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REPUBLICANS: LEGITIMACY IS FOR US, BUT NOT FOR YOU: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2017 at 12:16 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity steadily fell among blacks–to 1%, compared to the 91% of black voters who backed Hillary Clinton.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

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Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.

Nor did any Republican apologize for the eight-year campaign of slander and obstruction their party had waged against the Nation’s first black President.

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President Barack Obama

Among its highlights:

  • In September, 2009, Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled “You lie!” during Obama’s health care speech to Congress.
  • In January, 2010, an effigy of President Barack Obama was found hanging from a building in Plains, Georgia.
  • In December, 2011, Brent Bozell, who runs the right-wing Media Research Center, called Obama to “a skinny, ghetto crackhead.”
  • In December, 2011, Rep.  Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), said of Michelle Obama: “She lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”
  • In January, 2012, Mitt Romney’s son, Matt, said his father might release his tax returns “as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort of a long list of things.”
  • In February, 2012, right-wing columnist Ann Coulter offered: “Voters with forty years of politically correct education are ecstatic to have the first Black president. They just love the idea even if we did get Flavor Flav instead of Thomas Sowell.”
  • In May, 2012, a flatbed truck drove through new York holding a trailer with eight mannequin-like bodies hanging on nooses. One of the figures resembled President Obama, with a sign on the truck reading: “Obama Is Onboard, Find Out Why. Visit YouTube.com And Search Keyword PatriotPhipps.”

  • In May, 2012, Patrick Lanzo, a bar owner in Paulding County, Georgia, posted a sign reading: “I do not support the nigger in the White House.”  In 2009 he posted a sign that read, “Obama’s plan for health-care: nigger rig it.” Lanzo advertises his establishment as a “Klan bar.”
  • Throughout the 2012 Presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich repeatedly called Obama “the greatest food stamp President in American history.” 
  • Obama has been portrayed as a shoeshine man, an Islamic terrorist and a chimp. The image of his altered face has been shown on a product called Obama Waffles in the manner of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. He has been repeatedly depicted with a Hitler forelock and mustache.
  • Among the protest signs they have brandished by Tea Party members: “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” “The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama’s Ovens,” and “Obama was Not Bowing [to the Saudi King] He was Sucking Saudi Jewels.”
  • Other Tea Party posters: “Imam Obama Wants to Ban Pork” and “The Zoo Has An African Lion, and the White House Has a Lyin’ African.”
  • Tea Partiers have chanted at Obama: “Bye, bye, Blackbird” and “Kenyan go home!”
  • During the Republican-imposed government shutdown–October 1-17, 2013–Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told Obama: “I cannot even stand to look at you,”  The incident occurred when Obama met with lawmakers to try to find a resolution to the shutdown.
  • On October 1, 2013, Congressional Republicans shut down the government in an attempt to force President Barack Obama to de-fund his signature achievement: The Affordable Care Act (ACA). President Obama refused, and 800,000 federal workers were furloughed.
  • On October 14, while Republicans were threatening to drive the nation into bankruptcy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin posted on Facebook her “secret plan” to impeach President Obama:
  • “It’s time for the president to be honest with the American people for a change. Defaulting on our national debt is an impeachable offense, and any attempt by President Obama to unilaterally raise the debt limit without Congress is also an impeachable offense.”
  • In short: If the Republicans force the country into default, Obama should be impeached. And if the President finds a way to avoid default, he should be impeached.

* * * * * 

When Republicans say, “We need to support our President,” they don’t mean every President.

They mean: Every Republican President.  And only every Republican President.

For Republicans, Presidents elected by Democrats are usurpers: They are to be obstructed as often as possible–and impeached whenever possible.

REPUBLICANS: LEGITIMACY IS FOR US, BUT NOT FOR YOU: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2017 at 12:02 am

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff for soon-to-be President Donald J. Trump, was furious.

There were three reasons for his outrage.

First, millions of Americans are questioning whether Trump was legitimately elected. Their suspicions were based on solid evidence, supplied by the American Intelligence community, that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.

Second, among those Americans were members of the United States Congress—such as Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis.

On the January 15 edition of “Meet the Press,” Lewis was asked by host Chuck Todd: “Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?”

“No,” said Lewis. “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

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John Lewis

“You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?”

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

And the third reason Priebus was outraged: He believed—or at least claimed to believe—that President Barack Obama should vouch for Trump’s legitimacy.

