Archive for June, 2012

Democracy is Dead

June 28, 2012
English: The United States Supreme Court, the ...

The Nine. There were nine Nazgul too. I wonder if that is a coincidence

The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare today. This is not good and I think it might be fair to say that the cause of liberty suffered a setback. Still, you won’t see me crying and sobbing that democracy is dead, like that idiot in Wisconsin. We lost a battle, but the war continues.

Obviously, we have to elect a Republican president and gain both Houses of Congress. Even then repeal will be harder than many might think. We can count on the liberal media to scream about Conservative selfishness and cruelty every step of the way and I am sure that some of our less stalwart Congressmen will cave at the first hostile editorial from the New York Times. What I mean to say is that it is not enough just to send Republicans to Congress. We are going to have to keep on them until this obamanation is ended.

I have not read the actual ruling and dissents yet. I am not a lawyer and I am not sure if I could really understand the legal jargon. I think I will make an effort to plow through it if I ever have the time, or an incurable case of insomnia. I gather, however, that Justice Roberts struck down the use of the interstate commerce clause as a justification for the law, but joined the more liberal Justices in upholding the law on the basis that the individual mandate could be considered a tax. In other words, Congress can not mandate everyone must buy insurance, or any other product, but it does have the authority to levy a tax to fund a program that provides health insurance. I hope that any lawyer reading this will correct me if I have made a mistake here.

Chief Justice John Roberts has come under a lot of criticism from Conservatives. Some have speculated that he has been pressured or even intimidated to rule the way he did. Others have wondered if he wants to impress the Washington D. C. political elite. I am not so sure. I think that he simply is not inclined to legislate from the bench as other Justices have done. He seems to have the opinion that Obamacare is a deeply flawed piece of legislation but that it is not his job to correct it.  I think, I am no expert on these matters, that his reasoning was sound. Congress does have the right to levy taxes. I also think that he might be taking a broader perspective than most. He did oppose the use of the interstate commerce clause, which is the clause that Liberals have been using to justify the expansion of government in the private sphere for decades. If Congress can impose such a tax, then maybe we need to have a long delayed discussion on what should be taxed and what the government should be really be using that money for. I think then that Roberts was subtly undermining the whole basis for the decades long, relentless expansion of government.

In the end, repealing Obamacare is not enough and if we focus just on that than we run the risk of ignoring the wider fight. We need to do more than repeal one law. We need to reverse the whole entitlement mentality that allows so many people to think that they can get something for nothing. We have to somehow educate people like that foolish woman who believed that Obama was going to pay her mortgage. We must teach them that nothing is really free, and if they do not pay for the goodies they want, than their grandchildren will.

This will not be an easy fight. Our enemies are weaker than they used to be, but they still have control of our educational systems, our entertainment industry, and much of our news media. They will not stop until everyone is a serf and freedom is a forgotten word. But, we have the truth on our side and the knowledge that we fight for freedom, while they stand for tyranny.

Unteachability

June 27, 2012

I really am hoping that Mitt Romney wins the election this November, not only because it would nice to have a competent president for a change, but also because I am really looking forward to the Democrats’ reaction to an Obama defeat. I am sure that they will be mature about it, knowing that it is only one election and they have a chance to win next time.

Or maybe not.

It will be fun to read their excuses. When liberals lose elections, which they usually do unless they lie about their beliefs, it is never because their ideas or candidates are bad ones. This year, no doubt, racism will be cited if Obama is defeated. Never mind that millions of those same racist whites put him into office just four years ago. Or, it will be because the Democrats were outspent by the evil Koch brothers.

I am looking forward to reading articles about the unteachable ignorance of the red states, such as the one written by novelist Jane Smiley after Bush’s victory in 2004. She has discovered the reasons Democrats have fared badly in the red states. The people who live in them are simply too ignorant to know what is good for them.

I say forget introspection. It’s time to be honest about our antagonists. My predecessorsin this conversationare thoughtful men, and I honor their ideas, but let’s try something else. I grew up in Missouri and most of my family voted for Bush, * so I am going to be the one to say it: The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. (Well, almost 58 million—my relatives are not ignorant, they are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.)

Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states. There used to be a kind of hand-to-hand fight on the frontier called a “knock-down-drag-out,” where any kind of gouging, biting, or maiming was considered fair. The ancestors of today’s red-state voters used to stand around cheering and betting on these fights. When the forces of red and blue encountered one another head-on for the first time in Kansas Territory in 1856, the red forces from Missouri, who had been coveting Indian land across the Missouri River since 1820, entered Kansas and stole the territorial election. The red news media of the day made a practice of inflammatory lying—declaring that the blue folks had shot and killed red folks whom everyone knew were walking around. The worst civilian massacre in American history took place in Lawrence, Kan., in 1863—Quantrill’s raid. The red forces, known then as the slave-power, pulled between 150 and 200 unarmed men from their beds on a Sunday morning and slaughtered them, many in front of their wives and children. * The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are—they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence. The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind.

She goes on and on like that and it is not worth the trouble of quoting any more. Go ahead and read the whole thing if you want to know what Progressives think of us in flyover country.

I wonder if Ms. Smiley changed her opinion when millions of those ignorant red staters helped to elect Barack Obama. I don’t imagine she has anything good to say about the Tea Party movement. I am sure that if Obama loses the coming election we will all be treated to even more vicious commentary about how ignorant, racist and unteachable we are for just not seeing that Obama is the most wonderful president ever.

It occurs to me that while this attitude might be very emotionally satisfying, it is not especially useful. Leaving aside the question whether it might be wise to insult large numbers of potential voters, if you simply assume that people are ignorant, you are not asking the important question why your party lost an election and how it can do better in future elections. After the Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 and lost the presidential election in 2008, I do not recall any Conservative commentator blaming the voters for their unteachable ignorance. There might have been some talk along those lines, but I never heard any and I don’t think such attitudes were very common. Rather, much of the discussion within the Republican Party and the Conservative movement was how to present their ideas better, get better candidates, and limit the damage caused by one of the most inexperienced men ever to sit in the Oval Office. I wouldn’t want to make a generalized judgement that Conservatives are more mature and practical than Liberals, but that seems to be true in many cases.

Worst of Both Worlds

June 24, 2012

I said that with Obama we get the corruption and lawlessness of Richard Nixon and the incompetence and fecklessness of Jimmy Carter. Last week, we saw the lawlessness with Obama’s invoking of Executive Privilege. This week, we will see the incompetence and stupidity of his foreign policy. The weeks starts off with the Muslim Brotherhood‘s candidate, Mohammed Morsi, winning the presidential election in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi has officially won Egypt’s presidential election and will be the country’s next president, the electoral commission has announced.

Morsi picked up 13.2 million votes out of just over 26 million, giving him about 51 per cent of the vote. His competitor, Ahmed Shafik, the final prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, received 12.3 million. More than 800,000 ballots were invalidated.

The president-elected delivered a victory address on Sunday night. He spoke on state television, long a medium which demonised him and the Muslim Brotherhood. He thanked the Egyptian people for their votes, calling them “my family” and “my beloved,” and promised to work to “restore their rights.”

“I have no rights, only responsibilities,” Morsi said. “If I do not deliver, do not obey me.”

He also reached out to the army, the police, and Egypt’s intelligence services, thanking them for their work in protecting the country, and promised to “preserve” the military.

This is not, to put it mildly, a positive development for US interests, peace in the region, or freedom for the Egyptian people. In fairness, there is not much Obama could, or really should, have done about this. I suppose this election was more or less a fair one and many Egyptians perhaps prefer Islamist tyranny over the incompetent military despotism they have been enduring. Still, it was indecent for Obama to throw Mubarak under the bus by calling for an end to his rule last year. It was indecent and unwise, considering who his opposition really was.

But, I can and do fault Obama for his apparent cluelessness over what Morsi’s victory most likely means for Egypt. I am going to quote the entirety of this article in Politico.

The White House congratulated Egypt‘s president-elect Mohamed Morsi on his victory in that country’s presidential election, calling it a “milestone” in the country’s transition to democracy.

“We look forward to working together with President-elect Morsi and the government he forms, on the basis of mutual respect, to advance the many shared interests between Egypt and the United States,” press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

Morsi, a member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party, was announced as the winner in the election Sunday morning — but the extent of the powers of the presidency are still in flux with Egypt’s military threatening to curtain the powers of the presidency.

