In that third year of the Kennedy Presidency a kind of fever lay over Dallas County. Mad things happened. Huge billboards screamed "Impeach Earl Warren.” Jewish stores were smeared with crude swastikas. Fanatical young matrons swayed in public to the chant, “Stevenson’s going to die–his heart will stop, stop, stop and he will burn, burn burn!” Radical Right polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy’s name was booed in classrooms; junior executives were required to attend radical seminars. Dallas had become the mecca for medicine-show evangelists of the National Indignation Convention, the Christian Crusaders, the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry societies . . .More ironies but still not much clarity. Is the idea that Dallas' nutty, toxic right-wing dynamics provoked Lee Harvey Oswald to murder President Kennedy? How could they have, since Oswald was a communist? Also, reading how bad it was then, I'm a little less discouraged about how things are now.
In Dallas a retired major general flew the American flag upside down in front of his house, and when, on Labor Day of 1963, the Stars and Stripes were hoisted right side up outside his own home by County Treasurer Warren G. Harding–named by Democratic parents for a Republican President in an era when all Texas children were taught to respect the Presidency, regardless of party–Harding was accosted by a physician’s son, who remarked bitterly, “That’s the Democrat flag. Why not just run up the hammer and sickle while you’re at it?
Saturday, January 8, 2011
The suspect, 22-year-old Jerod Lee Loughner, has videos on YouTube that strongly suggest he is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, according to one of Sullivan's commentators, who adds that politics would therefore be irrelevant. Sullivan's own tangential reference to the tea parties prompted another correspondent to say he or she wished Sullivan would be murdered. According to tweets by a friend of Loughner, as recently as 2007 he was a left-winger who was obsessed with prophecies about the end of the world in 2012. Loughner himself writes:
If I may briefly atone, one of the first things I did when I heard the story was download a copy of Sarah Palin's infamous map labeling the districts of vulnerable members of Congress, including Rep. Giffords', with rifle cross hairs. The irony was overwhelming, and besides, I'm not a Palin fan.
I had favorite books: Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver's Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno.
Then I caught myself. What did I really know about the suspect? Was I really on the verge of trying to score a political point while Rep. Giffords was still in surgery? As the moments and hours passed and the picture became muddier, I resolved to withhold judgment until we had more facts. Meanwhile, tweets and on-line comments blamed Palin and Fox News in ways that struck me as being crudely opportunistic. I'm sorry to say that at LA's usually diligent CBS radio outlet, KNX, senior political correspondent Dick Helton persistently made the same facile and undocumented connections. There but for the grace of God.
Yes, it's ironic that Palin's PAC targeted (as they say in politics all the time) Giffords, even more ironic that U.S. District Court judge John Roll (shown at right), who was murdered today, received death threats after a ruling in a case involving a claim against an Arizona rancher by illegal immigrants.
But irony and truth don't always coincide. Some suggest, including Sullivan, that extreme political rhetoric can trigger psychotic violence by a troubled person such as the suspect. Perhaps so. Still, before we turn this tragedy into an object lesson about the incivility of our politics culture and especially before we name names, don't we need to see some evidence that Loughner was actually paying attention to whatever rhetoric we most passionately want to anathematize? It's not that he hasn't left plenty of documentation for experts to study. For instance, we know (again, from Sullivan's live-blogging) that Loughner was a Jimi Hendrix fan. What do we do if we find out that the last thing he listened to before heading out to Rep. Giffords' meeting was "Hey Joe" from "Are You Experienced?"
