Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist — Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:48

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012).

Death's Progress, Part 2

In 2010, I wrote a piece titled, "Death's Progress," which was widely published. What I laid out needs to be reiterated and updated. Unfortunately, it will need to be regularly reiterated and updated in the years ahead.

Right now, in the aftermath of the Hobby Lobby decision and Obama HHS mandate, we're witnessing another crucial evolutionary stage in the progressive movement's ever-changing advance of abortion. In 2010, I underscored the core problem with progressivism, particularly when applied to issues of unborn human life, where the problem becomes a catastrophe. Bear with me as I excerpt my original words:

One of the only things we really know about progressives, and that they know about themselves and their ideology, is that they favor constant "change," "reform," an ever-shifting, ongoing "evolution," or, yes, progression. And therein is an inherent, significant difficulty: Progressivism offers no clear, definable end. . . .
For the rest of us, this ambiguity is troubling bordering on maddening, as we can't, by the very nature of progressivism, get an answer from progressives as to where, exactly, they intend to stop. . . . [But] here's where the confusion has the potential to become downright destructive: Think about the consequences of their philosophy when applied to the very life and culture of America:
Take the example of Planned Parenthood. It took off in the 1920s, initially as the American Birth Control League. At first, Margaret Sanger and friends wanted birth control. They also advocated eugenics. Sanger was a racial eugenicist. She had hideous views, not only toward the poor ("human weeds," she called them), to the mentally slow ("imbeciles" and "morons"), but, among others, to black Americans. Progressives today dare not raise the grim specter of Sanger's "Negro Project" or infamous 1926 speech to a KKK rally.
But what about abortion? . . . Planned Parenthood's progressives weren't there yet; they had to warm up to that.
It will shock pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike to hear this, but Margaret Sanger initially denounced abortion. "It is an alternative that I cannot too strongly condemn," wrote Sanger in the January 27, 1932 edition of The Nation, "[S]ome ill-informed persons have the notion that when we speak of birth control we include abortion as a method. We certainly do not."
Nonetheless, for these progressives, what began as birth control and eugenics - aimed at halting life at conception - needed only a few decades to snuff out life after conception.
As with much of what progressives do, where they started wasn't enough. And, naturally, once legalized abortion came along, it, too, was not enough. Today, progressives tell us abortion should be funded by taxpayers. . . .
Still, that, likewise, will not be enough. What might be next in the progression? . . .
It serves us all - including unborn future generations - to want answers to some hard questions as far as ultimate objectives are concerned. I sincerely beg progressives for some contours, a vague estimate: Could you please, this time around - where human life is concerned - establish some boundaries, set an end-goal or two, offer an inkling of predictability, a modicum of expectation, some flicker of a suggestion as to where you want to take us?

Unfortunately, they can't, as such is the crux of their ever-changing philosophy.

I wrote that four years ago. In light of progressives' genuinely scary reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision, it's time to update.

We've arrived at another new stage in the progressive march. Just 20 years ago, it was unthinkable that an overwhelming consensus of progressives/liberals would compel everyone, including conscientious objectors invoking their sacred First Amendment religious freedoms, to forcibly pay for others' contraception, sterilization services, and drugs that induce abortions. My "pro-choice" liberal friends assured me they'd never be so crude as to ask me to pay for their abortions. That would be completely over the line. And to pay for their contraception, too? "No way!" they scoffed. Please, that would be beyond ridiculous. They merely wanted me "out of their bedroom" to allow them their "safe, legal, and rare" abortions.

To repeat: They would never ask me to pay for their abortions and contraception. It was unimaginable. They were liberals, after all. They believed in freedom and tolerance. They would never be so "fascistic."

Well, here we are, 2014, and the unfathomable is now the unwavering position of liberals/progressives.

How did they change so much so fast? The short answer is that they had to progress, to evolve to this current understanding that they consider more enlightened. As for those of us who haven't changed, who once shared the same position as these liberals/progressives, we are now deemed the extremists, the intransigents. We're said to favor a "war on women." In pleading with liberals/progressives not to force us to violate our sacred beliefs on human life by subsidizing their abortions, we're told that we're "imposing" our religious beliefs, and also "denying" women the contraceptives they remain fully free to purchase with their own money.

To say this is frustrating is insufficient. Liberals already had everything they demanded on abortion. And yet, that's not enough; it's never enough. Today's leftists want you to be party to their abortions, to enlist you in their behavior, even if you and your faith consider the behavior gravely sinful. If you beg not to do so, they will call you nasty names and accuse you of hatred.

I need not here detail the astonishing examples of liberals/progressives demonizing those who disagree with them on this. I could expend thousands of words quoting their incensed reactions to the Hobby Lobby case: Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and those screaming that Hobby Lobby stores be vandalized and even burnt to the ground. (They're equally vitriolic toward those who disagree with them on same-sex marriage.) Hillary Clinton compared Hobby Lobby's position to brutally misogynistic Muslim regimes. Senate Democrats went so far as to sponsor legislation to "overturn" the Hobby Lobby decision.

The National Organization for Women devised a list of the "Dirty 100" who oppose Obama's HHS mandate. Included are the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Alas, this is where progressives have progressed on unborn life. It's the next stage. It is, yet again, a new stage that furthers death. It uses force not only against the victims, the unborn, but against those pleading not to be party to the victims' destruction.

Again, all that we really know about progressives, and that they know about themselves, is that they're always changing. Because of that, neither we nor they can tell us where they will stand on issues X and Y in 20 years. We can't know because they don't know. They'll tell us when they get there.

But we do know this much: What's seemingly inconceivable to all of us right now - including to progressives themselves - may become the dogmatic position of progressives in a generation. The once-inconceivable absurdities become reality, and when they do, the progressive shrugs and then shouts - at you. If you suggest that a certain impossible position might become progressives' position in, say, the year 2034, they will scoff, insisting they could never hold such an intolerable position. Alas, when they arrive at that position in 2034, they'll tell you that you are the crazy one; more than that, you are the vile extremist for disagreeing with their newfound position. And they will attempt to force your compliance under the coercive power of the state.

When it comes to these vital matters of literal life and death, the ongoing progressive evolution is proving to be downright frightening. Where will progressives be 20 years from now? Where will death's progress advance next? Stay tuned. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:46

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012).

The Left's Evolving Hierarchy of Rights

Unless you've been sleeping under a rock, you've noticed the growing clash between religious freedom and issues like same-sex marriage and forced funding of abortion. Last week, the Supreme Court heard a landmark case on whether the federal government can compel a business to fund abortion drugs in defiance of the religious beliefs of the business owner. It's merely one such case amid a flurry of lawsuits that even includes the Little Sisters of the Poor. Or, consider these situations involving gay marriage:

In Oregon, a couple that owns a bakery, the Kleins, are being sued and called before the state for not making a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony. The Kleins note that being forced to make such a cake against their will would violate their Christian beliefs and freedom of conscience.

In Colorado, another bakery owner, Jack Phillips, awaits a possible jail sentence for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.

In Washington State, a florist is being prosecuted by the state's attorney general for declining to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

In Ocean Grove, New Jersey, a Methodist camp meeting association lost its tax-exempt status for declining its wedding pavilion to two lesbians for a same-sex ceremony.

In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court ruled against the owners of Elane Photography, judging that they violated the state's Human Rights Act by refusing to take pictures for a same-sex ceremony. The ACLU opposed Elane Photography, as did one of the justices, who recognized that the ruling violated Elane's religious freedom but argued that such is the price of "citizenship" in America today.

In Massachusetts and Illinois, Catholic Charities, one of the oldest and most established private adoption agencies in America, has been forced to cease services because it will not provide adoptive children to gay couples.

And then there's any number of figures demonized, boycotted, picketed, pressured, or fired for expressing their opposition to gay marriage: the president of Chick-fil-A, the owner of Barilla pasta, Craig James of Fox Sports, or Arizona's governor.

These are merely a few of many examples. All involve religious believers invoking their sacred First Amendment rights, only to have those rights rejected by those describing themselves as "liberal" and professing "diversity" and "tolerance." In truth, you are not free to disagree with liberals on this issue. They won't let you. They will compel you. They will see you in court, in bankruptcy, maybe even in jail.

Liberals tolerate only what they agree with.

But what's really going on here? What's the bigger picture? Well, these actions of liberals/progressives aren't a surprise when you delve deeper into the logic of their ideology. Consider:

Liberals/progressives have a hierarchy of rights. They don't look at competing rights in a pluralist system in the typical way that we've long been accustomed to in America. For instance, Americans typically - through the political and judicial process - have carefully sought to balance competing rights: property rights, civil rights, religious liberty, freedom of conscience, speech, press, federal rights, state rights, the right to life, and so forth. Picture all of these rights laid out in a line, with each prudently considered among the others, and with respect to the others.

Unfortunately, that is not how liberals/progressives operate. They act according to a hierarchy of rights that - consistent with progressivism - is always progressing, or changing, or evolving. Right now, for liberals/progressives, sitting atop the totem pole in this hierarchy are so-called "marriage rights" and "abortion rights." In the past, they called these things not rights but "gay marriage" or "freedom of choice." Quite shrewdly, however, they've framed these "freedoms" as "rights," along the lines of "civil rights." Equally shrewd, they push them forward under the mantra of "tolerance." It's a brilliant move that's working extremely effectively with millions of Americans.

But here's the main point: for today's liberals/progressives, the likes of "marriage rights" and "abortion rights" rise superior to other rights, certainly above religious rights and property rights. We see this in the gay marriage examples listed above. It also applies to the Obama HHS mandate requiring religious believers to fund abortion drugs. In all these cases, there's one commonality: liberals/progressives disregard the religious rights and property rights that they are steamrolling in the name of gay marriage and abortion. Religious rights and property rights are subjugated to a kind of liberal/progressive gulag. They are deemed bottom-of-the-barrel, and in no way nearly as important or worthy of consideration.

Again, the startling irony is that these same people fancy themselves champions of tolerance, diversity, and "equal rights." That has never been accurate, and they are proving it now with special uncompromising rigidity. They are pursuing what they've always pursued: selective tolerance, selective diversity, and selective equal rights. Religious rights are not among their select.

A quotation that sums up this thinking comes from gay activist, law professor, and EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum. When asked about the conflict between gay rights and religious rights, Feldblum said, "I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win."

That's very clear. An attorney colleague of mine says of Feldblum: "Supposedly a Constitutional Law scholar, she holds that view despite the fact that religious freedom is actually in the Constitution!"

Yes, but to liberals/progressives it doesn't matter. They have a hierarchy of rights, one that's always changing. And right now, religious rights are their bottom-dwellers. For religious believers who disagree with them, too bad. They'll see them in court.

Ronald Reagan on Religious Tolerance

February is the month that we recognize our presidents. It has also become the month that Republicans remember Ronald Reagan. Reagan's birthday is February 6, the forerunner to Lincoln's birthday (February 12), Washington's birthday (February 22), and President's Day (February 17). Throughout the nation, county and statewide Republican groups have been changing their longtime annual Lincoln Day dinners into Reagan Day dinners. On February 25, we at the Center for Vision & Values will host our superb Ronald Reagan Lecture.

Thus, this is also a time when conservatives reach back for various nuggets of wisdom from the Gipper that are badly needed as our current president fundamentally transforms the nation. Among those nuggets, one that you likely will not hear is a gem of a Reagan speech delivered in Dallas 30 years ago. It offers a desperately needed message on religious tolerance - the subject of our April Center for Vision & Values conference.

Today's liberals/progressives, who incessantly preach diversity and tolerance, have been unrelenting in their current campaign of religious intolerance. They mandate that everyone, including religious believers, pay for contraception and abortion drugs; those who disagree are framed as favoring a "war on women." They vigorously demonize and sue anyone who disagrees with them on gay marriage.

It's a good time for a lesson on genuine religious freedom. So, here it goes - a poignant speech and healthy reminder of religious tolerance that not even Reagan aficionados remember.

On August 23, 1984, Reagan was in Dallas to address an ecumenical prayer breakfast. He spoke at 9:30 a.m. in the Reunion Arena. He was introduced by Martha Weisend, the co-chair of the Texas Reagan-Bush campaign. A choir had just regaled the crowd. Reagan called the performance "magnificent."

The president began by saying that he was speaking not as a theologian or scholar but as someone who had "lived a little" as an American and had been active in the political life of the nation for about four decades. During that time, Reagan had experienced much. He had been a self-described "hemophiliac liberal" (a bleeding-heart liberal), a Democrat, an FDR Democrat, a Harry Truman Democrat, a progressive Democrat, a Democrat for Eisenhower, a Democrat for Nixon (1960), and finally a conservative Democrat, a Republican, and a conservative Republican. "I speak," he told the crowd, "I think I can say, as one who has seen much, who has loved his country, and who's seen it change in many ways."

He himself had changed in many ways, but not one way: He had always believed

. . . that faith and religion play a critical role in the political life of our nation - and always has - and that the church - and by that I mean all churches, all denominations - has had a strong influence on the state. And this has worked to our benefit as a nation.

Reagan then followed with a brief history lesson on religion and the republic:

Those who created our country - the Founding Fathers and Mothers - understood that there is a divine order which transcends the human order. They saw the state, in fact, as a form of moral order and felt that the bedrock of moral order is religion.
The Mayflower Compact began with the words, "In the name of God, amen." The Declaration of Independence appeals to "Nature's God" and the "Creator" and "the Supreme Judge of the world." Congress was given a chaplain, and the oaths of office are oaths before God.
James Madison in the Federalist Papers admitted that in the creation of our Republic he perceived the hand of the Almighty. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, warned that we must never forget the God from whom our blessings flowed.
George Washington referred to religion's profound and unsurpassed place in the heart of our nation quite directly in his Farewell Address in 1796. Seven years earlier, France had erected a government that was intended to be purely secular. This new government would be grounded on reason rather than the law of God. By 1796 the French Revolution had known the Reign of Terror.
And Washington voiced reservations about the idea that there could be a wise policy without a firm moral and religious foundation. He said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

That Washington quote was one of Reagan's favorites, as was the image of America's first president (while he was still a military general) kneeling to pray in the snow of Valley Forge, which Reagan called the "most sublime image" in American history. Why? Because it showed that from the outset this nation's leaders humbled themselves and looked beyond themselves - to God - for guidance in the goodness of their actions. "I believe that George Washington knew the City of Man cannot survive without the City of God," Reagan told his audience in Dallas, "that the Visible City will perish without the Invisible City."

Reagan also invoked his other favorite prayer line from a president. He loved the line in which Lincoln said that he was often driven to his knees by the "overwhelming conviction" that he had "nowhere else to go."

How fitting that this month of February marks these three presidential birthdays: Lincoln, Washington, and Reagan. The three were linked not just in birthdays but in prayer.

Reagan continued:

Religion played not only a strong role in our national life; it played a positive role. The abolitionist movement was at heart a moral and religious movement; so was the modern civil rights struggle. And throughout this time, the state was tolerant of religious belief, expression, and practice. Society, too, was tolerant.

Here, Reagan had arrived at the religious tolerance portion of his remarks. He said that this tolerance had begun to slip in the 1960s, when "great steps" were taken by those seeking to secularize the nation and remove religion from its "honored place." He gave examples, beginning with the removal of prayer in schools and words like "Under God" from the pledge of allegiance. Reagan believed that the simple acknowledgement of God in the pledge taught children that their inalienable rights come not from government but from God. If they come from government - from men - then government can take them anyway. If they come from God, however, government cannot dare taken them away.

As I read Reagan's words now, I'm floored by the thought that the ACLU, which purports to champion civil liberties, would be leading some of these lawsuits suing Christian bakers and wedding photographers who invoke their sacred religious freedom in the First Amendment of the Constitution. These people of faith, citing their faith, beg not to be compelled to make a cake for or photograph a same-sex ceremony. The liberals tell them they must, by force of their trembling hands, or they will be forced out of business.

Ronald Reagan would not be shocked. He understood liberals. He had been one himself. He knew their claims of open-mindedness were self-serving. He saw how extreme the left could become when equipped with power. Such realizations drove him out of the increasingly left-drifting Democratic Party.

Along those lines, Reagan told the crowd in Dallas:

And the frustrating thing for the great majority of Americans who support and understand the special importance of religion in the national life - the frustrating thing is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance, freedom, and open-mindedness. Question: Isn't the real truth that they are intolerant of religion? They refuse to tolerate its importance in our lives. . . . So, I submit to you that those who claim to be fighting for tolerance on this issue may not be tolerant at all.

Reagan sensed that religion's "special place" in the American polity was already disappearing, and he knew what a tremendous loss that would be.

There are, these days, many questions on which religious leaders are obliged to offer their moral and theological guidance, and such guidance is a good and necessary thing. . . .To know how a church and its members feel on a public issue expands the parameters of debate. It does not narrow the debate; it expands it.

Again harkening back to George Washington's understanding, Reagan said:

The truth is, politics and morality are inseparable. And as morality's foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related. We need religion as a guide. We need it because we are imperfect, and our government needs the church, because only those humble enough to admit they're sinners can bring to democracy the tolerance it requires in order to survive.

Again, tolerance. Reagan kept returning to the need for religious tolerance. And here, nearing his closing, he expressed some powerful lines that every self-proclaiming liberal/progressive in America needs to read and heed:

A state is nothing more than a reflection of its citizens; the more decent the citizens, the more decent the state. If you practice a religion, whether you're Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or guided by some other faith, then your private life will be influenced by a sense of moral obligation, and so, too, will your public life. One affects the other. . . . We establish no religion in this country, nor will we ever. We command no worship. We mandate no belief. But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief. All are free to believe or not believe; all are free to practice a faith or not. But those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief, to apply moral teaching to public questions.

Note the words "decent," "command," "mandate," "poison," "corruption," "free." The refusal by liberals/progressives to tolerate the religious beliefs of Americans who disagree with them on matters from marriage to abortion poisons and corrupts discourse and disagreement in this nation.