“We believe that it is important for President-elect Morsi to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government. We believe in the importance of the new Egyptian government upholding universal values, and respecting the rights of all Egyptian citizens – including women and religious minorities such as Coptic Christians.  Millions of Egyptians voted in the election, and President-elect Morsi and the new Egyptian government have both the legitimacy and responsibility of representing a diverse and courageous citizenry,” Carney said.

“The United States intends to work with all parties within Egypt to sustain our long-standing partnership as it consolidates its democracy.  We commend the Presidential Election Commission and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for their role in supporting a free and fair election, and look forward to the completion of a transition to a democratically-elected government,” Carney said. “We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt’s role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability.  And we will stand with the Egyptian people as they pursue their aspirations for democracy, dignity, and opportunity, and fulfill the promise of their revolution.”

I sincerely hope that this is just for sort of diplomatic nonsense that Presidents are expected to say on such occasions. Because if Obama really believes the sentiments in his Press Secretary’s statement, than he is even more naïve than the people in the Carter administration who believed the Ayatollah Khomeini would just be a religious figurehead in a democratic Iran. Indeed, I am beginning to see a frightening similarity between what is going on in Egypt and the events in Iran back in 1978, and the American president’s reactions.

Meanwhile, Israel is becoming more nervous, with good reason. In the article from the AP, Prime Minister Netanyahu tries to put a good face on the election results, but he is clearly unhappy.

Israel’s prime minister says he hopes peace with Egypt will remain intact after it chose an Islamist president.

Israel has been apprehensive about the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood taking the top spot in neighboring Egypt, because the veteran Islamist group does not formally recognize Israel.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979.

Reacting to the announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate won, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped the treaty would stand.

“Israel expects to continue cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace agreement between the two countries, which is of interest to the two peoples and contributes to regional stability,” Netanyahu said in a statement Sunday.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has said it would maintain the treaty but would demand changes in it.

I do not think there will be open war any time soon. The Muslim Brotherhood would seek to consolidate its power in Egypt first and, as long as the military has any influence , they will prefer to keep the peace rather than start a war they know they could not win. There might be trouble a few years down the road though. If the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule does not improve Egypt’s economy, they could well decide to start trouble with Israel as a distraction. I think that it would be a very good idea for the US to limit military aid and cooperation with Egypt right now, and make it very clear, as Obama has not, that continued economic aid is contingent on the Egyptian government keeping peace with Israel and respecting the rights of religious minorities. But, this would require a more clear-headed grasp of events in the Middle east than anyone in the Obama administration has so far shown.

Selling Air

June 21, 2012

They are selling air at WalMart. No, I am not kidding. Look at these pictures.

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Actually, they are selling cans of oxygen. According to the label, the gas in these cans is 95% oxygen with 5% other inert gases. The idea, it seems, is to breathe a hit of oxygen and it will relieve fatigue, give you  strength and endurance, and make you feel better. I have no idea whether this would actually work. I do know that it is not really a good idea to breathe pure oxygen.

Oxygen is actually a toxin. I know that we need oxygen for our metabolism, but the property that makes oxygen so useful in digestion also makes it dangerous. Oxygen is a highly reactive element. Oxygen atoms eagerly take electrons from other atoms and readily form compound. When this happens quickly we call it fire. Oxidation that occurs more slowly, we call rusting or corrosion. Excessive levels of oxygen in the body can do a lot of damage.

Oxygen toxicity is a condition resulting from the harmful effects of breathing molecular oxygen (O2) at elevated partial pressures. It is also known as oxygen toxicity syndrome, oxygen intoxication, and oxygen poisoning. Historically, the central nervous system condition was called the Paul Bert effect, and the pulmonary condition the Lorrain Smith effect, after the researchers who pioneered its discovery and description in the late 19th century. Severe cases can result in cell damage and death, with effects most often seen in the central nervous system, lungs and eyes. Oxygen toxicity is a concern for scuba divers, those on high concentrations of supplemental oxygen (particularly premature babies), and those undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The result of breathing elevated concentrations of oxygen is hyperoxia, an excess of oxygen in body tissues. The body is affected in different ways depending on the type of exposure. Central nervous system toxicity is caused by short exposure to high concentrations of oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure. Pulmonary and ocular toxicity result from longer exposure to elevated oxygen levels at normal pressure. Symptoms may include disorientation, breathing problems, and vision changes such as myopia. Prolonged or very high oxygen concentrations can cause oxidative damage to cell membranes, the collapse of the alveoli in the lungs, retinal detachment, and seizures. Oxygen toxicity is managed by reducing the exposure to elevated oxygen levels. Studies show that, in the long term, a robust recovery from most types of oxygen toxicity is possible.

