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).
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) .
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.
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?
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.
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. *
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).
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.
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.
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.
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. *
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).
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.
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.
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. *
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. *
The latest unemployment figures are again depressing, but not for the usual reasons. They provide further confirmation of Barack Obama's fundamental transformation of America, specifically through his creation of a growing government class.
The numbers show a massive increase in government jobs created over the last five months - 621,000, to be exact, dwarfing private-sector job growth. Those new government jobs account for a staggering 73 percent of overall job growth. In all, 21 million citizens now work for government, out of 143 million employed in America, or one in seven Americans.
The vision and policies and programs of President Obama and "progressives"/liberals are rapidly generating a new government class. The current class - the one that re-elected Obama - comprises of federal workers; of state, county, and municipal workers; of employees in public-sector unions; of Americans collecting food stamps, welfare, and unemployment benefits; of those looking to government for healthcare; and more. They don't all vote Democrat, of course, but many do. And Democrats desperately hope many more will. Incredibly, there is even a rising group of young women suddenly demanding that Uncle Sam (i.e., taxpayers) pay for their contraception and abortions.
Most remarkable, this new class of Americans constitutes a huge and expanding segment of the population (and voters) who are becoming not merely dependent upon government but dependent upon Democrats. The more dependent this group becomes, and the more it enlarges, the more it redounds to the political enshrinement of liberal-Democrat politicians.
All of these segments of the citizenry - or, perhaps, constituencies - have steadily expanded over the last 100 years of progressivism/liberalism, and have surged under Barack Obama. Under Obama, there are a record 48 million Americans on food stamps, up from 32 million at the start of his presidency. The welfare rolls have exploded. Unemployment has not only increased but remains stuck and stagnant, with the actual unemployed around 15 percent and rising. Not only does the number of federal workers continue to balloon, but so do employees joining public-sector unions beholden to Democrats: SEIU, AFSCME, teachers organized through the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
Writing on this phenomenon, my colleague, Dr. Marvin Folkertsma, observes that roughly half the population receives some form of aid from the federal government, a figure that will utterly explode once Obamacare takes full force.
It goes without saying that this is disastrous for the literal solvency of the republic, but it's good news for those hoping to expand the boundaries (and collective dependency net) of progressivism/liberalism.
So, where does this leave us as a republic? Well, in very deep trouble. Most of those in the new government class become rapidly conditioned to their reality. Easily lured into their situation, they will be easily prompted into vociferously defending their position - especially those in unions. They will defend their status with ferocious loyalty when the right buttons are pushed by liberal-Democrat organizers and agitators (and their media allies) who benefit from their votes.
Ronald Reagan said the only guarantee of eternal life in this world is a government bureaucracy. He was correct, especially once the bureaucracy is unionized; ditto for the bureaucracy's programs and goodies. We will not be able to undo Obamacare; trying to do so will be like unscrambling eggs. Look at Britain's National Health Service; it is the third-rail of British politics. Even Margaret Thatcher couldn't touch it.
Ironically, Margaret Thatcher might offer the lone glimmer of hope. America four years from now will look increasingly like Britain circa 1978-79, when the electorate had enough and somehow awakened and hired the Iron Lady, who took on the government class. In the United States, however, it will not be easy. We will need a leader with the combined skills and determination of Thatcher or Reagan, who will be demonized unlike any American heretofore. Moreover, we will need that leader soon. If this isn't halted quickly, America as we know it is over.
How long? We have four years at best. Think about it: How many more Americans over the next four years will be employed and unionized by government; collecting food stamps, welfare, and unemployment; looking to government for healthcare, for contraception, and more? And they will be further trained to believe this is the norm and their natural right, and that anyone standing in the way is a monster.
It may already be too late. The federal government under Obama is hiring 103 new government employees per day, with nothing stopping them. These new additions to the government class will populate areas like Northern Virginia, turning Virginia (politically) into another Maryland, which dutifully pulls the lever for Democrats every four years.
Well, Barack Obama promised a fundamental transformation of America, and now we're getting it.
It has been a couple of weeks since the death of Robert Bork, which occurred shortly before Christmas and didn't really get the news coverage that Bork merited.
Bork died at age 85. In 1987, he became a national headline when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court. He was a judicial conservative, a "strict constructionist." He warned about the road America was embarking upon in neglecting its Constitutional principles, and saw doom and gloom ahead. He was grimly pessimistic about America generally, dreading modern liberalism's grip on the nation. Liberalism, Bork insisted, was pushing America toward decline. We were headed to hell in a hand-basket. A decade after his failed confirmation, Bork authored a bestselling book tellingly titled, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline.
Bork had seen liberalism up close and full throttle - and at its open-throated angriest. During his unsuccessful confirmation hearings in 1987, he was plainly smeared. He was hysterically and unfairly portrayed by radical abortion feminists and the likes of Senator Ted Kennedy as an abuser and assaulter of women - a Neanderthal, a kind of political/cultural gargoyle. Liberals demonized Bork and railroaded his nomination, ushering in a whole new incivility and politicization to the judicial nomination process. Liberal journalists literally dug through Bork's trash looking for anything to attack the man; they went to the nearby video store to find out what he rented.
"Hmmm," they rubbed their hands together hopefully, "Any X-rated flicks, Judge Bork?"
Alas, that wasn't Robert Bork's universe. They learned that Bork had an affinity not for pornographic film but for "Fred and Ginger" movies.
"Hah," they hissed, "What a square!"
The left's assault on Bork was unhinged, a precursor of behavior to come with later judges they disliked, particularly pro-life judges. Liberals were so nasty to Bork that the man's name has become a verb: When liberals today vilify a conservative Supreme Court nominee, like a Clarence Thomas, we say that the nominee has been "Borked."
The tributes to Bork at the time of his death revisited this sordid history. But none, to my knowledge, focused on the area where, sadly, I believe he was most prophetic - namely, his pessimism about American life and culture.
I never met Bork to discuss that pessimism, but a former Grove City College student of mine did. It was about 10 years ago. I was speaking at Ave Maria University School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My former student, Mark, was there. He was taking a class that semester with Judge Bork. He shared with me a dose of the usual Bork cynicism. Looking to buoy Bork a bit, my student optimistically told the judge that America's future looked good because of promising demographics. He noted that committed evangelicals and orthodox Roman Catholics were having lots of children, whereas secular leftists were not. Surely, he assured Bork, this boded well for the culture, or at least the kind of culture Bork desired.
"No, no," disagreed Bork. The judge conceded the positive demographics but noted that most of these evangelicals and Catholics send their kids to colleges dominated by these secular liberals, where all the ideals and values the youngsters learned at home and at their churches is rapidly undermined in four years - with the faithful parents unwittingly paying for the undermining. In short order, these conservative Christians support abortion and gay rights.
"We're doomed," Bork assured my student. America was on the road to Gomorrah.
Unfortunately, I think Robert Bork was exactly right.
For today's liberals, who call themselves "progressives," support for abortion has morphed into forcing fellow taxpayers to pay for it - and they plainly smear those who think otherwise as favoring a "war on women." Their support for gay rights has morphed into gay marriage - with accompanying vitriol slung at anyone who disagrees.
Robert Bork was a man ahead of his time.
Judge Robert Bork, rest in peace - far away from the shores of Gomorrah.
The last few weeks have produced many intriguing political moments, but none as shocking as the revelation that President Obama has been absent from the vast majority of his daily intelligence briefings.
According to a study by the Government Accountability Institute, Obama failed to attend a single Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) in the week leading up to the recent anniversary of 9/11 and the chaos that erupted in the Arab world. The mere fact that we were approaching 9/11 was a crucial enough reason to attend not one but all the briefings. President Obama attended none.
Worse, this is apparently nothing new. Obama attended only 43.8 percent of his Daily Briefs in the first 1,225 days of his administration. For this year, he attended a little over a third.
This is stunning, and there's no excuse for it.
Washington Post columnist, Marc Thiessen, who worked for President George W. Bush, pressed NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor for an explanation. Thiessen reported:
Vietor did not dispute the numbers, but said the fact that the president, during a time of war, does not attend his daily intelligence meeting on a daily basis is "not particularly interesting or useful." He says that the president reads his PDB every day, and he disagreed with the suggestion that there is any difference whatsoever between simply reading the briefing book and having an interactive discussion of its contents with top national security and intelligence officials where the president can probe assumptions and ask questions. "I actually don't agree at all," Vietor told me in an e-mail. "The president gets the information he needs from the intelligence community each day."
That's simply the White House covering for the president.
Similarly, White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the PDB charge as "hilarious." No, no, said Carney, the president "gets it every day." By "it," Carney was apparently talking about the intelligence briefing papers, not the actual meetings.
Pro-Obama journalists happily accepted Carney's explanation. CNN posted Carney's comments under a photo of a pensive Obama sitting at an intelligence briefing.
Sorry, but, once again, there's no excuse for this, especially in the post-9/11 world. George W. Bush not only didn't miss the PDB but actually expanded it to six meetings per week.
Consider, too, the case of Ronald Reagan, who liberals, ironically, portrayed as an uninformed idiot who didn't pay attention in meetings or read anything.
Reagan, in fact, attended the daily intelligence briefing. I could lay this out at length, but here I'll offer just two Reagan sources, both still living, who can speak to this:
One source is Herb Meyer, special assistant to CIA director Bill Casey in the 1980s. Meyer told me:
Of course Reagan attended all those daily briefings. And after the briefers returned to CIA headquarters, Bill [Casey] would meet with them just to be sure the president (and Haig & Weinberger) got answers to whatever questions they may have had. In short, it was a very - very - serious business.
Another source is Bill Clark. Clark was Ronald Reagan's right-hand man in foreign policy. As his biographer, I know Clark well. He is 80 years old and lives in California. Clark told me this about Reagan and the PDB:
Bill Casey would, by courier, send the President's Daily Brief each morning at about 5:00 a.m. to our war room downstairs in our [National] Security Council. . . . It would be delivered to the president in his residence before he came over [by 7:00 a.m.] . . . . He'd write questions all over the margins about things that weren't clear in the briefing. And, of course, the agency [CIA] would come down with further explanations.
Clark recalls how Reagan craved that regular morning update. He would read it and then they would meet. Reagan ate up these briefings. He asked questions of his advisers. He probed for ideas. Reagan attended the briefings and used them as presidents should.
When Reagan finished his presidency, after two terms, genuine freedom and democracy were surging all over the Communist world.
As for President Obama, if he's in the process of finishing his presidency, after one term, he's facing a surge of radical Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. Can any of that be blamed on Obama's failure to attend these routine briefings? Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly can't help.
In fact, as Marc Theissen and the Government Accountability Institute have noted in follow-up stories, Obama is now suddenly attending his daily briefing. That's no doubt a response to political criticism. But could it be - on the heels of the eruptions in Libya and Egypt, which Obama initially blamed not on pre-meditated terrorism but a video - that maybe President Obama feels like he might have been missing something?
In a recent interview, Senator Marco Rubio, effectively the Republican front-runner for 2016, was asked, "How old do you think the Earth is?"
It's a question of utter irrelevance to the country's status and whether Marco Rubio would be a good president. Rubio's answer was excellent:
I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that.
To any sensible person, this was a perfect response. Who could object?