“I think President Obama should step up,” Priebus said January 15 on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had a great relationship with the White House….I think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on the Republican side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the Democratic side, but it’s time to come together.”

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Reince Priebus

“You didn’t have Republicans questioning whether or not Obama legitimately beat John McCain in 2008,” Priebus added.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos replied that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.”  

In short: Let’s ignore Trump’s five-year slander campaign against the legitimacy of President Obama. What’s important is that people are questioning the legitimacy of a Republican elected with the help of Russian Communists.

In 2011, Trump, then-host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya—and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawaiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

Trump responded with a series of tweets on Twitter—all of them attacking the legitimacy of the birth certificate that President Obama had released.

DONALD TRUMP AND THE OOBLECK

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2017 at 12:01 am

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) published over 60 children’s books, which were often filled with imaginative characters and rhyme.

Among his most famous books were Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Honored in his lifetime (1904-1991) for the joy he brought to countless children, Dr. Seuss may well prove one of the unsung prophets of our environmentally-threatened age.

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Dr. Seuss

In 1949, he penned Bartholomew and the Oobleck, the story of a young page who must rescue his kingdom from a terrifying, man-made substance called Oobleck.

The story is quickly told:

Derwin, the King of Didd, announces he’s bored with sunshine, rain, fog and snow. He wants a new kind of weather.

So he calls in his black magicians and gives them the order. The magicians assure him they can create it.

“What will you call it?” asks the king.

“We’ll call it Oobleck,” says one of the magicians.

“What will it be like?” asks King Didd.

“We don’t know, Sire,” the magician replies. “We’ve never created Oobleck before.”

The next morning, Oobleck–a greenish, glue-like substance—starts raining.

The king orders Bartholomew, the royal page, to tell the Bell Ringer that today will be a holiday. But the bell doesn’t ring—because it’s filled with Oobleck.

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Bartholomew warns the Royal Trumpeter about the Oobleck, but the trumpet gets stopped up with the goo. 

The Captain of the Guards thinks the Oobleck is pretty and sees no danger in it—until he eats some.  Instantly, his mouth is glued shut.

The Oobleck rain intensifies. The falling blobs—now as big as buckets full of broccoli—now break into the palace, immobilizing the servants and guards.

At the climax of the story, Bartholomew confronts King Derwin for giving such a rash order: “If you can’t do anything else,” says Bartholomew, “at least you can say you’re sorry.”

King Derwin refuses, and Bartholomew says, “If you can look at all the horror you’ve caused and not say you’re sorry, you’re no sort of king at all.”

In real-life, such a king would have instantly ordered Bartholomew’s execution. But this is a children’s story.

So, overcome with guilt, King Derwin utters the magic words: “You’re right, this is all my fault, and I am sorry.”

Suddenly the Oobleck stops raining and the sun melts away the rest.

With life returning to normal, King Derwin mounts the bell tower and rings the bell. He proclaims a holiday dedicated not to Oobleck, but to rain, sun, fog, and snow, the four elements of Nature—of which Man is but a part.

* * * * *

Flash forward to the following Donald Trump tweets:

November 6, 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” 

December 6, 2013: “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” 

January 1, 2014: “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”

On May 5, 2016, as a Presidential candidate, Trump pointed to signs being waved at a rally in Charleston, South Carolina:in the crowd: “I see over here: ‘Trump digs coal,’ That’s true. I do.”

Donald Trump

Upon becoming President, Trump picked Scott Pruitt, a leading climate change denier, as director of the Environmental Protection Agency: “So no, I would not agree that [human activity] it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,”Pruitt said on CNBS’s program, “Squawk Box”

On March 16, 2017, the Trump administration released a budget proposal to eliminate $100 million in funding for the EPA’s climate work, including scientific research.

On March 28, 2017, Trump ordered his administration to rewrite the Clean Power Plan.  His objective: To gut former President Barack Obama’s landmark restrictions on power plant emissions.  

On June 1, 2017, Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate-change agreement deal.

There are forces in Nature far more powerful than anything Man and his puny strength can defy—or harness. And we invoke the wrath of those forces at our own peril.”

In the world of children’s stories, it’s possible for a king to undo the terrible damage he’s unleashed by finding the courage to say: “I’m sorry.”

In real-life, tyrants almost never say “I’m sorry,” no matter how enormous their mistakes and/or crimes.

From 1936 to 1938, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin slaughtered the cream of his own Army and Air Force. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin blamed his remaining generals for the massive defeats inflicted by the Wehrmacht.

