Friday, March 11, 2011

Scriptwriting Nixon Out Of History

"West Wing" 3:9, "The Women of Qumar," is notable for C. J. Gregg's (Allison Janney) prophetic witness against U.S. arms sales to a Saudi Arabia-type country (I guess "The West Wing" didn't want to offend the Saudis, either), the beginning of the goofy flirtation between Josh Lyman and Amy Gardner (played by Bradley Whitford and Mary-Louise Parker, shown here), and President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) asking his aides when the U.S. had "passed" the Clean Water Act and finally answering the question: 1972. Why didn't teleplay writer and series creator Aaron Sorkin say it was Richard Nixon who signed it? Maybe for the same reason Sorkin's script for "The American President" said that "the courts ruled on" instead of "Nixon signed" Title IX, granting equality to women in collegiate sports.

Their Nixon

OUR NIXON (trailer) from Penny Lane on Vimeo.

You saw it here first (unless you visited "The New Yorker"s blog before I did): Filmmakers Penny Lane and Brian Frye are making a Nixon documentary based on the home movies of the late H. R. "Bob" Haldeman and his operatives. Since they're now in control of Nixon's foundation, maybe this will end up being the new orientation film at the Nixon library.

Keeping Secrets At The Formerly Nixon Center

Click here:
Commentary: An Announcement from the Publisher | The National Interest
Mar 11, 2011 ... On March 8, 2011, the Center announced its new name, Center ... -
And you get this:

Access denied

You are not authorized to access this page.

Inspiration Without Intervention

Daniel Henninger makes a neo-neocon argument for the U.S. doing more to support democracy in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, saying:
Soviet-era dissidents have said and written that among the things that sustained them was that their heads were filled with the ideas drawn from America's freedoms.
And yet note that we didn't send in troops.
Hat tip to John Bode

We Can Equivocate About Libya Later

Help Japan now. Photos here.

Sunday Sermon: "Lights Of The Son"

Putting Christ on a pedestal or relying on the church to run interference for us? That's natural enough. The Incarnation? God-in-us? That's scary. My sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany is here.

Photo: Afternoon sky on Monday over the Episcopal Church of the Angels in Pasadena

Brand niXon

The Washington Post calls the decision by Richard Nixon's think tank to abandon his name an "extreme makeover." The writer of the "Reliable Source" item also asks if the new name doesn't "sound like all those other generic, earnest D.C. institutes/think tanks/NGOs." Yep: Even Woodward and Bernstein's paper thinks dissing Nixon was a bad idea.

In reply to the Post's question, the Center said that it "felt strongly that the new name conveyed what we were about." But if Nixon's name was making the Center's work more difficult, it hasn't said so. If the Center has now adopted a policy perspective that differs from his, its recent statements say otherwise.

Though the Center implied earlier this week that the name change was an automatic consequence of the Center's independence from Nixon's Yorba Linda foundation, I know that to be untrue, and the Center's Post comments about its choice of a new name confirm it.

That leaves the possible and possibly related factors of money (the Center itself has mentioned its "new resources") and the hostility of the former White House operatives now controlling Nixon's foundation.

The Center also says this: "We believe that our new name unifies our existing 'brands' while avoiding confusion with the other two entities." It pains me that my former colleagues, thoughtful experts when it comes to matters of global significance, have been reduced to channeling "Mad Men" and George Orwell. Whatever's going on here, I'm definitely not feeling the unification. As for brand confusion, it doesn't seem to be vexing the proprietors of the many institutions and landmarks bearing Ronald Reagan's name. What the Center Formerly Known As Nixon has done is burn out its brand, and the aroma's not very pleasant.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You Broke Some Laws, But That's Not The Point

"West Wing" 3:7, entitled "Gone Quiet," contains an Aaron Sorkin teaching about the politics of presidential investigations that was probably inspired by the Clinton impeachment and trial (though not, one assumes, the Nixon near-impeachment and resignation).

White House counsel Oliver Babish (Oliver Platt) is questioning First Lady Abbey Bartlet (Stockard Channing) about her participation in the cover-up of her husband's MS. When she offers to make a deal with congressional investigators, but takes a surprising line:
You broke some laws, Abbey, and quite frankly you should be ashamed of yourself, but this investigation isn't about that. It's about the criminalization of politics, an attempt to do in the hearing room what they couldn't do at the ballot box.

