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6/25/2007
TAKE ME OUT TO BUZKASHI
CATEGORY: PJ Media

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By elvenstar522

Just another day at the Boz yard for these Buzkashi players.

My latest sports column is up at Pajamas Media. I chose to highlight the universiality of sport by trying to describe Buzkashi:

Watching these players race around the field, a look of concentration and determination on their faces, I was struck by the fact that we see that look all the time in our athletes. We like to say that a Michael Jordan or a Ty Cobb were fierce competitors in their day, that they would do anything to win. But they’re not really fierce in any real sense. Fierce is riding a Buzkashi horse over a dusty plain with a dozen riders behind you — another dozen bearing down on your flank — all bound and determined to use whatever means at their disposal to separate you from the carcass of a dead goat.

Now that’s fierce.

Read the whole thing…

By: Rick Moran at 8:13 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

6/22/2007
IN OUR NAME

The release of nearly 700 pages of formerly classified documents detailing CIA lawbreaking from the 1950’s to the 1970’s will hardly surprise those who have been critics of the agency. Many of the “black bag” operations, the wiretaps, the surveillance, the unusual experiments on American citizens, have been hinted at or exposed through the years so there are no real bombshells – although I found the process of how these operations were compiled fascinating.

Evidently, former DCIA James Schlessinger ordered the review of CIA operations from the 1950’s on, regarding activities that “fell outside of the Agency’s charter” when he discovered two of the Watergate burglars had help from inside the agency to carry out some of their domestic spying on Democrats. What he discovered – the so-called “Family Jewels” – was placed in a file and the Justice Department was briefed by Schlessinger’s successor, William Colby.

Here is a summary of these illegal activities per a contemporary Justice Department memo obtained by The National Security Archive:

1. Confinement of a Russian defector that “might be regarded as a violation of the kidnapping laws.” (A reference to James Angleton’s holding of defector Yuri Nosenko).

2. Wiretapping of two syndicated columnists, Robert Allen and Paul Scott.

3. Physical surveillance of muckraker Jack Anderson and his associates, including current Fox News anchor Britt Hume.

4. Physical surveillance of then Washington Post reporter Michael Getler.

5. Break-in at the home of a former CIA employee.

6. Break-in at the office of a former defector.

7. Warrantless entry into the apartment of a former CIA employee.

8. Mail opening from 1953 to 1973 of letters to and from the Soviet Union.

9. Mail opening from 1969 to 1972 of letters to and from China.

10. Behavior modification experiments on “unwitting” U.S. citizens. (LSD and other drug trials)

11. Assassination plots against Castro, Lumumba, and Trujillo (on the latter, “no active part” but a “faint connection” to the killers).

12. Surveillance of dissident groups between 1967 and 1971.

13. Surveillance of a particular Latin American female and U.S. citizens in Detroit.

14. Surveillance of a CIA critic and former officer, Victor Marchetti.

15. Amassing of files on 9,900-plus Americans related to the antiwar movement.

16. Polygraph experiments with the San Mateo, California, sheriff.

17. Fake CIA identification documents that might violate state laws.

18. Testing of electronic equipment on US telephone circuits.

These files were slated to be released years ago – except George Tenet refused:

CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden announced today that the Agency is declassifying the full 693-page file amassed on CIA’s illegal activities by order of then-CIA director James Schlesinger in 1973—the so-called “family jewels.” Only a few dozen heavily-censored pages of this file have previously been declassified, although multiple Freedom of Information Act requests have been filed over the years for the documents. Gen. Hayden called today’s release “a glimpse of a very different time and a very different Agency.”

“This is the first voluntary CIA declassification of controversial material since George Tenet in 1998 reneged on the 1990s promises of greater openness at the Agency,” commented Thomas Blanton, the Archive’s director.

Hayden also announced the declassification of some 11,000 pages of the so-called CAESAR, POLO and ESAU papers—hard-target analyses of Soviet and Chinese leadership internal politics and Sino-Soviet relations from 1953-1973, a collection of intelligence on Warsaw Pact military programs, and hundreds of pages on the A-12 spy plane.

Those last documents will be a boon to Cold War historians. Down through the years, we’ve had leaks from those analyses but never the whole story of what the CIA knew, what they believed, and what they were telling policy makers. It should make for fascinating reading.

As for the rest, it is apparent that for 25 years or more, the CIA was an agency out of control, beyond the law, and shockingly insensitive to civil liberties.

What new?

