The day the music died

Something sinister must have occurred to start the cycle we are in now.

A cycle in which our political center has moved. When being “pro-business” became more politically popular than being “pro-worker.” When being for “free markets” could rally crowds and “consumer protection” would bring on “boos.” When prosecuting a “war on terrorism” stokes jingoism instead of fears of “nation building,” while “presumption of innocence,” “due process” and the “right to counsel” was the treasonous coddling of our enemies. When “gun rights” became more important than “insuring domestic tranquility.” When “faith” could claim a higher standing than “fact,” or “truth,” or “science.” When a call for “tort reform” was politically correct and “rights to redress grievances” became archaic. When discrimination based on “immigration status” became acceptable and mainstream. When clean water and air became associated with our world “competitiveness” and the cost not to pollute became associated with jobs. When “illegal” addiction would become criminalized with three strikes and you’re out while “legal” addiction would be promoted in prime time and on nightly stock market reports. When farm subsidies turned into corporate farm subsidies and small farms began disappearing throughout our hemisphere. When simple charity and kindness came mean “socialism” or worse? When we forgot why we had had anti-monopoly laws, taxed inheritance and regulated trade. Exactly when did “corporations” begin to have the rights of people, but so much more power? When did the music of the great society die?

There are cycles to our young republic that affect individual rights, justice, fairness and equality. Since our beginning we have moved from plutocracy to populism to oligarchy to kleptocracy and back. And forth. From idealism to materialism. From racism, to closet racism, to pragmatic racism. From nationalism, to imperialism, to isolationism, to exceptionalism. From secular, to criminal, to “in god we trust” to “born again” rule. From open immigration toward closed borders. From due process, to no process and interdiction. From hope to fear. Boom to bust. Republican to Democrat. From divided, to united, to polarized. And variations in between.

November 5, 1968.

1968, as years go, was a hellish time. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Lyndon Johnson was losing wars, Vietnam and the one on poverty. These wars divided our politics, our families and our generations. The US went off the gold standard. North Korea captured one of our spy ships and held its crew hostage for almost a year. The Civil Rights Act was signed amid protests from last generations’ Tea Party. We installed Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The Pope condemned the use of birth control. Russia re-invaded Czechoslovakia. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their arms in a black power salute during the worldwide telecast of the Olympics. NBC cut off the final 1:05 of the Raiders-Jets football game to air the movie, “Heidi.” Airlines were hijacked to Cuba. Yale began admitting women. Jackie married Ari. During a violent Democratic convention, the sitting Vice-President from Minnesota defeated the populist, anti-war Minnesota senator, leaving most of the country wondering where the hell Minnesota was, and why the Democrats would think that we would want four more years of what we’d just lived through. Richard, aka: Dirty Dick, Milhous Nixon, with future felon, Spiro Agnew, became the Republican nominees. And “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” former Alabama governor, George Wallace with insane pro-nuke sidekick General Curtis LeMay, ran on the American Independent ticket and went on to garner over 13% of the vote.

November 5, 1968 was the day America elected the former Joe McCarthy inquisitor and former and almost-never-was-because-of-illegal-campaign contributions Eisenhower Vice President, former failed Presidential candidate, confirmed paranoid, anti-semite, homophobe, scare-mongering, foul-mouthed, dirty-campaigning, compulsively obsessed with a war on drugs, FBI and IRS abusing, media manipulating, Southern strategy architect, Bebe Roboso campaign money laundering, wire-tapping, lying, future-Watergate-burglary-conspirator, justice obstructor, power abusing, contempt of Congress, but pardoned, future impeachee, bigot, “I’ve got a secret plan to end the war, but I’m not going to tell you what it is because I don’t have one,” president.

It should be noted, that when Richard Milhous Nixon was elected, most of us didn’t know with certainty that he would one day be impeached for being so mind-bogglingly paranoid that he would do something as stupid as Watergate and actually get caught. The rest, however, was pretty common knowledge at the time.

So, how did this change things?

