Posts Tagged ‘GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN’
After winning the bloodless conquest of Czechoslavakia by threatening France and Britain with war, Adolf Hitler turned his attention to Poland.
When his generals balked, warning that an invasion would trigger a war with France and Britain, Hitler quickly brushed aside their fears: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.”
Adolf Hitler and his generals
Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939–unintentionally triggering World War II.
In time, historians and statesmen would regard Munich as an object lesson in the futility—and danger—in appeasing evil and aggression.
But for the postwar Republican party, Hitler’s my-way-or-else “negotiating” methods would become standard operating procedure.
During the summer of 2011, Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.
And while Republicans demanded that the disadvantaged tighten their belts, they rejected any raising of taxes on their foremost constituency–the wealthiest 1%.
To raise taxes on the wealthy, they insisted, would be a “jobs-killer.” It would “discourage” corporate CEOs from creating tens of thousands of jobs they “want” to create.
If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, 2011, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, America would begin defaulting on its loans.
As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe:
“If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.
“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.
A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.
Republicans knew this argument is a lie. And so did the editors of Time. The difference is, the editors of Time were willing to reveal the truth.
In its June 20, 2011 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths,” Rana Foroohar, the magazine’s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business, delivered this warning:
Profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”
American companies “are doing quite well,” but most American workers “are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.”
Corporations, in short, are doing extremely well. But they don’t spend their profits on American workers.
“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”
In short: Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations–the standard Republican mantra–has not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs. Nor has it convinced them to start hiring Americans.
Many American companies prefer opening factories in Brazil, China or India to doing so in the United States–and thus creating jobs for American workers.
While embarrassingly overpaid CEOs squander corporate wealth on themselves, millions of Americans can’t afford medical care or must depend on charity to feed their families.
Yet there is also a disconnect between the truth of this situation and the willingness of Americans to face up to that truth.
The reason, writes Foroohar:
Republicans have convinced most Americans they can revitalize the economy by slashing “taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.”
And she concludes: To restore prosperity America needs both tax increases and cuts in entitlement programs.
According to Mein Kampf-–”My Struggle”–-Hitler’s autobiography and political treatise:
- Most people are ruled by sentiment, not reason.
- This sentiment is simple and consistent. It is rooted in notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
- Propaganda isn’t based on objective truth but must present only that partof the truth that makes its own side look good.
- People are not intelligent, and quickly forget.
- Confine propaganda to a few bare essentials and express these in easily-remembered in stereotyped images.
- Persistently repeat these slogans until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.
Following these principles, Republicans have proved hugely successful at persuading millions that truth is whatever their party claims it to be at any given moment.
“Fascism,” said author Ernest Hemingway, “is a lie told by bullies.” Thus, when Republicans couldn’t attain their goals by lying, they sought to do so by force–or at least the threat of it.
Republicans have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government unless their constantly escalating demands were met.
In November, 1995, Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out his threat. Gingrich unwisely admitted that he did so because President Bill Clinton had put him in the back of Air Force One during a recent trip to Israel.
The shutdown proved a disaster for Republicans. Clinton was handily re-elected in 1996 and Gingrich suddenly resigned from Congress in 1998.
On February 12, 1938, two Chancellors—Adolf Hitler of Germany, and Kurt von Schuschnigg of Austria—met at Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg, Germany. At stake lay the future independence of Austria.
That meeting ended with Hitler’s bullying Schnuschigg into submission. Austria became a vassal-state of Nazi Germany.
Seven months later, in September, 1938, Hitler gave another exhibition of his “negotiating” methods. This time, the target of his rage and aggression was Czechoslovakia.
Once again, he opened “negotiations” with a lie: The Czechoslovak government was trying to exterminate 3.5 million Germans living in the “Sudetenland.”
This consisted of the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans.
Then he followed this up with the threat of war: Germany would protect its citizens and halt such “oppression.”
For British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the thought of another European war erupting less than 20 years after the end of World War I was simply unthinkable.
The Cenotaph, in London, honoring the unknown British dead of World War 1
Something had to be done to prevent it. And he believed himself to be just the man to do it.
He quickly sent Hitler a telegram, offering to help resolve the crisis: “I could come to you by air and am ready to leave tomorrow. Please inform me of earliest time you can receive me, and tell me the place of the meeting. I should be grateful for a very early reply.”
