Posts Tagged ‘Richard Nixon’

Donald Trump, Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon

January 23, 2017

During the past six or eight months, it seems as though every conversation on a general topic that I’ve engaged in has come around to the topic of Donald Trump.

Yesterday morning I led a discussion at First Universalist Church on the topic of spirituality.  It was a good discussion overall, but the conversation soon drifted to the lack of spirituality of Donald Trump and how people’s spirits were lifted by taking part in protest demonstrations against Trump.

donaldtrumpczeur4ixuaaryrYesterday evening I took part in a group that is reading and discussing Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis.  Sure enough, we soon started talking about the resemblances between Donald Trump and the Emperor Nero.

I don’t hang out with pro-Trump voters on a day-to-day basis, but my guess is that they also are talking about Trump and his opponents.

It is amazing to me how President Trump has managed to dominate public discourse, and on his own terms.

The Washington press yesterday was talking about estimates of crowd sizes.  It wasn’t talking about what Trump’s policies will be concerning the economy, the environment or foreign wars.  Still less was it talking about what we Americans ought to be doing concerning these issues.

No, the national press—as well as all my friends who get their information from network television—were reacting to Trump’s tweets and sound bites—that is, to an agenda set by Trump.   And so is most of the national press, even though in their own minds they are opposed to Trump.

I feel as if I am the target of psychological warfare, intended to induce despair and fear.


‘Critical support’ of Hillary Clinton?

October 25, 2016

Choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is like choosing between Richard Nixon and George Wallace.

One heads a powerful machine dedicated to preserving the status quo.  The other is rebel who appeals to hatred and prejudice.

GettyImages-480679428.0I can understand why someone might support the Nixon-like candidate as a lesser evil.  The expression for this is “critical support”, which is means you may support a candidate, but reserve the right to call the candidate to account.

The problem with this is when the support ceases to be critical, which is what I see happening.   I know a number of liberal Democrats who are so afraid of Donald Trump that they think it out-of-bounds to point out that Clinton is a warmonger and literally a paid servant of Wall Street.

Support for a candidate should never be unconditional.  If you demand nothing in return for your support of a candidate, nothing is what you’ll get.

The leaked Hillary Clinton e-mails, especially the ones with the excerpts from her Goldman Sachs speeches, show that she regards her rich donors as her peer group, but that she finds it necessary to appease her core voters, as with the Dodd-Frank banking reforms.

The fact that Clinton can be pressured is, as I see it, the only argument for anti-war, pro-labor, pro-consumer or environmentalist Democrats to support Clinton.  And they are naive if they give their support without demanding commitments in return.


The fruits of American foreign policy

June 18, 2015

John Michael Greer, writing on his Archdruid Report blog, described how American foreign policy has led to Russia and China joining to create a Fortress Eurasia that is beyond the reach of U.S. military power.

Just as the great rivalry of the first half of the twentieth century was fought out between Britain and Germany, the great rivalry of the century’s second half was between the United States and Russia.

If nuclear weapons hadn’t been invented, it’s probably a safe bet that at some point the rivalry would have ended in another global war.

As it was, the threat of mutual assured destruction meant that the struggle for global power had to be fought out less directly, in a flurry of proxy wars, sponsored insurgencies, economic warfare, subversion, sabotage, and bare-knuckle diplomacy.

In that war, the United States came out on top, and Soviet Russia went the way of Imperial Germany, plunging into the same sort of political and economic chaos that beset the Weimar Republic in its day.

The supreme strategic imperative of the United States in that war was finding ways to drive as deep a wedge as possible between Russia and China, in order to keep them from taking concerted action against the US.

That wasn’t all that difficult a task, since the two nations have very little in common and many conflicting interests.

gadd600spanNixon’s 1972 trip to China was arguably the defining moment in the Cold War, the point at which China’s separation from the Soviet bloc became total and Chinese integration with the American economic order began.

From that point on, for Russia, it was basically all downhill.

In the aftermath of Russia’s defeat, the same strategic imperative remained, but the conditions of the post-Cold War world made it almost absurdly easy to carry out.

All that would have been needed were American policies that gave Russia and China meaningful, concrete reasons to think that their national interests and aspirations would be easier to achieve in cooperation with a US-led global order than in opposition to it.

Granting Russia and China the same position of regional influence that the US accords to Germany and Japan as a matter of course probably would have been enough.

A little forbearance, a little foreign aid, a little adroit diplomacy, and the United States would have been in the catbird’s seat, with Russia and China glaring suspiciously at each other across their long and problematic mutual border, and bidding against each other for US support in their various disagreements.

But that’s not what happened, of course.


The passing scene: Links & comments 11/17/14

November 17, 2014

What really happened in Beijing: Putin, Obama, Xi—and the back story the media won’t tell you by Patrick Smith for Salon.

Patrick Smith explained why the real winner in the new U.S.-Russian cold war is China.

Saudi Arabia is driving down the world price of oil, now about $80 a barrel, by putting oil on the market.  The main point, Smith wrote, is that the Saudis can make a profit so long as oil is priced at more than $30 a barrel, but the Russians, whose oil is harder to get, need a price of $104 a barrel.

The Saudis oppose Russia for supporting Syria and Iran, which are obstacles to Saudi influence in the Middle East.  Other oil-producing nations suffer collateral damage.  Venezuela is currently going through a political and economic crisis due to the fall in the price of oil.

Russia had helped the United States in its negotiations with Iran, by agreeing to reprocess uranium for the Iranians, which would remove the possibility that the reprocessing might be used to make Iranian nuclear weapons.  U.S.-Iranian negotiations also are collateral damage.

