Saturday, May 5, 2012

Richard & Richard

Jefferson Morley on the CIA's Watergate connection:
Thanks to the release of the “Family Jewels” report and an extraordinary collection of 11 conversations between [CIA director Richard] Helms and Nixon in 1971-73 (first published online in 2009) we can see (and hear) what Nixon and Helms had on each other: knowledge of the other guy’s record of ”dirty tricks.”

No Buildings Burned At Occupy Wall Street

Some survivors of the Kent State shootings in May 1970 believe there's evidence that the Ohio National Guard was ordered to fire on the unarmed antiwar demonstrators. Four people were killed and nine injured. Richard Nixon called it the worst day of his presidency.

Providing historical context in the Los Angeles Times, David Zucchino sounds an odd note:

For many Baby Boomers now in their late 50s and 60s, the so-called Kent State Massacre was a searing and, for some, life-altering event. It came at the height of the antiwar movement and set off a renewed spasm of opposition not only to the Vietnam War but also to the Nixon administration, the Pentagon and other symbols of authority.

The shootings hold far less resonance for today’s college-age Americans. For them, the 42-year-old event might best be described as a particularly demonstrative Occupy rally featuring extreme violence.

No, it mightn't. The shootings were an inexcusable tragedy. But "particularly demonstrative" doesn't accurately describe the protests. Here's Wikipedia's account of events at Kent State two days before:

The decision to call in the National Guard was made at 5:00 p.m., but the guard did not arrive into town that evening until around 10 p.m. A large demonstration was already under way on the campus, and the campus Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) building was burning. The arsonists were never apprehended and no one was injured in the fire. More than a thousand protesters surrounded the building and cheered its burning. Several Kent firemen and police officers were struck by rocks and other objects while attempting to extinguish the blaze. Several fire engine companies had to be called in because protesters carried the fire hose into the Commons and slashed it. The National Guard made numerous arrests and used tear gas; at least one student was slightly wounded with a bayonet.

Ed Cred

Deke Rivers wonders why Richard Nixon's son-in-law gave $10,000 to embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:
Edward Cox is always looking for a way to make a name for himself, and get more into the political game. That Cox is a centrist, and very bright for the most part makes this donation to Scott Walker all the more sad as it only underscores Cox’s desire to be playing in the arena regardless of the sewage he needs to step into.

Why he feels a need to do this is a mystery.

There is little Cox can do at this stage of his life (age 66) other than donate money, given he has no electoral track record. He seems to enjoy playing in New York politics, but there is really nowhere his attempts at making a splash will land him other than at the place he started.

There is no legacy for Cox other than his White House wedding to a president’s daughter. It has always perplexed me why everyone seems to know that except Cox himself. And he is bright enough to figure this out.

Surely Tricia Nixon had the chat with him about this matter.
Maybe Cox was trying to buy tea party cred. In 2010's New York gubernatorial election, he tilted left when the rest of the GOP was lurching right. The result: 2016 Democratic frontrunner Andrew Cuomo, New York's superstar governor.

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Wide River to Cross," Levon Helm

I'm only halfway home; I've got to journey on to where I'll find, I'll find the thing that I have lost. Written by Buddy Miller and performed by Helm on his Grammy-winning 2007 album, "Dirt Farmer." He's singing with Teresa Williams and his daughter and co-producer, Amy Helm.

When the album came out and Terry Gross interviewed him for "Fresh Air," he reflected on his recovery from cancer in his vocal cords, which had kept him from singing and sometimes even talking for years:
I've always appreciated my family and friends, you know, and those ties that bind us together. But it's like my music, this much later and after you've almost got everything taken away from you, once you get that back, boy, it's a joyful life that we've all been given.

And, you know, you can really - you know, when you see a young nephew or a young person in your family that's blood related, and you see them for the first time and they're not old enough to know that they're all related, but you can look into their face and you they look into your eyes and you both know it. You know, we take it for granted. You know, we enjoy that kind of thing without even a big thank you most of the time.
I'm pretty sure that preaches. My music buddy Boom Baker and I are offering a big thank you that we had the blessing of making the trip to Levon's Woodstock barn in 2009.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Route 241 Sky

7:10 p.m.

"The Weight," Bruce Springsteen

Put the load right on me. Performing with the expanded E Street Band on May 2 in Newark in a tribute to the late Levon Helm (and to songwriter Robbie Robertson).

