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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 65,442

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President Obama in Boxing Gloves


I like this photo of President Obama wearing some boxing gloves that Mike posted on FaceBook today. I've seen a couple of other photos from this shoot.

I know our President is a big fan of The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. He also has followed the current best pound-for-pound champion, Floyd Mayweather, Jr's career closely.

New Territory: President Obama

The situation with Iran, the United States, and several other nations reaching initial agreement is the best global news that I have heard in many years. Although rational thought would indicate that violence and warfare is an inappropriate method of conflict resolution at this point in world history, there are those who have been eager to instigate an attack on Iran for over a decade. And, although it appears that President Obama did not have as “hands on” a role as several other negotiators, the domestic right-wing is blaming him for this “surrender.”

Likewise, these exact people will deny that President Obama played any role, just as soon as the agreement proves effective. This is not surprising, for many of these are people of limited intellectual ability, and none have ever felt the need to be truthful in their ranting. My own belief -- which might accurately be called half-speculation, half-educated guess, and half-a-glass optimism -- is that both President Obama and John Kerry played a more important role than the public will ever know.

I say that as a person who has actively campaigned for both John Kerry and Barack Obama. And as a person who has, on numerous occasions, expressed both support and disappointment in both men. Yet the deal with Iran stands out, to me, as one of the most important victories of the past two centuries. And I definitely credit them.

It’s fun to try to think of historical precedent. The Cuban Missile Crisis? Not really, as it was primarily some insane military commanders and mob bosses who obsessed on “liberating” Cuba. In a sense, it is perhaps closer to President Kennedy’s deciding to not go into Laos early in his term. Still, I think President Obama faced a different type of challenge.

When entering this new territory, both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry brought their personal experiences with them. For Kerry, of course, this included both being a soldier in war, and a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, along with his career in the US Senate. For Barack Obama, it included being an opponent of the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq, and more recently, learning that even as Commander in Chief, he did not have the control over US involvement in Afghanistan that he anticipated.

Thus, both men know that wars are easy to start -- even a jackass like George W. Bush could start a couple of them -- but difficult to control, or end. The region of earth known as the Middle East has experienced an increased level of violence -- military and para-military warfare -- since Bush-Cheney’s aggression destabilized it. There is, of course, various levels of violence in many other regions, as well. It would have been very easy to have had that violence spread to inside Iranian borders.

The “players” in the negotiations, and in the region, include people at opposite ends of opinions on not only relations between Iran and other nations, but on if warfare is a practical manner of resolving differences. I’ve been most interested in four nations: the USA, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. In order to appreciate the significance of the recent agreement, one must be aware of the history of acrimony between Iran and the other three. This includes a very real history between the US and Iran, with a coup (removing a democratically elected government, to install the shah), exploitation of their resources, a hostage situation, and the Iran-Contra scandal (that included Israeli middlemen).

The “common folk” in the US, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia would not benefit from a war between any of these nations. They have the right -- the basic, human right -- to live their lives in peace, to be part of a safe community, and to enjoy their family and friends. But they are too often held hostage to a minority in their own nation, including those who do benefit financially from war (re: Dick Cheney), and those who lust for bloodshed (re: George W. Bush).

Those “leaders” have the support of some of the 1%, and all of the violence-prone people. In this country, that includes those from the neoconservative ideology. They have power in Washington, and so we witness the republican politicians expressing disgust that we are avoiding war with Iran.

I’m aware, as I write this, that it was 47 years ago that Martin Luther King was murdered. That means that it was 48 years ago, that King delivered the most prophetic speech of his career, “A Time to Break Silence” (aka “Beyond Vietnam”). In that speech, King noted that if our nation did not reach a higher ground, that the public would be trapped in a cycle of protesting more and more Vietnams, around the globe.

I’m thankful that President Obama and John Kerry have helped us avoid this one.

Media, PA/ FBI Office Burglary/3-8-1971

“According to its analysis of the documents in this FBI office, 1 percent were devoted to organized crime, mostly gambling; 30 percent were "manuals, routine forms, and similar procedural matter"; 40 percent were devoted to political surveillance and the like, including two cases involving right-wing groups, ten concerning immigrants, and over 200 on left or liberal groups. Another 14 percent of the documents concerned draft resistance and "leaving the military without government permission." The remainder concerned bank robberies, murder, rape, and interstate theft.”
-- Noam Chomsky on the Burglary at Media, PA.

I just got back from bringing my youngest daughter up to visit her sister for a few days, at St. Lawrence University. One of my favorite things at SLU is the campus book store. In the past couple of years, I’ve been able to pick up some outstanding books there. Certainly, one of the less attractive features of living in the sticks is lack of access to a good bookstore.