NPR's "Morally Deranged" Critic

Jeffrey Goldberg is appalled by the NPR sting -- the sting part, not the NPR part:
This is a horrible story, and not because this silly man from NPR kept on chewing while his fake donors told him they represented an organization founded by Muslim Brothers, or that he seemed to agree with the anti-Zionist invective they spewed. What is horrible about this is that an NPR executive has lost his job (and his next job, apparently) after falling victim to a truly pernicious sting operation run by a morally-deranged individual. Schiller is being punished (everyone at NPR named Schiller is being punished, in fact) for saying a couple of dumbass things in private, and nodding in agreement to another set of dumbass statements. How about we turn this story around, and assert that these types of sting operations are what is morally egregious here; that humans often say stupid things; and that a person's life should not be destroyed for making the sort of statements made in the Schiller entrapment.

The Anglican Muslim

Zuhdi Jasser is an Arizona doctor and Muslim who appears on television regularly to warn Americans about the dangers of Islamic radicalism, but without going far enough for those who favor anti-Islam jihad. T. A. Frank writes:
To those on the left, Jasser wants to deliver a wake-up message that danger is afoot. To those on the right, Jasser wants to say that Islam is perfectly compatible with modernity and mainstream American life. In short, he wants to stress that Islamism is a more serious threat than we think and a less serious threat than we think. Not surprisingly, the nuances of such a message come through with less than perfect clarity on Glenn Beck.

The end result is that Jasser is unpopular with basically everyone. Many Muslims reject his message, and so do most Americans on the left. On the right, those on the extremes are equally unfriendly. The virulently anti-Muslim commentator Debbie Schlussel, for instance, accuses Jasser of “saying the usual bullcrap, i.e., that Islam is a peaceful religion.”

Amid such warring camps, it’s hard to say anything useful. Jasser, for his part, believes that both his country and his fellow Muslims are better off for his efforts. I doubt it. There’s a balance between reaching out to skeptics and allowing oneself to be coopted, and Jasser seems to have negotiated this balance unsuccessfully. Still, while the path he has chosen is lonely and perhaps all wrong, it takes undeniable courage to walk it.

"O Magnum Mysterium," Morten Lauridsen

The University of Utah Singers. Morten Lauridsen, I read, was born in the state of Washington and teaches composition at USC. I learned about this sublime piece today from my St. John's buddy Buddy Lang, who performed in a brass-only version at a recent memorial service for his fellow trumpeter Mark Garrabrant. The words in English (from the Matins for Christmas):
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.

Radically Misled

Another plea from a respected conservative, Michael Medved, directed at those who are seemingly bent on paralyzing the GOP and even hurting the country by their feverish attacks on the president:

One can scan the list of leading appointments (including Mr. Obama's two chiefs of staff, one a former congressman and the other a former Clinton cabinet officer) without finding a single example—not one—of the sort of wild-eyed, revolutionary intellectual frequently cited by right-wing critics. Yes, a record of business leadership in the private sector is sorely lacking within the Obama team, but so is any history of militant socialist scheming.

Republicans need not despair that President Obama fails to conform to the hackneyed (if groundless) charges of radicalism. They will find the president easier to beat when they re-adjust their attacks to portray him as typical rather than radical.

The Conscience Of An Archivist

Historian Maarja Krusten, who stopped working at the National Archives in 1990, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for materials about a fateful 1989 meeting she attended to discuss Richard Nixon's White House records. The file contained a memo describing an interview that an agent of the agency's inspector general's office had conducted with a top NARA official to learn more about the meeting. NARA's FOIA team had blacked out the official's name. But Krusten noticed an error:
[T]hey overlooked the initials of the interviewee on the last page. I redacted it myself and informed NARA of the oversight. I’m probably one of the few, perhaps the only, recipient of FOIA released material who went in and further redacted the item.

