Recovering from the Bush legacy

by: Glenn Greenwald

Wed Jul 18, 2007 at 11:30

(updated below)

Last week, Matt Stoller emailed me this Washington Monthly piece written by former JFK aide Theodore Sorensen, suggesting it would be a good starting point for assessing what the country ought to do in recovering from the Bush legacy, a principal subject of my current book, A Tragic Legacy.  Sorensen was asked by the editors to draft the ideal DNC acceptance speech for the generic 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, with the specific goal of "form[ing] a new vision for America and to reestablish its moral leadership in the world."

As Matt suggested, Sorensen's draft speech does illustrate the challenges the country faces in 2008, but its value lies more in its shortcomings than in what it achieves.  Sorensen, like so many modern Democratic politicians, pays impressive lip service to the need to "debate the most serious issues facing the country," and "seek a renewal of unity among all Americans."  But, as so many of them -- most -- do, he shies away from challenging the unexamined premises responsible for so much of the disasters over the last six years.  Instead, likely due to the fear that doing otherwise is too politically risky, he re-affirms many of the core premises that have led our country so astray.

Glenn Greenwald :: Recovering from the Bush legacy
The bulk of Sorensen's message -- echoed by much of the Democratic political leadership -- is captured by this proclamation:

We remain essentially a nation under siege. The threat of another terrorist attack upon our homeland has not been reduced by all the new layers of porous bureaucracy that proved their ineptitude in New Orleans; nor by all the needless, mindless curbs on our personal liberties and privacy; nor by expensive new weaponry that is utterly useless in stopping a fanatic willing to blow himself up for his cause.

He then proceeds to build much of his speech around the threat of Islamic terrorism and the reason why the Democratic nominee will be able to protect Americans from it.  It is all shrouded in the "Democrats-will-crush-the-terrorists-too" theme that marks the outer limits of mainstream Democratic foreign policy rhetoric.

The United States is not a "nation under siege."  That is a ludicrously melodramatic description of the terrorist threat and it is precisely the failure to challenge such fear-mongering sloganeering that has enabled so many of the destructive policies of the last six years.  Any political figure who is authentically interested in the type of real debate which Sorensen touts will challenge, not bolster, this misleading premise.  More importantly, a genuine debate regarding how to recover from the last six years (soon to be "last eight years") will require a fundamental re-examination of America's role in the world and, most of all, whether we want to continue to maintain imperial dominance.  Contrary to conventional Beltway fears, this is plainly a debate which the American public is not only willing, but eager, to engage.

In touting Sorensen as the right person to draft this speech, The Washington Monthly pointed to JKF's 1960 DNC acceptance speech, which Sorensen helped draft.  But last week, historian Ted Widmer, in The Boston Globe, examined a far more extraordinary and significant JKF speech, one that Kennedy delivered in 1957 and which  "proved himself a serious foreign-policy thinker, and a most viable candidate for the highest office in the land."

The crux of Kennedy's speech was a direct challenge to the core imperialistic premises of American foreign policy, and specifically our belief that war-making could secure America's interests around the world.  Delivered at the height of the Cold War, the speech "questioned nearly all of the assumptions of American foreign policy and delved deeply into a hot-button topic that no one wanted to talk about," and the reaction was exactly what one would expect, at least initially:

He was instantly denounced by the White House, the State Department, American allies, and the press. But the speech eventually won him admirers around the world, and brought him that much closer to his party's nomination for president.

Kennedy's speech was so provocative --and so insightful -- because it held up the brutal and futile French occupation of Muslim Algeria as a warning of the limits of U.S. military power and the hubris and immorality of believing that we can or should use our superior military force to dictate the behavior of other countries.  I'm quoting Widmer's analysis at length because of its central relevance to our most pressing political challenges today:

Most politicians, then as now, preferred to stick close to safe and popular utterances. Kennedy went straight into the hornet's nest of Arab discontent with the West in a speech that anticipated many of the problems faced today. It rejected the tired "us vs. them" structure of Cold War thinking; it criticized the military option as a clumsy tool of foreign policy, and it suggested that real advocates of "freedom" were just as likely to be opposed to Western intervention as they were to Communist takeovers. . . .