I have rarely been surprised or horrified by what the CIA has done down through the years “in our name.” The world is a cold, brutal place and there are many times when the “ends/means argument” is not relevant. Nor is the criticism that there was “no moral difference” between what the Soviets were doing and what the CIA did valid. Of course there was a difference; they were the enemy and what the CIA did most of the time to protect the United States was its own moral justification – survival.

Clearly, this was not always the case. The Agency was a good friend in Latin America of American business interests like United Fruit Company and AT & T. Helping to overthrow governments not friendly to American corporations is a whole other story – one that needs telling. But by and large, CIA actions down through the years have been necessary. Whether we can decide if those actions were “moral” or not is a luxury granted those who can sit in judgement enjoying the benefits of freedoms protected and fought for by some of the most dedicated public servants in our nation’s history.

Domestic spying operations initiated by Nixon brought the Agency great shame, as well it should. Nixon’s paranoia about his enemies should not have led to the kinds of surveillance carried out against American citizens by the CIA. Someone, somewhere should have stood up to the President and told him that what he was suggesting was outside the Agency’s charter and illegal to boot. The fact that no one did – at least no one that we know of – should not surprise us given that list above.

If you enjoy playing “what if” with history, let’s go ahead and put Humphrey in Nixon’s shoes from 1969-72. Thousands of people in the streets calling for not only the defeat of the United States military on the field of battle but also calling for the overthrow of the US government. Clear evidence that a substantial source for funding this movement came from our bitter enemies. Certain involvement in the anti-war movement by the KGB and the GRU (Soviet Military intelligence).

What would Hubert have done? How much differently would he have reacted to this grave threat to our internal security? It certainly puts a little different light on things when you take Nixon’s name away and substitute the beloved Humphrey. Anyone who says that Humphrey would have done none of the things Nixon did or that everything he did would have been on the up and up is not being rational. Presidents do what they feel they have to do to protect the country. And Humphrey would have been no different. Not being a paranoid, I imagine a lot less of what Nixon did would have been going on. But I can imagine Humphrey feeling it necessary to open mail and perhaps utilize the CIA’s expertise in “black bag” operations.

A fascinating exercise but not really germane. For some, the revelations contained in the documents will validate a world view where the CIA was “off the reservation” and out of control. For others, the documents will be interesting historical curiosities and nothing else. But somewhere, there is the truth. And revealing that truth is always a good thing no matter where you stand.

By: Rick Moran at 11:08 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (13)

Pajamas Media linked with Take Me Out to Buzkashi...
6/21/2007
THE COUNCIL HAS SPOKEN

The votes are in from this week’s Watchers Council and the winner in the Council category is “Judging People By Their Friends and Their Enemies” by Bookworm Room. Finishing second was yours truly for ““And the Wall Came a Tum-ba-lin’ Down…”

Coming out on top in the non Council category was “Death or Glory Part II of IV” by Michael Yon.

If you would like to participate in the Watchers Council vote, go here and follow instructions.

By: Rick Moran at 8:04 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

MICHELLE MALKIN’S NEW LOOK - AND COMMENTS TOO!
CATEGORY: Blogging

If you haven’t already, stop by Michelle Malkin’s new look blog. And while you’re there, register to comment.

Yours truly will be handling comment moderating duties. I would also encourage some of the saner lefties who comment here (and you know who you are) to register at Michelle’s. She would especially welcome thoughtful liberals in her comments section.

By: Rick Moran at 9:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

Captain's Quarters linked with CQ Radio: Senator James Inhofe...
GIULIANI’S 9/11 TRAP
CATEGORY: PJ Media

My latest article for PJ Media is up and it should generate a little controversy.

Rudy Giuliani has made his actions on 9/11 the centerpiece of his campaign for the presidency – if not outwardly then certainly by implication. And there is no doubt that his performance that day was magnificent – for the most part.

But what he did prior to 9/11 and after may prove a little more problematic for Rudy:

“Questions that were arguably glossed over by the 9/11 Commission, about the communications snafus that led to so many firefighters losing their lives, as well as a perceived lack of compassion for workers cleaning up Ground Zero will dog his campaign and actually be used against him by his opponents… Instead of a positive, 9/11 could end up as a millstone around his neck, dragging him down to defeat.”

By: Rick Moran at 6:24 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

DID THE FBI ALLOW OSAMA TO ESCAPE THE US AFTER 9/11?

There has been no greater boon to historians and others seeking the truth of government actions than the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI and Intel agencies hate it. Bureaucrats despise it – mostly because it piles on lots of extra paperwork duties. And Administrations from LBJ’s White House to the present have been embarrassed by what researchers – professional and amateur – have been able to bring to light.