It’s always tempting to purchase a stack of books, but I can’t afford that these days. So I decided upon the 2014 book “The Burglary,” by Betty Medsger, The break-in at the FBI office in Media, PA took place on the same night as the March 8, 1971 “Fight of the Century,” between two undefeated heavyweight champions, Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. (For younger DU readers, that was the most significant sporting event, in terms of the US social and political world, in history.)

The book includes a great deal of information about Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, the radical Catholic priests of that era. The brothers were friends with, and house-guests of, NYS Senator Robert F. Kennedy. I had the opportunity to become acquainted with them in the 1980s. They would be among the most important influences in my thinking, and my social-political activities.

So I’m happy tonight, to have a book on a topic that fascinates me. Pretty soon, my youngest will be graduating. I’m planning on moving into my one-room cabin out near my pond and sweat lodge. No electricity. Just peace and quiet. Of course, I’ll also be free to engage in the social-political activities that I know need to happen.

H2O Man


We all know the parable of the elephant and the blind men. Like all good fables, it uses an entertaining, easily understood story as an educational device to shed light upon human nature. This one originated in ancient India, and became a staple of numerous eastern religious belief systems. The wisdom and insight it provides has allowed variations of the fable to spread across time and distance.

Western culture tends to be most familiar with the Jain version: the blind man who touches the elephant’s tail describes the animal as being like a rope; the leg, a tree; the side, a wall; the trunk, a tree limb. Each is correct, yet none appreciates the others’ description. The parable provides a powerful metaphor for the human condition.

In 1872, a political cartoon used an elephant to symbolize the republican party. The image stuck, which is a shame, since elephants are intelligent, wonderful beings. Indeed, everyone likes elephants, and respects their right to live -- everyone, that is, but those who seek to exploit elephants.

Now, who do we know that fits that description? Who doesn’t respect an elephant’s right to live an elephant’s natural life? Who would seek to exploit elephants as a source of cheap labor; as a vehicle in warfare; and to be slaughtered for their tusks? Who might we describe, using the biblical metaphors of “deaf, dumb, and blind” to definite their attitude towards the elephant’s natural rights? By gosh, would that not be our beast fiends, the republican party?

All that may sound like an amazing coincident. Yet, because I do not believe in “coincidence,” it is not why I’m writing this. Rather, I want to make a point -- minor as it may be -- about a dynamic in the DU:GD descriptions of the republican elephant. It’s something that many, maybe most of us, do from time to time. I’m certainly as guilty of it as anyone else. It’s easy to focus on its tusks, and identify them with the republican military aggression in the Middle East; or its ears, and identify the government eavesdropping on citizens; or its feet, as crushing the middle class. And all these are true.

The potential problem, however, is one person/group sees only their issue as “big,” and of greater significance than some or all of other people’s issues. Who gains, for example, if there is a divisive debate on what is “more important” between, say, women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality? Between the environment and anti-war movements? Police violence and public education? Racism and economic justice?

By no coincidence, each of those four examples includes distinct issues, that are at the same time closely related. So much so, that it is an error to think that we can fully resolve one, without fully addressing the other. Why? Because that is the nature of the republican elephant -- which is not a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood creature at all ….but is instead an unconscious, destructive machine.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that every time one posts something about a cause they are advocating, they need to include a laundry list, in alphabetical order, of all other related issues. But it does mean that it is an error to insist that your cause is The Cause, of far more significance than those of others. If, for example, we take the issue of violence, it is a mistake to believe that the violence perpetrated against one group is more important than the violence committed against any or all other groups. Indeed, doing so misses the higher point that all of that violence is actually connected, like the features on the elephant.

It is in our ability to make the connections between the many issues that the Democratic Party should be taking a firm stance on, that helps to unite us. It is our understanding of these connections that enlightens us to the true nature of the beast. And more capable of protecting us from it.

H2O Man

Leftist Values

“ It is not enough to allow dissent. We must demand it. For there is much to dissent to.

“We dissent from the fact that millions are trapped in poverty, while the nation grows richer.

“We dissent from the conditions and hatreds which deny a full life to our fellow citizens because of the color of their skin.

“We dissent from the monstrous absurdity of a world where nations stand poised to destroy one another, and men must kill their fellow men.

“We dissent from the sight of mankind living in poverty, stricken by disease, threatened by hunger, and doomed to an early death after a life of unremitting labor.

“We dissent from the willful, heedless destruction of natural pleasure and beauty.

“We dissent from all these structure -- of technology and of society itself -- which strip from the individual the dignity and warmth of sharing in the common tasks of his community and his country.”
-- Senator Robert F. Kennedy; October 22, 1966; Berkeley.