But he continued with a provocative thought -- that "imperialism" was the chief foe of freedom, and that the Western form of imperialism was very nearly as bad as the Soviet version. . . . Many of his attacks on France, in fact, appeared to be attacks on US policy as well. Not only was France suppressing the natural desire of a people to become free, but it was also diverting NATO resources to a distant theater. By providing military hardware and preventing the issue from being fully discussed in the UN, the United States was in effect complicit in France's behavior.

The result, Kennedy argued, was a rapidly rising anger in the Islamic world at the hypocrisy of Western nations that claim to admire freedom but interfere when other peoples try to claim it for themselves. By ignoring this anger, and indeed perpetuating it, the United States was losing its standing "in the eyes of the free world."

He loathed the idea of dismissing as terrorists or Communists those who were fighting for their sovereignty, and added that "most political revolutions -- including our own -- have been buoyed by outside aid in men, weapons and ideas" . . .

Some felt that Kennedy had weakened NATO by criticizing France; others were worried that he had broken the taboo against partisan criticism of US foreign policy. Adlai Stevenson, the erstwhile Democratic candidate for president, criticized the speech, and Truman's Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, dismissed it as a juvenile's "impatient snapping of the fingers." Acheson felt that a French retreat from Algeria would lead to "chaos" -- not the last time that argument would be used. The speech was widely covered, and brought more mail to Kennedy's office than any Senate speech he ever gave. . .

Many politicians hate to change course, for fear they will appear inconsistent. But change is growth, and the courage to think anew, as Lincoln once put it, will never go out of fashion. Having finished "Profiles in Courage," Kennedy lived up to the spirit of his book by sailing against the prevailing winds of 1957. His real candidacy may have begun at precisely that moment.

Another Massachusetts native, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote, "A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us." For many Americans, that day came 50 years ago.

That is the type of political leadership and willingness to challenge and defy prevailing orthodoxies that is required if we are truly to reverse course and begin recovering from what Sorensen calls "eight years of misrule, a dark and difficult period in which our national honor and pride have been bruised and battered."  Political leaders who continue to affirm the central premises that have governed our country's actions in the world over the last six years -- beginning with the notion that we are "a nation under siege" -- will achieve nothing other than status-quo caretaking.

The profound shift in public opinion during the Bush presidency conclusively reveals that Americans have once again discovered the limits of our military power and the grave costs of attempting to rule the world through imperial dominance.  Polls continuously show a marked increase in opposition among Americans to military adventurism.  At the height of the Israeli-Hezbollah war last August, a Washington Post poll found that an overwhelming majority (59-38%) would oppose the use of U.S. troops even as part of a U.N. peacekeeping force.  And this bulging anti-imperial sentiment is growing despite the lack of any real political leader making the case that America's role in the world must be fundamentally re-examined, and despite the concerted efforts of U.S. militarists and assorted neocons to render these issues off-limits on a bipartisan basis.  Americans have reached these conclusions on their own.

In addition to all the other warranted criticisms of our conduct in the world over the last six years, the course we have embarked upon is completely unsustainable.  By all accounts, we lack sufficient numbers of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, two wars we are arguably losing, even as we threaten new conflicts.  Our military spending, generally and on those wars, is so exorbitant that we are buried by debt, dependent upon China for our economic survival.  And at least thus far, every major (viable) presidential candidate believes that we ought to expand our military spending -- already greater than the total spending of all other countries combined -- further still.  And each tacitly assumes that we have "vital interests" in the Middle East, encompassing Iran, which require our military domination of that region.  An expanded military is a virtual guarantee of greater military commitments.

One of the least under-appreciated political facts is just how much distance there is between our contemporary behavior in the world and the behavior envisionsed by the country's Founders.  They were so afraid of a militarized society that they barred Congress from appropriating money for an army "for a longer term than two years."  George Washington's Farewell Address urgently warns of the dangers of virtually everything we have become in the world.  A society devoted to endless warfare, or even just military domination of the world, not only inevitably destroys its standing in the world, but also corrupts its own national values and degrades liberty at home.

That is the story of the last six years, and that is the debate America needs desperately to have.  Imperial overstrech does not begin to describe our predicament.  A real leader, truly devoted to reversing the disasters of the Bush presidency, will challenge these orthodoxies shaping America's foreign policy and our still-increasing commitment to militarization, not with platitudes but with substantive arguments and authentic, fundamental policy changes.

UPDATE:  The wrong link to the Kennedy speech was originally included in this post.  Thanks to reader DG, the correct link has now been substituted.  The speech can be found here.

