Newt speaks out: the Ashley Todd Party won't take it anymore!

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 11:00

In quick hits, tremayne quotes a snippet from a NYT OP-ED by
Charles Blow:

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill's most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It's enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

And HousesofProgress quoted from a Financial Times op-ed by Ed Luce:

The third consequence, and in some respects cause, of Mr Obama's healthcare victory is the at least temporary capture of the Republican party by its radical wing. At a dinner in Washington this week, Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker and likely 2012 presidential candidate, described Mr Obama's bill as the biggest threat to the "American way of life since the 1850s" when the country was heading for civil war.

Meanwhile, Brad DeLong cites the same Luce op-ed as an example of the continuing Versailles delusion that the GOP will soon return to sanity, going on to say:

I have been told that the Republicans will soon regain their balance at least once very single Friedman unit since the winter of 1980, when George H.W. Bush denounced Ronald Reagan's enthrallment to "voodoo economics." Hasn't happened yet. George H.W. Bush's budget director Richard Darman may ahve said that "at some point partisan posturing must yield to the responsibility to govern"--but nobody in his political party has ever listened to him.

DeLong goes on quote from Matthew Yglesias, correctly shifting back the crazy focus to 1964:

Paul Rosenberg :: Newt speaks out: the Ashley Todd Party won't take it anymore!
I think that to understand what's wrong with the conservative movement today, you need to think about Barry Goldwater's 1964 Presidential campaign. In '64, the GOP establishment felt that Goldwater was too radical. They said that nominating a hard-rightist like Goldwater would be counterproductive. But conservative activists worked hard, and they did it. Goldwater got the nod. And, just as the establishment predicted, Goldwater got crushed. And just as the established predicted, it proved to be counterproductive. The 1964 landslide led directly to Medicare, Medicaid, Title I education spending, and the "war on poverty." In the 45 years since that fateful campaign, the conservative movement managed to gain total control over the Republican Party.... But it's only very partially rolled back one aspect of the Johnson administration's domestic policy. Which is just to say that the conservative movement from 1964-2009 was a giant failure.... But the orthodox conservative tradition of '64 is that it was a great success that laid the groundwork for the triumphs to come.... Which is to say that it... can't think rigorously about its own goals. 2009-2010 has already seen the greatest flowering of progressive policy since 1965-66. No matter how well Republicans do in the 2010 midterms, the right will never fully roll back what the 111th Congress has done. And yet... if they win seats in 2010, conservatives will consider their behavior during 2009-10 to have been very successful...

Matt's point is a really crucial one, given that even progressives such as myself tend to regard the conservative movement as incredibly successful politically--which they certainly are in terms of process, driving the nation's political spectrum to the right, strongly against the current of public opinion--while somehow taking for granted conservative's complete inability to reverse major substantive gains progressives have made.

There's a good deal that can be said in defense of my usual stance--conservatives have been able to reverse a lot of other stuff, such as commonsense financial regulations from the 1930s, commonsense national security regulations from the 1970s, commonsense campaign finance regulations from the 1900s (the decade, not the century), and commonsense imprisonment regulations from the 1210s.  But when it comes to undoing the most significant direct results of their own folly in 1964--their grand failure that laid the groundwork for later success--they have utterly and totally failed to get anywhere close to even. Heck, they've been reduced to trying to paint the Democrats as the greatest threat to Medicare!  You just can't get to be much more of a failure than that.

Which brings me back to Newt Gingrich and Ashley Todd.  For no one epitomizes the profound failure of the conservative movement better than they do.  Gingrich's claim cited above, that Obama's passage of RomneyCare is the biggest threat to the "American way of life since the 1850s" (apparently, the Civil War pales in comparison) is perhaps most ably put in context by another post from Brad DeLong, which concludes thus:

Over in that alternative branch of the quantum-mechanical multiverse in which Mitt Romney was elected President in November 2008, this health care bill--with much smaller subsidies and no tax increases on the rich, and with other tweaks and modifications--passed the House of Representatives 352-83 and passed the Senate 79-20, with near-solid Republican support. Left-wing Democrats whined that it was not real reform. The David Broders and David Brookses of the world trumpeted it as an extraordinary victory for American bipartisanship.

Instead, we are here -- where a nearly identical plan appears very, very different.
We truly live in a weird world.

Gingrich's penchant for absurdly wrong-headed hyperbole, dressing up fear of the other in pretentious world-historical clothes, has enabled him to remain a perennial force in conservative politics despite repeated humiliations and embarrassments, simply because they have nothing--and no-one--better to turn to.  Intellectually, he is Ashley Todd, while mistaking himself for Napoleon.  In another deeply telling comment he made this week, Gingrich tried to blame Democratic leaders for the eruption of violent outrage after the passage of healthcare reform.  As Think Progress noted, Gingrich did say that "there is no place for this viciousness", but he quickly pivoted to placing blame on the Democrats:

GINGRICH: Just as there was no place for the kind of viciousness against Bush and Cheney, there's no place for viciousness against Democrats. I would condemn any kind of activity that involves that kind of personal threat. But look, I think there's something very disingenuous about the Democratic leaders who attacked the tea party movement, who refused to hold town hall meetings, who refused to go back home, who kept the Congress locked up in Washington, and are now shocked that people are angry. I think the Democratic leadership has to take some moral responsibility for having behaved with such arrogance, in such a hostile way, that the American people are deeply upset. So let's be honest with this. This is a game that they're playing. People should not engage in personal threats. I'm happy to condemn any effort to engage in personal threats. But I think the Democratic leadership has to take some real responsibility for having run a machine that used corrupt tactics, that bought votes, that bullied people, and as a result has enraged much of the American people. And I think it'd be nice for President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid to take some responsibility over what their actions have done to this country.