  • Campaign money. A little background: on this day, campaign contributions were limited by the Federal Corrupt Practices Act (revised in 1925 and several other times), which required Senators and Congresspersons to limit contributions by any single contributor (individuals, unions and corporations) to $5,000 and to report contributions within 10 days of the election. It had never been enforced. After the election of 1968, the Clerk of the House, Pat Jennings, decided to report violators to the Justice Department. The Justice Department, led by should-have-been-a-felon AG Ramsey Clark, and later by, future-felon AG, John Mitchell, ignored it.
    Corruption hardly began with Nixon, but his presidency set a new standard for the accumulation huge amounts of illegal and off-the-books contributions. They raised millions, and actually kept hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in the White House to fund secret campaign operatives, operations and dirty tricks. Post-Watergate, the rules changed a bit, but the cycle had begun: the quiet corruption changed overnight into an all out assault for campaign money. Everyone did it. Everyone got away with it and still does. And every large corporation knows they can bribe anyone in politics for special tax breaks, limited oversight, limited liability and most anything we don’t want to think about. This tiny event in our history, may have been the seed for most everything in the cycle that followed.
  • The Courts. Richard Nixon was in office for just five and half years, but was able to appoint four justices to the Supreme Court: Warren Burger, Harry Blackmum, Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist. Their appointments set the court solidly conservative as it remains today (Republicans had the White House for 32 of the 42 years before Obama). Combine a solidly conservative Supreme Court with 32 years of a solidly conservative Justice Department and the cycle begins to seem obvious.
  • Farm Subsidies. Yes, blame Nixon and Earl Butz. For corporate farms, monopolistic control of our food supply, genetic mutant seeds; excessive run off, huge pig farms, corn subsidies which have led to high-fructose corn syrup which has helped fuel the obesity problem, corn subsidies, which led to corn-based ethanol ,which sucks all the momentum from efficient alternative bio-fuels, subsidized, unfair trade, which undermined the family farms in our southern hemisphere, and deserves a great part of the blame for our immigration problem. When bread prices shot up before the election in 1972 because of a deal to ship huge amounts of grain to Russia, Nixon called in Earl Butz and told him that this was never to happen again. It hasn’t. The administration changed the subsidy system to stimulate production, resulting in a market glut and continually depressed below what-it-even-costs-a-farmer-in-Mexico-to-produce prices. And those subsidies underwrite the campaign donations to the small states that every year elect two Republican senators.
  • Deregulation. It was Nixon who proposed deregulation of the transportation industry and his appointed successor/pardoner, Gerald Ford, who signed into law the bill that first deregulated trucking and trains. Future Republican administrations continued his phased plan by deregulating shipping and airlines. Then energy, communication and banking. Yes, Nixon is responsible for the cycle that created the mess in airline travel, the mess on Wall Street and the mess in the Gulf.
  • The Southern Strategy. Nixon is most often credited for it, or Harry Dent, but some suggest that Nixon learned of it from George Herbert Walker Bush, who first reached out to the those disenfranchised former Southern Democrats in 1966 to become the first Republican to win a Congressional seat in Houston. The strategy was pretty simple: reach out to the former Southern civil war states with a pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-busing, anti-civil rights, anti-union, anti-hippie/free speech, anti-elite, anti-journalist, anti-evolution, anti-welfare, antebellum states rights message. Basically, the same party of “no” issues we have today.
  • The War on Drugs. Nixon flat out hated drugs. Not because of the pain it causes society or individual addicts, but because he believed deep down in his dark soul that it was in the nature of African-Americans to use drugs and that they sold it to young whites to turn them in to hippies (I’m not making this up). Under Nixon, the drug laws were re-written, which were the basis of the infamous Rockefeller drug laws creating easy prosecution and long prison terms for small amounts of drugs classified with these rules as “narcotics.” Under Nixon, and with the help of J. Edgar Hoover and Elvis Presley, the DEA was created. Under Nixon, we began sending weapons and money to tyrants in South America to execute a war on drugs (and revolution) on our behalf. The groundwork was laid to put a million people a year in prison, disproportionately black – which also, of course, got them off the voter rolls.
  • Anti-Communist Witch Hunts. Nixon cut his political teeth prosecuting Alger Hess and working for Joe McCarthy. His legacy of looking for “pinkos” reverberates on Fox news to this day. It may not be the reason that the “nabobs of negativism” no longer flourish in newspapers across the country, but the stench of the cycle seems to emanate clearly from this day.
  • China Policy. Seems pretty weird that this anti-communist would open up China? For Nixon, this was about his fear of red horde; it was about his legacy, his debt to campaign contributers and global trade. Cheap labor. Political payback to unions and industrialized states. His last snicker.