Dead Air At The Top

Regardless of political bias, which is unavoidable in the media, NPR is responsible for some of the best programming and broadcast journalism in the country. Too bad its reporters and producers have been so poorly served by management just as the right has decided to make a federal case out of the network's measly appropriation.

Alligator Needs To Score In Animal Sanctuary

Having trouble with alligator aggression? Here's a tip:

Narcotics agents raiding a Hemet pot house made a surprise finding amid dozens of plants and seedlings: A 50-pound alligator.

The 4-foot-long gator had been living inside the home, where the owner had set up a cement tub with water so the reptile could get wet.

"He wasn't aggressive at all. ... This guy was just very, very mellow," said Joel Almquist, who was summoned Monday night by authorities to take the alligator to his animal sanctuary.

Nixon Called It "Wound Tighter Than A Tick"

John Dickerson argues that Newt Gingrich's explanation for his adultery shows that he acts out under pressure -- not what you want in a president.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Collective Dismay

Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Winning.

Ministry Interrupted

My bishop, Jon Bruno, outlines the consequences of Israel's refusal to approval the application of the Bishop of Jerusalem and his family for residency permits:
The seizure of Bishop [Suheil] Dawani’s travel documents means not only that he cannot visit the Christian communities of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. It also means he cannot minister to the Christian communities located minutes from St. George’s Cathedral: the brewmasters of Taybeh, the schoolchildren of Bethlehem, the unemployed and elderly of Jericho. And it means he cannot bring essential medical supplies and alms — as well as hope — to the patients at Ah Ahli hospital in Gaza. That’s right: One of the few hospitals ministering to 1.5 million residents of the Gaza strip — one of the poorest and saddest parts of the Middle East — is owned and supported by Episcopalians around the world.

The Color Purple

The cross behind the altar at St. John's Episcopal Church, draped in purple for Lent

Exciting Discovery

Discovery on approach to its final landing, at the Kennedy Space Center. More photos by Red Huber of the Orlando Sentinel, via the LA Times, here.

Waiting For The Other Wingtip To Drop

Something smells fishy to the Washington Times in the wake of yesterday's shocking announcement by the foreign policy think tank Richard Nixon proudly launched in 1994 that it has decided it can better make its way without his name on the door.

It's one thing to say that the Nixon Center always planned to be independent of the Nixon foundation one day. I know it did, because I helped devise the plan. We wanted to make sure that the Center would be protected if someone ever seized control of the foundation who didn't understand or support the Center's mission or who had a vendetta against its staff or volunteers.

But it was never Nixon's or anyone else's plan to jettison his name in favor of something as blandly generic as "Center for the National Interest." For reasons perhaps not yet disclosed, the Center Formerly Known As Nixon has just broken one of its ex-namesake's cardinal political rules: It's always better to be controversial than to be dull.

I've Heard Blues Future

A Joyous Racket from Barefoot Workshops on Vimeo.

The story of a great music teacher named Justin Zamm and an 11-year-old* guitar and drums prodigy named Kedrious Thomas whom you will hear from again. It all goes down in a classroom and church in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a town most famous as a musical landmark (at least before Kedrious arrived) thanks to the legendary Robert Johnson. Watch until the closing titles, and you'll hear the young people performing Johnson's "Cross Road Blues." And here, from my office wall, is a photo of the crossroad in question.
Hat tip to Colleen and Andy Guilford

*The original post had Kedrious's age wrong.

Nixon Abandoned

Beginning from my first days as Richard Nixon's chief of staff from 1984-90, his lack of enthusiasm about his presidential library presented a considerable problem. It was his least favorite post-presidential subject. In his private discourse, he would sometimes actually modify the word "library" with one of those famous deleted expletives.

While generous with his own funds, he refused to raise library money beyond appearing at a few fat cat events and the grand opening in July 1990. Even then, he would dematerialize a few minutes before Bill Simon or Maury Stans, his cabinet members-turned-Nixon library volunteers, made the pitch. One time after another, I was the guy who got to tell Simon, Stans, and others that when it came to the library, Nixon was unable to add anything to his schedule. They'd sometimes wonder why they were raising $23 million for a disgraced president who actually made them feel a little dirty for even mentioning it.