Well, an editor for the New York Times - that flagship of faith and reason - judged Rubio's response "ludicrous." A writer at the liberal Slate, who no doubt Googled first, claimed authoritatively: "Our planet was formed 4.54 billion years ago. If Rubio suggested otherwise, it's because he's uninformed or stupid."
Ah, yes. I'm sure everyone at Slate knows the Earth is 4.54 billion years old.
As for myself, if someone asked me that question out of the blue, I couldn't answer. I've been a scientist, an agnostic/borderline atheist, and ultimately a Christian. I've taught Sunday School, lectured at colleges, collected data at top research labs, and everything in between. I've published in scientific and political journals. I know, as Marco Rubio does, that theologians dispute this.
In fact, anyone with a serious, sincere interest in this question knows this. But, of course, the question wasn't asked to Rubio out of serious, sincere interest; it never is when posed to a Republican.
Marco Rubio needs to understand two things at play here: 1) these types of questions will only get worse as he continues to campaign for president; and 2) these are not earnest questions. No, these are political booby-traps set by political partisans who work as journalists. They are used to try to caricature conservatives as extremists.
I recall a painful example when George W. Bush first became Texas governor. Bush was known as a committed Christian who had a late-in-life conversion. For the secular liberal media, this meant that Bush was a "fundamentalist." For liberal journalists, it also meant an opportunity.
And so, one journalist asked the governor if Jews get into heaven. Taken by complete surprise, Bush fumbled his answer. Afterward, he thought long and hard about it, and consulted Billy Graham. The next time Bush got the question he was ready. It was December 1999, when he was running for president, and when his opponent, Al Gore, wasn't (of course) getting asked any such questions by the liberal media. Bush's answer was a good one:
[I] understand that people communicate with God and reach God in different ways. . . . Obviously there's the big issue between the Christian and the Jew, the Jewish person. And I am mindful of the rich traditions and history of the Jewish faith. And I am mindful of what Billy Graham one time told me: for me not to try to figure out - try to pick and choose who gets to go to heaven. . . . Billy Graham said, "Don't play God." I don't get to determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. That's not me. Governors don't do that.
That's a really good response: "Governors don't do that." They "don't play God." They don't decide who goes to heaven.
Marco Rubio wasn't asked that same question, at least not yet, but his answer might be the same: "Sorry, man, I'm not playing God."
In fact, here's a further response Rubio might consider more generally:
Look, let's be honest: We both know what you're trying to do. You're trying to trip me up. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a minister. I don't want to be one, and the American public doesn't want me to be one. Let's stick to issues that concern people. And one more thing: Are you asking these same questions to any Democrats? Are you?
Rubio should say it calmly, gently, and with a smile - but emphatically. He is running for president, and not running for reverend. He wants to be President Rubio, not Reverend Rubio.
Unfortunately, for Rubio, like all conservative Republicans who seek the presidency, it will be open season on his beliefs. Republicans are badgered on their faith in ways that liberal Democrats plainly are not. For the media, it's the same old double standard. I hope Marco Rubio refuses to tolerate it. *
Timing is everything in politics. For four years, I angered conservatives by insisting Barack Obama would get reelected. I figured that an electorate willing to elect a man with ideas and a record that far to the left in 2008 would do so again. I began changing my view, however, after the first presidential debate. Over the last three or four weeks, I became confident that Mitt Romney would defeat Obama.
Fortunately for Obama, two forces intervened to rescue him. One was the mainstream media, which ensured that Benghazi, Hurricane Sandy, and the increase in the unemployment rate wouldn't be used to undermine Obama. As for Hurricane Sandy, Obama flew in for a photo-op and then immediately returned to campaigning. If George W. Bush were president, a relentless media would have ensured that Bush didn't return to the campaign trail.
The second force was David Axelrod and the campaign machine. I stand in awe at what they pulled off. They managed to push considerably more Democrats than Republicans to the polls (38-32 percent margin), closer to the 2008 turnout that favored Obama than the 2010 mid-term turnout that favored Republicans. Because they did, the predictions of an easy Romney victory by the likes of Dick Morris, Michael Barone, George Will, and Newt Gingrich (and myself) were dead wrong. We were certain that pollsters were oversampling Democrats. The pro-Republican, pro-Romney, and anti-Obama enthusiasm we were seeing was extremely intense. It was inconceivable to us that it could be overcome by a higher Democrat turnout. Somehow, however, it was, obliterating Romney's five-point victory among independents. It erased Romney's 50-49 percent edge in the final polls by Gallup and Rasmussen.
I stand in stunned disbelief. David Axelrod, you are a miracle worker.
How much of a miracle worker? Consider:
The American people reelected a man who presided over one of the worst four-year economic records in American history. By every objective measurement, the economy is far worse than four years ago: 47 million on food stamps (up from 32 million); all-time record deficits and debt (dwarfing the Bush numbers); chronic unemployment; a prolonged non-recovering recovery; 636,000 homeless; a doubling of gas prices; and on and on.
For historical perspective, consider this: No president since FDR in 1940 won reelection with an unemployment rate above 7.1 percent. And for FDR, that number was a huge improvement from four years earlier.
How did Obama and his team overcome this? The answer: they successfully blamed it on George W. Bush, with Bill Clinton aiding and abetting the process. There were no limits to how much they blamed Bush, and how much it worked. The Democratic base swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
Sadly, other things worked as well, and none are good for this country. The framing of Republicans as conducting a "war on women" because they don't favor forced taxpayer funding of abortion, Planned Parenthood, and contraception worked. The insistence that government-provided contraception is a new "entitlement" worked. The demonization of the Tea Party - a movement spontaneously created by Obama's wild spending - worked.
For that matter, Obama got away with the extraordinarily wasteful $800 billon "stimulus" package that didn't stimulate and buried us fiscally. He even got away with the HHS mandate that constitutes the greatest threat to religious liberty (particularly against the Catholic Church) in at least a century.
In terms of social policy, the electorate has given the green light to a president who is redefining marriage and promoting forced funding of abortion and contraception and embryo destruction - at the expense of religious liberty.
Moreover, the president's unceasing class-warfare rhetoric was rewarded by the electorate, as were his attacks on profits, the private sector, the wealthy, banking and investment, and the oil and natural gas industry. The Obama energy policy is advanced. Mitt Romney would have unleashed a boom for America's domestic energy industry. That is now gone. That is a tragedy, the levels of which we will not be able to appreciate.
And what about Romney? I had my reservations, but America rejected a genuinely decent man who had the best business background of anyone who would have ever assumed the Oval Office. He was the perfect person for the perfect time.
In short, what we saw on November 6, 2012 was a breathtaking display of political survival by Barack Obama, the first president to be re-elected with a lower number of Electoral College votes and popular vote. What we also witnessed was the final step in the fundamental transformation of America that Barack Obama promised four years ago.
All the pieces fit, so why do historians and biographers ignore the question?
As president, Barack Obama is many things - many unprecedented things. There's the commendable: the truly historic achievement (with apologies to Bill Clinton) of being the first black president. There's the dubious: the lamentable distinction (christened by Newt Gingrich) of being the first "food stamp president."
But here's an intriguing, provocative thought: Is Barack Obama our first "Red Diaper Baby" president? That would be unprecedented.
Now, before deeming the question over-the-top, out-of-bounds, and unnecessarily incendiary, hear me out:
I come at this question as a Cold War historian and as the guy who wrote the book on Obama's mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, a hardcore Communist (The Communist, Threshold Editions/Mercury Ink). And the thought is not my own. It was posed to me last week by an emailer, and I'm surprised the thought never once crossed my Cold Warrior mind, particularly given the daily questions that I field about Obama's past, the Communists in Obama's past, and even whether Obama himself is a Communist. I've heard them all. I've considered those questions from every angle, and yet, this one never occurred to me.
Moreover, a critical clarification: If Barack Obama is a Red Diaper Baby, it doesn't mean he's a Communist. I've met many conservative anti-communists who were born and raised Red Diaper Babies, only to flee their parents' politics like the plague. They contact me, "Hi, professor Kengor, my name is [fill in the blank] and I'm the classic Red Diaper Baby. Let me tell you my story, . . ."
There have been studies and books (some by university presses) on Red Diaper Babies. One of them, Red Diapers: Growing Up in the Communist Left, an edited volume by Judy Kaplan and Linn Shapiro, includes chapter contributions from the likes of Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame. Bernstein is not a Communist.
So, the question of Obama?s red diapers was just posed to me. I discussed it with Ron Radosh, a fellow historian of the Cold War and Communism. Radosh himself, in his youth, was a Communist. He wrote a terrific memoir called Commies. Radosh knew Red Diaper Babies by the nursery-load, and he understands the phenomenon not only personally but historically and as a scholar.
"I and everyone else who uses the term 'Red Diaper Baby,'" says Radosh, defining his terms, "do so to define anyone whose parents were either CPUSA members or fellow-travelers, and who therefore grew up in the milieu of the Party and its front groups." Radosh, a professor emeritus of history at the City University of New York, adds: "Obama fits that definition."
Indeed, Obama seems to fit that definition. Consider:
Barack Obama's mother and father met in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii in the fall of 1960. Their choice of study was a reflection of political interests. As one sympathetic biographer, Sally Jacobs, said of Barack senior, "Obama had an abiding interest in the Soviet Union."
Jacobs has published the preeminent biographical work on the senior Obama. Among those she quotes is Naranhkiri Tith, a prominent Cambodian who became professor of international economics at the prestigious Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Tith was a classmate of Barack senior at the University of Hawaii. The two had frequent, spirited debates over subjects like Communism, an ideology that would ravage Tith's native Cambodia, where Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge slaughtered 1-2 million out of population of 5-7 million in just four years.
"Obama and I were on opposite poles," says Tith.
I did not believe Communism could save the world. It was too good to be true and I gave examples of what I had seen. Obama senior was the opposite. He was always glorying about how Communism had liberated Africa and Cuba. He had no idea what Communism was all about. For him, Communism was going to save the world. Capitalism was going to collapse.
The senior Obama found a more receptive audience in Ann Dunham, Obama's mother. A radical leftist, Dunham questioned the American way. As Sally Jacobs put it, Dunham was given to questions like: "What was so good about democracy? What's so bad about Communism? And why was capitalism so great?"
It appears that Obama's mother was, at the least, a fellow traveler.
Of course, young Obama spent much time with his mother but virtually no time with Barack senior, which brings me to another source: Frank Marshall Davis.
In the fall of 1970, a nine-year-old Obama was introduced to Frank Marshall Davis by Obama's grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who himself was on the far left. Dunham connected the two because his grandson was lacking a black-male role model. Dunham chose a curious pick as a mentor for his grandson. As I've noted in a lengthy profile for The American Spectator, Davis was a literal, card-carrying member of Communist Party USA (card number 47544). He edited and wrote for Party-line publications such as the Chicago Star and the Honolulu Record. Davis did outrageous pro-Soviet propaganda work. In December 1956, the Democrats who ran the Senate Judiciary Committee summoned Davis to Washington to testify on his activities. He pleaded the Fifth Amendment. Even more remarkable, Frank Marshall Davis's political antics were so radical that the FBI placed him on the federal government's Security Index, which meant that he could be immediately detained or arrested in the event of a national emergency, such as a war breaking out between the United States and USSR.