Reagan reiterated along those lines:

I submit to you that the tolerant society is open to and encouraging of all religions. And this does not weaken us; it strengthens us, it makes us strong. You know, if we look back through history to all those great civilizations, those great nations that rose up to even world dominance and then deteriorated, declined, and fell, we find they all had one thing in common. One of the significant forerunners of their fall was their turning away from their God or gods. Without God, there is no virtue, because there's no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we're mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society.

This is also, said Reagan, a danger to a word that progressives invoke incessantly: democracy. Reagan understood that as well:

And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.

With that, Reagan concluded:

I thank you, thank you for inviting us here today. Thank you for your kindness and your patience. May God keep you, and may we, all of us, keep God.

That was Ronald Reagan in Dallas 30 years ago. He would be horrified at what liberals are doing today, though not surprised.

The coarsening that America is undergoing in this current assault on our most basic First Amendment religious freedoms is undermining the Shining City on a Hill that Ronald Reagan cherished. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:40

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from The American Spectator. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012).

The Quest for David Axelrod's Leftist Roots

More than any other figure, David Axelrod made Barack Obama president. He was the brain behind the winning message, right down to the words "Hope and Change." The New York Times dubbed him "Obama's Narrator." He was the architect and author. The Obama persona was in large part Ax's carving.

As such, David Axelrod is a significant figure worth knowing and understanding. Two years ago, in a feature for The American Spectator on Axelrod ("David Axelrod, Lefty Lumberjack," March 2012), I endeavored to uncover his roots. Among my findings, Axelrod's Chicago mentors - the Canter family - were not only old hard-line pro-Soviet Communists, but, in an amazing twist, they knew and worked with Frank Marshall Davis, who would meet and mentor Obama in Hawaii in the 1970s. The senior Canter was brought to Moscow during the height of the Stalin period to work as an official translator of Lenin's writings.

But as I dug deeper into Axelrod's roots, one area proved exasperatingly elusive. I tried to discern his mother's politics, given that she seemed more politically involved than his father. Eventually I was able to report in this publication what a few others already knew, namely that the mother had worked for an extremely political newspaper, the left-leaning New York daily, PM.

The newspaper was a battleground between non-communist liberals and progressives and closet Communists who masqueraded as liberals and progressives, with the latter using the former as dupes to advance the Soviet line. Communists on staff, who concealed their associations, pushed for a post-war U.S. alliance with "Uncle Joe"; the liberals resisted. These tensions ripped at PM's seams. It was often hard to know which writer stood where. The self-proclaimed liberals/progressives ranged from I. F. Stone to the famed Arthur Miller, a small-c communist who considered joining the party.

As for Stone, later hailed by liberals as the "conscience of investigative journalism," he appears to have been a paid Soviet agent. The careful historians John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev concluded: "To put it plainly, from 1936 to 1939 I. F. Stone was a Soviet spy." KGB general Oleg Kalugin stated that Stone "was a KGB agent since 1938. His code name was 'Blin.'" Kalugin said that when he "resumed relations" with Stone in 1966, "it was on Moscow's instructions." In The Venona Secrets, the late Herb Romerstein reported: "it is clear from the evidence that Stone was indeed a Soviet agent."

To his credit, Stone reportedly later rejected Communism and became a non-communist leftist of some sort. That said, PM was founded in 1940. Thus, if the above dates on Stone are accurate, then Stone was working for the Kremlin immediately prior to PM, and possibly (we would suspect) retained certain sympathies.

Which brings us back to David Axelrod's mother. Where did Myril Axelrod stand in these battles? The answer, unfortunately, has been unclear. As I noted two years ago, nearly every profile of David Axelrod relates that his mother was a journalist at PM. A few state that she covered "education." I sent a researcher to a library with every old copy of PM, but he could not find a single article with Myril's byline. The question remained: Was Myril one of the closet Communists supporting Henry Wallace and his pro-Stalin Progressive Party, or was she on Harry Truman's side in opposing Stalin? Such answers would tell us something worth knowing about the home in which David Axelrod, who shaped the current leader of the free world, was himself shaped. I've written that Barack Obama is arguably our first Red Diaper Baby president, given his political upbringing. Had Axelrod been a Red Diaper Baby, too? All that I could vaguely say is that Myril was somewhere on the left.

After the publication of the article, I continued to periodically revisit the puzzling absence of information. Even nailing down Myril Axelrod's maiden name and date of birth was an inexplicable and seemingly unnecessary mess. The information published by major newspapers was contradictory. I couldn't find out where and when she was born. I couldn't pinpoint the names of her parents. I looked through old Senate and House committee reports for any "Myril Bennett Axelrod" or similarly related "Bennett" in the New York area who was involved in left-wing activities in the 1940s and 1950s. Yet I came up empty-handed again and again.

In the course of a conversation on David Axelrod about six months ago, I raised the riddle with another researcher (who prefers to remain anonymous). She had experience searching ancestries, but like me she was surprised to find absolutely nothing - nada, zilch, zero. I said to my fellow researcher: "Apparently, it will take Myril's death for us to learn these details. We won't find them until she dies."

Well, a few weeks ago, Myril Axelrod died at age ninety-three. On that, I sincerely express my condolences to her son, despite our political differences. Besides, if Myril was an anti-communist liberal, the type I've always admired, I'd have great respect for her.

A few outlets published small obituaries, which again told us virtually nothing. But at long last, on the funeral home's website, some new information miraculously materialized.

Myril was born on April 4, 1920 in Weehawken, New Jersey. To my great surprise - and this in itself solves one major riddle - she was not born Myril Bennett, but instead Myril Jessica Davidson. I had searched everywhere for Bennetts, not Davidsons. Where did the name Bennett come from?

According to the obituary, after Myril's first husband (David's father) tragically committed suicide, she remarried a marketing executive named Abner Bennett (who died in 1986). This I had not known. And then another long-awaited tidbit: her parents' names, Louis and Gertrude Davidson. I cannot begin to convey how incredibly elusive that simple fact had been. The father had reportedly fled Russian pogroms as a teen and became a dentist in Hoboken, New Jersey. The mother, also a child of immigrants, became a teacher. Myril had two siblings, one of them named Bill, a writer who reportedly entered the NYU journalism program.

With this information finally in hand, I checked the three best sources on Communist/leftist activity from the relevant era. One of them is the prodigious 2,100-page "Investigation of Un-American Propaganda Activities in the United States," known among insiders as "Appendix IX." It was produced in 1944 by the Democratic Congress under FDR's attorney general. I also checked part five of the July 1953 congressional report "Investigation of Communist Activities in the New York City Area." Lastly, I looked at the index of the huge 1970 compilation done by the House Committee on Internal Security, likewise run by Democrats. I did not find Myril listed anywhere, nor Gertrude. I did find references to Louis Davidson and also a "William" or "W" Davidson, but I can't say for certain if these men were Myril's father and brother, respectively. There is not adequate additional information.

And what about her work at PM? Here, the funeral-home obituary provided a stunner:

After [World War II], Mrs. Axelrod reentered journalism on the staff of PM, the liberal-leaning, advertising-free daily financed by Marshall Field III. Starting as an assistant, she worked as a "leg man" for Albert Deutsch, the journalist and social historian, on PM's science and welfare coverage. Mrs. Axelrod also helped I. F. Stone prepare his work "Underground to Palestine," a landmark account of the efforts of Jewish "displaced persons" in Europe to reach what was then British Mandatory Palestine after World War II. Mr. Stone's book began as a series in PM.

A book on post-war Displaced Persons (DPs) might not be suspected as a pro-Soviet work - unless you know the history. In fact, Stalin and Molotov tried to turn the DP issue into a major propaganda ploy, as did their comrades throughout the Daily Worker, Communist Party USA, and the international Communist movement. What the Communists did with the DP issue was utterly egregious. It was shameful, disgusting, evil, and typical. I have not read Stone's book, but it's worth tracking down to ascertain precisely where it stood vis--vis Moscow.

Note, too, the obituary informs us that Myril worked for Albert Deutsch, who cursory research suggests was a labor leftist working for the longshoremen's union. That union, incidentally, was one of the most manipulated by Communists. It helped bring Obama's mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, from Chicago to Hawaii in 1949. Deutsch apparently won the Heywood Broun award, named for the celebrated socialist reporter.

In addition, the obituary states that at PM, Myril

. . . rose to City Desk reporter, writing about labor, law enforcement, and breaking news, with a stint covering education. After PM folded in 1948, she stayed on with its successor, the New York Star, before spending most of the 1950s freelancing pieces for national magazines.

This suggests a greater role at PM than many of us suspected. Again, what did she write while there? And under what byline (I imagine now that I should have looked under "Myril Davidson")?

For that matter, what did she write for the left-wing New York Star? It lasted about as long as Frank Marshall Davis's Communist Party-line Chicago Star, which was bannered by a bright red star. Davis, who was founding editor-in-chief of the Chicago Star, folded up the publication to head to Hawaii for his political work there. He folded up almost the same time that the New York Star ceased operations. I have no idea what Myril wrote for the Star.

For the sake of history, it would certainly be useful to answer these questions. Americans today are shockingly ignorant of the dangers of Communism and what the far left has wrought, as the political success of well-known, one-time Communist Bill de Blasio, now New York's mayor, proves.

But maybe others can take up the task. I'm in no rush. This stuff torments me. Besides, what's done is done. David Axelrod elected his president.

Even now, I still can't definitely say much about where Myril Axelrod Bennett stood politically, other than that she was somewhere on the left. But the mystery is at least less of a mystery. Just don't expect a single liberal journalist to exhaust even a minute searching for any of this. It will be entirely up to conservatives like myself and publications like The American Spectator and The St. Croix Review. We will be told yet again that we are nothing more than mere modern incarnations of Joe McCarthy.

So be it. The truth is worth knowing.

Nancy Pelosi Accepts Margaret Sanger Award . . . And Then Calls Catholics Like the Pope "Dumb."

It sounds like a plot right out of The Screwtape Letters. Barack Obama was given a rosary from Pope Francis last week, blessed by the popular Holy Father. Not knowing what to do with a rosary, something compelled Obama to give it to his favorite Catholic: Nancy Pelosi.

And why not? Pelosi, after all, fancies herself an authoritative Catholic, and hasn't hesitated to so represent herself to Obama and to the nation at large. She considers herself an expert on matters like "ensoulment"; that is, when life begins. In an August 2008 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," she was asked by Tom Brokaw "When does life begin?" Pelosi proceeded to speak for her Church's Magisterium:

I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator - Saint Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is that it shouldn't have an impact on a woman's right to choose.

It certainly doesn't impact that "right" in the eyes of this particular Catholic. Pelosi has a unique sense of the sacred when it comes to abortion, which she describes as "sacred ground" to her. Asked last summer why she refused to support a bill banning late-term abortions, Pelosi said: "As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me."

Well, it's also sacred ground to Barack Obama, who, in a speech to Planned Parenthood a year ago, tearfully thanked the faithful with an unforgettable, "Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you." Such was Obama's closing benediction to a speech/love-fest that included multiple "I love you" exchanges between himself and the giddy crowd. Obama loves what he calls Planned Parenthood's "extraordinary" and "remarkable work." He told the women that they do a "great, great job."

Planned Parenthood indeed does remarkable work, and it undeniably excels at what it does. No other group has achieved what Planned Parenthood has achieved. No question. It has annihilated countless millions of unborn babies, particularly (and disproportionately) African-American babies. In that, it is truly extraordinary. And it all began with Margaret Sanger. She is a progressive icon to liberals, a saint in the feminist church. They revere her.

That, too, is something that Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi hold in common, so much so that Planned Parenthood recently feted Pelosi with its highest honor, its esteemed Margaret Sanger Award. Pelosi, of course, was thrilled, and Obama was no doubt thrilled for her (as he surely was for Hillary Clinton when she won the award in 2009).

Neither Pelosi nor Obama in their grateful words to Planned Parenthood commented on the full breadth of Sanger's "remarkable" work, such as her 1926 speech to a KKK rally in Silverlake, New Jersey, or her penchant for "race improvement," the driving motivation for her championing of birth control. The Planned Parenthood matron wanted to advance what she called "racial health," and lamented America's "race of degenerates." This meant purging the landscape of its "human weeds" and "the dead weight of human waste." For Sanger, this included a special "Negro Project" that the racial eugenicist had in mind for a particular group of Americans.

The Negro Project was dear to Sanger's heart, as shown by an odd December 1939 letter she wrote to Dr. Clarence Gamble of Milton, Massachusetts. The Planned Parenthood foundress alerted the doctor: "We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population."

Sanger groaned at America's "idiots" and "morons," and how they were corrupting the gene pool and ruining her efforts to foster a "race of thoroughbreds." The progressive saint wanted to rid America of its "imbeciles."

Speaking of which, Nancy Pelosi made a jaw-dropping comment upon receiving her Sanger prize. Referring to pro-lifers, an exasperated Pelosi asserted:

When you see how closed their minds are, or oblivious, or whatever it is - dumb - then you know what the fight is about.

Yes, said the lifelong Roman Catholic, those who oppose abortion - which includes her Church - are "dumb."

All of which brings us full circle to the rosary beads blessed by Pope Francis that Pelosi got from Obama. Pelosi said she was "happy to receive a rosary blessed by Pope Francis." She said, "It means a great deal to me." It does? But why? After all, Pelosi considers Pope Francis to be stupid.

Ah, you say she never said any such thing? Really? She just last week told the ladies at Planned Parenthood that pro-lifers are closed-minded, "oblivious," "dumb," "whatever." Whatever, indeed!

Well, pro-lifers certainly include Pope Francis, the man who blessed her rosary. So, by Nancy Pelosi's formulation, this pope who means a "great deal" to her, and who blessed her rosary delivered by Obama - the curious handmaiden for this choice sacramental - is an oblivious idiot.

Nancy Pelosi said what she said. And in so doing, she has once again left us dumbfounded.

Holy Mary, pray for us. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:39

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012).

Obama Should Study the History of Reaganomics?

Last Tuesday, The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College hosted its eighth Ronald Reagan Lecture, a much-anticipated annual event. This year featured Art Laffer and Roger Robinson. Laffer is the namesake of the Laffer Curve, a cornerstone of President Reagan's supply-side economic policies. Robinson spearheaded the extraordinary economic-warfare campaign against the Soviet Union for Reagan's fearless National Security Council.

The discussion covered many issues, including how the policies pursued by Ronald Reagan to stimulate economic growth were so completely different from Barack Obama's. It's worth highlighting those differences here. We ignore them at our peril.

Reagan inherited an abysmal economy from Jimmy Carter. His prescription for recovery rested on four pillars: tax cuts, deregulation, reductions in the rate of growth of government spending, and carefully managed growth of the money supply. He wanted to stimulate economic growth via tax cuts, allowing the American people to keep their money and invest it more wisely and efficiently than government.

This was, in effect, private-sector stimulus - a stark contrast to President Obama's massive $800 billion public-sector (read: government) "stimulus" in 2009. Among Reagan's tax cuts, the federal income tax reduction was the centerpiece. Reagan secured a 25 percent across-the-board reduction in tax rates over a three-year period beginning in October 1981. Eventually, the upper-income rate was dropped from 70 percent to 28 percent.

In the process, Reagan also dramatically simplified the tax code. When he was inaugurated, there were 16 separate tax brackets. When he was finished, there were only two. Not only did this simplification eliminate complexity, it also eliminated loopholes and removed 4 million working poor from the tax rolls; they no longer paid any federal income tax.

Reagan presided over the largest tax cut in American history and accomplished it in tandem with a huge Democratic Party majority in the House. It was a bipartisan triumph that The Washington Post called "one of the most remarkable demonstrations of presidential leadership in modern history." Unlike President Obama, who derided his Republican congressional opposition as "hostage takers" and denounced their desire for tax cuts, Reagan found a way to work with the opposition to advance the country.

After a slow start through 1982-83, the stimulus effect of the Reagan tax cuts was unprecedented, sparking the longest peacetime expansion/recovery in the nation's history: 92 consecutive months. The bogeymen of the 1970s - chronic unemployment and the deadly combination of double-digit inflation and interest rates - were vanquished. The poverty rate dropped; the standard of living soared. The Dow Jones industrial average, which, in real terms, had declined 70 percent from 1967-82, nearly tripled from 1983-89.

Contrary to liberal demonology, African Americans and other minorities did extremely well during the Reagan years. Real income for a median African American family had dropped 11 percent from 1977-82. But from 1982-89, coming out of the recession, it rose by 17 percent. In the 1980s, there was a 40 percent jump in African American households earning over $50,000.

African American unemployment (which has increased significantly under President Obama) fell faster than white unemployment in the 1980s. The number of African American-owned businesses increased by almost 40 percent while the number of African Americans enrolled in college increased by almost 30 percent (white college enrollment increased only 6 percent).

There were likewise impressive numbers for Hispanics and women. Hispanic-owned businesses in the 1980s grew by an astounding 81 percent and the number of Hispanics in college jumped 45 percent.

Overall, the "Reagan Boom" not only produced widespread prosperity but - along with the attendant Soviet collapse - generated budget surpluses in the 1990s. Carter-era terms like "malaise" and "misery index" vanished. Only during the Obama years, and specifically in 2011, has America re-approached similar misery-index levels, reaching a 28-year high.

All of this is not just history. It's a crucial economics lesson that we need to learn and remember. We neglect it to our detriment.

Shirley Temple's America

I learned only yesterday that Shirley Temple, the iconic child actress, died earlier this week at age 85. Reports on her death were easy to miss. I went through my usual scan of various websites and saw nothing. I fortunately caught a buried "Shirley Temple, R.I.P." by a writer at a political website.

I was dismayed by the sparse reaction to the loss of this woman who lived a great American life. Had Shirley Temple died 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, the country would have stopped. People everywhere would have paused to give Temple her due. It would have been the lead in every newspaper.

But not today. Our culture is too obsessed with Miley Cyrus and gay marriage to give proper recognition to a woman who was one of the most acclaimed, respected, and even cherished Americans, a household name to children and adults alike.