Protocols for avoidance of hyperoxia exist in fields where oxygen is breathed at higher-than-normal partial pressures, including underwater diving using compressed breathing gases, hyperbaric medicine, neonatal care and human spaceflight. These protocols have resulted in the increasing rarity of seizures due to oxygen toxicity, with pulmonary and ocular damage being mainly confined to the problems of managing premature infants.

I don’t suppose the oxygen in those cans would do any damage, unless someone kept holding one up to his face and breathed in hit after hit, but I don’t imagine anyone foolish enough to spend $10 for a can of air is doing themselves any good.

Executive Privilege

June 20, 2012
Official photographic portrait of US President...

Barack Milhous Obama?

 

Oh, boy. President Obama is invoking executive privilege to avoid handing over documents related to Fast and Furious, and a House panel has voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

 

A Republican-run House committee voted today to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt after President Obama asserted executive privilege over documents in the “Fast and Furious” operation.

Holder’s Justice Department requested that Obama claim the privilege and withhold documents concerning the botched gun-smuggling operation and the death of a U.S. border agent.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted along party lines for the contempt citation, after a full day of sniping between folks on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

The “decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “The administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer shot back that House Republicans are on a “politically motivated, taxpayer-funded, election-year fishing expedition.”

Pfeiffer said Republicans should concentrate instead on extending federal funding for transportation projects and student loans.

 

I seem to recall another president who used executive privilege to perpetuate a cover-up. I don’t think Obama’s attempt will work any better.

 

Just after Obama became president his more enthusiastic supporters compared him to such presidents as Roosevelt and Kennedy, even Lincoln. More recently, Obama’s detractors have taken to comparing him to Carter and Nixon. I think he is worse than either of them. Nixon may have been corrupt, but at least he was an effective president. Carter may have been incompetent, but at least he was honest. With Obama we are getting the worst of both worlds, a president both corrupt and incompetent. And, of course, nobody was killed as a result of the Watergate scandal.

 

 

 

The Great Divorce

June 19, 2012

I have always considered The Screwtape Letters as my favorite of C. S. Lewis’s writings, but now I think that book might have to make way for The Great Divorce. I have just finished reading in and have found it to be even more insightful that Screwtape, though with none of the humor. The Great Divorce is a story about Heaven and Hell, perhaps similar in theme and intent to Dante’s Divine Comedy and others, though the Heaven and Hell that Lewis portrays is not much like the conventional pictures of Heaven and Hell.

 

 

The Great Divorce begins with the narrator, presumably Lewis himself, in a gray, dismal, rainy city of empty streets. This is Hell. There are no flames, devils, or torments. These things might make Hell interesting and Lewis makes subtly makes the point that while evil may be hurtful, it is also, in the end, boring. The streets of Hell are empty, not because Hell itself is empty, but because the inhabitants cannot stand each other. As soon as anyone arrives in Hell, he invariably quarrels with everyone around him and moves as far away as he can. So, there are miles, even light years between neighbors.

There is a bus for those who want to travel to Heaven to see what it is like. The narrator, along with a group of quarreling travelers boards the bus to Heaven. Most of the people from Hell don’t much like it there. In Heaven, they are revealed to be ghosts, while Heaven is real and solid, more real and solid than Earth. The ghosts in Heaven cannot lift a single leaf. Grass does not bend beneath their feet. The people of Heaven are bright, shining spirits.