Once again, another head-of-state was prepared to meet Hitler on his home ground. Again, Hitler took this concession as a sign of weakness. And Chamberlain’s use of such words as “please” and “grateful” only further convinced Hitler of another impending triumph.
Chamberlain was determined to grant his every demand–so long as this meant avoiding a second world war.
The two European leaders met in Berchtesgaden, Germany, on September 15, 1938.
Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler
During their talks, Chamberlain said he had come to discuss German grievances. But, he added, it was necessary in all circumstances to exclude the use of force.
Hitler appeared to be shocked that he could be accused of such intentions: “Force? Who speaks of force?“
Then, without warning, he switched to an aggressive mode. He accused the Czechs of having mobilized their army in May. They had mobilized—in response to the mobilization of the German army.
“I shall not put up with this any longer,” shouted Hitler. “I shall settle this question in one way or another. I shall take matters in my own hands!”
Suddenly, Chamberlain seemed alarmed—and possibly angry: “If I understood you right, you are determined to proceed against Czechoslovakia in any case. If this is so, why did you let me come to Berchtesgaden?
“In the circumstances, it is best for me to return at once. Anything else now seems pointless.”
Hitler was taken aback by the unexpected show of defiance. He realized he was about to lose his chance to bully the British into accepting his latest demands.
So he softened his tone and said they should consider the Sudetenland according to the principle of self-determination.
Chamberlain said he must immediately return to England to consult with his colleagues. Hitler appeared uneasy. But then the German translator finished the sentence: “…and then meet you again.” Hitler realized he still had a chance to attain victory without going to war.
Chamberlain agreed to the cession of the Sudetenland. Three days later, French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier did the same. No Czechoslovak representative was invited to these discussions.
Chamberlain met Hitler again in Godesberg, Germany, on September 22 to confirm the agreements. But Hitler aimed to use the crisis as a pretext for war.
He now demanded not only the annexation of the Sudetenland but the immediate military occupation of the territories. This would give the Czechoslovak army no time to adapt their defense measures to the new borders.
To achieve a solution, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini suggested a conference of the major powers in Munich.
On September 29, Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain met and agreed to Mussolini’s proposal. They signed the Munich Agreement, which accepted the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland.
The Czechoslovak government had not been a party to the talks. Nevertheless, it promised to abide by the agreement on September 30.
It actually had no choice. It faced the threat of an immediate German invasion after being deserted by its pledged allies: Britain, France and the Soviet Union.
Chamberlain returned to England a hero. Holding aloft a copy of the worthless agreement he had signed with Hitler, he told cheering crowds in London: “I believe it is peace for our time.”
Winston Churchill knew better, predicting: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”
Hitler—still planning more conquests—also knew better. In March, 1939, the German army occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Chamberlain would soon be seen as a naive weakling–even before bombs started falling on London.
Hitler next turned his attention–and demands–to Poland.
Robert Payne, author of the bestselling biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973), described Hitler’s “negotiating” style thusly:
“Although Hitler prized his own talents as a negotiator, a man always capable of striking a good bargain, he was totally lacking in finesse.
“He was incapable of bargaining. He was like a man who goes up to a fruit peddler and threatens to blow his brains out if he does not sell his applies at the lowest possible price.”
By studying Hitler’s mindset and “negotiating” methods, we can learn much about the mindset and “negotiating” style of today’s Republican party.
A classic example of Hitler’s “bargaining style” came in 1938, when he invited Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg to his mountaintop retreat in Obersalzberg, Germany. Hitler, an Austrian by birth, intended to annex his native land to Germany.
Kurt von Schuschnigg
Schuschnigg was aware of Hitler’s desire, but nevertheless felt secure in accepting the invitation. He had been assured that the question of Austrian sovereignty would not arise.
The meeting occurred on February 12, 1938.
Shuschnigg opened the discussion with a friendly compliment. Walking over to a large window, he admired the breathtaking view of the mountains.
HITLER: We haven’t come here to talk about the lovely view or the weather!
Austria has anyway never done anything which was of help to the German Reich….I am resolutely determined to make an end to all this business. The German Reich is a great power. Nobody can and nobody will interfere if it restores order on its frontiers.
SCHUSCHNIGG: I am aware of your attitude toward the Austrian question and toward Austrian history….As we Austrians see it, the whole of our history is a very essential and valuable part of German history….And Austria’s contribution is a considerable one.
