Posts Tagged With: harry truman

OLD HATREDS NEVER DIE, NOR FADE AWAY

I thought I would but a little more flesh on the rather bare bones description of the Arab-Israeli conflict that I wrote about last time. Because it seems like the hate and vengeance that emanate from both sides goes back a long, long ways, to early biblical times, perhaps as much as 4000 years ago. If one believes that both the old and new testaments are anything more than fable, mythology and superstition, then the old hatreds started with Abraham, who is considered to be the father of the Hebrew nation. It seems that Abraham had, with his wife Sarah, a son named Isaac, who started the Jewish state. But for reasons too absurd to go into detail here, Abraham, the old goat, also decided to fool around with one of the servant women, and in the process, produced another son named Ishmael. It finally dawned on his wife Sarah that this was not a kosher situation; so she ordered Abraham to expel both mother and child from their living quarters. Neither would also get any of Abraham’s inheritance. Ishmael would then go on to father the Arab nation, while, as I’ve said, Isaac would be the founder of the Hebrew nation. From that point on, the hatreds, wars, mass murders, slaughters of innocent people, destruction, etc. between the two peoples would become fully launched.

Now as I’ve stated many times before, I’m not a big believer in the veracity of either sets of bibles, since they were both written by man, not God. They make for some interesting folklore and myths, but it’s unlikely that many of the events described, especially in the old testament, actually took place. For example, the Israeli government has spent tens of millions of dollars looking for the slightest shred of evidence that Moses ever existed, let alone parted the Red Sea, and has come up with nothing but a dry hole. So let’s fast forward a couple of thousand of years to the time that Jesus walked this planet. It was also a time when the mighty Roman Empire conquered the state of Israel, which then resulted in most Jews being driven from their homeland, and relocating mostly in Europe. (As we all know, the Roman Empire, some centuries later, would also subsequently fall to the barbarians at the gates.) Over the next 2000 years, European Jews were then subjected to severe persecution and pogroms by most European nations, (think of the Spanish Inquisition) which finally culminated in the blackest and most evil pit of all, known as the Holocaust. The Nazis would slaughter about 6 million European Jews during that pogrom, before the WWII nightmare would finally end. After the war, most leading nations, as represented in the U.N., felt that the Jews now deserved their own homeland where they would be safe from persecution.

In the late 19th century, an Austrian Jew named Theodor Herzl had put forth the idea that all the displaced Jews of Europe should be able to return to their biblical homeland in the deserts of the Mid-East, as a way to escape anti-semitic persecution that was rampant throughout Europe at the time. This concept became known as Zionism, and the first Zionist Congress met in Switzerland in 1897 to formulate strategies and plans to accomplish this goal. After WWII the Zionist movement gathered momentum and, as I’ve said, almost all world powers were in agreement in the establishment of the state of Israel. Bur there was fierce opposition coming from one quarter, and that was from the Arabs living in those Mid-Eastern deserts that would become the Jewish state.

In 1947, at the urging of President Harry Truman, the U.N. general assembly voted in favor of a 2 state partition of those biblical lands in the desert. One state would be Palestinian, and the other would Jewish. Fighting between both sides broke out almost immediately, and in 1948, when Israel officially declared independence, 4 Arab countries invaded the new state. By some miracle, Israel was able to win that early on-slaught, and a cease-fire was declared in 1949. But as the title to this piece states, old hatreds never go away. In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan attacked Israel once again in what would become known as the 6-day war. Israel would win that war too, and in the process acquire all of Jerusalem (which had been partitioned), the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. But the Arabs weren’t finished by a long shot. On Yom Kippur, the Jewish holy day, in 1973, Egypt and Syria once again sprung a surprise military attack on an unprepared Israel. That one came within a hair’s breath of success. Israel eventually found the resilience to fight back this latest Arab attempt to “drive the Jews into the sea,” and again won that war. It was at that point that the Arabs realized the futility of outright armed invasion. Instead, they would try a new tactic of brutal, murderous slaughter of Israeli civilians, known as terrorism, which I described in some detail in my previous entry. What I didn’t mention last time was that these terrorist tactics also included lobbing rockets with explosive warheads into Israeli towns, which is still on-going to this day.

The entire state of Israel is about the size of Delaware. When George W. Bush became President he visited Israel and was given a helicopter tour over  the whole state. It was pointed out to him that at its narrowest point Israel is only 9 miles wide. “Nine miles,” he exclaimed. “There are some driveways in Texas that are longer than 9 miles.” But within this small strip of land in the desert, there has been a never-ending sea of hatred, bloodshed, death, destruction and misery that has evolved over thousands of years. With no end in sight. And yet the far left-wing in this country and throughout Europe, especially in academia and other so-called intellectual circles, want to establish economic and scholastic boycotts of everything Israeli. Because, obviously, all this hatred and bloodshed is all Israel’s fault.

The problem with this left-wing ideology is that when one is a determined ideologue, he or she will make the facts fit their belief system instead of the other way around. So like their blood brothers on the far right, its not about what occurs in reality; its all about making a life-long commitment to a certain ideology, no matter how false the premises of that ideology may be.