The latest FOIA bombshell comes to us via Judicial Watch. You may recall these folks from the Clinton scandals, specifically their assistance to Paula Jones. At that time, the left accused them of being a right wing smear machine funded by Richard Mellon Scaife.

I wonder what the left is saying about them today?

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released new documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) related to the “expeditious departure” of Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family, from the United States following the 9/11 attacks. According to one of the formerly confidential documents, dated 9/21/2001, terrorist Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the Saudi flights.

The document states: “ON 9/19/01, A 727 PLANE LEFT LAX, RYAN FLT #441 TO ORLANDO, FL W/ETA (estimated time of arrival) OF 4-5PM. THE PLANE WAS CHARTERED EITHER BY THE SAUDI ARABIAN ROYAL FAMILY OR OSAMA BIN LADEN…THE LA FBI SEARCHED THE PLANE [REDACTED] LUGGAGE, OF WHICH NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS FOUND.” The plane was allowed to depart the United States after making four stops to pick up passengers, ultimately landing in Paris where all passengers disembarked on 9/20/01, according to the document.

Overall, the FBI’s most recent document production includes details of the six flights between 9/14 and 9/24 that evacuated Saudi royals and bin Laden family members. The documents also contain brief interview summaries and occasional notes from intelligence analysts concerning the cursory screening performed prior to the departures. According to the FBI documents, incredibly not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value.

This is more than curious. It is suspicious. At a National Security Council meeting at 3:30 PM on 9/11, CIA Chief George Tenet said that it was “virtually certain” that Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda were behind the attacks. FBI Director Mueller was also at this meeting and heard Tenet’s analysis, including the NSA’s interception of al-Qaeda communications revealing the terrorists congratulating one another on the success of the operation. (Even the more cautious 9/11 Commission said of this meeting “At about 3:15, President Bush met with his principal advisers through a secure video teleconference. Rice said President Bush began the meeting with the words, “We’re at war,” and that Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said the agency was still assessing who was responsible, but the early signs all pointed to al Qaeda.”)

So if the US government had even an inkling that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, why did they allow a flight out of the country carrying Osama bin Laden? Already a wanted man for the embassy bombings in Africa, what possible excuse involving stupidity, incompetence, or any other human failing could account for this monumental blunder?

Let’s ask Richard Clark:

First, we found no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national airspace on the morning of September 13, 2001.24 To the contrary, every flight we have identified occurred after national airspace reopened.25

Second, we found no evidence of political intervention. We found no evidence that anyone at the White House above the level of Richard Clarke participated in a decision on the departure of Saudi nationals. The issue came up in one of the many video teleconferences of the interagency group Clarke chaired, and Clarke said he approved of how the FBI was dealing with the matter when it came up for interagency discussion at his level. Clarke told us, “I asked the FBI, Dale Watson . . . to handle that, to check to see if that was all right with them, to see if they wanted access to any of these people, and to get back to me. And if they had no objections, it would be fine with me.” Clarke added, “I have no recollection of clearing it with anybody at the White House.”26

Although White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card remembered someone telling him about the Saudi request shortly after 9/11, he said he had not talked to the Saudis and did not ask anyone to do anything about it. The President and Vice President told us they were not aware of the issue at all until it surfaced much later in the media. None of the officials we interviewed recalled any intervention or direction on this matter from any political appointee.27

To make matters worse, the FBI apparently did not do a thorough job of searching and interrogating the Saudis on those flights – even if Osama was not among them:

Overall, the FBI’s most recent document production includes details of the six flights between 9/14 and 9/24 that evacuated Saudi royals and bin Laden family members. The documents also contain brief interview summaries and occasional notes from intelligence analysts concerning the cursory screening performed prior to the departures. According to the FBI documents, incredibly not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value.

Moreover, the documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi flights. For example, on one document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight (commonly referred to as the “Bin Laden Family Flight”). On another document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 15 of 22 passengers on the same flight.

It bears repeating that 9/11 Cassandra Richard Clark appears to be responsible for allowing these flights to begin with. Sort of puts a dent in Mr. Clark’s self-proclaimed anti-terrorism bona fides, no? Maybe the next time he shows up on one of the Sunday morning talkies, some intrepid journalist will ask him about this?

Not likely.