O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers: Mercifully accept our prayers, and grant to Gabrielle the help of your power, that her injury may be turned into health, and our sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Friday, January 7, 2011
Some insiders' insights from historian and former Nixon tapes archivist Maarja Krusten's new blog, NixoNARA. First, from one of Maarja's latest posts:
[I]n Nixon’s approach to issues as a student, a candidate, a president, and a creator of government records, we see...what has become an all-too-familiar refrain, “they’re against us, we won’t be treated fairly, try to out maneuver or crush them.” Ironically, more openness to reflection, and a willingness to consider data rather than relying so heavily on emotivism—a sense that archivists as civil servants would not treat his records fairly–would have made it much easier for him and for the National Archives.Was his suspicion of civil servants -- not just archivists but members of the diplomatic and intelligence services -- a function of temperament or philosophy? Probably a little of both. Like many during the Cold War, Nixon had a Manichean view of the struggle between freedom and communism. At home, in the political and policy arenas, he saw everything (literally) as a matter of right vs. left. Since civil servants tended to be liberal, it seems not to have been much a stretch for Nixon to conclude that, knowingly or unknowingly, they were participating, if only in a tangential or a symbolic way, in the global communist project. A natural consequence of their ideological bias, in his view, was their hostility to him, the hated persecutor of Alger Hiss.
Getting to know them better would've enabled a more accurate view, but Nixon's introversion ruled that out. I take exception with those such as Rick Perlstein who focus on Nixon's alleged class resentments. Like many introverts, he resented those who were more socially adept than he, which, in politics, was just about everyone, no matter what side of the tracks they came from. He'd always tell us that socializing was a waste of time, but the real issue was that he didn't enjoy it, because it was exhausting. Instead, he spent a considerable amount of time alone, reading, thinking, planning, deciding, and accomplishing.
And yet there's no question about the unfortunate consequences of Nixon's corrosive assumptions about civil servants. In a comment at Maarja's blog, the former head of the Nixon tape processing unit, Fred Graboske, writes:
Our tapes processing staff held widely-ranging political views. Some, such as Maarja and I, were Republicans. Others were Democrats, some Independent, some agnostic, and one was a Socialist. I saw no evidence that anyone’s personal views of Nixon, or general political views, affected their archival work. President Nixon believed that the civil service was predominantly Democrat in its views (probably correct) and that it consequently attempted to sabotage his programs (not correct). If Nixon had understood this, he could have spared himself some grief during his Presidency...The nadir of Nixon's cold war against federal bureaucrats was his asking one of his aides, Fred Malek, to count the number of Jews working in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where, Nixon had decided, liberal officials were purposely skewing data to hurt the administration. First he had another aide, Larry Higby, make sure Malek wasn't Jewish. The unsavory episode is described in the upcoming Nixon library Watergate exhibit that's been opposed by Nixon's White House aides.
About the worst excesses of Nixon and his men, another NixonNARA commentator, historian and blogger Jeremy C. Young (shown here), says this:
To be fair, had Nixon possessed “more openness to reflection, and a willingness to consider data rather than relying so heavily on emotivism,” he probably wouldn’t have done the things that make his aides so sensitive to the publicizing of his papers. Gerald Ford, a man possessed of a very similar political worldview to Nixon’s, committed none of Nixon’s sins and was accordingly unconcerned with the publication of his official papers.Ford also committed none of Nixon's political and policy breakthroughs. He would probably have finished his career as House minority leader if Nixon hadn't turned to him in 1973 as the choice for vice president that would be least offensive to the most U.S. senators. Also thanks to his inoffensiveness, he ended up as the right president for the aftermath of Watergate. But it's hard to imagine him (or Ronald Reagan for that matter) functioning as effectively as Nixon did in the first four years of his presidency -- for starters, transforming relations with the Soviets and the Chinese and the conduct of the Vietnam war.
But is it better than saying that weight loss and fitness are effortless? Maybe. Still, I'd prefer the double meaning of a middle-ground message: "Being beautiful is easier than you think." So it is, when, as a matter of rigorous (and popularly priced) spiritual exercise, you begin to see yourself as God does. Besides, even Marine recruiters minimize the pain of basic training until they actually get you inside the gates of Camp Lejeune.