Last week, I posted an OP on DU:GD, about “party loyalty.” The essay documented fifty years of “leftists” being loyal to the Democratic Party, and several examples of the party’s right-wing behaving otherwise in those same years. The response from others here made for -- at least in my opinion -- one of the more interesting discussions here recently. I thought that maybe we could keep it going.

I would like to take the opportunity to discuss some of the values that I associate with leftists. I started with the above quote from RFK, for a couple of reasons. First, they help to define some of the values of the left ; even though Robert Kennedy was still in the middle of the process of evolving, after the murder of his brother, he knew that “business as usual“ no longer worked. And second, that RFK was the type of candidate that the left embraces, along with most Americans.

We’re not looking for a super hero President to do it all for us. No, we’re looking for the type of leadership that works with us. We recognize that moderate-to-conservative Democrats are more likely to either hold office, or work for someone who does, than those of us on the left. But we are far more likely to be the ones who went door-to-door, who ran the phone banks, and did the grass roots campaigning that won the elections that made their jobs possible. Thus, if we are on the same team, working towards common goals, we can accomplish a lot.

We’re not living in the past. Those issues that Senator Kennedy was speaking of, almost 50 years ago, are still the areas of valid concerns. They apply to now. And we think it is unrealistic to believe that we can continue to ignore them, today and tomorrow, without tragic consequence. We dissent from the idea that we are obligated to support the very policies that are currently invested in war and violence; for surely, warfare and violence are not the proper form of conflict resolution in today’s world.

During his 1968 campaign for the presidency, RFK appeared on Face the Nation, and said, “I am dissatisfied with our society. I suppose I am dissatisfied with my country.” We feel that same dissatisfaction today. It is not that we believe the people in our society is incapable of doing great Good: when there are tragic events, for example, neighborhoods and communities come together, to provide care and support for those in need.

Yet, as RFK wrote, in an op-ed to the NY Times: “Once we thought, with Jefferson, that we were the ‘best hope’ of all mankind. But now we seem to rely on our wealth and power.” The flip-side to our compassionate society is a corporate state, a military-industrial-congress complex, that is addicted to warfare. It destroys the potential for Good to take deep root in our society. It crushes human beings.

At the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the left questioned if the US had become a police state. Today, the domestic police forces have been militarized to an extent that, when coordinated with the national military-intelligence organizations, result in our being a military-police state. We are dissatisfied with politicians who allow this to happen. We dissent from the forces that seek to trample the Bill of Rights.

I remember that in the summer of 2004, in a post on this forum, that I said that I had serious doubts that our constitutional democracy could survive another four years of Bush-Cheney. One of the moderates here responded by suggesting that I was being a drama queen. Now, a decade later, I suspect that more than a few leftists would agree with what I wrote. The US is feared, but not respected. Democracy does not appear to be spreading throughout the Middle East, as the neoconservatives promised. Too many people remain poor; too many people are one pay check away from poverty. The environment is continuing to be destroyed. The levels of anxiety, fear, hatred, and violence saturate our cities and suburbs and towns.

In my opinion, the one area where the differences between the “wings” of the Democratic Party are most easily identified on DU:GD -- and currently, on a daily basis -- is in the discussions of which candidate, or type of candidate, folks want to represent the Democratic Party in 2016. And that’s not to suggest that only moderate-to-right-wing Democrats support Hillary Clinton. Or that virtually no one on the left does. But the differences certainly are evident in many of the discussions here.

Speaking only for myself -- obviously -- I believe that we need candidates (not only for the White House, but for Congress and state offices as well) who will speak as directly and honestly as RFK did in the last two years of his life. We face severe problems, and the times require the potential of real change. Senator Kennedy was honest about that. Both those who supported and opposed him trusted that he believed what he was saying. That quality seems rare these days.

H2O Man

Party Loyalty

If one were to accept everything stated on DU:GD as fact, then the biggest problem facing the Democratic Party would be that “the left” -- meaning progressive and liberal registered Democrats, and the Democratic Left -- fail to support the party’s candidates. This includes the left’s having unrealistic standards of “purity” in both the primaries and general election; failing to go to the polls on Election Day; and/or voting “third party” as a form of protest vote. Indeed, when people post something (anything) at this early date -- certainly before any Democratic candidate has announced that they are running -- that raises concerns about one specific potential candidate, they will be attacked for their lack of party loyalty.

“Party loyalty” is a curious thing. If, for example, one is familiar with the history of primary and general elections since, say, 1964 -- approximately one-half of a century -- there are several examples of a lack of party loyalty damaging a Democratic candidate’s chances for victory. Yet most of these were the result of the moderate-to-conservative wing of the Democratic Party. Indeed, the lone example that the moderate-to-conservative wing still attempts to blame on “the left” is the tired, weak argument concerning Ralph Nader in Florida in the 2000 election.

