Every few months my thoughts go back to my onetime political hero Marvin Mandel. He was chosen as replacement governor by Maryland's legislature after not-yet-exposed-but-spectacularly-crooked Governor Spiro Agnew became Richard Nixon's Vice President. Mandel won re-election and carried others with him against a Republican tide. He stood up for ordinary folk against the elites. He stood up to special interests.
What won me over more than anything else was one singular accomplishment with no apparent political benefit to him. He forced into existence a new life-saving trauma center, the first of it's kind in the country, over the opposition of doctors and politicians. It was later copied all over the country. Countless accident victims are alive today because of the political courage of Marvin Mandel. Too bad he turned out to be a crook.
Mandel's Secretary of State was a political hack named Harry Hughes. He was ordered to arrange no-bid contracts for Mandel friends, all at the edges of state law. To the surprise of pretty much everyone, including the Governor, he resigned rather than skirt the law. Mandel made a lot of behind the scenes deals for personal gain. When he was finally put in jail, he was succeeded by another establishment politician, Blair Lee.
It was a mild political surprise when honest Harry Hughes announced for governor against Lee. It was a political earthquake when he won. Police officers, fellow politicians, bureaucrats, bank executives, contractors, and casual citizens began telling stories of the kind of straight shooting government that citizen groups fantasize about. Honest government? Wow.
But when a savings and loan crisis hit, and savings were wiped out, Harry Hughes took responsibility. A memo had crossed his desk warning of a future crisis. Amid thousands of notes, he had not paid it much mind. He devoted his last few months to getting depositors their money back. After his tenure ended, he ran for the Senate and came in way behind whoever would have been dead last had he not run. He never ran for anything after that.
Today, the Republican hopeful for lieutenant governor of Maryland, Mary Kane, is answering questions about more than a stray memo. It seems the family owned business, the Kane Corporation, is accused of shady dealings. The accusations include cheating workers out of pay on federal contracts, illegally keeping wage schedules secret from employees and the government, double billing taxpayers on federal contracts, sending workers to sites where they were not supposed to be then collecting twice for work done. The corporation says the charges are untrue.
Kane's husband ran the business. She was put on the Board of Directors to learn everything in case anything happened to him. She says this about being a director: "It is a privately held concern. When we bought the company at first, yes, I was. But I did not do any of the day to day running of the company. It was just … I did not. I went to work every day."
She went to work every day. Oh my! ... Where have you gone Harry Hughes?
The Kane Company is completely confident that there will be no discovery of intent to underpay our employees. That's just not the way we treat our staff.
- - The Kane Company, press release, July 3, 2010
denying massive fraud, including cheating taxpayers and employees
So the Grand Old Party, about to celebrate November's coming triumph, is unaware of its own imminent demise.
Non-liberals drove out Republican liberals a long ago. With no liberals, the party became more conservative. The conservative base got impatient with office holders who were wishy washy moderates. They were defeated in primaries, or changed parties, or changed their stripes and got religion. Moderate Republican loyalists got less loyal. Enough left for the party to shrink a little more. And the conservative base got a little more conservative. Rinse and repeat and repeat.
It is not strategy. It is sociology. The driving force is technology. New interpretive news choices are now available with internet and cable. Why change when you can be fitted for a cocoon? Conservative Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute calls it "epistemic closure."
Tim McGaha, of Tim's Thoughtful Spot and JMyste, a frequent visitor, occasional dissenter, and sometime guest writer, are trying to keep me honest on this issue. JMyste cautions that the temptation to ignore reality is universal. The same tendency to charge blindly to the extreme, the phenomenon that will destroy the Republican Party, can easily apply to leftists as well. JMyste sums up a frightening picture. "If the annihilation of the GOP is truly imminent, then we will laugh hysterically as we delight in the preview of own demise." Yikes.
At first glance, newly published research seems to back them up. "In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds." These studies differed from most in the past. After being asked their opinions, participants were given contrary information the way most news is given. News stories were offered that contradicted wrong information.
With conservatives, the effect of contradictory information was denial. In fact, conservative misinformation got stronger when opposite evidence was seen. With liberals, the effect differed. They tended to keep their opinions despite contrary information, but they did take correction.
So what does this prove? That there are differences between liberals and conservatives in a special set of circumstances. The flaw in decades of such studies is that studies themselves may solidity opinion. Once people in a laboratory setting commit to one side of a controversy, the likelihood of changing over some tidbit of information seems to me to be slight.
