Posts Tagged With: richard nixon

FAKING SINCERITY

To appreciate the full ramifications of the Republican sweep of last Tuesday’s election, one has to explore various and complicated aspects of the human condition.  For example, as I wrote previously, the election results in most cases were decided by the people who didn’t vote, versus those that did. About 45% of eligible voters did cast their ballots, which is actually slightly higher than most off-year elections. But a solid majority of eligibles couldn’t be bothered to show up at the ballot station, or couldn’t care less about who won. Supposedly, most of those that did vote were turned off by Obama Administration and Democratic ineptitude and failures, and that prompted a fairly strong turn-out for the Republican cause. This was best illustrated in the state of Virginia, where Democratic Senator Mark Warner was supposed to have coasted to an easy re-election win over a Republican hack named Ed Gillespie. Instead the election was a nail-biter through the entire evening with Gillespie leading most of the time. Warner finally edged out a win by the skin of his teeth in the early morning hours. The reason for Warner’s near loss- people in southern Virginia were motivated to turn out in heavy numbers to vote Republican as a protest against Obama; while Democratic strongholds in northern Virginia saw meager numbers of voters at the polling booths. Ironically, people that benefit most from Government assistance, such as the poor, the sick, and the unemployed, tend to vote in light numbers, while those opposed to Government redistribution vote much more heavily. Also, young voters who generally are more liberal tend not to show up at the polls, while oldsters, like myself, who are usually more conservative, will vote in heavier numbers, even in off-year elections. What else do they have to do with their time.

Then, there’s the way candidates appeal to the voting public, as a crucial factor. In 1946, both Jack Kennedy and Richard Nixon had returned home from fighting in WWII, and both were elected to Congress that year. In Kennedy’s case, it was part of family tradition to run for high public office. But in Nixon’s case, no political aspirations were initially in evidence. Not until a group of wealthy businessmen from southern California approached him, and said they liked his style and that he should consider entering the political arena. They, the businessmen, would provide the necessary financial support for such an effort. Nixon was grilled on variety of issues to ensure that his views were sufficiently conservative to suit the businessmen’s interests. But most of all, Nixon was told, to become a viable candidate, he had to appear thoroughly sincere in belief of the issues he would be promoting. “Well, hell,” replied Nixon. “I can fake that; at least as well as the next guy, if not better.” Since I wasn’t at that meeting, perhaps the exchange of verbiage didn’t go down in exactly those words. But I’m pretty sure that it was very close to that. Nixon was so good at faking his sincerity, that he would go on to be elected Congressman and then Senator from California. Next he was chosen to be Eisenhower’s running mate in the 1950s. From there, after some political setbacks, Nixon was elected to the Presidency in 1968. He made huge accomplishments as President; but was eventually done in and disgraced by his own paranoia during the Watergate scandal, which forced him to resign the Presidency. Faking the sincerity factor no longer worked for him.

Another good example of the fickleness of the average American’s political thought-proceesses also occurred during the tumultuous 1960s. In 1968, America had already been devastated by the assassinations of two leaders of monumental consequence, namely, John Kennedy and Martin Luther King. In 1968, Robert Kennedy, affectionately known to his supporters as Bobby, decided to enter the fray for the Democratic nomination for President. He had been Attorney-General in his brother’s administration, and then was elected Senator from New York. Possessing much of his brother’s charisma, he generated huge popularity and seemed well on his way to securing the the Democratic nomination, when he too was assassinated in June of that year. It was a shattering loss for most Americans. I remember writing at the time that no nation, not even one as powerful as the U.S., could sustain such devastating losses in leadership without going into a tailspin. Hubert Humphrey, a decent enough Senator from Minnesota would go on to obtain the Democrat nomination while Richard Nixon was the GOP nominee. But there was a third player in that year’s election.

His name was George Wallace, and he was the racist Governor of Alabama. In 1968, segregation and Jim Crow laws were still alive and well throughout the South. Wallace decided to run as an independent in the Presidential race that year, figuring that he had as good a shot as the main-stream party candidates. So, who was George Wallace? Five years previously, he had declared, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” That racist statement occurred when Wallace stood in the school house door to block black students from entering the University of Alabama, as had been decreed by the courts.  He eventually was forced to back down by an edict from then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who had to federalize National Guard troops to provide protection for those black students. But that wasn’t the most interesting part of that 1968 scenario.