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The Return of the Repressed (4.00 / 1)
And this bulging anti-imperial sentiment is growing despite the lack of any real political leader making the case that America's role in the world must be fundamentally re-examined, and despite the concerted efforts of U.S. militarists and assorted neocons to render these issues off-limits on a bipartisan basis.  Americans have reached these conclusions on their own.

To a large extemt, these attitudes were actually there from the beginning, were beaten down from above, and have since re-emerged.

Immediately after 9-11, Gallup International conducted a poll in 35 countries, asking whether people favored a military response or a criminal justice response.  There were only 3 countries in which a majority favored a military response.  Substantial majorities favored a military response in India and Isreal, both of which have decades of experience in which this approach has utterly failed.  Not much learning happening there.

The third country was the US--but only 54% favored the military response.  30% opposed and 16% were undecided.  It's quite likely that many of the 54% who supported a military response had never even considered anything else.  It's virtually certain that most of them never heard or read an expert making the case for a criminal justice approach.

Here's what an early analysis by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) found: In the first three weeks after the attack, the New York Times and the Washington Post ran 46 op-eds that dealt with the issue of how to respond; they were overwhelmingly in favor of war, by a margin of 44 to 2:  32-2 in the Post, 11-0 in the Times.  The two columns supporting non-military responses were both by guest writers.  Thus, neither the Times nor the Post had a single staff writer representing 46% of the population that was not on board for war.

That's what we've been up against from the very beginning.

"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

I agree (0.00 / 0)
It was very frustrating. 

The war in Afghanistan never had to happen (The country had no recognized form of government to begin with!) None of this had to happen. 

The Democratic Leadership did not have to rally behind the liar in Chief.  They did not have to join in the marginalizing of the sane people who said, "Hey, wait a minute!  Weren't the criminals dead already?  Weren't they Saudi?  Isn't Osama Saudi?  Why are you going to kill innocent people who had nothing to do with the attack?"

Then the lies of Iraq came out of the Bushies bag of tricks.

Now, Iran's turn is coming, and the other lies and other countries will follow via "redeployment."

We will not have any moral standing if our leaders do not impeach the Bush Administration right now.

[ Parent ]
But 9/11 was almost 6 years ago. (4.00 / 1)
I've been saying for years that the default position of most Americans, particularly in the MidWest, is isolationism.  Sure, they got all aroused by 9/11 and wanted revenge.  But it's been 6 years, and the desire has not only faded, people have really seen the limits of military action and the terrible costs that it puts on the country.

We do need voices that explain with some passion that we are not in mortal danger as a country.  Militant Islamic extremism is not the British in 1812, the South seceding, the Third Reich or the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons.  They just aren't.  Our country is strong and it survived all those challenges.  We can survive this one.  But we may not survive another 5 1/2 years of fearmongering and mismanagement.  After all, many more people have died from inadequate food and product safety since 9/11 than died in the 9/11 attacks.

Glen is right, and the American people are showing in the polls that they aren't stupid.  It is the self-important political and policy elite from Boston to DC that are the problem. 

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Actually, It's Not Isolationism (0.00 / 0)
Particularly not in the Midwest, which has long been tied to the world via its agricultural exports, and has also sent a fair amount of missionaries overseas as well.

But it is an antipathy to going around beligerantly and alone.

It's the elite habit of equating warmongering with internationalism that incorrectly labels folks as "isolationist" when they're really just anti-adventurist.  The Project on International Policy Alternatives (PIPA) got its start in the late 1990s debunking the idea of a "new isolationism" based largely around such misconceptions.

Other than that, I agree with you 100%.

"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 ]
Ok, I stand corrected. (0.00 / 0)
Maybe it's just common sense.  Which seems to exist in direct proportion to the distance from DC.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Bingo! (0.00 / 0)
That's it. That's the message for which I've been searching. The conversation has to be changed, the premises challenged. The question is, who will step forward to confront these issues?

Imperialism (0.00 / 0)
I can only image the attack from the right against any candidate who starts to use the term "imperialism" to describe American troops in Iraq. However, that is exactly the sort of frame we need to start developing in order to preemptive military action like this in the future. Unless we start classifying the way Bush uses military force as more than just "reckless" or "not a focus of the war on terror," and instead into a broad category of the way the military should never be used, it will be difficult to fully recover from the Bush legacy, to say the least.