Perhaps most shocking to me is that the FBI failed at the most basic level of investigative competence possible; they seemed not to be curious about who was on those flights and what they might know about 9/11. I realize this will bring the 9/11 kooks and loons out of the closet with explanations of the Bush family’s close ties to the Saudis and how they wanted Osama to escape anyway. Unfortunately for them, Richard Clark (no friend of Bush, my tin-foil hat wearing friends) appears to be the highest level government official who knew of these flights in advance and authorized them. There is zero evidence that Bush or Cheney knew of these charters or authorized them in any way.

Another nagging question is what the 9/11 Commission staffers made of these memos when they read them? One would think that a mention of Osama Bin Laden in an FBI report on the Saudi flights would have raised every red flag possible and led to hauling Mueller, Clark, and the investigating agents before the Commission to explain themselves. The fact that Commission staffers either missed these reports or never acted upon them is just more evidence that the Commission itself had flawed investigative procedures.

Or they never saw the reports at all. This raises other, more troubling questions, about what else the FBI failed to give the Commission.

I will say that the idea that Osama was in the United States in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 seems implausible. But given the incompetence of our intelligence, counter intelligence, administrative, and political national security infrastructure that was exposed by 9/11, it is not out of the realm of the impossible.

UPDATE AND AN APOLOGY - SORT OF

This report has been denied outright by the FBI who assures us that they investigated the Saudis thoroughly before allowing them to leave.

While I have no doubt that the Osama angle has been overblown – and I apologize to my readers for being dumb enough to forget what Neo was kind enough to point out in the comments; that Osama was in Afghanistan just hours after the towers fell answering questions about the attack, I still think the Judicial Watch reports raise difficult questions for the FBI and, by extension, the 9/11 Commission.

But my reaction to the idea that Osama may have been on one of the planes or even that he may have chartered one of the flights was so wrong as to be laughable. For that, I apologize.

By: Rick Moran at 5:52 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

Flopping Aces linked with Koolaid Drinkers On Every Side...
The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 06/21/2007...
6/20/2007
BLOOMBERG BOLTS GOP - PREPARES FOR VANITY PRESIDENTIAL RUN
CATEGORY: Decision '08

Why do the fabulously rich think they have insight into the problems of the world that the rest of us mere mortals lack?

Ross Perot, Donald Trump, Steve Forbes, the Rockefellers, the DuPonts – all have either run for President or have been mentioned prominently as a possible candidate for the office. The fact that none of them have come close isn’t the point (Nelson Rockefeller perhaps had the best chance but was destroyed by Barry Goldwater in ‘64). The problem is we have to sit and listen to their hectoring lectures about how if only we put a real business executive in charge of the government, our problems would be solved in a jiffy. After all, these are people who’ve made a gazillion dollars (or their fathers, grandfathers, or great grandfathers made the family fortune) and think that their no-nonsense, unflappable executive style leadership personae is just the thing to whip this country into shape.

The latest entry into this most exclusive club of American aristocrats to believe he has what it takes to govern well and wisely is former Democrat, now former Republican, declared “independent” (whatever that means), and still Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg. Back in 2001, Bloomberg didn’t think he had a shot at the Democratic party’s nomination for Mayor so he did what all rich people do when confronted with a roadblock; he altered the playing field by shamelessly switching parties and running as a Republican. Spreading $73 million around of his own money, Bloomberg was barely able to beat liberal gadfly Mark Green in the general election.

Re-elected in 2005, Bloomberg set his sights on the Presidency. His name has floated around as a possible candidate in Republican circles for years, although he was significantly overshadowed by two other Republicans in the state – Rudy Giuliani and Governor George Pataki.

What’s a poor little rich boy to do? Since the party was not going to come to him, Bloomberg decided the only way he could experience the thrill of having pundits and political insiders take him seriously as a national candidate would be to leave the party system behind and strike out as an independent:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Tuesday that he was dropping his Republican affiliation, a step that could clear the way for him to make an independent bid for the presidency.

The announcement was released during a campaign-style swing through California, during which Mr. Bloomberg, 65, a billionaire businessman, used increasingly sharp language to criticize both parties in Washington as too timid to take on big problems and too locked into petty squabbling to work together.

“I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead my city,” Mr. Bloomberg’s statement read. “Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles, and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology.”

One assumes that if elected, Mr. Bloomberg would not be “too timid to take on big problems.” That very well might be the case. But he can be as bold as brass and still not get anything done. That’s because there’s a very good reason politicians are too timid to take on the “big problems.”