The most interesting part was that the very  people that had actively supported and voted for Bobby Kennedy in the Democratic primaries, were now turning out in huge numbers to listen to, and support George Wallace on the campaign trail after Kennedy’s assassination. Even though you couldn’t have two politicians who were more diametrically opposed to each other. Kennedy was a liberal who was for civil rights, and strongly opposed segregation and Jim Crowism. He was opposed to the war in Viet-Nam and promised disengagement if elected. He vigorously favored Government intervention to help the plight of the poor and sick. Wallace was just the opposite. He was not only a strict segregationist, but he was also one of the few public supporters of the Viet-Nam war. He couldn’t care less about reducing poverty, as noted by the fact that Alabama was the second poorest state in the union, with Mississippi being dead last. And yet many of the same people who were enthusiastic about Bobby, became similarly enthusiastic about Wallace.

How does one account for that? It’s the sincerity factor. When questioned about this supposed anomaly, voters were unapologetic. Bobby was a good man because he wasn’t talking out of both sides of his mouth, said one man. Now, Wallace is the only guy who means what he says and isn’t trying to please everyone at the same time. One woman added that “they say what they mean and they don’t try to beat around the bush.” So, in the end, it’s not about ideology. It’s about which candidate can sell the public on the fact that they are the authentic, real-deal. After all, politics is a game of salesmanship. The one that can best fake sincerity will usually rise to the top.

 

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SCANDAL

Roughly 40 years ago, President Richard Nixon was running for re-election against what turned out to be a weak and ineffectual Democratic opponent named George McGovern. All the polls, at the time, showed that Nixon was comfortably ahead and would win an easy re-election. (He eventually carried 49 states and won in a landslide.) Not withstanding Nixon’s large lead in the polls, a group of low level Republican hacks decided that they would break into Democratic campaign headquarters and steal whatever campaign information might be available, in order to further help Nixon’s re-election efforts. Being the original gang that couldn’t shoot straight, these idiot hacks were caught in the act by the D.C. police. The Democratic campaign headquarters they broke into happened to be located in a newly-built, apartment-house, condominium complex known as Watergate. It was a very pricy  establishment located on the banks of the Potomac, in Washington D.C.

Since Nixon had nothing to do with okaying this break-in, the sensible thing to have done, would have been to denounce these hacks, state that the White House had no role in authorizing the break-in, and offer that the perpetrators would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Had he done this, the so-called Watergate scandal would have never taken root or blossomed, and Nixon could have completed his presidency on a high-note. But although Nixon had achieved major accomplishments during his first term, (ending the Viet-Nam war, establishing diplomatic relations with Communist China, creating the Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, etc.) he possessed one fatal flaw. He was highly paranoid. He believed he was beset by enemies (the opposition) who were out to “get him.” This led to him creating “enemies lists” of people who he would try to destroy before they could destroy him. By sending IRS agents out to hound them, for example.

Because of Nixon’s paranoia, he and his White House staff decided to cover-up key facts about the break-in. Like who authorized it in the first place, and where the cash had come from to fund the operation. At the time, there were 2 young reporters at the local newspaper, the Washington Post, who were assigned to the political beat and were eager to prove their chops, named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Hence, these two reporters dug deeper and deeper into the White House coverup of the events surrounding the break-in at Watergate. They developed an inside source at the WH who kept feeding them never-before revealed facts. They called their source “Deep Throat” (after a famous porno movie that was in the theaters at that time) in order to protect his identity.  There were also Senate hearings and other investigations on-going, and  the Watergate scandal grew larger by the week. Key WH aides were forced to resign in the wake of the scandal. Finally, when it was obvious that Nixon himself would be impeached and removed from office by Congress, Nixon resigned the presidency. The only president in the history of the Republic to be forced out of office. Woodward and Bernstein were lauded across the country, for the greatest act regarding the written word since Moses came down from the mountain with the 10 commandments. In the 40 years since, every reporter, or anyone who has ever worked in the media, has dreamed of achieving similar fame by cooking up another Watergate. But it ain’t gonna happen; or at least it’s highly unlikely. Sometimes you just can’t replicate the original.