This seems to be an role that second and lower "tier" candidates can fill. Or at least Senate backbenchers of some sort. Someone has to fill this leadership role, and start pushing the public debate down the field.  It can't just happen online, or in activist and academic circles.

Great post. I want to talk about this more in a piece later today that follows up on American troops in Iraq under a Democratic administration. Thanks for putting this here.

It's a bit late, the Bush Admin and their enablers (0.00 / 0)
have been framing the next election with his redeployment plans.  "Redeployment" Is the Republican plan to continue the bush admin original goals regardless of who takes office. 

Redeployment = imperial goals

How long has the Democratic Leadership been shoving that word down our throats? 

The joke is on us, if we can't wake up the masses

[ Parent ]
Militarism is a better term (4.00 / 1)
I think people can relate to militarism better.  They see that it means spending $12 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan andf gods knows how much on all our far-flung bases.

And as I say above, most people are, deep down, isolationists.  it wouldn;t hurt, really, to use that a little, even though many of usn would support some interventions like in the Balkans. 

Time to bring the troops home and rebuild America.  Take care of our own, be they wounded vets or kids with no health care and bad schools or elderly needing years of care.  Come Home, America.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
"Mindless Militarism" (4.00 / 1)
The phase "mindless militarism" should be our "death tax."

"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 ]
Even better (4.00 / 1)
Mindless militarism and war without end.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
The WorldWide Network of US Military Bases; Global Deployment of Personnel (0.00 / 0)
Mirnikatz:  We can guess and shrug, or we can know and say.  Usually, like, always, truth will out, and stand, ultimately.  Republicans for Bush LIARS will self-condemn.

Review Article: The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases - The Global Deployment of US Military Personnel, by Prof. Jules Dufour, Global Research, July 1, 2007.

[ Parent ]
"Paying more than our share" (0.00 / 0)
Imperialism = paying a lot of money to deal with other people's problems.

[ Parent ]
One of my favorite forgotten facts: (0.00 / 0)
"They were so afraid of a militarized society that they barred Congress from appropriating money for an army 'for a longer term than two years.'"

I continue to view the US as being like a carpenter with a toolbox containing only a hammer. Not only does everything look like a nail but its damn hard to remove them without pliers.

The Constitution Is The Toolbox (0.00 / 0)
It's got all sorts of tools we've completely forgotten about.  But we've misplaced it, forgotten we ever even had it, and now we're wandering around in a daze with a hammer in both hands.

"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 ]
Fantastic post (0.00 / 0)
There is always a trite complaint abut the 'sound byte' culture of our political discourse, but with very little discussion regarding how this really affects how we discuss politics.  Of course, it is exactly this that causes it--we don't talk about historical context or intellectual underpinnings anymore, and when we do, it is always in the quickest, most conventional way.  It is hard to actually change anything this way.

Abraham, Lawrence and John (0.00 / 0)
Abraham Lincoln too delivered a controversial address in Congress. His denounced the Mexican War, an imperialistic adventure that he understood to be in conflict with the nation's republican character. (He dismissed pleas to invade Canada after the Civil War, in the same spirit.)

Lincoln faded into the background after his one term in Congress but emerged when the Dred Scott decision invalidated the Missouri Compromise. While striking a course between immediate abolition and popular sovereignty, he gave the most trenchant critique of slavery, summoning the nation back to founding principles and assumptions that put it on an "ultimate course of extinction."

On adventurism in the Arab world, Robert Fisk just pointed his readers to an Encyclopedia Britannica article by Lawrence of Arabia on Guerilla Warfare. It can be found at:

The Missouri Comprimise was dead before Dred Scott (0.00 / 0)
Thanks to this wonderful piece of legislation.  I wonder how the world would be different if Lincoln had acutally won that election against Douglass.

[ Parent ]
Dredd Scott Undid The Constitution (0.00 / 0)
I agree that the Kansas-Nebraska Act was the South's attempt to undo the Missouri Compromise, but it only undid it with respect to that one territory, and it wasn't till Dredd Scott that the Missouri Compromise was fully gutted by nationalizing slaveholders' rights.  This also undid the Constitution itself, since the Constitution (through its silence) made free-born blacks full citizens, which Dredd Scott denied.

"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 ]
Stand firm! (4.00 / 1)
I didn't know about the 1957 JFK speech.  True to the history of politicians abandoning their principles to run for national office to stand with the monied interests in order to get campaign funds, JFK's record is diametrically opposed to that speech.