Getting him to focus on architecture and exhibits was rough sledding, too. He realized that any ex-president could get his rich friends to build a museum for him, hold reunions and cocktail parties for his family members and operatives, and say whatever they wanted about the ups and downs of his presidency (such as, in his case, Watergate). As a lifelong reader, Nixon understood that his historical reputation would reside not between museum walls but book covers. That's why, after I became director of the newly opened library in 1990, he reluctantly acquiesced in my plan for an archive of his pre-presidential records. It's also why his last chief of staff, Kathy O'Connor, and I devoted so much energy to getting his White House records home to Yorba Linda by making the private library part of the National Archives, a mission we completed in 2007. We did so despite considerable resistance from Nixon family members and factotums alike.

What would Nixon have thought about the federal library? His feelings would have been mixed, of course. His love of history notwithstanding, he didn't especially love historians. What did he love? Being relevant. Making a difference. His eyes only began to sparkle in conversations about his library when George Argyros (later foundation chairman and U.S. ambassador to Spain), Soviet expert Dimitri Simes, and I asked him to bless our plans for a affiliated foreign policy center that would apply his principles of enlightened national interest to America's challenges in the post-Cold War world.

He agreed immediately. That work, he told us, was worth doing. That work, he said, would have an impact on the course of events. When we were planning the Nixon library, it was hard to get him to drive 50 blocks to midtown Manhattan to attend a meeting. He came all the way from New Jersey to Yorba Linda to announce the creation of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom in January 1994, on the 25th anniversary of his first Inaugural.

When he died that April, some questioned whether a brand-new Nixon organization in Washington could succeed without him. The momentum his enthusiasm had given us helped us persevere, and in November 1994 the Nixon Center (its shortened name, eventually) opened its doors. In the years since, with Simes at the helm, its experts did exactly what we promised Nixon they'd do: Analyze current events through a Nixonian prism. As recently as last year, when Nixon's White House tapes reminded a new generation of Americans of the less worthy aspects of his legacy and temperament and the Nixon White House operatives now controlling his foundation waxed silent in response, the Nixon Center called attention to the continued relevance of his robust, carefully shaken mixture of Wilsonian idealism and Kissingerian realpolitik.

Nixon would have been proud of its work. Too bad the Nixon Center apparently isn't proud of him. In fact, it just threw its first and greatest patron over the side. At a fundraiser last night, it announced that it was in receipt of "new resources" and also proclaimed its new name: "Nixon Who?", aka "The Center for the National Interest." The National Interest is a foreign policy journal founded in the 1980s by neocon godfather Irving Kristol. Ironically, the Center Formerly Known As Nixon acquired it several years ago and turned it into the voice of principled, Nixonian realism. His kind of thinking became unfashionable in the Republican Party years ago. Who would've thought the foreign policy establishment, not to mention his friends, would finally abandon Nixon as well?
Photos: Nixon in Moscow in 1989 with Dimitri Simes (John H. Taylor photo) and in his suburban New Jersey study

Collective Sigh Of Relief

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is blinking.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Have They No Shame?

Brigitte Gabriel is the pseudonym for an anti-Islamist activist and author who's touring the country saying things like this, according to the New York Times:
America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.
Of course that's exactly the way Sen. Joe McCarthy talked about his little list of secret communists who'd infiltrated the the government. Asked about Gabriel's rhetoric, sober think-tankers recoil:
Brian Fishman, a research fellow at both the New America Foundation in Washington, and the Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said, “When you’ve got folks who are looking for the worst in Islam and are promoting that as the entire religion of 1.5 or 1.6 billion people, then you only empower the real extremists.”
You also expose all followers of one of the three great Abrahamic religions to harassment or worse. It happened in Yorba Linda on Feb. 13, when a rally (shown here) that was ostensibly called to protest a non-profit organization's invitation to two radical speakers turned into a broad denunciation of Mohammad, Islam, and the U.S. citizens arriving at the event who happened to be Muslims. If anyone was carrying a sign saying, "Islam is a religion of love which these speakers misrepresent," I didn't see it. If anyone was chanting it, their voices were drowned out -- here in the self-described "land of gracious living" -- by people screaming "Go home!" and "Mohammad was a child molester." Thus did Richard Nixon's birthplace town earn the international reputation of being a hate zone.