Gingrich has a long history of blaming Democrats for violence committed by others.  Indeed, it was one of his favorite themes during the brief period in which he reached his political apogee, as I pointed out in my mid-February diary from last year, "Newt Speaks, Newt Lies. Sociopathic 'Bipartisanship' Edition".  

There was this:

The Associated Press. St. Louis Post - Dispatch St. Louis, Mo.: Nov 8, 1994. pg. 13.A

Rep. Newt Gingrich came under fire Monday for using the South Carolina child-murder case to urge voters to back Republican candidates....

In an interview Saturday with The Associated Press, Gingrich was asked how the campaign was going in the final week.

"Slightly more moving our way," he replied. "I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things. . . .

"How a mother can kill her two children, 14 months and 3 years, in hopes that her boyfriend would like her, is just a sign of how sick the system is, and I think people want to change. The only way you get change is to vote Republican. That's the message for the last three days.

The mother, Susan Smith, initially blamed a imaginary black man for the murders.  It then turned out that she had been molested by her step-father, Beverly Russell, as a child.  He was a local leader of the Christian Coalition, naturally, as well as a member of the South Carolina Republican party executive committee.  How much more Ashley Todd can you get?  But Gingrich laid the blame on the Democratic establishment, and touted himself and his minions as the cure!

Then there was this:

Gingrich revises history in partisan attack
KENNETH J. COOPER. Houston Chronicle Houston, Tex.: Mar 8, 1995. pg. 9

Monday, Gingrich condemned liberal Democrats for "the monstrosity they have created, their public housing projects that are death traps for the poor, their public schools that are illiteracy traps for the poor."

But neither public education nor public housing were the legislative products solely of Democrats, as Gingrich partially acknowledged Tuesday when reporters pressed him to explain his remarks. But he insisted the blame for failures in both systems belongs to Democrats.

The nation's oldest public school, Boston Latin School, was established in 1635 -- long before either of today's major political parties was formed. It was Whigs who pushed universal public education in Northern states before the Civil War, and Republicans who opened schools throughout the South afterward.

"The public schools don't belong to one party or another," said Arthur Levine, president of Teachers College, Columbia University. "It's foolish. One would expect more of a former college professor."

Tuesday, Gingrich revised his remark to blame Democrats for ""the modern, unionized, big city school system with work rules that make no sense, with very big bureaucracies, with a tremendous amount of money wasted and with buildings that don't function.''

And then this:

Gingrich under fire for murder claim Speaker uses horrific killing to attack welfare state
MARTIN WALKER IN WASHINGTON. The Guardian Manchester (UK): Nov 23, 1995. pg. 014

AN INTER-RACIAL murder, in which a pregnant woman was murdered so that the father could steal the child from her womb, triggered a political row yesterday as Democrats denounced a claim by the Republican House speaker, Newt Gingrich, that the killing was the fault of the liberal welfare state.

The slaughter in Chicago last Friday of Deborah Evans, aged 28, and two of her children, has stunned an America which had thought itself beyond shock at crimes of sexual violence. Mr Gingrich's use of the case to draw a political moral has made it a national issue.

"The speaker is out of control," said David Eichenbaum for the Democratic National Committee.

"Last week he shut down the government because he got a bad seat on Air Force One. This week he blames his political opponents for a most brutal murder that has revolted the whole of America. Where does it end?"

Deborah Evans was a white welfare mother, with two white children of 10 and 8, and all three were found stabbed to death. Her former lover, Laverne Ward, a black man and father of her 19-month-old child and father of the child in her womb, has been arrested and charged with her murder. He is further charged with then cutting open her uterus with a pair of household scissors, and taking away the baby to give it to his cousin, who had tried and failed to have a baby.

"Let's talk about the moral decay of the world the left is defending. Let's talk about what the welfare state has created," Mr Gingrich told a conference of Republican governors. "We end up with the final culmination of a drug-addicted underclass with no sense of humanity, no sense of civilisation."

Deborah Evans was on welfare, but there is no evidence that drugs were involved in the crime, Illinois police said. That did not stop Mr Gingrich before, when he last year blamed "liberal values" in the case of Susan Smith, who drowned her two children in her car so that she could go off untrammelled with a new lover. At the trial, she blamed her behaviour on sexual abuse by her father, a prominent member of his local Republican Party.

Already criticised for damaging the Republican case in the budget battle with the White House by complaining of being snubbed on the presidential plane, the accident-prone Mr Gingrich was sticking to his combative guns yesterday, insisting that the case was a parable of the social decay caused by the welfare state.

"What's going wrong is a welfare system which subsidised people for doing nothing; a criminal system which tolerated drug dealers; an educational system which allows kids to not learn and which rewards tenured teachers who can't teach, while destroying poor children who it traps in a process with no hope," Mr Gingrich said.

"This happened in America. It happened because for two generations we haven't had the guts to talk about right and wrong. We've talked about situation ethics. We've talked about victimisation. We've talked about our needs. We've had soap-opera-like television shows where people get on and describe the most disgusting behaviour."

In short, blaming liberals and Democrats for the violent actions of others is central to Gingrich's political modus operandi.  And particularly when that violence is actually done by conservatives themselves, that modus operandi is diametrically opposed to the conservative mantra of "personal responsibility."

What a surprise!

But at least now I think we can understand Gingrich's remarks that Ed Luce said

described Mr Obama's bill as the biggest threat to the "American way of life since the 1850s" when the country was heading for civil war.

The big threat in the 1850s, was, of course, the formation of the Republican Party, opposed to the expansion of slavery.  The Civil War was all their fault, you see.  And nowhere near as big a threat to the "American way of life" as the abolitionist sympathizers like Abraham Lincoln, who were the cause of it all.