When I caught the news of Temple's death, I groaned. I braced myself to tell my two young daughters. They've watched Shirley Temple movies for years. To them, she's a contemporary, another innocent little girl. When I informed my 11-year-old daughter, she frowned and said, "Oh, that's terrible." She was about to cry when I quickly explained that Shirley was 85 and had lived an extraordinary life. There was no reason to be sad.

For years, as my daughters and wife and I watched Temple's old movies, particularly on the superb Turner Classic Movies channel, we'd check her date of birth, do the math, and realize that Shirley probably would be with us a while longer. That time has finally closed.

I never met Shirley Temple, but a good friend of mine who died in August knew her. Bill Clark, who was Ronald Reagan's close friend and crucial adviser in taking down the Soviet Union, met Temple at the height of her popularity, when both were children.

Clark's grandfather was a literal sheriff, cowboy, and California trailblazer, known throughout the Los Angeles area. Some Hollywood publicity folks contacted the senior Clark around 1936 for a local promotion. The promotion featured four-year-old little Bill pinning a badge on Shirley Temple's vest as she was "officially" deputized by Marshal Clark.

Bill Clark always fondly recalled that moment, captured in a photo that he kept framed and that we put in his biography. He would later have pictures with the likes of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, but here was one photo he kept close to heart.

Fifty years later, Clark and Temple served together again, this time in the State Department, where Clark held the higher rank: he, as second in command; she, as foreign affairs officer. Temple's old Hollywood friend, fellow Republican, and political ally, Ronald Reagan, had appointed her. She became an ambassador.

But Shirley Temple was, of course, known for film rather than politics. I cannot do justice to that storied career here, but indulge me as I share one of my favorite Shirley Temple movies.

In the 1934 classic, "Bright Eyes," Shirley played a five-year-old who lost her father in an airplane crash and then lost her mother. She is comforted by loving people who would do anything for her, including her godfather, who is identified as just that. The godfather behaves like a true godfather. The movie includes constant, natural references to faith, never shying from words like God, Heaven, and even Jesus.

Today's sneering secular audiences would reflexively dismiss the film as Norman Rockwell-ish. To the contrary, the movie is hardly sugarcoated. Just when your heart is broken from the death of sweet Shirley's dad, her mom is killed by a car while carrying a cake for Shirley on Christmas day.

That doesn't remind me of any Norman Rockwell portrait I've seen.

What such cynics really mean is that the film isn't sufficiently depraved for modern tastes. Shirley doesn't pole dance or "twerk." She doesn't do a darling little strip tease for the boys while singing "Good Ship, Lollipop." The references to God are not in vain or in the form of enlightening blasphemy. And the movie has a happy, not miserable, ending.

Come to think of it, maybe this isn't a movie for modern audiences!

For 80 years, Shirley Temple's bright eyes brightened the big screen. They reflected what was good and decent in this country. She embodied what made America great, and she brightened our lives in the process. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:34

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), and The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012).

Who Killed the Kennedys? Ronald Reagan's Answer?

Last year marked not only the 50th anniversary of the shooting of John F. Kennedy but also the 45th anniversary of the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy, which occurred in June 1968. Was there a common source motivating the assassins of both Kennedys - that is, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan?

That renowned political philosopher Mick Jagger speculated on a source. "I shouted out 'Who killed the Kennedys?'" asks the lyrics in a 1968 song by The Rolling Stones. "When, after all, it was you and me." The song was titled, "Sympathy for the Devil." It was, The Rolling Stones suggested, the Devil who had killed the Kennedys, along with his accomplices.

I must say I can't disagree with that one - a rare area of agreement between Mick Jagger and me.

There is, however, a more earthly answer. And it was provided, surprisingly, by a rising political star in the immediate hours after the shooting of Bobby Kennedy. That star was the new governor of California, Ronald Reagan.

RFK was shot in Governor Reagan's state. Reagan was no stranger to Bobby Kennedy. He had debated him a year earlier on national television, which didn't go well for RFK, with Reagan clearly outshining him. Kennedy told his handlers to never again put him on the same stage with "that son-of-a-b----."

That debate occurred five years after Bobby Kennedy had intervened to get Reagan fired from his long stint as host of the top-rated GE Theatre on CBS - a fact unknown until it was revealed by Michael Reagan in his excellent book, The New Reagan Revolution. Typical of Reagan, he harbored no bitterness toward RFK. That was quite unlike Bobby Kennedy, a man who knew how to hold a grudge.

On June 5, 1968, Reagan was full of nothing but sympathy for RFK. He appeared on the popular television show of Joey Bishop, one of the extended members of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack. Bishop and Reagan were old Hollywood friends, and Bishop extended the governor a platform to address the shooting. A transcript of Reagan's appearance on that show was grabbed by his young chief of staff, Bill Clark, who died just a few months ago. Clark shoved it in a box that ended up in the tack barn at his ranch in central California. It lay there until I, as Clark's biographer, dug it out three decades later.

That rare surviving transcript reveals a Reagan who spoke movingly about RFK and the entire Kennedy family. Condemning the "savage act," Reagan pleaded:

I am sure that all of us are praying not only for him but for his family and for those others who were so senselessly struck down also in the fusillade of bullets. . . . I believe we should go on praying, to the best of our ability.

But particularly interesting was how Reagan unflinchingly pointed a finger of blame in the direction of Moscow. Reagan noted that Kennedy's killer, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Arab and also a Communist, had shot Kennedy because of his support of Israel during the Six Day War that had occurred exactly one year earlier. On that, we now know beyond dispute what Reagan knew then: That war had been shamelessly provoked by the Kremlin.

Looking to exploit divisions in the Middle East and further exacerbate America's foreign-policy problems at the time (we were mired in Vietnam), Soviet officials cooked up false intelligence reports claiming that Israeli troops had been moved into the Golan Heights and were readying to invade Syria. They peddled the malicious, phony information to Egypt and other Arab states for the explicit purpose of creating a military confrontation with Israel. The Israeli leader, Levi Eshkol, immediately denounced the accusation, telling the Soviet ambassador to his face that there were no Israeli troops there whatsoever, and offering to personally drive him to the Golan at once. Acting on orders, the ambassador flatly refused, shouting "Nyet!" at Eshkol and storming out of the prime minister's residence. The Egyptians, too, checked their intelligence sources and found no evidence of Israeli troops in the Golan. Nonetheless, the pieces were in motion, and one thing dangerously led to another until everything spiraled out of control. Within mere weeks, the Six Day War was on - precipitated by the Kremlin. The egregious depths of Soviet disinformation spawned a major Middle East war.

RFK supported Israel in that war. Sirhan Sirhan never forgave him for that. He killed him for that.

Again, Ronald Reagan knew about the Soviet role in instigating the conflict, which he apparently pieced together via various reports at the time. As a result, he linked Bobby Kennedy's assassination to the USSR's mischief in the Middle East. "The enemy sits in Moscow," Reagan told Joey Bishop.

I call him an enemy because I believe he has proven this, by deed, in the Middle East. The actions of the enemy led to and precipitated the tragedy of last night.

Moscow had precipitated the Six Day War in June 1967, which, in turn, had prompted RFK's assassin in June 1968.

But Reagan wasn't finished positioning blame where it deserved to be placed. Eight days later, on July 13, 1968, Reagan delivered a forgotten speech in Indianapolis. Both the Indianapolis News and Indianapolis Star reported on Reagan's remarks, but the only full transcript I've seen was likewise located in Bill Clark's private papers. In that speech, Reagan leveled this charge at international Communism, with an earlier Kennedy assassination in mind:

Five years ago, a president was murdered by one who renounced his American citizenship to embrace the godless philosophy of Communism, and it was Communist violence he brought to our land. The shattering sound of his shots were still ringing in our ears when a policy decision was made to play down his Communist attachment lest we provoke the Soviet Union.

Reagan was spot on. As many conservative writers are currently noting, liberals in the immediate moments after the JFK assassination sought to blame everything but Oswald's love of Communism, love of the Soviet Union, and love of Castro's Cuba as motivations for what he did. Some blamed the climate of alleged "hate" and "bigotry" and "violence" in Dallas for the shooting. They ached to blame the right, fulfilling James Burnham's timeless maxim: "For the left, the preferred enemy is always to the right." Amazingly, they attempted to label Oswald a "right-winger," which was utterly upside down. He was a left-winger, as far left as one could get. Oswald was a completely committed Communist. He was head over heels for Castro's Cuba in particular. He adored Fidel. After defecting to and then leaving the Soviet Union after a long stay there, he went back to Texas (with a Soviet wife) and then tried everything to get to Havana and serve the revolution there. JFK and Fidel despised one another; each wanted the other dead. Guess who Oswald sided with on that one?

The Warren Commission later agonized over the possible motivations of Oswald. In the end, it determined that it "could not make any definitive determination of Oswald's motives." To its credit, the commission

. . . endeavored to isolate the factors which contributed to his character and which might have influenced his decision to assassinate President Kennedy.

It listed five factors, which appear on page 23 of the huge commission report. Among the five, the fifth underscored Oswald's "avowed commitment to Marxism and Communism," and noted specifically his ardor for Moscow and Havana. The commission concluded that this did indeed contribute to Oswald's "capacity to risk all in cruel and irresponsible actions."

Nonetheless, Oswald's passion for international Communism, from Russia to the Western hemisphere, has been downplayed by the American left and many Americans generally from the literal moment we learned that John F. Kennedy had been shot.

One American who was never blind to that motivation was Ronald Reagan. More than that, Reagan wasn't naive to the role of international Communism in the shooting of RFK either.

For the record, this is not to say that Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan acted as conscious, deliberate agents trained and ordered by the Soviets or the Cubans, though some - such as Ion Mihai Pacepa - have examined that possibility in depth. Their actions, however, cannot or should not be separated from the malevolent force of international Communism, which unquestionably played a role in their ultimate deadly actions.

Who killed the Kennedys? Ronald Reagan told us the answer 45 years ago.

Mister Rogers vs. the Unity Tree

I was walking by Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue last week when struck by our city's "Unity Tree." It's a curious thing about the Unity Tree: it only comes out at Christmas time - yes, Christmas. This self-proclaimed source of "unity," like much of modern liberalism, preaches inclusion while it excludes. It boldly expunges "Christmas" from what everyone knows is a Christmas tree. Remarkably, even the banner adorning the tree takes care to exclude Christmas. "Season's Greetings," it tells us.

Well, what season? We know but can't say.

As I continued down Stanwix, I was struck by a legitimate source of unity, one that didn't divide us, and who didn't refrain from the Christmas message. There he was, captured in a big poster in a window: Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers.

Some readers might remember that Mister Rogers recorded an hour-long primetime Christmas special in 1977. His first primetime show, it was titled "Christmas Time with "Mr. Rogers," not "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" with Mr. Rogers.

At the same time, it featured real unity. Fred Rogers discussed Hanukkah as well as Christmas. The trolley clicked through the Neighborhood of Make-Believe with a banner wishing "Happy Chanukah" on one side and "Merry Christmas" on the other. "Silent Night" was sung. It wasn't like today's phony "unity" where the apostles of "diversity" banish references to Christmas.

When I saw that poster in the window on Stanwix, it occurred to me that it has been 10 years since Fred Rogers left this world. Can you believe it?

What is it about the man that still makes us smile? That still touches a soft spot? That still genuinely unites us?

For me, it's partly my age. I was born in 1966, when there were a handful of TV channels. "Kids programming" consisted of a few PBS mornings shows, with Pittsburgh's own Fred Rogers the feature attraction. His comforting, patient demeanor drew you in. He was more than a friendly face in the neighborhood. He was a teacher.

One of my favorite Mister Rogers stories was told by my pastor at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Bridgeville in the 1990s.

The pastor had a friend, a pious businessman who lived in Connecticut. Though very successful, he was being tugged to make a move of address. That wasn't what his wife wanted to hear, especially when a Pittsburgh company showed interest. Her image of Pittsburgh was smoky, rusty, and smelly. She and her husband prayed for guidance. It would be in God's hands.

The husband liked what he saw, and the company liked him. Mom and the kids would be a tough sell. The company flew them in, as mom prayed for a sign.

When they landed at Pittsburgh International, she was sure the sign had come: a giant "no way." Their youngest child had vanished. They frantically searched the airport, shouting his name. Just then, mom spotted her son wide-eyed speaking to a gaunt man in an overcoat. She assumed the worst and readied to scold the stranger . . . until she saw his face. It was Mister Rogers.

In that trademark voice, he tenderly explained to the mom that her little boy, who he identified by name, had told him his concerns about moving. Mister Rogers explained that although moving can be difficult, it's often for the better, for dad, for mom, for the children. The boy would adjust, make new friends, and so on.

Mom got her sign. It was not only a man of the cloth (Rogers was an ordained minister) but . . . well, Mister Rogers. Could there be a better ambassador?

The family moved, and grew to like Pittsburgh - that is, Mister Rogers' neighborhood.

You want unity, Pittsburgh? Fred Rogers represented it.

Bad Sports: Virtue & Vice at the Ballpark?

If there be (no virtue among us), we are in a wretched situation. -James Madison

This isn't a year for complaints about the Pirates. So, forgive me while I complain not about the Pirates but a certain element of Pirates fans. This "element" is not unique to Pirates fans; it's symptomatic of many fans nationwide and, sadly, our culture and nation at large.

I'm prompted by a recent piece in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review sports section ("Biertempfel: In left field, they have Pirates' backs," Aug. 4), accompanied by a photo. The photo captured Cardinals' left fielder Matt Holliday being taunted, mocked and jeered at by Pirates fans after a ball bounced off his glove and into the bleachers, giving Andrew McCutchen a home run. The image is ugly: children, men, women, young and old, faces contorted, making hand gestures and hissing at Holliday.

They appear in all shapes and sizes, skinny and fat, barefaced and unshaven - united in their nastiness. Other than their vitriol, the one thing they share is that not one could have caught the ball Holliday chased down, certainly not without tripping like fools into the left field wall. For that matter, none could hit a ball like Holliday.

It reminded me of hecklings past. I've never forgotten a moment when a college roommate unloaded on an innocent member of the opposing team's bullpen at Three Rivers Stadium. The poor pitcher had done nothing other than sit with a visible name on his jersey. That was enough for my roommate to unleash himself on this fellow's character. The unsuspecting ballplayer did his best to ignore the unmerited insults. My buddy kept it up: "Hey, (name deleted), you (expletive deleted)!" I told him to knock it off.

I recall a later game my wife and I attended. A young Hunter Pence was in right field for the Astros. An unattractive threesome decided to have some "fun." Pretending to applaud Pence and cheer him on, they got his cheerful attention. Once they did, the bile flowed. A stunned Pence was unsure how to react. Even crueler were the fans observing the spectacle. They laughed and joined in, relishing the wretched display.

I felt bad for Pence. He was green, unseasoned in assimilating the hate that athletes must endure with heroic virtue in the onslaught of vicious fans harboring no virtue at all.

In the end, it really comes down to that - virtue vs. vice.

To overflow with vice is to be vicious. That's what I too often see at the ballpark. Certain fans can be not only mean but craven. Imagine the cowardice: The fan is unrestrained. So long as he doesn't physically assault the much stronger ballplayer, his behavior is largely unchecked by authorities or conscience. The ballplayer, however, must instantly become a paragon of virtue, turning the other cheek and enduring a litany of barbs from vulgarians slopping down beers and choking down hotdogs and nachos.

If he dares to react in the way he ought to be forgiven for reacting, he will find himself attacked not just by the protected cowards who couldn't hit a curveball but by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Twitter and every sports show in America. That athletes don't react, or do so only rarely, is an extraordinary testament to their character.

"Each new generation," says John Howard, senior fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, & Society, "must be trained to be virtuous." Unfortunately, laments Howard, society today "is such that becoming virtuous is a monstrous chore."

When virtues are not inculcated - at home, at school, in media, and in popular culture - they lay desiccated upon the national landscape and we are in a wretched situation. The ballpark is no exception.

The Progressive Income Tax Turned 100

Maybe it's a measure of progressives' refusal to look back, to always move "forward." Otherwise, they should be celebrating right now. In fact, President Obama and fellow modern progressives/liberals should have been ecstatic all last year, rejoicing over the centenary of something so fundamental to their ideology, to their core goals of government, to their sense of economic and social justice - to what Obama once called "redistributive change."

And what is this celebratory thing to the progressive mind?

It is the progressive income tax. Last year, 2013, it turned 100. Its permanent establishment was set forth in two historic moments: 1) an amendment to the Constitution (the 16th Amendment), ratified February 3, 1913; and 2) its signing into law by the progressive's progressive, President Woodrow Wilson, October 3, 1913. It was a major political victory for Wilson and fellow progressives then and still today. By my math, that ought to mean a long, sustained party by today's progressives, a period of extended thanksgiving.

President Obama once charged that "tax cuts for the wealthy" are the Republicans' "Holy Grail." Tax cuts form "their central economic doctrine." Well, the federal income tax is the Democrats' Holy Grail. For progressives/liberals, it forms their central economic doctrine.

As merely one illustration among many I could give, former DNC head Howard Dean and MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell were recently inveighing against Republican tax cuts. Dean extolled "what an increase in the top tax rate actually does." He insisted:

. . . that's what governments do - is redistribute. The argument is not whether they should redistribute or not, the question is how much we should redistribute. . . . The purpose of government is to make sure that capitalism works for everybody. . . . It's government's job to redistribute.

What Dean said is, in a few lines, a cornerstone of the modern progressive manifesto. For Dean and President Obama and allies, a federal income tax based on graduated or progressive rates embodies and enables government's primary "job" and "purpose." They embrace a progressive tax for the chief intention of wealth redistribution, which, in turn, allows for income leveling, income "equality," and for government to do the myriad things that progressives ever-increasingly want government to do.

And so, in 1913, progressives struck gold. The notion of taxing income wasn't entirely new. Such taxes existed before, albeit temporarily, at very small levels, and for national emergencies like war. The idea of a permanent tax for permanent income redistribution broke new ground. The only debate was the exact percentage of the tax. In no time, progressives learned they could never get enough.