“If only the left hadn’t cast ‘protest votes’ for Nader -- believing that ‘there’s no difference’ between Bush and Gore -- we’d have won the election!” We still see this uninformed appeal to emotion, even on DU:GD discussions. It requires one to ignore the fact that Gore did win the vote in Florida, and the republican party/ US Supreme Court stole the election. This was very well documented in Vincent Bugliosi’s “The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President” (Thunder’s Mouth Press; 2001).

To blame the eventual outcome of that election on “the left” -- some of whom did vote for Nader -- makes as much sense as blaming the elderly Floridians who, confused by the “butterfly ballot,” cast votes for Patrick Buchanan. More, it ignores an important reality -- one documented in Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s “Journals: 1952 - 2000” (Penguin; 2007): a good many of the establishment Democrats voted for George W. Bush. The reason? Some disliked Al Gore for creating distance between himself and Bill Clinton, while others despised his choice for vice president.

Still, Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election. Any and all “blame” goes to the Supreme Court.

Similar dynamics had resulted in President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 loss to Ronald Reagan. Again, Schlesinger’s journals document that a significant segment of the establishment Democrats were opposed to Carter -- even before the middle of his term in the White House. Some, like Arthur, mistakenly thought that a four-year Reagan term would be no big deal (just as 20 years later, they felt Bush would be inconsequential). Add to that the phenomenon of “Reagan democrats” -- who were moderate-to-conservative party members, who believed Reagan represented their values. It would be delusional to believe the left backed Ronald Reagan.

To really understand the betrayal of party loyalty during this era, one has to take 1968 -- a unique year in American history -- into account. The occupant in the White House was President Lyndon Johnson. In late 1967, Senator Eugene McCarthy had entered the primaries; in early 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy entered the race, as well. Intelligent people can differ on if one or both of them were disloyal to the Democratic Party, by doing so. However, LBJ would soon announce his plan to retire. RFK came from behind, to pass McCarthy in delegates won in the primaries; VP Hubert Humphrey entered the race, though he did not run in a single primary; RFK was murdered; and then, at the Democratic National Convention, the establishment selected Humphrey as the party’s candidate.

What happened at the Convention was important. In part, because of the police riot outside; part because it was run by Chicago’s Mayor Daley. Now, the mayor was a tough, old-school, machine political genius. Daley was also a stubborn, often cruel political boss. Inside the convention hall, he was a bully. But he was not alone in representing old school politics: the conflict over seating the delegates from Mississippi, which started in ‘64, was still unresolved. Although the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party had the legal and ethical right to be seated, the old, dehydrated, racist delegates were allowed to remain in “official” control of the state party.

These issues led to attempts to create a fair set of rules before the 1972 Democratic Convention. To a large extent, this created tensions between the progressive-liberal wing, and the moderate-conservative wing. (And these played out before, during, and after the convention.) The result was the most acrimonious convention -- inside -- in the party’s history.

George McGovern would come from behind in the primary season, to take a lead. Some of the other candidates, led by Hubert Humphrey, began a coordinated “anyone but McGovern” operation, to try to deny McGovern the nomination. Even when it was clear, at the beginning of the convention, Humphrey and the establishment sought to keep McGovern from winning.

McGovern won the nomination, but lost in the general election for three reasons: he ran a poor campaign; Nixon’s campaign was hugely successful in using dirty tactics; and parts of the Democratic Party would support and vote for Nixon. In fact. Exit polls showed that 35% of registered Democrats who voted, cast their ballots for Nixon. More, shortly after the election was called for Nixon, Humphrey called to congratulate Nixon. A transcript of the two sharing a giggle about how Humphrey pretended to support McGovern, but really worked against him, is found in Rick Perlstein’s “Nixonland” (Scribner; 2008).

A similar “anybody but ____” coordinated establishment campaign took place in the 1988 Democratic primary season. The contest attracted a large number of candidates (as had the ‘72 race). In time, it became a two-man contest, between Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson. The democratic establishment pressured the others to drop out of the race, to help Dukakis’s campaign. It was a “anybody but Jesse” effort.

Jesse wanted to be picked for the VP spot. He had shown the ability to bring large numbers of new people into the party. Dukakis ended up going with Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas instead. Although that choice resulted in a wonderful exchange in the VP debate, it wouldn’t carry the ticket to victory. Dukakis ran a campaign that was less exciting than lima beans; he could neither win back the “Reagan democrats,” or inspire new people to join the party. While we can only speculate on how things might have been different, had Dukakis offered Jesse some position, it seems unlikely he could have done worse.

If we add the moderate-to-conservative Democrats, with the progressive-liberal wing, and attract the support of the Democratic Left, the Democratic Party can continue to beat any republican candidate for the White House. In fact, that combination has the potential to win seats in both houses of Congress, as well as state and local elections. Not everywhere, but in the majority of states. But to do that, we need “party loyalty” -- and not just “party loyalty” as defined by one wing, or the established “leadership.”