The Remembrance Of Them Is Grievous Unto Us

The Huffington Post (which has the best and most coverage of spirituality and religion of any mainstream publication) on the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer, which was yesterday. They used to say a properly educated newspaperman knew Greek mythology, Shakespeare, and the King James Bible. My newspaperwoman mother would add the prayer book, which she said taught her the glorious cadences of the English language (making May 2 the birthday of her composition professor). This bit of the General Confession is from the 1928 edition, which she gave me when I was confirmed on April 30, 1967 at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit.

Getting Crowded

I wonder if hummingbird siblings recognize each other in adulthood, having spent their first month or two in such close quarters.

Nixon's Support In The Form Of Deeds

Chemi Shalev on the time the Washington Post blasted Israel for its shout-out to Richard Nixon:

Forty years ago, at the height of the 1972 presidential campaign, ambassador Yitzhak Rabin [Abba Eban is shown between him and Nixon] lavishly praised the Nixon administration’s steadfast support for Israel and then told his Israeli interviewer: “While we appreciate support in the form of words from one camp, we must prefer support in the form of deeds that we are getting from the other camp.”

The next day, in an editorial entitled “Israel’s Undiplomatic Diplomat," the Washington Post blasted Rabin for intervening in the U.S. elections on behalf of President Richard Nixon and against Democratic candidate George McGovern. But Prime Minister Golda Meir stood by her man in Washington, and Rabin himself was unrepentant. In fact, the minor brouhaha that followed his remark may have actually contributed a few percentage points to the respectable 35 percent of the Jewish vote that Nixon garnered in the November elections. And Nixon’s gratitude, for all we know, may have played some subconscious role in his 1973 decision to send an emergency airlift of supplies and ammunition during the Yom Kippur War.

China Syndrome

In an analysis that seems more carefully considered than the ex-Nixon's Center's Jacob Heilbrunn's, Ian Johnson blames a case of cold feet rather than Barack Obama's cold heart for Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng's second thoughts:

Soon, Chen was making various assertions, including that US officials told him that if he didn’t leave the embassy, his wife would be beaten. This seems implausible given that State Department lawyers were advised by one of the sharpest China human rights lawyers, Jerome Cohen. Cohen is a strong supporter of Chinese dissidents and acted as Chen’s advocate in the negotiations. He has backed US Ambassador Gary Locke’s statement Thursday that Chen was not coerced or tricked into leaving.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Obama Is The New Kissinger

Jacob Heilbrunn, writing at the National Interest, published by the former Nixon Center:

Can anyone doubt that the blind lawyer and dissident Chen Guangcheng, who says that he feels a "little" lied to by American embassy officials in Beijing, was, more or less, hustled out and dumped into a hospital before he could further disrupt Chinese-American relations, especially with high-level meetings coming up between Hillary Clinton, Timothy Geithner and their Chinese counterparts? If any episode crystallizes the ruthlessness of President Obama, it should be this one. Even as the GOP tries to depict him as an impotent president, he is acting more ruthlessly and decisively than almost any American president in recent memory, including George W. Bush.

Obama gives off every sign of taking coldly antiseptic positions in foreign affairs. Again and again, Obama has dismissed the notion that he should get involved in the internal affairs of other countries. The Arab Spring? He viewed it with caution. Libya? He tried to lead from behind. Syria? He wants nothing to do with it.

This approach might be called Obama's neo-Kissingerianism.

Woodward's All Benned Out Of Shape

Watergate reporter Bob Woodward is spending the runup to the break-in's 40th anniversary caught in a pincer movement between Max Holland (who in Leak completed the deromanticization of Woodward's most famous source, Mark Felt) and former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (who in 1990 confessed to misgivings about Woodward's description of his source). Holland writes:

Lest you, dear reader, think this is a manufactured controversy, a kerfuffle over some minor details—did Bob really move a flower pot on his balcony, and if so, how many times?—Woodward realizes what is at stake. Shortly after [Jeff] Himmelman read the [Barbara] Feinman transcript for the first time in April 2010, he interviewed Woodward. His mentor was "visibly shaken" after reading the passage, Himmelman writes, and “all vigor drained from his voice.” Himmelman then went back to Bradlee, who would be lobbied by Woodward to disavow the phrase "residual fear" or prohibit its use by Himmelman. Together, Himmelman and Bradlee tried to parse the reason for Woodward’s “off-the-charts” reaction. To Bradlee, it suggested that the notion of embellishments in All the President's Men "might be true."

