are women, half the number of the first Obama Cabinet? How can it be, in 2017, that of Trump’s 42 nominees for U.S. attorney positions, only one is female?” 

But  really Marcus’s  is not just a column about Donald J Trump’s neglect of women in his administration (what else is new), it is a column about the way men think of women in general when it comes to equal status as important, thinking  human beings whose views and opinions deserve attention.

In my own experience, two stories stand out.

One is told by Nancy Pelosi which she has often talked about. She says that when she and Barbara Boxer (both Democrats from California) were new in the House of Representatives they found themselves on the same Committee and attended a closed-door meeting of a select few members. They were the only women present and were ignored. The men did all the talking.

Somehow the men got around to the subject of child birth and began talking about their wives’ experiences and their own in attending to the birth of their children. Pelosi says she turned to Boxer and said “they’ll have to bring us in to this, they’ll have to ask us about our experiences in child birth.”

Wrong. The men never though to do that.

The second story is personal and involves good friends so I’ll name no names, although if, perhaps, they read this blog they’ll recognize themselves.

In late 2008, after the presidential election, the wife  gave a dinner for a good friend of hers who was leaving Washington. She and her friend are both dynamic African-American women.

A small group gathered at the family dinner table and as is always the case in Washington, politics, foreign policy, and similar subjects dominated the conversation.  The host, the husband, had served in a high post in government and he began the conversation on a topic of foreign policy importance and a retired four star General gave his view and a newsman of far more credentials that I gave his view and I brought up the end with my view. At which point, the host tabled a second subject and off we men went “mashing it out.”

But when it came my turn, It suddenly struck me that what we men were doing was, well, absurd. Just like the Pelosi/Boxer story all the women at the table were sitting silently.

So I said, “On this subject, I think we want to hear what  the Secretary of State thinks.”

And Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State in the outgoing George W Bush administration and the guest of honor spoke right up and from that moment on  I assure you everyone wanted her to dominate the conversation along with her friend, the hostess.  We men were embarrassed and ashamed.

This experience of mine occurred  many  years ago and I believe our country has made progress in recognizing the rights and equality of women since (still not there but making progress). The fear now, as Ruth Marcus points out, is that Donald J Trump and his merry band of misogynists would take us back to those “good old days” when Bess Truman cleaned up the White House kitchen while Harry wrestled with the decision about dropping the Atomic Bomb.

Guys, even if you’re not on board with the “rightness” of the thing consider that they’re not going to be stopped so you’ll be a lot happier if you get used to it and, as the late Speaker Sam Rayburn used to advise new House member, “go along to get along.”

We will have a woman president. This last election thanks to the Russians, thanks to Comey and thanks to a press that thought the Republicans drum-beat of her Email mistake was the moral equivalence of Donald J Trump’s life time of mistakes, she didn’t make it.

And now she says she’s through with running for office.

Oh, yea?

 

 

 

 

 

What Should We Do About Trump’s Base?

Joe Scarborough, the co-host with Mika Brzezinski of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC has written an op-ed in the Washington Post worth reading. The link is below.

http://wapo.st/2vXfcmn?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.274641df7cf8

Scarborough’s point is that no matter what Donald J Trump does (as in throwing in with the Democrats on legitimizing the presence of DACA children) his Base will not desert him.  Leaders of the Radical Right will condemn him for breaking his fundamental promise to expel all the “illegals,” but even they can not shake his faithful followers from their allegiance to him.

Yes, but why is that? Is thirty percent of the Country so ignorant, so bereft of common sense, so fixed on despicable causes that they don’t see or don’t care that Donald J Trump is a “con man” who will do nothing for them if it interferes with his own interests since  his only allegiance is to himself?

No, I don’t think that’s it.

I think the late social scientist Richard Rorty figured it out in 1998! You may know that in 1998, Rorty wrote in a book that dis-satisfied Americans would someday start “looking around for a strongman to vote for-someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, over paid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots…all the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

That’s it.

Much of Trump’s Base is revolting against being put down, ignored and generally seen as inferior beings (I exclude the Nazis and their ilk who are indeed, inferior beings) and they see in this man their Champion. As he once said “I  could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

His Base has a point (Nazis and their ilk excluded).