In 1913, when the progressive income tax began, the top rate was a mere 7 percent, applied only to the fabulously wealthy (incomes above $500,000). By the time Woodrow Wilson left office in 1921, the great progressive had hiked the upper rate to 73 percent. World War I (for America, 1917-18) had given Wilson a short-term justification, but so did Wilson's passion for a robust "administrative state."

Disagreeing with Wilson were the Republication administrations of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, his immediate successors. Along with their Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, they reduced the upper rate, eventually bringing it down to 25 percent by 1925. In response, the total revenue to the federal Treasury increased significantly, from $700 million to $1 billion, and the budget was repeatedly in surplus.

Unfortunately, the rate began increasing under Herbert Hoover, who jacked the top rate to 63 percent. It soon skyrocketed to 94 percent under another legendary progressive, FDR, who, amazingly, once considered a top rate of 99.5 percent on income above $100,000 (yes, you read that right).

Appalled by this was an actor named Ronald Reagan, himself a progressive Democrat - though not much longer. Reagan often noted that Karl Marx, in his Communist Manifesto (1848), demanded a permanent "heavy progressive or graduated income tax." Indeed, it's point two in Marx's 10-point program, second only to his call for "abolition of property."

The upper tax rate wasn't reduced substantially until 1965, when it came down to 70 percent. President Ronald Reagan took it down to 28 percent. And despite claims to the contrary, federal revenues under Reagan increased (as they did in the 1920s), rising from $600 billion to nearly $1 trillion. (The Reagan deficits were caused by excessive spending and decreased revenue from the 1981-3 recession.)

The upper rate increased again (to 31 percent) under George H. W. Bush and under Bill Clinton (39.6 percent). George W. Bush cut it to 35 percent. Barack Obama has returned it to the Clinton level of 39.6 percent.

Here, 100 years henceforth, the wealthiest Americans - the top 10 percent of which already pay over 70 percent of federal tax revenue - will be paying more in taxes this year than any time in the last 30 years. For progressives, this is justice. But it is also bittersweet: As progressives know deep inside, it still isn't enough. For them, it's never enough.

To that end, my enduring question for progressives is one they typically avoid answering, especially those holding elected office: In your perfect world, where, exactly, would you position the top rate? I routinely hear numbers in the 50-70 percent range.

Democrats like President Obama complain about Republican intransigence in raising tax rates but, truth be told - and as any liberal really knows - if it wasn't for Republican resistance, progressives would rarely, if ever, cut taxes. America would remain on a one-way upward trajectory in tax rates, just like under Woodrow Wilson and FDR, and just as it has been in its unrestrained spending for nearly 50 years. Like their refusal to cut spending (other than on defense), progressives are dragged kicking and screaming into tax cuts. They need high income taxes for the government planning and redistributing they want to do; for Obama's sense of redistributive justice.

In 2013 the progressive income tax turned 100. For progressives, getting it implemented was a huge triumph. Their success in making it a permanent part of the American landscape is a more stunning achievement still. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:21

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012) .

The Progressive's Progress

New Yorkers have chosen the mayor they deserve. The home of Communist Party USA and the Daily Worker, and, of course, Columbia University and the New York Times, has finally done it. It was only a matter of time. It's fitting that the election of Bill de Blasio occurs amid the "Hope and Change" and "Forward!" presidency of Barack Obama, another "progressive" who eagerly and fundamentally transforms the America we knew.

New York's new Democratic mayor spent his formative years stumping for the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Bill de Blasio peddled subscriptions for the regime's newspaper, Barricada, the Sandinistas' version of Pravda. The Liberation Theology guru was gaga for Latin American Communist dictators. His love ran so deep that he and his bride actually honeymooned in Cuba a decade after his earlier romance in the Soviet Union. The couple somehow orchestrated their Havana honeymoon despite a U.S. embargo on travel - signed by President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat who today would have to change parties. Regardless of the embargo, American Communists always found a way to Fidel's island prison. Bill de Blasio, too, went where his heart led him; he found Fidel.

Today, de Blasio finds himself where his heart has led him again, this time leader of New York. His comrades throughout the city have rolled out the red carpet. De Blasio is declaring war on "inequality" and the evil rich, committing himself to leveling incomes and ensuring vengeance. If only he had more power to level more incomes, but, hey, who knows, in the new America, the White House could be just around the corner.

Bill de Blasio didn't merely edge out his mayoral opponent; he destroyed him. He won by 50 points, the kind of margin Communist despots once staged in phony elections behind the Iron Curtain. The difference, of course, is that citizens of the Soviet Bloc never actually voted for the Communist. In New York in November 2013, no secret police or party apparatchiks manipulated the results; the masses saluted and delivered. If he's watching, Fidel Castro must be stunned, as are the ghosts of Lenin, Stalin, and Bolsheviks past. If the old commies could have won just one legitimate election with the support of the masses, they would have held one.

All of which leads to the question: Just how far left is Bill de Blasio? Is he still a Communist?

In response to Tuesday's vote, one of my anti-communist colleagues wrote a piece titled, "America's First Openly Marxist Big City Mayor." Another, a respected Cold War historian, told me that de Blasio is a "post-communist Communist." Ron Radosh calls de Blasio's win "a victory for the old Communist left," which it undeniably is.

Yet, ask Bill de Blasio his politics and he describes himself the same way American Communists have been doing for 80 years: a "progressive" pursuing "social justice." "Make no mistake," he declared in his victory speech, standing behind a large sign proclaiming "PROGRESS," "the people of this city have chosen a progressive path. And tonight we set forth on it - together, as one city."

Of course he describes himself as a progressive. They all do. The word has become almost meaningless because of how the Communist left has co-opted it to mask its agenda. Worse, certain progressive scholars don't hesitate to anoint certain Communists "progressives."

Go to the website of People's World, successor to the Daily Worker as the flagship publication of Communist Party USA. The writers describe themselves and their ideas as "progressive" infinitely more than "Communist" or "Marxist." It's more palatable language for the uninformed. As I write, the lead piece posted at People's World is an editorial highlighted by a beaming photo of de Blasio behind the "PROGRESS" banner. "The people of the city, in electing de Blasio, took a powerful stand against an array of policies that benefit the 1 percent over the 99 percent," People's World celebrates. "[V]oters overwhelmingly backed him and the progressive agenda he put forward."

Yes, the "forward"-looking "progressive agenda."

Take a look at the founders of the 2008 group Progressives for Obama. From Tom Hayden and Mark Rudd to Jane Fonda and the other fellow travelers, it's a Who's Who of '60s Communists, SDSers, and Weathermen. But they call themselves "progressives."

When I was researching my book Dupes, the biggest challenge was sifting through various self-described "progressive" individuals or "progressive" organizations to figure out if they were genuine liberals or closet Communists cloaked as liberals.

When the U.S. Congress in 1961 published its major investigation of Communist front-groups, titled, "Guide to Subversive Organizations and Publications," one of the most popular title listings in the massive index was "Progressive."

If you want a front for your Communist cause or identity, call it "progressive." American Communists have done this successfully since the 1930s - and they haven't stopped. Indeed, why stop? It works. The label is red meat for enlisting a wider swath of nave liberals to your cause or campaign. It's a deliciously deceptive tactic whose success surely never ceases to amaze its manipulators.

When asked about his Communist past, de Blasio neither denies nor disavows it. At the same time, he doesn't exactly spill his guts. Nor does he say whether and why and how he repudiated it. To the contrary, he embraces the standard Marxist class-warfare rhetoric he has no doubt used his entire adult life; in this, he's not unlike our president.

To that end, what we really have here is another eerie Obama-like situation, or perhaps Obama-like deception. Call it the Obama model of obfuscation, rewarded by a compliant media that allows the model to succeed.

Like Bill de Blasio, Barack Obama has similar skeletons in his ideological closet. Both his mother and father were far to the left, essentially near or on the Marxist left. They met in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii. When Obama's Kenyan father abandoned him, a leftist grandfather introduced him to a potential mentor and father figure, Frank Marshall Davis, who had been a literally card-carrying member of Communist Party USA, an old Party agitator who founded and edited Chicago's Communist newspaper in the 1940s. Davis's work was so extreme that in December 1956 the Democrat-run Senate called him to Washington to testify on his "Soviet activities." He was so radical that the federal government placed him on its Security Index, meaning Davis could be immediately arrested if war broke out between the United States and Soviet Union.

Given all these influences, I pointed out at The American Spectator last year that we Americans actually have our first Red Diaper Baby President. Interestingly, Radosh notes that de Blasio is a "bona fide Red Diaper Baby;" thus, New Yorkers arguably have their first Red Diaper Baby Mayor to go with the Red Diaper Baby President they likewise elected.

When Barack Obama left his Communist influences in Hawaii for Occidental College, he was so far to the left that one eyewitness, the eminently credible Dr. John Drew, who ran the campus Marxist club, was introduced to Obama as a fellow Communist. I interviewed Drew at length for my book on Frank Marshall Davis, The Communist, and his account is wholly consistent and believable.

Thus, here's the million-dollar question for Barack Obama, which is frighteningly similar to what we now ask of Bill de Blasio: When and where and how did he break from these Communist roots? He has never told us, which would be the easiest thing to do - if he genuinely left them.

Instead, we have a young man (Obama) who later, in 1996, went on to join the socialist New Party, who, later still, launched his Illinois state senate bid in the living room of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and then who, in his final year in the U.S. Senate, was ranked by National Journal as the most leftist member of the entire Senate - to the left of Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy. He then soared to the White House, de Blasio-like, on the wings of what he called "redistributive change," "collective action," "spreading the wealth," leveling income, and bashing the rich. The country twice voted him a mandate. But all along we never learn: What does he really believe? When was his Communist past ever rejected?

New Yorkers - those that actually give a damn - can now ask themselves the same questions about their chief executive.

Alas, what does that mean? What's the big picture? Among other things, it means, in short, here we go again: Another "progressive" boldly moves his project "forward!" As for those of us who dare point out the Communist past as relevant to the future, we are mocked as reincarnates of Joe McCarthy. As we scratch our heads trying to make sense out of this insanity, we are labeled extremists by the extreme leftists and their dupes. As we are, another staunch "progressive" waves his banner and carries on his fundamental transformation with the handy compliance of the masses.

Thanks, New York. Thanks, America.

The Progressive Crusade Against Tax Cuts?

There's an ongoing effort by President Obama and fellow "progressives" not only to continue to blame George W. Bush for every economic woe facing America - even as every economic indicator is far worse under Obama - but to permanently discredit the value of tax cuts. Tax cuts are an unmitigated evil that progressive crusaders must forever exorcise.

For President Obama and his allies, this is a project they're taking back to the Reagan years, starting with an assault on President Reagan's enormously successful 1981 tax cuts. Their campaign, however, can't end with Reagan. They need to venture way back to Andrew Mellon in the 1920s.

Mellon was Treasury Secretary throughout the Republican administrations that followed Woodrow Wilson's exit from the White House in 1921. He was a superb Treasury secretary, with few peers before or since.

Unemployment under Wilson's "progressive" presidency had hit almost 12 percent. In 1921, the newly inaugurated president was Republican Warren Harding. As Harding's Treasury Secretary, Mellon argued against spending increases as "stimulus" for economic growth and, instead, pushed for tax rate cuts. It was a Reagan-like move, with Reagan-like results. By 1923, unemployment dropped to under 3 percent, where it (roughly) remained throughout the 1920s under Harding and his Republican successor, Calvin Coolidge.

The economy did not begin its crash and sustained slide until the presidencies of Herbert Hoover, a Republican, and FDR, a Democrat. Both Hoover and FDR jacked tax rates through the roof. The federal tax rate on income reached a breathtaking 94 percent under FDR. As historian Burt Folsom shows, FDR actually considered raising the upper rate to 99.5 percent on income above $100,000. (Yes, you read that right.)

FDR, for the record, despised Andrew Mellon. He subjected Mellon to an intense, intrusive investigation of his income-tax returns, pursuing him to his deathbed. FDR had a vendetta against Mellon's entire philosophy on taxation. It became personal as well as political.

Here's a Mellon insight that FDR no doubt detested:

It seems difficult for some to understand that high rates of taxation do not necessarily mean large revenue to the government, and that more revenue may often be obtained by lower rates.

FDR certainly didn't understand, though his Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, eventually came to that conclusion. "We have tried spending money," said Morgenthau.

We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!

Morgenthau figured out what Andrew Mellon already knew. Said Mellon:

The problem of government is to fix rates which will bring in a maximum amount of revenue to the Treasury and at the same time bear not too heavily on the taxpayer or on business enterprises.

And so, during the Harding and Coolidge administrations, Mellon succeeded in promoting tax-rate cuts rates across the board, with upper-income rates reduced from 73 to 24 percent. The cuts were very similar to Reagan's in the 1980s. And like under Reagan - and contrary to liberal mythology - total tax revenue to the Treasury actually increased.

Under Reagan, federal revenue rose from $599 billion to almost $1 trillion. Under Mellon's stewardship in the 1920s, revenue went from $700 million to above $1 billion. And unlike under Reagan, Mellon's policies eliminated the budget deficit. (Coolidge was able and willing to cut spending where Reagan did not.)

For President Obama and his fellow liberals, these are inconvenient, unwelcome facts. They believe they need higher taxes to feed and sustain their government class. Democrats are banking on that government class - which they want to expand and unionize - to keep them in power not another four years but another 40 years.

Tax cuts are anathema to our president and progressives. And so is the wisdom of Andrew Mellon.

Bonding Over Baseball?

My cousin Drew is a 45-year-old veteran of the first Gulf War (1991), which he served aboard a battleship in the Persian Gulf. A former high school quarterback out of Western Pennsylvania, he has always been carefree and a little wild, and always fun to be around. Today, Drew is confined to a wheelchair. He suffers from what was officially diagnosed as "Gulf War Syndrome." The condition has manifested itself as advanced MS, which he believes he contracted on the ship after being forced to take an experimental drug designed to counter the impact of a (suspected) chemical-weapons attack by Saddam Hussein.

This isn't where Drew expected to be in his mid-40s.

Drew and I haven't been in touch much since we were kids. I've always regretted that. I would call him occasionally and we'd engage in whatever small talk we could, usually about politics and the country.

In August, I phoned Drew again, after no contact for a while. His sister told me his condition had worsened. "How are you?" I began. "Well," he sighed. "I'm still alive."

After some uneasy words, our conversation picked up and lit up when we suddenly hit upon something we hadn't discussed in years: baseball. Specifically, the focus was Pittsburgh Pirates' baseball. The Pirates were looking at their first winning season in over 20 years. Drew and I talked for probably a half hour just about the Pirates.

But the dialogue didn't end with that phone call. I soon thereafter learned that Drew loves to send text messages. I don't, and (up until then) had resisted learning how. But the growing onslaught of Drew's text messages forced a reappraisal, especially because the subject was baseball.

Over the course of the next three months, not a Pirates game went by where Drew and I weren't texting throughout. It was a blast. When I was on vacation and didn't have the local cable channel that carries the Pirates, Drew handled the play-by-play for me. It was like a live-feed, accompanied by Drew's usual color and (uncensored) flare.

One afternoon, I was driving my 11-year-old daughter home from swim practice with the game on the radio. My phone repeatedly chimed in with various snippets of analysis by Drew. My daughter intercepted them with a bemused glance. After one particularly awful Pirates' error, I heard the chime and told her she might not want to read that one. She caught the four-letter word and blushed and giggled the rest of the way home.

Beautiful. Classic Drew.

When the Pirates finally made the playoffs, for the first time since 1992, Drew texted to inform me that he ventured out and bought a 60-inch big-screen TV for the occasion. I have no idea how he got to the store, got the TV in a car, and got it inside the hotel room where he lives, or got it hooked up. But not unlike his ability to somehow fly himself to Europe when he gets the urge, or get himself to a Pirates game - a 103-mile one-way cab ride to Pittsburgh - Drew made it happen. He always made things happen.

I texted him about half an hour into the game. "How's the TV?" I asked. "Awesome," he replied.

Our communication continued during down time in between games, when we discussed (always via text) the latest on politics, the world, Syria, Russia, Iraq, and the circumstances in the Middle East that had contributed to his condition.

His texts have been much more frequent than mine. I have seven kids and I'm never alone. Drew is alone. He's confined. But every single message makes me smile. In fact, as I write this sentence, another just came in.

Happily, the texts have continued beyond the Pirates' exit from the post-season. Throughout the championship series in each league, whether the Cardinals vs. the Dodgers or Red Sox vs. the Tigers, we exchanged texts. I asked Drew for an update on the 60-inch TV, and got it:

I also bought the surround sound system that went with the TV and it is awesome. Watching a ballgame on it is unbelievable.

It's a "smart TV," has some sort of "flex belt." Drew says the TV is smarter than him. And me, too, I'm sure.

My point, of course, is this: what has happened is that Drew and I bonded over baseball, beginning with the resurrection of our beleaguered Pittsburgh Pirates. We're now in touch more than ever before.

Baseball has long been America's past time, bringing friends and family together for over a century. It's there every day, day in and day out, from April to October. It's still our pasttime. It still brings people together. That's an intangible that doesn't appear anywhere in any box score.

Patton, Ike, and My Teenage Boys?

I recently took my two teenage sons to a talk by Frank Kravetz, a 90-year-old World War II veteran who survived Hitler's Nuremberg prisons. Frank published his story in a memoir, Eleven Two: One WWII Airman's Story of Capture, Survival and Freedom.

Frank's ordeal began in November 1944 during a bomb-run over Germany. He took his regular position, crammed into the tail of a B-17. The target was Merseberg, a major industrial area. He flew amid an air armada of 500 heavy bombers - each carrying eighteen 250-pound bombs - escorted by 900 fighter planes.