Young Obama met with Davis far more often than he met with the senior Obama. I've been told by one source that they met weekly, a claim I cannot substantiate. We know they met often, and in lengthy, late-night sessions. David Maraniss, whose source may be Obama himself, contends that Davis and Obama met upwards of 15 times, a conservative estimate that nonetheless would be 15 times the number of times that young Obama met his Kenyan father.
To sum up: Between Obama's mother, grandfather, Kenyan father, and Frank Marshall Davis, those are some pretty extreme political influences. Some of them were interested in Communism, sympathetic to Communism, fellow travelers, or even downright Communist Party members. For a young Obama - who I actually feel bad for - this would seem to meet the standards of a Red Diaper Baby environment. And as I lay out in my book, citing especially the testimony of Dr. John Drew, who states that he knew Obama at Occidental College as a fellow Marxist, these political pilgrims produced a kindred spirit who left Hawaii for the wider world in 1979. Today he sits in the Oval Office.
I can hear liberals now: So, if Obama is our first Red Diaper Baby president, but not currently a closet card-carrying Communist, why does this matter? That's nonsense, the typical liberal red herring. Of course, it matters.
It matters just as any biography of any president or leader matters. None of us (liberals included) would ignore the ideological upbringing of any other president. This information gets to the core of the intellectual and political development of President Obama, the most powerful man in the world, the man in charge of the mightiest economic engine in history. This man is the product of many radical influences that helped forge him into what he is today. If that man was raised a Red Diaper Baby, then it had some form of meaningful impact that's worthy of our consideration. Let's discuss it like adults.
"What do you think of this?" So began a phone call from Todd Starnes of FoxNews radio. Starnes asked me for a comment on a shocking story: A band at a high school near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania performed a halftime show titled, "St. Petersburg 1917," a musical commemoration of the Bolshevik Revolution, replete with hammers and sickles, military uniforms, and red flags.
"No way," I responded. "Are you sure this wasn't a joke, a parody?"
It wasn't. And parents of the students aren't laughing.
The superintendent of the school genuinely pleaded innocence. "It's a representation of the time period in history, called 'St. Petersburg 1917,'" she said.
I am truly sorry that somebody took the performance in that manner. I am. . . . If anything is being celebrated it's the music. . . . I'm just very sorry that it wasn't looked at as just a history lesson.
Well, as a history lesson, I give it a giant, red "F."
To be fair to the superintendent, she sincerely doesn't seem to understand what's so bad about this incident, and why it's in bad taste. In fact, therein is the basic problem: We have failed to teach the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution specifically and of Communism generally.
Those horrors include over 100 million corpses generated by Communist governments, starting with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 - that is, "St. Petersburg 1917." For perspective, 100 million is twice the combined deaths of World War I and II, the two deadliest conflicts in history. Even then, 100 million dead, which is the estimate provided by the seminal Harvard University Press work, The Black Book of Communism, is a conservative figure. The latest research claims that Mao Tse-Tung was responsible for the deaths of at least 70 million in China, and Joseph Stalin alone may well have killed 60 million in the USSR.
And yet, far too many Americans are ignorant of this catastrophe, especially younger Americans. I know. I've been observing it carefully for years. I could give a thousand examples, but here are just a few:
One former student of mine, John, told me about his first assignment as a teaching assistant in a high-school history class. He offered to cover some of the lectures on the 1930s Soviet Union. His supervising teacher agreed. So, John methodically covered the famine in the Ukraine, Stalin's purges, the Hitler-Stalin Pact.
John was pleased at how the students were electrified, hands in the air, many questions - clearly learning these hideous things for the first time. Yet, he also noticed the dirty looks from his supervisor. Later, the teacher testily reprimanded him: "Look, John, I want you to ease up on the Red-baiting and Commie-bashing. Besides, these students are going to get a decidedly different view on Communism from me." She promised to teach "a softer side of Communism."
Another student of mine, Sean, told me of the elite Christian private school he attended, where the newly hired teacher, fresh out of a major university, told the students he was a "Christian Communist," and that anyone who is a Christian should be a Communist.
Another student told me of a teacher who "convinced the entire class" that Marxism was a "wonderful" but "misunderstood" idea that simply had not been tried correctly. "He absolutely brainwashed us," she told me bitterly.
These are merely three anecdotal examples.
What's true for high schools is even worse at the university level. I lecture around the country, sponsored by groups like the Young America's Foundation and Intercollegiate Studies Institute. I'm often requested to give a talk titled, "Why Communism Is Bad." When I read passages directly from the Communist Manifesto, or when I cite authoritative sources on the maimed and dead, the students are aghast, eyes wide open. Rarely are their professors in attendance.
Those same professors, incidentally, write the textbooks used by high schools. Several years ago, I did a comprehensive, two-year study on "World History" and "Civics" texts. The study looked at roughly 20 texts used in public schools. Their treatment of Communism is scandalous. The greatest abuse is the sins of omission. I could not find a single text that listed figures on the dead under Communist governments. These omissions were not repeated for historical abuses like the Inquisition, the Crusades, slavery, or the internment of Japanese Americans. "Right-wing" dictators like Cuba's Batista and Chile's Pinochet were treated far more harshly than Fidel Castro, who generated many more victims and was still in power.
I could go on and on.
In short, we now have an entire generation of Americans born after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and USSR. They didn't live through the mass repression and carnage that was Soviet Communism. They need to learn about it, just as my generation learned the evils of Nazism. Unfortunately, they are not. And so, we shouldn't be surprised when they merrily march to the triumphal sounds of the Bolshevik Revolution.
(Co-written with Judge Bill Clark)
Ronald Reagan clashed with Libya and its dictator Moammar Gadhafi for the first time over 30 years ago. The details of that encounter must be revisited - particularly President Reagan's sense of resolve and clarity of purpose - as once again America grapples with the anti-American sentiment and attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts in the Middle East.
One of us (Clark) was there in Washington in the 1980s, serving as acting secretary of state, in the absence of Secretary of State Al Haig, when the news hit regarding Gadhafi's latest antics. Clark was in constant communication with Reagan and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. All had been close friends, colleagues and confidants dating back to California in the 1960s, when Clark was Governor Reagan's chief of staff.
The crux of the crisis was, as usual, Gadhafi himself. The location was the Gulf of Sidra, off the North African coast in the Mediterranean, an area of obvious strategic importance. Gadhafi had already persisted in making himself a nuisance to the civilized world. In the late 1970s, he issued a direct challenge to the United States.
Each year, the American Sixth Fleet conducted extensive naval exercises in these waters. This was acceptable action in international waters, appropriate maneuvers for battle-readiness, particularly for the nation that led NATO. U.S. actions went on without dispute or provocation. That changed when Gadhafi unilaterally extended Libya's presence beyond its historic 12-mile coastal limit into a much wider swath that went 100-200 miles from Tripoli to Benghazi, deep into the Gulf of Sidra. He was attempting to establish it as a Libyan lake, off limits to America and the West.
The Carter administration chose not to challenge Gadhafi, rescheduling and relocating U.S. exercises, ordering the Navy to stay clear of Gadhafi's muscle-flexing. In 1981, however, a new president and new team - new principals with new principles - came to Washington. Ronald Reagan made clear he would not let America be bullied. Reagan and Weinberger announced that exercises would take place, as scheduled, just outside Libya's 12-mile coastal limit.
More than that, the Joint Chiefs of Staff established new rules of engagement for the U.S. fleet, which Reagan quickly approved. The rules stated that if U.S. forces were fired upon, they could fire back immediately, without seeking layers of approval. "Anytime we send an American anywhere in the world where he or she can be shot at," declared Reagan, "they have the right to shoot back."
Reagan went further. During a National Security Council briefing, the admiral in charge asked precisely how far U.S. aircraft would be permitted to retaliate against Libyan aircraft. Reagan answered: "All the way into their hangar," into Libya itself.
Reagan understood that a bully continues bullying until he's punched in the nose. That moment came with early morning exercises in August 1981, led by the USS Nimitz. The Libyan air force set course, with a large number of aircraft, including Soviet MiGs. After a series of confrontations, two Libyan fighter jets locked on two American F-14 Tomcats escorting our ships, firing air-to-air missiles. The American pilots wasted no time making good use of the Reagan-approved rules, firing back with heat-seeking missiles. No need remained to follow the Libyan jets all the way to their hangars; they went down in the Mediterranean.
This demonstration cooled off Gadhafi, though it did not end his mischief. He continued his terrorist activities, operating not defiantly in the open but covertly, pursuing an extensive hit list, including Clark as one of the principal targets. His killing of innocent civilians in countries deemed threats to his regime eventually prompted the Reagan administration to order U.S. aircraft to Libya in April 1986. Targets in Tripoli and Benghazi were of a military and personal nature. Some of the nearly 100 bombs delivered on Gadhafi's homeland landed at Splendid Gate, Gadhafi's barracks, injuring his family members. Gadhafi, sleeping in a tent outside the compound, barely missed injury but did receive a rude awakening.
Consistently, President Reagan held firm against protests from the international community, from France, and from American liberals insisting that the Gulf of Sidra would be another Gulf of Tonkin: "Vietnam" all over again.
America has a terribly difficult job with the present crisis in Libya and throughout the Middle East. To be clear, we're not advocating military action. We don't want war. We believe the lessons of the Reagan years - and those immediately prior - speak for themselves, namely: The Middle East situation demands a sense of direction, clarity, and confident purpose. Uncertainty suggests weakness. The Washington rule stands the test of time: The principles never change - only the principals. *
In the last 24 hours, beginning with the 11th anniversary of 9/11, all hell broke loose in the Middle East. Our diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya have been attacked, with the U.S. ambassador to Libya among those brutally murdered by Islamists. Much will continue to be said about this, but the similarities to Iran 33 years ago are striking. And make no mistake about it, rightly or wrongly, this is now a major political issue in our presidential election, as it was in the 1980 presidential election. Just like that, in one explosive burst, foreign policy is on the front-burner in the 2012 campaign.
Over the last four years, longtime authoritarian Arab leaders in Egypt and Libya have been deposed, supplanted - we fear - by longtime extremist Islamic movements. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak is gone. In Libya, Muammar Kaddafi is gone. Neither man was, by any stretch, a democrat. And yet, we worry that they have been replaced by something much worse.
Well, something similar unfolded in Iran 33 years ago, when a longtime authoritarian leader and close U.S. ally, the Shah, was replaced by an extremist Islamic movement headed by the Ayatollah, producing the world's worst, longest-running theocratic/terrorist state. The moment was dramatized on November 4, 1979, when the U.S. embassy was seized and over 50 American hostages were captured and held for 444 days. Like in Egypt, it all seemed to begin, at least visually, symbolically, with the burning of the American flag at our embassy.
The current chaos in Egypt was reportedly precipitated not by any sort of vile commemoration of 9/11, but by an anti-Mohammed film released in parts on the internet and broadcast inside Egypt. That said, it was also reported that the American flag outside the embassy was replaced by pro-Al Qaeda flags. What other factors may have sparked the Egyptian and Libyan outbursts? Fairly or unfairly, that's where the politics comes in.