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HELL AND BACK

In 1948, when I was still almost a child, I became aware of politics and presidential elections for the first time. Yes, I know most of you think that my childhood took place around the time that Galileo was telling the world that the Earth really did rotate around the Sun, rather than vice versa. But, as I said, it was 1948 that I first became aware that their were Democrats and Republicans, and elections every four years. In that year, the presidential race was between Tom Dewey, the Republican, and Harry Truman, the Democrat. Truman, of course, had been FDR’s Vice-President, and took over the presidency in 1945 when Roosevelt died. A feisty Missourian, Truman decided to run for reelection in 1948 against very heavy odds. Supposedly, the country was tired of 16 years of Democratic rule, people wanted a change, Truman didn’t have the stature that FDR had, etc., etc. All the polls, and all the political pundits of that day proclaimed that the Republicans were a sure bet in the election. My father, who was a life-long Democrat, was bemoaning the fact that the Republicans would win that year. But somehow, I had an instinctive feeling that Truman would upset the applecart. Call it intuition. I told my father not to worry, that in the end, the Democrats would retain their hold on the White House. Whereupon, my father told me to keep my mouth shut, lest the neighbors overhear my remarks and discover what an idiot son he had raised.

Tom Dewey, the man that everybody expected to triumph, had been a racketeer busting District Attorney in Manhattan, and scored a boatload of convictions of Mafia kingpins, which subsequently propelled him into the Governor’s seat in New York.  He had  been nominated, ran against and lost to Roosevelt in 1944, but 1948 was supposedly going to be his year. Being a moderate progressive (yes, they still had some of those in the GOP at that time), Dewey picked Earl Warren, then Governor of California and even more progressive than himself, to be his running mate. The Dewey/Warren ticket looked to be unstoppable. But Truman and the Democrats had other ideas.

One of Truman’s favorite proclamations when he was in office, was that if the Republicans didn’t like his policies “they could all go to hell.” He was roundly chastised by the GOP for this, as many Republicans protested how “undignified” it was for the President to use such profanity. Whereby Truman explained that ” I just tell the truth and the Republicans think it’s hell.” Well we all know what subsequently ensued. Dewey, believing the Gallop poll which showed him comfortably in the lead, eased up on the gas pedal, and pretty much coasted the last 10 days to election. Truman, on the other hand, showed his feistiness with an all-court press to the very end of the campaign. People woke up on Wednesday after the election to find that Truman had scored a major upset and won reelection after all. The “Chicago Tribune” which had been absolutely convinced that Dewey would prevail, printed its Wednesday edition on Tuesday night before the election results were in, with the blaring headline-DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. In one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, a beaming Harry Truman is shown holding up a copy of that newspaper and headline in front of a multitude of news cameras.

While both my father and I cheered Truman’s victory, in retrospect, our country might have turned out better if the Dewey/Warren ticket had prevailed. The Republican Party might have retained the moderate progressivism of those candidates, to this day. Instead, after Eisenhower left the scene, the GOP began shifting further and further to the right, until today when it’s firmly entrenched in the streets of right-wing looney-tunesville. Moderate Republicanism has become as extinct as the Dodo bird.

Truman went on to have a successful 4 year-administration and today is usually ranked by historians as one of our best presidents. Dewey quickly faded from the scene after 2 losses in a row, but Earl Warren was subsequently appointed by Eisenhower to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Court under Warren’s leadership achieved some historic decisions, including the establishment of a criminal defendant’s “Miranda Rights, ” and establishment of the exclusionary rule whereby evidence obtained though illegal searches could no longer be entered in a criminal trial.

So what’s the relevance of these 64-year-old events to this years election? Well, for one, it would be nice if Obama were able to display some of Harry Truman’s spirit and feistiness and never-say-die attitude. Because he doesn’t he’s on the verge of being a one-term President. What’s also different is the mind-boggling amounts of money being spent this year versus the events of yesteryear. I guess with all those billionaires pouring multi-millions into Romney’s campaign, the Democrats always faced a severe uphill battle this year, even under the best of circumstances. Also the very essence of the democratic process has become a joke. Republican Governors in key swing states, have been systematically removing registered voters from the voting rolls, on the pretense that these people are not legitimate citizens of those states. To no one’s surprise, those being removed are from the lower classes that usually vote heavily Democratic.

Also, a number of those Romney-supporting billionaires like the Koch brothers own industries that employ thousands of people. Written word has gone down to those workers that if Obama wins, the jobs of all those thousands of employees will likely be in jeopardy, or the health care and other benefits these employees currently receive will no longer be available. Voter intimidation has become so massive, that one political columnist called it a coup-d’etat in slow motion. So through voter intimidation, and removing Democrats from voter eligibility lists, plus requiring people that are allowed to vote to present Government issued, picture ID, it’s hard to see how the Republicans can lose. That the race is so close a week before election day, bespeaks to what a piece of garbage the Republican platform is. But it’s almost certain that Romney will buy and bulldoze his way into the Oval Office. In the meantime, with still a week to go, it wouldn’t hurt if the Democrats raised all kinds of hell, the way Harry Truman would have done it.

