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OUR MOST-LOVED–AND MOST-HATED–PRESIDENTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2017 at 12:06 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested—or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear—the teddy bear—named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.png

John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going—with hugely expanding casualties—for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety with JFK’s wit and good looks—and found him wanting.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates. Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

Richard M. Nixon, ca. 1935 - 1982 - NARA - 530679.jpg

Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism–power was the only motive he would recognize.”

Fest then quotes German chancellor Otto von Bismark on what constitutes greatness: “Impressiveness in this world is always akin to the fallen angel who is beautiful but without peace, great in his plans and efforts, but without success, proud but sad.”

And Fest concludes: “If this is true greatness, Hitler’s distance from it is immeasurable.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump.

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Donald Trump

Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

He has:

  • Boasted about the politicians he’s bought and the women he’s bedded—and forced himself on.
  • Threatened his Democratic opponent—Hillary Clinton—with prosecution if he were elected.
  • Slandered entire segments of Americans—blacks, Hispanics, women, journalists, Asians, the disabled, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier.
  • Slandered President Barack Obama for five years as a non-citizen, finally admitting the truth only to win black votes.
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence.

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 21, 2017 at 12:02 am

American Presidents—like politicians everywhere–strive to be loved. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, even the vilest dictators want to believe they are good people—and that their goodness is rewarded by the love of their subjects.

Second, it’s universally recognized that a leader who’s beloved has great clout than one who isn’t. In the United States, a Presidential candidate who wins by a landslide is presumed to have a mandate to pursue his agenda—at least, for the first two years of his administration.

But those—like Barack Obama—who strive to avoid conflict often get treated with contempt and hostility by their adversaries.

Image result for Images of Barack Obama giving a speech in the Oval Office

Barack Obama

In Renegade: The Making of a President, Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s successful 2008 bid for the White House. Among his revelations:

Obama, a believer in rationality and decency, felt more comfortable in responding to attacks on his character than in attacking the character of his enemies.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

Yet he failed to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science:

A man 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.

This explains why Obama found most of his legislative agenda stymied by Republicans.

For example: In 2014, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sought to block David Barron, Obama’s nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rand Paul

Paul objected to Barron’s authoring memos that justifyied the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

The target was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric notorious on the Internet for encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.

Paul demanded that the Justice Department release the memos Barron crafted justifying the drone policy.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Imagine how Republicans would depict Paul—or any Democratic Senator—who did the same with a Republican President: “Rand Paul: A traitor who supports terrorists. He sides with America’s sworn enemies against its own lawfully elected President.”

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

(On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 to confirm Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.)

But Presidents who seek to rule primarily by fear can encounter their own limitations. Which immediately brings to mind Donald Trump.

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

As a Presidential candidate and President, he has shown outright hatred for President Obama. For five years, he slandered Obama as a Kenyan-born alien who had no right to hold the Presidency. 

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump falsely accused Obama of committing an impeachable offense: Tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election.

As President, Trump has refused to reach beyond the narrow base of white, racist, ignorant, hate-filled, largely rural voters who elected him.

And he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Trump has waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, Priebus resigned.
  • Trump similarly tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump has reportedly been angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who have unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and would not tolerate it again.
  • After Trump gave sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, denied this had happened. Trump then contradicted McMaster in a tweet: “As president, I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he’s clearly forgotten this passage:

Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….Whoever acts otherwise….is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him. 

And this one:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred. 

Or, as Cambridge Professor of Divinity William Ralph Inge put it: “A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can’t sit on it.”

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 20, 2017 at 12:30 am

Is it better to be loved or feared?

That was the question Florentine statesman Niccolo Machiavelli raised more than 500 years ago.

Presidents have struggled to answer this question—and have come to different conclusions.

LOVE ME, FEAR MY BROTHER

Most people felt irresistibly drawn to John F. Kennedy—even his political foes. Henry Luce, the conservative publisher of Time, once said, “He makes me feel like a whore.”

But JFK could afford to bask in the love of others—because his younger brother, Robert, was the one who inspired fear.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

He had done so as Chief Counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee (1957-59), grilling Mafia bosses and corrupt union officials–most notably Teamsters President James Hoffa.

Appointed Attorney General by JFK, he unleashed the FBI on the Mafia. When the steel companies colluded in an inflationary rise in the price of steel in 1962, Bobby sicced the FBI on them.