President Obama's detractors are wasting no time looking for possible added motivations. They are noting the debate at the Democratic convention last week over Jerusalem. They are pointing to the news (released the same day, on September 11, 2012) that Obama allegedly refused an Israeli request for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ben Netanyahu. They are stressing four years of (in their view) weakness, accommodation, amateurism, and a lack of clarity by the Obama administration in the Middle East, from Egypt and Libya to Iran and Syria. Indeed, the "clarity" factor was precisely Mitt Romney's theme in his September 12 press conference in Jacksonville, Florida, where Romney repeatedly underscored the word "lead" or "leadership," which he sees as lacking from Barack Obama.
I will not dissect those claims here (some of which I agree with), but what is clear is how this unfolding situation appears eerily like what President Jimmy Carter faced going into his reelection in 1980. Carter was blamed for the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Ayatollah. Republicans will be making analogies between Carter's mishandling of Iran and the Shah and Obama's handling of Egypt and Mubarak - and perhaps also of Obama's handling of Libya and Kaddafi, and still more.
Whoever is to blame, there's no question that the course of events in Egypt and Libya suddenly seem to be veering even more sharply into the catastrophic direction that Iran took 33 years ago. That is a very bad thing, a rapidly evolving foreign-policy disaster for the United States - and for its president. Will it hurt or help Barack Obama as the November vote approaches? We shall see. In the meantime, get ready for seven weeks of intense and at times nasty debate.
This August 23, 2012, marks the centennial of the birth of Gene Kelly, the great American dancer, actor, singer; a guy's guy who - along with Fred Astaire - is the only male who ever left me (momentarily) wishing I could dance.
I've always felt a kinship with Gene Kelly. It starts with Pittsburgh, the town of our birth. Kelly was born there, a hardworking Irish Catholic kid, son of Harriet Catherine and James Patrick Joseph Kelly. He attended St. Raphael Elementary and eventually sparred in fistfights and on the dance floor before opening a studio in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill section.
And then there's our connection to the University of Pittsburgh, from which we both graduated many decades apart - he in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. When I step on campus today, I walk by his star engraved outside the William Pitt Union. There are no stars chiseled on campus for the likes of, say, Thomas Starzl, who pioneered organ transplantation at Pitt's School of Medicine, or for Jonas Salk, who was developing the Polio vaccine at Pitt when Kelly was making "Brigadoon" - but, hey, such is celebrity, and I'm happy that folks get this regular reminder of Kelly's feet once gliding across campus. That star stands a few feet from where - at old Forbes Field - Bill Mazeroski beat the New York Yankees in the 1960s World Series, and where Roberto Clemente did a different kind of gliding across the base paths.
Readers familiar with my writings are probably thinking I must also feel a political kinship with Kelly. Not exactly. I'm, of course, a conservative; Kelly was anything but. In fact, it pained me to include him in my book, Dupes where I noted Kelly among the Hollywood progressives exploited by Hollywood Communists. To wit:
In October 1947, Gene Kelly joined a gaggle of Hollywood liberals who formed a group called the "Committee for the First Amendment." They launched a major public-relations trip to Washington to defend accused friends; that is, friends accused of being Communists. Their friends had been summoned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities for their blatantly pro-Soviet activities. The accused insisted they were neither pro-Communist nor pro-Stalin. Kelly and his fellow progressives believed them totally - hook, line, sinker.
Among the liberal stars enlisted were Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Danny Kaye, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Gene Kelly.
Once they got to Washington, however, the wide-eyed progressives learned the truth. The accused, such as the likes of John Howard Lawson - known as "Hollywood's Commissar"-Dalton Trumbo, Alvah Bessie, and Albert Maltz, were guilty as charged. When the actors watched the hearings, they were stunned that Congress' Democrats and Republicans and their lawyers had done their homework and presented massive volumes of hard evidence: Communist Party card numbers, dues payments, writings for the Daily Worker and New Masses, membership in front-groups, and on and on. The actors had been lied to - big-time. Bogart flew into a rage, screaming with choice profanities that he had been "sold out." He sure had - as had Gene Kelly and the others.
In fact, it was the second time that year that Kelly had been duped. In February 1947, Hollywood's closet Communists cast Kelly, the all-American boy, to provide the introduction at the kick-off meeting of the Progressive Citizens of America (PCA), held at the Embassy Auditorium in Los Angeles. Kelly was no doubt surprised to see (before he spoke) the large screen that splashed rolling footage of Harry Truman's and America's bloody crime at Hiroshima. This was part of Communist Party USA's anti-Truman campaign, along with other campaigns that year that served Stalin: their attacks on the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan. On the ballot that evening as board members of PCA were the likes of Lawson and Trumbo.
Kelly was hardly alone in being burned by the Reds. My political hero, Ronald Reagan, once a self-described "hemophiliac liberal," likewise was torched by Hollywood's Communists. Reagan, of course, more than redeemed himself. As a result, we remember him for his politics more than his movies.
As for Gene Kelly, though, we fortunately remember him for his movies: The blue-collar, happy-go-lucky GI performing "I Got Rhythm" to French kids in Paris post-World War II; singing with Judy Garland when she was famous before he was ("For Me and My Gal," 1942); doing the town with Frank Sinatra; and, best of all, immortalized in that wonderful scene in "Singing in the Rain." For the record, my favorite occasion watching the latter was during a rain delay one day at a Pittsburgh Pirates game. That brought it all home.
Here's to Gene Kelly, fellow Pittsburgher-and American icon. May that star continue to shine beyond Pitt campus.
Try to define progressivism. In fact, ask progressives to try to define progressivism. All we really know is that they're, well, progressing. They and their ideas and their politics are always changing, evolving. This means that what they believe and hold fast and dear today may not be what they believe and hold fast and dear tomorrow, or decades or a century from now.
For instance, when progressive heroine Margaret Sanger started her American Birth Control League a century ago, she was seeking birth control for, among other purposes, what she and fellow progressives termed "race improvement." She hoped to expunge the gene pool of what she termed "human weeds," "morons," and "imbeciles." She repudiated abortion, calling it
. . . an alternative that I cannot too strongly condemn . . . the practice of it merely for limitation of offspring is dangerous and vicious."
She clarified in no uncertain terms:
. . . some ill-informed persons have the notion that when we speak of birth control we include abortion as a method. We certainly do not.
Today, Sanger's American Birth Control League is Planned Parenthood, America's largest abortion provider. Progressives have not only progressed to that level but also to the point where they demand full taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and birth control and abortion drugs. Most amazing, those who disagree are castigated as Neanderthals favoring a "war on women."
How did we suddenly progress to this latest stage?
That's a long answer with a lot of factors, but we cannot disregard the huge impact of the latest influence: President Obama. If you would have told me five years ago that the president of the United States, by executive fiat, would force all Americans - including all religious organizations - to fund sterilization services and abortion drugs, I would have at least taken solace in one thing: my liberal friends would surely respect my religious beliefs and insist their president was crossing the line.
Sorry, the opposite is true. With President Obama leading, millions of Democrats have willfully fallen in line. He is not bending, and neither are they. If we disagree with what they're compelling us to do - that's our fault. We have failed to progress to their understanding.
My pro-choice friends always promised they'd never force me to pay for their abortions. With Obama out front, that has changed. They simply hadn't progressed there yet.
The same is true for gay marriage, where liberals - immediately after Obama's statement on gay marriage to ABC a few months ago - are suddenly on fire for the cause, from blasting Chick-fil-A to, according to The New York Times, considering the unprecedented step of placing gay marriage in the Democratic Party platform. Consider liberals' progression on this issue:
A half century ago, the concept of "gay marriage" would have been unthinkable to any Democrat. Currently, I'm being frequently asked about parallels in thinking between Obama and his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. There are striking similarities when it comes to their words on Wall Street, the rich, tax cuts, wealth redistribution, universal healthcare. I'm often asked if Davis' writings indicated support for gay marriage and abortion. Are you kidding? Anyone who might have voiced public support for those things back then, Democrat or Republican or radical, would have been hauled off to an asylum as a public menace.
Just 20 years ago, the previous Democratic president, Bill Clinton, supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.
While support for gay marriage has increased since then, what the progressive movement needed was a front man to light the fuse and take the lead. They got it big-time from President Obama. Just like that, the entire public debate has changed, with gay-marriage advocates on the offensive and opponents on the defensive. Those opposing the unwavering norm since the dawn of humanity, following the billions before us - what Chesterton called the "Democracy of the Dead" - are suddenly framed as extremists who must explain ourselves. And CEOs of companies who voice a mere opinion to the contrary - e.g., Chick-fil-A - are picketed, protested, banned, and attacked by the nation's mayors for manufacturing everything from "hate thoughts" to "hate chicken."
Progressivism. No one can see where it will end up, but we can see how it unfolds. In this latest manifestation - call it President Obama's progress - it compels all of us to acquiesce on gay marriage and abortion. Obama didn't begin the push, but, in only four years, he has advanced the progressive project by leaps and bounds, a stunning surge that doesn't happen without him.
In 2008, Barack Obama promised fundamental, transformational change - and now, thanks to the American electorate, we're getting it.
President Obama's position on gay marriage has won some converts, from (perhaps) the entirety of the Democratic Party to (especially) young people. As to the latter, one of them emailed me recently. A good-hearted, thoughtful young man, who this fall will be a freshman at a very liberal college in the Northeast, I'll leave him unnamed. His story, however, is instructive, and sheds light on an ancient morality tale worth considering right now.
The young man comes from a conservative evangelical family. He has progressively edged in a liberal direction. He read an article I had written on President Obama's gay-marriage advocacy. Though he disagreed with me, he was respectful. I appreciated that, and responded.
He objected to my point that legalizing gay marriage would represent a radical rupture not just of the definition of "marriage" but of "family." "How would that happen?" he asked.
I support gay marriage and think that if two people are in love, then they should have the right to be together with full benefits under the title of being MARRIED.
I really don't want to hear any religious arguments. Marriage is a secular act that can also be religious.
The young man was open to hearing my viewpoint. As he said, he didn't want to merely yell at me, "Oh my god! You're against gay marriage? Then you're stupid!" That's what he's sure to hear at the liberal college where his parents will be sending their life savings.
Though there were many ways I could have replied to this young man's email, my response focused not on his youth but, rather, the youth of all of us, of this entire generation, of the whole culture. Here was the thrust of my response:
Whether a society or people are religious or not, the most fundamental basis of society and peoples - literally since the dawn of humanity- has been marriage between a man and a woman. That bond is the cornerstone. To suddenly sever that bond is not only a radical rupture, but remarkably arrogant; it assumes that our current generation is wiser than the multiple millennia of civilizations heretofore. Google the word "matrimony." "Marriage" has always meant the marriage of a man and a woman.
We shouldn't mess with these things. Once we begin redefining and reshaping these things in each of our own images, we're in trouble. I ask progressives: Do you truly want the government to take unto itself the right to remold such ancient terms? (Answer: Yes, they do, but only when the government agrees with them.)
That question ought to give pause to libertarians who support gay marriage. Do they want to allow government this unprecedented, enormous moral power and authority, from which will flow all sorts of new, massive government redistributive power and authority? As Jennifer Roback Morse asks, do libertarians really want the federal government regulating (let alone defining) marriage? If they do, then they're favoring not small government but big government - actually, huge government.
Even most liberal Democrats (prior to President Obama) had voted to preserve marriage between a man and a woman. Witness the Clintons and congressional Democrats passing the Defense of Marriage Act in the 1990s.