It's Heisenberg behavior. To discover how folks react to a reality that differs from their prejudices, we may learn more from an actual case study. Watch the Republican Party over the next ten years.
Then let's talk.
A billboard ordered and paid for by the North Iowa Tea Party shows President Barack Obama, Adolf Hitler, left and Vladimir Lenin. (AP Photo, Deb Nicklay)
JMyste, a frequent visitor whose quest to keep me honest is worthy, but probably futile, gives it another go. He responds to my prediction that the Republican Party is in a death spiral, with no hope of pulling out. His answer first appeared here:
Agree or disagree, it is a very well-written and brilliant idea to consider. It invokes memories of the home computer done it a few yards back. I would love to see this posted on a conservative site. Of course they would mostly disagree, but it would still be entertaining.
I would also point out that as conservatives grow more conservative and pledge greater allegiance to the purely defined conservative flags of Hannity and Limbaugh, liberals become more liberal and have already started their own worship of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, who also go to extremes and present their cases as retained attorneys would.
All four of these individuals show no signs of a scientific mind. They argue a point, attack members of the other party for crimes with which they appear to sympathize when it is their own party committing them. Usually when a major news event happens that could damage the reputation of a politician, those of his own party immediately start a defensive damage control and those of the other party immediately attack. The improprieties and crimes themselves are rarely evaluated on their own merits by these political Gods who direct our thinking on political matters.
If I am a liberal, I find out what I think about any specific event from the extremist of liberals, and then I become more liberal. If I am a conservative, I find out my opinion from the most conservative of conservatives, and I become more conservative. Ironically, I am addicted. I cannot wait for stuff to happen, and when it does, a cliffhanger forms. I can barely contain my anxiety until I can tune into my program of choice and find out exactly how I feel about it.
There are opinion makers and opinion consumers. The latter outnumber the former a million to one. People are not content to settle for the data alone. When learning how they feel about an issue they want excitement and a lot of it. To put it bluntly, they wish to be tickled until they have an accident. They don’t want someone to lean this way or that. They want someone to stand solidly on one side and show how ridiculous the other side is. That is the MO of extremists. The best most successful opinion shops out there are run by fanatics.
I see nothing in place to change this phenomenon in either party. And if it is indeed the evolutionary conclusion to both parties, then the GOP has simply evolved faster than we liberals have. Better for them: get it over with, so they can move on to whatever it is they or their successors will become. If the annihilation of the GOP is truly imminent, then we will laugh hysterically as we delight in the preview of own demise.
The Drive-By Media is desperate to push the Republicans into being moderate because they lose when they go that route.
- - Rush Limbaugh, conservative radio personality, February 4, 2010
Bad joke. The enemy is on the left of us, on the right of us, ahead and behind us. No escape is possible - - - Looks like we have them surrounded.
And that's our summary of the future of progressive politics.
So are Democrats just whistling past their own graves? A Republican takeover of the House of Representatives is no longer a distant, theoretical possibility. It looks more likely each day. The Senate looks to stay in Democratic hands, just barely. But the direction does not look good. One recent poll shows 55% of likely voters think President Obama is a socialist.
Eeeek. This is where Tonto asks the Lone Ranger what he means by "We."
And this is also where I repeat that the Republican Party, the one about to take over the legislative branch, the one some polls are showing to be the preference of a majority of voters as a counter balance for the President, yeah that Republican Party, will last as an effective political force for no more than another decade. Yup. By this date in ten years the GOP will be gone.
Perhaps it will be replaced by a new conservative political party to be built on the ruins, as the GOP itself replaced the Whigs in the 1850s. Perhaps the Democratic Party will split into camps: one conservative, the other representing Howard Dean's famed Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Perhaps the ancient divide between left and right will be redefined in some other way. But the GOP behemoth, like Jabba the Hut laughing at Luke Skywalker's silly ultimatums, is doomed.
The reason for this is widely recognized. But it's seen as a flawed political strategy to be corrected as time demonstrates its folly. The party has been shrinking for years, seemingly to an irreducible conservative core. Surprisingly, that core is proving to be quite reducible. As the party becomes more conservative, former loyalists leave. As they leave, the party becomes more conservative. Politicians who are insufficiently right wing are forced out. One conservative icon after another is challenged. Some topple in primaries, to be replaced by extremists. Others survive by becoming the extremists they once sneered at.