HITLER: It is absolutely zero—that I can assure you! Every national impulse has been trampled underfoot by Austria….
I could call myself an Austrian with just the same right—indeed with even more right—than you, Herr Schuschnigg. Why don’t you once try a plebiscite in Austria in which you and I run against each other? Then you would see!
SCHUSCHNIGG: Well, yes, if that were possible. But your know yourself, Herr Reich Chancellor, that it just isn’t possible. We simply have to go on living alongside one another, the little state next to the big one. We have no other choice.
And that is why I ask you to tell me what your concrete complaints are. We will do all in our power to sort things out and establish a friendly relationship, as far as it is possible to do so.
HITLER: That’s what you say, Herr Schuschnigg. And I am telling you that I intend to clear up the whole of the so-called Austrian question–one way or another. Do you think I don’t know that you are fortifying Austria’s border with the Reich?
SCHUSCHNIGG: There can be no suggestion at all of that—
HITLER: Ridiculous explosive chambers are being built under bridges and roads—
This was a lie, and Hitler knew it was a lie. But no matter. It gave him an excuse to threaten to destroy Austria—as he was to destroy so many other nations during the next seven years.
HITLER: I have only to give one command and all this comic stuff on the border will be blown to pieces overnight. You don’t seriously think you could hold me up, even for half an hour, do you?
Who knows—perhaps you will find me one morning in Vienna like a spring storm. Then you will go through something! I’d like to spare the Austrians that.
The S.A. [Hitler’s private army of Stormtroopers] and the [Condor] Legion [which had bombed much of Spain into rubble during the three-year Spanish Civil War] would come in after the troops and nobody–not even I–could stop them from wreaking vengeance.
* * * * *
Schnuschigg made a cardinal mistake in dealing with Hitler: He showed fear. And this was precisely what the Nazi dictator looked for in an opponent.
Contrary to popular belief, Hitler did not constantly rage at everyone. On the contrary: he could, when he desired, be charming, especially to women. He used rage as a weapon, knowing that most people feel intimidated by it.
In the case of Schuschnigg, he opened with insults and threats at the outset of their discussion. Then there was a period of calm, to convince the Austrian chancellor the worst was over.
Finally, he once again attacked–this time with so much fury that Schuschnigg was terrified into submission.
With one stroke of a pen, Austria became a vassal-state to Nazi Germany.
Republicans used precisely the same “negotiating” style during the summer of 2011 to threaten the United States with financial ruin unless they got their way in budget negotiations.
And they threatened to do the same again that fall.
Adolf Hitler, Germany Fuehrer for 12 years, had a favorite phrase: “So oder so.”
It meant: “One way or the other.”
That might sound harmless. But, in Hitler’s case, it carried a sinister tone–as did almost everything else about the dictator who ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945.
When Hitler faced what he considered a problem, he said he would solve it “one way or the other.” Which meant that if he couldn’t get his way, he would apply whatever means it took until he did.
John Boehner, Speaker of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, seems to be channeling the spirit of the late Nazi dictator.
He has threatened to sue President Barack Obama for issuing executive orders to implement policies whose legislation could not pass the Republican-controlled House.
On June 25, Boehner said he would introduce legislation to authorize the House general counsel to sue the Obama administration. He claimed that Obama has “not faithfully executed the laws” by issuing executive orders.
“We elected a president, Americans note. We didn’t elect a monarch or a king,” Boehner wrote in a memo to his colleagues. But Boehner did not state which specific actions by Obama have been illegal.
Such a lawsuit would be a precursor to a Republican effort to impeach Obama. This would allow the Right to gain through coercion what it could not win at the polls: His removal as President.
And President Obama’s response: “They don’t do anything except block me and call me names. If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, why don’t you join me and we’ll do it together.
“You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?
“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing.
“What I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is, ‘If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive orders, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?'”
Obama has actually issued fewer executve orders than his predecessors–about one every 11 days, according to the Brookings Institute.
Contrast this with the records of such Presidents as:
George W. Bush, who issued an executive order on average every 10 days over eight years;
- Ronald Reagan, who issued such orders about once every seven days during eight years; and
- Jimmy Carter, who issued more than one order every five days during four years.
Of course, Bush and Reagan were Republicans–and white. And Carter was turned out of office after only four years by Reagan, whom Republicans still idolize.
But Obama is a Democrat–and black. Moreover, he has committed the ultimate crime of twice defeating Republican candidates for the Presidency.