Those against gay marriage need to know that not only are they in the majority today, but over the course of centuries and millennia. Our position is based not on the latest societal/cultural whim at the ballot box but on the inherited wisdom of billions of ancestors and thinkers preceding us. It is rooted in what G. K. Chesterton called "the democracy of the dead."
In his book, Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote:
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of their birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father.
There is deep, accumulated wisdom in our long line of ancestors. To suddenly assume we know better, compliments of recent enlightened understanding, is self-righteous and short-sighted. Don't our ancestors - our dead - have any say? There were a lot more of them than us. Are we to judge they were mere brutes lacking our magnificent reasoning abilities?
There's something to be said about, oh, multiple millennia of consensus belief. It seems unwise to not give our ancestors any serious consideration, and to not at least consider whether we might be wrong on this particular issue.
Should the dead not have a vote, a say, in this? *
When we open our newspapers on Father's Day, we expect to find something nice about dads - often, heroic dads. Yet, for every boy or girl whose father was a doctor or Marine who stormed the beaches of Normandy, there is a dad who was more complicated: not a great dad but one still loved and who had an impact, sometimes in unorthodox ways. This describes a father I've studied: Jack Reagan, father of the late president, Ronald Reagan.
Born in the Midwest, Jack Reagan was a shoe salesman who scraped and scrapped so his family could get by. And they didn't get by very well. Before long, drinking - a lot of drinking - was helping Jack to cope.
Jack uprooted the family at every turn. Throughout young Ronald Reagan's childhood, his family never owned a home.
In one of these moves, to the little Illinois town of Galesburg, Ronald had a kind of epiphany. The lonely boy ventured to the attic of his latest home. The previous tenant left behind a collection of bird's eggs and butterflies enclosed in glass. The curious first-grader escaped into the attic for hours at a time, marveling at the eggs' rich colors and the intricate wings of the butterflies. "The experience," Reagan remembered,
. . . left me with a reverence for the handiwork of God that never left me.
These wonderments, said Reagan, were like "gateways." The notion of a Creator was etched into the boy's consciousness. He later thanked that previous tenant as "an anonymous benefactor to whom I owe much."
Ironically, this dramatic rendezvous with the Creator was Jack's inadvertent doing.
Moving took a toll on the young Ronald; it created a void in him - a hole that religion came to fill. In need of a rock of reliability, he looked to where his mom, his heart, and his desolation pointed him: upward. There, he found what he perceived as a permanent friend - God, who was always in His place, accessible at any moment, who never moved on him.
Another foible of Jack's may have contributed to his son's turn to God. It was a brisk February evening in Dixon, Illinois in 1922. Returning home from a basketball game at the YMCA, 11-year-old Ronald expected to arrive to an empty house. Instead, he was stunned by the sight of his father sprawled out in the snow on the front porch. "He was drunk," his son later remembered. "Dead to the world . . . crucified." Jack's hair was soaked with melted snow, matted unevenly against the side of his reddened face. The smell of whiskey emanated from his mouth.
Young Reagan stood over his father for a minute or two. He wanted to simply let himself in the door and pretend his dad wasn't there. Instead, he grabbed a fistful of overcoat and heaved Jack to the bedroom, away from the weather's harm and neighbors' attention. He felt no resentment, just grief. This, after all, was the man who had always carried him.
The event shook the young Reagan; he never forgot it. Four months later he was baptized at his mom's church.
The story of Ronald Reagan's dad is sad. Yet, it describes many father-son relationships and reveals how a complex father can possess both negative and positive attributes - and, yes, there were positives.
Jack instilled in Ronald Reagan the work ethic that propelled him into radio, then the movies, and then television - all in the heyday of each medium. In the 1930s, when most of America suffered, Ronald Reagan soared. He would go on to twice win (in landslides) the governorship of the nation's largest state and the presidency of the world's most powerful nation. His father taught him that success comes from within, not by a handout. Reagan saw in his dad an ability to roll with the punches, a trait crucial to Reagan's thick political skin. He also learned from his father the gift of gab that the Great Communicator ultimately mastered.
Moreover, completely neglected by history was Ronald Reagan's hatred of racial and religious bigotry. Here, too, his dad had a role. Jack didn't just tell his son that racism was bad; he shared indelible accounts that Reagan internalized and retold throughout his life.
Of course, dads can't do everything. For the duty of spiritual development, Jack Reagan delegated to his wife, Nelle. Give him credit, I suppose. Jack knew his limits and his wife's strengths. Nelle excelled at the task.
Really, it was the Reagans together, both Jack and his wife, who serve as an excellent example of how it takes two - a mom and dad, each bringing separate strengths to the table - to best raise a child. Maybe that's a worthwhile thing to remember on Father's Day, and any day.
The left-leaning magazine The Nation has published a list of what it deems America's all-time, most influential progressives. The list, which you can review for yourself, is very revealing.
For starters, it's fascinating that The Nation leads with Eugene Debs at number 1. Debs was a socialist. It was 100 years ago this year, in 1912, that Debs ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket.
Today's progressives get annoyed if you call them socialists. Well, why is a pure socialist the no. 1 "progressive" on The Nation's list?
Of course, progressives really get annoyed if you suggest they bear any sympathies to Communism. That being the case, two other "progressives" on The Nation's list are quite intriguing: Paul Robeson and I. F. Stone.
Paul Robeson was a proud recipient of the "Stalin Prize." Even The New York Times concedes Robeson was "an outspoken admirer of the Soviet Union." When Robeson in 1934 returned from his initial pilgrimage to the Motherland, The Daily Worker thrust a microphone in his face. The Daily Worker rushed its interview into print, running it in the January 15, 1935 issue under the headline, "'I Am at Home,' Says Robeson at Reception in Soviet Union."
The Bolsheviks, explained Robeson, were new men. He was bowled over by the "feeling of safety and abundance and freedom" he found "wherever I turn." He discovered sheer equality under Joseph Stalin.
When asked about Stalin's purges, Robeson retorted:
From what I have already seen of the workings of the Soviet Government, I can only say that anybody who lifts his hand against it ought to be shot!
Yes, Robeson was deadly serious.
Robeson told the Daily Worker that he felt a "kinship" with the USSR. So much so that he moved his family there.
He also joined the Communist Party USA. In May 1998, the centennial of Robeson's birth, longtime CPUSA head Gus Hall hailed Robeson as a man of Communist "conviction," who "never forgot he was a Communist."
None of this is mentioned in The Nation's profile, which blasts anyone who dared consider Robeson a Communist. Instead, The Nation insists that Comrade Paul was a "progressive."
And that brings me to I. F. Stone.
Stone is listed at number 26 on The Nation's list. Stone has been hailed by liberals for decades as the literal "conscience" of journalism - a hero of impeccable honesty. In fact, we now know that Stone, at one time, was a paid Soviet agent.
In their latest Yale University Press work, historians John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev conclude that Stone (from 1936-39) was a "Soviet spy." Also closely studying Stone's case is Herb Romerstein. In The Venona Secrets, Romerstein likewise concluded "Stone was indeed a Soviet agent." One of the stronger confirmations from the Soviet side is retired KGB general Oleg Kalugin, who reported:
He [Stone] was a KGB agent since 1938. His code name was "Blin." When I resumed relations with him in 1966, it was on Moscow's instructions. Stone was a devoted Communist.
None of this appears at Stone's "progressive" profile at The Nation.
And speaking of progressives with Communist sympathies, also on The Nation's list is Margaret Sanger. The Planned Parenthood matron sojourned to Stalin's Potemkin villages in 1934. "[W]e could well take example from Russia," Sanger advised Americans upon her return, "where birth control instruction is part of the regular welfare service of the government."
The Planned Parenthood founder was stunned by the explosion of abortions once legalized by the Bolsheviks. No fear, though. Sanger offered this confident prediction:
All the [Bolshevik] officials with whom I discussed the matter stated that as soon as the economic and social plans of Soviet Russia are realized, neither abortions nor contraception will be necessary or desired. A functioning Communistic society will assure the happiness of every child, and will assume the full responsibility for its welfare and education.
This was pure progressive utopianism, an absolute faith in central planners.
Overall, the socialists, Communists, and Soviet sympathizers on The Nation's list are dizzying: Upton Sinclair, Henry Wallace, W. E. B. DuBois, Norman Thomas, Lincoln Steffens, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Tom Hayden, Barbara Ehrenreich, and John Dewey - founding father of American public education.
Thus, I'm compelled to ask: Is this "progressivism?" Is progressivism synonymous with liberalism, or is it much further to left, closer to Communism?
I plead with progressives: This is your ideology. . . . Could you better define it, if that's possible? Or is the definition of progressivism always progressing? Actually, it is always progressing; that's precisely the problem with this train-wreck of an ever-elusive ideology. The Nation's list of leading American "progressives" is truly a teachable moment.
I've gotten some very interesting emails regarding President Obama's mandate commanding Roman Catholics (and many evangelical Protestants) to violate their consciences by providing mandatory contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing pharmaceuticals. The emailers noted that Obama's action will force Catholics to challenge the president in court, particularly given that bishops are saying they will not comply with the law. It could mean another constitutional showdown over "Obamacare," one that could likewise end up in the Supreme Court. Imagine: Catholic Bishops v. Obama.
What a fitting capstone to the Obama presidency. And imagine that a majority of professing Roman Catholics elected this man in November 2008.
If this issue goes to the high court, I wouldn't bet my money on Obama, even with the two new "pro-choice," pro-Roe liberals he added to the bench: Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Even the most "progressive" Supreme Court justice cannot avoid that old freedom-of-religion thing in the First Amendment.
All of that is remarkable enough. But I find it especially ironic given two other fascinating current news item relating to the Constitution:
President Obama did an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer. Obama expressed frustration at his inability to be the "transformational political figure" Americans elected. The "change agent" lamented that this was the fault of the American Founders - who Obama refers to as "men of property and wealth" - and their Constitution. Obama told Lauer:
What's frustrated people is that I have not been able to force Congress to implement every aspect of what I said in 2008. Well, it turns out our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change that I would like sometimes. But what I have been able to do is move in the right direction. And what I'm going to keep on doing is plot away, very persistent.
Ah, that old Constitution again.
Obama is quite correct. His primary obstacle is the Founders' system of separation of powers and checks and balances. His problem is a Congress and Supreme Court that is empowered to say, "No, Mr. President, that isn't constitutional. You can't do that in America."
That brings me to the second news item:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave an interview to Egyptian television. Ginsburg will likely be the next justice to step down. Once Obama replaces her with a much younger pro-Roe judge, this nation will have Roe v. Wade for another 39 years. In the interview, Ginsburg advised Middle East democrats on drafting a constitution. She did not, however, recommend the U.S. Constitution. Ginsburg stated:
I can't speak about what the Egyptian experience should be, because I'm operating under a rather old constitution. The United States, in comparison to Egypt, is a very new nation; and yet we have the oldest written constitution still in force in the world . . .
I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, and had an independent judiciary. . . . It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recently than the U.S. Constitution, Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It dates from 1982. You would almost certainly look at the European Convention on Human Rights. Yes, why not take advantage of what there is elsewhere in the world?
Actually, why not take advantage of what's in the U.S. Constitution? The paradox in Ginsburg's statement is her dismissal of the U.S. Constitution because it's "rather old;" in fact, "the oldest written constitution still in force in the world."