With Smoot-Hawley, I'd Have Had Less Success

Preaching to the St. John's middle school this morning, I asked the students a question and said, "Anyone?... Anyone?...Anyone?" Then I announced a digression (their favorite part of any preachment) and said, "Who knows what movie that's from?"

About a dozen raised their hands. "'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'," a boy said.

And who says it? Eight raised their hands. "The teacher," a girl said.

And who plays the teacher? A teacher raised her hand. "Ben Stein," she said.

And what president did Ben Stein and I both used to work for? That, they all deduced. Then I came home and spotted this Stein post about his White House years.

For Campaigns The Candidates (And We) Deserve

Does anyone else think that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are being trivial with their commercials and comments about who's tougher, the Osama-killer or the would-be one? On NPR this morning, Michael O'Hanlon, author of Bending History, a new book about Obama's foreign policy, had this to say:
I tend to think we have two outstanding candidates, two honorable men who are pragmatic and fairly centrist in a lot of their views of the world. But their campaigns are already in overdrive, even on an issue that you would consider to be relatively non-divisive, like the death of Osama bin Laden. And I think both campaigns need to look in the mirror a little bit and ask just where they want to take the country these next six months.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Friendly Fire

Tim Naftali, the former director of the Nixon library, has enough of secular outlook that he didn't know (or perhaps jokingly claimed not to) that he had inherited his surname from one of Jacob's fractious sons. Still, his Yorba Linda years comprised a wilderness experience of Hebrew Testament proportions. As he sometimes reminded me, I was the one who first beckoned him into the trackless wastes. I also helped give him his toughest challenge: Replacing the private library's relentlessly pro-Nixon Watergate exhibit. I'm sorry about the times I made his work unnecessarily difficult and grateful that he beat disgraced Nixon chief of staff Bob Haldeman's boys and finished what history had called him to do.

No public historian since the Enola Gay controversy at the Smithsonian Institution had a harder challenge. He was uniquely qualified for it. He was a highly regarded, non-ideological scholar of Nixon's defining crisis, the Cold War. A few years before he came to Yorba Linda, Tim and I had worked together a little on presidential tapes, by which Nixon's historical reputation is utterly bound and tied, for better and worse. Tim wasn't a Nixon booster, and I think he ended up deeply discouraged about Nixon's character as a result of his forced curatorial march through the Watergate swamp. Yet he and the last elected moderate Republican president would have disagreed on relatively few domestic or foreign policy issues. Perhaps most important given the odds he faced, he displayed the quality Nixon prized most of all. It turns out that Tim Naftali was tough as hell.

The archivist of the U.S., Allen Weinstein, was so excited by the idea of making Tim our first federal director (the library opened in 1990 as a private institution) that he offered him the job a few days after my call. When things were going well at the library, Weinstein would stress that Tim was his man. When things got rocky, he'd remind me that it had all been my idea. Tim and I labored together for over three years, rarely disagreeing about substance but having a series of pitched battles about Tim's independence vs. the Nixon foundation's right to be consulted on exhibits and programs, space use on our shared campus, and even Tim's lower-case library logo, which he thought invoked the '60s and '70s, when Nixon was president, but we thought unstatesmanlike.

We got important work done anyway. I permitted him to open foundation-owned records to scholars and funded his oral history interviews with Nixon policy heavyweights and White House operatives. Our disagreements never became public nor interfered materially with our shared mission of establishing the federal Nixon library as the successor of a private museum and archive that had earned something of a reputation of partisanship (which, if it was a fair criticism, was no one's fault but mine). Tim's bosses at the National Archives fully embraced the same mission -- Weinstein, of course, and his deputy Sharon Fawcett, who had both worked hard to bring Nixon's library in from the cold.