When I set out to write this, I wanted to find out what had happened to us. What had turned a generation so idealistic that we wouldn’t trust anyone over 30* to one that seems powerless and motionless on issues so similar today and of such heart-wrenching importance. What was keeping us from marching. What turned us so cynical. What changed us that we are quiet on the spewed and tainted politics and injustice of today.

Was there a moment? A point in time when we gave up and walked away? I kept coming back to the election of Richard Nixon as the moment when this terrible cycle began. There are plenty of others who built on his legacy of paranoia, division and hate – devil spawn of Reagan, Gingrich, Bush, Bush and Cheney. But I have drawn a line from that day to this one and feel it is time he acknowledged for his accomplishment.

Since the beginning, our cycles have always been connected to our wars, and to some degree, to our prosperity. I pray that some years from now, November 4, 2008 will be recognized for the beginning of the next cycle and that our wars will end.



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*Updated, we shouldn’t trust anyone over 75 – When Jack Weinberg was quoted by a San Francisco Chronicle reporter in 1965 saying, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” he was being sarcastic. Weinberg was a 24-year old activist at Berkeley and had been asked if the Free Speech Movement was being manipulated by outside adults. Unlike most of the rest of us, Weinberg kept believing, speaking, and, often getting arrested demonstrating. He dropped out of graduate school to work for civil rights in the South. In 1969, believing that societal change couldn’t occur without blue collar America (it was the time of the “silent majority”), he moved to the Midwest, working in automotive and steel plants and being active in the unions. It was in Gary that he’d spend five years working to see that a nuclear power plant would never be built. An economic downturn took him to Chicago where his involvement in the environmental moment turned into a full time job with Greenpeace, where, at 70, he’s still active today, but even Jack, hasn’t been arrested for demonstrating for while (almost 10 years, Manila).

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*Note: the story was edited to reflect a couple of mindless mistakes that are noted in the comments.

29 thoughts on “The day the music died

  1. Alex Kearns

    Well done, Lee, well done! Sadly, it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that I fell in love with The America That Was. I must confess that I’m not terribly enamoured with the America that we are becoming.

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      I know what you mean, but keep the heart. There are cycles to all of this. Push/pull, give/take, what goes around and that sort of thing. We are always changing and morphing toward something. Your voice is already helping to shape it. Thank you, Alex.

      Reply
    2. Monica Smith

      More likely, you fell in love with an ideal that has never been realized. But, IMHO, we’re making progress. That human society is a consequence of consensus, rather than coerced, is difficult to perceive for the simple reason that coercion, whenever present, is more impressive. Force is easier to notice than gentle persuasion. Also, the use of force seems to be habit-forming and, as such, difficult to halt. As a result, gentle persuasion needs to be more persistent. That’s all.

      Reply
  2. George

    I have long believed that Nixon was the devil. Perhaps the first bell in a change in cycle was rung yesterday. Specter losing, Paul winning, oh the times they could be changing.

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Just a shame, really, that more incumbents didn’t have primary opponents. But maybe, just maybe, fear of the voters could trump some of the corporate power on Congress.

      Reply
  3. Monica Smith

    I’m more inclined to focus on “unintended consequences” which are usually actually reactions on the part of people who perceive their power being threatened. The civil rights movement had the unintended consequence of moving the country in the direction of government BY all the people, as a result of the inadvertent confluence of universal suffrage and the “freeing” of information. Universal suffrage and FOIA threatened the traditional power structure of elected officials — a power structure that had already been weakened by the Federal Tort Claims Act of 1947 by depriving public officials of “sovereign immunity.” FOIA was probably the third strike and, ever since, the traditional power structure has been casting about for alternatives to assure secrecy and un-accountability. “Privatization” was really mainly about moving public functions into the purview of private corporations whose affairs are protected from public scrutiny by patent law and “proprietary” restrictions and confidentiality provisions. The difference between the public corporation (political jurisdiction) and the private corporation (commercial entity) is that the former is open to public inspection and the latter is closed. The effort to equate the private corporation with the private person is aimed to obscure that precise distinction, as well as the fact that a corporation is an artifice of man.