And as Soviet forces finally closed on Berlin in April, 1945, and Adolf Hitler prepared to commit suicide in his underground bunker, he blamed the German people for losing the war he had started.

Saying “I’m sorry” cannot reverse decades of rampant environmental abuse. To believe that it can is as ridiculous as believing that self-righteous tyrants will ever take responsibility for their own crimes and follies.

REPUBLICANS: WEAPONIZING HATRED, DISAVOWING ITS RESULTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 19, 2017 at 1:08 am

On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store. 

After a miraculous recovery, she continues to struggle with language and has lost 50% of her vision in both eyes. Although she returned to her Congressional duties, her injuries forced her to resign in 2012.

The shooting claimed the lives of six people and left 13 others wounded.

One of those killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.

The youngest victim was nine-year-old Christiana-Taylor Green, whose desire to one day enter politics had led her to attend the scheduled meeting with her Congresswoman, Giffords. Her having been born on September 11, 2001, added a special poignancy to her tragic death.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Although the actual shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was immediately arrested, those who fanned the flames of political violence that consumed 19 people that day have remained unpunished.

Gabrille Giffords, then 40, was a moderate Democrat who narrowly won re-election in November, 2010, against a Republican Tea Party candidate.

Her support of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law made her a target for violent rhetoric–especially from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

In March, 2010, Palin released a map featuring 20 House Democrats that used cross-hairs images to show their districts. In case her supporters didn’t get the message, she later wrote on Twitter: “‘Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!’”

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As the campaign continued, Giffords found her Tucson office vandalized after the House passed the healthcare  overhaul on March 21, 2010.

Giffords sensed that she had become a target for assassination. In an interview after the vandalizing of her office, she cited the animosity against her by Right-wingers:

“For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the cross-hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action,” Giffords tells MSNBC.

At one of her rallies, her aides called the police after an attendee dropped a gun.

In April, 2010, Giffords  supported Rep. Raúl Grijalva after he had to close two offices when he and his staff received threats. He had called for a boycott of Arizona businesses in opposition to the state’s controversial immigration law.

“I am deeply troubled about reports that Congressman Grijalva and members of his staff have been subjected to death threats,” Giffords said.

“This is not how we, as Americans, express our political differences. Intimidation has no place in our representative democracy. Such acts only make it more difficult for us to resolve our differences.

But intimidation–and worse–does have a place among the tactics used by influential Republicans in the pursuit of absolute power.

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent–and violence-arousing–rhetoric at their Democratic opponents.

This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like Sarah Palin fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs–and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcases” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked–shocked!–that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful–as the Giffords shooting did–then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

Consider the following:

  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) yelled “baby killer” at Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on the House floor.
  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house.  That’s the only way that you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”
  • Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Tea Partiers had “every right” to use racist and homophobic slurs against Democrats, justifying it via Democrats’ “totalitarian tactics.
  • Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”
  • Rep. Louisa M. Slauter (D-NY) received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.

For more than 50 years, Republicans have vilified government–except when they controlled it. They convinced millions of  Americans that Democrats are potential traitors, if not actual ones. 

They have routinely slandered Democrats as: 

  • Plotting to “take away your guns.”
  • Wanting to turn America into a welfare-dependent society.
  • Being “Godless” and intending to force atheism on believing Christians.
  • Plotting to allow the United Nations to “take over” the United States.

Consciously or not, Republicans have taken their cue from Adolf Hitler, who advised in Mein Kampf: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.

“Those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART TEN (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2017 at 12:22 am

Fifty-three years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that he left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmosphereic testing–and poisoning–by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon–in 1969–Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy–and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011,  the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah–

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality. 

Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: “He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” 

In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. Instead, he was warning his fellow  Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

Many Americans believe that decline arrived with the 2016 election of Donald Trump. In fact, they believe it was Trump who announced it after winning the Nevada Republican primary: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.

It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART NINE (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2017 at 12:05 am

Elected to the House of Representatives in 1946, John F. Kennedy served six undistinguished years before being elected U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 1952.

In 1956, his eloquence and political skill almost won him the Vice Presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. But the nominee, Adlai Stevenson, chose Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver as his running mate–fortunately for Kennedy.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, running for re-election, easily beat Stevenson.

Had Kennedy been on the ticket, his Catholicism would have been blamed for the loss. And this would have likely prevented his getting the Presidential nomination in 1960.