Having bargained with them for hundreds of hours to launch the federal library, Kathy O'Connor (shown here with Fawcett), Nixon's longtime aide and last chief of staff, and I would sometimes call or write Weinstein and Fawcett to complain about Tim. We never got anywhere. They backed him unequivocally. The most I could pry out of the avuncular Weinstein was his theory that Tim and I were brothers at heart who clashed because of unacknowledged similarities in temperament and outlook. After we each had stated our grievances, he would smile and send us back to Yorba Linda to work it out. While I never fully accepted that I was Dan to Tim's Naphtali, Kathy and I both loved Tim's mother, Marjorie, a delightful Anglican from his home town of Montreal (Tim's late father, a builder, was Jewish). One problem may have been that I was having trouble letting go after spending two decades planning and running the library. By the same token, we felt that Tim, in his actions and public statements, was trying too hard to put distance between himself and the ancien regime, namely us. We didn't become close until I left to begin full-time ministry in February 2009, which, now that I think about it, is often the way with siblings.

Thanks to Kathy, my able successor as head of the Nixon foundation, relations with Naftali and NARA quickly improved. But her journey toward the promised land of happier collaborations with our federal colleagues was interrupted and cruelly ended by the Haldeman renaissance. After Tim invited Nixon White House counsel John Dean to give a speech in June 2009, Nixon's White House and CREEP aides (including some involved in Watergate or Watergate-related activities) and their friends, thanks to enablers on the foundation board, surged to positions of influence or even fiduciary authority.

They were wrong about Dean's appearance, which was inevitable and also appropriate as part of the library's transition to public control. The self-described lynchpin of Watergate, he is pivotal historical figure. Tim and we had already played host to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein. Bob Woodward visited in 2011 without incident or controversy. The actions of Haldeman's acolytes weren't based on what was best for the library, the public, or Nixon's reputation. They lashed out because they despised Dean for helping send fellow operatives to jail for Watergate crimes and then grasped for power because they believed it was their right and their turn. As Naftali told the Los Angeles Times, "It's a very special tribe that has never accepted the nation's verdict on Watergate."

By the fall of 2009, Tim had been at work for two years on the library's new Watergate exhibit, which Weinstein and Fawcett had ordered him to undertake, also at my suggestion. It was part of complex deal in which the feds paid millions to build an archives wing for Nixon's vast collection and agreed to take over the library in May 2007 and move the records from College Park, Maryland. Shaking hands with our federal partners, we and the Nixon foundation board had promised both our acquiescence in an exhibit that would be acceptable to historians and in library-controlled public programming, including appearances by Nixon critics.

But once under the control of Haldeman's tribe, Nixon's foundation broke its promises. Most of their harsh if ultimately impotent actions are part of the public record. They denounced Naftali publicly for inviting Dean. An operative wrote on the foundation web site that he should go run a museum for traitor Alger Hiss. They recruited Sen. Lamar Alexander (right), a former Nixon aide, to put a secret hold on the nomination of a new U.S. archivist to pressure or get rid of Naftali. They assembled a Watergate truth squad including convicted perjurer Dwight Chapin and attacked Tim's Watergate exhibit draft, calling for friendlier treatment of Haldeman and trying to prevent the public from seeing videotape in which operatives discussed dirty tricks and counting Jews in the federal government. A former foundation employee who'd opposed the NARA handover wrote a column associating Tim with "the left." Another operative filed a FOIA request to read Tim's e-mails. Yet another accused him publicly of sending coded signals about his sexual orientation. His wife publicly accused Tim of leaking prejudicial Nixon tapes to the media.

When Tim offered one of Nixon's daughters a tour of the library's new quarters, she accepted only to denounce him in front of her fellow foundation leaders and demand that he leave. He was shocked that his adversaries had gone that far. As I had learned over a decade before, when Nixon put me instead of his family in charge of his estate, the withdrawal of the favor of political offspring is a powerful weapon. Lucky for Tim, it's not quite as potent when the taxpayers rather than the offspring are paying your salary. Though the massive assault on his professionalism and character must've been upsetting and sometimes dispiriting, it can't help but have reassured Tim that he was on the right track.

Besides, his colleagues at NARA must've had his back. Officials in Washington and around the country, especially at other libraries, had to be aware of what he was up against as he did the difficult job the archivist of the U.S. had given him. When all Nixon's men went to war against a federal director in the last battle of Watergate, the blue coats would obviously know where their loyalties belonged.

Not so much, astonishingly. At some point, the Weinstein-Fawcett hard line weakened. After the public learned of the Haldeman truth squad's critique in the late summer of 2010, there were signals from Washington that it was receiving a respectful review. That's right: The National Archives, custodian of documents signed by Thomas Jefferson, was paying serious attention to a Watergate narrative co-signed by Dwight Chapin.