The bulk of the book consists of the narrator overhearing conversations between the ghosts and relatives or acquaintances from Heaven, and the narrator’s own conversation with Lewis’s favorite writer, George MacDonald.  The spirits of Heaven plead with the ghosts to stay but the ghosts all have one reason or another why they cannot or will not.  As MacDonald explains, the one thing that the people from Hell need to do is to forget about their preoccupation with themselves and learn to love God. Once they have ceased to trouble about themselves, they will become more truly the individuals they were meant to be. But, they simply will not do it.

Lewis is careful to be sure that the reader knows that this book is only a work of fiction and most emphatically does not claim to be any sort of prophet or to have any real knowledge of the afterlife. In fact, the story ends with the narrator waking from a dream. Still, I think The Great Divorce shows a great deal of insight into the nature of Heaven and Hell, and of good and evil.

Jerry Sandusky on the Stand

June 18, 2012

There may be a chance that accused child rapist Jerry Sandusky will testify at his trial. Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports thinks that might give him his best hope of being acquitted.

he list of potential witnesses submitted by Jerry Sandusky’s defense attorneys runs about five dozen deep. It includes the obvious, such as Sandusky’s wife, Dottie, to the unexpected, such as the wife and son of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who have said they know nothing about being called to the stand.Jerry Sandusky’s defense may be reliant on the defendant’s willingness to take the stand.

However, it’s likely only one witness could possibly save Sandusky from being found guilty of child molestation.

Jerry Sandusky himself.

After four withering days of witness testimony and prosecution allegations last week, Sandusky’s defense began Monday at Centre County Courthouse. The task is daunting, something lead defense attorney Joe Amendola acknowledged in his opening argument, comparing it to climbing Mt. Everest.

That was before powerful, personal stories from alleged victims, often through emotional tears, painted Sandusky as a serial rapist who through perverted methods sought out, groomed and then controlled young boys assigned to his Second Mile charity designed to help poor and troubled youth.

What could he possibly say to exonerate himself. “Sure, I showered with naked boys, but we didn’t have any sex”? Maybe that is what he would testify.

Sandusky acknowledged in those media interviews that he routinely showered with boys in Penn State football locker rooms, often after hours. That includes what he described as “horsing around” behavior: hugging them, soaping them up and touching them while they were naked.

There are also pre-bed routines in his basement when kids would stay over his home and the multiple times he took boys to local hotels.

He said none of that was sexual in nature.

And, of course, they will have to bring psychologists in to explain why he acted the way he did.

On Friday, Amendola also won a motion to allow a psychologist to testify that Sandusky suffers from “histrionic personality disorder,” which stripped him of understanding appropriate boundaries. It is an attempt to explain his behavior in “grooming” alleged victims and his cringe-inducing words in so-called “love letters.”

A prosecution psychologist was expected to examine Sandusky on Sunday to perhaps offer a counter opinion.

One thing I would like is for a psychologist, or any mental health expert to tell me what goes on in a person’s mind when they decide to molest a child. I simply cannot imagine doing something like that, assuming that the stories the prosecutor’s witnesses are telling are true. Granted, I am not attracted to young boys, or girls for that matter, but I would hope that if I were I would seek professional help and refrain from harming any children. I would also like to know how someone could see a man raping a child and not immediately call the police and make sure that man is prosecuted.

Praise for Obama’s Decision

June 18, 2012
Official photographic portrait of US President...

Emperor Barack I

The Democratic fund raising emails I have been receiving lately have been full of praise for Obama’s recent decision not to enforce certain immigration laws. Here is a typical example.

Thanks to our president, this nation’s immigration policy just became more fair and more just.

Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to ensure that young, undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents, and who have followed the law since then, will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings — and will be allowed to apply for authorization to work in this country.

They’re a group that we’ve come to call the “Dreamers” — and today, the country they love is telling them they should be able to dream as big as they want.

For years, the President has called on Congress to make common-sense fixes to our broken immigration system. They haven’t. So he did.

I know that the people sending this out are just trying to get Barack Obama reelected and I wouldn’t expect any criticism of him, but I hope that someone in the Democratic party is considering carefully what is happening here and how dangerous the sentiment “Congress won’t do it so the President went ahead and did it without them” actually is.