In 1957, his book, Profiles in Courage, won the Pulitzer Prize for history.

From 1957 to 1960, Kennedy laid plans for a successful Presidential race.

Many voters thought him too young and inexperienced for such high office. But he used his TV debates with then-Vice President Richard Nixon to calm such fears, transforming himself overnight into a serious contender.

Many Americans identified with Kennedy as they had with film stars. Compared with normally drab politicians, he seemed exciting and glamorous.

Since 1960, for millions of Americans, mere competence in a President isn’t enough; he should be charming and movie-star handsome as well.

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John F. Kennedy after taking a swim at Santa Monica Beach, 1960

But charismatic politicians face the danger of waning enthusiasm.

Many people were growing disillusioned with Kennedy before he died. He had raised hopes that couldn’t be met–especially among blacks.

And many whites bitterly opposed his support of integration, believing that Kennedy was “moving too fast” in changing race relations.

Still, for millions of Americans, Kennedy represented a time of change.

“Let’s get this country moving again” had been his campaign slogan in 1960. He had demanded an end to the non-existent “missile gap” between the United States and Soviet Union.

And he had said that America should create full employment and re-evaluate its policies toward Africa, Latin America and Asia.

His youth, the grace and beauty of his wife and the often-reported antics of his two young children–Caroline and John–added to the atmosphere that change was under way.

But Kennedy was not so committed to reform as many believed:

  • As a Senator he had strongly opposed abolishing the Electoral College.
  • He never protested the Red-baiting tactics of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, a frequent dinner guest at the home of his father.
  • As President, Kennedy never forgot that he had been elected by a margin of 112,881 votes. He often rationalized his refusal to tackle controversial issues by saying: “We’ll do it after I’m re-elected. So we’d better make damn sure I am re-elected.”
  • He thought the United States should recognize “Red” China, but didn’t try to change American foreign policy toward that nation.

Nevertheless, many historians believe that. by vocally supporting civil rights and healthcare for the elderly, Kennedy laid the groundwork for Lyndon Johnson’s legislative victories.

Perhaps no aspect of Kennedy’s Presidency has received closer study than his assassination.

Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have hotly debated whether he was murdered by a lone “nut” or a deadly conspiracy of powerful men.

JFK’s assassination: The moment of impact

The murder has been the subject of two government investigations. The first, by the Warren Commission in 1964, concluded that an embittered ex-Marine and Marxist, Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone in killing Kennedy.

Similarly, the Commission determined that nightclub owner Jack Ruby had killed Oswald on impulse, and not as the result of a conspiracy.

Millions of disbelieving Americans rejected the Warren Report–and named their own villains:

  • The KGB;
  • The Mob;
  • Anti-Castro Cubans;
  • Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson;
  • Right-wing businessmen and/or military leaders;
  • Fidel Castro.

Each of these groups or persons had reason to hate Kennedy:

  • The KGB–for Kennedy’s humiliating the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • The Mob–in retaliation for the administration’s crackdown on organized crime.
  • Anti-Castro Cubans–for JFK’s refusal to commit American military forces to overthrowing Castro at the Bay of Pigs invasion.
  • Lyndon Johnson–lusting for power, he stood to gain the most from Kennedy’s elimination.
  • Right-wing businessmen and/or military leaders–for believing that Kennedy had “sold out” the country to the Soviet Union.
  • Fidel Castro–knowing the CIA was trying to assassinate or overthrow him, he had reason to respond in kind.

The second investigation, conducted in 1977-79 by the House Assassinations Committee, determined that Oswald and a second, unknown sniper had fired at Kennedy. (Oswald was deemed the assassin; the other man’s shot had missed.)

The Chief Counsel for the Committee, G. Robert Blakey, believed New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello organized the assassination, owing to his hatred of Robert Kennedy for his war on the crime syndicates.

Still, 53 years after JFK’s assassination, no court-admissible evidence has appeared to convict anyone other than Oswald for the murder.

The impact of Kennedy’s death on popular culture remains great. Millions saw him as a brilliant, courageous hero who had worked his way to the top.

But his sudden and violent end shocked those who believed there was always a happy ending.

If so gifted–and protected–a man as John F. Kennedy could be so suddenly and brutally destroyed, no one else could depend on a secure future.

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART EIGHT (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2017 at 12:26 am

Throughout his life, John F. Kennedy was lucky–both personally and politically.