While the Americans were ready for business, so was the Luftwaffe, which set aside every aircraft to defend Merseberg. Frank's plane came under hot pursuit by German fighters. Frank took them on with a twin .50 caliber machine gun. It was a dogfight, and Frank was shot badly. His B-17 was filled with holes. The crew had to bail.

Frank was bleeding profusely. His buddies tried to get a parachute on him, but it opened inside the plane. They wrapped it around him, trying not to cross the chords, and tossed him out. To Frank's great relief, the chute opened. Instantly, the deafening chaos quieted, and Frank floated like on angels' wings.

The tranquility halted with a rude thump as Frank hit the ground and tumbled like a shot jackrabbit. German soldiers seized him.

Thus began "a lousy existence," or, as Frank dubbed it - "Hell's journey." Destination: Stalag 13-D. In the end, Frank's weight dropped to 125 pounds.

Frank's liberation came April 29, 1945, by Gen. Patton's Third Army. For any fan of Patton, Frank's account will bring a lump to your throat:

After the flag was raised, and within a few hours of our troops arriving in camp, Gen. Patton rolled in, sitting high in a command car. His very presence was awe-inspiring. I stood there staring at Gen. Patton, our liberator, appearing larger than life.

Thousands of emaciated, ecstatic POWs chanted, "Patton! Patton! Patton!" Some fell to their knees, overcome with emotion. Standing in the car, Patton seized a bullhorn and spoke: "Gentlemen-you're now liberated and under Allied control. . . . We're going to get you out of here."

Embracing Patton's every word, it finally hit Frank: "I'm going home. I'm really going home!"

As Frank was moved out of his camp en route back home, he had a stop in Rheims, France. There, just as unexpectedly as encountering Patton, he sat in a room with fellow wounded GIs when he looked and suddenly saw Gen. Dwight Eisenhower stroll in. The soldiers jumped to their feet to salute the Supreme Allied Commander. "Sit down, boys," the former Kansas farm-boy humbly said, "I should be standing for you."

Frank eventually got home, first arriving in New York City and then hitchhiking all the way to East Pittsburgh. He unceremoniously arrived at his folks' front door - no trumpets, no dramatic music, no parade. He hugged his mom and dad and sat down. He found his sweetheart, Anne. They've been happily married ever since.

As Frank recently shared his story in a classroom at Grove City College, my two teenage sons were riveted. After his talk, they met Frank, who eagerly shook their hands.

As he did, I was struck by this realization: If my teenage boys live to be Frank's age, they'll live to nearly 2090, roughly 150 years after World War II. They'll be able to tell teenage boys that they shook the hand of a World War II veteran who met Generals Patton and Eisenhower.

That's an amazing thought. It would be like any of us right now meeting an elderly person who met someone who stretched back 150 years to the Civil War, someone who stood in the presence of Ulysses S. Grant or perhaps even Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.

Gee, when you think about it that way, America doesn't really seem all that old.

I shared that thought with a friend and colleague, Darren Morton. In turn, Darren told me about his late grandfather, born in 1909, who could remember parades as a little boy where Civil War vets were present. After one parade, one of those vets recalled that, when he was a boy, his grandfather took him to meet an elderly vet of the Revolutionary War. "So," Darren told me, "I touched the hand of a man who touched the hand of a Civil War vet who in turn touched the hand of a Revolutionary War vet. We are not a very old country."

Indeed, we're not. Like Darren, like my sons, I encourage everyone to meet these vets before they pass on. Hear their stories. Someday you'll be able to pass on your own story about meeting someone from that old war not-so-long ago. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:16

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). His latest book is The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink (2012) .

Liberals Embrace Fatherless (and Motherless) Families?

With the Supreme Court giving a major boost to gay marriage, liberals face fewer impediments to their relentless push for fatherless (and motherless) families.

Of course, it wasn't always this way. In a speech for Father's Day 2008, Barack Obama was emphatic in championing fatherhood:

We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

Obama added:

Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives . . . family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. . . . [If] we are honest with ourselves . . . we'll admit that . . . too many fathers . . . missing from too many lives and too many homes.

Obama summed up: "We need fathers."

I couldn't agree more. In fact, as a conservative, I don't know a single conservative who would disagree with any of this - alas, a rare moment of complete agreement with Barack Obama. For that matter, I don't know any liberals who would disagree.

So, with that being the case, why are President Obama and liberals suddenly pushing unrelentingly for fatherless families - or, more specifically, for a new form of American family that is fatherless?

The answer, of course, is gay marriage. With their sudden embrace of gay marriage, a massive shift not only within America, American culture, and human civilization, but also within the Democratic Party, liberals/progressives nationwide are - whether they realize it or not - simultaneously advocating a redefinition of family that embraces fatherless families. Married female-female parents will be households without dads.

In so doing, liberals are shattering a rare, precious consensus that they had nurtured with conservatives. There are few things that liberals and conservatives agree upon, but one of them was the crucial importance of children being raised in a home with a dad and a mom.

In his 1984 Father's Day proclamation, President Ronald Reagan described fathers as "beacons" of "strength and well-being," of "leadership and direction." They give their children guidance and teach them "integrity, truth, and humility." "Every father rises to his tallest stature as he selflessly cares for his family, his wife, and his children," said Reagan.

Liberals from Walter Mondale and Daniel Patrick Moynihan to the pages of The New Republic and New York Times emphatically agreed with Reagan. A decade later, such sentiments were consistently reinforced by Democratic President Bill Clinton, who understood the toll delivered by fatherless homes. Groups like the National Fatherhood Initiative popped up, creating wonderful ad campaigns reminding Americans of something that societies long deemed indispensable: kids need dads. Sons need dads. Daughters need dads. Families need dads.

That principle remains unchanged. What has changed, however, is liberals/progressives fierce acceptance and advancement of gay marriage. In this rapid push, they are jettisoning this national consensus on fathers, demanding a form of parenting that excludes fathers. As for those who disagree with their new paradigm, they are derided as cruel, thoughtless bigots, with no possible legitimate reason for their unenlightened position.

Actually, what today's liberals are advocating is far more radical than that. They are pushing not only for fatherless families but also, conversely, motherless families. Married male-male parents (the other half of gay marriage) will be households without moms.

Everyone reading my words knows that mothers are utterly irreplaceable. That's a statement of the obvious. I'm incapable of doing what my wife does. Fathers raising kids without their mother because of divorce, death, or some other unfortunate circumstance, know what I'm talking about. Why would anyone, let alone a country or culture, want to open the door for a reconstitution of "parenthood" and "family" that, by literal definition, excludes mothers?

To be sure, we know why liberals are doing this. Again, they are doing this in the name of gay rights.

Yet, supporting gay rights, and the right of gay people not to be discriminated against, should not automatically mean supporting the literal redefinition of marriage. Why must tolerance mean the redefinition of something as ancient and stable as marriage between one man and one woman?

The original push for gay rights was about stopping discrimination. Gays should not be persecuted, denied benefits, fired because of their sexual orientation. We all support that. But as with many other things, liberals in their zeal for whatever new "rights" are pushing too far, without pausing to carefully consider the impact. Their furious dash to redefine marriage in the name of gay rights has innumerable consequences that they have not begun to try to contemplate; that includes a new marriage/parenthood paradigm that repudiates their onetime insistence on father-based families, and even mother-based families.

Liberals always appeal to our emotions regarding children: What about the children? Well, yes, what about the children?

Bill Clark's Divine Plan - Ronald Reagan's Top Hand Has Died

The most important adviser to President Ronald Reagan in his takedown of the Soviet empire has died at the age of 81. His name was William P. "Bill" Clark, known to many as simply "Judge Clark," and he was one of the finest human beings and Americans that this country has ever known. I can say that without exaggeration and with the intimate knowledge of someone who became not only Clark's biographer but a close friend.

Actually, it was hard to be otherwise. I never met anyone who didn't like and come to respect Bill Clark. Think about this: Could you name another person, in the Reagan administration or out, praised by figures as diverse as Edmund Morris and Cap Weinberger, Edwin Meese and Lou Cannon, Maureen Dowd and Michael Reagan, Human Events and The New York Times, Time and National Review, and even Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush? As to the last pair, when we prepared the biography of Clark for publication, it wasn't a huge surprise when we got endorsements from both Carter and Bush. Only Bill Clark could inspire something like that.

And yet, if you asked Bill Clark how that could be, he would smile and say, "They're easily deceived."

No, they weren't. In Clark's mind, however, they were. This was a devoutly Catholic man of genuine saint-like charity and humility - praise he would characteristically and insistently deny. In fact, the biggest mistake I made in convincing him to let me be his biographer was allowing him veto power over things he objected to. This wasn't a mistake for the usual reasons. Indeed, if I want to make a criticism of Clark, he would say "much deserved." The problem was Clark's refusal to let me commend him for things indubitably much deserved. Clark wouldn't even let me call me him a "devout" Catholic. If I recall, we settled on "serious" Catholic. That, at the least, could be rightly said of a man who built a church on his ranch outside Paso Robles, California, and whose only real regret in life was that he didn't pursue the priesthood, leaving an Augustinian novitiate for good in February 1951.

But there was good reason for that, as Clark often noted. "It wasn't part of the DP, Paul," he would tell me again and again. "Not part of the DP."

The "DP," which Clark and Ronald Reagan pondered together, was the "Divine Plan."

To that end, God had another route for Bill Clark: it was to become first a lawyer, a rancher, and then connect with Ronald Reagan in a fascinating ride that altered the course of history.

The two men took that ride together. Fellow ranchers, fellow horsemen, fellow cowboys, they were kindred souls - some said like brothers, others said like father and son. They seemed to intuitively know what the other wanted. They were so close that Michael Reagan, Ronald Reagan's son, emailed me yesterday to say of Clark's death: "I have lost my father for the second time . . . Good bye friend."

For Bill Clark, the partnership began when he helped Reagan's 1966 campaign for governor. Once Reagan won, Clark was his top aide, eventually chief of staff. Governor Reagan soon began appointing Clark up through various levels of the California court system, all the way to the state Supreme Court (thus the moniker "Judge Clark"). Clark loved the work, and even commuted to Sacramento via a private plane he regularly launched from the driveway-turned-runway of his ranch.

There was only one thing that could tug Bill Clark away from that job: Ronald Reagan's need for him elsewhere; his sense of duty to Reagan and country. And so, when Reagan became president in January 1981, he convinced - and it truly took convincing - Clark to come to Washington to serve as deputy secretary of state. As Reagan put it, he needed someone he could trust at State, an "America desk" at Foggy Bottom. Bill Clark was that guy.

For the record, Clark first had to survive confirmation hearings before he could take the job at State. That would have been easy if not for a smarmy, smirking politician on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who deliberately tripped up Clark, turning the good man's appointment into an international spectacle that humiliated the gentlemanly rancher and thrilled our enemies, especially the Soviets. That man, whose charade that February day was one of the ugliest displays in the history of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was a young senator from Delaware named Joe Biden.

Despite Biden's antics, Clark's performance at State blew away everyone. From Time to The New York Times, he was heralded for his steady hand, as Reagan's reliable counsel. A year later, at the start of January 1982, Clark became Reagan's national security adviser, head of the crucial National Security Council. It was there, in that seat, that Clark and Reagan, along with the likes of Bill Casey at the CIA and a group of superb staffers, laid the groundwork to undermine the Soviet Union.

That story cannot be given due justice in this short tribute, but, as a quick summary: The most consequential National Security Decision Directives - NSDDs, the formal documents that created official Reagan administration policy - were completed under Clark's direction. Clark oversaw the development of NSDDs 2 through 120. The goal of these NSDDs was nothing short of revolutionary: to reverse the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe, to liberate Eastern Europe, and even to bring "political pluralism" (as one NSDD put it) to the Soviet Union. These were dramatic objectives that no one but Clark and Reagan thought possible in 1982.

Beyond NSDDs, any student of the Reagan administration knows that the really big things that happened in Reagan's Soviet policy took place in the two transformational years that Clark headed the NSC: the meeting with John Paul II at the Vatican, the Westminster speech, the Strategic Defense Initiative, the Evil Empire speech, NSDDs 32, 54, 66, 75, just for starters.

When Clark left the NSC position in late 1983, in part due to pressures from White House "moderates" and "pragmatists," the men surrounding Clark were devastated. They sensed a looming apocalypse; they thought everything they had gained under Clark was suddenly dead. I sat in the tack barn of Clark's ranch one hot summer day and read their pleas - long, heartfelt, heartbroken letters (which Clark kept). His faithful lieutenants were sure all was lost. Two men, however, were not crestfallen at all: Bill Clark and Ronald Reagan. They just smiled. They were confident the plan was in place. The groundwork had been laid. The DP was ready to prevail.

In Memoriam: A FBI Life?

America has lost a good man and dedicated servant. Edward S. Miller, a lifetime FBI man, has departed this country and this world, leaving behind a trail of fascinating tales and deeds - involving characters as diverse as J. Edgar Hoover, Presidents Nixon, Carter, and Reagan, the Communist Party USA, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and the Weather Underground - that merit remembrance.

Ed Miller was born on Veterans Day, November 11, 1923, in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He grew up in the smoky steel town of McKeesport along the Monongahela River. As a teen, he worked as a lifeguard at a large, sandy beach pool at historic Kennywood Park. Directly out of high school, he headed to the Pacific Theater, where he was a platoon sergeant in Okinawa.

Discharged from the Army in February 1946, after four years of war, Miller attended Grove City College (where I teach) in Grove City, Pennsylvania. He studied political science and law and earned his bachelor's degree. An even greater achievement, he met his future wife, Pat.

Wasting no time finding his place and mission in the wider world after graduation, Miller joined J. Edgar Hoover's FBI in November 1950 - and would never look back. He was assigned first to Los Angeles, then to San Francisco, Washington, Mobile, Honolulu, Chicago, and finally back to Washington, where in 1971 he rose to lead the Intelligence Division. By October 1973, Miller was named assistant to the director, placed in charge of all investigative operations. By the time he retired in 1974, the kid from the mill-town was credentialed as the 8th highest-ranking person among 10,000 serving the FBI.

But those titles, impressive as they are, obscure the dramatic details of Miller's everyday duties. Ed Miller spent many hours tracking radicals and Communist subversives operating on American soil. Among them was the insidious Weather Underground, led by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and others who today have found reincarnation as tenured professors and "Progressives for Obama." Miller and his men worked hard trying to locate Ayers and Dohrn and friends as the domestic bombers fled law enforcement as literal "Most Wanted" fugitives. It sounds like exciting work, and it was. It was also dangerous.

In Chicago, in October 1969, the Weather Underground launched its brutal Days of Rage, a violent political rampage. The young revolutionaries clashed with over a thousand police. They left over 30 officers (whom they called "pigs") injured and one city official paralyzed. Their organized riot had commenced on October 5, when the "flower children" dynamited the statue commemorating the Chicago police who had been killed in the 1886 Haymarket Riot. It was one of the ugliest days in Chicago history (which is saying something). Comrade Dohrn was anointed the commissar of the "Women's Militia" for the wondrous event. Her beaming beau, Billy Ayers, stood proudly at her side.

Ed Miller's work in Chicago was exciting but also perilous. It was not the most enviable assignment - and would ultimately create havoc in his life. Four years after his retirement, in 1978, Jimmy Carter's Justice Department prosecuted Miller and other agents for authorizing alleged "questionable investigative techniques" in their attempts to find the Weather Underground terrorists. These were techniques the FBI had used for years. Miller's counsel made that case in court. Carter's Justice Department disagreed. It was a slap in the face after so many years of noble service. Even worse, Ayers and Dohrn did no jail time. "Guilty as hell, free as a bird!" Ayers later triumphantly exclaimed.

Miller was buoyed by a strong show of public support, including the presence of a huge number (over 1,000, by one account) of FBI agents who came to the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia in April 1978 to rally behind him during his arraignment. A joint resolution was introduced in Congress by Rep. Leo Zeferetti (D-NY) and Sen. S. I. Hayakawa (R-CA.) urging dismissal of all charges. Nonetheless, the Carter administration's "justice" moved forward, and Miller and his good friends L. Patrick Gray III and Mark Felt - who we now know as Watergate's "Deep Throat" - were convicted in November 1980.

It was grossly unfair. Mercifully, however, the same week that Miller was convicted his countrymen evicted Jimmy Carter from the White House. Ronald Reagan had been outraged by Miller's treatment, and said so openly. Shortly after Reagan's inauguration in January 1981, while Miller's conviction was on appeal, the new president pardoned the FBI veteran, saying in a formal statement:

America was at war in 1972 and Miller followed procedures he believed essential to keep the FBI Director, the Attorney General, and the President of the United States advised of the activities of hostile foreign powers and their collaborators in this country.

In his typical fashion, Reagan went further. He sent a personal letter to Miller on April 28, 1981, not even a full month after being struck by an assassin's bullet, apologizing for the slowness of his pardon. "I'm sorry it took so long," wrote the president, just out of the hospital, "but I couldn't push bureaucracy into a higher speed." Miller had thanked Reagan, but Reagan responded: "You owe me no thanks."

I personally first met Ed Miller only a few months ago, though I knew of him before then. He had contacted me in September 2012 after reading my book The Communist, which examined Frank Marshall Davis, Barack Obama's Communist mentor in Hawaii. Davis had left Chicago's Communist Party USA circles for a new network of agitators in Honolulu. Having been stationed at both the Honolulu and Chicago offices of the FBI, Miller thus knew and worked with several of the figures I chronicled. He wrote to thank me for "sharing" Davis with the people of America. He also informed me how he had been rudely thrust out of lovely Honolulu and into ugly Chicago courtesy of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and friends. In his letter, he remarked almost in passing that "Jimmy Carter persecuted me for trying too hard to capture Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn."

Ed and I met in March 2013, at his modest townhouse in Fairfax, Virginia. His mind was razor sharp, an encyclopedia of dates and names and figures, and he was a ball of energy. He told me about his lifetime of FBI work, showed me personal notes and signed books he received over the years from Richard Nixon, talked about Soviet espionage and its tentacles into America, about the Hawaii and Chicago offices, about the Weather Underground, about Watergate.