The fact that the State authorizes a marriage in no way compels any Church to perform or recognize it. As priests, we are entitled to refuse to perform any marriage for any reason. Roman Catholics routinely demonstrate this liberty when they refuse to perform marriages of divorced persons, even though the State allows them to do so. Similarly, they refuse to recognize marriages of non-Roman Catholics even though the State has issued a license. Political arguments against states allowing same-sex marriages and the federal government recognizing these marriages that claim it would violate the “sanctity” of marriage and force churches to do something contrary to their teaching or their conscience, are blatantly misleading and dishonest. Marriage equality merely guarantees equality under the law to all citizens; it does not compel churches to do anything."Dishonest" sounds too harsh. Proponents of marriage equality make the classic civil rights argument that government shouldn't prohibit a class of people from enjoying a contract that confers financial and other benefits. Once the state acts to end a discriminatory practice, the reaction throughout society is resounding, and appropriately so. Have you heard much about racist priests or pastors refusing to marry an interracial or African-American couple? It's a horrifying that anyone could think that way, but if they did, you can bet they would probably keep it to themselves. If a couple had such an experience at a church, one can easily imagine their arguing that no pastor or institution engaged in such practices should enjoy any advantages under federal and state tax codes. (My February 2009 rumination on the same subject is here.)
For the same reason, in marriage equality states, it's easy to anticipate lawsuits against pastors who won't do same-gender marriages. A 2008 ruling in New Jersey suggests that churches that make their facilities available to the general public for weddings or other events might be vulnerable to legal action by same-gender couples. That wouldn't be true for the other categories Ragsdale mentions: Divorced persons or members of couples dissed by the Roman Catholic Church. They would have no leverage over the church because they haven't organized themselves as a class to seek protection of their civil rights under federal law. Besides, it's a lot easier to find a more friendly church, which is also, I'm sure, what most same-gender couples will do. Who wants to force a pastor to marry you?
And yet all it takes is one person who wants to use the courts to make a larger point. Perhaps a constitutional expert will set me straight about whether that person would make any progress. Our society extends broad protections to many varieties of religious expression, unless you're a moderate Muslim who wants to build a cultural center in lower Manhattan. (For my warning that Newt Gingrich and other opponents of Cordoba House have sanctified political pressure on people of faith, go here and here.) But from a strictly moral perspective, it's hard to accept the idea that a non-profit organization or church engaged in openly racist practices should get any public benefits, including tax-deductible status for its members' donations or income tax advantages for its pastor. I'll just bet I could find a federal judge or two who'd agree with me.
I'm not ready to say that churches that refuse to do same-sex marriages deserve to be punished. If proponents of same-gender marriage feel they should be, I doubt they would say so now. They may even take the view that civil marriage equality will run into less resistance from the religious community if its more conservative denizens are reassured that faith institutions won't be punished for refusing to go along. But it's hardly dishonest to recognize that the barrier between civil and sacramental marriage may not be as impervious as Dean Ragsdale says.
Hat tip to Susan Russell
Thursday, January 6, 2011
According to a Pew Forum survey, Anglicans/Episcopalians are the most overrepresented denomination in the 112th Congress: They hold 7.7% of the seats yet are 1.5% of the adult population. No other Christian denomination is close in terms of over representation although Presbyterians are also heavily over represented.
Anglicans/Episcopalians have 41 of the 535 seats. Although Baptists have more than 50% percent more seats than Anglicans/ Episcopalians, Baptists are 17.2% of the adult population.
16.1% of American adults say they are unaffiliated. No members of the House or Senate are unaffiliated.
“If [President Hosni] Mubarak disappears tomorrow, you will have the Islamists as the strongest political force in the country,” said Mohammed Salmawy, head of the Arab Writers Union. “The political parties, even lumped together, do not have the power to take over, and you have the army, which will not allow the country to go into chaos. Worse yet, you might have military Islamic rule because there is no reason to suppose the army is any different than society.”