In 1963, JFK’s cavorting with Ellen Rometsh threatened to destroy his Presidency. Rometsch, a Washington, D.C. call girl, was suspected by the FBI of being an East German spy.

With Republican Senators preparing to investigate the rumors, Bobby ordered Rometsch deported immediately (to which, as a German citizen, she was subject).

He also ordered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to deliver a warning to the Majority and Minority leaders of the Senate: The Bureau was fully aware of the extramarital trysts of most of its members. And an investigation into the President’s sex life could easily lead into revelations of Senatorial sleaze.

Plans for a Senatorial investigation were shelved.

BEING LOVED AND FEARED

In the 1993 movie, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) asks his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri): “Is it better to be loved or feared?”

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

Sonny says if he had to choose, he would rather be feared. But he adds a warning straight out of Machiavelli: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”

Machiavelli, writing in The Prince, went further:

“Still a Prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together. And [this] will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women.”

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: It’s essential to avoid becoming hated.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two harsh actions of this kind can make a leader more feared than a reign of terror.

In fact, it’s actually dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. Whoever does so, warns Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

The 20th century President who came closest to realizing Machiavelli’s “loved and feared” prince in himself was Ronald Reagan.

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention he declared: “[The Democrats] say that the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith.… My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.”

And Americans enthusiastically responded to that view, twice electing him President (1980 and 1984).

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union, the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this–from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

Similarly, Libya’s dictator, Moammar Kadaffi, learned that Reagan was not a man to cross.

On April 5, 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, one a U.S. serviceman. The United States quickly learned that Libyan agents in East Germany were behind the attack.

On April 15, acting on Reagan’s orders, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bombers struck at several sites in Tripoli and Benghazi. Reportedly, Kaddafi himself narrowly missed becoming a casualty.

There were no more acts of Libyan terrorism against Americans for the rest of Reagan’s term.

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 19, 2017 at 12:07 am

It’s probably the most-quoted passage of Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book, The Prince:

“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 the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“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.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

So—which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

Presidents face the same dilemma as Mafia capos—and resolve it in their own ways.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I NEED TO BE LOVED

Bill Clinton believed that he could win over his self-appointed Republican enemies through his sheer charm.

Part of this lay in self-confidence: He had won the 1992 and 1996 elections by convincing voters that “I feel your pain.”

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Bill Clinton

And part of it lay in his need to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

On April 19, 1995, Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh drove a truck–packed with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane–to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

Suddenly, Republicans were frightened. Since the end of World War II, they had vilified the very Federal Government they belonged to. They had deliberately courted the Right-wing militia groups responsible for the bombing.

So Republicans feared Clinton would now turn their decades of hate against them.

They need not have worried. On April 23, Clinton presided over a memorial service for the victims of the bombing. He gave a moving eulogy—without condemning the hate-filled Republican rhetoric that had at least indirectly led to the slaughter.

Clinton further sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA—the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

The result: Republicans believed Clinton was weak–and could be rolled.

In 1998, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I’LL HURT YOU IF YOU DON’T

Lyndon Johnson wanted desperately to be loved.

Once, he complained to Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State under Harry S. Truman, about the ingratitude of American voters. He had passed far more legislation than his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and yet Kennedy remained beloved, while he, Johnson, was not.

Why was that? Johnson demanded.

“You are not a very likable man,” said Acheson truthfully.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson tried to make his subordinates love him. He would humiliate a man, then give him an expensive gift—such a Cadillac. It was his way of binding the man to him.

He was on a first-name basis with J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI. He didn’t hesitate to request—and get—raw FBI files on his political opponents.

On at least one occasion, he told members of his Cabinet: No one would dare walk out on his administration—because if they did, two men would follow their ass to the end of the earth: Mr. J. Edgar Hoover and the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

THE AMERICANS WHO GAVE US 9/11: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 18, 2017 at 12:05 am

On September 12, 2001, President George W. Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”–not Iraq.

On November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

Liars Club: Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld

Bush and his war-hungry Cabinet officials knew that Americans demanded vengeance on AlQaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. So they repeatedly fabricated “links” between the two:

  • Saddam had worked hand-in-glove with Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al-Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.

Yet as early as September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al-Qaeda.

Even more important: Saddam had tried to monitor Al Qaeda through his intelligence service–because he saw Al-Qaeda and other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.