As to the latter, Ed Miller was not involved, but he certainly had valuable insight. He was a close friend, after all, of Mark Felt. Ed gave me a copy of a lengthy document he had written on Watergate and endeavored to get into the hands of Bob Woodward. This was something he badly wanted to pass along - one of the final things he wanted to do. He had sent it to Woodward in August 2011 but never heard back. I have a copy of the document, as does Miller's family. From my reading, it contains no bombshell revelation, but it most definitely has unique information of clear value to any student or historian of Watergate, Mark Felt, J. Edgar Hoover, or generally this important period in the history of our government. (Mr. Woodward, are you listening?)

That said, among the most interesting things Ed Miller wanted people to know were his sentiments about the late, great, embattled, and controversial J. Edgar Hoover. What he told me isn't the standard Hoover narrative we hear in Hollywood today. Quite the contrary:

"He was terrific!" Miller said, his eyes wide open, a big smile. "Absolutely brilliant. He was great. And he was sharp as could be."

Miller saw J. Edgar Hoover as a model boss who wanted truth and integrity and "backed us totally and always." He wanted reliable, accurate information from his men. Hoover told Miller and his colleagues: "There's one thing to remember: You need to be entirely objective." This was true for information collection and for the kind of men hired into the agency. Miller recalled an instance where Lyndon Johnson three times sent letters to Hoover demanding that Miller hire a certain individual from New Jersey. This was the typical LBJ political pressure. Miller didn't agree with the hire. A frustrated LBJ called Hoover and asked, "Why do you keep turning down this guy?" Hoover answered: "Because my men don't want him."

When Miller was newly hired as acting director of the Intelligence Division, Hoover asked him to "go over there and remove the bad apples." Hoover was a man of action, quick action. When he hadn't heard back from Miller in three weeks, he called to follow up. Miller answered, "I haven't decided yet." Hoover was silent before saying only "okay." Three weeks later, Hoover called again. Miller responded, "I'm still considering." Hoover gave a short, "Hmmm." Another three weeks passed. This time Miller told Hoover: "I've decided that all the bad apples are already gone." Hoover replied: "Is that your decision?" Miller said "yes." Hoover then finished, "Okay, thank you."

Said Miller: "I gave him not what I thought he wanted but what was best for the FBI, and he appreciated that. He respected that."

In fact, that was indeed what Hoover wanted: what was best for the FBI.

Miller had tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat as he related a final story. Stationed in Hawaii in 1967, he had been invited to speak about the FBI to Marines getting some much needed R&R from Vietnam. (Miller would throughout his life lecture on the FBI, and regularly lectured at the academy at Quantico as late as 2012.) He began by telling the men that the bureau and Marine Corps had much in common; in fact, he added, that very day happened to be the 43rd anniversary of Hoover's start as director of the agency.

Miller was stunned when suddenly, at that simple acknowledgment of Hoover's lengthy tenure, every man in the audience started applauding loudly and vigorously. It wasn't "the usual kind of applause," recalled Miller, "but firm cadence applause where you could hear every beat and they didn't quit."

"I was destroyed," Miller said:

. . . . choked up by two or three hundred young warriors from all over the country whom I thought couldn't have known much about Mr. Hoover, but they did. If only his critics could see this!

Miller promised the young men that if he got the chance he would personally inform Hoover of their appreciation.

He made good on that promise about four-and-a-half years later. Hoover had been taking quite a public beating in the press. Miller felt that Hoover was "really hurting," and he shared the story just as he left the boss's office. The boss heard every word, and didn't respond. Six months later, J. Edgar Hoover was dead.

Asked about the rumors and sexual innuendo regarding Hoover, Miller insisted they were "absolutely false." He said that Hoover and Clyde Tolson (his alleged "partner") lived in separate places and that Hoover was a heterosexual who dated women, including glamorous actress Dorothy Lamour, whom Miller says Hoover nearly married:

She dumped him because he was married to his job, which he was. . . . Hey, he had one hell of an interesting job! And he was always very busy.

Miller chalks up the rumors to Hoover's political enemies, especially the left and far left - and Communists in particular. That is hardly an unreasonable assertion. No one excelled at disinformation and blatantly vicious lies and character assassination quite like the Communist Party. Communists and liberals/"progressives" generally long despised Hoover and the FBI, whom they vigorously portrayed as McCarthyite reprobates and witch-hunters. CPUSA had good reason to hate the FBI. As Miller told me, the FBI's work on "surreptitious entries" (aimed at Soviet agents/espionage) was "what killed Communist Party USA."

It certainly helped. To this day, the left has never forgiven J. Edgar Hoover for his unflagging anti-communism. "He was very conservative," said Miller of Hoover's politics. "And the liberal politicians, especially Frank Church, really went after him. Going after him was a great way for them to get publicity."

I cannot confirm all that Miller told me about Hoover (especially about the Tolson and sexual allegations), but his take on the left's contempt and attacks on Hoover absolutely makes sense.

After a conversation that went way too long, I left for the snowy drive back to Grove City. Ed Miller gave me a parting gift: an American flag. That, too, absolutely makes sense. If there was one thing that Ed Miller loved more than the FBI and his family, it was America and that flag. He served it dutifully.

Ed Miller passed away on July 1, 2013, surrounded by Pat, his beloved wife of six decades, and his three children and their families. It was a life of integrity, well lived, fascinating and full - including full of faith for his family, country, and for God.

Ed Miller, FBI man, requiescat in pace. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:11

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).

Clintons' Progress: Bill and Hillary Clinton Embrace Gay Marriage

Bill and Hillary Clinton have endorsed gay marriage, completely reversing their support of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton calls herself a "progressive." It's funny, I wrote an entire book on Hillary Clinton, and never once heard her call herself a "progressive."

Well, that's just as well. The progressive tag fits best. After all, that's what she and other liberals are doing: they are ever evolving, changing, progressing along to something. Their positions are forever in flux, with the only commonality being that they favor more government centralization to handle perceived injustices. The evolution across issues is so vast, so unceasing, that no progressive can tell you where they will stand years from now. They merely know they're progressing.

The marriage issue is an excellent case in point. No progressive 100 years ago could have conceived of gay marriage. In fact, merely a decade-and-a-half ago, the entirety of the Democratic Party supported traditional marriage, codified under law. And yet, Democrats turned on a dime in faithful obedience to Barack Obama's mountaintop-message sanctifying gay marriage a year ago.

Obama promised "change" and "fundamental transformation." His faithful supporters roared approval, projecting upon his blank screen whatever they had in mind. In Obama's mind, this included bestowing unto himself the monumental ability to literally redefine marriage, granting himself and his government a power heretofore reserved for the laws of nature and nature's God.

As for the Clintons, consider their change, their fundamental transformation, their progress on this bedrock issue:

As noted, in 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act. The Arkansas Baptist stood for marriage as always understood.

As for Hillary, the lifelong Methodist was firmly in the camp of not rendering to government the ability to redefine marriage. Her youth pastor and mentor, the Rev. Don Jones, once said: "She is for gay rights. . . . But I think both she and Bill still think of heterosexuality as normative."

Yes, they did. Campaigning for the Senate in 2000, Hillary insisted:

Marriage has historic, religious, and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.

In 2003, she reaffirmed: "marriage . . . should be kept as it historically has been." She continued that position throughout the 2008 Democratic primaries.

Alas, jump ahead to last March, where Hillary proudly proclaimed:

LGBT Americans are ... full and equal citizens and deserve the rights of citizenship. That includes gay marriage.

Gee, what happened?

Well, if you're confused, you need to unravel the illogic of progressive ideology. By progressive thinking, the Hillary and Bill of, say, 5, 10, 15, or 50 years ago were not finished progressing. This should also mean that the Clintons were in fact wrong at each way-station in their journey to today's progressive "truth" on marriage. Thus, too, it should mean that every Democrat who agreed with them was wrong. Current progressive ideology asserts that only current progressives are currently "right" on marriage.

Are you with me?

But here's the kicker: How can the Clintons - or any modern progressive - know they're right now? How do they know they've progressed to the "correct" point on marriage? Progress, after all, never stops progressing.

And so, for progressives, where's their next redefinition in the ongoing process of redefining marriage? Does the evolution end with one man and one woman, or one man and one man, or one woman and one woman? Why could it not next progress to one man and multiple women? Could it involve an adult and a minor? Could their evolving redefinition include first cousins or a parent and child? Could it include multiple heterosexuals or homosexuals in single or even joint or group spousal relationships?

The answer: progressives, by their very definition, cannot answer you.

We do know, however, that progressives are happy to do with marriage what they do with everything: hand it over to the federal government. Render under government what is government's. And what is government's province? It's anything progressives decide.

As for Bill Clinton, who once assured us "the era of big government is over," he's on board for the grand project.

Progressives might disagree with conservatives, but at least they know where conservatives stand: we look to tradition, to Biblical law, to Natural Law, to time-tested things worth conserving. We see marriage best as it has been since the Garden of Eden. We can tell you our end-goal, our ideal. Progressives cannot.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a train-wreck of an ideology, with literally no end to its havoc. It is currently careening into the most fundamental building block of human civilization: the family.

The Progressive Income Tax Turns 100

Maybe it's a measure of progressives' refusal to look back, to always move "forward." Otherwise, they should be celebrating right now. In fact, President Obama and fellow modern progressives/liberals should be ecstatic all this year, rejoicing over the centenary of something so fundamental to their ideology, to their core goals of government, to their sense of economic and social justice - to what Obama once called "redistributive change."

And what is this celebratory thing to the progressive mind?

It is the progressive income tax. This year it turns 100. Its permanent establishment was set forth in two historic moments: 1) an amendment to the Constitution (the 16th Amendment), ratified February 3, 1913; and 2) its signing into law by the progressive's progressive, President Woodrow Wilson, October 3, 1913. It was a major political victory for Wilson and fellow progressives then and still today. By my math, that ought to mean a long, sustained party by today's progressives, a period of extended thanksgiving.

President Obama once charged that "tax cuts for the wealthy" are the Republicans' "Holy Grail." Tax cuts form "their central economic doctrine." Well, the federal income tax is the Democrats' Holy Grail. For progressives/liberals, it forms their central economic doctrine.

As merely one illustration among many I could give, former DNC head Howard Dean and MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell were recently inveighing against Republican tax cuts. Dean extolled "what an increase in the top tax rate actually does." He insisted:

. . . that's what governments do - is redistribute. The argument is not whether they should redistribute or not, the question is how much we should redistribute. . . . The purpose of government is to make sure that capitalism works for everybody. . . . It's government's job to redistribute.

What Dean said is, in a few lines, a cornerstone of the modern progressive manifesto. For Dean and President Obama and allies, a federal income tax based on graduated or progressive rates embodies and enables government's primary "job" and "purpose." They embrace a progressive tax for the chief intention of wealth redistribution, which, in turn, allows for income leveling, income "equality," and for government to do the myriad things that progressives ever-increasingly want government to do.

And so, in 1913, progressives struck gold. The notion of taxing income wasn't entirely new. Such taxes existed before, albeit temporarily, at very small levels, and for national emergencies like war. The idea of a permanent tax for permanent income redistribution broke new ground. The only debate was the exact percentage of the tax. In no time, progressives learned they could never get enough.

In 1913, when the progressive income tax began (and the first 1040 form, with instructions, was only four pages long), the top rate was a mere 7 percent, applied only to the fabulously wealthy (incomes above $500,000). By the time Woodrow Wilson left office in 1921, the great progressive had hiked the upper rate to 73 percent. World War I (for America, 1917-18) had given Wilson a short-term justification, but so did Wilson's passion for a robust "administrative state."

Disagreeing with Wilson were the Republication administrations of Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, his immediate successors. Along with their Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, they reduced the upper rate, eventually bringing it down to 25 percent by 1925. In response, the total revenue to the federal Treasury increased significantly, from $700 million to $1 billion, and the budget was repeatedly in surplus.

Unfortunately, the rate began increasing under Herbert Hoover, a progressive Republican, who jacked the top rate to 63 percent. It soon skyrocketed to 94 percent under another legendary progressive, F.D.R., who, amazingly, once considered a top rate of 99.5 percent on income above $100,000 (yes, you read that right).

Appalled by this was an actor named Ronald Reagan, himself a progressive Democrat - though not for much longer. Reagan often noted that Karl Marx, in his Communist Manifesto (1848), demanded a permanent "heavy progressive or graduated income tax." Indeed, it's point 2 in Marx's 10-point program, second only to his call for "abolition of property."

The upper tax rate wasn't reduced substantially until 1965, when it came down to 70 percent. President Ronald Reagan took it down to 28 percent. And despite claims to the contrary, federal revenues under Reagan increased (as they did in the 1920s), rising from $600 billion to nearly $1 trillion. (The Reagan deficits were caused by excessive spending and decreased revenue from the 1981-3 recession.)

The upper rate increased again (to 31 percent) under George H. W. Bush and under Bill Clinton (39.6 percent). George W. Bush cut it to 35 percent. Barack Obama has returned it to the Clinton level of 39.6 percent.

Here in 2013, 100 years henceforth, the wealthiest Americans - the top 10 percent of which already pay over 70 percent of federal tax revenue - will be paying more in taxes this year than any time in the last 30 years. For progressives, this is justice. But it is also bittersweet: As progressives know deep inside, it still isn't enough. For them, it's never enough.

To that end, my enduring question for progressives is one they typically avoid answering, especially those holding elected office: In your perfect world, where, exactly, would you position the top rate? I routinely hear numbers in the 50-70 percent-plus range.

Democrats like President Obama complain about Republican "intransigence" in raising tax rates but, truth be told - and as any liberal really knows - if it wasn't for Republican resistance, progressives would rarely, if ever, cut taxes. America would remain on a one-way upward trajectory in tax rates, just like under Woodrow Wilson and F.D.R., and just as it has been in its unrestrained spending for nearly 50 years. Like their refusal to cut spending (other than on defense), progressives are dragged kicking and screaming into tax cuts. They need high income taxes for the government planning and redistributing they want to do; for Obama's sense of redistributive justice.

This year, the progressive income tax turns 100. For progressives, getting it implemented was a huge triumph. Their success in making it a permanent part of the American landscape is a more stunning achievement still.

Remembering Herb Romerstein - Death of a Cold Warrior and National Treasure.

Every human life is special, unique, unrepeatable - to borrow from Pope John Paul II. Every loss of life is a loss. Some losses, however, seem larger, leaving a void no one else can fill. When some people go, too much goes with them. That's undoubtedly the case with the loss of Herbert Romerstein, who died this May after a long illness. With Herb's passing, we lose not only a good guy, but a vast reservoir of knowledge that is not replaceable. If only we could have downloaded the man's brain. Alas, we could not, and our knowledge of the 20th century is suddenly less than it was.

Herb knew the Cold War and Communist movement unlike anyone. He understood it because he lived it and breathed it. Born in Brooklyn in 1931, he himself had been a Communist, having joined the Communist Youth League before becoming a card-carrying member of Communist Party USA (CPUSA). He broke ranks over 60 years ago, the final straw being the Korean War, which made clear to him that he was dealing with inveterate liars, whether in Korea, Moscow, or among Communists on the home-front. He went on to become one of America's best anti-communists and most respected authorities, regularly testifying before Congress. He became a chief investigator for the House Committee on Internal Security. In the 1980s, he joined the Reagan administration, where his full-time job at the U.S. Information Agency was to counter Soviet disinformation, a duty for which few were so well-equipped or enthusiastic. He relished the role of taking on professional Soviet propagandists such as Georgi Arbatov and Valentin Falin. Later, he did the highly touted analysis of the Venona transcripts, which he published as The Venona Secrets.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I cannot do justice to how this translated into action. I never tire of listening to stories from Herb's longtime friend Charlie Wiley on how they penetrated the Communist-run World Youth Festivals in the 1950s, or challenged a Soviet official successfully spooning the Party line to open-mouthed progressives at the All Souls Church in New York, or tossed a wrench into this or that meeting of Communist youth leaders. Guys like this were one-of-a-kind who lived life to its fullest. They were warriors - unafraid, cheerful, colorful, Cold Warriors.

I first met Herb Romerstein in June 2005. I was writing a book on Ronald Reagan and the end of the Cold War, which became The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism. I was nearing the end of the manuscript when I got a remarkable email from Marko Suprun, whose father had survived the 1930s Ukrainian genocide perpetrated by Stalin. I didn't know Marko, but he brought to my attention a stunning document, a highly sensitive May 1983 letter from the head of the KGB, Viktor Chebrikov, to the head of the Soviet Union, the odious Yuri Andropov. The letter concerned a secret offer by Senator Ted Kennedy that, in effect, sought to undermine President Reagan's security policy and perhaps his reelection bid. It allegedly came from Soviet archives in Moscow. I embarked upon a long process of confirming the letter's authenticity. I exchanged emails with Walter Zaryckyj, who had turned the document over to Marko for translation. Walter immediately recommended I contact Herb Romerstein. If anyone could confirm this, it was Herb, said Walter, describing Herb as a "national treasure."

I talked to Herb and he assuaged me. "Don't worry," he assured. "It's real. Take it to the bank."

I spent the next few months confirming what Herb had told me from the outset. Yes, it was real.

This began a partnership and friendship. Herb loved the fact that I was a Cold War researcher half his age and planning to do more, including a book on Cold War dupes - a unique category of Cold War individuals that Herb knew too well. He took me under his wing, eager to provide counsel on anything related to the Cold War. Having access to his mind was like having the Library of Congress, the FBI files, the Soviet archives, Daily Worker microfiche, thousands of congressional reports, and CPUSA holdings all rolled into one, retrievable by a quick phone call or email from my BlackBerry. The process would go something like this: "Hi, Herb. A question on Arthur Miller: Did he ever join the Party?" The response was instantaneous:

In 1956, Arthur Miller testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. They published his Party application card. You can find it in the official report on the hearings. He wrote for New Masses: the Daily Worker loved him. . . .