    If you’re going to have deprivation under cover of law, the deprived have to be kept in the dark. Judd Gregg, the retiring Senator from New Hampshire, is on point when he rails against “pandering populism,” his new alternative for “socialism.” The people are not to be served; the people are to be deprived. The people are not to rule; the people are to be ruled. It’s a position to which Richard Nixon fully subscribed, but it’s not one he invented. Nor was he alone.

    What I would argue is that African Americans have always been a bellwether. They were the first to challenge the heritability of the status of slavery and, in so doing, challenged the heritability of status (family values) as such. They were the first to negotiate hours of labor and leisure, age of employment on the land and in the house, childcare, and support in old age during the first experiment in industrial agriculture (the plantation era). They were the first to insist on universal suffrage for males, consistent with the perception that managing the affairs of the community is the “important” work of men, leaving the women in charge of reproduction and the production of sustenance. So, of course, they are bound to bear the brunt of any backlash by the traditional power structures that are being challenged.

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Monica -- Wow. You’ve left us with much to think about. Thank you. I chose Nixon’s election date in this story as a symbolic divide between the post-WWII generation’s dance of idealism somewhat culminating in the ambitions of the Great Society and what has followed -- that, and reminders of the man tend to set off my Tourettes.
      Your discussion and unraveling (intended as a vague reference to string theory) of unintended consequences is a fascinating trip (I love to see it graphed as I’d like to hang it on my wall to study) and has seemingly limitless variations and permutations. Arguably, civil rights might also have been an unintended consequence of WWII and its relationship of the post-war middle class and the return of people who had been forced by necessity toward inclusion and diversity; or an unintended consequence of television; of the new deal coalitions; a generation with a liberal supreme court; electioneering tactics; consumer product marketing/greed; advances in education; the Scopes case; interstate highways; sunbelt industrialization; etc. -- all would make for wonderful long form reading). Though I do love the idea that the progression of our country has been since the beginning toward a government BY all the people and that it continues.

      Reply
  4. Mike Cox

    Lee,
    Well written, well researched as usual. I turned 18 in 1968 and it was a strange time.

    Today’s only positive is that we never seem to screw things up so bad that we can’t recover. I am really interested to see what the young people will do about our country in the next few years. They are the key.

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Maybe. My hope for nextgen good would be enhanced if someone comes out with a virtual march on government app (there’s not an app for that). Thanks for the kind words.

      Reply
      1. Terri Evans

        I have great confidence in the hearts and minds of the next generation. I think a lot of them really “got it” when Bush won the second time. As to the “virtual” march of Washington -- it’s a grand idea! It’s also suited to the that same generation who appears to really participate in “Slacktivism” (Slacker Activism), in which they can be virtual activists. As pejorative as the term may sound, I’m a fan of slacktivism — people have to start somewhere with their passions and support of important things. If they donate $10 to Haiti by texting, then it’s $10 more that will help. Next thing you know, they’ll be heading there…

        Reply
  5. MKerley

    There is an opinion piece in the NY Times today (5.19.10) by former senator Larry Pressler that I believe explains at least some of it. To wit: the generation that was coming of age in the sixties and now is the lead dog in our political cavalcade is defined, then and now, by its fundamental dishonesty. It saw itself in those days as anti-war, when, in fact, it was only anti-draft -- and, at that, only anti-draft for the upper middle class. Its most honest members were willing to go to jail or flee the country if they couldn’t avoid the draft. All the others -- the Clintons, Gingrichs, Bushs, Cheneys, Blumenthals, Limbaughs, etc ., etc., etc. -- manipulated the regulations and relied on technicalities, money, friends in high places and all the rest to avoid the possibility of having to make a life-defining decision (see: jail, Canada, Sweden, et. al.) or risk their participation in a shooting war. This has nothing to do with the yeas of nays of Vietnam unless one truly was a pacifist. (In fact, it’s amusing to note how many peacefully inclined flower children from those years have become chest-thumping neocons today, indicative of their intellectual dishonesty both then and now.) No 18- to 25-year old in those years had enough information to make an intelligent decision on the matter. In fact, even today it’s easy enough to make the case that Vietnam was a mistake, but not ipso facto an immoral one beyond the fact that you can argue that all wars are in some ways immoral. What was immoral about Vietnam was the way the draft pool was divided into classes, and only the poor, racially discriminated against, blue collar and simply unlucky were chosen. Don’t believe it? What happened to the anti-war movement when Nixon ended the draft?