After Sept. 11, people used to ask why Muslim moderates seemed to temper their criticism of terrorists. I'm wondering when legitimate critics of Islamic terrorism will convincingly denounce those who insist on lumping in all Muslims.

Ashes To Ashes, Finally

I kept them in my old 1928 Book of Common Prayer: Five crosses from Palm Sunday services I attended when I was a boy in Detroit during the 1960s.

My mother, Jean, gave me the leather-bound book, with its golf-leaf, onionskin pages, when I was confirmed in 1967. The crosses were pressed in the front, where she’d written her dedication. I’d finger them when I got the book down from the shelf to check an old prayer or service. They were dry but not as brittle as you might think, as though I’d put them there last year rather than during the Johnson administration.

Seeing them always made me think of going with my mother and grandparents to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul on Woodward Ave. On the way, we’d drive by the Vernor's ginger ale plant. Afterward we’d go to a diner for silver-dollar pancakes or the Art Institute for an egg salad sandwich and a peek at the famed Diego Rivera murals and an Egyptian mummy that was on display.

Every year at St. John’s Church, repeating the Altar Guild’s call to bring in last year’s crosses so we could burn them for Ash Wednesday, I’d feel a little guilty about my hoard of keepsakes.

But this year, driving to church on the morning of the last Sunday after the Epiphany, I thought about an Altar Guild member who was so eager to light the mighty pyre that she was coming to church in the throes of her recovery from surgery. I thought of my children or grandchildren finding the crosses on some occasion (far in the future, I trust) and wondering what to do with them. I realized that my memories were alive in my heart and spirit and that in any event my precious crosses, lent but not given, were a half-century overdue.

So I added my ancient crosses to our congregants' newer ones, to be formed into fateful black marks on a thousand foreheads Wednesday during four services at our Orange County Episcopal church and school. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

If anyone says he's thirsty after Ash Wednesday service, I'll recommend he try a Vernor's.

Two Liars, Two Dupes, And A Lunch

Two people pretending to dangle $5 million in Muslim Brotherhood money snooker a couple of NPR development executives. Not much here to commend either side of the conversation.

Not True, So Far As You Know

Hat tip to Tom Tierney

Monday, March 7, 2011

Staying Out Of Libya

Whether or not to intervene in Libya may be President Obama's toughest call since his Afghanistan escalation. Roger Cohen votes no:

There are many reasons I oppose a Western military intervention in Libya: the bitter experience of Iraq; the importance of these Arab liberation movements being homegrown; the ease of going in and difficulty of getting out; the accusations of Western pursuit of oil that will poison the terrain; the fact that two Western wars in Muslim countries are enough.

But the deepest reason is the moral bankruptcy of the West with respect to the Arab world. Arabs have no need of U.S. or European soldiers as they seek the freedom that America and the European Union were content to deny them. Qaddafi can be undermined without Western military intervention. He cannot prevail: Some officer will eventually make that plain.

They Really Dig The Tudors

Two American researchers are asking the queen's permission to exhume Henry VIII.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Yorba Fea

Yorba Linda is famous as a president's birthplace. Now it's famous for the anti-Muslim rhetoric during protests against a Feb. 13 charity event at the Yorba Linda Community Center. The YouTube video has over 600,000 hits. The Washington Post's coverage is here. At "Slate," Glenn Greenwald writes:
I think what was most striking about that video is that the presence of small children didn't give these anti-Muslim protesters even momentary pause; they just continued screeching their ugly invective while staring at 4-year-olds walking with their parents. People like that are so overflowing with hatred and resentments that the place where their humanity -- their soul -- is supposed to be has been drowned.

"Guadalupe," Tom Russell

Latest from the greatest

"Being Muslim Doesn't Make Me Less American"

Organizers of the Feb. 13 rally outside a Muslim-sponsored charity event claimed their message was that two featured speakers weren't welcome in Yorba Linda because they were too radical. According to this al-Jazeera report by Rob Reynolds, some Muslim American citizens at the event, including children, got the impression that they weren't welcome in the U.S.