Trying to solve the nation’s problems always means getting some of the voters mad at you. Not everyone will be convinced that your brilliant solutions to Iraq, the deficit, entitlement programs, social security, Medicare, homeland security, and terrorism are the way to proceed. Many citizens (and perhaps even some lawmakers), in fact, may well wish to hang you in effigy and call you nasty names. And without some kind of party apparatus to whip House and Senate members into line, you have about as much chance of passing any of your heartfelt, carefully thought out solutions to our problems as Paris Hilton has of emerging from jail with her hair shorn, wearing sack cloth and ashes, and chanting the Confiteor – in Latin.

Politicians are not going to stick their neck out for a President Bloomberg just because he’s sincere and has solutions that make sense. He could be the greatest communicator since Reagan (he’s a bore as a speaker) and still fail miserably. Bloomberg can’t be unaware of this which makes his desire to run sheer vanity. As a mutli billionaire (he’s ranked 44th wealthiest man in the world), a hundred million of his own money spent on a Presidential run would give him instant credibility – at least in the eyes of the media. But if he got more than 5% in the general election, I would be shocked.

Having the golden touch at making money and governing the United States of America represent two different skill sets. Why we would think that someone successful in business would be able to translate that skill into being able to deal with al-Qaeda? Or reform entitlements? It won’t wash with the voters. It never has.

If Bloomberg were to give in to the temptation and run for President, who would he potentially hurt more? Conventional wisdom has him taking votes away from the Democratic presidential candidate due to his more liberal views on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. But what happens if Rudy Giuliani receives the Republican nomination? Then all bets are off and both parties would scramble like hell to keep Bloomberg off the ballot in as many states as possible. Why take the chance that Bloomberg will siphon votes away from your candidate?

Just how much would Bloomberg be willing to spend of his own fortune in this vanity run? His legal bills are going to be astronomical as he fights to get his name on as many state ballots as possible. Couple that with spending on paid media, staff, campaign travel, and the number he may be looking at will be approaching $150 million or more. If he goes ahead and takes the plunge, it could end up being the most expensive indulgence ever embraced by a vainglorious aristocrat yet.

J.P. Morgan or Andrew Carnegie would never have spent that much. They considered the Presidency a step down. What does that say about today’s robber barons?

By: Rick Moran at 6:45 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

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6/19/2007
“THE RICK MORAN SHOW” - LIVE

We’ll go live today with The Rick Moran Show starting at 3:00 PM central time. You can access the stream here or by clicking the “Listen live” icon below.

Today’s show will feature Richard Baehr, Chief Political correspondent for The American Thinker. We’ll talk about – what else? Politics! Richard is a great guest so I hope you join me.

You can give your opinion during the hour long show by calling in at (718) 664-9764.

Listen Live

UPDATE:

You can download the podcast of the show here. Or click the player below to hear it.

By: Rick Moran at 1:03 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

OF GRASSY KNOLLS AND BLOOD FOR OIL
CATEGORY: History, Politics

It used to be that the conspiracy bug was almost exclusively confined to right wing extremists – Birchers, Klansmen, McCarthyites, and a mish mash of anti-government, anti-communist (where many believed the commies had already taken over the US government), and anti-UN psychopaths. According to the eminent historian Richard Hofstadter’s brilliant essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics , these pathetic people felt that they had no control over their lives, that “an invisible hand” was directing their destiny and the destiny of the nation.

Scholar Daniel Pipes expounded on this theme more recently with his book Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From. Pipes traces the history of conspiracy mongering from the Middle East, to Western Europe (where regular pogroms against the Jews were the result) and it’s arrival here in America with its roots in the anti-Masonic, anti-Illuminati groups of the 19th century.

Now James Piereson, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, president of the William E. Simon Foundation, and former executive director and trustee of the John M. Olin Foundation, has written a book that posits the theory that the JFK assassination “compromised the central assumptions of American liberalism” thereby devastating the left as no other event did before or has since. This led American liberals to several wrong historical conclusions which gave flight to a conspiracy culture of their own.

The book, Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism, is not the first effort to use the Kennedy Assassination as a starting point to show where liberalism lost its way. Theodore H. White’s brilliant autobiographical In Search of History made basically the same point; that the unfulfilled promise of the JFK presidency haunted liberals down to this day. From tragedy, there emerged a culture of paranoia that saw the “invisible hand” at work – not of Masons or Communists, but of right wing extremists both in and out of government. White also commented on the takeover of the liberal ideology – his ideology – by hard left Stalinists as New Deal Democrats like Humphrey were marginalized as a result of their support for the Viet Nam war.