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Thanks for sharing. For those who’d like to read the Pressler piece, here’s a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/opinion/19pressler.html

      As to your question about what happened to the anti-war movement when Nixon ended the draft, it is pretty simple: the announcement that draft had ended was on the same day (January 27, 1973) as the Paris Peace Accords were signed by the US, North Vietnam, South Vietnam and the Viet Cong, in which the US agreed to immediately halt all military activities and withdraw all military personnel within 60 days (except for some advisors and those guarding our embassy, etc. who came out dramatically 15 months later). The war ended, and along with it, the anti-war movement. Those conscripted in December 1972, however, were required to report for duty in June, 1973. The draft, however, didn’t officially end until 1974 and continued to draw numbers in case they were “needed.”

      Reply
      1. Monica Smith

        The draft is a version of involuntary servitude. It’s resurrection via the Army’s “stop loss” program is an injustice, as is the rationale that, once voluntarily relinquished, human rights need not be honored by the state, as if it were simple another instance of “informed consent” similar to agreeing to having one’s chest slit open to get a heart replaced. In case of the latter, one’s bodily integrity is presumably enhanced by the surgeon’s invasive act; by the general’s order to keep on shooting, not so much.
        “Stop loss” may be a new slogan, but the practice of the state reneging on commitments to military personnel is not new. I sent my younger son to the Regular Army for three years (the older signed up with the Army Reserve) and he spent one year in the DMZ in South Korea. Then, when his term of service was up and he’d enrolled in college, the Army called him back to participate in the first Gulf War. He was lucky. Shoddy medical care while he was in made him unfit to actually serve again. So all he lost was a semester in college. I gave up smoking the day we put him on the plane for Fort Benning, determined not to pay another extra cent for such folly and have never smoked again. 🙂

        Reply
        1. MKerley

          Yes, the draft was a form of involuntary servitude, however it dated back to the Civil War and was the only realistic way to maintain a strong military force in a democracy. That’s why this democracy tolerated it up until the time it was perverted by class preference during Vietnam. (One could also argue that taxation is a form of involuntary servitude.) Personally, as someone who was drafted in 1967 and spent the year 1968 in Vietnam, I think the country is poorer for requiring no form of national service, and for fielding what is, in essence, a mercenary military. Since most mercenaries would prefer not to risk their lives, “stop loss” is one of the many bad results of that policy -- which, I recognize, is irreversible.

          Reply
          1. Lee Leslie Post author

            I agree and support national service. It is a great time for our young people to have a little time to let their frontal lobes come in before they have to make decisions which will define how they spend their lives.

      2. MKerley

        But the war didn’t end until April 30, 1975, when the North Vietnamese Army entered Saigon. Surely, had the anti-war movement been about the war, rather than just about the draft, it would have continued.

        Reply
        1. Lee Leslie Post author

          The last American soldier to die in combat was on January 27, 1973. The last combat soldiers left Vietnam on March 29, 1973. The Case-Church Amendment was passed on June 19, 1973 forbidding any further US military involvement officially ending the un-declared war. While North Vietnam waged war against the south, we were not involved accept as advisors and providing some intelligence. The date you are referring to, is when our embassy fell and those last 10 marines who had guarded the embassy were evacuated.