When I was growing up in the El Paso Southwest more than sixty decades ago  the way we thought of and treated each other was different. I obtained a college degree at a small college of no great fame or importance but a lot of my friends didn’t even go to college. They became tradesmen – plumbers, welders, etc – or worked all their lives as clerks in a store or traveling salesmen and no one that I knew looked down on them, no one tried to make them feel inferior or unworthy.

My father did not have much education. I’ve read love letters he wrote my mother while wooing  her. The spelling and syntax were lacking but not the love. He saved his money, bought farm land in the New Mexico territory, prospered and saw us through the Great Depression of the Thirties. He was highly regarded by everyone in the community.

Today,  it’s different – particularly in the Countries’ big cities and sophisticated circles. My friends from the old days feel it; their children feel it. And, as Rorty pointed out long ago, they resent it.

I have gone through several “stages of grief” since last November – not “acceptance,” never acceptance. At times as I’ve watched the EVI (Egopmaniacal Vulgrian Ignoramus) work his evil will from the Oval office along with his gang of thugs, I have wanted to throw every one of his Base who brought him into the bottom ring of Dante’s Inferno…but, thankfully, I quickly came to my senses.

For the most part, his Base are good people whose grievances grew without the rest of us lucky ones dong much to  help them and in the last few decades when it comes to economic help, why the greedy men and women of Wall Street and even Main Street have “lunched up” at their expense.

Now, we must help them (not the Nazis, I say again). We must work to see that they will have no need to find a “strong man” to vote for.  And we must convince them by our actions that we understand they are worthy and deserve respect.

As Richard Rorty forecast the future in 1998, another man long ago outlined the way we must think about and act toward Trump’s Base. During another difficult and divisive time in our County when like today it seemed we would tear ourselves apart this man pointed the way to reconciliation.

Let us follow his advice: He said “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Abraham Lincoln 1861

Outrage on the Right

The news that Donald J Trump may be “Dealing” with the arch devils and Democratic leaders Charles Schumer  and Nancy Pelosi in bringing the DACA children into permanent legal status in the United States has sent many of his loyal followers into white hot anger and unholy despair.

As the Great One Jackie Gleason would say “how sweet it is!”

A Sample:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the GOP’s biggest immigration hawks: “If AP is correct, Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair…No promise is credible.”

Conservative polemicist Ann Coulter: “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?”

Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs: “Deep State Wins, Huge Loss for #MAGA.”

Breitbart News:  “Amnesty Don”

The best came from, yes, Fox News host Sean Hannity, who never finds any fault with Donald J Trump and, unlike many others, blames not him, but guess who:

Hannity: “Well Mitch GREAT JOB! You failed so miserably with Healthcare and ‘excessive expectations’ now @POTUS has to deal with Dem Leaders! I blame R’s. They caused this. They wanted him to fail and now pushed him into arms of political suicide — IF TRUE.”

Why all this rage and gnashing of political teeth? Apparently, these people so desperately want to expel every person who is here illegally including the children who were brought here by their parents that the thought that Trump would agree with the Democrats to let them stay is just too much for their hard hearts and blighted souls.

And what to say to them? Two things.

First, a renunciation and condemnation of their attitude toward these DACA children. Let us say to them in the words of the great lawyer Joseph Welch who admonished the red baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy so many years ago:

“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Second, a warning that they will see Trump do this type of thing again and again which, for the rest of us, may be salutary.

His so-called “Base” is only beginning to wake up to what many of us who have known and watched him for thirty plus years learned long ago. That is, he will say or do anything at any moment that he believes will enhance the adulation and worship that he craves so badly, needs so badly. He must always be a “winner.”

It would be great to believe Donald J Trump has had that epiphany which has brought him into the “light” but it won’t happen. Yes, he may “Deal” with the Devils as far as his Base is concerned but he doesn’t care. He understands the “push back” from the majority of Americans to the truly obscene policy of uprooting and expelling the Children and therefore is happy to change his position on the matter and receive their praise and thanks. Donald J Trump has no core principle on which he will stand save one: His own self-aggrandizement!

And what is the Deal? It appears that both sides say Trump did not agree to forget building the Wall. Only to agree that in a Deal to legitimize the Children’s presence he would not push for Wall money. But in the future?