The GOP is going into a spin cycle. With every move to the right, the GOP shrinks. With every reduction, the GOP moves to the right. Round and round, faster and faster, smaller and smaller. In the next decade, the GOP will go ... well ... poof!! Conservatives who acknowledge this trend are almost unanimous in thinking this is not a permanent process. The strategy will change. Parties have approached the edge before. Eventual defeat always brings them back. It will happen after 2012 or 2014 or 2016. Just as it happened to Democrats after 1988.
It won't. It won't because this is not a strategy. It is a sociological phenomenon. It is a new world, Dorothy. We're not in 1988 anymore. After Democrats were hit by a third major electoral defeat, they were forced into a painful re-evaluation. Today, Republicans have the luxury of a new environment. They can choose what reality they will see. 2008 was an anomaly. ACORN stole that election. Obama was born in another country. Most of the world loved President Bush. WMD were in Iraq all the time.
Most of all, and finally, more important than anything else Rush and FOX have to offer, conservatives get the central message they crave: Republicans don't need to re-evaluate. They just need to become more conservative, tossing out even former heroes who are not racing to the right. If current conservative Pied Pipers changed their message, conservatives would find replacements: other comforting substitutes. The internet and cable have arrived. The GOP will not change direction because it can't.
The extinction of the hyper-strong, about-to-be-victorious Republican Party is inevitable. Technology hath said it so.
Christians, especially pastors, sometimes speak a little derisively about "church shopping." The feeling seems to be that, a church being akin to a family, this is a little like family shopping. A spiritual home should be an environment in which meaningful, supportive relationships can be established. We are on a journey together.
But I was once on a journey of my own, searching for a spiritual construct I could live with, a framework that meant something. I visited houses of worship that focused on a God-principle that, after a season of struggle, became too impersonal to me. It seemed a little like worshiping a mystery force. May the Gravity be with you. I bowed with Presbyterians, knelt with Baptists, shouted with Pentecostals, and talked on Saturdays with Seventh Day Adventists. The local Ethical Society hosted a debate, but friendliness turned icy when I suggested, during a question-answer follow up, that an anti-war presentation was poorly researched and inadequately considered. I did commune briefly with a Buddhist monk, but mostly my odyssey was in Christian circles.
I noticed that some worship places were more enthusiastically friendly. I was happy about that until I noticed another pattern. The friendliness in some churches was a comrade-in-arms sort: you're-one-of-us enthusiasm was appended with and-not-one-of-them. The walls of some sanctuaries formed a mighty fortress against the evil enemy waiting outside. Friends were we all, serving against that common foe: outsiders.
I thought of that sad discovery as I read a pastoral warning that any good Christian must stay away from, of all things, yoga class. Brother Michael Gleghorn bases his clarion call, in part, on dangerous teachings of "the Upanishads, probably written between 1000-500 B.C" which established for all time "the practice and goal of yoga..." Lord protect us.
I suppose responsible evangelism never was easy. It involves seeing those outside the sanctuary as God's children, not as some enemy. Christian arrogance takes many forms: I am a spiritual success. If you study hard and follow in my steps, you may also become a spiritual success. One pastor suggested that a better attitude would be that of a one homeless orphan to another: I've heard where we can find food.
One such food messenger is a young woman who introduces, often with intense personal witness, some of our songs in contemporary worship. She tells me she plans this morning to mention that as a child she would seek out and climb the highest hill around and pray from its crest. She hoped God might not have to listen so hard to hear her prayers. Her message is humble and affecting. "Don’t look for a hill like I did," she says. "Just look inside and remember God is working, listening, and waiting for us to hear him."
I would add that we need fear no evil, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of yoga exercise.
The CBO Budget Analysis (pdf) was released last week. It points out the deficit is critical, but also says jobs recovery has to happen before the deficit is slashed, otherwise the economy will tank and deficits will balloon no matter what. Job recovery first, slash right after. See p. 12:
...recovery efforts have, intentionally, increased the deficit. The increase in the deficit has been extraordinary, but it was the necessary response to the crisis the Administration inherited. It is also temporary. The Budget provides a path to lower medium-term deficits.
The analysis also tells of the biggest step in deficit reduction in many years. Health Care Reform "will reduce the deficit by more than $100 billion in the current decade and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that — which represents the most deficit reduction enacted since the 1990s." Wow.