Part of the secret lay in his physical presence. He was young and handsome, charming and articulate.

He appeared zestful and athletic despite a series of ailments, including Addison’s disease (a malfunction of the adrenal glands) and an injured back that required the use of a brace.

His wit was sophisticated and often self-deprecating. Addressing an assembly of Nobel Prize winners at the White House, he said: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House–with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

JFK making a joke at a press conference

And his sense of humor often defused otherwise ticklish problems. During the 1960 Presidential race, he was sharply criticized for relying on his millionaire father for much of his funding. At a campaign rally, he deflected the charge with humor:

“I just received a telegram from my generous Daddy. It says: ‘Dear Jack: Don’t buy one more vote than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide.’”

Another controversy emerged when he named his brother, Robert, Attorney General. Critics charged that the appointment smacked of nepotism–and that Robert didn’t have enough legal gravitas to be the nation’s chief law enforcement offer.

“I see nothing wrong in giving Robert a little experience before he goes out to practice law,” he said at a press conference.

His highly-polished rhetoric–produced by wordsmiths such as Theodore Sorensen–dazzled audiences. His Inaugural Address was acclaimed by Democrats and even most Republicans.

Its signature line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” has become as famous as Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

His speeches often urged Americans to seek a higher cause than mere self-interest. Speaking of the role of the arts in a nation’s life, he said:

“It may be different elsewhere, but [in] democratic society…the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.”

Memorial at the Arlington gravesite for John F. Kennedy

But he could be blunt and profane in private.

“My father always told me all businessmen were sonsofbitches, but I never believed it till now,” he said in private when the steel companies made an inflationary price increase in 1962.

Like Richard Nixon, Kennedy installed a secret taping system in the White House. And, as with Nixon, this picked up many of his profanities. Unlike Nixon, however, Kennedy died before his secret taping system was discovered.

Kennedy impressed many journalists with his capacity for detail.

“He swallows and digests whole books in minutes.  His eye seizes instantly on the crucial point of a long memorandum. He confounds experts with superior knowledge of their field,” wrote Games McGregor Burns in 1961.

Having briefly worked as a journalist (covering the opening of the United Nations Assembly in 1945) JFK understood and catered to the sensitivities of the Washington press corps.

Using charm, wit, candor and selective accessibility, he cultivated his own favored group of reporters. Critics charged that he was manipulating the media–and they were right.

Sometimes the manipulation was heavy-handed. He pressured The New York Times to censor its coverage of actions he intended to take–such as during the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But he failed to coerce the Times to remove David Halberstam, its Vietnam correspondent, whose highly critical articles cast doubt on the effectiveness of the American military commitment to Vietnam.

A major part of Kennedy’s appeal lay in his glamorous background. He was born–on May 29, 1917–into a large, robust family headed by wealthy and powerful financier Joseph P. Kennedy.

He attended Princeton and Harvard, graduating from the latter with top honors.

During World War II he became a Naval hero in 1943 after a Japanese destroyer sliced his PT boat in half–by towing an injured shipmate to safety on a South Pacific island. From there, Kennedy persuaded a native to summon rescue help from the U.S. Navy.

Kennedy had no plans for a postwar political career. That had been assigned to his elder brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., by their ambitious father, who was determined to seat the first Irish Catholic President.

After learning of his younger brother’s heroism, Joseph volunteered for a dangerous Naval bombing mission. On August 12, 1944, he and a co-pilot flew an explosives-laden plane from England toward France.

While over the English Channel, they were supposed to parachute from the aircraft–after activating a remote control system to send the plane crashing into a German command center.

But the plane mysteriously exploded before the pilots could eject–and before the plane reached its target.

The death of his elder brother ended John F. Kennedy’s plans for a career as a writer. Joseph Kennedy, Sr., insisted that “Jack” assume the political career that the Kennedy patriarch had assigned for his dead brother.

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART SEVEN (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 12, 2017 at 12:07 am

John F. Kennedy fired the imaginations and captured the hearts of Americans and foreign citizens as no President since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Millions who voted for him–or against him or didn’t vote at all–still believe that, if only he had lived to be re-elected, America would have entered a truly Golden Age.

Kennedy certainly encouraged such belief.  Asked for his definition of happiness, he quoted the ancient Greeks: “The full use of your powers along lines of excellence.”

Almost 50 years after his death on November 22, 1963, he remains frozen in time. Assassinated at age 46, he remains forever young, vigorous and charming.