And it gets worse. I remembered Weinstein and Fawcett's stony imperviousness to Kathy's and my minor complaints as I read historian Maarja Krusten's reference to Tim being cussed out not by a Haldeman operative or Nixon family member but by one of his fellow presidential library directors. Someone had figured out how to reach deep into the government and enlist a taxpayer-paid NARA official for a flanking attack on Tim Naftali. Which director was it? What was the official trying to accomplish? Was it part of an effort to get Naftali out of the Nixon library or alter the content of the Watergate exhibit? Did top NARA officials know about or sanction it?

It's hard to imagine Barack Obama's new archivist, David Ferriero, doing so, especially after the senior senator from Tennessee held up his nomination. Besides, I agree with Krusten that he's a stand-up dude. As for Fawcett, I'd always found her to be a straight shooter. But we know from press reports late last year that she'd sided against Naftali and that the Nixon foundation offered her a consultancy after her retirement. All the library directors, including the one who dissed Tim, had reported to her. It's also important to know if Haldeman's operatives played a role. In 2009, the Nixon foundation tried unsuccessfully to get the other presidential foundations to join it against Naftali. Lamar Alexander isn't the only current or recently serving government official with ties to the Haldeman clique.

However it happened, a federal official with a six-figure salary was carrying Watergate for Nixon's men. Maybe this inside move against Naftali was just further proof (as if it were needed) of the wisdom of the scriptwriter who put the words "follow the money" in Watergate leaker Mark Felt's mouth in "All the President's Men." Krusten writes that the director told Naftali, "You're going to ruin it for the rest of us." Perhaps he was speaking on behalf of cash-strapped presidential libraries from Simi Valley to Boston, where private foundation money can still buy a considerable amount of hagiography for the entertainment of credulous museum-goers. Too many balanced and thorough museum exhibits -- torture, Monica Lewinsky, Iran-contra -- and the gravy train might dry up as ex-presidents' rich friends tire of underwriting an undesirable degree of objectivity. For creating (and in March 2011 successfully opening) the Watergate exhibit that his bosses and historians had demanded and that the public deserved instead of the one Dwight Chapin wanted, Tim Naftali had become the ultimate skunk in the Rose Garden.

A Big Disappointmitt

Did Mitt Romney allow bigots to drive a gay aide out of his campaign post? My buddy Steve Clemons, founding director of the Nixon Center, says the answer's yes.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Keeping It Cool On Iran

It looks like the Obama administration, by keeping cool and focused, has spooked Iran into serious talks about nuclear weapons and backed Israel away from a dangerous preemptive strike. As war fears recede, score a win for the president. But as James Risen writes, much hinges on May's followup talks in Iraq:
Mr. Obama made it clear that he would not be willing to pursue a policy of “containment” on Iran, in which the United States would accept an Iranian nuclear weapon while seeking to prevent a further nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Abandoning containment as a policy option was the result of an intense debate within the administration, and moved Washington a bit closer to the Israeli position, and it was considered by the White House to be the biggest reward they were willing to give Mr. Netanyahu during his [March] visit. Yet Mr. Obama also made it clear that he believes now is the time to give diplomacy a chance.

But some analysts warned that the Iran crisis could heat up again if there was not much progress at the Baghdad talks. The Istanbul meetings were designed simply to determine whether Iran was serious about beginning a new round of negotiations, but in the Baghdad sessions, the United States and other countries are expected to demand that Iran begin to discuss the details of a possible deal. That would require that Iran show a willingness to compromise on its uranium enrichment program, perhaps by agreeing to halt its efforts to enrich at 20 percent, a level that is higher than is needed for civilian nuclear power.

That's Mighty White Of Them

Economist and Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich surveys the GOP's efforts to reach beyond its base (which actually don't currently exist, though I'm sure there's a whole team working on it really hard) and concludes:
How can a political party be so dumb as to [anger] Hispanics, women, and young people? Because the core of its base is middle-aged white men -- and it doesn't seem to know how to satisfy its base without at the same time turning off everyone who's not white, male, and middle-aged.

What Does Bradlee Remember?