SOOooo... conservative James Wigderson skips all that boring stuff about jobs and health care and relies on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to read the CBO report for him. Ryan and James go straight for the Herbert Hoover solution - drive the economy down then see where the deficit goes. - - Come on, James. I even provided the links for you.
- David Everitt-Carlson of The Wild Wild East Dailies in Munich has a friend who was fired for after hours blogging. Beware automatic music.
They found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.
- - Sharron Angle, Candidate for US Senate (R-NV), June 2010
On why she told 15 year old girls with "very at-risk, difficult pregnancies"
they had to have the babies of their rapists because it was God's will.
Original intent folks have a problem with an evolving constitution. Say "living constitution," and some folks will want to make the stopping of your evolution into a personal mission. Sometimes this gets a little muddy. A debate over whether internet service providers should provide equal access, or maybe should be allowed to make life harder for little guys got a strange twist. Some providers want to make a few more bucks by charging extra for speed. The idea is that a large, well financed site can pay a fee for faster downloads. That way, if you want to see an article posted on FoxNews or MSNBC, it will get to you in a flash. Want to read this piece on Fair and UNbalanced? You might want to take a nap while you wait for it to appear on your browser. Such is the future of the internet, if internet providers get their way.
So what was the original intent of the founders regarding the internet? If you think that's hard to know, consider this thoughtful question from Chief Justice Roberts: "Maybe -- maybe everybody else knows this, but what is the difference between the pager and the e-mail?" The case was Ontario v Quon and it had to do with privacy for city employees.
The 2nd Amendment has interesting language. It provides pretty clear law, and it describes pretty clear intent. Here is what we say, and here is what we intend. The law is the federal government can't prohibit firearms. The intent is to allow states to set up well regulated militias.
After the Civil War, courts began applying federal restrictions to states. The feds can't impose cruel and unusual punishments, so states can't either. The feds can't force you to worship at your local church, neither can Massachusetts or, for that matter, Salem. The entire idea of making federal rights a guarantee against state actions make some conservative teeth itch.
A couple of weeks ago, in McDonald v Chicago, the Supreme Court struck down local and state laws regulating firearms. Justice Alito spoke for the conservative majority. “We have previously held that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights apply with full force to both the federal government and the states. Applying the standard that is well established in our case law, we hold that the Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the states."
Interesting logic. Since a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, a free state is not allowed to regulate firearms.
The law has evolved, and not entirely as we might have hoped. It makes sense to most Americans that firearms be kept away from kids, criminals, and the crazed. But that's not how law has evolved. If we're going to apply federal standards to states and localities, we have to do it consistently. It's unfortunate. More innocent kids will be killed than would have been.
There is a bright side. Conservatives have, in this case, kept the law and discarded intent. Original Intent as the sole guiding principle of law is bankrupt. It ought to have a decent burial, never to be heard from again.
I'm not so sure this is the right solution ... we're talking about a constitutional right here.
- - Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), May 5, 2010
Speaking in favor of allowing those on the Terrorism Watch List to
purchase firearms without regulatory interference
When Albert Einstein got together with American physicists Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, it is unlikely that they contemplated the future existence of my daughter or the judgment she would one day formulate about their work. She was six years old when she reached her conclusions.
In 1935, the three men suggested that all possible conditions for a subatomic particle, even opposites, are simultaneously true until the moment the condition is measured. The wave is here and and also there. It is and it isn't. The particle is whole and active and also decayed, blinking out of existence into a Geiger click, all true until that click is heard. It isn't that all possibilities might be true. They all are true until measurement narrows things.
The true/false, up/down, in/out, off/on duality has modern uses in light waves behavior, chlorophyll conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen, and transistors for computers. In 1935, the three suggested that such paradoxical conjectures could only apply to the weird subatomic world of whirling bits and energy bursts. It would not apply to every day experience.
Erwin Schrödinger of Austria thought it was all nonsense. He suggested a thought experiment to prove it. Connect a Geiger Counter to a vial of deadly toxin and put it close to an unstable atom. Put the whole contraption in a box with a bewildered cat. The cat's life depends on what happens to the vial. Since the subatomic particle is both decomposed and whole until the box is opened, the cat can't be either dead or alive. Quantum mechanics says the cat is both dead and alive.
Years ago, I found an article on Schrödinger's cat, examining the implications: parallel universes and alternate dimensions. My daughter was precocious and I wanted to test the limits of her often surprising intellect. I asked her to read the article and tell me what she thought. She returned later and solemnly handed the article back to me. To my eye, she seemed overwhelmed. After a moment, she explained. She was absolutely astonished that anyone would even think of doing that to a cat.