I took this photo of Nixon and Simes in Moscow in April 1991, the year Nixon decided to throw his not-inconsiderable influence as a foreign policy authority behind Boris Yeltsin, who had emerged as a rival to western media darling Mikhail Gorbachev and later became the first president of the Russian Federation. Miffed that Nixon was seeing Yeltsin at all, Gorbachev, then general secretary of the Communist Party, delayed confirming his own meeting with Nixon until virtually the last minute.
Gorbachev had good reason to watch his flanks. During Nixon's meeting with KGB head Vladimir Kryuchkov, we were startled when he sneered openly at Gorbachev's celebrated reforms. "We have had as much glasnost and perestroika as we can stomach," he said. A Kryuchkov aide later hinted to Simes that he and other hardliners were planning a coup. Nixon hurried to Washington to warn President George H. W. Bush. He also turned up his opposition to a Bush administration aid and trade package for Russia that might have shored up Gorbachev's position. The move against him came in August. Gorbachev rebuffed it, but it left him even weaker. The communist regime he led died on the last day of 1991.
It was a triumphant moment for Nixon, who had been inveighing against Soviet communism for his entire public career. Among the leaders he met on his post-1991 trips was Boris Nemtsov, a deputy prime minister under Yeltsin and today a leader in opposition to the regime of president-turned-PM-waxing-president-again Vladimir Putin. Nixon's meetings with Nemtsov and other young reformers had encouraged him to believe that political pluralism might someday take root in the former Leninist paradise.
Alas, the temperamental and undisciplined Yeltsin gave way to the all-too-disciplined Putin. It would've discouraged Nixon to no end to learn about what happened when Nemtsov had the temerity to criticize as "shameful" last month's trumped up verdict against oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky:
[Nemtsov] pointed out that the decision to sentence the former oil tycoon to the maximum 14-year term on Dec. 30 “had nothing to do with the rule of law” and predicted it would “have very negative consequences."Off to jail in Moscow for speaking your mind. Sounds familiar. We won the Cold War for this?
Mr Nemtsov did not have to wait long to be proved right. The next day, after speaking in a rally supporting freedom of assembly, he was arrested and sent to jail for the maximum 15-day sentence.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I first noticed them last Thursday. The day before, I'd taken a field trip to Barstow, about 110 miles away, and been surprised to find it that was so economically stressed. I should've known -- I have friends who do wonderful ministry there -- but I didn't.
My first thought was that I should get out more. My second, on seeing these enclosures the day after my Barstow adventure, was that it seems strange to devote public resources to plants when there are people in need. I knew there was something callow about that observation, so I kept it to myself.
You might say that people, unlike plants, can take care of themselves. They can move somewhere else and take other steps to improve their situation. Counterpoint: Society has the responsibility to equalize opportunity to the extent possible, and it's failing in places like Barstow, where there aren't enough jobs, to a large extent because of the globalization of manufacturing.
You might say that Joshua trees are part of the ecosystem and critters are entitled to their dinner. Counterpoint: Joshua trees are prey to the encroachment of humanity and ought to be maintained in protected surroundings in at least one little part of the world.
Or you might say that all dimensions of God's creation deserve care. Counterpoint-- Well, there isn't one, except to say that our means, energy, and will appear so limited that, since we can't take care of everyone and everything, we spend our lives engaged in quietly desperate prioritization and triage. The problem is when we make the best or only choices we can, which often are the most self-interested ones, and then build the fortress of a philosophy around ourselves in an attempt to show that God or Reason sees reality, right, and wrong more or less as we do.