Well, why is it so old and still in force? Because it was done right. It is based on timeless values and virtues and universal rights that work; that are true. It has been amended less than 30 times in 220-some years. It is the most stable, successful, remarkable constitution in history, bringing together a vast array of peoples and assimilating them into history's most prosperous, awe-inspiring nation - a nation that spent the 20th century winning freedom for other nations, so those nations could produce democracies and constitutions. The U.S. Constitution is the perfect model, at once both beautifully broad and specific.
And among the things it got right are separation of powers and checks and balances. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and President Obama may be learning that again very soon - compliments of Obamacare and its constitutional assault on the consciences of religious believers.
Congressman Allen West (R-Fla.) is being heavily criticized for comments alleging that certain Democratic members of Congress are Communists, and he is not backing down. West dared to quantify his accusation, claiming there are "78 to 81" Congressional Democrats who are Communists.
I want to say three things relating to West's remarks: First, some criticism of West's critics. Second, a defense of West's critics. And, finally, some criticism of West, which I offer constructively. I like Allen West and want him to succeed.
First, on West's critics:
Their concern about West's exaggeration and name-calling has little credibility coming from an ideology (liberalism) and political party (Democrat) which constantly engages in exaggeration and name-calling. I could point out a litany of examples. It's as easy as the latest liberal/Democrat gambit accusing Republicans of a "war on women" merely because they believe the federal government shouldn't force taxpayers to fund contraception and Planned Parenthood. For that crime, West's colleague Maxine Waters called Republicans "demons." Nancy Pelosi said they want women to "die on the floor." Dianne Feinstein insisted they want "to sock it to women." Harry Reid claimed Republicans have placed a "bull's eye on women." Barbara Boxer described it as a "vendetta" against women. Congresswoman Barbara Lee summed it up as a GOP "war on women."
I could go on and on. Google the words "George W. Bush" and "Hitler" or "Nazi." Or recall the obscene statements from Democratic lawmakers regarding the Iraq war. Remember that Senator Dick Durbin compared our troops to "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others."
But only when a Rush Limbaugh blows his top - or someone like Allen West issues charges like this one - does The New York Times start issuing calls for civility.
Point made. Now, for my second and third points:
Allen West needs to be much more careful. He sloppily overlapped categories and blurred lines of distinction. The reality is that the left side of the political spectrum is very broad. It includes Democrats, liberals, progressives, "social-justice" Christians, socialists, Communists, Marxists, Leninists, Stalinists, Maoists, and more. There are distinct differences, even when a liberal Democrat favors something that Marx favored. For instance, point two in Marx's 10-point plan in The Communist Manifesto calls for "a heavy progressive or graduated income tax." Advocates of this include basically the entirety of the Democratic membership of the House of Representatives - but it doesn't make them Marxists. Consider point three in Marx's 10-point plan, which calls for "abolition of all rights of inheritance." Many "liberals" and "progressives" advocate that to some degree (via taxation), but I know of no Congressional Democrat calling for complete abolition of all rights of inheritance.
Likewise, Marx wrote this: "the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." Yes, liberals place all kinds of restrictions on private property, but I know of no Congressional Democrat who would go as far as Lenin and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Castro.
Here's the reality that often complicates things for conservatives when looking at the political left: Liberals agree with Communists on many key sympathies - workers' rights, spreading and redistributing wealth, a narrow to non-existent income gap, an expansive central government offering a wide array of "free" government services, favoring the public sector over the private sector, class-based rhetoric (often demagoguery) toward the wealthy, progressively high tax rates. The differences are matters of degree, but they are crucial differences.
Sure, Allen West didn't say that every liberal in Congress is a Communist. Yet, he did say that there is a huge portion. Even worse, he initially said that "78 to 81" were actual Communist Party members, or about 40 percent of the Democratic membership. Clearly that's not accurate. If it is, then West should be chiseled into Mt. Rushmore for exposing the greatest threat to Washington since the War of 1812 - and we should commence a national march to the Capitol right now, with torches.
I assume that West misspoke, and meant communists (lower case "c") in ideology, not actual card-carrying Communist Party members.
Allen West has forgotten the painful lesson of Joe McCarthy: If you're going to call certain people Communists, you better be absolutely, 100 percent certain. There's nothing that liberals detest more than anti-Communism. Their preferred villain is Joe McCarthy, not Joe Stalin. They and their mass media will go ballistic, demanding a level of precision from you that they never demand from their own name-callers. Our side must be more cautious; that's the deck stacked against us.
Allen West, your courage and boldness is refreshing, but please be more careful.
I was recently contacted by Ben Johnson of LifeSiteNews, who told me of a fascinating development. He informed me of a curious fan of President Obama's advocacy of gay marriage: Mariela Castro, niece of ailing and aging Cuban tyrant, Fidel Castro, and daughter of current despot, Raul Castro.
Ben knows that my area of research is the Communist movement. I had just published an article on the longstanding Marxist/Communist position against traditional marriage. I quoted Karl Marx on the "abolition of the family" and underscored the anti-family actions of Communists historically and worldwide, from the Bolsheviks in Russia to Communist Party USA (CPUSA) to Communist nations generally - such as Cuba.
Importantly, I noted a key exception to the Marxist/Communist assault on the institution of marriage: As I said, the Russians certainly were not stumping for gay marriage. Joe Stalin was no gay-rights crusader. Neither was Fidel Castro. To the contrary, Communist regimes tended to be militantly anti-homosexual. In Cuba, Castro locked up homosexuals as public menaces, putting them in prison or lunatic asylums.
Thus, for Raul Castro's daughter to publicly support gay marriage is quite remarkable. Specifically, Mariela Castro called President Obama's statement on gay marriage "humane" and "understanding," said it has "great value," and wished that his words "will be taken seriously in the political and legislative decisions made in different states and in the whole world."
Again, this is striking. Here is a high-level Cuban Communist official publicly pushing not only for gay rights but gay marriage.
As Ben Johnson reported, Mariela, a "trained sexologist," heads the Cuban National Center for Sex Education. In Havana in broad daylight, she led an "LGBT" parade, where, as Johnson reported:
Some 400 transvestites sashayed behind Castro, doing a conga line through the streets, to celebrate the Fifth Cuban Day Against Homophobia, observed elsewhere on May 17. Marchers shouted, "Down with homophobia! Long Live Sexual Diversity!"
This scene was once unthinkable in Cuba.
Even more eye-opening, Mariela maintains that her uncle favors same-sex marriage, "but he has not made it public." More than that, she says Fidel is a closet gay-rights advocate:
He has done some advocacy work, speaking of the need to make progress in terms of rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
To hasten "gay marriage," Mariela says Cuba will be changing its "Family Code" and "constitution."
In short, this is an amazing turnabout. What's going on? Why this sudden conversion by Castro and Communist Cuba? Does this make sense?
Yes, it does. The root of the answer, once again, is the Marxist/Communist assault on marriage. Led either by the spirit of the times or by another spiritual force that has long led Communists, the Communist priority is not gay rights but a continued assault on the family. It's an assault on an institution both ancient and Biblical. As ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers liked to say, the Communist worldview is grounded in the first sin at the Garden of Eden, when man and woman, first joined by God, were separated by the Evil One: "Ye shall be as gods."
For atheistic Communists, this is just the latest slap in a century-long sustained bludgeoning of marriage and the family. Faced with a conflict between their penchant for persecuting the family and persecuting homosexuals, the Communist war on traditional morality and faith and family won out, thus dictating a sudden embrace of gay marriage (at least in Cuba). As long as the traditional family is destroyed, Marxism is advanced. Communists will do whatever they need to destroy the family; "gay marriage" seems the latest device.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx characterized the Communist goal of "abolition of the family" as revolutionary, "the most radical rupture with traditional relations." Indeed, Mariela Castro speaks of her new cause as "revolutionary," She wants to break the "patriarchal family model."
No doubt, Mariela sees President Obama's support of same-sex marriage as a step in rupturing that family model.
Finally, an interesting coda to this story: Ben Johnson reports that this "revolutionary process" in Cuba is being underwritten by American taxpayers. He says that in 2011, the State Department spent $300,000 promoting homosexual activism in Cuba. The funds went
. . . to strengthen grassroots organizations to create the conditions that allow meaningful and unhindered participation by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in all aspects of Cuban society.
Moreover, Mariela Castro was granted a visa to visit the United States for a conference in San Francisco. The visa was granted by Hillary Clinton's State Department.
When I first heard about the visa, I figured it was merely another example of the Obama administration going soft on Communist regimes. Now, however, given Mariela's kinship with President Obama on gay marriage, maybe there's more to the story - a lot more. *
Something wonderful unfolded in American politics the last few days.
Almost immediately after Rick Santorum dropped out of the Republican presidential hunt, David Axelrod and the Obama reelection team unleashed the class-warfare cannons. They expected to enjoy the first salvo of the season, fired by Democratic lobbyist Hilary Rosen. In a CNN interview, Rosen claimed that Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, "has actually never worked a day in her life."
It was a nasty blow, and the public rallied to Ann Romney's defense. As for Ann Romney, she didn't remain silent. "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys," she said. "Believe me, it was hard work." She might have noted her considerable physical sacrifices as well - such as breast cancer and MS - but didn't.
While Hilary Rosen's shot was still smoldering, liberal blogs were rife with fresh Democratic talking points vilifying Mitt Romney as a "one percenter," asking whether he paid his "fair share" in taxes, and attacking him for squirreling away his vile riches in foreign bank accounts. It was total class warfare. And this was just week one!
But then came the wonderful thing: Merely six days after Hilary Rosen's comment, major polling organizations released numbers on a head-to-head match-up between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and Romney suddenly has a lead. The most respected among them, Gallup, released numbers on April 17 showing Romney ahead by five points, 48 to 43 percent.
Why is this wonderful? It's not that I adore Mitt Romney, but I loathe class hatred. Marx and the Bolsheviks and their disciples did it with great destruction. I don't want it in my country.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for Romney's sudden surge over Obama, but no doubt some of this (particularly the swipe at Ann Romney) backfired. Or, at the least, some pollsters and pundits are interpreting it that way. If so, then maybe - just maybe - Axelrod might learn that not all forms of class warfare will resonate with Americans. Let's hope that's the case, because, otherwise, Axelrod and the president he serves - whom Axelrod portrays as the Great Unifier and fountain of hope - will be bitterly dividing this nation along economic lines.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, not only has President Obama been unceasingly employing class rhetoric for three years now, but Axelrod has been thrilling over precisely such an assault against Mitt Romney. "Obama officials intend to frame Romney as the very picture of greed in the great recession - a sort of political Gordon Gekko," reported an August 2011 Politico piece titled, "Obama plan: Destroy Romney." The piece quoted Axelrod:
He [Romney] was very, very good at making a profit for himself and his partners but not nearly as good [at] saving jobs for communities. He is very much the profile of what we've seen in the last decade on Wall Street.
This had been the plan before the Occupy Wall Street movement got up and running. Axelrod and Obama see Romney as red meat to feed the Occupy movement. As the Occupiers exploded last fall, Axelrod paused to tell MSNBC:
[Romney] says he represents business, but he really represents the Wall Street side of business.