John Miller interviewed Piereson for the National Review. It should be noted that Piereson is a well respected academic whose main interest over the years has been to promote an ideologically neutral atmosphere in our educational system – in other words, a “classically liberal” education. While he is generally identified as being a moderate conservative, Mr. Piereson has not been shy about taking on the right over issues such as teaching evolution in classrooms and prayer in schools.

Miller begins the interview by asking how the JFK assassination changed American politics:

JAMES PIERESON: Kennedy’s assassination, happening the way it did, compromised the central assumptions of American liberalism that had been the governing philosophy of the nation since the time of the New Deal. It did this in two decisive ways: first, by compromising the faith of liberals in the future; second, by undermining their confidence in the nation. Kennedy’s assassination suggested that history is not in fact a benign process of progress and advancement, but perhaps something quite different. The thought that the nation itself was responsible for Kennedy’s death suggested that the United States, far from being a “city on a hill” and an example for mankind, as Kennedy had described it (quoting John Winthrop), was in fact something darker and more sinister in its deepest nature.

The conspiracy theories that developed afterwards reflected this thought. The Camelot legend further suggested that that the Kennedy years represented something unique that was now forever lost. Liberalism was thereafter overtaken by a sense of pessimism about the future, cynicism about the United States, and nostalgia for the Kennedy years. This was something entirely new in the United States. It was evident in the culture during the 1960s. George Wallace tried to confront it in the electoral arena in 1968, as did Richard Nixon — though it was somewhat difficult to do so because neither Lyndon Johnson nor Hubert Humphrey represented this new orientation. It was not until this mood of pessimism was brought into the government during the Carter administration that it could be directly confronted in the political arena, which is what Ronald Reagan in fact did.

Miller challenges Piereson on the notion that 11/22/63 meant more than 9/11:

We know from looking back over the decades that Kennedy’s sudden death cast a long shadow over American life, which I have tried to describe. Many of us thought that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 would also have great consequences for the way Americans looked at politics, the parties, and national security. In particular, some felt that the attacks might drive out of our politics the tone of anti-Americanism that had been a key feature of the American Left from the 1960s forward. That did not really happen. The liberal movement today remains far more the product of the 1960s than of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Indeed, the terrorist attacks now seem to have had very little effect on the thinking of American liberals who view the war on terror and the war in Iraq through the lenses of the Vietnam War. That is not true of conservatives. In that sense, the terrorist attacks have simply deepened the divide between liberals and conservatives. What is surprising, then, is what little enduring effect the terrorist attacks have had, particularly for liberals.

I have written many times on this site with all the earnestness that I can muster that it is absolutely imperative that if we are going to survive as a nation and win this war against the terrorists and the states that continue to enable them, the left simply must join this fight. Until liberals embrace the notion that the War on Terror or whatever you choose to call it is real and not some political ploy designed by President Bush to win elections, or set up a dictatorship, or destroy the left itself, we have no hope of either confronting the menace or winning through to victory. The intellectual framework for the survival of the west has always been best outlined by classically liberal writers and thinkers. Today, they are missing in action and it hurts the cause terribly.

Piereson believes a large part of the problem is that the left has their eyes focused on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza:

Liberals who were rational and realistic accepted the fact that Oswald killed JFK but at the same time they were unable to ascribe a motive for his actions. They tended to look for sociological explanations for the event and found one in the idea that JFK was brought down by a “climate of hate” that had overtaken the nation. Thus they placed Kennedy’s assassination within a context of violence against civil rights activists. They had great difficulty accepting the fact that Kennedy’s death was linked to the Cold War, not to civil rights. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., in his 1,000-page history of the Kennedy administration, published in 1965, could not bring himself to mention Oswald’s name in connection with Kennedy’s death, though he spent several paragraphs describing the hate-filled atmosphere of Dallas at the time — suggesting thereby that Kennedy was a victim of the far right. The inability to come to grips with the facts of Kennedy’s death pointed to a deeper fault in American liberalism which was connected to its decline.

Gerald Posner points out in his conspiracy debunking book on the assassination Case Closed that theorists have gone to extraordinary lengths to absolve Oswald of any connection to the crime at all. He traces the theories on Oswald’s involvement from the notion that he was an assassin hired by the CIA or FBI through the “patsy” phase to where now, Oswald is thought of by many conspiracists as an innocent bystander. Anything but the truth about Oswald’s political leanings.