After all, Trump’s First Big campaign promise was to build a Wall across our entire Southern border, small portions of which already have some fencing and walls. The two chants heard at his rallies were “Build the Wall” and “Lock her up.”

So, is he merely saying Not Now for Wall Money but Later?

Well, as Harry Truman was wont to say, “let’s look at the record.”

In the Continuing Resolution last Spring to keep funding the Federal Government Trump agreed not to push for money for the Wall.

Just days ago in the Resolution that extends Government financing until this December he agreed not to push for money for the Wall.

Now it looks like in a Deal  with Schumer/Pelosi he will agree not to push for money for the Wall as the price for regularizing the Children’s presence.

The “read” on his continuing delay on standing for the Wall is this. Trump sees that even this Congress is not going to appropriate billions and billions of dollars to build a Wall all along our Southern border, so, he is accommodating to the reality. And as long as he continues to say that someday he will insist on building a Wall (just not today) he can continue to assure his Base that he will not break his campaign promise but more importantly, he will not have to acknowledge that he is not a winner but  a loser!

Only he will be a loser two fold. First, no Wall. And Second, sooner than later his Base will realize what has happened and then what? One shivers to speculate. Except there is always Sean Hannity to alibi for him,  a lonely voice crying in the Con Man’s wilderness.

Of course, all that we now see can be erased in the twinkling of the next “tweet.” Except for that one Principle he will never abandon (himself), nothing is sure about Donald J Trump.

It is best just to use the old phrase in my former business:

“Stay tuned.”

 

PS – And what about that other chant “Lock her Up?” Oh, never mind.

 

 

 

 

Aung San Suu Kyi & The Nobel Peace Prize

First, let us talk about Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s present State Counselor (the effective head of state) and winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

I share your dismay at her apparent fall from grace. It would appear that she, of the once shining light of peace, has turned to the dark side of war against a minority tribe living in Myanmar.

She was awarded the Peace Prize in 1994, for leading the fight at great risk of personal safety against Myanmar’s repressive ruling military Junta. In the speech delivered by her son accepting the prize (since she was not then allowed to leave the country) he said “I know that if she were free today my mother would, in thanking you, also ask you to pray that the oppressors and the oppressed should throw down their weapons and join together to build a nation founded on humanity in the spirt of peace.”

But now, apparently she has “thrown down” on the indigenous Rohingya, a minority but historically part of the nation’s population. She calls them “terrorists” and has expressed no opposition to the fact that they are being killed in large numbers by Government forces.

Many people around the world are demanding that Aung San Suu Kyi be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize.

My thoughts on her are –

First: It’s too late to strip her of the prize. She won it fair and square; there were reasons the Committee can defend for conferring it at that time, and it’s done. Whatever History decides is her ultimate “due” will factor in the good and the bad, the light and the dark.

Second: Do not be surprised if she has, in fact, failed to see that what is being done in the Country she heads is in no way compatible with the spirit of building “a nation founded on humanity in the spirt of peace.” Be shocked, but not surprised.

Years ago in my work, I learned never to be surprised when any of us human beings say or do something that doesn’t fit with our past views, our past “image.” And when the new doesn’t fit the old, the reason is almost always the same – our actions are usually based on “situational” factors, not steadfast principles. It may turn out that Aung San Suu Kyi could see the Light when it was “her” people who were being oppressed but only the dark side when those “other people” were in the way and made to suffer.

Now, let us talk about the Nobel Committee, for which I have come to have the minimum highest regard. The Committee often does confer the Peace Prize on someone I (we?) consider deserving. But too often, the Committee, like the Academy Awards and their Oscar, confers the prize using a left-wing (my wing) set of indices and a “Politically Correct” lens. And, on occassion, just plain contrary to the facts.

Consider that in 1973, Henry Kissinger, the U S Secretary of State and Le Duc Tho, the North Vietnamese negotiator, were awarded the Prize for bringing peace to Vietnam. What Peace?

Everyone knew that what the two negotiators had done was make a deal (the real “Art of the…”) that allowed the United States to leave proclaiming that we had achieved “peace with honor” with the hidden “understanding” that after a “decent interval” the North would take over the South and unify a “communist” Vietnam.

Kissinger initially accepted his award but Le duc Tho declined to accept his. When two years later, the North moved in and took over the South, Kissinger gave back his.