We would meet in-person (less often, unfortunately) during my visits to Washington to do research. Herb introduced me to the Soviet Comintern Archives on CPUSA. He showed me how to use them, helped me get my library card - covering all bases. I fondly remember when he first introduced me to M. Stanton Evans. We spent hours at Stan's office one summer afternoon going over everything imaginable on Soviet penetration of the Roosevelt administration and other vital areas in the 1930s and 1940s. We also had lunch at the Hawk n' Dove on Capitol Hill, a favorite place of Herb's and Stan's.

Why their interest in me? Because, as they openly admitted, they were getting old and "wouldn't be around much longer." They were hoping I would be. There weren't many of them left. I was one of a very small few to whom they might pass the torch.

Fittingly, on my desk right now is a copy of Herb's final work, Stalin's Secret Agents, co-authored with Stan Evans. It's a superb must-read. We've waited years for the book's material on Alger Hiss alone.

Certain Herb aphorisms related to the Cold War stick in my mind, resounding there in the sound of his scratchy, whispery voice:

I asked him if there was a particular group of Americans most susceptible to being duped by Communists. His immediate answer:

The Religious Left, Paul, especially from the mainline Protestant denominations. They were the biggest suckers of them all.

And what of American Communists, especially those who went so far as to join CPUSA? Said Herb: "They were loyal Soviet patriots." As Herb knew, they were dedicated first and foremost to Mother Russia. CPUSA members "were not the useful idiots," not the "suckers;" they were not the dupes. Quite the contrary, said Herb:

They were fully aware of exactly what they were doing. They manipulated the useful idiots on behalf of Soviet interests.

Another:

From 1919, when it [the American Communist Party] was formed, to 1989, when the Soviet Union collapsed, it was under total Soviet control.

And then there were his judicious warnings about this or that suspected Communist:

Be careful, Paul. That guy was not a Communist. He was a fellow traveler, to some degree - a dupe - but not a Communist. And the other guy, he was a small 'c' communist who never joined the Party.

That last warning holds a crucial lesson very revealing of Herb Romerstein and his work: He was no bomb-thrower. He was the epitome of responsible, informed, anti-communism. He was careful about drawing the necessary lines of distinction between a liberal, a liberal anti-communist, a genuine progressive, a closet Communist masquerading as a "progressive," a socialist, a small "c" or big "C" communist/Communist, a Party member or non-Party member, and so forth. He never wanted to falsely accuse anyone. I doubt his detractors on the left will pause to credit him for such prudence. For many on the left, every anti-communist rightly concerned with Soviet agents or agents of influence was merely another burgeoning Joe McCarthy.

Herb Romerstein was anything but. And he wanted those of us who follow in his footsteps, or who are concerned about Communism still - and about truth above all - to be likewise as careful and thoughtful. Perhaps our best tribute to Herb's memory would be to do our best to expose what he exposed and remind Americans and the world of what he reminded.

Herbert Romerstein was indeed a national treasure: A happy warrior who fought the good fight, and left the wrong side for the right side. Well done, my friend. Rest in peace. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:02

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).

Well Done, Lady Thatcher - The Passing of the Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher, one of the greatest leaders of the Cold War, of the 20th century, and of British history, has died at the age of 87.

I've referred to her as one of my Cold War seven: Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Boris Yeltsin, and Margaret Thatcher. They were the seven figures who dissolved an Evil Empire, and only Walesa and Gorbachev still remain with us.

The world dubbed her the Iron Lady, a title that duly fits. Many, however, mistake the Iron Lady moniker as referring solely to her strength in the Cold War. There was much more to it. Consider:

Margaret Thatcher is arguably the most complete British leader of the last 100 years, surpassing even Winston Churchill. Like Churchill, she was tough and successful in foreign policy, taking on and vanquishing totalitarian evil. Churchill warned the world as the Iron Curtain descended across Europe. Decades later, the world celebrated as the Iron Lady helped break the Iron Curtain.

But unlike Churchill, Margaret Thatcher had enormous domestic successes that Churchill couldn't touch, and didn't dare try to touch. When World War II closed, the British people booted Churchill from the prime ministership in preference of Labour leader Clement Attlee, who gave the British populace Keynesian socialism. The masses wanted their welfare state, and Attlee, equipped with promises of "change" and "forward," gave them a fundamental transformation. In no time, Attlee's party was spending money unlike anything Britain had ever seen, nationalizing everything under the sun, including with the progressive left's coup de grace: government healthcare. It was a giant government binge that would bury Britain for decades.

This fundamental transformation to welfare-statism was so thorough, and so imbibed by the electorate, that when Churchill later returned to office for another term (1951-55) the World War II hero couldn't stand up to the sacred cows of Britain's new nanny state. By the late 1970s, the United Kingdom was smothered not only by massive government expenditures and debt, but by the enormous and disastrous government unions that the Labour Party had built and nurtured.

All of this came to a crashing head in the late 1970s, and fittingly under the Labour Party, this time led by Prime Minister James Callaghan. The signature event was the Winter of Discontent (1978-79). The economy was an utter train wreck, debt-ridden and hampered by a prolonged un-recovering "recovery." Things were made far worse by continual work stoppages by striking public-sector unions. Given that the government ran just about everything, thanks to decades of the British left nationalizing everything, there was garbage literally rotting in the streets and dead people not being buried because of striking government refuse workers and gravediggers.

Things got so bad that the British electorate was willing to elect a bona fide conservative to run their government: Margaret Thatcher. This was not some squishy moderate that we in the United States would have called a Rockefeller Republican or (today) a RINO. This was the real McCoy; the genuine article. Here was a new leader who actually understood and could articulate what was wrong with Britain - and had the courage to do something about it.

And so, Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first-ever female prime minister, embarked upon an extraordinary run from 1979-90 that featured three consecutive electoral victories, including the landslide that brought her to power. She then proceeded to take on not just the Soviets abroad, but, at home, the powerful government unions, the Keynesian spending, the bloated cradle-to-grave welfare state, the punitive taxes, the burdensome regulations, and decades of government nationalizations/seizures. As to the latter, Thatcher began a comprehensive campaign of privatization that returned freedom, solvency, and sanity to Britain.

It was an amazing performance. You can now expect a remarkable outpouring of emotion and appreciation in Britain, much like what America saw with the death of Ronald Reagan and what the world witnessed with the passing of John Paul II, her two Cold War partners and kindred souls. And like her two great Cold War allies, she fortunately lived to see the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Lady Thatcher outlived both Reagan and John Paul II. Her health, unfortunately, had been in decline for a long time. I recall that she recorded a video eulogy for Reagan's funeral rather than address the audience live and directly. That was 2004, almost 10 years ago.

I also recall her parting words to Ronald Reagan: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

And now, we can second that tribute. Well done, Lady Thatcher.

Ronald Reagan: Same-sex Marriage Advocate?

Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, recently speculated on where her father might stand on same-sex marriage. Politico published her thoughts under the headline, "Patti Davis says Reagan wouldn't have opposed gay marriage."

The impact of the article was immediate. A quick Google search yielded multiple follow-up articles and blog posts. Liberals nationwide were off and running with a new same-sex marriage endorsement: this one from Reagan, the conservative's conservative.

This is not the first time liberals have rushed to recast Reagan according to their policy preferences. Immediately after his death in June 2004, he was trotted out as a poster-boy for embryonic stem-cell research.

Please, not so fast.

In Davis' defense, she starts with a crucial point about her father, one liberals had utterly refused while the man was alive: "He was a very tolerant person."

Indeed, Reagan was tolerant - on religion, on race, on ethnic differences, on differences of opinion on many things, and also toward gays. As Davis notes, "He did not have prejudices against gay people." Davis gives just a few of many examples.

But she then goes where I don't think we should. She states of her father and same-sex marriage:

I don't think he would stand in the way of it, at all. I don't think he would stand in the way of two people wanting to make a commitment to one another.

Davis then uses an argument that is libertarian (which Reagan was not), and which fails to understand the essence of conservatives' objection to same-sex marriage:

I also think because he wanted government out of peoples' lives, he would not understand the intrusion of government banning such a thing. This is not what he would have thought government should be doing.

The problem with that statement, applied to the same-sex marriage debate, is this: Conservatives object to the federal government rendering unto itself the unprecedented ability to redefine marriage. Such is a massive step toward government intervention (one that should worry libertarians), toward powerful government, toward big government - not restrained and limited government.

It is a step that breaks entirely new ground in not only American history, but human history, one with unimaginable and extraordinary effects yet to come on the family, the culture, the economy, government services and (among others) the court system.

The essence of conservatism is to preserve and conserve time-tested values that have endured for good reason and for the best of society and for order. Conservatives - which is what Reagan was - aim to conserve. By their nature and definition, conservatives do not rush into radical changes or what they fear may be another fad or fashion or popular demand. They also, by their definition, ground their ideals in both natural law and biblical law.

I know that secular liberals don't want to hear religious arguments against same-sex marriage, but, if we're talking about Reagan (and conservatives), we cannot exclude them.

Contrary to the image of him as president, Reagan was very religious and would not have so easily consented to a culture suddenly demanding the right to redefine what the scriptures (Old Testament and New Testament) say clearly about a man and a woman leaving their parents and coming together to form one flesh in marriage.

Reagan's religious roots were deep, inculcated by his mother, an extremely devout, traditional Christian, and others who profoundly influenced him in Dixon, Illinois, in the 1920s. He said that "everything" he learned about the values that shaped his life and presidency he learned back in Dixon. It was his "inheritance," one that never left him. Needless to say, Reagan did not learn to support same-sex marriage in Dixon.

Moreover, Reagan was unwavering in his conviction of the importance of a father and a mother raising children and the next generation of American citizens and understood marriage as a vital bond between a man and a woman.

To cite just one example from the final days of his presidency (January 12, 1989), Reagan insisted that:

We must teach youngsters the beauty of the loving, lifelong relationship between husband and wife that is marriage.

Yes, Reagan was tolerant of gay people - as is everyone I know who opposes same-sex marriage - but that in no way means he would have advocated redefining marriage. Toleration of something certainly does not automatically translate into advocating its legalization.

We could list innumerable things that we tolerate - including from friends and family and loved ones - but wouldn't argue legalizing. Even then, that's not quite the issue. The issue, after all, isn't whether homosexuality should be legal (no one objects to that) but whether marriage will now begin a long process of continual redefinition.

It's a form of intellectual laziness for liberals/progressives to reflexively assume that anyone who disagrees with them on redefining marriage is a recalcitrant bigot with no possible legitimate reasons.

After all, same-sex marriage opponents are adhering to the prevailing definition of marriage according to its literal and ancient roots; they believe in the cross-cultural norm that humanity has adhered to since the dawn of humanity, to a human understanding as old as the Garden of Eden. It's remarkably shortsighted to dismiss them as hopeless bigots.

That brings me back to Ronald Reagan.

It's funny, people on the political left spent eight years calling Reagan a bigot. When liberals weren't denouncing him as an unregenerate racist - the single most unfair charge unceasingly flung at Reagan - they were saying that he didn't like gay people and did nothing about AIDS because he was happy to let gays die.

Davis remembers this well, as she does the vicious accusation that her father was a nuclear warmonger. To say that liberals were unhinged in their nastiness to Reagan is insufficient. Now, in his death, they'd like to remold him in their own image, crowning him a poster boy for same-sex marriage.

The simple truth is that Reagan was a committed and principled conservative who had thoughtful and firmly grounded reasons for his positions. That, too, ironically, is a fact that liberals ignored, caricaturing Reagan as an idiot, a simpleton, an "amiable dunce," as Clark Clifford famously called him.

He would not have merrily hopped on the same-sex marriage bandwagon without first carefully considering how the issue fit with his understanding of the laws of nature and nature's God, of the first things and first principles that conservatives of Reagan's generation spent years discussing at great length in their books and publications and conferences.

Could we at least agree on this much?

Reagan was silent on same-sex marriage, as was everyone of his generation. He, like all liberals of his time, could not have conceived of same-sex marriage, and he, like the entirety of the Democratic Party just a decade or two ago, unwaveringly supported traditional marriage.

Preserving Hugo Chavez

The gushing, almost angelic praise for Hugo Chavez by the left in America and around the world has been shocking to behold, but hardly surprising. I will not bother repeating the litany here. Rather, I'd like to focus on another surreal aspect of Chavez's death - namely, the rush to preserve and display his body, so the faithful may pilgrimage and pay homage for decades to come.

Here again, I'm sadly not surprised. The far left has never been shy about venerating its heroes. This is supremely ironic, given that many of the subjects of veneration, as well as those doing the venerating, were not merely agnostics and atheists but militantly so. Recent examples include Asian Communists Mao Tse-Tung and Ho Chi Minh, but the best example remains Vladimir Lenin.

Upon his death in January 1924, Lenin's body was embalmed and preserved in a tomb, actually a shrine, in Red Square, whereby the faithful could forever honor the Great One. Etched in the marble holding the Bolshevik godfather's body is this inscription: "Lenin: The Savior of the World."

For an atheist state angrily committed to a war on religion, this would seem odd. In fact, however, it is precisely what we came to expect from Communist regimes. In short order after Lenin's death, poems and songs were written in praise of the "eternal" Lenin who "is always with us." Yuri Gagarin, the first Soviet cosmonaut, visited Lenin's mausoleum immediately before his flight so he could meditate over Lenin's rotting flesh and draw strength for his mission. Later, Gagarin returned to the sacred site to report to Lenin on his mission.

The "Leninization" of the Soviet state's spiritual life quickly took flight. Throughout the USSR, "Lenin Corners" were established, modeled on the Icon Corners of the Russian Orthodox Church. These mini-shrines included icon-like paintings of Lenin along with his words and writings.

A "secular religion" was established, one that, as noted by Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin's biographer, demanded "unquestioning obedience" from its disciples. So certain was the Party of Lenin's infallibility that in 1925, one year after his death, the Politburo established a special laboratory to remove, dissect, and study Lenin's inactive brain. The purpose, said Volkogonov, was to show the world that the man's great, infallible ideas had been hatched from an almost supernatural mind.

This nonsense (if not blasphemy) continued for decades. Just ask any former Soviet citizen who suffered through the extended nightmare. A Ukrainian citizen, Olena Doviskaya, once told me: "Everywhere you went, there were statues everywhere of Lenin. They wanted you to worship Lenin."

Most curious about this Lenin reverence and mysticism is the fact that Lenin himself considered any worship of a divinity an outrage. Lenin blasted the notion of "god-building." He thought the most horribly unimaginable things about religion, calling religion "abominable" and "a necrophilia." A vicious, hateful man, Lenin might have hastily shot those responsible for deifying him.

Nonetheless, Communists and certain elements of the far left have engaged in such behavior for a long time, readily placing their faith in (leftist) men and replacing traditional religion - Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. - with a Marxism or socialism that they essentially treat as a religion. Brian Lowe of the University of Virginia notes that in the Soviet system, Marx was the Messiah, the Party was the Church, the Proletariat was the Elect, the Revolution was the Second Coming, and more. The Communist Manifesto was accorded a level of sanctity approaching Holy Scripture. Marx and Lenin and Stalin were deemed other worldly.

All of which brings me back to Hugo Chavez and his enshrinement - and its paradoxes.

Chavez comes from a Roman Catholic country, whereas Lenin came from a Russian Orthodox country. In both the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox traditions, presumed saints - people who lived uniquely holy lives - have been placed in special tombs for purposes of veneration and to see if their dead body is ultimately incorruptible, divinely protected on earth even in death.

The Bolsheviks turned this upside down. They created atheist museums where dead priests/saints were displayed with worm-holes and other decay. They attempted to pose this in contrast to Lenin's incorruptibility, even as the jaundiced Lenin consistently required removal and re-embalming and re-waxing.

And so, is the left currently in the process of enshrining Hugo Chavez's body as a form of saintly veneration? Will he become a symbol of the left's sacred cows of collectivism, wealth redistribution, and nationalization?

Don't ever let anyone tell you that secular/atheistic progressives and socialists don't have saints and martyrs. They're every bit as faithful as the most Bible-thumping fundamentalist. And with the death and preservation of Hugo Chavez, they might be preparing themselves a new saint. *

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 10:54

Kengor Writes . . .

Kengor Writes . . .

Paul Kengor

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. These articles are republished from V & V, a web site of the Center for Vision & Values. Paul Kengor is author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004) and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007). His latest book is The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007).

The End of the Reagan Era?

With Barack Obama's second inauguration, liberals are touting an altogether new epoch: the end of the Reagan era.

Unfortunately, I believe they are largely correct. We are witnessing a period of left-wing ascendance, marked by gay marriage, forced taxpayer funding of abortion, an exploding government class, and big government. As to the latter, Ronald Reagan had declared in his first inaugural: "government is not the solution . . . government is the problem." The first Democrat to follow Reagan, Bill Clinton, similarly stated "the era of big government is over." Clinton's affirmation was also affirmation of the Reagan era.

Then came Barack Obama. Just days after his 2009 inauguration, Obama proclaimed: "the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life." He said "only government" could alter our "vicious cycle."

Obama had repudiated Reagan, and the electorate would again reward him four years later. What Obama called for in 2009 seems to be the new American spirit in 2013.

But is it? Well, the answer is complicated.

For one, Barack Obama is undoing the Reagan era courtesy of an American public that exhibits utterly schizophrenic voting behavior. Let history record a confounding reality that will baffle future historians: The Obama era supplanted the Reagan era thanks to a voting public that adores Reagan, judges him our greatest of presidents, and overwhelmingly calls itself conservative rather than liberal. All unbelievable, yes, but true. Consider the facts:

For a long time now, starting with the Reagan presidency, Americans have described themselves as "conservative" rather than "liberal" by margins of roughly two-to-one. Generally, self-identified liberals have hovered around the 20 percent level, while conservatives have ranged in the upper-30 percent, sometimes above 40 percent.

Surely this must have changed in 2008, with Obama's election? No, despite Obama winning the presidency by 54 to 46 percent, 21 percent of Americans who voted said they were liberal vs. 38 percent who said they were conservative.