Writing about Jeff Himmelman's account of (or making of) trouble in Nixonwoodsteinbradleeland, I didn't want to mention the age thing. But Jack Shafer does:
With all respect to Ben Bradlee, the Woodward-Himmelman spat is starting to resemble that movie in which a much-coveted dog is placed midway between two contesting owners and they rely on him to choose which owner he wants to go home with. Isn’t this historical dispute, which relies on accurate memory, a bit much to put a 91-year-old man through? Bradlee obviously admires and respects both journalists, but age has dimmed his powers of concentration (as it has mine).
Hat tip to Max Holland

Neatening Things Up A Little

Ben and Bob at the Nixon, 2011
It turns out that the battle of Yorba Linda, joined by Bob Haldeman's loyalists against Tim Naftali and the Nixon library during 2009-11, wasn't the end of the war of Watergate. This time the reporters are absorbing fire.

The "Wilson Quarterly" editor's blog contains a survey of reactions to Max Holland's widely praised Leak, which reconsiders the motives of the Washington Post's most famous source, Mark Felt.

And now "New York" magazine has rocked greater Nixonwoodsteinland with a package of articles and sidebars by a former Bob Woodward researcher, Jeff Himmelman. His assertions: That Woodward and his reporting partner, Carl Bernstein, tried to cover up their use of information from a Watergate grand juror and that their editor, Ben Bradlee, has confessed to misgivings about relatively minor aspects of the account of their reporting contained in their first book, All the President's Men.

Woodstein issued a carefully worded response to the grand jury story (not quite a non-denial denial) and are obviously worried about the appearance of any daylight between them and their flamboyant editor. Himmelman, who at first thought he'd be writing a book with Bradlee instead of a biography featuring an expose about his reporters, provides this bit of dialog between himself and Bradlee (who seemed to to be getting along fine with Woodward when I saw them a year ago at the Nixon library):
“It’s inconceivable to me,” Ben said, “that in [Woodward's] preparation for all of this, to strengthen his case, he didn’t neaten things up a little—we all do that! … He thinks it is a critical and fatal attack on his integrity, and I don’t think it is.” Then, a moment later: “There’s nothing in it that attacks the verity of his research.”


“It’s just a little … ”

“A few of the bells and whistles,” I said. “Were all the bells and whistles those exact bells and whistles?”

“Where he had 90 percent, he was going for 100 percent,” Ben said. “And it’s that last lunge that drubs you.”
Or, as Nixon used to say, it's the coverup that gets you.

Faith And Minds Alive

What a wonderful time to be a Christian, and an Episcopalian. Above is a fascinating hour-long conversation between Andrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat, author of Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. Then my Nixon buddy Paul Matulic pointed out this Slate exchange between Douthat and William Saletan as well as the fact that the New York Times turned to an Episcopal priest, Randall Balmer, to review Douthat's book:
Although Douthat’s grasp of American religious history is sometimes tenuous — he misdates the Second Great Awakening, mistakes Puritans for Pilgrims and erroneously traces the disaffection of American Catholics to the Second Vatican Council rather than the papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” — there is much to commend his argument. Yes, the indexes of religious adherence are down, and the quality of religious discourse in America has diminished since the 1950s, in part because of the preference for therapy over theology. Theological illiteracy is appalling; many theologians, like academics generally, prefer to speak to one another rather than engage the public.

But the glass-is-half-full approach, to borrow from the famous Peace Corps ad of this era, looks rather different. I’m not sure that the enervation of religion as institution since the 1950s is entirely a bad thing; institutions, in my experience, are remarkably poor vessels for piety. An alternative reading of the liberal “accommodationists” Douthat so reviles is that they have enough confidence in the relevance and integrity of the faith to confront, however imperfectly, such fraught issues as women’s ordination and homosexuality rather than allow them to fester as they have for centuries. I suspect, moreover, that Douthat has overestimated the influence of intellectual trends like the Jesus Seminar. The thinkers he quotes are important, but I would also recommend the lesser-known work of writers like Roger Olson, Jean Sulivan, Doug Frank, Miroslav Volf and David James Duncan as evidence of the vitality of Christian thinking; they may occasionally poke provocatively at the edges of orthodoxy, but most do so from well within its frame. Finally, the fact that we are having this conversation at all (much less in the pages of this newspaper) is testament to the enduring relevance of faith in what sociologists long ago predicted would be a secular society.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Nixon At The Carpool

An independent educator's view of Richard Nixon, according to columnist Mark Shields:
My daughter, Amy, attended, some 30 years later, the same Washington, D.C., high school, Sidwell Friends, that Richard and Pat Nixon's daughters, Julie and Tricia, did. They had the same history teacher, the late Harvey K. LeSure Jr., who from time to time used to comment (usually kindly) on things I had written or said.