All this benefits China, which gets to buy Russian oil and gas at a bargain price.  China is expanding its influence in Asia offering attractive trade deals to nations that don’t want to be drawn into U.S. conflicts.

Ronald Reagan’s secret tragedy: How 70s and 80s cynicism poisoned Democrats and America, an interview of Rick Perlstein by Thomas Frank for Salon.

Rick Perlstein, author of the newly-published The Invisible Bridge: the Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, said the roots of present-day politics go back to the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon governed based on short-term political gain, and candidate Ronald Reagan encouraged Americans to believe in the myths we tell ourselves.

Democrats meanwhile turned away from working people and New Deal liberalism and embraced an illusory non-partisanship.  This created a politics in which big-business conservatives can pose as  populists and the true representatives of working people.

Act of Faith: the Catholic priest who puts his life on the line to save Muslims in the Central African Republic by Sam Jones for The Guardian.

Father Bernard Kinvi is a true hero who lives up to the best teaching of his church.  His story is well worth knowing.

Obama: McGovern’s coalition and Nixon’s policies

November 15, 2012

The McGovern political coalition of suburban white liberals, African-Americans, college students, feminists, and environmentalists, which went down to ignominious defeat to Richard M. Nixon in the 1972 Presidential election, delivered a majority vote to Barack Obama in 2008 and again this year.   But what they got is another Nixon administration—expanded war, warrant-less surveillance, prosecution of whistle-blowers, a war on drugs and disregard for the laws, the Constitution and the separation of powers.

McGovern72Senator George McGovern, the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1972, ran on a platform of peace in Vietnam, universal health care, a minimum guaranteed income for the poor and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.  He suffered one of the most overwhelming defeats in American history, losing the electoral vote 520 to 17 and the popular vote 60.7 percent to 37.5 percent.

Like Nixon, Obama inherited a losing war, and, like Nixon, chose to intensify the war before making a reluctant withdrawal.  Like Nixon, he does not support universal health care, but instead pushed through a substitute plan originally designed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and later enacted in Massachusetts during the administration of Mitt Romney.  Like Nixon, he talks of the embattled middle class, but never of poor people.

Nixon is infamous for his abuses of power, but Obama goes further than Nixon did in covert action, surveillance without warrants, prosecution of whistle-blowers and assertion of the right to act outside due process of law and the American system of checks and balances.  So as is known Obama does not have a personal enemies list, but he has created the precedent of signing death warrants on his own unchecked authority, and who knows what a future President might do with that authority.

richard-nixon-1Nixon’s greatest positive accomplishment was in making peace with China, in defiance of the sentiments of most of his core supporters.   I don’t think Obama will go to Iran as Nixon went to China.   The way Obama has defied his core supporters has been in bailing out Wall Street and offering to gut Social Security.

Click on The Obama Realignment for conservative columnist Ross Douthat’s thoughts on the McGovern coalition.

Click on  In the Land of the Free for a British view of the U.S. Presidential election.

From Nixon to Reagan

February 23, 2011

Richard M. Nixon was the one broke up the Democratic New Deal coalition and forged a Republican majority.  But it was Ronald Reagan who forged a conservative Republican majority.

Nixon in 1968

Reagan made it respectable to be anti-union, anti-environmentalist and anti-government.  He planted memes that continue to this day – that the secret of prosperity is to cut upper bracket taxes, that it is more important to cut taxes than balance the budget, that government as such is bad and should be resisted.  He broke the air traffic controllers’ strike, ridiculed environmentalism and sought to abolish governmental regulation of prices.

This wasn’t how Nixon governed.  When postal workers engaged in wildcat strikes in 1970, the Nixon administration negotiated an agreement which recognized the right of postal employees to bargain collectively.  He supported and signed the Environmental Protection Act.  He responded to the threat of inflation by imposing wage and price controls (interestingly, I don’t recall his Constitutional right to do this being challenged.)

Reagan in 1980

Nixon’s political achievement was to convince white working men that the Democratic leadership was more concerned with the kinds of people George Wallace called “the exotics” than with everyday average citizens.  But he hesitated to touch the New Deal programs that benefited working people.

Why was Reagan able to do what Nixon didn’t?  Partly it was that Reagan was more of an idealist while Nixon was more of a pragmatist.  Partly it was because corporate business was more politically assertive in 1980 than it had been in 1968.

But I think the key factor was the Jimmy Carter administration coming as a transition between the two.  President Carter, like President Obama, was a moderate conservative who was perceived as a liberal.  Carter anticipated the Reagan agenda – cutting taxes on capital gains, setting in motion the deregulation of the trucking and airline industry – and so undercut the ability of Democrats to object to Reagan doing the same things.  At the same time most people thought of Carter as a liberal, and his perceived failures discredited liberalism and validated conservatism.

Richard Nixon’s rule

January 2, 2011

A person should not run for President unless what they were saying on the campaign trail was markedly different from what the other candidates were saying.


Daniel Schorr on Nixon’s enemies list

December 27, 2010

My friend Anne e-mailed me a link to an article about how President Richard Nixon ordered the FBI to investigate CBS reporter Daniel Schorr, who was on his “enemies list,” and how they were unable to dig up any dirt about him because he led such an exemplary life.  Click on Nixon Era Probe to read it.

The story is a tribute not only to Schorr, but to the integrity of the FBI investigators.  They knew what was wanted, and yet they declined to shade the truth.  The most striking thing about President Nixon’s “enemies list” was how harmless his enmity was.  The worst he could do was order tax audits.  Being on the “enemies list” was more a badge of honor than something to fear.

Adlai Stevenson once defined a free society as a society in which it is safe to be unpopular.  The Schorr episode  shows what it means to live under the rule of law, in which nobody in power can do anything to you so long as you commit no crime.