Bush administration officials repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions. And they further claimed that US intelligence agencies had determined:

  • the precise locations where these weapons were stored;
  • the identities of those involved in their production; and
  • the military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.

Among other lies stated as fact by members of the Bush administration:

  • Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa.
  • Thousands of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq could be used in centrifuges to create enriched uranium.
  • Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions.
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin.
  • Saddam Hussein had issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when US forces crossed into Iraq.

Consider the following:

August 26, 2002: Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

September 8, 2002: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN: ”There is certainly evidence that Al-Qaeda people have been in Iraq. There is certainly evidence that Saddam Hussein cavorts with terrorists.”

September 18, 2002: Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons–including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas.”

October 7, 2002: Bush declared in a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

March 16, 2003: Cheney declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

March 30, 2003: On ABC’s “This Week” program, 10 days into the war, Rumsfeld said: “We know where they [weapons of mass destruction] are.”

Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 20, 2003.

Even as American occupying forces repeatedly failed to turn up any evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs), Bush and his minions claimed the invasion a good thing.

In fact, Bush–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard–even joked publicly about the absence of WMDs.

He did so at a White House Correspondents dinner on March 24, 2004–one year after he had started the war.

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George W. Bush at the 2004 White House Correspondents’ dinner

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube 

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

Meanwhile, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–the elite of America’s media and political classes–laughed heartily during Bush’s performance. It was a scene worthy of the court of the ancient Caesars, complete with royal flunkies.

Ultimately, the war that Bush had deliberately provoked

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Created a Middle East power vacumn.
  • Allowed Iran–Iraq’s arch enemy–to eagerly fill it.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis.
  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.

THE AMERICANS WHO GAVE US 9/11: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 15, 2017 at 12:05 am

September 11, 2017, marks the 16th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.  Inevitably, this is a time to remember all those whose lives were so cruelly snuffed out.

But it should also be a time to remember those who made this atrocity inevitable—by refusing to acknowledge and address the impending threat from Al-Qaeda.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has chronicled their arrogance and indifference in his 2010 biography: American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Hamilton noted that Richard Clarke, the national security advisor on terrorism, was certain that Osama bin Laden had arranged the [USS.] Cole bombing in Aden on October 12, 2000.

Richard Clarke

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States—either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she “insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting” in April, 2001, writes Hamilton.

Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.”

Even after Clarke outlined the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Wolfowitz—whose real target was Saddam Hussein—said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.”

Wolfowitz insisted that bin Laden couldn’t carry out his terrorist acts without the aid of a state sponsor–namely, Iraq.

Wolfowitz, in fact, blamed Iraq for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Clarke was stunned, since there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in this.

“Al-Qaeda plans major acts of terrorism against the United States,” Clarke warned his colleagues. He pointed out that, like Adolf Hitler, bin Laden had actually published his plans for future destruction.

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Osama bin Laden

And he added: “Sometimes, as with Hitler in Mein Kampf, you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do.”

Wolfowitz heatedly traded on his Jewish heritage to bring Clarke’s unwelcome arguments to a halt: “I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan.”

Writing in outraged fury, Hamilton sums up Clarke’s agonizing frustrations:

  • Bush’s senior advisors treated their colleagues who had served in the Clinton administration with contempt.
  • President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seemed content to ignore the danger signals of an impending al-Qaeda attack.
  • This left only Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Richard Clarke and a skeptical Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, to wage “a lonely battle to waken a seemingly deranged new administration.”

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor would any of them be brought to account.

Disgustingly, these were the same officials who, afterward, posed as the Nation’s saviors—and branded anyone who disagreed with them as a traitor, practices the Right continues to exploit to this day.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

Yet even worse was to come.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush took Clarke aside during a meeting in the White House Situation Room:

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam [Hussein, the dictator of Iraq] did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al-Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

Hussein had not plotted the attack–and there was no evidence proving that he did. But the attack gave “W” the excuse he wanted to remove the man he blamed for the 1992 defeat of his father, President George H.W. Bush.

Bush believed that his father would have been re-elected if he had “gone all the way” into Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War.

He would finish the job that his father had started but failed to compete.

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

THE AMERICANS WHO GAVE US 9/11: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 14, 2017 at 12:10 am

It’s that time of year again—yet another anniversary celebration of September 11, 2001.

The day when Islamic terrorists slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon.

They would have crashed a fourth jetliner into the White House or Capitol Building except for the heroic resistance of passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93.