“Party loyalty” has to include sharing the rewards. But we very rarely, if ever, have seen this type of power-sharing after election victories in the past 50 years. In fact, the opposite is too often the rule: the true progressive-liberal wing rarely gets any seat at the table. (Just because the media calls a politician a “liberal,” doesn’t mean he/she is. They are speaking of in the limited context of Washington, DC.) The Democratic Left is never seated. While their numbers may appear small, their ideas are huge. And their campaign work ethic -- going door-to-door, etc -- is why they are known as “activists.”

It’s strange to me, as an activist on the left, to see how we continue to be taken for granted, and shown so little party loyalty. Now, I’m a registered Democrat, with serious grass roots credentials. I’ve been a social - political activist for many decades. And while I speak only for myself here, I am aware of others who think very similarly.

H2O Man

Rafael Edward Cruz

It’s official: Rafael Cruz, the “junior” Senator from Texas, has announced that he is a candidate for the republican nomination for President in 2016.

Almost immediately, his announcement was followed by discussion of if Rafael can actually be president, because he was born in the socialist nation of Canada? Call it speculation upon my part, but I predict that this is not a question that the US Supreme Court will be forced to answer, one way or the other.

Thus, the more important question to be considered is if the Cruz candidacy is a good thing or a bad thing? And that leads to the follow-up questions: Is it good for Democrats? Republicans? Or bad for America? Or is it a combination of good and bad, that allows us an objective measure of the pathology that infects our national political life?

GOP Congressman Peter King just called Cruz a “carnival barker,” a semi-humorous attempt to dismiss “Ted” as being similar to Sarah Palin. This suggests that Cruz will face strong opposition within the republican party’s primaries. Before we even consider the possibility that he could win the republican nomination, we might do well to focus on the dynamics of the republican primaries.

Rafael will not be the republican establishment’s candidate. It seems important that we understand that this is not because Cruz is a “maverick,” who has always sought to inhabit the margins of his party. In fact, just the opposite is true. I find myself thinking of an old LBJ quote about specimens of Cruz’s ilk: “he’s not a pimple on a good man’s ass.” If we adjust this ever so slightly, we can view Cruz as an infected boil on the republican party’s ass-cheeks.

In 1999 - 200, Cruz served as a lawyer on the George W. Bush campaign. He advised the campaign on issues involving social policy. After Bush lost to Gore in the November, 2000 election, Cruz was elevated to a position where he became an advocate for the theft of the presidency, first before the Florida courts, and eventually before the US Supreme Court.

After the USSC opted to make the theft of the election “official,” it appeared that Cruz was set for a career within the comfort zone afforded by the most criminal administration in American history. But, as we know, that didn’t happen. The Bush-Cheney administration decided to have the infected boil removed. In Cruz’s political career since then, too little attention has been paid to why they dumped Rafael.

The truth is that even the scoundrels in the Bush-Cheney administration found Cruz to be too obnoxious, self-righteous, and pompous to work with. And when we look at his behaviors in the US Senate, it is all too clear that his spoiled brat persona stands out in defining him. He holds onto his grudge against not only the Democratic Party, but also the republican establishment.

His campaign’s goal is not to gain the support of the majority of republicans in the primary contests -- although no doubt, that is his personal fantasy -- but rather, to damage the establishment’s candidate to an extent that allows the tea party and other marginal sub-species to join in creating a common front, and selecting the 2016 candidate. That means he will seek to harness the discontent of those who support Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.

While this should provide some serious entertainment during the republican primaries, it is never good to underestimate the forces of fear and hatred in our society. I do not think of Cruz as just a joke, though there is plenty to laugh about in his campaign. It’s sad to think that there are people who would actually vote for this guy.

Democratic Reefs, Pools, & Oceans

Over the years that I’ve been part of the DU community, I have frequently read where someone or another writes, “DU in no way reflects the general public” (or, “….the Democratic Party”). And, granted, that is in many ways accurate. Indeed, if DU was more like the general public, it would not be nearly as attractive a place to discuss social-political issues -- would it?

Something occurred to me today, while I was reading a series of threads on DU:GD, regarding Hillary Clinton and a couple other potential democratic candidates for 2016. Take any given OP/responses -- be they pro- or anti-Clinton -- and one finds that the majority of forum participants, including many people that I recognize as intelligent and insightful -- rapidly move away from intelligent and sincere discussions or debates, into the most shallow of emotional of fringing reefs.

Just as all of the toxins poured into the giant oceans will eventually wash ashore, years of previously filtered anger, bitterness, and hostility are becoming concentrated with the earliest of 2016 democratic primary threads. These specific contaminates are not found at such levels among the general public, or even the Democratic Party as a whole They appear to have higher levels of sleeping-pills, pain-killers, and placebos than the DU community.