But even if he had not been assassinated, his Presidency could have ended in disaster.

After his 1953 marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier, he continued to pursue both a married and a bachelor life. Rumors of Kennedy’s extramarital affairs swirled throughout his Senatorial career and followed him into the White House.

His conquests included secretaries, wives of friends, strippers, movie stars (such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich) prostitutes and even a mobster’s mistress.

Various theories have been advanced for his taking such dangerous risks with his political career:

  • As a victim of Addison’s Disease (insufficiency of the adrenal glands) he had been told by doctors he might not live beyond 35.
  • As a result of the cortisone he took to control his Addison’s, his libido was greatly enhanced.
  • After escaping death with the sinking of PT-109, he decided to cram as much excitement into his life as possible.
  • His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., a notorious womanizer, had encouraged him and his three other sons to sleep with as many women as possible.

During the 1960 Presidential campaign, Frank Sinatra–who had become smitten with Kennedy and was determined to see him elected–introduced him to a “good time girl” named Judith Campbell.

Judith Campbell

Whether Kennedy knew it or not, Campbell was also sleeping with Sam Giancana–the most-feared Mafia boss in Chicago. And it wasn’t long before Giancana learned about her trysts with Kennedy.

As a favor to Sinatra, Giancana and his fellow mobsters used their powerful influence to ensure that JFK carried Illinois in 1960.

Sam Giancana

In turn, JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy had promised Giancana that the Mob would get a free ride under a Kennedy Presidency.

When JFK appointed his brother, Robert, Attorney General, the latter declared war on organized crime. Giancana and his fellow hoods felt betrayed.

Giancana often raged to Campbell: “If it wasn’t for me, your boyfriend wouldn’t be President.” And having knowledge of her scandalous relationship with JFK, Giancana could have exposed Kennedy to a shocked public.

And if Giancana hadn’t done it, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover might have.

John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy

Hoover, under relentless pressure from Robert Kennedy to crack down on the Mob, had, through illegal electronic surveillance, discovered the Giancana-Campbell-Kennedy connection.

Always fearful that he might be replaced as FBI director, Hoover had quickly alerted the Attorney General to his latest discovery in February, 1962. Neither RFK nor JFK could dare fire Hoover now.

White House telephone logs reveal that, from January, 1961 until February, 1962, Campbell phoned the White House 70 times.

After Hoover informed Robert Kennedy of Campbell’s status with the President, she made only one more call to Kennedy. It was then that the President said the affair was over.

Similarly, the President’s on-and-off affair with Marilyn Monroe put him in an equally dangerous position. Monroe’s behavior, fueled by emotional instability, alcohol and pills, became increasingly erratic. And she grew convinced that Kennedy should divorce Jackie and make her the new First Lady.

Rumors still circulate that the President sent Robert Kennedy–who was by now an old hand at cleaning up JFK’s messes–to tell Monroe their relationship was over.

Whatever secrets Monroe may have been able to reveal about her relationship with Kennedy, she took them to the grave in an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills on August 5, 1962.

In his 1995 bestseller, The Dark Side of Camelot, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh got several former members of Kennedy’s Secret Service detail to speak about JFK’s extramarital sex life.

They revealed that they had not been allowed to search any of the women Kennedy cavorted with.

Any of these women could have injected the President with a poisonous hypodermic. Or secretly tape recorded their trysts with Kennedy for blackmail purposes.

Kennedy believed he would be re-elected in 1964–especially if his opponent was Barry Goldwater, the Republican Senator from Arizona.

And he almost certainly would have been re-elected; Lyndon Johnson scored a smashing victory over Goldwater that year.

But it’s also possible that Kennedy could have been forced to resign in disgrace over his affairs with Campbell, Monroe or any number of other women.

Such a fate overtook British Secretary of State for War John Profumo in 1962. In 1961, he had begun an affair with Christine Keeler, an attractive model. But Keeler was also bedding Yevgeney Ivanov, the senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in Britain.

When the press learned about the threesome, Profumo was forced to resign, his 22-year political career destroyed.

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART SIX (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 11, 2017 at 12:03 am

President Kennedy’s untimely death has since fueled arguments over how, if he had lived, he would have dealt with Vietnam.

In his memoirs, former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote: “Kennedy would have never let his country get bogged down in Vietnam.”

But David Halberstam, who covered the early years of the war for The New York Times, came to a different conclusion.