Envy is a deadly sin, but Team Obama desires it as an excellent divide-and-conquer tactic. Axelrod and Obama both cut their political teeth in Chicago, home of Obama inspiration Saul Alinsky, who preached the tactic of "isolating" a target and "demonizing" it. Romney's riches fit the bill nicely.
More recently, in January, Axelrod told George Stephanopoulos that Romney is "not a job creator" but a "corporate raider" who outsourced "tens of thousands of jobs," "closed down more than 1,000 plants, stores, and offices," and raked in "hundreds of millions of dollars" at the expense of the poor. Axelrod referred to this as the sinister "Bain mentality."
Alas, here we are, April 2012, with the presidential race finally down to Obama vs. Romney, and the first polls show Obama behind this rapacious capitalist reptile.
So, will Romney's sudden surge signal to Axelrod and Obama to call off the class-warfare dogs? I doubt it. This thinking is too close to their hearts. They've been hungering for this; fomenting class envy is what they long to do. But maybe - just maybe - the American public won't swallow it.
Wouldn't it be nice if the people of this country quit hating each other, including hating people with more money? I'm hoping so, but our messengers of hope, Obama and Axelrod, are hoping not.
President Obama has caused quite a stir with a private comment made to Russian President Dimitri Medvedev. In discussing missile defense, Obama suggested he would be prepared to yield to Russian demands after the November election. "This is my last election," said Obama, not knowing his words were being picked up by an open microphone. "After my election, I have more flexibility." A pleased Medvedev replied: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]."
This is a big deal. Obama understands that his longtime stance against U.S. missile defense - while in full accord with Russian leadership - is not popular with Americans. He cannot codify his stance in a formal agreement with Medvedev and Putin until after the November election - assuming he wins. It was a rare moment when Obama was caught on tape expressing his true beliefs.
Those beliefs are no surprise. Barack Obama has never supported missile defense. In 2008, he openly campaigned to "cut investments." It is most unfortunate that Americans would elect to the White House a man who rejects missile defense. Time and time again, in poll after poll, the vast majority of Americans have stated that if a nuclear missile were fired at the United States, we should have a missile-defense system (we do not) that would shoot it down. They believe this despite voting for Democratic presidential nominees who blocked missile defense: Al Gore, John Kerry, and Obama.
That said, I was taken aback by the historical irony of Obama's comment to Medvedev. It came 29 years almost to the day that Ronald Reagan, on March 23, 1983, announced his Strategic Defense Initiative. More fitting, Obama's remarks came precisely during the period in 1983 when liberal Democrats lined up to ridicule Reagan's SDI.
Immediately after Reagan's announcement, Senator Ted Kennedy dashed to the Senate floor to mock the SDI speech as "misleading, Red-scare tactics and reckless Star Wars schemes." The term quickly found itself typed into New York Times headlines that day. Kennedy inspired other Democrats to follow suit. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HA) dismissed Reagan's talk of "Buck Rogers" weapons. Congresswoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), today a U.S. senator from California, chuckled at the president's "astrological dream." Boxer ridiculed Reagan's vision of flying parking "garages" in orbit. The leftist scientist Carl Sagan, the face of Cosmos, a popular PBS series, joined the fun, howling at Reagan's silly machine: "In the foreground comes a very attractive laser battle station," guffawed Sagan, "which then makes a noise like bzzzt . . . bzzzt . . . bzzzt."
Needless to say, the Kremlin absolutely loved this; it was a badly needed gift, courtesy of America's Democrats. Reagan's announcement had terrified the Russians. They needed a way to turn the tables. They adored the lines about "Star Wars" and "Buck Rogers." They instantly co-opted the language and created a full propaganda campaign built precisely on these terms of derision by Democrats.
As with Barack Obama's statement against missile defense today, the Russians were elated.
That was March 1983. And yet, President Obama's comments bring to mind another troubling historical analogy. They follow Obama's September 17, 2009 announcement cancelling plans for joint missile defense between the United States, Poland, and the Czech Republic - former "Captive Nations" of the Soviet Bloc that have become superb U.S. allies, and who still fear the Russians. Obama's action was a shocking betrayal of these two allies, and it was done to mollify Vladimir Putin and the Russians.
Poles and Czechs were stunned. But Poles especially were aghast at the timing of Obama's decision: It came exactly 70 years to the day - September 17, 1939 - that Stalin's Red Army, in compliance with the Hitler-Stalin Pact, invaded Poland. The Soviets thereby joined the Nazis in assaulting Poland and starting World War II. Among other calamities for Poland, such as the Katyn Woods massacre, this joint attack made possible the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz. Poland somehow survived, but its Jews did not.
Back then, too, in September 1939, Poland was virtually defenseless, and Uncle Sam didn't help.
This time, in September 2009, Poles and Czechs were asking for something much simpler: a U.S. commitment to the joint missile-defense system that America had promised under its previous president. No American troops were requested, no American tanks, planes, rifles, bullets, or grenades - only a defense system.
President Obama reversed that promise on September 17, 2009.
Many Poles saw the move as another painful example of Uncle Sam siding with Russia at Poland's expense and to Poland's detriment, a tragic history that goes back to Yalta in February 1945.
President Obama's moves on missile defense contain some chilling historical parallels. This is not good.
Will any of this matter to Obama's supporters? No, it won't.
"I love Fidel Castro," said Florida Marlin's manager Ozzie Guillen to Time magazine. "A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here." Guillen "respects" the Cuban despot.
Guillen has since apologized profusely for his comments, which infuriated Florida's Cuban emigre community - and for good reason.
Fidel Castro is a tyrant. I could go through a litany of the man's crimes against humanity since he turned a beautiful country into a Communist dictatorship over 50 years ago. Castro violated every form of basic human rights, from freedom of speech, to press, to assembly, to religion. He jailed dissidents and never stood for election - a promise he made in 1959. Liberals might take note of Castro's locking up of homosexuals on the island. And then there was that whole Cuban Missile Crisis thing, where Fidel and his pal Che Guevara - a hero at American universities - actually wanted to launch the nuclear missiles at the United States, and unleash nuclear Armageddon. And don't forget about the 15,000-20,000 Cubans that Castro has executed, or the tens of thousands who have drowned trying to swim 100 miles to the shores of Florida.
Safely ensconced on our shores is Mr. Ozzie Guillen, who became rich playing baseball under America's free-enterprise system. Guillen currently basks in a four-year, $10 million contract for managing the Marlins. He would never be able to make that kind of money in Cuba. In fact, to consider just how bad Cuba is under Castro, let's stick to baseball.
Fidel's favorite sport is baseball. He turned it into a national past time in Cuba. Unfortunately, Cuban players are not permitted to score some badly needed dollars, or personal freedom. I recall a telling incident in the spring of 1999. The Cuban national team came to America; specifically, to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where they played the Baltimore Orioles. They blew out the Orioles 12 to 6, giving Castro something to crow about. He framed the win as a victory for Communism over capitalism.
Not heralded by Castro, however, was the plight of his players. The entire payroll for the Cuban national team was $2,400 - yes, for the entire team. Each man on the roster of 20 players was paid a paltry $120 per year, just like everyone else in Cuba, from doctors, to teachers, to maintenance workers. That's called equal distribution of wealth. By comparison, the Orioles payroll for that year was $80 million, with players like Albert Belle and Cal Ripken enjoying huge long-term contracts.
Alas, no one in Cuba has a payroll quite like Fidel Castro. At the time, Forbes magazine published its annual list of the world's wealthiest leaders. Placing eighth was Castro at $110 million - a conservative estimate that doesn't begin to account for the billions of dollars in land, industry, and resources he has personally confiscated.
"We fight not to create millionaires!" proclaimed Fidel. Well, that's not quite true. Cuba has its share of filthy rich; they are the "one percent" of Communist Party cronies and apparatchiks, from Fidel's brother Raul (Cuba's current leader) to other corrupt mansion Marxists. They are typical of any Communist regime.
Of course, Cubans painfully realize their horrible situation. Testimony to that was the reaction of the Cuban national team immediately after they defeated the Baltimore Orioles. Rigoberto Herrera Betancourt defected. And while a bragging Fidel chomped on a hundred-dollar cigar, six other members of the Cuban delegation "overslept" and missed the airplane home. All did this at great personal risk to themselves and the families they left behind. They don't love Castro.
Ozzie Guillen, however, expressed a markedly different sentiment. Needless to say, if Guillen lived in Cuba, he would never have gotten the opportunities he has in America. He'd be poor or in prison.
Guillen is now in hot water in Florida, dealing with a five-game suspension because of his comments. Fans are still furious.
Well, if it gets worse, maybe he could consider managing the Cuban national team. I hear they're paying $120 a year. *
Editor's note: This article first appeared at The American Spectator.
Vaclav Havel is dead. Among other forces and powers, he is among the seven individuals most responsible for peacefully ending the Cold War: the great liberators who brought freedom and democracy. They are Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, and Havel.
With Havel's death, a majority of these seven are now gone, giving new voice and added meaning to what Chesterton deemed the democracy of the dead.
All waged battle against what Reagan inspiringly called the "Evil Empire," a brute creation cobbled out of a diabolical ideology that generated the deaths of over 100 million in the last century. At the core of that evil was what Mikhail Gorbachev characterized as a "war on religion," which, among other forms of malevolence, spawned what Vaclav Havel described as "the Communist culture of the lie." As they engaged the beast, John Paul II admonished all to "Be not afraid."
Vaclav Havel was unafraid. He and his Charter 77 movement were courageous, willing to go to jail rather than take orders from the devils who installed themselves as dictators from Budapest to Bucharest, from Warsaw to Prague.
As if all of this, unfolding here on earth a short time ago, was not profound enough, I'm suddenly struck at the profundity of Havel passing into the next world alongside Christopher Hitchens, and both shortly before Christmas.
Peter Robinson, who knows about the collapse of Communism, having written Ronald Reagan's Brandenburg Gate speech, interviewed Hitchens for his PBS show "Uncommon Knowledge." Robinson was troubled by Hitchens' willingness to concede credit to Havel for the collapse but none to Reagan. He took on Hitchens at that moment, not letting him get away with the slight against Reagan. I wish Vaclav Havel himself would have been there to set Hitchens straight. Havel said of Reagan, ironically at Reagan's death: "He was a man with firm positions, with which he undoubtedly contributed to the fall of Communism."
Havel had a lot to teach to Hitchens. Hitchens would have listened to Havel.
Indeed, of all people on this planet who God might have chosen to counsel a stunned Hitchens as he sits outside the Pearly Gates shaken in awed confusion, Havel would have been perfect, the one intellectual to merit Hitchens' intellect and respect. If Hitchens' un-merry band of atheists will forgive me, the religious romantic in me can't help but indulge an image of Hitchens sitting there, hunched over, head in hands, only to look up at a smiling Havel and saying, "Fancy that I'd see you here. You just getting here?"
Vaclav Havel was not just a man of politics and intellect, but a man of the arts, theater, literature - and, yes, of God. He exhorted the West and the wider post-modern world to seek "transcendence." Hitchens might have figured God "the ultimate totalitarian," but Havel saw God as the solution to totalitarianism, as tyranny's antidote, as the fountainhead of freedom. This was something Havel deeply admired about America and its roots - its fusion of faith and freedom and the recognition that the latter cannot genuinely exist without the former. "The Declaration of Independence states that the Creator gave man the right to liberty," Havel concluded in his July 4, 1994, lecture at Philadelphia's Independence Hall, home of that very sentiment. "It seems man can realize that liberty only if he does not forget the One who endowed him with it."