In 1960 he ran on a bellicose platform of accusing the Republicans, represented by Richard Nixon who was then Vice President, of being soft on national defense.  He charged they produced a "missile gap" and proposed expanding the Special Forces so the U.S. could better fight dirty little wars.

In office, he performed in league with the military-industrial complex.  He expanded the Special Forces, got us much deeper into Vietnam, and played nuclear brinkmanship.

The current candidates anointed by the mass media as candidates with a chance don't have anything like the 1957 JFK speech in their background.  As noted, they are all zealously for military solutions.

What happens regularly is that most of the people who claim to be against U.S. militarist-imperialist policies wind up voting for a militarist-imperialist candidate, arguing that the militarist they're voting for is not as bad as the other major militarist candidate.  People who claim to be for peace have to stop wimping out, and start voting their convictions.  Refuse to vote for any candidate who supports a larger military - in fact, for any candidate who doesn't support reducing the military.

According to the most thorough study by a mainstream reputable organization on the subject, the Program on International Policy Attitudes study which came out shortly before last year's actions, substantial majorities of both Democrats and Republicans favor slashing U.S. military spending.  All it takes is for Americans to insist on limiting their votes to candidates who agree for them.

Bill Samuel Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

I voted for Militaristic Imperialism (0.00 / 0)
before I voted against it.

If you will.

So to speak.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

Yes, awesome post. Appreciative comments, plus one ... (4.00 / 1)
... old gnarly.

Spot-on, where Paul Rosenberg -- about the false-frame jingoism of 'anti-imperial sentiments,' knows that "these attitudes were actually there from the beginning, were beaten down from above, and have since re-emerged."  A quibble from my grammar quirk, which excises vertical up-and-down references in human affairs, (it's a flat earth, level playing field for humankind, no one is above or below others but some are farther out and some more central), to my mind.  So 'anti-imperialism,' (i.e., democratic juried Justice), disfigured as being "beaten down from above," rather goes, on the level, by getting corrupted and co-opted, (often in media-blocked ignorance of wider-world opportunity, parlayed in the 'politics of scarcity'), by proximity to graft spread around.  'Pro-imperialism is a thought, how much does it pay?'  There are none 'above,' only some more avid in avarice.  Rot spreads.

Vitality re-emerges as natural in new generation.

Segue to my second:  Today's new generations, plump in progressivism as it's the natural condition of coming-of-age politicos, has a new phrase and new meta-grasp, abstraction, for political change. 

Banish the idioms of 'changing course,' 'reversing course,' 'recovering from ruin,' and 'getting back to the past going forward.'

The new game players 'get a new life.'  Get a second life.  Re-init.  Start over.  Clean slate.  Level all, as it was original.

The conceptual of it is a disjoint jump, what our mathematics calls a 'discontinuous function.'  There is no solution for the interval.  It is former at one differential, and at the next it is next.  No transition: re-position.

In practice it's talk of George Washington's way, and times.  My jingoism for it is the US Consti2tion Party.  Release two-point-oh.  Version 2.  Whatever.

The new generations are not fundamentally different.  Only not-vested, pristine, uncorrupted.  The thinking is outside set boxes.

Oh, sure, not one established party or pol is going to champion 'chuck it.'  There's no way to get there by change of course or redirection or reversing the damage.  It's a global gestalt; holistic; the next faster frequency octave.  And not any continuation of the former.  But not fundamentally different, it's all the same integral, integrity.

No establishment minions may lead it or love it, but by golly there might be the numbers enough if the new generations en masse all hit Reset.  One election, one time, and it's done.  Like George Washington, looking at King George III.

The worldwide web exists as the medium for the culturation of the Consti2tion Party.  Darn tootin' the established ones are doing what they can to block that.  Murdoch bought Myspace thinking that's the control valve, but On-or-Off binary is no valve at all; it doesn't turn down and it doesn't turn up.  Packet messaging just switches when one line is blocked and goes by an alternate routing -- all roads lead to each destination; if it can't go West, it goes East, and that works the world around.

Maybe go around Congress, go around 2008.  Each state set out a constitutional convention and draft a new document that starts in '09.  Electing more Democrats only gets us more Democrats.  The 'new' generators make power themselves.

Highlight this part: (0.00 / 0)
"The new game players 'get a new life.'  Get a second life.  Re-init.  Start over.  Clean slate.  Level all, as it was original.