After Amy Shields' high-school graduation, I took LeSure to lunch, where I asked him, among other subjects, about Richard Nixon. LeSure, a practicing Quaker, who after being rejected for the U.S. military because of his poor eyesight had become a medical corpsman and surgeon's assistant with the British Army in North Africa, gently noted he was "never a political fan of Mr. Nixon."

But, ever fair, LeSure offered this more complete portrait of the man. Richard Nixon, I learned, "drove his daughters' carpool" and, as vice president, would come out after school to watch Julie play field hockey. Mr. and Mrs. Nixon could always be depended upon to chaperone the school dances, and he frequently wrote notes of encouragement or condolence to members of the school community.

This was clearly not the Richard Nixon I had in mind. Harvey LeSure summed: "I knew Nixon as a father, and he was one of the best" (an observation which could explain Julie Nixon Eisenhower's tireless public defense of her father during Watergate).

When Netanyanhu's Colleagues Say Nyet

So what's with the current and former Israeli officials whose recent comments on Iran and Palestine run contrary to the views of Prime Minister Netanyahu? At the National Interest, published by the former Nixon Center, Paul Pillar says the statements are evidence of the exceptional vigor of Israel's democracy. He also warns that supporting a country isn't always the same as supporting its government:
If it were, it would be the same— Republicans in particular ought to get this comparison—as saying that a foreign government endorsing any of Barack Obama's policies was equivalent to support for the United States. Passionate attachment to any foreign country has a bad enough effect on the security and interests of the United States. The effect is even worse when the attachment is to a particular foreign leadership that isn't even acting in the best interests of its own country.

St. John's Sky

Thursday at 6:45 p.m.

National Archives Implicated In Nixon Coverup

In the fall of 2009, after a search conducted by a company he used to work for, Nixon-Haldeman operative Ron Walker was awarded a jumbo-salary "president" job at the Nixon foundation, which declared war on the director of the federalized Nixon library, Tim Naftali. Walker's former White House colleague, Sen. Lamar Alexander, provided secret if unavailing assistance.

That December, the revanchists also tried to rewrite the history of Nixon's difficult relationship with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which was now running the library. Walker's wife, Anne, claimed:
It is estimated that President Obama's presidential papers will be 80 percent electronic, something that the Nixon Presidential papers-people did not have to worry about. But, one can not help but wonder if we would have had more access to them in that format, instead of them being secreted away in College Park, guarded and hidden from the president and the other people who created them. The only access to papers was when the archives were about to release some of them. At that time, the archives would notify members of the administration whose names were about to be made public.
The truth is that after Nixon White House records were seized by the federal government following his resignation, they were never hidden or kept from the former president. He and his editorial assistants and agents (including me and anyone else he chose to designate) had access whenever they wished. As for opening Nixon's records to the public, NARA would have been pleased to do so within a few years after Nixon's resignation. But he devoted 19 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to delaying it. To claim that this was the government's doing is a war-is-peace statement. Maybe there's a George Orwell foundation somewhere they should be running.

Hat tip to Maarja Krusten

Life After Death. Confirmed In Salon.

The final scene of the 1980 film "Resurrection," in which Ellen Burstyn portrays a character who acquires the power to heal after she has a near-death experience

Mario Beauregard surveys the literature on out-of-body and near-death experiences and concludes:
The scientific NDE studies performed over the past decades indicate that heightened mental functions can be experienced independently of the body at a time when brain activity is greatly impaired or seemingly absent (such as during cardiac arrest). Some of these studies demonstrate that blind people can have veridical [independently proven] perceptions during OBEs associated with an NDE. Other investigations show that NDEs often result in deep psychological and spiritual changes.

These findings strongly challenge the mainstream neuroscientific view that mind and consciousness result solely from brain activity. As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.

NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.

The Waiting Is The Smartest Part

Why have the Salafis, Egypt's most conservative Islamists, decided to turn a relatively moderate presidential candidate into the apparent frontrunner by endorsing him? Political tactics, wherein patience can be a winning virtue. David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy el Sheikh report:
Leading Salafis hinted in recent days that they did not expect quick fulfillment of their goals for a state governed by Islamic law. Instead , they wanted a president who could deal with Egypt’s pressing needs while allowing them freedom to preach and advocate.