In the years immediately following 9/11, politicians of both parties used this anniversary to wave flags and make self-serving patriotic speeches.

This was especially true for officials of the administration of President George W. Bush—which, even as the rubble was being cleared at the Pentagon and World Trade Center, was preparing to use the attack as an excuse to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Hussein had not plotted 9/11, and there was no evidence that he did.  But that didn’t matter to Bush and those planning the invasion and conquest of Iraq.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

So here it is, 16 years later, and, once again, politicians are using 9/11 as a prop to advance their careers.

President Donald Trump claims that only he can protect America from Al Qaeda, ISIS and any other Islamic terrorist groups. So far, his weapon of choice has been banning Muslims from certain Islamic countries from entering the United States.

Interestingly, Islamic countries where Trump has close business ties—such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Turkey—are exempt from the ban.

As on past commemorations of 9/11, those who died will be remembered by friends and relatives of those who knew and loved them.

Image result for Images of memorials for 9/11 victims

Tribute to 9/11 World Trade Center Victims

It is in fact appropriate to remember the innocents who died on that day—and the heroism of the police and firefighters who died trying to save them.

But it’s equally important to remember those who made 9/11 not simply possible but inevitable.

And that does not mean only the 19 highjackers who turned those planes into fuel-bombs. It means the officials at the highest levels of the administration of President George W. Bush.

Officials who, to this day, have never been held accountable in any way for the resulting death and destruction.

And who have been allowed to blatantly lie that they “kept us safe” from terrorism.

Obviously, such an indictment is not going to be presented by TV commentators today—not even on such liberal networks as CNN and MSNBC. And most definitely not on the right-wing Fox network.

Fortunately, British historian Nigel Hamilton has dared to lay bare the facts of this disgrace. Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

In 2007, he began research on his latest book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents From Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

The inspiration for this came from a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy—who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

And this arrogance and indifference continued—right up to September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and Pentagon became targets for destruction.

Among the few administration officials who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

Clarke had been thus appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. He continued in the same role under President Bush—but the position was no longer given cabinet-level access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with other, higher-ranking Bush officials–such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

These turned out to be the very officials who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States.

“Indeed,” writes Hamilton, “in the entire first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Clarke was not permitted to brief President Bush a single time, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new al-Qaeda outrage.” [Italics added]

Nor did it help that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time.

FASCISTIC HATRED THEN–AND NOW: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2017 at 12:09 am

With the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Republican Party went into a tailspin of dismay.

For almost 50 years, Republicans had conjured up The Red Bogeyman to scare voters into sending them to Congress and the White House.

But now that the “workers’ paradise” had disappeared, Americans seemed to lose interest in the Communist Menace.

True, the People’s Republic of China remained, and its increasing economic clout would challenge the United States well into the 21st century. But Americans didn’t seem to fear the Red Chinese as they had the Red Russians.

What was the Republican Party to do to lure voters?

On September 11, 2001, the answer arrived—in two highjacked jetliners that slammed into the World Trade Center in New York and one that struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Exit The Red Bogeyman.  Enter The Maniacal Muslim.

Consider:

  • Mike Huckabee – “If the purpose of a church is to push forward the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then you have a Muslim group that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated, I have a hard time understanding that.”
  • Herman Cain – ”I would not” appoint a Muslim in his administration.
  • Newt Gingrich – “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they [his grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists. …”
  • Rick Santorum – On supporting the racial profiling of Muslims: “Obviously, Muslims would be someone you look at, absolutely.”
  • Mitt Romney – “Based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position [for a Muslim] would be justified.”

And on July 13, 2012, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) sent letters to the Inspectors General of the Departments of

  • Defense;
  • State;
  • Justice; and
  • Homeland Security.

“The purpose of these letters,” wrote Bachmann, was to “request a multi-department investigation into potential Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the United States Government.”

Michelle Bachmann

Bachmann further asserted in her letter to the State Department that Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. 

In response, Arizona’s United State Senator John McCain said: “These attacks have no logic, no basis, and no merit and they need to stop. They need to stop now.”  

“I don’t know Huma,” said House Speaker John Boehner, “but from everything that I do know of her she has a sterling character.”

And the evidence for these attacks?

The Center for Security Policy’s claim that Abedin’s father (who died when she was a teenager), mother and brother are “connected” to the organization.