So maybe it's good to be convicted by a plant now and then.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Israel is not an apartheid state. But there are problems and some discrimination with the Arab minority inside Israel. If Israel were an apartheid state, I, for example, would not be allowed to work for a Jewish newspaper or live in a Jewish neighborhood or own a home. The real apartheid is in Lebanon, where there is a law that bans Palestinians from working in over 50 professions. Can you imagine if the Knesset passed a law banning Arabs from working even in one profession? The real apartheid is also in many Arab and Muslim nations, like Kuwait, where my Palestinian uncle, who has been living there for 35 years is banned from buying a house. The law of Israel does not distinguish between a Jew and an Arab.More disturbingly, he says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is so weak that only Israel's presence in the West Bank keeps him in power. What if Palestinians got their wish -- a state based on the pre-Six Day War borders?:
Abbas will collapse and Hamas will take over the West Bank in less than a day. If I were Israel, I would not give Abbas one inch of land in the West Bank – not for ideological reasons, but to avoid a situation where Hamas and others would take over the area.Hat tip to Tom Tierney
[T]he Nixon foundation actually had a choice. It need not have entered into a library partnership with NARA. It had established its own library in 1990, one which held Nixon’s pre- and post-presidential records. It could have continued to maintain a privately administered library and museum, with full control of exhibits and public programs. It chose to partner with NARA in the federal library that opened in 2007. Second thoughts? Perhaps. NARA’s fault. No.
Sometimes, it seems to me as someone who once voted for him that an incredible amount of bad karma surrounds the Nixon records. Nixon made the mistake of recording his conversations, then seeking to suppress them or limit disclosures from them. His successors are required to turn over to the National Archives the records of high level governance. A lawsuit which could have been avoided forced into the open all sorts of details about NARA's handling of Nixon’s materials which otherwise might never have been exposed. The decision of an official associated with the Nixon foundation this year to refer to NARA’s Nixon library director as a candidate for administering an Alger Hiss library raised red flags and led me to decide to blog about my past experiences. Sometimes it seems like a never-ending story.
Second thoughts? An interesting question. As Nixon's chief of staff, library director, and legal co-executor, I was promoting the library's federalization within a year or two of his death in 1994. Members of the Nixon family opposed a 1997 settlement that would've accomplished the handover smoothly, with some money left over for an endowment. After that fiasco, finally consummating a less advantageous marriage took another ten years and around $1 million in lobbyist fees.
Our motives for wanting to nestle under the wing of Mother NARA? It depended. Not everyone had an opinion about federalization. I and others believed it was vital to Nixon's historical legacy. Some family members and foundation board members who actively favored the handover were being practical. They were tired of raising money to run the private library, or they feared that donations would dry up when their generation was gone.
I can only remember one person who actively opposed the 2007 handover, an arch-conservative Nixon White House staffer who believed that federal employees, now and for all time, would be unable to treat Nixon fairly. Kathy O'Connor and I spent a long lunch pleading with him not to write a newspaper column calling on the library's supporters to join him in ending charitable contributions to the Nixon foundation. When we went ahead with the handover, which both Nixons' daughters favored, he took back his records for fear that they would some day fall into federal hands. As other former White House operatives have become more actively involved at Nixon's foundation, perhaps his is now the prevailing view. They've taken the lead role in opposing the government's new Watergate exhibit, for instance.
But although Nixon's restored birthplace seems frozen in 1913, the year of Nixon's birth, time passes as inexorably in Yorba Linda as anywhere else. Before long, the aides won't be there anymore, but the papers, tapes, and other historical materials will be. They are the Nixon library. If there is to be a restoration of Nixon's historical standing, which has been battered down even more by reaction to the latest tapes opening, it will be rooted in the work of scholars and researchers whose outlooks weren't molded by Vietnam and Watergate and all the bad karma (to use MK's apt language) that attended them. They will little note the rearguard scuffles that have occurred since his presidency and death. Instead, they'll consult the records, remember what Nixon did as well as what he said, and write their articles and books.
Nixon himself was a long-ball player when it came to his legacy. He knew it was in the hands of students and scholars as yet untrained or even unborn. Yes, we who knew him, and invested much of ourselves in him and his works for good or ill, may wish we could hurry up that long restorative process. We can't, though it's understandable if we try. But for whose sake are we trying, exactly -- his, or ours?