Heck, even Ashley Todd knows that!

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The conservative movement has been successful in several respects (4.00 / 8)
Which is just to say that the conservative movement from 1964-2009 was a giant failure....

The United States is much more authoritarian than it was in 1964, the tax structure favors the rich much more than it did then, unions are much weaker, aggressive militarism is taken for granted by both parties, and between 1968 and this year liberal forward progress on domestic policy was pretty much stopped. The healthcare bill we got this year was also much worse than the one we would probably have gotten if LBJ had had a successful second term -- that is, we've lowered our targets.

Not all of those were Goldwater's own goals, but there were advocates of all of those changes on his team.

I don't think of it as a failure (4.00 / 1)
that conservatives were unable to undo a policy that proved extremely popular, including among Republicans (Medicare.) I should say yet to, as it is still very popular yet they are still making progress.  As for the War on Poverty, it did in fact end for the most part with Nixon's victory.

Matt's point seems to rest on the entirely undefended assumption that a series of policies that were broadly supported by elites in both parties could not have happened absent a landslide, that itself could not have happened if Republicans hadn't nominated Goldwater.  I think the evidence is far from clear on both counts.

To take the second, if Rockefeller or some other establishment candidate had won the nomination, it's likely Johnson still wins during a campaign where both parties espoused liberalism (which could have moved the overton window even further to the left.).  It is also likely the Republican party would have still went to war with itself, with conservatives undermining the establishment (rather than vice versa.)

Republicans, especially conservative ones, made big gains in the 1966 elections - they were hardly relegated to the hinterlands. It's also hard to imagine the eventual conservative take over of the party absent the 64 Goldwater campaign or something similar - it obviously played an important role in the election of Reagan in CA (which led to the dismantling of a model New Deal / Great Society state into today's mess) and eventually the win in 1980.  This is not to say that everything that the Goldwater Republicans did was correct - but it was hardly an unmitigated disaster.

Matt believes in a simple contest model of politics.  He also thinks of elections as operating like a pendulum.  Neither of these frames are very helpful.  He should read Off Center by Hacker and Pierson.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
I Agree That Matt's Model Is Too Simple (4.00 / 2)
But the model he's critiquing is too simple as well.

Given how hard it was to get Medicare, I'm not at all convinced that LBJ beating Rockefeller would have resulted in it passing.

The real turning point, IMHO, was the GOP abandonment of civil rights, and their embrace of the Dixiecrats.  The fact that Goldwater gave LBJ a window to do a lot of things before that happened is what's significant here.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Fair enough (4.00 / 1)
I certainly don't want to defend the idea that the Goldwater episode was an unmitigated victory either or that these things would have necessarily happened absent the landslide.  

I'm particularly sensitive at the moment to the idea that public opinion and elections drive everything, as oppose to elite politics.  It's under-appreciated how much elite liberal consensus drove policy in the 50s and 60s, and how much neoconservative / neoliberal elite consensus derives things today.  There is a reason that Democrats kept talking about selling the HCR to the public after it passed, as opposed to before.  Or course, if the public had been mobilized, it might well have driven things more. But unmobilized publics don't.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Well, The Civil Right Movement Wasn't Elite Consensus Stuff (4.00 / 4)
There was an elite consensus that we needed to do something about racism, particularly to fight Communism in the Third World.  But the civil rights movement wanted a whole lot more than what the elites had in mind, and what was accomplished was a good deal more than the elites bargained for.

It's also the case that the elites were a lot smarter then.  A book like Harrington's The Other America could have the sort of sensible impact that would be seen in reverse with the nonsense of The Bell Curve 30 years later.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I definitely remember..... (4.00 / 3)
that in 1962 and 1963 the Times et al were very doubtful about the Civil Rights movement. That really was a movement from below, with some elite support, and in my terms, populist.  

[ Parent ]
And As Soon As King Came Out Strongly Against The War (4.00 / 2)
he was attacked so savagely in the NYT and elsewhere, it would make your head spin.

I don't think any rightwing figure has ever been attacked the way King was at that time.

Though, now that I think about it, the same crowd was pretty hard on Einstein, too, about 15-20 years earlier.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
You forget that your (0.00 / 0)
hero LBJ was not all all pleased when he read about King's Riverside speech -- he and his friend J. Edgar Hoover thought that King's movement had been influenced by Commies and Johnson wanted it investigated.  LBJ also didn't like it when, a year later, King announced he would lead a Poor People's March on Washington.  Johnson reacted, angrily, like he thought King was coming to D.C. to destroy LBJ and his presidency.

MLK was indeed savagely attacked by the MSM (far more than just the NYT) following the '67 antiwar speech.   But it was more than just the media elites who were upset.  

[ Parent ]
How Does LBJ Suddenly Become My Hero (4.00 / 1)
just because I refuse to falsely demonize him?

If you can't handle human complexity, you really out to consider re-registering as a Republican.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
We're at war, Paul (4.00 / 1)
Pick a side!

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
There's nothing false (0.00 / 0)
in what I've written about Lyndon, whose complexities I've noted time and again in various places.  I just acknowledge he was as much a president given to dark impulses as to more uplifting ones, and, here, his relationship with MLK was also "complex" -- and its downward spiral entirely worthy of being noted, especially considering Johnson's friendly relationship with Hoover and the latter's famous violent anti-King attitude and what later happened to King and the suspicions concerning the FBI role.

[ Parent ]
Kennedy and LBJ weren't that far apart (4.00 / 1)
Kennedy was at least as hawkish as LBJ. LBJ may have been stuck with a problem Kennedy started.