David Halberstam in Vietnam

In his bestselling 1972 book, The Best and the Brightest, he wrote that although Kennedy questioned the wisdom of a combat commitment, he had never shown those doubts in public.

In public, he had expressed doubts only about the Diem regime–whether it held enough support among the Vietnamese to win the war.

His successor had to deal with Kennedy’s public statements, all supportive of the importance of Vietnam.

And it was that successor, newly-elevated President Lyndon B. Johnson, who decided, in 1965, to commit heavy military forces to protecting “freedom-loving” South Vietnam.

In short: Even if Kennedy had intended to withdraw American forces after winning re-election in 1964, he made a fatal mistake: He assumed there would always be time for him to do so.

Historian Thurston Clarke, in his 2013 book JFK’s Last Hundred Days, reached a totally different conclusion: That Kennedy planned to quietly remove American military advisers regardless of the military situation.

Like Halberstam, Clarke believes that Kennedy intended to gradually withdraw troops from Vietnam–but felt he could not afford to inflame the Right during an election year.

Essentially, the question, “What would  Kennedy have done?”–on Vietnam, civil rights, relations with the Soviet Union–lies at the heart of his continuing fascination among Americans.

For millions, the later turmoil of the 1960s remains such a traumatic memory that they assume: “America would have had to be better-off if Kennedy had lived.”

But much of Kennedy’s proposed legislation–such as his civil rights act–did not become law until President Johnson overcame conservative opposition to it.

Johnson had first been elected to the House of Representatives in 1937, where he gained influence as a protégé of its speaker, Sam Rayburn. In 1948, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and eventually became one of its most powerful members–especially after becoming its Majority Leader in 1954.

Johnson knew the strengths and weaknesses of his political colleagues, and he ruthlessly exploited this knowledge to ensure the passage of legislation he supported.

Kennedy had served in the House from 1946 to 1952, and from 1952 to 1961 in the Senate.  But he had never been a major leader in either body.

It was as a Senator that he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage. But it was also as a Senator that he refused to vote on whether U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy should be censured by his Senatorial colleagues.

In 1954, the Senate voted to condemn McCarthy, whose slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years. McCarthy’s influence as a political figure died overnight.

Joseph P. Kennedy, the family patriarch, was a strong McCarthy supporters And Robert F. Kennedy had briefly worked for McCarthy’s Red-baiting Senate subcommittee.

JFK’s refusal to say how he would have voted on censuring McCarthy damaged his support among liberals during the 1960 election.

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that Kennedy should show “more courage and less profile.”

Although Lyndon Johnson’s legislative achievements as Senator and President remain unprecedented, he has become a pariah figure among Democrats.

His 1965 decision to wage all-out war in Vietnam ignited nationwide protests and elected Richard M. Nixon as President in 1968.

Like a doomed character in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, he has largely become an un-person.

Meanwhile, John F. Kennedy continues to endlessly fascinate Americans. In poll after poll they continue to rate him highly–even though he served less than three years in the White House.

Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written about JFK. On the big screen he’s been depicted by actors such as Cliff Robertson (PT-109), Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days) and James Marsden (The Butler).

Movie poster for PT-109

On TV, he’s been portrayed by William Devane (The Missiles of October), William Petersen (The Rat Pack), Martin Sheen (Kennedy), James Franciscus (Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy) and Cliff De Young (Robert Kennedy and His Times). 

William Devane as John F. Kennedy in The Missiles of October

Kennedy has even appeared on Saturday Night Live (perhaps most famously in a sketch where he chides then-President Clinton for his tawdry choices as a womanizer).

He even figured in a 1986 episode of the revised Twilight Zone episode where a history professor travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination.

The result: JFK is saved but Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev is murdered and World War III erupts.

In 2013, the Internet Movie Database listed a total of 94 movies, mini-series. TV dramas and even comedies featuring the character of John F. Kennedy.  

Roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, parks, playgrounds and schools have been named after him.

As Thurston Clarke wrote in JFK’s Last Hundred Days: “There is no test of literary merit except survival, which is in of itself an index of majority opinion. By that standard, Kennedy was a great President.” 

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART FIVE (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 10, 2017 at 12:01 am

The Kennedy administration’s unprecedented attack on organized crime has led some law enforcement experts to believe the Mob engineered President Kennedy’s assassination.

One of these is G. Robert Blakey, father of the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. As the former Chief Counsel and Staff Director to the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations (1977–1979) he oversaw the second official inquiry into the Kennedy assassination.