You have to consider not just what the people you agree with will do with power, but what the people you don’t agree with will do with it. Sooner or later, and the way things are going it is likely to be sooner, a Republican will be elected President. What will these people do if President Romney announces that he will not enforce Obamacare, even if Congress declines to repeal it. We really can’t have a President who can decide which laws he wants to enforce and which he wants to ignore. If that is the way we are going to run things, than we shouldn’t bother having a Congress at all.

The Imperial Senate Has Been Dissolved

June 15, 2012
Official photographic portrait of US President...

The Emperor

We just received word from our Emperor Barack I

Well, not just yet, but apparently Barak Obama has decided that the Executive Branch doesn’t just enforce the laws, but can make laws too. Since that is the case, we don’t really need Congress anymore. Obviously, I am talking about his decision to unilaterally cease enforcing immigration laws. Here are some details from the AP.

President Barack Obama suddenly eased enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws Friday, an extraordinary step offering a chance for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work. Embraced by Hispanics, his action touched off an election-year confrontation with many Republicans.

Mitt Romney, Obama’s GOP election foe, criticized the step but did not say he would try to overturn it if elected.

Obama said the change would become effective immediately to “lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.”

“Let’s be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix,” Obama said from the White House Rose Garden. “This is the right thing to do.”

The administration said the change will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. It bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the “DREAM Act,” legislation that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who went to college or served in the military.

Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be able to avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

Maybe it is the right thing to do. I am sure that Barack Obama can make a good argument for allowing these immigrants to remain in the United States. Nevertheless, this is the wrong way to go about it. We do not live in a country ruled by an autocrat who makes laws by decree. We live, or are supposing to be living, in a constitutional republic in which the laws are made by the representatives of the people and even the President lives under the rule of law. Obama should have introduced legislation into Congress to make whatever necessary changes in immigration law he felt was necessary and then lobbied hard for that legislation. Maybe he could have gotten it passed, maybe not.

I am not arguing for or against the merits of Obama’s decision. I think it might well be the right thing to do. And, if someone, whatever his legal status, has served in our military, he surely deserves citizenship as a reward.  I do object to the manner in which this has been done. I am afraid that this is part of our nation’s descent into outright despotism. It may be not too long in the future that the Republic will fall.

Watergate

June 14, 2012
Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the U...

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I just read an interesting article by Conrad Black about Nixon and Watergate on National Review Online. It seems that after almost forty years, Woodward and Bernstein are still pursuing a vendetta against Richard Nixon.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Woodstein for our purposes) now claim, in a Washington Postpiece, that Nixon was “far worse than we thought,” and accuse him of conducting five “wars”: against the anti-war movement, on the media, against the Democrats, on justice, and on history. In evaluating such a volcanic farrago of pent-up charges, the facts must be arrayed in three tiers: the facts of Woodstein’s activities and revelations; the facts of the Watergate case and related controversies; and the importance of Watergate in an appreciation of the Nixon record.

The man is dead. They really need to move on. I wouldn’t say that Watergate was before my time exactly, though I was only four years old at the time. One of my earliest memories is hearing the word  “Watergate” on the television and thinking it was a reference to some sort of dam.Obviously I didn’t follow the news at the time and am hardly interested in it now. I am amazed that some people, who were older at the time, still feel that it was one of the greatest scandals in American history and Nixon was somehow uniquely evil.

In the article, Black makes a good case that the scandal has been greatly exaggerated, an impression that I have gotten over the years.

The facts of Watergate have been wildly exaggerated. Neither in financing techniques nor in the gamesmanship with the other side was the Republican campaign of 1972 particularly unusual. And it was puritanical compared with what appears to have been the outright theft of the 1960 election for Kennedy over Nixon by Chicago’s Mayor Daley and Lyndon Johnson. And perhaps the all-time nadir in American presidential-election ethics was achieved in 1968, when Lyndon Johnson tried to salvage the election for his vice president, Hubert Humphrey, with a completely imaginary claim of a peace breakthrough in the Vietnam talks a few days before the election. LBJ announced an enhanced bombing halt and more intensive talks in which the Viet Cong and the Saigon government would be “free to participate” (i.e., Saigon declined to attend since there had been no breakthrough).