My little girl is now married and works at making computers talk with the world. Yesterday it was her turn. She asked me to read what conservative Terry Savage wrote about her encounter with two cute little girls. When she and some friends pulled up to a lemonade stand, the children said drinks and candy were free. Terry became confrontational. "That's not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own." She continued with the women supervising the girls. "They're giving away their parents' things -- the lemonade, cups, candy. It's not theirs to give." She finally went away grumbling to her friends. "No wonder America is getting it all wrong when it comes to government, and taxes, and policy."
I understand that Terry Savage makes a larger point. But I think I more closely empathize with my child's reaction years back. It is hard for me to get past my amazement that even a committed ideologue would ever think of confronting two little girls over drinks at the neighborhood lemonade stand.
"You must charge something for the lemonade," I explained. "That's the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs -- how much the lemonade costs, and the cups -- and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money."
- - Terry Savage, Sun-Times Columnist, July 5, 2010
Explaining the joys of childhood and the purpose of life to two little girls
during an angry confrontation at a lemonade stand
In 2006, three anti-immigrant advocates, all part of the Minutemen organization, began approaching Latino voters (pdf) outside a voting place in Pima, Arizona. One of the men was carrying a weapon. They began aggressively questioning voters, filming the exchanges. It was pretty obvious the activists were trying to intimidate voters out of exercising their rights.
Civil Rights organizations contacted the United States Department of Justice. After all, the United States is charged with safeguarding voting rights, aren't they? Well no. Not always. The Civil Rights Division focuses on widespread efforts to prevent voters from exercising their franchise. When a small number of people are involved, voters are encouraged to contact local law enforcement. When local remedies are available, the feds don't get involved. Should it be that way? I don't think so. But it is.
Mississippi law expressly tells law enforcement to stay away from the homes of registered voters. In 2005, Republicans were pushing charges of voter fraud. It seemed obvious this was to keep people from voting. Armed state investigators paid personal visits to elderly minority voters, questioning them pretty roughly about why they had registered. It's easy to see why these older folks might be hesitant to file complaints against officers of the same agencies that would investigate the complaints. Civil Rights groups complained to the Department of Justice. When local law enforcement officers are involved in voter intimidation against state law, the feds have to get involved, right? Well no. Not always. When the officers are not some official effort, but are acting on their own, voters are encouraged to file complaints against the renegade officers. When local remedies are available, the feds don't get involved. Should it be that way? I don't think so. But it is.
On November 4th, 2008, three men; King Samir Shabazz, Jerry Jackson, and Malik Zulu Shabazz, showed up at a polling place in Philadelphia. They were videotaped yelling racial slurs at voters. One carried a nightstick. This time the Justice Department got involved, at least for a while. A civil injunction was applied for against the organization. When the accused men, the ones caught on tape, did not show up for the hearing, a preliminary injunction was granted against the Party itself.
The New Black Panther Party cried foul. With poll watchers outside more than 300 voting places, only those three carried things to an inappropriate point. The Justice Department dropped the injunction, but insisted on written agreement from the Party and specifically from the nightstick fellow that such incidents would not be repeated. Any criminal charges could be pursued with local authorities. Should it be that way? I don't think so. Fox News and a host of conservative activists are white hot furious. Some insist the case shows Obama and his administration hate white people.
No public protest or journalistic attention seems to be merited concerning the Arizona or Mississippi cases. Different standards apply in those cases.
The Department has repeatedly claimed the “facts and law” did not support the case — which of course is false. Others have speculated about a White House involvement. But I believe the best explanation for the corrupt dismissal of the case is the profound hostility by the Obama Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department towards a race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws.
This hostility was — and is — on open display within the Department of Justice.
- - J. Christian Adams, lawyer and Republican activist, June 28, 2010
Once assigned to the Department of Justice by Bradley Schlozman of the
Bush/Cheney Administration. Schlozman forced minority female lawyers
from the Civil Rights Division to make room for "good Americans." He
boasted privately that, by "good Americans," he meant white, male,
evangelical, conservatives; one of whom was J. Christian Adams.