In 1978, the Committee awarded the prize to Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel and Anwar el Sadat, President of Egypt “for the Camp David Agreement, which brought about a negotiated peace between Egypt and Israel.”

They deserved it.

But they could not, would not have done it if President Jimmy Carter had not shepherded them every step of the way – first at Camp David and the next year in a “do or die” visit to the mid-East. Was Carter also awarded the prize? Of course not, this “priggish” Baptist from Georgia? Totally unacceptable.

However, in 1994, there were three winners: Shimon Peres and Yatzhak Rabin of Israel and Yassar Araft of the Palestinian Liberation Authority for the Oslo peace accords which wrote a framework for a possible future Peace.

Yassar Araft? Peace? Are you kidding?

This man spent his life to the end attempting to destroy Israel and all its Jewish inhabitants, not trying to make Peace, and the chances that he would see to it that those “accords” wouldn’t lead to a settlement was a “lead pipe cinch.” But the Committee more than once has awarded the Prize not for accomplishment but for, well, what?

The 2007, Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore for his effort “to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change…” something I think was well worth his doing, but “Peace?

And then there was the 2009, award to Barack Obama, barely nine months after he took office, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Yes, Obama did seem to be moving in a constructive direction but there was as yet no Peace to celebrate and Obama himself said he was “surprised” by the award. I think the Committee wanted to award a prize to the American voters for electing our first non-white president, but Peace?

Obama was the fourth U S president to be awarded the Nobel Peace prize. There was Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama. But who was the fourth?

Guess what ? Having overlooked him when he first deserved it, it was Jimmy Carter in 2002, “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”

Well, that’s right, Jimmy Carter did all that, but the real reason the Committee got around to him was he was speaking out forcefully against a looming U S invasion of Iraq (which occurred the next year) and the Committee, along with a lot of other people, thought that was a bad idea and wanted to highlight this former U S president’s opposition to such a mistake. So he received an “honorary” award, sort of like Cary Grant’s Oscar.

Finally, the biggest mistake the Committee has made to date (akin to the Red Sox’s trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees) was in 1948, when the committee decided not to award a peace prize, explaining “there was no suitable living candidate.”

True, Mahatma Ghandi, having led India to freedom from British rule in a non-violent, peaceful movement, had been assassinated earlier that year. But heck, you would have thought the Committee might have decided that little technicality could have been waived for a man who was already universally being proclaimed the greatest Peace maker of his time!

Alfred Nobel would have been both shocked and surprised!

Amazing Grace (how sweet the sound)

John Newton, Captain of Slave Ships, saw the Light and turning from the Dark Side wrote the words for the great hymn.

“Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see”
Bless you John.
And bless you Donald J Trump!
Talk about putting on a show. The sight of the people who thought Trump was “their guy” who would throw out all those people who don’t belong here and cut out all that money that goes to the welfare “moochers” and join up with the marchers who carry Nazi flags, all that and more so they brought him, they elected him – And now to see them bellow and squirm and look for someone else to blame, why it is a joyful sight.
Texas Governor Abbott is calling some of the Texas Republican Congressmen to urge them to vote for the Hurricane Relief package that Texas needs so badly but now that Trump has throw in with “Chuck” and “Nancy” to tie the package to raising the Debt Ceiling  some of those proud Texans in the House of Representatives don’t want to do it.
Their desire to cut federal spending on the backs of the poor and other needy Americans is so great that they are blind to the requirements of their duty to their State and its distressed citizens. Let us hope they, too, will see the Light.
But there is more. Now Trump is exploring  the possibility of repealing the law that put in place a “Debt Ceiling.”  When members of the “Freedom Caucus,” the hard right GOP  House group, heard that, why the cries of anguish were pitiful indeed.
“That would just make it easier to load up the debt,” said one, apparently not knowing that raising the Debt Ceiling only allows the Government to pay the bills already incurred, to pay the additional debt all ready “loaded up.” Oh, well, as former Vice President Dan Quayle once opined “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
Then we hear that horrible “Nancy” was the one who asked Trump to Tweet assurances to the DACA children that he would not move in the next six months against them…and he did it!
He did what that Democrat leader asked him to do! Strong men of the “Caucus” gnashed their teeth, rent their hair and fainted.
Who knows, when they come to the Freedom Caucus may lead the charge for Impeachment!
But enough of this unseemly joy on my part brought about by Trump’s latest turns. Those of us who have known him for years, watched his moves as he conned the rubes while beating his chest in self worship like a demented Gorilla know that we are but the next Tweet away from total reversal, total return to the man who has wielded presidential power in a far different way before this week.
A man who can win the presidency by encouraging the chant of “lock her up” against his opponent, and then in his election night victory speech tell us that the nation owes a debt of gratitude to Hillary Clinton for her years of service to our Country is a man who has no fixed view, no core principle except one: To say or do whatever he thinks works for him at the moment to add to the adulation he needs.
And that suggests an interesting theory to explain his sudden reversal of position this week which I hate to put forward for fear of being called a fool. But, heck, I’ve been called that before (often justified) and at my age it really doesn’t matter. So, here goes.
President Trump reads the polls. Despite his campaign denouncing “Fake News” and his public boasts that everything is going swimmingly and great, he knows he is in political trouble. His public support continues to drop and now is somewhere in the thirties. And he knows that his “base” of support is finite and shrinking and he sees that continuation of his present policies  only continues the hemorrhaging.
A person who firmly and sincerely believes in something has the courage of his/her conviction and is willing to take the consequences of standing fast. But our man here Is no Edmund Ross who said he almost looked down into his open (political) grave when he cast the one vote that saved President Andrew Johnson from being removed from office. No, that’s not Donald J Trump.
Is it possible that President Trump , dreaming of re-election, has seen the Light because he understands  that that is the way to the increasing popularity he seeks and will therefore willingly abandon his thirty plus base on some of their key issues in pursuit of the larger base of the rest of us???
Of course, there are many explanations for this week’s Trump that are more likely: He is trying to execute a shrewd “misdirection” play that will end him up where he was going…or…he simply is “ad libbing” with no real game plan, saying and doing things he will surely take back for no understandable reason…or…he is really “crazy” in the clinical sense that some have suggested…or…(and here throw in your own theory).
Actually, I would like to believe that like John Newton, Donald J Trump has had a true epiphany, that like Saul he has become Saint Paul. Now I’m dreaming.
What ever has happened this week, let’s just take.
And pray that it continues.

 

 

The GOP Blame Game

Donald J Trump has made a deal with the Democrats (Devil?) posing with his good friends”Chuck (Schumer)” and “Nancy (Pelosi).”and the House GOP “Freedom Caucus” is beside itself.

Their initial reaction was to blame their own GOP leaders – Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell – for not giving the President the correct marching order which for them is to tie the necessary increase in the Debt Ceiling to another round of crippling Federal Budget Cuts (on the poor, the needy, the disenfranchised, etc). Instead President Trump made a deal to tie it to the Hurricane Relief package. Go ahead, my Freedom Friends, vote against that.

No, fellows and gals, look in the mirror. You have only yourselves to blame.

You brought this “man child” to the Presidency, you whooped and hollered when he energized the crowd with cries of Mexican rapists and thoroughly enjoyed it when he demanded that they “lock her up” and all the other things he promised to do for you. You believed he would be the necessary instrument to turn back the clock on progress in this Country, to do your bidding. And now, well, what a disappointment.

Do not misunderstand me; “one swallow doth not make a Spring,” one reasonable outcome of bi-partisanship at the highest level certainly helps the Country but does not mean that Donald J Trump has had some epiphany on his road to Damascus. What it shows is what many of us have always know about him. He has no core beliefs, no fixed principals but one: Whatever at any given moment he thinks will add to the applause for him, will give him the adulation he so desperately needs, he will do. No, he will turn on his new friends Chuck and Nancy in a nano second. But for now, we will take the good result of this “Deal” and call it a great “Art.”

What’s ahead? As I’ve suggested, while it appears the Democrats now have leverage provided them b President Trump, we could just be the next “tweet” away from another demand for Wall Building money, another mean, even vicious denunciation of things and people who can be hurt by Trump.

The popular saying in many of this morning’s commentary is “the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend,” or some variation of that. In the case of this man, he has never been and will never be your consistent and steadfast Friend or Enemy.

His only Friend is himself. And in that, he is his worst Enemy.