Differences Then and Now
July 17, 2004
Well old friends with pretty common backgrounds and roots can see the world a bit differently. Though I think we all see ourselves as patriotic Americans who strongly believe in the ideals that founded this country and still sets us apart from most of our worldwide neighbors, we may differ on the methodology to promulgate that democratic dream.
I cannot and will not speak for either of you, of whom I like and respect. In a sense for many reasons both of you have always made fine points and those points have helped shaped, my perspective on the world. I have always been a centrist who leaned towards the Democrats. Of course, my great life-long hero was and is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a man of action and strong faith.
Roosevelt understood most acquisitively the limits of power, the need for coalitions, both political and ideological, and the problem of getting too far ahead of the public. FDR knew from his vast personal and political experience, as an acutely sensitive witness to the careers of three of his heroes, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Alfred E. Smith, how dangerous and fickle is the love and support of the public and its patience with failure. FDR knew that a leader, who got to far ahead of his supporters, as he charged into the breach, and looked back over his shoulders and saw no one, was headed for political disaster. In a sense, his greatest political challenge came in the twin wakes regarding the death of his alter ego Louis Howe in 1936 and his great electoral triumph later that year. Without Howe to temper and restrict his reach, FDR embarked on his two most disastrous gambits, the Court Reorganization Plan and the electoral purge of conservative members of the Democratic Party. In other words, even with his great electoral mandate, he learned quickly how public opinion could be swayed and reversed. This was and is a good lesson for all who have followed.
Even with all of our great power, that Roosevelt assembled as he transformed a weak, depression-racked country into the “Arsenal of Democracy,” FDR knew that we needed allies from all over the world. His coalition building was able to draw in the vast resources of the Western Hemisphere. It did not come about from only bending the arms of our so-called hemispheric client states. It had come from years of cultivation started with the “Good Neighbor Policy.” In other words the United Nations was a term FDR thrust into the worldwide lexicon long before its first meeting in San Francisco at the end of the war.
FDR had set the stage for his world-wide vision of a post WWII world with his Four Freedom's State of the Union address on January 6, 1941 and followed it up with the Atlantic Conference in Argentia Bay with Prime Minister Winston Churchill. So he brilliantly set the stage for our involvement in trying to save the world from the fascist and nazi hordes.
So, with the mantle of experienced leadership, the eloquence of his great words, and the mandate of electoral victory he set out to bring the American people along slowly and methodically. Americans were generally isolationist, who hated war, and were extremely cynical about their involvement in the past World War. Of course the attack on Pearl Harbor changed all of that with unbelievable suddenness!
In almost a diametrically different way, George W. Bush came into power, not with a mandate, but on the largess of a fraudulent victory. Ironically a few hundred votes in Dade County, by older Jewish folk that by accident or on purpose, were counted for Patrick Buchanan swayed the whole election. Whether Vice President Al Gore blew the election, or George W. Bush stole it, is pretty irrelevant now. But what is most assuredly relevant is that George W. Bush came into the office under a cloud. Yes, we have had many minority Presidents before him, but it had been a very long time since Samuel Tilden's time that the Electoral College did not follow the popular vote. George W. Bush had no mandate and his first 9 months in office were, from my perspective rotten. He posed as a compassionate conservative, and that was the first of his many lies.
For all what has been said about “information preparedness” before 9/11, it is clear from all the testimony of these ongoing hearings that we weren't prepared by our “agencies.” In fact we have spent billions on the CIA, NSA, FBI, and etc., and they failed. Also Bush did nothing about his “inherited dead wood” that had been around through several administrations, and certainly did nothing about them in the wake of our “intelligence” meltdown. We also learned, quite clearly, that George W. Bush wasn't completely focused on worldwide terror, and that he had an even clearer chance to get top people in Al Queida, then the opportunities that were talked about in the Clinton Administration. In fact the Clinton Administration wasn't as asleep as Bush's sycophantic supporters would like us to believe. So the hearings have established a great deal. They have shown controversy in the Bush White House, the political isolation of Secretary Powell, the inexperience of Advisor Rice, and the focus on Iraq more than worldwide terror. There is no point to go over the mistakes engendered by the administration in the current war, but for sure Bush has alienated our friends and allies, has lied to the public, has dreamt up phony war rationales and has mismanaged the so-called peace. Even though I have to admit freely that I despise the man, I supported the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as the late President John F. Kennedy said, “success has many fathers, and failure is an orphan.” George W. Bush is a failure as an administrator, as a planner, as an articulator, as a visionary and as a President. He deserves to lose this election and I am sure that he will.
But, all in all, one has to recognize that we have very large problems with worldwide terrorism, and we need all of the western world and its friends to stamp it out. It may take many years, and draconian methods, along with possible horrendous disasters and consequences. But for sure a non-achiever like George W. Bush doesn't have the ability or the brains to lead successfully in that effort