The conceptual of it is a disjoint jump, what our mathematics calls a 'discontinuous function.'  There is no solution for the interval.  It is former at one differential, and at the next it is next.  No transition: re-position."

Can humans accomplish such feats?  Won't we forever drag our histories into our "new life"?  Oh - that's the positive history along with the negative - can these be filtered without repression?

Which human civilization has ever made a "disjointed jump"? Where a nation, civilization, tribe, motley crew lands after a jump is influences by which direction their histories pushed their flight, is it not?  As are their first steps upon landing - forward, back, or to the side.  Is that disjointed enough?

Perhaps some Old School anarchy  - in the sense of resisting the documentation of history; the keeping of archives - will  allow us to cut enough to truly disjoint?  Disjoint and repeat what we have forgotten. 

or, perhaps you speak more radically and on a much larger scale....and it is the planet that will be hitting "reset".  "Thanks for playing, humans, but your attempts at civilization have failed.  Next player, please."

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
There is a big difference (0.00 / 0)
between a competent speechwriter and a policy visionary, and this is a perfect illustration. Sorensen may be a competent-- even a brilliant -- writer, but as your examples show, the vision was JFK's. Without a guiding vision, we get competent rhetoric deviod of the deeper thinking or understanding that made JFK's speeches remarkable.

It is interesting that the Washington Monthly editors don't seem to recognize the difference. Sadly, most people have become so accustomed to a "leader" who can barely read what is handed to him and whose depth of thinking regarding international policy was summed up in "Bring 'em on," that even those who should know better don't seem to remember anything else.

What passes for thought now, even in print journalism, is the soundbite. You want the deep, meaningful thoughts of Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush? You get Peggy Noonan's catchphrases. Presidential public speaking is no longer about articulating a vision -- it is all about creating an image and building a brand.

And that is a job left strictly to the professionals. In a New York Times piece by shrub's former deputy director of speechwriting, Matthew Scully describes scripting everything from greeting a White House visitor from Ireland to the SOTU address. In 2005, the inaugural address required a team of writers led by Mike Gerson and another senior writer, John McConnell, who went through 17 drafts, circulated for editing by the members of the White House senior staff and the cabinet. And shrubs input? Two days of rehearsals, where another team of PR professionals coached him on gestures, facial expressions, pauses, and projecting a tone of "manful directness." 

Tellingly, it doesn't seem to have occurred to the editors at Washington Monthly that presidents once wrote some of their own speeches and at least contributed to the development of their policies. A speechwriter in JFK's administration certainly had nothing like the influence  that Scully or Gerson exerted over content. Hiring JFK's speechwriter will not channel JFK's wisdom.

All True, But (0.00 / 0)
Sorenson was a lot more than just a speechwriter.  It's even more unfair to compare him to today's hacks than it is to give him credit for Kennedy's vision.  (There was also a dark side to Kennedy's visions, btw, a love of covert ops to tactically intervene as an a backstop when his high-minded rhetoric ran into trouble.)

Don't forget, this is Washington Monthly we're talkng about.  It's about what one would expect from 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 ]
Why do you think ... (0.00 / 0)
some of respect Jim Webb so much?  Look at his SotU response.  He didn't read the clap-trap that Reid or some PR flack gave him.  He wrote his own speech.  The words are more authentic that way.

[ Parent ]
Another aspect of Bush's legacy (0.00 / 0)
In addition to foreign policy, I'd also like to see Democrats talk about what needs to be done to undo Bush's shredding of the Constitution and the customs of governance. It's not enough to say that they would never do such things, because that leaves in the same place: dependent on the personality of the ruler.

Not that this is completely unrelated to what you're discussing here, since it's this climate of fear that's been used by both parties to justify an unrestrained executive and the national security state.

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

By their fruit ye shall know them" (0.00 / 0)
"Kennedy's speech was so provocative --and so insightful -- because it held up the brutal and futile French occupation of Muslim Algeria as a warning of the limits of U.S. military power and the hubris and immorality of believing that we can or should use our superior military force to dictate the behavior of other countries."

JFK should have taken his own advice after becoming president. (Vietnam, anyone?)

militarism (0.00 / 0)
James Madison said it best:

Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals, engendered in both.

No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it.

In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them.

In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.

The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.

  --from "Political Observations," April 20, 1795 in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison , Volume IV, page 491.


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