What DU:GD reminds me of in recent times is actually Congress. Now, traditionally, members of the House of Representatives -- because of the nature of that institution -- have been known to take more aggressive stances; while the Senate was noted as where heated debates went to cool, and individual members engaged in more comprehensive discussions of even the most pressing issues.

Over the years, I’ve come to see quite a few forum members as fitting into one of those two same general categories. I do not think that there is more value inherent in either of the two -- those who tend to post a shorter, more energetic OP, or those who tend to write longer, less emotional essays. The combination of the talents and intelligence of the community can make DU a fascinating, at times challenging, place to take part of.

In the 1990s, there was a purposeful, goal-directed effort by some members of the House to do severe damage to all of Congress. Newt Gingrich was the poster boy for this campaign. Few things highlight that type of effort more clearly than when Congress “shuts down” the federal government. More, be such an effort be led by a Newt or a Ted Cruz, it is essential that we fully understand that such a “shut down” isn’t merely a tactic that a spoiled brat uses to try to get his own way: rather, it is the purposeful destruction of the federal government’s ability to function in a meaningful way -- and to thus reduce the federal government to “defense,” meaning the military-industrial complex.

Obviously, that goal is distinct from even the most angry, argumentative forum member. But the debate tactics are surprisingly similar. The amount of hostility here prevents discussing issues in a meaningful manner. That old “you’re either with me, or against me” attitude -- that which marked perhaps the single stupidest thing an American president ever utter -- creates an atmosphere where those who think differently become “the opposition” and then “the enemy.”

The two most easily identified feuding groups currently found on DU:GD are, obviously, the “pro-Hillary” and “anti-Hillary” folks. If one searches hard enough, they can find solid, meaningful contributions from each of these groups here. But they tend to be overshadowed by the “louder,” more vocal group members, who confuse insults and attempted “debater-points” for insight and meaningful contributions to a discussion. And neither side has a monopoly on the toxic shit being splattered here daily.

Clearly, DU is not Congress. However, at its best, Congress is supposed to reflect the public square. Indeed, it is in that public square, or commons, or village park, that in a healthy constitutional democracy, good government takes root and flows from. In today’s high-tech culture, an internet forum such as DU actually has the potential power to serve as such a public square. It could be the nucleus for meaningful debate, which could then flow outward, into the larger pool of the Democratic Party, and from there into the ocean of the general public.

Nixon Today

It’s interesting to examine the connections between various Washington scandals from the recent past. In doing so, we can learn how, for example, the republican party’s machine goes about attempts to smear those Democrats that they fear and hate. Few politicians put as much energy into smearing his opponents than Richard Nixon. Indeed, while the modern republican party most often uses a white-washed image of Ronald Reagan as their “poster boy,” the truth is that their party still worships at the alter of Nixon.

Let’s take the issue of the Pentagon Papers, which were made public by Daniel Ellsberg. He had attempted to interest various media sources in the classified documents for some time, before The New York Times was willing to publish them in 1971. Some of Nixon’s top aides were outraged by this leak. But, at first, the President viewed them as a way to smear both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

However, when Nixon realized they documented US involvement going back to Truman, and went into the illegal invasions of Cambodia and Laos, Nixon fumed. This resulted in the administration’s attempt to trump Amendment 1, and prevent their publication. On June 30, 1971, the US Supreme Court made its historic 6-3 ruling on the government’s attempt at prior restraint.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to recognize that the energy the Nixon administration was investing in this wouldn’t be destroyed by the Supreme Court’s decision: it simply changed form. The most obvious example of this was charging Ellsberg with stealing the documents. The eventual outcome of his trial -- which could have been an easy conviction for Nixon’s Justice Department -- would be determined by Nixon’s channeling that energy into a new form.

Nixon’s infamous Oval Office isolation had begun well before the issues of Watergate appeared on the horizen. Indeed, that isolation lead to the various criminal enterprises that are today referred to as “Watergate.” In his own mind, Nixon was convinced, for example, that the murder of Diem could only have happened with President Kennedy’s consent -- for in his experience as vice president, he knew that President Eisenhower had okayed similar events in several other countries.

That the Pentagon Papers did not include any documentation of JFK’s okaying the murders of Diem and his brother were “proof” -- at least in Nixon’s paranoid mind -- that such papers had been removed from the official record. Where could Nixon find these records? He was convinced that they were housed in the Brooking Institute. Those in the Nixon administration who were already preparing for the 1972 re-election campaign were convinced that the Brooking Institute was the nucleus of the Kennedy family’s “shadow government.” Hence, White House tapes from June 30, 1971 (among others) include Nixon ordering H.R. Haldeman to oversee a burglary that would bring the Institute’s Vietnam files to the President’s desk.