          Reply
          1. MKerley

            My point is that the fall of Saigon was the end of the war. Not the end of the draft, U.S. troop withdrawal, the Church amendment, etc., etc. If people were against the war, they were against the war. If they were simply against the draft, why not call it what it was: the anti-draft movement. Because that is all it was. And no number of “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today,” chants could ever make it anything else. I say this not in bitterness, no protestor ever spit on me. But one of our most pervasive problems in this country is our desire to dress in the robes of uber-morality the nasty workings of our own naked self-interest. See “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” See “American exceptionalism.” Ignoring those truths is what allows people like Henry Kissinger to win the Nobel Prize.

  6. Cliff Green

    Lee, two sort of corrections from an old man with too long a memory:
    1. Lee Atwater did not create the Southern Strategy. He was much too young for the Nixon years. The Southern Strategy was created by Harry Dent, the right-hand man of Strom Thurmond. (Dent would later mentor Atwater, who would in turn mentor Karl Rove.)
    2. The War on Drugs did not involve Herbert Hoover, who was long dead. And, contrary to popular belief, it involved J. Edgar Hoover only peripherally. J. Edgar was offered the chance to take over the war, but he refused. To his credit, the old man saw that it was a hopeless cause. Plus, he realized that there is so much money in the drug trade, his squeaky clean but underpaid agents would become succeptable to bribery and corrpution. His reluctance to involve the FBI is why we have the Drug Enforcement Administration today.
    You can look it up.

    Reply
    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Thanks, Cliff. I stared at Herbert Hoover for ten minutes as my mind read it over J. Edgar, J. Edgar, J. Edgar. Likewise, my SC roots show when the Atwater/Dent screw up. Facts known so surely, I didn’t double check. Thank you for stopping by and helping out. -- Lee

      Reply
  7. Kjell Varnsen

    First, of course, you insist that the modern effective opposition movement against Barack Hussein Obama should be dismissed because they are a bunch of gun-toting bigots, “The Civil Rights Act was signed amid protests from last generations’ Tea Party.” This is such a tired pack of lies you plainly discredit yourself with this opener that it’s hard to take anything else you say seriously.

    You do not realize that you are, in reality, the racists. You must insist that blacks, browns and the impoverished are victims of an elite white conspiracy whose sole end is to enslave them. The first problem with this is that it’s not true. If we separated American blacks entirely from this country and put them on their own island — they would comprise one of the world’s ten largest economies. How could this be in a country of European power elites that only seeks to exploit and take advantage of the African descendants at every turn? And a bunch of white people elected a black guy as president, by the way. The truth of this invidious, destructive rhetoric that you gutlessly pander is that you insist upon blacks’ inferiority in order to prove to them they must be rescued from the pack of lies you want to scare them into believing.

    The beating heart of your vicious ideology is fear. You must scare the blacks into believing the whites are out to get them. You must scare the browns to fear that the white power immigration enforcement structure is going to throw them in jail because of the color of their skin. Granted: invoking racial paranoia is a tried and true political strategy. In most political arguments, Hitler comparisions are grossly overdone. But not in this case: Hitler played exactly the same game that you do, only by slightly different rules and for slightly different ends. Nevertheless, the goal was attain political power by dividing the populace upon meaningless racial lines. You guys are the ones constantly saying that race doesn’t matter but you’re also the ones constantly bringing it up. Granted, it’s a successful political strategy that’s worked for decades. One day, I hope you’ll realize how it divides and threatens to undo the uncoerced changes we have achieved in America regarding social attitudes toward race and gender.

    And the deregulation stuff: your unstated goal, which I will state for you, is state control of productive resources. That is a failed enterprise. You can’t make the case on the merits, so you divide the population into victim groups to convince them you will justly redistrubute wealth. Obviously the victim groups are too inferior, based on your ideology, to improve their own lot by exchange value for value in a free market. Hence only you are **enlightened** enough to decide how wealth should be allocated in a society. Well, that theory’s been tried before.

    And the Curtis LeMay stuff: he was a bold and principal practicioner of containment as commander of the Strategic Air Command. He struck more fear into the hearts of the Soviet leadership than perhaps any other leader — for which you accuse of being a madman. Meh. A more thoughtful view of his military record was that he was extremely effective. His leadership helped lead to the downfall of the Soviet empire. Your view suggests that the Soviet threat in your mind was some useless white, right-wing political fiction used to enslave the brown man (funny the plasticity of your founding ideology). But the threat of Soviet military expansion was real — and they were very bad people (ask the Poles and Czechs of the era).