This all became relevant because, here, in the first-half of 2013, the Obama administration has suddenly been hit by 3 significant scandals, which has many Republicans and other assorted Obama-haters licking their chops in anticipation that Obama, like Nixon before him, can be forced out of office. (Of course, should this happen, it would only result in Joe Biden becoming president, who the looney-tunes right-wingers despise even more than Obama. If that was possible.) These scandals have, like Watergate, all resulted from the stupidity of Administration officials, so lets take a look and see what’s there.

Scandal No. 1: Benghazi. This one has been festering since last September when our Ambassador to Libya and 3 of his protectors were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi. First of all, the Ambassador should have been in Libya’s capital, which is Tripoli, instead of war-torn Benghazi. Seems he was there to check up on some CIA covert operation. In any event, the criticism of the Benghazi fiasco is two-fold. The first is regarding the fact that there was insufficient troop or Marine protection for the Ambassador in Benghazi, and calls to send in the cavalry for rescue operations after the attacks had begun, went largely ignored by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and, obviously, by the President himself. Secondly, after the 4 had been murdered, the Administration had put out a false narrative, stating that a YouTube video critical of Islam had so inflamed the local crowd, that angry mob actions were responsible for the murders. Clearly everyone in the Administration knew that the murders occurred due to carefully crafted terrorist attacks. So people were asleep at the switch beforehand, and put out idiotic comments after the fact. But if stupidity and lack of foresight were impeachable offenses, every president since since George Washington would have had to be removed from office. Early in the 1980s, during Ronald Reagan’s first term, 241 U.S. Marines stationed in Lebanon were blown up by terrorists one night, while they were asleep in their barracks. Should we go back and retroactively impeach Ronald Reagan, because people in his administration were similarly asleep at the switch.

Scandal No. 2: The IRS Fiasco. Seems that certain IRS offices were giving Tea Party and other right-wing political groups a really hard-time when they attempted to establish tax-free statuses for their organizations. Yes, IRS agents should not be targeting anyone for their political affiliations. Extremely stressful to have IRS picking you out of the line-up for special attention, especially when it regards one’s beliefs. But the larger question is why the government is giving tax-free status to any political organization-be they right-wing, left-wing or in the center.Tax-free status should be limited to genuine human or animal charities and maybe religious organizations. No wonder we’re so broke. It’s time to stop these piece-of-crap political groups from raiding the U.S. treasury.

Scandal No.3: The AP E-mails. The Government had an informant on the inside of a major terrorist group planning some dastardly acts against the U.S. Someone in the Administration leaked his name to the Associated Press, who in an act of total and unbelievable stupidity, printed all of this, thereby jeopardizing the life of the informant. I feel so much safer now that this info has been made public. The Attorney General’s office has been trying to find the source of this leak by secretly delving into AP e-mails. Perhaps not the smartest thing to do, but certainly understandable given the circumstances. Nothing really much here that resembles another Watergate.

So there you have it: three supposed scandals meant to drive Obama from office, or at the very least, prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency in 2016. As I said before, looney-tunes Republicans are drooling over the prospects of either, or, both happening. Stay tuned to this channel to see how these on-going sagas play out.

 

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HERE’S TO PRESIDENTIAL LOSERS (PART II)

Just one footnote to the presidential race in 1960 between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon that I discussed in the last entry. I was still living at home in Brooklyn with my parents. (Yes, I put off growing up into a mature adult as long as I could. Some say there are still unresolved issues in that regard.) This would be the first election I was eligible to vote in, since the voting age was still 21 at that time. So imagine my excitement when the Kennedy campaign came to Brooklyn on a cold October day, and there was JFK standing up in a convertible limo with the top down, waving to the crowds as his motorcade rolled through the streets very near to my residence. Up until then, men always wore hats, especially in cold weather. You can see evidence of that if you ever watch movies made before the late 1950s. But JFK went hatless, mainly to show off his great looks and thick shock of hair. That started a new fashion trend almost overnight, where men started giving up wearing their hats, and the male hat industry quickly went out of business.