[ Parent ]
Kennedy Was Craftier On Foreign Policy (4.00 / 1)
LBJ really had little interest in foreign policy.  He was all about domestic policy.  Kennedy, OTOH, was excessively focused on foreign policy, and very keen on covert action.

Don't forget, he also ran for President in 1960, running to Nixon's right on defense, based on the mythical "missile gap."

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
John and Paul, (0.00 / 0)
see my partial reading list (from memory) at the bottom of the thread re good recent books to read regarding both JFK and LBJ on Vietnam.

To which, on FP matters and the cold war generally, I would add James Douglass' recent outstanding book, JFK and the Unspeakable which details Kennedy's evolution in cold war thinking.  There are a few others as well -- including John Newman's ground-breaking 1993 book JFK and Vietnam the first major book which, using recently declassified docs, showed that Kennedy had decided to get out of VN.

JFK wanted to end the cold war, bottom line.  LBJ once he got in, seemed to want to continue it.  Vietnam.  The ending of Kennedy's great momentum in working with the Soviets on easing tensions, including arms reduction.  The latter would stall under the cold warrior Johnson, and only resume under Nixon.

The old school of harsh lefty thinking about Kennedy is being proven false by the documentary record and other sources, including conclusions reached by all his top nat'l security people since the past 25 yrs that he would have not sent the US to war over there.  I've cited some quality sources (also a mention to James K. Galbraith and his one or two major pieces on how Kennedy had decided to get out of VN; Galbraith's views are further elucidated in the Virtual JFK book which I note at the bottom of the thread).  The trend no longer favors either the harshly anti-Kennedy stance of messrs Chomsky and Cockburn nor the undecided/we'll never know how he would have decided fence-sitting pov.

[ Parent ]
Newman Thought LBJ Might Have Been "In On" JFK Assasination (4.00 / 1)
I spoke with Newman back in 1993, when he was in LA just after his book was published.  There are only hints of it in the book itself, but in conversations at the time--and even book talks--he was quite open in speculating that Johnson might have been involved in the plotting Kennedy's assasination.

So, just ask yourself how much credance one should give to his judgment overall.

This is not to dismiss his work.  A lot of new material was dug out in the 1990s, and he was one of the first to publish.  But it is a sensible caution to place to much faith in his interpretations.  He's basically one of those who believes Kennedy would have ended the Cold War, and that's why he was killed.

Anyone who's ever heard of Richard Nixon knows that's a fairy tale.  Nixon would have crucified any Democrat who even dreamed of such a thing.  That's why Nixon was the only one who could go to China: because he was the only one who wouldn't have Nixon accusing him of being Benedict Arnold reincarnated.

But Newman's focus is so narrow that just tunes all that out.

So, IMHO, his nuts-and-bolts detail work is fine, but his broader judgment is simply not to be trusted.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Re Newman, (0.00 / 0)
I only note that he is not alone in that view, if indeed he expressed such to you or offrecord somewhere.  James Douglass, author of JFK and the Unspeakable, a book getting very good word of mouth since its release a while back, also holds such views (which he said in a radio interview he declined to get into with that book).  Douglass also, btw, seconds the view of Newman and others that Kennedy was seeking détente with the Soviets and largely this is why, in the view of the CIA and Pentagon chiefs, he had to go.

As for the LBJ connection if any to the assassination, let's just say that it's so obvious an angle at least to consider in any honest criminal investigation   (which has never happened, officially that is) that it shouldn't be held against those who currently espouse it.  It hasn't been proved or disproved, and at least some surface and circumstantial evidence would logically lead one to conclude at the very least that a reasonable person should at least look into it.  You seem to be offering up the polite and political response, that it's beyond the pale of reasonable thinking to consider the possibility of such happening here in this country, etc.  

Sorry, but I disagree, though I've come to no firm conclusion about LBJ's role, or foreknowledge, though I strongly tend to lean in the direction that he had the latter.

As for Nixon and a backlash from the Right, Kennedy was well aware of it had he lived for a 2d term and pulled out of Nam.  But he'd already proved himself tough with the Soviets on the missile crisis, and had courageously fought back against the warriors who wanted to attack and invade Cuba.   He had nothing left to prove, and the public seemed to be with him on that and the new effort at a new beginning with the Soviets.  A 2d term and withdrawal would likely have led to the usual rumblings of discontent on the Right, but Nixon going up against Kennedy?  That contest had already been held, and the public voted for JFK.  By 1965, and post-missile crisis and post-saberrattling Barry Goldwater, people were tiring of cold war brinkmanship and tough talk.  Kennedy would have done just fine.  Dems too.  

[ Parent ]
The Fact That More Than One Person Is Deluded Proves Nothing About The Real World (0.00 / 0)
Of course I know that Newman's not alone.

So what?

Neither is Orly Taitz.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I'm thinking of the 1960 campaign (4.00 / 3)
Kennedy's acts, most of his public speech, and the 1960 campaign support my view (which has nothing to do with Chomsky). Against this we have things we are told he would have done. He has an actual track record. If he was changing his mind during the last year or so, that makes him a more tragic, more complex, and more appealing figure, but not a better President. A President is what he does. In any case I can't see that there's enough there to put him so far ahead of LBJ.

I would not trust any Kennedy loyalist very far. Kennedy relied a lot on mythmakers and spin doctors.

A lot of this is somewhat moot for me. At this point I don't think of military policy in terms of Presidents at all. It may be that both JFK and LBJ were sabotaged  and deceived by their "advisers" and the entrenched military. One of the reasons I've been so discouraged recently is that it seems that military policy always trumps domestic policy, and ALSO that military policy hasn't really been under the control of elected officials since the end of WWII. Some officials gladly do what the entrenched experts want, and others end up finding themselves doing it without ever really having thought about it much.