To be fair, it is doubtful that Oswald really understood Communism or any other ideology for that matter. He embraced it because it set him apart, made him different. And for someone as brutally neglected as Oswald was when he was young, basking in the glow of attention as a result of his contrarian political stands – especially in the Marine Corps – it must have given him an enormous amount of satisfaction.

As historian William Manchester points out in his seminal work on the assassination Death of a President, “Lee Harvey Oswald shot the President of the United States in the back to get attention.” Rather than looking for complex, multi-level reasons for why Kennedy and Oswald’s paths crossed that tragic day in Dealey Plaza, sometimes the simplest explanations are the most plausible.

Piereson weighs in on Oliver Stone’s fantasy film JFK:

The Oliver Stone movie was foolish to the extent it was held up as an account of the Kennedy assassination. Using Jim Garrison as a credible authority on the Kennedy assassination is akin to citing Rosie O’Donnell as an authority on the collapse of the Twin Towers. It is not possible to claim that Kennedy was shot from the grassy knoll without at the same time claiming that the autopsy (which said he was shot from the rear) was wrong or fabricated. The conspiracy theories do not arise from any evidence but from a need to believe that Kennedy was shot by someone other than Oswald.

Garrison, the ambitious, homophobic New Orleans DA who prosecuted Clay Shaw for the murder of JFK made Mike Nifong look like a pillar of legal rectitude. The fact that the jury returned a verdict in 45 minutes of not guilty should tell you everything you need to know about Garrison’s out of control prosecution. (One juror said after the verdict that the reason they took so long was that several jurors had to use the washroom.) Making Garrison out to be a hero in the film was perhaps the most outrageous calumny in the history of Hollywood. The damage done to the historical record by Stone should never, ever be forgotten.

Finally, Miller asks Piereson about Jack Ruby:

MILLER: Would liberals have had an easier time of it if Jack Ruby hadn’t killed Oswald?

PIERESON: If Ruby had not intervened, Oswald probably would have tried to stage some kind of “show” trial in which Kennedy’s policies in Cuba would have been raised as a central issue. Oswald proudly acknowledged that he was a Communist. If the case had been brought to trial, Oswald would have certainly been convicted. In that case, it would have been far more difficult for liberals and the Kennedy family to maintain that JFK was killed because of his support for civil rights. There would have been less talk of conspiracies; less anti-Americanism from the left; perhaps it would have further reinforced the anti-communism of post-war liberalism. There is no question that Ruby changed the equation a great deal.

Recent theories about the Mafia’s involvement in the assassination include not only Ruby as silencer but Oswald as trigger man thanks to a distant uncle of Oswald’s who worked for New Orleans crime boss Carlos Marcello. The thought of any one of those gabby losers working for the Mafia on a hit the magnitude of the Kennedy assassination is outrageous on its face. Besides, federal agents had Marcello, Sam Trafficante, and Sam Giancana – all three implicated by conspiracists in the assassination – under close surveillance for years prior to the death of Kennedy and not a word was uttered by any of them that would prove they had anything to do with the murder.

I think Piereson is right. I believe that the assassination so unbalanced the left that they have yet to find their way back. Spinning ever more fantastic conspiracy theories to explain electoral losses, describe their political enemies, and generally view the world with a suspicion and paranoia once reserved for the mouth breathers on the right, the left has truly lost their way. Perhaps it will take someone like Senator Obama – a sunnyside up sort of liberal – to reinvigorate the movement and bring it back down to earth.

And then perhaps, we can all go to war together rather than the left hanging back while seeing monsters under the bed.

By: Rick Moran at 12:07 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

GEORGE WHO?

As the race for the Republican presidential nomination heats up, it becomes more and more apparent that the GOP hopefuls are convinced that President George Bush suffers from some kind of highly contagious, debilitating disease. The way they seek to distance themselves from he and his policies would generally point to one of two things; either Bush has contracted some exotic malady or his poll numbers are so low that he has become the “Typhoid Larry” of electoral politics:

Recent polls have shown Bush’s popularity—which has long been in the tank with independents—suffering significant erosion even among GOP base voters, largely due to a backlash over the president’s stance on immigration.

The decline, according to some Republican strategists, has flashed a green light for lawmakers on Capitol Hill and presidential candidates to put distance between themselves and an unpopular president—a politically essential maneuver for the 2008 general election that remained risky as long as Bush retained the sympathies of Republican stalwarts.

Now that those sympathies have somewhat cooled, the effects are visible: Republican House members upset about immigration policy have spoken of Bush in disparaging terms. And presidential contenders like Rudy Giuliani are striking change-the-course themes in their rhetoric, even while continuing to back Bush over the Iraq war.