On June 30, President Obama addressed a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.
During this, he outlined the pattern of Republican obstruction he has faced in winning passage of his immigration reform program.
“One year ago this month, Senators of both parties–with support from the business community, labor, law enforcement, faith communities–came together to pass a commonsense immigration bill.
“Independent experts said the bill would strengthen our borders, grow our economy, shrink our deficits.
“As we speak, there are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House to pass an immigration bill today. I would sign it into law today, and Washington would solve a problem in a bipartisan way.
“But for more than a year, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to allow an up-or-down vote on that Senate bill or any legislation to fix our broken immigration system.
“And I held off on pressuring them for a long time to give Speaker [John] Boehner the space he needed to get his fellow Republicans on board….
“I believe Speaker Boehner when he says he wants to pass an immigration bill. I think he genuinely wants to get something done.
“But last week, he informed the Republicans will continue to block a vote on immigration reform at least for the remainder of this year.
“Some of the House Republican caucus are using the situation with unaccompanied children as their newest excuse to do nothing. Now I want everybody to think about that.
“Their argument seems to be that because the system’s broken, we shouldn’t make an effort to fix it. It makes no sense. It’s not on the level. It’s just politics, plain and simple.
“Now thare are others in the Republican caucus in the House who are arguing that they can’t act because they’re mad at me about using my executive authority too broadly. This also makes no sense.
“I don’t prfer taking administrative action. I’d rather see permanent fixes to the issue we face.”
But since taking office as President on January 20, 2009, Obama has faced a torrent of Republican contempt and obstruction.
On October 1, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said President Barack Obama told Congressional leaders at a White House meeting that “he will not negotiate.”
Boehner accused Democrats of being unwilling to negotiate key elements of the Affordable Care Act–in return for Republican agreement on a spending bill.
The Republicans were seeking–for now–a one-year delay in the rolling out of “Obamacare.”
Obama, in turn, said that he would not submit to Republican “extortion” and “blackmail.”
He said that the House should pass a “clean” spending bill–one without conditions–that met America’s obligations to its citizens and creditors. Only then would be be willing to discuss possible changes in “Obamacare.”
Republicans countered with slogans such as: “If Obama will negotiate with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, why won’t he negotiate with Congress?”
Seventy-three years ago, another democratic leader found himself accused of being unreasonable and unwilling to negotiate.
That leader was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. And those accusing him were among the most powerful men in the Third Reich.
This was not a favorable time for Britain.
On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler had ordered his Whermacht (army) to invade Poland. In six weeks, Polish resistance vanished and Poland became the first of a series of Nazi vassal-states.
Then, on May 10, 1940, after waiting out the winter, Hitler’s army quickly overran Norway and Denmark.
And then it was the turn of France.
In six weeks, the German army accomplished what it couldn’t during the four years of World War 1. It bypassed the heavily defended Maginot Line and destroyed one French army after another.
The defeated French were forced to sign the armistice in the same railway car they had used in 1918 when they forced Germany to surrender after World War 1.
Although the British had committed their air force and army to defending France, both had been easily swept aside by the Wehrmact and Luftwaffe (air force).
Driven almost literally into the sea, the British evacuated about 338,226 men from the port of Dunkirk. It was a miracle made possible by Hitler’s unexplained halt of the German advance and the arrival of a fleet of civilian and naval vessels from England.
“The battle of France is over,” Churchill warned his countrymen. “The battle of Britain is about to begin.”
But not before Hitler offered his own version of “peace with honor.”
On July 19, the Fuehrer addressed the Reichstag, Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament:
“From Britain I now hear only a single cry–not of the people but of the politicians–that the war must go on….
Hitler addressing the Reichstag
“Mr. Churchill ought, for once, to believe me when I prophesy that a great Empire will be destroyed–an Empire which it was never my intention to destroy or even to harm.
“In this hour I feel it to be my duty before my own conscience to appeal once more to reason and common sense in Great Britain as well as elsewhere.
“I consider myself in a position to make this appeal since I am not the vanquished begging favors but the victor speaking in the name of reason.
“I see no reason why this war must go on.”
The assembled parliamentary deputies and bemedaled generals were convinced the British would accept Hitler’s “generous” offer of peace.
They took it for granted that the British would be grateful for the opportunity Hitler was giving them to get out of the war.