[ Parent ]
JE, Kennedy was only (0.00 / 0)
deceived and sabotaged by his (CIA and Pentagon) advisers on the decision about the Bay of Pigs.  It was that disaster which led him thereafter to distrust these people, and, generally, after that his own thinking and instincts were his best advisers.  

The track record for JFK, particularly all the No's over 3 yrs nearly on sending in combat units to Nam, the No to sending in combat troops to Laos (another bit of bad advice from Ike), the No to attacking and invading Cuba during the missile crisis, and the positive things thereafter like the historic Test Ban Treaty and the Peace Speech show a solid record for Kennedy in turning around the pressures to mindlessly continue the cold war while starting up an additional hot one or two.  

Author James Douglass details much more, including the back-channel JFK-Khrushchev communications in the final year to ease tensions by going around each side's hardliners, and the Nov '63 decision apparently made by Khrushchev (according to son Sergei) to agree to Kennedy's offer to make it a joint effort to go to the Moon.  

Bottom line is that Kennedy never did cross the line into sending in combat units to Nam, even under considerable and consistent internal pressure to do so over nearly 3 years.  Johnson reversed this, rather quickly in his presidency as I see it.  Rather a large difference there between the two, just on that one issue.  

But you'll do better to read some of my cited sources, especially Douglass..  

[ Parent ]
But Kennedy DID Send "Advisors" To VN (0.00 / 0)
And if he'd had any sense, he would have pulled them all out after the battle of Ap Bac.  

He didn't.

As for moving toward detente with Kruschev, Eisenhower had already been there, and was moving toward cloture when the Gary Powers incident--still hotly disputed to this day--erupted, Eisenhower lied about it to cover the CIA, and everything suddenly collapsed.

OTOH, after the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy threatened to tear apart the CIA into "a thousand pieces."

He didn't.

I'm more willing than John to grant that Kennedy may have had some good intentions.  But he utterly failed to take the actions that would have actually made a difference.  And that's where my judgment goes right back to converging with John's again.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Reading Biographies on King (4.00 / 1)
regarding his treatment attacking the war is hard to digest.
    His attacks were grounded in the same beliefs that made him one of the great leaders in American History.  
     I guess the cover of Time was all that nigger deserved--was the thought a lot of people had.  Truly sad. . .

[ Parent ]
All true (nt) (0.00 / 0)

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
I Don't Think Tom Hayden (4.00 / 1)
and progressive activists who helped a lot with the creation of The Great Society were "elitists".

[ Parent ]
You may not know Tom Hayden as well as you think you do (0.00 / 0)
This was intended to be a joke, but when I got to thinking about it....

He was on the side of the angels, no doubt, but he was certainly no angel himself.

[ Parent ]
No, He Wasn't (4.00 / 1)
That said, I stating that there a serious progressive group of activists and thinkers fighting outside The Establishment to bring a lot of the changes we saw in LBJ's Presidency.

My point was that some of the "elite" thinkers were not as responsible as we some think.

[ Parent ]
Yes indeed (0.00 / 0)
I was one of them. One that you never heard of -- not that you should have -- but there were a lot of us, and a lot of us are still alive. The struggles of the day are of no interest to the generations which came along later, nor should they be, but insofar as similar struggles are likely to be repeated, it doesn't do any harm to mention them.

[ Parent ]
Thanks William For Fighting The Good Fight (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
They are of interest to some of us (nt) (0.00 / 0)

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
I didn't use the term elitist (4.00 / 1)
and I didn't say anything about the non-elite's role in the Great Society. And those activists were mobilized. My point was about overemphasizing elections and non-mobilized publics.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Sorry For The Misunderstanding (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
No worries (0.00 / 0)
I certainly wasn't being careful at avoiding saying things in yet another overly simplistic fashion.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
A very astute point (4.00 / 5)
We talk about anti-democratic forces a lot -- here and elsewhere -- but no one I know on the left speaks as eloquently about anti-democracy as a way of life in the U.S. as Paul does, or in as great detail.

Billmon, in his his latest diary on DKos, speaks equally eloquently about how we arrive at unmobilized publics. It's not news, but it's very well expressed. (Rare as his posts are these days, I've come to expect nothing less than eloquence when he does post.)

Under the spell of putative Republican successes -- and I would argue with more than a little penis envy also at work -- Democrats have lately fallen victim to the Leni Riefenstall idea of political communication. Don't tell them what you think, tell them what they ought to feel. Frankly, I find it disgusting, and I'm always glad to see that someone else finds it as disgusting as I do.

[ Parent ]
Damn! (0.00 / 0)
...and I would argue that more than a little penis envy was also at work...


Leni Riefenstahl

If only OpenLeft would give us a 15 minute window to re-edit, as WordPress allows (with a plug-in.) Still, I suppose I'd manage to screw that up too.

[ Parent ]
I really should get back to Hofstadter (4.00 / 4)
Hofstadter, Bell, Galbraith and Bell, the leading lights of the Democratic intellectuals around 1950, were pretty explicitly technocratic elitists and mistrustful of popular movements. Christopher Lasch also quotes JFK minimizing populism (and his Profiles in Courage was dedicated to strong leaders who defied the people who elected them).

Around 1935 or so populists started being a threat to the Democrats, often right populists: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Gerald LK Smith, et al. (William Lemke got sucked into that, but I'm convinced that he was a far better man than the others.) Most of the prairie progressives, who had been Roosevelt's key supporters, also broke with Roosevelt about this time, either because they were isolationists or because they didn't like other things Roosevelt did. After WWII the left progressives and radicals were also purged in 1948, and the radical leadership of many unions was broken. So the party now was all regular Democrats, with few populists, progressives, or radicals, but it won anyway in 1948 and 1960.