In Watergate, Nixon knew nothing of the break-in, nor had he known anything of the earlier break-in at the office of Dr. Fielding, the psychotherapist of the thief and publisher of the Pentagon papers, Daniel Ellsberg. These papers reflected badly on Kennedy and Johnson, but had nothing to do with Nixon, and his opposition to their publication was based on the notion that secret government documents should not be stolen and published when national security is involved.

The congressional treatment of Nixon was an unmitigated outrage. The president’s counsel, John Dean, a slippery weasel who was up to his eyebrows in unauthorized illegal practices, made a plea-bargain deal and then gave perjured evidence against his own client, which would have been completely inadmissible in a law court. The House Judiciary Committee was a mockery. Its counsel, John Doar, a foaming-at-the-mouth partisan on all fours with Bradlee-Woodstein, produced five counts of impeachment, of which four were farcical on a Kafkaesque scale: Articles 2 to 5 of the impeachment alleged that Nixon “endeavored” to misuse the IRS (not that he had actually done so) and had violated his oath of office and the rights of other citizens. (By this last criterion, historically guilty parties would have been numerous and distinguished, including FDR, the Kennedys, and LBJ.) Article 3 impeached him for resisting Congress’s right to 147 tapes; presto, Nixon had no right to try in court to retain tapes of private conversations.

In fact, as far as abuse of power goes, Watergate seems to have been a minor affair. Other Presidents have committed far worse excesses. In addition to FDR, and LBJ, which Black mentions, I would add Woodrow Wilson, who surely was the President with the greatest contempt for individual liberties, and Andrew Jackson, who should have been for his refusal to enforce the Supreme Court decision Worcester v. Georgia.

Still, I would not go so far as Black does to exonerate Nixon. He may not have authorized the break in, but Nixon’s paranoid and insular style of governing and the siege mentality of his White House certainly did create a climate of lawlessness that made such activities seem acceptable. I also don’t quite agree that Nixon was a great president.

The assassinations and the endless race and anti-war riots ended. Nixon opened relations with China, negotiated and signed the greatest arms-control agreement in world history with the USSR, began a Middle East peace process, and ended segregation (thus sparing the country the nightmare of court-ordered race-based school busing, a measure that was opposed by almost all students and parents). He ended the draft, reduced the crime rate, and founded the Environmental Protection Agency. He proposed non-coercive universal health care and welfare, tax, and campaign-finance reform. Nixon’s full term was one of the most successful in U.S. history, which is why he was re-elected by the largest plurality in the country’s history (18 million).

I do believe that Nixon was one of the most intelligent men to sit in the oval office. He isn’t given much credit for the things he did accomplish, perhaps because of the hostility of Liberal historians, and partly because he tried to have a populist, anti-intellectual appeal. He wanted the support of the “silent majority”. Yet, I don’t think that any President since Nixon has had quite his intellectual  capacity, except possibly Ronald Reagan, who was far from being the “amiable dunce” the Liberals sought to portray him as being. Such supposed super geniuses like Al Gore and Barack Obama do not strike me as being very smart at all.

But, despite his very real accomplishments, I hesitate to consider Nixon a great President. In part this is because so much of his domestic policy involve an expansion of government, a strange legacy for a supposed Conservative. In a very real sense, Nixon is the real author of much of the Great Society programs Republicans now campaign against. But, I don’t have to agree with a President to judge whether he was a good President or a poor one. Rather, I feel he was a below average President because his destruction was, in the end, largely of his own making. He knew he had enemies. He played into their hands. His obsessive, driven personality which brought him to the heights of power, brought him down. It is almost as if he were the hero of a Greek tragedy, who is destroyed by hubris. It is a pity that Nixon’s own flaws prevented him from doing a great deal of good in his second term. The world would be a better place today if Watergate had not occurred.

By the way, I remember reading Nixon’s book 1999 when it was published in 1988. Among other things, he discussed US-Soviet relations into the 21st century and seemed to assume the continued survival of the USSR. I thought, at the time, that he was wrong and that it was only a matter of time before the Soviet Union collapsed, though I didn’t expect the collapse to begin as soon as the following year. I think the fact that Nixon could not conceive of the Communist experiment ending in such an abject failure exposed something defective in his worldview. Perhaps he put too much emphasis on power politics and not enough on the intangibles of the human spirit. He was not the sort to dare Gorbachev to tear down that wall.

 


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