Much has changed since that first debate at the Reagan Library in California when each GOP candidate in his turn gave lip service to supporting the President. But lately, the Republican front runners especially have made it a point to make their differences with the President known to the voters. Even on Iraq, Senator Sam Brownback has broken with the Administration, calling for a partition of that bloody country into three separate federal entities; Shia, Sunni, and Kurd. And all the GOP frontrunners except John McCain have excoriated the President over his immigration proposal.

In fact, the debate over Bush’s “amnesty-that-really-isn’t-amnesty-because-I-say-so” bill is being blamed for this erosion of support. But I believe that to be much too simple an explanation. There are a large group of Republicans and GOP leaning voters who have had it up to here with Bush and have been waiting for a chance to stick it to this President for a variety of perceived failings including his out of control fiscal policies, his advocacy of big government programs like the Prescription Drug Bill, and even Iraq where some of the GOP faithful believe that Bush has been negligent in both defending our efforts there as well as prosecuting the war with sufficient competence and vigor.

Whatever the reason for this sudden movement away from Bush by the GOP field, all must take great care not to cut the cord completely. Bush still commands the support of more than 60% of the party and abandoning the President entirely carries the risk of sounding too much like a Democrat, much less giving offense to millions of conservatives who still view the President with affection and admiration. It remains to be seen whether or not Bush can even maintain that level of support given his nearly suicidal attacks on opponents of his pet amnesty project. No one likes to be called a bigot in so many words. And if he keeps that up, about the only supporters he’ll have will be the bedrock Republican faithful who would support anyone with an “R” after his name on the ballot.

But all of this slipping and sliding away from Bush by the GOP field will probably go for naught anyway. That’s because whoever emerges to claim the nomination will have to face the fact that just about every time a Democratic campaign commercial comes on TV next year, it will show the GOP nominee on one side of the screen and some unflattering picture of the President on the other. The Democrats are going to connect the Republican Presidential hopeful to Bush like superglue. And by the time they’re done, voters will think that Bush running for a third term.

So what’s the point of breaking with the President if the other party isn’t going to let voters forget George Bush? If the other candidate’s name is Clinton, the Democrats are going to have their own problems in breaking with the past. Looked upon with great affection by Democrats and left leaning independents, Bill Clinton is a lot less beloved in many parts of the electorate vital to the Democrat’s prospects for success. The idea of “The Bill and Hill Show” coming back to the White House does not sit well with about half of all independents. And Hillary’s negative rating – an astronomical 49% in the last Rassmussen poll – would seem to indicate that a GOP counter strategy of tying Hillary to her husband’s scandal plagued administration could end up making the entire issue of running away from Bush a wash.

The most marked retreat from support for the President among the frontrunners has been by Rudy Guiliani, who invoked the name of Reagan in an unflattering comparison to the current President:

But the willingness of leading Republicans to draw distinctions with Bush goes beyond immigration. “The thing that concerns me the most is that 74 percent that thinks the country is headed in the wrong direction,” Giuliani said last week at a Flag Day ceremony in Wilmington, Del., in a reference to recent polling. “What we’re lacking is strong, aggressive, bold leadership like we had with Ronald Reagan.” Later, he sought to downplay the apparent shot at the incumbent, underlining the awkward balance GOP candidates must strike in establishing independence from Bush without expressly repudiating him.

You can’t come much closer to a “repudiation” than that. Calling the ostensible leader of your party a weak and failed leader with 74% of the country believing we’re headed in the wrong direction cannot be construed in any fashion as a love note. By appealing to the memory of Saint Ronald, Guiliani softened the blow to those bedrock Republicans who like Bush but worship Reagan. And his backtracking later was hardly an apology for misspeaking. By referencing his statements to campaign strategy, Guiliani reinforces the belief that while he recognizes the balancing act he must perform, there is little doubt that he feels the need to get as far away from Bush as is practicable.

The closer we get to the primaries, the more we will probably see the GOP field edging away from the President. But there are going to be moments when the eventual nominee will be forced to stand with Bush, such as the Republican convention next summer. You can’t keep a sitting President from speaking no matter how unpopular he might be. But whoever ends up in the Republican’s winner’s circle, they may be wishing for a sudden power outage at the Xcel Center in St. Paul when it comes time for the President’s address if his poll numbers keep dropping the way they have these last few months.

By: Rick Moran at 7:48 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

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