Hofstadter proposed an additional layer of mediation between the government and the people (even-less-direct democracy), and also a peace treaty with business. Democrats would campaign by communicating as much as possible with the leaders of organized vote-contracting groups (labor unions, the NAACP, etc. etc.) Popular appeals would be personality based (Kennedy) and not issue-based. Us against them rhetoric would be avoided; a rising tide lifts all boats. (In 1968 Sen. McCarthy objected to the Kennedys' low-content campaign style).

That's a crude and oversimplified story, but I believe that the problems we're talking about date back to then, though really they were always there.  

[ Parent ]
Okay John! (4.00 / 1)
So, I take it you may be ready to resume the diary series you were doing?  This is just the subject area you were going to tackle next, as I recall.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Oh, Absolutely (4.00 / 3)
I've said as much many times over, and there's no doubt that these things are true.

Still, in terms of the big-ticket legislative battles that are the fodder for routine political discourse, Matt has made a very good point.  If Goldwater's loss was "worth it" for the long-term gains that followed, then it has to also be "debited" (in the eyes of conservatives) for everything that LBJ accomplished with the super-majorities that Goldwater's loss handed him.

Likewise, we need to keep in mind the same sort of calculus ourselves, lest we get too cavalier with notions of a great progressive revolt against the Dem establishment.  Slow but steady is a far more viable option if the alternative incurs dramatic losses that may never be reversed.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Health Care Reform Needs A Little More Context (0.00 / 0)
And while I do not agree with the entire article by Mark, there is definitely salient points that need to be taken into account.

[ Parent ]
Newt Gingrich needs help (4.00 / 1)
The trouble is that the adoring multitudes which surround him in his diseased imagination are his only source of help, and that's unlikely to end well for him. The rest of us can do without him very well, and have done since 1994. (There's the media, of course, but they've got a lot of air time to fill, and ratings to maintain. Nothing tickles the fancy of the casual viewer like a steady diet of derangement.)

Gingrich's ever-escalating delusions may have more to do with the problem of jaded viewers, in fact, than it has to do with his deteriorating mental state. He just doesn't seem to understand that, aesthetically speaking, allowing a little yin to leaven your yang can refresh you as a performer as well as it can refresh the audience. Clearly, our media bosses don't understand this either. In the long run, that may be what saves us all.

There was an asymmetry in the Susan Smith case (4.00 / 4)
Immediately after Newt made his outrageous, groundless, slanderous, demagogic statement, there was a flurry of publicity. It tended toward he-said/she-said, and while in the end I think Gingrich might have lost a little, his core supporters thought he was besically right. It was not quite a standoff, but almost.

Once the high-level Republican sex criminal in Smith's life was found, the story disappeared completely. You could say that the forces of decency took over, but these forces of decency hadn't been apparent before the embarrassing (to Republicans) facts came out.

The disappearing of the story was permanent. If Beverly Russell had been a Democrat, he'd be as famous as Chappaquiddick. But the Republican sex criminal Beverly Russell isn't even the most famous person with his name on a Google search.

People really underestimate the skew in press coverage. Even 16 years ago, the echo chamber was working for the Republicans. It had nothing much to do with openly advocating Republican positions (which in a sense would blow the media's cover). It was all in deciding which stories had "traction", which was spoken of as an objective fact when actually it was something produced by the media.

Quite True (4.00 / 1)
And if you ask for an explanation of why this was so, you'll get another "likely story"--that the liberals in the media are bending over backwards not to be accused of bias.

So, reporters are biased against honest reporting in order to prove they're not biased.

And this is supposed to exonerate them?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
That's specifically indimidation (4.00 / 3)
The comparison with the Czarist regime keeps coming back to me. Editors self-censored the minimum necessary to avoid the censor, and some writers devised clever ways to slip the truth past the censors. But direct statements of truth disappeared. But there seems to be even less resistance here. Most writers are fully on board.

[ Parent ]
Worse Than Intimidation (4.00 / 4)
is self-congratulation.

At being oh so sophisticated, and all.

When writers are being censored, in places like the old Soviet Union or wherever, they often feel like they're in alliance with their readers, the public.

Here, OTOH, they feel like they're in alliance with the spin-meisters and flat-out liars, in an organized war to deceive the public.

And in that, for once, they are absolutely right.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I think a lot of them are pretty confused (4.00 / 3)
This was also true of some of the weakly liberal writers under the Czar. Their "reasonableness" and the compromises they made made them untrusted by anyone.

I think that one factor beyond self-congratulation and venality that affects media people, once they become "insiders", is an overwhelming fealing that the establishment is invulnerable, as they find out how little input from the electorate there really has been since approximately Martin Luther King.

[ Parent ]
Media Failure is a Great Topic (4.00 / 2)
This topic fascinates me. You could (rightly) argue that the consolidation of the media in the 1980s (which happened at the same time as many non-media mergers and acquisitions) made the media conservative by turning news into entertainment with a financial bottom line.

Indeed, there were many news stories about old time news divisions abruptly headed up by entertainment people (Roone Arledge) and lawyers (NBC, don't recall the guys name, which perhaps says it all). That creates a newsroom climate where being part of the herd is valued even more. Especially if and as media stars were paid top dollar: political reporters got be as rich as the people they covered and, as a result, had reasons to assume their readers shared their values and concerns.

But it also is true that turning journalism into J-schools and masters degrees and requiring time served in them as a prerequisite for a media job, as opposed to being a great writer and/or pain in the rear, also has sapped truly objective news reporting. You don't hear too much about journalists being tossed out of bars. Or hearings and press conferences. Some large portion of the media used to be much rowdier (and more fun).