And what is the Center of Security Policy?  A private organization subsidized by donors to Right-wing causes.

In a separate letter, Bachmann demanded to know how Abedin received her security clearance.

Among the co-signers of Bachmann’s letter to the Inspectors General were:

  • Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who has said abortion has done more harm to blacks than slavery;
  • Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who called presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, ”uppity”; and
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who claims that terrorist organizations send pregnant women into the U.S. so that their children will be American citizens–who can enter and leave the country at will as they are trained to be terrorists abroad.

When pressed for their evidence of “a vast Muslim conspiracy,” right-wing accusers usually refuse to provide any.

An example of this occurred during an August 13, 2010 interview between Gohmert and CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

COOPER: What research? Can you tell us about the research?

GOHMERT: You are attacking the messenger, Anderson, you are better than this. You used to be good. You used to find that there was a problem and you would go after it.

COOPER: Sir, I am asking you for evidence of something that you said on the floor of the House.

GOHMERT: I did, and you listen, this is a problem. If you would spend as much time looking into the problem as you would have been trying to come after me and belittle me this week –

COOPER: Sir, do you want to offer any evidence? I’m giving you an opportunity to say what research and evidence you have. You’ve offered none, other than yelling.

Nor did Gohmert offer any evidence that evening.

Of course, the ultimate Republican Muslim slander is that President Barack Obama—a longtime Christian—is himself a Muslim.

No doubt Republicans feel totally safe in making these attacks, since Muslims comprise only 1% of the American population.

This has long been a hallmark of right-wing attacks—to go after a minority that cannot effectively defend itself.

Thus, Adolf Hitler attacked the Jews of Germany.

And Republicans have successively attacked blacks, Hispanics and gays—until each group became politically influential enough to defeat Republican candidates.

Today, most right-wing politicians at least grudgingly court all of these groups.

When Muslims become a significant political force in their own right, the Right will court them, too. And then move on to yet another helpless scapegoat to blame for America’s troubles.

FASCISTIC HATRED THEN–AND NOW: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2017 at 12:06 am

“Judge not, that you not be judged.  For with what judgment you judged, you shall be judged, and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

So warns the Gospel of St. Matthew, 7:1-2.  It’s advice that Right-wingers Joseph McCarthy, Robert Welch and George H.W. Bush would have done well to heed.

Joseph McCarthy, Wisconsin’s gift to the United States Senate, became infamous as the demagogue whose Red-baiting accusations terrified America from 1950 to 1954.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed–and demonstrated–its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.

But anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech.  Republicans–resentful at being denied the White House since 1932–seized upon anti-communism as their passport to power.

No American–no matter how prominent–was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer–”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Playwright Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb
  • Actressses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these was President Dwight D. Eisenhower–labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, who founded the John Birth Society in 1958.

Robert Welch

Welch, an independently wealthy businessman, used his money to publicize the Society and its views.  Welch saw even hardline anti-Communists like Vice President Richard Nixon and actor Ronald Reagan as dangerously liberal.

Meanwhile, McCarthy finally overstepped himself.  In 1953, he attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfired, exposing McCarthy as the bullying demagogue he was.  A Senate committee voted to condemn his behavior, charging that he had “acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Although McCarthy remained in the Senate another two and a half years, his political influence had ended.

Journalists who had raced to cover his latest slander now avoided him.  So did his Republican colleagues–many of whom had once sought his help at election time.

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1960.

After holding the White House for eight years under Eisenhower, they lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.  They elected Richard Nison–and re-elected him in 1972.

After Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980, Republicans held the White House until 1992.  Throughout that time, they continued to accuse their opponents of being devious agents–or at least unwitting pawns–of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Even as late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their evidence: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

Thus, the Republican charged that he might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchrian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas–one of America’s poorest states–and then President.

What made this charge all the more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991.

Although Republicans continued to hurl “Communist!” and “treason!” at their opponents, these charges no longer carried the weight they had while the Soviet Union existed.

Right-wingers had to settle for attacking their opponents as “liberals” and “soft on crime.”

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans–and their right-wing supporters–at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace.

FASCISTIC HATRED THEN–AND NOW: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 22, 2017 at 12:02 am

“All revolutions,” said Ernst Rohem, leader of Adolf Hitler’s brown-shirted thugs, the S.A., “devour their own children.”