As a result, he believes the Mob had ample means, motive and opportunity to arrange for a “nut” to kill the President.

In his 1980 book, The Plot to Kill the President, Blakey asserted:

  • Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President Kennedy.
  • An unknown confederate of Oswald’s, firing from the “grassy knoll,” also shot at Kennedy but missed.
  • The conspiracy was rooted in organized crime and involved Mafia boss Santos Trafficante of Miami and/or Mafia boss Carlos Marcello of New Orleans.

The 1983 TV mini-series, “Blood Feud,” clearly implied that the Mob was responsible. At its heart lay the 10-year conflict between Robert F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa, then president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union.

This was also the plot of American Tabloid, a 1995 novel by James Ellroy.

But investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote that during the five years he researched The Dark Side of Camelot, his expose of the hidden life of President Kennedy, he didn’t uncover any evidence of such a plot.

After Robert Kennedy left the Justice Department in 1964 to run for the post of U.S. Senator from New York, the Justice Department slacked off its push against the crime syndicates.

But the war was resurrected during the Nixon administration and has remained a top priority ever since.

Perhaps the most controversial legacy of the Kennedy administration remains the President’s dealings with the South Vietnamese regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.,

In 1954, the French–who had controlled Vietnam for 80 years–were forced to withdraw their military forces from the country. Their army had suffered a humiliating defeat at Dienbenphu and the French citizenry–still recovering from defeat and Nazi occupation during World War II–demanded an end to the disastrous conflict.

Into this political vacuum stepped the victorious North Vietnamese communist Ho Chi Minh.

Kennedy–then U.S. Senator from Massachusetts–had visited Vietnam while the French were still trying to hold onto one of their last colonial possessions. And he had urged them to withdraw and allow the Vietnamese to govern themselves.

But President Dwight D. Eisenhower was aware of Ho’s overwhelming popularity throughout Vietnam due to his battles against Japanese and French colonialists. In any nationwide election, Ho was certain to win the presidency.

But Eisenhower felt he couldn’t allow an avowed Communist to rule Vietnam. With the North under firm Communist control, America focused its attention on the South.

Searching for an acceptable alternative, Eisenhower found hm in Ngo Dinh Diem–a mandarin in a nation swept by revolution, a Catholic in a nation with an 80% Buddhist population.

In 1954, America began backing Diem. Although his first years were marked by social progress, he later became increasingly oppressive toward the Buddhist majority. Corruption openly flourished among government and army officials.

Ngo Dinh Diem

In 1960, North Vietnam launched an aggressive campaign of infiltration and assassination across South Vietnam.

In 1961, President Kennedy sent 400 Green Berets and 100 other military advisers to South Vietnam to offer support.

Diem requested American financing of a 100,000-man increase in his army. Kennedy agreed to an increase of 30,000. Meanwhile, the Joint Chiefs of Staff estimated that 40,000 U.S. troops would be needed to “clean up the Vietcong threat.”

Kennedy underestimated the reaction of North Vietnam, whose forces were fighting what they believed was a crusade. As American troop strength increased, the North escalated its own commitment.

From 1961 to 1963, the number of U.S. troops in Vietnam steadily rose from 685 to 16,732. American minesweepers patrolled the coasts while their aircraft engaged in surveillance.

For the first time, Americans became casualties of the war–especially those in helicopter combat-support missions.

Meanwhile, Diem–urged by his influential brother, Nhu, who ran the secret police–cracked down on the Buddhists.

Government troops fired on a peaceful demonstration in May, 1963. In protest, Buddhist monks burned themselves to death before TV cameras.

Nhu’s beautiful and powerful wife, Madame Nhu, fed growing world outrage by her ridicule of “monk barbecue shows.”

American efforts to stop Diem’s anti-Buddhist campaign failed. On August 21, 1963, Diem’s police shot their way into Buddhist pagodas, killing scores and arresting hundreds.

This finally convinced the Kennedy administration that Diem would never gain the popular support he needed to win the war against the Communist North.

As a result, the administration offered support to South Vietnamese military officers planning a coup against Diem.

On November 1, 1963, South Vietnamese army units stormed the presidential palace. Diem and Nhu fled, but were caught and shot. Madame Nhu, visiting the U.S. at the time, escaped death, accusing  Kennedy of supporting the coup.

The administration issued a flat denial.

Diem’s assassination was followed 21 days later by Kennedy’s own.

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