What strikes me most, as a reader of many news sources, is how often stories in one news outlet will clearly ignore facts published in other outlets. It's as if the editors and journalists at one location don't have the time or interest to actually read in depth about the topic they're writing about. At the least, you'd think they'd hire interns to bone up on stories then have the interns read stories and make comments prior to publication.

Bottomline, there are many valid reasons the media is so tame and biased towards the elites. My vote is for media consolidation but then I perceive that consolidation period has wrecked many parts of our economy, not just the news. If we had a truly independent media, many flim flam politicians like Gringrich would not last very long. They'd be less revered and more pilloried.

[ Parent ]
Reagan's Packing Of The Courts (4.00 / 1)
The conservative movement allowed Reagan, Bush Sr., and W, and other national GOP leaders to pack the courts with very conservative judges.

This has led to activist judges that has curtailed progressive gains.  One example:  The weakening of labor laws.

And the list goes on. . .

There seems to be a notion (0.00 / 0)
of a physical model of balance, i.e.  a heavier (more radical) agenda will successfully tilt the balance more towards one's side.  (Goldwater, (failure of) Romney, lets just say Nader, r. Paul)

Would one classify Reagon as mod or far right (given period context)?

Clinton got a lot done, Obama's on the same road (centrist)

FDR - does he count as period centrism or not?

Kennedy/Johnson centrists really.  (they were pro war)

You're WAY Too Simplistic Here, I'm Afraid (4.00 / 2)
First off, there's no way that Johnson was a centrist.  True he got us much more deeply into Vietnam, but he hated it every step of the way, and saw it as a hated political necessity that he tried to find a way out of.  You look at the policy he wanted to pass, you look at the policy he did pass, and you find the most liberal president in US history since FDR.

So you need to have a better sense of where people would stand ideologically.

But then you also have to have a better sense of how the ideological forces are shifting around people, too.  Goldwater was a conservative in midst of a period of liberal dominance that was actually growing stronger.  Reagan was a conservative elected at the peak of a conservative backlash that he rode to power, but could not do much to expand among the electorate.  He was, however, a very willing servant of those who helped him get there, and thus was enormously helpful in changing elite institutions in ways he could never have done alone.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
fuzed, Kennedy was actually (0.00 / 0)
our last true liberal president, both in foreign policy and domestic.  

While I might agree that we can evaluate these things too simplistically, there's a certain truth to the notion that LBJ comes out, at least in my calculation, as no better than a centrist, as you note.

Take the liberal bills he signed 64-6, passed by a heavily Dem + mod-lib number of Rs, then weigh that against Lyndon's RW proclivities in foreign policy -- starting an unnecessary and very costly war in VN, to go with some anti-liberal policies in Latin America and elsewhere (Indonesia for instance).

Vietnam, including Johnson's attempt at stifling and destroying the liberal-left antiwar movement by using the FBI to infiltrate and destroy from within, has to account for an enormous amount in any calculation of the Johnson presidency.

Johnson was no liberal when he was tapped (by accident) for the 1960 ticket, and he didn't leave the presidency in unpopular semi-disgrace as a liberal.

[ Parent ]
Oh, I Forgot You're Mr. "My Mind Is Made Up, Don't Confuse Me With The Facts" (0.00 / 0)
As you so clearly told us back in December.

For those who do care about the actual historical record, I again recommend Robert Mann's book A Grand Delusion: America's Descent Into Vietnam, still the only book on Vietnam that takes senatorial politics seriously into account, as well as the entire period from the outbreak of the Korean War onward.

It's interesting to look at your comments and realize that you only seem to show up here lately when LBJ is being discussed.

It's almost like you're obsessed.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Dunno about obsessed, (0.00 / 0)
but I do find it interesting how some revisionists from the left seem to be rewriting the history of the LBJ presidency on a few progressive blogs in recent times.  Consider some of my posts in that alternative pov light.

Totally unnecessary war, as his own VP tried to point out to him in a lengthy memo to Johnson in early '65, seconded largely the antiwar views of the Dem senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield.  The '64 election was won in part on a keep the US out of war position, not that VN was even a huge issue of concern to most Americans, in or out of Congress, anyway.  

As for the Mann book, I don't find it persuasive (what segments I've read online), nor do I find his thesis one which is cited in the many books on Nam I've read.

The book to read for those interested in a very interesting and productive discussion of VN issues as they relate to JFK and LBJ, is Virtual JFK:  Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived by Blight, Lang and Welch, which includes not only the 2005 little-known discussion among scholars and independent researchers and former gov't officials, but also contains an informative docs appendix.

Other good books of recent vintage:  Logevall, Choosing War and Gordon Goldstein's book from last year (title escapes me) which he was working on with Mac Bundy before the latter died.  Also American Tragedy by David Kaiser (2000).

[ Parent ]
Note The Self-Contradiction Here (0.00 / 0)
The '64 election was won in part on a keep the US out of war position, not that VN was even a huge issue of concern to most Americans, in or out of Congress, anyway.  

Because, of course, the '64 election wasn't about Vietnam at all.

It was partially about the threat of nuclear war--ala Goldwater empowering the like of Curtis LeMay--and hence we had the famous "Daisy Ad", but Vietnam was never a campaign topic.

Kaiser, although clearly a Kennedy man, is a damn good scholar, and his book makes clear (even though it's not his point) that Kennedy's big failing was that he never tried to remake the advisory structure he inherited from Eisenhower (sound familiar?)  Kennedy was clear enough in his own mind to reject all sorts of bad advice they gave him, and yet he never took the obvious step of replacing them advisers who would be more in tune with his own thinking.  This turned out to be a recipe for disaster after he was assassinated, since many of these same advisers he'd been repeatedly fending off were then in a position to argue to Johnson that "this is what Kennedy was planning all along."