Ernst Rohem

Fittingly, he said this as he sat inside a prison cell awaiting his own execution.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a massive purge of his private army, the S.A., or Stormtroopers. The purge was carried out by Hitler’s elite army-within-an-army, the black-uniformed Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS.

The S.A. Brownshirts had been instrumental in securing Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. They had intimidated political opponents and organized mass rallies for the Nazi Party.

But after Hitler reached the pinnacle of power, they became a liability.

Ernst Rohem, their commander, urged Hitler to disband the regular German army, the Reichswehr, and replace it with his own legions as the nation’s defense force.

Frightened by Rohem’s ambitions, the generals of the Reichswehr gave Hitler an ultimatum: Get rid of Rohem–-or they would get rid of the Fuhrer.

So Rohem died in a hail of SS bullets-–as did several hundred of his longtime S.A. cronies.

SS firing squad

Among the SS commanders supervising those executions was Reinhard Heydrich—a tall, blond-haired formal naval officer who was both a champion fencer and talented violinist.

Ultimately, he would become the personification of the Nazi ideal—”the man with the iron heart,” as Hitler eulogized at Heydrich’s funeral just eight years later.

Reinhard Heydrich

Even so, Heydrich had a problem: He could never escape vicious rumors that his family tree held a Jewish ancestor.

His paternal grandmother had married Reinhold Heydrich, and then Gustav Robert Suss. For unknown reasons, she decided to call herself Suss-Heydrich.

Since “Suss” was widely believed in Germany to indicate Jewish origin, the “stigma” of Jewish heritage attached itself to the Heydrich family.

Heydrich joined the SS in 1931 and quickly became head of its counterintelligence service. But his arrogance and overweening ambition created a great many enemies.

Only a year later, he became the target of an urgent investigation by the SS itself. The charge: That he was part-Jewish, the ultimate sin in Hitler’s “racially pure” Nazi Germany.

The investigation cleared Heydrich, but the rumor of his “tainted” origins persisted, clearly tormenting the second most powerful man in the SS. Even his superior, Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsfuhrer-SS, believed it.

When Heydrich was assassinated in 1942 by Czech assassins in Prague, Himmler attended his funeral. He paid tribute to his former subordinate at the service: ”You, Reinhard Heydrich, were a truly good SS-man.”

But he could not resist saying in private: “He was an unhappy man, completely divided against himself, as often happened with those of mixed race.”

Those who dare to harshly judge others usually find themselves assailed just as harshly.

A modern-day example is Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a 2014 candidate for U.S. Senator from Wyoming.

Liz tried to position herself as far more right-wing than her opponent, Republican U.S. Senator Michael Bradley “Mike” Enzi.

She found her work cut out for her: In March, 2007, Enzi was ranked by National Journal as the sixth-most conservative U.S. Senator. Among his legislative priorities:

  • Supporting partial privatization of Social Security
  • Consistently voting against expanding Medicare.
  • Voting against enrolling more children or the poor in public healthcare.

       Mike Enzi

And Liz had a problem Enzi did not: Her sister, Mary, was not only a lesbian but legally married to another woman: Heather Poe. This led many Wyoming voters to wonder if Liz Cheney was far-Right enough to merit their support.

So Liz went all-out to assure them that even though her sister led a degenerate lifestyle, she, Liz, stood foursquare against legalizing gay marriage: “I do believe it’s an issue that’s got to be left up to states. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.”

Liz Cheney

And, in another statement: “I am strongly pro-life and I am not pro-gay marriage.

“I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves.”

This stance led to a heated rift between her and Mary. “For the record, I love my sister, but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage,” Mary Cheney wrote in a Facebook post in September, 2013.

“Freedom means freedom for everyone,” she continued. “That means that all families—regardless of how they look or how they are made—all families are entitled to the same rights, privileges and protections as every other.”

Adding to the complications: Their father, Dick Cheney—often ridiculed as “Darth Vader” for his own extreme Right-wing views—endorsed same-sex marriage in 2009.

(After a brief run, Cheney, on January 6, 2014, Cheney withdrew from the race.)

But, as was true for officials in Nazi Germany, so is it true for Right-wing Republicans: It’s impossible to be too radical a Right-winger.

In the 1930s and 40s, it was politically—and personally—dangerous to be labeled “pro-Jewish” or “pro-Communist” in Hitler’s Germany.

And today it is equally dangerous—at least politically—to be labeled “pro-liberal” or “pro-gay” in the Republican Party.

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