If that seems contradictory for a nation that voted for a man from the far left as president . . . well, it is. But it gets worse.

A major Gallup poll conducted from January to May 2009, at the height of "Obama mania," found more self-described conservatives than liberals not only by 40 percent to 21 percent but in literally all 50 states. That's correct, all 50 states, from California to Massachusetts. And that electorate chose Obama.

It also chose Reagan. During that same period, a remarkable survey was done by Clarus Research Group, which asked Americans which president should be the model for Barack Obama in shaping his presidency. Their top choice was America's most conservative president: Ronald Reagan.

How could that be? Answer: it cannot. It is impossible.

And yet, it isn't a shock that Americans would look to Reagan as their model. Two years after the Clarus survey, a Gallup poll released for Presidents Day 2011 ranked Reagan the "greatest president" of all time, garnering 19 percent of the vote among 44 presidents, beating Lincoln fairly soundly, who finished second at 14 percent. Gallup began asking the "greatest president" question in 1999. Of the 13 times Gallup has done the survey, the public placed Reagan first four times-2001, 2005, 2011, and 2012.

How does that same citizenry twice elect Barack Obama? That's a very good question.

Well, maybe this long admiration for Reagan conservatism suddenly changed in November 2012?

No, though liberals did draw a little closer. According to CNN exit polling, 35 percent of voters on November 6, 2012, described themselves as "conservative" and 25 percent chose "liberal." This was identical to a Pew poll.

Importantly, some observers dispute these self-designations, insisting that many of those who call themselves conservative really aren't. Here and there, that may be true. Overall, however, I think the designations are fairly accurate. When you break down the data, and ask questions like whether voters prefer more taxes and more government, they generally don't - even when they vote that way.

So, what does all of this mean?

It means that a self-described conservative, Reagan-loving electorate has twice voted for a hardcore leftist, Barack Obama, to, in effect, end the Reagan era. That wasn't the intent, but that's the result.

I'll end with a dose of Reagan optimism: It also means that the Reagan ideal is not over. I believe that most Americans (for now) still prefer Reagan's principles and view of government over Obama's. The Reagan principles are ultimately time-tested and true; they are the universal, unalienable principles of the Founders, rooted in eternal Judeo-Christian beliefs and Natural Law.

The Reagan vision and values are already here, ready to be tapped and again prevail. They merely require the right spokesman, and Barack Obama's exit from the presidency.

The Fiscal Cliff: What Would Reagan Do?

As President Obama and Democrats urge Republicans to increase taxes, some liberals are curiously invoking the name of Ronald Reagan, the ultimate tax-cutting Republican. They insist that even Reagan was willing to compromise with Democrats on tax increases; thus, John Boehner and Republicans should as well. In truth, this is (at best) a false parallel.

It is correct that Ronald Reagan occasionally compromised on certain tax increases, as he did in 1982. He did so in exchange for promised spending cuts from Democrats that never materialized, to his great regret. Reagan would constantly point back to this broken promise by Democrats.

More importantly, however, President Reagan never budged on income taxes. He flatly refused to increase income taxes, which is what President Obama demands of Republicans. Reagan understood that not all taxes, and thus not all tax increases, were equal.

For insight into Ronald Reagan's thinking, consider what he did in 1981, when faced with a stagnant economy: At his California ranch on August 13, 1981, Reagan, working with a Democratic House and Republican Senate, secured a 25 percent across-the-board reduction in income tax rates over a three-year period beginning in October 1981. Eventually, through this and later cuts, the upper income-tax rate was slashed from 70 percent to 28 percent.

After a slow start through 1982-83, the stimulus effect of the tax cuts was extraordinary, sparking a huge peacetime economic expansion. The "Reagan Boom" produced not only prosperity but - along with the Soviet collapse that he worked to precipitate - helped generate budget surpluses in the 1990s.

And contrary to the history that liberals continue to rewrite, the Reagan tax cuts did not decrease the revenue to the U.S. Treasury. To the contrary, tax revenues under Reagan rose from $599 billion in 1981 to nearly $1 trillion in 1989. The problem was that outlays (i.e., government spending) all along exceeded revenues, soaring from $678 billion in 1981 to $1.143 trillion in 1989.

The cause of the Reagan deficits -bear in mind that Reagan inherited a chronic deficit - was the decline in revenue from the 1982-83 recession and (as is always the case) excessive federal spending.

Spending has long been, and still remains, the primary reason for our fiscal crisis. This has been especially true since the massive growth of the federal government began in the 1960s by LBJ's Great Society.

Proof of this is as easy as Googling the words "historical tables deficit." You will see two go-to sources for budget data: "OMB historical tables" and "CBO historical tables." "OMB" is Office of Management and Budget. "CBO" is Congressional Budget Office. To keep it simple, look at the data from OMB, President Obama's own budget office. At the OMB link is Table 1.1, "Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits: 1789-2016," an official report of all federal spending since the founding of the republic.

A close read of that chart offers a stunning display in fiscal irresponsibility. As the first two columns show, receipts (i.e., revenues) and outlays (i.e., expenditures) moved up and down throughout the first roughly 180 years of our history. In 1965, however, something historically perverse began: Spending started increasing every single year, without exception, into the Obama presidency, from 1965-2009. A slight decrease came only in 2010, but then spending promptly ratcheted right back up, and remains on a steady upward trajectory through 2017.

There are few constants in the universe: gravity is one, the sun is another. Add another: spending by Washington; it goes up every year.

Worse, in 2009, President Obama and the Democratic Congress responded to the slow economy with a gigantic spending infusion: an $800-billion "stimulus" package that further exploded our record deficit/debt. The "stimulus" was a costly waste that continues to bury us.

In short, this is why Republicans should not agree to Democrats' demands for tax increases. This nation has a spending problem - a grave one - not a tax-revenue problem. Our problem today is reckless big government.

At his 1981 inaugural, Ronald Reagan, referring to the economic crisis he faced, declared that "government is not the solution ... government is the problem."

Just days after his inaugural, Barack Obama professed the opposite:

[A]t this particular moment, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life. It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money which leads to even more layoffs.

To repeat: Ronald Reagan never budged on marginal income-tax rates. He decreased them, big-time. Barack Obama is demanding that they be increased. Ronald Reagan, we suspect, would be fully supportive of current Republicans holding their ground on tax rates - especially given our federal government's unparalleled inability to control its reckless spending.

On Russia's Adoption Ban

Vladimir Putin has sparked international outcry by banning adoptions of Russian children by American families. His action immediately halted the departure of hundreds of Russian orphans about to board planes to journey to a new life. It was a cruel move, widely condemned as "callous" and "vindictive."

No country adopts as many Russian children as America. According to the State Department, there have been 60,000 adoptions by American couples since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. That has now suddenly ended.

Why would Putin do this? The main reason seems to be retaliation for a recent U.S. law aimed at curtailing human-rights abuses by Russia's corrupt government. The Magnitsky Act bans Russian officials who have committed abuses from entry into the United States. The ban on U.S. adoptions by Putin and his cronies appears to be retaliation.

Yet, there is a possible added motivation to Putin's action. Consider:

The reality is that Russia continues to bleed population. For about a decade and a half now, projections have been that Russia's population will plummet from 140-150 million to 104 million by 2050. What are the chief causal factors in this? There are several, but among the biggest is abortion, which occurs in Russia at an astonishingly high level. Putin has tried to slow the hemorrhage, but has failed to do so.

A little background: Abortion was legalized in Russia by the Bolsheviks shortly after they seized power in October 1917. Vladimir Lenin made good on his promise for an "unconditional annulment of all laws against abortion." In short order, the number of abortions skyrocketed. By 1934, Moscow women were having three abortions for every live birth. The toll was so staggering that an appalled Joseph Stalin, the mass murderer, actually banned abortion in 1936, fearing a vanishing populace.

In 1955, Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, reconstituted legalized abortion. By 1958, there were 5 million abortions per year in the Soviet Union. (This contradicted Margaret Sanger's optimistic prediction that "neither abortions nor contraception will be necessary or desired" once a "functioning communistic society" was in full bloom in the Soviet Union.) By 1965, abortions peaked at 8.2 million, dwarfing the worst years in America post-Roe v. Wade. By 1970, some 3,000 full-time abortion doctors were performing roughly 7.2 million abortions per year. By the 1980s, Soviet citizens comprised 5-6 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's abortions.

The Cold War and Communism ended in Russia in the 1990s, but the runaway abortion rates did not. Those rates continued into the Putin era, with the election of Vladimir Putin in 2000. An illuminating article in the Washington Post in February 2003 reported that 13 percent of Russian couples are infertile, with more on the rise. "In nearly three out of four cases," said the article, "infertility is attributed to the woman, typically because of complications from one or more abortions." The Russian Health Ministry reported 1.7 abortions for every live birth - which is actually an improvement from previous decades, but only because contraception is being more widely used. Either way, it adds up to a decline in population.

In response, Vladimir Putin has taken major measures to try to stem this tide. In 2003, he implemented the first restrictions on abortion in Russia in almost 50 years, limiting abortions to within 12 weeks of gestation. Exemptions were allowed only for rape or the imprisonment, death, or severe disability of the husband.

Remarkably, Putin's Russia has even gone so far as to initiate a National Fertility Day, aimed at getting the culture to produce more Russians.

And so, how might the adoption ban fit into this? Well, adopted Russians by foreigners - especially Americans, who adopt more Russians than any other country - means more Russians leaving Russia. By banning adoptions, Putin's country can retain more Russians. There may be a measure of pure Russian demographics and nationalism behind this decision.

In fact, the adoption ban was championed in the Russian legislature by the nationalistic United Russia party, even before it got to Putin. And it's quite telling that Putin has responded to his ban on American adoptions with measures intended to boost adoptions internally by native Russians. He promises a presidential decree to "modify the support mechanisms for orphaned children."

Thus, overall, Putin's adoption ban has two "benefits," in his mind: 1) it retaliates against the U.S. Magnitsky Act; and 2) it retains more Russians in Russia.

That's classic Putin - and a tragedy for many Americans and many Russian children who will likely remain orphans.

The Presidential Blame-Game

February is the month of presidents. It includes Washington's birthday, Lincoln's birthday, Ronald Reagan's birthday, and, of course, Presidents Day. Given that I teach and write about presidents, this time of year always prompts me to strange musings. This year is no exception, as I'm thinking about six particular presidents: Barack Obama, George W. Bush, FDR, Herbert Hoover, Bill Clinton, and Harry Truman. How could I possibly connect these six?

Bear with me - I'll start and end with Obama.

Barack Obama, and particularly his re-election campaign, has achieved something quite dubious of a sitting president. Namely, he has managed to successfully blame nearly every woe of the last four years on his predecessor. Never mind that every economic indicator under Obama is not only worse than under George W. Bush, but far worse. Obama has presided over a steadily worsening economic disaster, one that is stacking up as one of the most dreadful economic records of any president in history. And yet, as he does, he passes the buck to his predecessor, blaming George W. Bush.

This is unbecoming of an American leader; it's precisely what our presidents don't do; they don't treat each other like this, having much more respect for the job and those who have held it. There is a long-time gentlemen's understanding, honored by nearly every president, that you don't blame your predecessor for your problems.

Nonetheless, George W. Bush has become Obama's go-to scapegoat.

For the record, Obama is not completely alone in mastering this ignoble tactic. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, like Obama, conjured up various demons to advance his "progressive" agenda, with the rich atop his enemies list. But FDR also dumped on his Republican predecessor. He blamed everything on Herbert Hoover.

Notably, this really upset Hoover. Hoover was hurt deeply by FDR constantly trashing him, his record, his policies. FDR did not treat Hoover the way we Americans expect our presidents to treat one another. Their relationship became toxic. FDR's successor, Harry Truman, took notice. "Roosevelt couldn't stand him," said Truman of Hoover, "and he [Hoover] hated Roosevelt."

Even sadder, FDR, like Obama, got away with this blame-game. FDR successfully pinned everything on Hoover in re-election upon re-election. As for Obama, a literal majority (60 percent, according to one exit poll) who voted for him in 2012 agreed with him that the terrible economy was totally Bush's fault. They swallowed Obama's Bush blame-game hook, line, and sinker.

How do Harry Truman and Bill Clinton relate to this?

Truman and Clinton, like Obama and FDR, were, of course, both Democrats. Truman, however, was willing to put party aside to do what was right. He had character by the boatload. Truman saw how troubled Hoover was by FDR's mistreatment. A good man, Truman did what he could to remedy the situation. (This is detailed nicely by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy in their excellent new book: The Presidents Club.) He reached out to Hoover after World War II and sought to use the maligned ex-president in several significant projects, including post-war reconstruction for Europe.

"I knew what I had to do," said Truman. "I knew just the man I wanted to help me." And so, Truman employed Hoover's considerable managerial talents.

It was a very gracious gesture, and pure Truman. Truman saw a wrong by his fellow Democrat, FDR, and strived to correct it, regardless of his party loyalties.

Bill Clinton, unfortunately, is the anti-Truman. When Clinton, who is very friendly with both George W. Bush and his father, learned of Obama's campaign to blame Bush for every ill in America, including those that Obama has not merely created but mushroomed to unprecedented levels, what did Clinton do? Did he telephone Obama and say, "Hey, back off, that isn't right and you know it. We presidents don't treat ex-presidents that way."

No, that's what Harry Truman would have done. Bill Clinton joined the Obama campaign against Bush. The most notorious display was Clinton's Democratic National Convention speech, where he prattled on about how not even he could have turned around the permanently disfigured economy that Barack Obama inherited from the malevolent Bush. No, no way, just impossible. Clinton incessantly pushed the line in campaign stop after campaign stop.

And no doubt, when the 2012 campaign was all over, and Clinton, who perhaps even privately voted for Mitt Romney (it wouldn't surprise me), surely flew to Texas and (Joe Biden-like) grinned and back-slapped George W. Bush and said, "Hey, no hard feelings, pal!"

And George W. Bush, no doubt, did what he always did, stoically turning the other cheek, forgiving Clinton, and gently suffering the insults in silence - and again helping to make possible another Obama term.

Happy Presidents Month, America.

Hugo Chavez: Faithful to Death

There's an old joke from the Cold War. It went like this: Hardline East German Communist Walter Ulbricht (who erected the Berlin Wall) died and went to hell. There, the devil gave him a choice between the socialist sector and the capitalist sector. Devoted to the end, Ulbricht stuck to the faith, saying: "I'll go to the socialist sector." "Good choice," averred the devil. "Over in the capitalist sector, they're getting the full hellfire treatment. But in the socialist sector, they've run out of coal."

Say what you want of Hugo Chavez, of his tactics, of his beliefs, and (as many are doing) of perhaps where he might be right now, but this much is certain: he stuck to the faith.

Many of us were downright amazed when Chavez, in his late 50s and desperately ill from cancer, opted to go to Cuba for treatment. It was a surefire death sentence. Only the most hopelessly devoted Communist would be so nave. Loaded with vast wealth he stole from his people, Chavez effectively chose acupuncture over the 21st-century healthcare widely available anywhere in the West.

And yet, the Venezuelan dictator clung to his religion. He went to Havana.

Chavez apparently gained some measure of comfort near the aging breast of his dying, beloved Fidel. He had so much in common with Castro, admiring the totalitarian's unparalleled, unprecedented seizure of power and resources, all in the name of redistribution and "social justice." Like Fidel, he pilfered enough riches from the ostracized affluent class to make himself one of the world's wealthiest leaders. As he did, he churned the propaganda, blaming his nation's every ill on his predecessors and on the alleged criminality of the very same rich - as Fidel has done, as the left generally has done.

A few years back, my wife and I were in Washington meeting with an old friend from grad-school days, a native of Venezuela named Daria. When we introduced her to another acquaintance, she remarked with a sad smile, "I'm from Venezuela. We're Communist now."

In Chavez's partial defense - and this isn't saying much - he never achieved the scales of collectivism and depths of depravity of Fidel Castro, or of the world's really bad Communists. Venezuela didn't become Cuba or the Soviet Union. Needless to say, Hugo Chavez was no Joe Stalin - even as, remarkably, he died on the 60th anniversary of Stalin's death.

Nonetheless, like any man of the left, he had his enemy groups, and he used them to full advantage. Some of these assorted villains were flagged in a curious Washington Post obituary that headlined Chavez as a "passionate" albeit "polarizing" figure. What earned him even this slight compliment from the Post? Who knows? The same article noted that Chavez referred to the Catholic Church hierarchy as "devils in vestments." But perhaps the Post was impressed less with Chavez's opprobrium for the Catholic Church than his encomiums for Barack Obama.

Of course, Chavez was a big fan of Obama. He made this clear the first year of Obama's presidency. In an extraordinary statement at the United Nations that September, Chavez sniffed, "It doesn't smell of sulfur here anymore." This was a swipe at former President George W. Bush. Waxing almost spiritual, Chavez mused: "It smells of something else. It smells of hope."

Yes, even to Hugo Chavez, Barack Obama equaled hope; the theological virtue of Obama. The Venezuelan caudillo inspiringly appealed to David Axelrod's legendary campaign slogan.

And like Obama, Chavez just as quickly jettisoned the words of hope when less-inspiring rhetoric better suited his intentions. He excelled at blaming things on the rich, on profit seekers, on greedy corporations, on nefarious jet-owners and millionaires and billionaires, on banks, on investors, and, of course, on George W. Bush. Unlike Obama, who he spoke of in angelic terms, Chavez called George W. Bush a "devil."

Chavez often seemed to invoke the devil.

Alinsky-like, Chavez constantly isolated his targets and demonized them, calling them "degenerates," "squealing pigs," and "counter-revolutionaries." It was pure demagoguery.

In this, and more, Hugo Chavez was faithful to the very end. Did he really think he would be healed in Havana? Was there no other hope? Or, in the end, maybe faith was all that Chavez had. He should have learned from millions of Cubans over the last 50-plus years: faith in Fidel leads only to destruction and death. *

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