 

 

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POISONING THE WELL

Franklin Roosevelt was, and will always be, the only president elected to that office more than twice. He won an unprecedented four terms of office, although he died early in his fourth term, thus turning the presidency over to Harry Truman. To prevent anyone else from having Roosevelt’s seemingly iron grip on the oval office, an amendment was passed in 1947 limiting all future presidents to two terms. But the most interesting race of the four was in 1940 when Roosevelt would make history if elected a third time. His opponent that year was a mostly unknown candidate named Wendell Willkie who represented a small but internationalist and liberal wing of the Republican party (now as extinct as the Dodo bird.) My father, a life-long Democrat,  once told me the only time he was tempted to vote Republican, was for Wendell Willkie in 1940. As highly as he rated Roosevelt, he thought Wilkie was even better. In the end, though, he did vote Democratic.

To set the picture of what life was like in the world 72 years ago, one has to recognize how different, but also similar the times were in comparison to 2012. Storm clouds of war were descending in both Europe and the Pacific, but a strong streak of isolationism still existed in the U.S. Most Republicans, and indeed most Americans felt if we could somehow avoid  becoming entangled in the looming wars with the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan, we could avoid the costs and loss of life that such wars would undoubtably result in. But Willkie, being an internationalist as was Roosevelt, knew that America’s participation in the coming wars was unavoidable. In 1940 we were also just beginning to pull ourselves out of the worst and most destructive Depression in U.S. history. When FDR took office in 1933, the unemployment rate was about 25%. But his New Deal policies helped cut that in half, and he won a landslide re-election in 1936. By 1937, his administration started to cut back on the money the Government was pumping into the economy, causing unemployment to start creeping up again. Thus Willkie ran on a platform of declaring that the New Deal had not solved America’s economic crises, and new leadership was required. Sound familiar to this year’s campaign rhetoric? As with Obama today, there were the Roosevelt haters and bashers, such as famous journalist Westbrook Pegler. Only radio and TV weren’t available to do their bashing and hating, so they had to rely almost solely on newspapers and magazines. In the end, however, they were no match for Roosevelt’s rhetorical and speech-making skills.

Although the economy was still in poor shape in 1940, Willkie”s problem in trying to unseat Roosevelt was a lack of support within his own party. As I stated, most Republicans were isolationist and conservative and couldn’t warm to Willkie’s international and liberal leanings. Despite the poor economy, Roosevelt won the election easily. Even had he been elected, Willkie would not have served out his term, as he died at the young age of 52 in 1944. World War II came crashing down on the U.S. like a ton of bricks when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Of course the war took care of any lingering unemployment problems, as eventually 10 million people were recruited into the military, and the rest were sopped up in in armaments factories. Women who normally stayed home as housewives and mothers, had to go to work in tank and ship factories just to keep up with the war’s demands. With the unemployment problems gone, and with successful prosecution of the war effort, Roosevelt coasted to another victory in 1944, despite cries that he was becoming a dictator.

This year’s election, as in Roosevelt’s time, is marked by a poor economy and runaway Government costs and deficits. But it it also denoted by the venomous behavior of the Obama haters and bashers. However, unlike in FDR’s time, the vilest hate mongering  can use radio and TV as its platform. Thus Rush Limbaugh, 3 weeks before Obama was sworn into office, screamed out the famous line: “I want him to fail.” (So do Al-Qiada and all other terrorist groups around the world.) From then on, Limbaugh’s program of 3 hours per day, 5 days a-week, consists almost purely of venom and vitriol directed against Obama and the Democrats. He claims to have a listenership of 20 million, so his hate-mongering has made him a billionaire or close to it. I don’t blame him as much as the millions of pathetic souls out there, who can’t get through their day without listening to 3 hours of hate radio directed against their president. Of course, there’s about a thousand Rush wannabes in cities across the country spewing out the same type of vitriol. And leave us not forget Fox News on TV that does basically the same. Since the American electorate has been dumbed down by all this propaganda, the well of politics has been thoroughly poisoned, to the extent that nothing can be achieved in Congress or the Office of the President that would in anyway be beneficial to the American public. For example, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, stated very early on, that the Republican’s primary and overriding objective was to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. Not do what’s right for the American people, perish the thought.

Obama’s rival in this year’s election, Mitt Romney, seems like a decent enough guy even if he has all the core values of wallpaper. He has done a total reversal on every major issue since he ran for the Senate against Ted Kennedy in the 1990s, or became Governor in 2002. But even if he wins the presidency as is likely, and the the GOP wins both houses of Congress, this country will still be be in for a very rough slog. Because if the Republicans don’t elect 60 Senators, and it’s unlikely they will, the Democrats will use the filibuster in the Senate to attempt to thwart a President Romney at every turn, as the GOP did to President Obama.

Yes, we have some very serious problems such as a poor economy, high unemployment, huge deficit spending, etc. But the most serious problem of all, is that the well of the body politic has been so poisoned by hate radio and television, that cooperation within the government to attempt to resolve these problems seems a near impossibility. Congratulations to all hate-mongers out there. Your efforts are apparently paying off.

 

 

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