It must have been a fearful journey. It was a time in which women were commonly viewed as property, to be given over from father to husband. The young Marie, my grandmother, had been promised in marriage to a man she did not love. So she fled her native Ukraine and came to America. I do not know whether she entered by way of Ellis Island. It was a common port of entry. It seems likely that she would have been among those processed by overworked officials of varying degrees of sympathy for newcomers.
The social networking that went on in those days is unclear to me. She somehow got word that the man to whom she had been promised was on his way to find her, claim her, and take her back to the Ukraine. One story my momma told me illustrates the terror a new land must hold for new immigrants. After being in her new land for a few months, Marie became lost in New York City. She spoke no English. In the country she had fled, authorities were always to be feared, and she did not know what reaction there would be in America to a woman fleeing the man who owned her. She avoided the police. She confronted the confusion of the streets alone.
Her stay in New York was one of watchful waiting, looking for some sign of the man who was searching for his escaped bride. Eventually, she packed up and continued her odyssey, journeying up the Hudson River and then westward, finally settling between Syracuse and Rochester. She met a man, fell in love, and married.
I never knew my grandfather. He died when my mother was a young child, I have the impression her memories of him were vague. He served in the Polish army at some point. My mother was the youngest of several sisters born of that marriage. It was an insular existence. My mother did not speak English until she was old enough to go to school. My grandmother never knew any language than that of her own upbringing. My mother translated.
The arguments for English-only policies would have applied to my grandmother, although people of her origin are not the targets. Anti-immigrant sentiment of today would not have been aimed at her either. Those who argue against citizenship for children born here do not have my mother in mind. But my grandmother's ethnicity, and that of my mother, was very much an issue in their community when my parents were married. My momma was eventually accepted by his family, but the thin residue of ethnic separateness was always present.
Eastern Europeans, with their strange language, their strange names, and their stranger Catholic religion, were not an easy fit in the community of my birth. Nativism has a long tradition in this country, although the targets shift over time. Today, bigotry is directed against those of Latin descent. It is most distinctive, for me, among those who hate illegal immigration because the undocumented cut ahead, not following the rules. When those same enforcers of immigration etiquette also push to restrict legal immigration, I suspect the niceties of waiting in line are not their real concern.
Well, we all know that the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules. They're coming across our borders in huge numbers. The drug cartels have taken control of the immigration.
- - Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ), June 25, 2010
A statement the National Border Patrol Council says is flatly untrue
Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded.
- - Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ), June 27, 2010
A statement that medical examiners in Arizona say is flatly untrue
I was in high school when I first became convinced the Vietnam war was upside-down-inside-out wrong. Up until then, I was pretty much convinced the Johnson administration was doing the right thing. After all, the communists had to be stopped somewhere. And a resolute policy of containment kept us out of World War.
It took Buddhist self immolation and public mocking of those deaths by laughing members of the ruling Diem family to convince me that the conflict was not as simple as pushing back against the reds. It was a civil war with a religious base. It took accounts of a divide between China and the Soviet Union to convince me that Communism was less than a monolithic conspiracy directed from the Kremlin. It took spectacular routs to put the lie to Johnson, then Nixon, administration claims of growing military supremacy. It took Congressional investigations to expose the dubious circumstances of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that legalized the escalations.
The cost of war was astonishing and growing every day: tens of thousands of American lives and hundred of thousands of Vietnamese, in a conflict that never singed the whiskers of a single Russian commissar. The domino theory became ludicrous on its face. We were fighting them there so we wouldn't have to fight them here. Nice.
It was painful to conclude that it was a war with no reason except that of pride. We had to double down with American lives, because we owed it to the troops. Those supporting the war fell back on simple minded insult. To suggest anything other than unconditional support for war was unpatriotic. We who questioned were hippie traitors.
Last week Michael Steele, chair of the Republican National Committee, let lose with a volley of anti-war sentiment that was, at least, consistent with his general approach to opposition. Afghanistan cannot be won. It is "a war of Obama's choosing," a war with no cause.
It was vacuous at best. Forgotten was 9/11 as a cause for war, and the Taliban decision to shield the mass murderers responsible. Forgotten as well was the name of the President who launched the invasion. Republicans are beginning to call for Steele's ouster. Chances are he will survive.
Especially jarring, though, was the response of Brad Woodhouse, speaking for the Democratic National Committee. "It's simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement." What followed was no better.
And so, a foolish Republican attack on the President and the war is answered by an attack on Michael Steele's patriotic duty to support the troops. Steele is to be regarded as today's hippie traitor.
Dumb and Dumber.