During that period, other aides to Nixon would suggest a search for secret files on the Cuban Missile Crisis, that might damage Kennedy’s reputation. Next, they suggested focusing on the Bay of Pigs -- a suggestion that Nixon was extremely uncomfortable with. He deflected this by suggesting they find evidence that FDR knew in advance that the attack on Pearl Harbor was about to happen.

All of this created great tension within the isolated President’s mind. He became obsessed with the thought that his “enemies” in the Democratic Party just might have documents about the Bay of Pigs, which they would release just before the November 1972 election. Those documents would bring to light VP Nixon’s unholy role in planning the Bay of Pigs, including his ties to the CIA and mafia. He was aware that Cuban leader Fidel Castro had a package of documents delivered to several democratic leaders in Washington.

Nixon was obsessed with knowing what was in them. Where might they be stored? In the Brookings Institute? In the office of the chairman of the Democratic Party? He simply had to see these documents -- it was clearly a matter of national security.

Thus began the obscene growth of criminal behavior by the Nixon administration, under the direction of Richard Nixon. It would be, up until the Reagan administration, the most corrupt presidency in our nation’s history. The Ellsberg trial was derailed by Watergate. The Attorney General ended up a convicted felon, serving time. Only Richard Nixon would escape legal consequences for the wide-ranging series of crimes that he directed from the Oval Office.

Recently, on DU:GD, I engaged in a conversation with a person who claimed that there was “proof” that President Kennedy had ordered the murder of Diem in 1963. Gracious! Of course, E. Howard Hunt had infamously forged a document -- for President Nixon -- that they hoped would convince the media that JFK was responsible. In this day and age when, if a lie is repeated enough times, it can be mistaken for accepted fact, I suppose that a member of this forum might have been fooled by republican lies. I wouldn’t want to wrongly accuse anyone of purposely spreading such filth.

I think of how the Wall Street Journal had 36 editorials that focused on the suicide of Vince Foster. Of how that “respected” journal did its best to create doubt about the tragic death of this man, simply to create the type of doubt that would make Richard Nixon proud. I picture Nixon, with a big grin, looking down from hell at the WSJ’s editors, saying, “Now, that’s how it’s done!”

History is a fascinating subject. Sometimes, it provides lessons on how things are done, that are worth our keeping in mind as 2016 approaches.

The Truth about Humphrey & 1968

A week or so ago, I read an essay on the internet about the 1968 presidential election. The author’s purpose, I believe, was to convince people that it was necessary to vote for Hillary Clinton in the November, 2016 presidential election. However, her essay included a lot of information that was inaccurate, at very best. Thus, the conclusion she was advocating was equally flawed.

While that piece struck me as insignificant, the 1968 contest between VP Hubert Humphrey, the democratic candidate, and Richard Nixon, is a topic worthy of our consideration. Though I was alive at that time, and definitely very interested in the election, for the sake of this essay, I’ll rely upon two primary sources of information:

[1] Lewis Chester, Godfrey, Hodgson, and Bruce Page; “An American Melodrama: The Presidential Election of 1968”; Viking Press; 1969; and

[20 Rick Perlstein; “Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America”; Schribner; 2008.

Over the years that I’ve been a member of the Democratic Underground community, I’ve taken part in numerous discussions about 1968, which I recognize as one of the most important years in American history. I have shelves of books, with either chapters about 1968, or entirely on that topic; books about various political and social participants in the year’s events; and more.

Both the republican and democratic primaries -- especially the Democratic National Convention -- and the general election that fall, were extremely important. And not just in the context of that strange, sometimes beautiful, and frequently tragic year, but in American history.

A brief review: In late 1967, Senator Eugene McCarthy announced that he would challenge the sitting president, Lyndon Johnson, in the 1968 primaries. Early ‘68 was marked by the Tet Offensive. Then, in the New Hampshire primary, McCarthy did unexpectedly well: although LBJ got a larger number of votes, McCarthy won more NH delegates. Soon, Senator Robert Kennedy joined the race.

On March 31, LBJ announced that he wasn’t going to run for re-election. On April 4, Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered. On April 27, VP Humphrey announced his candidacy. He would opt to run in zero of the democratic primary state-wide races. Instead, he was focused on winning the support of enough delegates in behind-the-scenes meetings, to capture the nomination. RFK was murdered in early June, after winning the California primary.

I suppose that there are a number of ways of seeing the democratic primary contest. For many liberal and progressive party members, the McCarthy and Kennedy campaigns were intense examples of the power of participatory democracy in action. The Humphrey campaign was clearly more of “machine” politics, business-as-usual, or even decisions made in smoke-filled rooms. One thing is sure: Humphrey came out of Chicago as the nominee of a fractured party.