    As for Vietnam, well, again — you take a narrow view convenient to justify your false ideology. The war was winnable but for Johnson’s and McNamara’s feckless leadership. If you think the war was unjust, I encourage you to consider what Ho Chi Minh did to that country during and after the war, and what fellow travellers like Pol Pot did in the neighborhood. Much like Korea and LeMay’s serious, well-thought-out containment measures — you forget that Asia might well be a very different place today but for the U.S. intervention in those conflicts. Without Korea and Vietnam — Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, India and South Korea might look a lot more like Cambodia and Loas than the modern democracies and economies they became. Even China was forced to reckon with the market economy to ensure its own survival. You may recall at the time that tyranny in the name of Communism arrived close to home in Cuba. Avoiding the existential threat of allies succumbing to tyranny and nukes 90 miles south of Miami was the real cost of American blood, treasure and carefully-considered foreign policy. At time there were excesses both foreign and domestic of anti-communist fervor. But you forget, deny or perhaps never knew (again, ignorance) that there were very good reasons for it.

    Reply
      1. Noel Holston

        Never been much of a “Seinfeld” fan? Excuse me if I’m a little slow on the uptake today, Lee, but would you please clarify: With that non sequitur-ish quip, were you being being dismissively sarcastic? It’s exactly the sort of response a diatribe as bizarre as Mr. Varnsen’s warrants, but I wanted to be sure I had in fact gotten your drift.
        Or, was it not a non sequitur? It occurs to me now that you may have been suggesting that Seinfeld nutty neighbor, Kramer, was the author of that post.

        Reply
        1. Lee Leslie Post author

          Kel Varnsen of Vandelay Industries was an alias Jerry Seinfeld used in a couple of episodes. Our commenter, Kjell Varnsen used an email address with @Vandelayindustries.com, and, while it could be a coincidence, I assumed using an alias of fictional character’s fictional alias was worth of notice. Dismissively sarcastic? No way. I’m still processing how I am a fault for promoting the idea that discrimination and segregation were race based; how much I’m much I’m like Hitler; how Johnson failed to win the war by only using 500,000 troops and a generation of treasure; and whether we’d have been better off had George Wallace and Curtis LeMay been elected.

          Reply
    1. MKerley

      As I recall, LeMay’s “serious,” “well-thought-out containment measures” included the nuclear destruction of China during Korea and of North Vietnam during that unpleasantness….

      “Meh”?

      Reply
  8. Bill Montgomery

    In fairness, since I wouldn’t know him if my car plowed into his on Peachtree, I’ll grant Mr. Varnsen that comparisons to Hitler in today’s politics are grossly overdone. Especially his, when he argues that Hitler just played “the same game” in 2008, he seems to imply, as President Obama, “only by slightly different rules and for slightly different ends.”
    Slightly?!. So what do you call organized, homicidal brutality and genocide, pal? “Overly excessive”, perhaps?
    This line of over the top, cynical BS is getting real tiresome, and by now, pretty old. Spare me the pre election “union thug” tales, they don’t come anywhere close to what Hitler’s storm troopers did before he took power.
    Common sense has me wondering how many really buy into this crack brained theory floated by talk radio shouters, especially by the loudmouth whose name rhymes with “Flush.” You know, the guy who claims his Third Reich comparisons are simply that Obama’s economic policies are similar to Hitler’s, that’s all.
    Yeah, right. Mention Nazi Germany, the first thing in my mind is not the Blitzkrieg, not the Gestapo, not the death camps nor their chimneys pouring thick black smoke into the sky.
    Nope, of course not. I think of economic theory! Don’t you?
    Somebody, some reporter on one of those Sunday morning political round up shows , offered good advice to candidates a while back: unless you’re specifically talking about World War II era Germany or The Holocaust, you’re better off not throwing the words “Nazi” and “Hitler” around.
    Auf wiedersehn, everybody

    Reply
  9. Cliff Green

    Guys, please! Don’t waste a minute answering something called Kjell Varnsen, one more right-wing coward afraid to attach a real name to his, or her, senseless rants.

    Reply

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