Vaclav Havel never forgot that principle nor its Endower. Neither did any of the Cold War seven that laid waste to the Soviet beast. And it was with the power of that conviction that they tapped the ultimate force that resolved the Cold War and won the victory for freedom and good against oppression and evil.
Vaclav Havel now joins the Heavenly majority. May he rest in peace, at last reaching true transcendence.
Editor's note: A version of this article first appeared at American Thinker.
This past Christmas, the people of North Korea were without their messiah. That is, their self-anointed messiah.
For a sense of just how bad was Kim Jong-Il, I thought I'd share a few anecdotes reflecting the singularly pernicious nature of this man and what he created in his own image.
Kim was truly a modern Stalin - in some ways, worse. His cult of personality began with the advent of his birth, which North Korea heralded as a second coming, eerily akin to the birth of Jesus Christ. Kim was born February 16, 1941, a date accorded the status of a national holiday and treated like Christmas. On that date, all North Koreans are allowed off work for the grandest parade, the highlight of which is a float marked by a glorious double rainbow and star - indicative of the double rainbow and new star that miraculously appeared in the sky the moment of Kim's birth.
Speaking of miracles, the totalitarian state's propaganda machine churned out outrageous distortions, easily exceeding even Stalin standards. State media claimed that in the first round of golf Kim ever played, he broke the all-time world record for the best round of golf in history. The government press also reported that Kim composed more and better operas - and at a younger age - than anyone who ever existed. Songs like "Dear Leader Dispels Raging Storms" were karaoke hits in North Korea.
An eyewitness to the madness was Kang Chol-hwan, author of the frightening memoir, Aquariums of Pyongyang. Kang recalled how as a child he and his wide-eyed classmates were taught that Kim and his late father were "Edenic" human beings, so perfect that neither man defecated or urinated. They were born without sin, if not purer. My faith teaches that Christ was both 100 percent human and 100 percent divine. North Korea tipped the scales even higher.
Kang Chol-hwan remembered how North Korean children were told that Kim was a "kind of Father Christmas," because of whose benevolence every child was graciously entitled to a new pair of shoes.
The regime was hell-bent on this messiah complex. The consistent, dogged application of this divine narrative was unrelenting and sickening. I could give example after example that would make you cry. It was evil, just plain evil.
Compounding the obscenity is this tragic truth: no modern people have been so repressed and persecuted. North Koreans experienced a government-induced famine where two-to-three million people (10 to 15 percent of the population) starved to death from 1995-98. The place is a living, breathing (actually, dying) tragedy. At its apex sat Kim, whose omnipresent face and figure literally hovered above the masses in murals and statues and screens.
I recall one day watching a C-SPAN broadcast of U.S. senators returning from a fact-finding trip to this prison state. It was one of the first overseas trips of Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who had replaced Bob Dole. Roberts was asked what term he would use to classify the North Korean regime, perhaps "Stalinist," maybe "totalitarian," or simply "Communist?" I'll never forget Roberts' response: He quickly said "theocracy."
Yes, very good. This viciously atheistic regime that pursued a classic Communist war on religion was devoutly religious itself. Ironically, it had not banned religion; it had nationalized it, centralized it, redistributed it - all in the form of Kim Jong-Il. Just as North Korea's Communist government had taken over all industry, all agriculture, and even all crime, it had also seized all faith.
When Whittaker Chambers once commented on the ultimate crime of Communists, he explained that they had grossly repeated humanity's original mistake: "Ye shall be as Gods."
Ah, in that sense, Kim was indeed "Edenic."
Kim Jong-Il presented himself to his suffering people as their god and their salvation. Instead, he was their downfall. He was the worst embodiment of the fall of man, and he in turn felled a nation and a people in the ugly process.
Christmas is no time for false messiahs. The worst of them, Kim Jong-Il, spent this season no longer among the living. His people can rest in peace. I have a strong suspicion Kim is not. This Christmas time, little old Kim finally had some explaining to do. He is at long last accountable for his sins.
Editor's note: A shorter version of this article first appeared in today's issue of USA Today.
As the indignation of the Wall Street Occupiers spreads across the nation, it is time to step back and consider the broader historical perspective. What will history books record about the Wall Street Occupation? For starters, what was the start date? The answer to that simple fact alone has some potentially profound meaning.
The Wall Street Occupation began on September 17. How ironic that date is.
If the Wall Street Occupiers could hop into a time machine and read their New York Times from September 17 almost a century ago - specifically, September 17, 1920 - they would be struck by this headline: "WALL STREET EXPLOSION KILLS 30, INJURES 300; MORGAN OFFICE HIT; BOMB PIECES FOUND."
At noon the previous day, a horse-drawn wagon carrying hundreds of pounds of explosives and deadly shrapnel exploded in front of the headquarters of J. P. Morgan at 23 Wall Street, the heart and busiest section of America's financial district. The final death toll was 38, with over 400 injured.
The suspects were surprisingly similar to the spectrum of leftists who are occupying Wall Street right now. They ranged from radical progressives to socialists to Communists to anarchists, from homegrown Bolsheviks to Italian Galleanists to Communist Party USA. No matter their labels, all shared one thing in common: they were anti-capitalist, anti-Wall Street, anti-banker, and generally despised what President Obama constantly refers to as "millionaires and billionaires" who do not "pay their fair share." They saw banks, loan-makers, investors, Wall Street, and the wealthy as sinister forces. They, too, shouted "down with capitalism!"
As the bomb immediately produced millions of dollars in damages and worse still in human carnage, certain wealthy bankers and investors, like J. P. Morgan, braced themselves for a march on their homes by anti-capitalist mobs - a prelude to what happened in New York this time around. The September 17, 1920, New York Times, in a lengthy page-one article titled, "RED PLOT SEEN IN BLAST," noted not only that Mr. Morgan's home was being guarded but - in another similarity to the current Wall Street Occupation - that "many cities" around America were preparing their financial districts "against similar disaster." Mayors nationwide worried about the Wall Street chaos metastasizing to their cities, organized by left-wing ringleaders connected to the New York fiasco.
It strikes me that today's Wall Street Occupiers, as they go national, have become increasingly belligerent and violent. Reports abound of widespread theft, destruction of property, rampant drug use, sexual assaults from groping to alleged rape, knocking over trash cans, defecating on police cars, clashes with police - involving rocks, tear gas, riot gear, shouting down police as "Pigs" - stabbing threats, mass arrests, blatant anti-Semitism, refusals to report crimes, and all sorts of other violent outbursts. Incidents have occurred across the country, from New York to Boston to Baltimore to Cleveland to Denver to Oklahoma City to Oakland, California.
Democrats have responded to the Wall Street Occupiers in varying ways, from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's strange, "God bless them for their spontaneity," to President Obama expressing empathy with their "frustrations." "I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests," Obama told ABC's Jake Tapper:
In some ways, they're not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. . . . I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren't looking out for them.
Likewise, Vice President Biden has framed the protests as a sort of leftist version of the Tea Party.
More generally, the Occupy Wall Street behavior is a cautionary tale to President Obama and Democrats: Class-based rhetoric and demagoguery is poisonous and destructive. Once the enraged masses spill into the streets in more and more cities, the chances for violence magnify exponentially. Class envy and hatred engenders an unhealthy rage. I'm amazed that the protests have not gotten much more violent. Roseanne Barr literally called for guillotining wealthy bankers - and she was deadly serious.
The September 17, 1920, New York Times was a picture of that violence. It was at newsstands on Wall Street the exact same day the current Wall Street Occupation took hold on September 17, 2011.
Is the date a coincidence? Yes, I think so, even as the symbolism is jarring. The planners in September 2011, as far as I can tell, have no idea of the irony of the set of dates, being inspired and led by other forces. Unless, that is, the devil has a sense of irony.
This week [the end of November] hunters across America storm the woods loaded for deer. For yet another indication of how times have changed, consider this account of Deer Season a half century ago:
My mother's family lived in Emporium, Pennsylvania, as did dozens of their relatives. Emporium is a tiny town nestled in the mountains near the north/central part of the state. Back in the 1940s, when my mother was born, my grandmother had worked as a Rosie the Riveter at the Sylvania plant. Some reading this article will remember owning a huge, heavy Sylvania TV - back when you got only three channels.
Sylvania employed half the town. Farming was another means of employment, which my grandfather and his parents and nine siblings had done down the road in Rich Valley.
Still, neither Sylvania nor farming nor anything else did much to populate tiny Emporium.
Once a year, however, the place was flooded with people. That time of year was Deer Season, when out-of-town hunters arrived like an incoming Army, loaded with rifles and bullets. "Army" is a good metaphor, given that a large portion of the hunters were World War II vets. They came from the mills and mines of Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania. They came to shoot a deer.
During that special week, Emporium's streets were bustling, the bars were jammed, and churches had more people than usual, including St. Mark's, where hunters sought out the priest for a blessing before heading into the woods.
The lone hotel was full, leaving hunters looking for lodging. Some packed into makeshift hunting camps. Some slept in their cars. Sleeping in a car was no big deal to guys who had fought in Germany, France, and the Battle of the Bulge. Nonetheless, they searched for a place with a roof, heat, a bathroom - which brings me to my main focus:
My grandmother always took in boarders during Deer Season. In fact, the whole town did. Up and down every street, hunters knocked on doors asking if the home was taking boarders. Bear in mind, these were complete strangers carrying guns and lots of ammunition. And yet, there was never any fear that they were a threat to a household.
"I never heard of any problems anywhere," recalls my mother, who was a little girl when the hunters stayed at her house. "There was never any concern about the safety of anyone, including the kids. Today you can't trust anyone. It was different then."
It was very different. There was also a general trust of hunters, a trust I believe is still merited and shared in those areas. My Uncle Carl, my mom's brother, says, "I still think that hunters are a special breed and even though they kill animals most are very caring, trustworthy, and law abiding."
My uncle remembers my grandparents taking in so many people that he lost track. "During hunting season our house was a zoo," he says.
For a few dollars per person, my grandparents hosted two or three hunters per night, giving them a bedroom and maybe the backroom. The hunters marched inside with all their gear. As evening fell, early in the winter, my grandmother made dinner for everyone. They all shared a meal. The hunters talked and played and joked with the kids. After dinner, they got their equipment in order and went to bed - snoring loudly through the night.
Around 5:00 a.m., my grandmother made breakfast for the hunters, typically bacon and ham and eggs.
The meals were special. "I enjoyed the stories at night and breakfast in the morning as much as the hunting," says my uncle.
Then they were off to the woods. If they shot a deer early, some headed straight back to Pittsburgh, hoisting the gutted carcass atop the Oldsmobile. Others, if they got a deer late, might return to the house, where my grandmother cooked up some venison. If they had no luck, they stayed another night or two.
This scene was repeated in house after house in Emporium. My Aunt Della, who lived across the railroad tracks and river, took in boarders in an apartment above her garage. She tended to get the same guys year to year. I'm sure her rigatoni and meatballs were a factor.
Can you imagine this today? Any of this?
Yes, the culture has really changed. America has changed. *