The Fuehrer, they believed, had been truly magnanimous. How could the British be insane enough to turn him down?
Soon enough, they–and the Fuehrer–got their answer.
Correspondent William L. Shirer, waiting to make a broadcast at the CBS studio in Berlin, listened as the BBC introduced one of its own correspondents.
Sefton Delmner, fluent in German, had covered Nazi Germany for years. Although not authorized to speak for the British Government, his response could have come directly from Churchill himself.
“Herr Hitler,” said Delmer in his most deferential German, “you have on occasion in the past consulted me as to the mood of the British public.
“So permit me to render Your Excellency this little service once again tonight.
“Let me tell you what we here in Britain think of this appeal of yours to what you are pleased to call our reason and common sense. Herr Fuehrer and Reichskanzler [Reich Chancellor] we hurl it right back to you, right in your evil-smelling teeth.”
German officials listening to the broadcast in Shirer’s office were stunned.
“Can you make it out?” one demanded of Shirer. “Can you understand those British fools? To turn down peace now? They’re crazy!”
Although devastated by the forthcoming bombing raids of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, England held out.
Months later, it gained two powerful allies: The Soviet Union (invaded by Hitler on June 22, 1941) and the United States (attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941).
In the end, by standing up to Fascist aggression, England and its democracy were saved.
Americans can only hope the same proves true for their country.
The media has given wall-to-wall coverage of the Federal Government shutdown–and the effects it has had on both Federal employees and ordinary Americans.
But there is one aspect of this story that hasn’t been covered. In fact, it is so obvious that I can only conclude that editors are deliberately ignoring it.
President Barack Obama, a former attorney, has denounced House Republicans as guilty of “extortion” and “blackmail.”
Unless he was exaggerating, both of these are felony offenses that are punishable under the 2001 Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970.
So: Why hasn’t the President acted to punish such criminal conduct?
All that he need do is to order his Attorney General, Eric Holder, to ask the FBI to investigate whether either or both of these laws have been violated. If it’s discovered that they have, indictments could immediately follow, and then prosecutions.
The results of such action can be easily predicted.
- Facing lengthy prison terms, those indicted Republicans would first have to lawyer-up. That in itself would be no small thing, since good criminal lawyers cost big bucks.
- Obsessed with their own personal survival, they would find little time for engaging in more of the same thuggish behavior that got them indicted. In fact, doing so would only make their conviction more likely.
- Those Republicans who hadn’t (yet) been indicted would realize: “I could be next.” This would produce a chilling effect on their willingness to engage in further acts of subversion and extortion.
- The effect on Right-wing Republicans would be the same as that of President Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers: “You cross me and threaten the security of this nation at your own peril.”
It would no doubt be a long time before Republicans dared to engage in such behavior–if they ever so dared again.
Had Obama done so when Republicans began threatening to shut down the government and destroy the country’s credit rating unless they got their way, this crisis would now be past.
In fact, if he had warned, months ago, that he would react to such terroristic behavior with indictments and prosecutions, it’s highly unlikely that this crisis would have occurred.
With major Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Ted Cruz facing prosecution and imprisonment, the rest of the party would have quickly found a way to pass a budget and ensure that the United States pays its debts.
The ancient Greeks used to say: “A man’s character is his fate.” It is Obama’s character–and our fate–that he is by nature a conciliator, not a confronter.
Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s winning of the White House in his book Renegade: The Making of a President. He noted that Obama was always more comfortable when responding to Republican attacks on his character than he was in making attacks of his own.
Obama came into office determined to find common ground with Republicans. But they quickly made it clear to him that they only wanted his political destruction.
At that point, he should have put aside his hopes for a “Kumbaya moment” and re-read what Niccolo Machiavelli famously said in The Prince on the matter of love versus fear:
From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.
For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain.
As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote. But when it approaches, they revolt….
And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.
Moreover, Machiavelli warns that even a well-intentioned leader can unintentionally bring on catastrophe. This usually happens when, hoping to avoid conflict, he allows a threat to go unchecked. Thus:
A man who who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.
And therefore it is necessary, for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.
Of course, it’s possible that some prosecuted Republicans might beat the rap. But this wouldn’t happen until they had been forced to spend huge amounts of time and money on their defense.
And, with 75% of Americans saying they are disgusted with Congress, it’s highly likely that most of those prosecuted would wind up convicted.
And, as Andrew Jackson once said: “One man with courage makes a majority.”