We left off last time with Richard Nixon winning the 1968 presidency in a close race with Hubert Humphrey. Now everyone knows that Nixon had to resign the presidency in disgrace over the Watergate scandal. But what most people don’t appreciate was that Nixon accomplished huge achievements during the time he was in office. If not for Watergate he could have been considered one of our greatest presidents. First, Nixon finally got us out of Viet-Nam, which was deeply dividing the nation. We had been involved in Viet-Nam since the 1950s, and huge protests against the war continued almost on a weekly basis. The generals in command were calling for another 200 thousand troop increase to go along with the 500 thousand troops already there. Instead Nixon started withdrawing troops and eventually signed a peace treaty with North Viet-Nam that enabled us to extricate ourselves from that horrible mis-adventure. By the time it was over, the war had cost us 58,500 American dead, with hundreds of thousands more wounded, and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese dead. Nixon being able to finally end that misguided effort was huge. Today we have peaceful relations with Viet-Nam and it is considered a valuable trading partner. In the end, all that loss of life and destruction was really in vain.

Nixon’s next huge achievement was opening up diplomatic relations with Communist China, who along with the old USSR, was considered our implacable enemy. Nixon had a reputation for being a hardline anti-communist, so  that he was able to pull off ending the cold war, at least with China, was almost unthinkable at the time. Today China is one of our largest trading partners, and holds about a trillion dollars of our debt. Nixon also established the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, which consolidated and expanded public social services . The Education part was eventually split off and became a separate department, while the rest of HEW has now become the Department of Health and Human Resources. Nixon even wanted to institute universal health care, but it was the Democrats in Congress that balked because they felt his bill didn’t go far enough. Although he talked as a tough conservative, Nixon presided over an enlargement of social benefits almost to the degree that Lyndon Johnson or even FDR did. As I’ve said, his accomplishments were huge.

Nixon’s Achilles heel, however was that he was deeply paranoid. He felt he was continually besieged by people hostile to his administration, despite all his accomplishments. He kept enemies lists and made secret recordings of conversations he had with visitors to the White House. In 1972, he ran for re-eletion against a largely unknown liberal Senator from South Dakota named George McGovern. McGovern was a decent and sincere man, but the Democrats went into their full incompetency  mode, including not nominating McGovern during their convention until about 2 in the morning when everyone was asleep and could not hear his acceptance speech. As a result, Nixon won in a mammoth landslide, capturing 49 out of 50 states. However, during the election, a curious event occurred that would eventually destroy the Nixon presidency.

Late in the campaign season, a group of third rate Republican hacks one night broke into Democratic campaign headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington DC. God knows what information they were hoping to learn or steal, especially since it was obvious at the time that Nixon would win by a landslide. If Nixon had come out at the time that the break-in was discovered, and stated that he in no way authorized or condoned the break-in, and the perpetrators would be punished to the full extent of the law, his presidency would have been unscathed. But Nixon’s paranoia would not allow him to do that. Instead he and his closest White House advisors went through elaborate schemes to try to cover-up any higher Republican involvement in this third-rate burglary. The more the story made the news, the more elaborate the cover-up became. Finally, the entire story became public thanks to the diligence of two “Washington Post” reporters, and several Congressional and judicial investigations. Nixon’s involvement, not in the crime, but in the coverup became evident, and he was forced to resign the presidency.

Since Nixon’s Vice President also had to resign his office due to a different scandal, the Republicans chose Gerald Ford, who was their leader in the House, to take over the presidency. Ford was a decent and moderate Republican and his basic honesty helped clean up the mess in Washington and restore the people’s faith in their government. But Ford made one crucial mistake that cost him the Oval Office when he ran for election in 1976. He had given Nixon a pardon from any possible prosecution connected to Watergate for the rest of Nixon’s life. The public was still in an unforgiving mood as it related to Watergate, and thus elected a largely unknown peanut farmer who managed to become Governor of Georgia named Jimmy Carter. The Democrats were so delighted that they had a Southern Governor who not only wasn’t a racist, but had actually championed civil rights, that they practically handed Carter the nomination on a silver platter. Carter’s presidency would also end in failure, but like Nixon, he had several significant achievements which we will pick up with next time. It is interesting to note, however, that two Republican presidents, Nixon and Ford, would likely be drummed out of today’s tea-party, Rush Limbaugh dominated Republican Party.

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