The earlier essay that I made mention of took the increasingly common, yet shallow, stance that Hubert had two conflicting images: a noble US Senator, who fought for Civil Rights, versus a vice president who loyally supported LBJ, including the administration’s unpopular policies in Vietnam. The grass roots Democrats, according to this myth, blamed Humphrey for that loyalty, even though Hubert secretly opposed the insane President Johnson.

The truth is that you can learn a heck of a lot, just from how much such a simplistic view of Humphrey’s campaign leaves out. Let’s take just a quick look, shall we?

Was Hubert Humphrey a noble advocate for Civil Rights? Absolutely. In 1948, he contributed to the Democratic Party’s Platform, on the ethical stance for Americans on racial issues. It is important to remember that there was a division within the party: the liberal-progressive wing believed the federal government needed to take firm stances to advance Civil Rights, while the moderate-conservative party members advocated “states’ rights.” Humphrey was consistent in his advocacy for Civil Rights up through his years as vice president.

Indeed, after the two political conventions, VP Humphrey entered the race against Richard Nixon with a large lead in the polls. The “Happy Warrior’s” campaign would see that lead shrink rapidly, and “the Politics of Joy” fall significantly lower than Nixon’s campaign for “law and order” and a “secret plan” to end the war. How did this happen? More importantly, why did it happen?

We can safely eliminate the candidates’ choices for VP as a significant factor. Nixon picked the relatively unknown (in national politics) Spiro Agnew, who was a pro-Civil Rights governor, and who had led the Nelson Rockefeller semi-campaign for the ‘68 republican nomination. Humphrey picked Edmund Muskie, a highly-respected US Senator. Since we can’t blame Muskie, let’s look at two periods in Humphrey’s career: his service in the Senate, then as VP.

As a Senator, Humphrey was in many ways representative of the best in liberal Democrats of his era. Largely forgotten today is that Hubert was largely responsible for Truman winning the upset over Dewey: Humphrey’s campaigning in northern states earned Truman the votes of enough pro-Civil Rights republicans to turn the election. Humphrey was also an advocate for the poor.

But there was a flip-side. Humphrey was strongly “anti-communist,” something that caused him to strongly support every war the US was involved in after WW2, until his death. In every instance, he viewed the wars as part of the USA versus the Soviet Union. He lacked the insight needed to identify the role that nationalism and anti-colonialism was playing around the globe.

His anti-communism included some rather undemocratic beliefs and actions domestically, as well. He sponsored the 1950 McCarran Act, to make “camps” in which to hold “subversives.” Humphrey favored outlawing communist beliefs: in 1954, he proposed a bill to make membership in the Communist Party a felony. How these things were viewed in the 1950s would change drastically in the 1960s, as the pro-Civil Rights and anti-war movements would be accused of being communists.

During his term as vice president, Humphrey saw his relationships with the democratic Senators he used to work with severely damaged. This was not because college students would flock to the Eugene McCarthy campaign in early 1968. No, it had already happened. Why? When LBJ served as JFK’s vice president, he was compared to “a bull castrated late in life.” When Humphrey was VP, people saw him as willingly castrating himself, to please LBJ.

The lack of meaningful support from his former Senate friends translated into a lack of campaign donations for Humphrey-Muskie. By mid-September, the campaign was broke, and was having great difficulty in getting loans. This was not because Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin had decided to run a pig for president. The responsibility lay solely with Hubert Humphrey.

Thus, on September 30, in a taped interview, Humphrey would finally dare to risk saying he would not continue the war effort exactly as LBJ would. That evening, he called Johnson to give him a warning. Although the president did not tell Hubert, he was already fully aware of exactly what Humphrey had told the NBC reporter. Johnson had spoken with Nixon several hours earlier that day, and an NBC contact had informed Nixon about the interview. Nixon, of course, called LBJ to “warn” him of Hubert’s betrayal, and to assure LBJ that he -- Nixon -- would stay true to the course in Vietnam.

Starting on October 1, Humphrey began to close the gap in the polls. In the final week of the campaign, he came very close to making the election a toss-up. So close, in fact, that Nixon proposed that if neither man won enough electoral votes, they should agree that the winner of the popular vote be recognized as president. Humphrey responded by saying he was in favor of going by the law, and having the decision rendered by the House of Representatives.

Had the campaign gone on for one more day, it might have been a virtual tie. Two more days, had things continued as they were going, and Humphrey would have won.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from studying 1968. They do not include any conclusions that one might reach by twisting or ignoring the facts of what actually happened. In the end, the responsibility for Humphrey’s loss was entirely his own. As the democratic candidate for president, it was up to him to convince the voters that he deserved their support.
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