As is perfectly clear from your first interjection in this thread, you're incapable of dealing with the historical subtleties here.  If I don't believe in a cartoon evil LBJ, then he must be my "hero."

But, of course, that's not my point at all.  My point is to understand how different people made different sorts of misjudgments at different times, and how these misjudgments compounded one another.  The point of this, in turn, is try to work our way back out of doing ever more of the same.

Someone like you--who's still obsessed with childish games of "whose the really one?"--can't be of any help at all in this endeavor.  It's for adults only.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
'64 was, in FP matters, (0.00 / 0)
both about the CW and VN.  And VN did of course enter into the campaign discussion -- you're simply wrong.  

On the one side, Johnson famously said that he wouldn't send American boys to do the fighting that Asian boys ought do themselves.  On the other, you had BG's remark on Nam that the US should not rule out using nukes over there.

But whether VN mattered a great deal to Americans in '64, the answer is No, it didn't, and certainly not in the sense of the US needing to get tougher over there.  That was what Barry and some of the Repubs (like Nixon) were pushing, but the public overwhelmingly rejected their hawkishness.  By landslide proportions, btw.

As to the Kennedy advisers staying over for Johnson -- which was entirely Johnson's decision -- again read Logevall about who's ultimately in charge, and the recent Goldstein book re Mac Bundy:  advisers advise but presidents decide.  Logevall:  it was Johnson's War, not McNamara's.  He chose to go to war.

I'd add that evidence suggests that Johnson was quite aware that Kennedy was planning to pull out of Nam; certainly this is the impression left to the listener from the Feb 20, 1964 conversation LBJ had with McNamara in which Johnson disparaged his predecessor's stance:

LBJ:  I always thought it was foolish for you (i.e McN) to make any statements about withdrawing.  I thought it was bad psychologically.  But you and the president thought otherwise, and I just sat there silent.

McN:  The problem is ...

LBJ:  Then come the questions:  how in the hell does McNamara think, when he's losing a war, he can pull men out of there?

(Virtual JFK, appendix A p. 310)

[ Parent ]
Youre Right That VN Was MENTIONED In the Campaign (0.00 / 0)
But it was not any sort of major issue.

Having lived through all that--and turned completely against the war (no time-tables or any half-measures) in June '63 when Thich Quang Duc immolated himself in protest--I was bitterly opposed to Johnson's escalation from the very beginning.  I never supported or excused his policy in any way.  The only thing I have done is to draw a distinction between his motivation--clearly documented in taped White House conversations--which was not foreign conquest, but domestic political self-preservation.

I'm not saying it's a "better" motivation.  There is no "better" motivation for mass war crimes.  But it's a different motivation, and you have to understand what the motivations are in order to effectively work to change them.

The big difference here is not that I'm for LBJ, as I am not.

You, however, have increasingly shown that you are for JFK.

And that is a real problem when the goal should be to be for the victims, and for the truth.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I'll wrap things up from (0.00 / 0)
my end by noting that Lyndon's motivations w/r/t Vietnam are far from clear, especially in that he had a well-known penchant for manipulation and wanting to write the history and backstory according to his own version (see numerous examples by Rbt Caro, going back all the way to Lyndon trying to rewrite and obscure his sorry reputation as a college student and campus office seeker).

Bobby Kennedy noted, seconding his brother's views, that Lyndon lied all the time, even when he didn't have to.  We just don't know whether LBJ was being sincere all the time, part of the time or never when he got on the phone with various people and started talking VN and all the angst about his decision, etc.  It does make for a touching story, however.  Yet somehow I doubt Lyin' Lyndon did a sudden 180 on truth-telling once he became prez.

As for your being for LBJ, I think it's a reasonable inference from reading a number of your threads and comments, especially as you constantly bring up the hawkish Kennedy advisers he kept on, as if to make it Kennedy's or McNamara's War.  This was a trendy theme among certain historians a while back, but starting with Newman's book, then proceeding especially with Logevall and others, that tendency has been checked, imo, both with testimony and the documentary record.  Feel free to read it or ignore it as you please.

And, finally, yes, I'll say it explicitly for anyone who had doubt:  I'm unashamedly pro-Kennedy, and all the more so in recent times as I study the true record of his presidency (again, see Douglass, James).  So actually I am interested in the truth, the real historical truth, and not some twisted fictional version of Kennedy that all too often goes unchallenged on some left-leaning boards.

Now, to quote that great statesman Dick Nixon, Au revoir ...

[ Parent ]
Ah Yes, The Pro-Kennedy Truth, And Nothing But The Pro-Kennedy Truth! (0.00 / 0)
Sorry, dude.  I'm one of those who chanted "Hey, Hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?" in my youth, I've never regretted it.

But it was obvious even at the time that he was a deeply complicated, deeply tortured man, who sometimes did breathtakingly marvelous things as well.  As no president since him has done anything to compare with his best acts in office, and all have done their share of monstrosities,  I've tried to understand him using the same standard as I apply to all other presidents.

Obviously, you see this as a profound bias on my part.  Which tells us everything we need to know about you.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
God, Paul, you are really insulting at times. (0.00 / 0)
You must think you are so much better than ordinary people that you can make that kind of snide pop-psychology diagnosis.  Yeah, you're erudite.  You also tend to be boorish.

[ Parent ]
Paul has a history with this guy (4.00 / 1)
After you go around in circles a few times, you get tired of it. Brodie comes on strong ("your hero LBJ") and Paul comes back at him the same way.

[ Parent ]
How About I Say "Your Hero, George Bush" (0.00 / 0)
Then what do you say to me?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]

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