Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Status Regained

Author: Gary Hart

Conventional political wisdom is being challenged once again.  Insider pundits concluded months ago that Trump voters were motivated by economic anxiety.  The tide is beginning to turn, however, and the new wisdom has to do with that troublesome notion called identity.

A thoughtful recent New York Times piece proposes the “fear of losing status” as the principal underlying motivation of those who voted for Trump.  One political science professor who has studied the question says: “It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel.  It’s not the threat to their economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s domination in our country over all.”

Thus, the rise of anti-immigration xenophobia, the Wall, bans on Muslims, demonization of Mexican immigrants particularly, and, of course, America First and Make America Great Again.  All targeted to the rising tide of white American nationalism.  We built it, we own it, the rest of you get out of here.

And, by the way, wasn’t it clever of the internationalists to give us a President born in Kenya.

Rather than lost jobs from foreign competition, the Times story concludes that “Mr. Trump’s appeal could better be explained by a fear of cultural displacement.”

This rings truer.  As farmers and exporters generally are discovering, trade barriers work both ways and other nations, particularly China, retaliate against our tariffs.  It is less foreign products that make Americans unhappy, it is the foreigners themselves.  They will move in and take over.

We are not alone.  Great Britain has Brexit which is turning out to be a whole lot more complicated than its xenophobic sponsors promised.  Viktor Orban is inventing authoritarian democracy for the Hungarians.  Right wing xenophobic political parties are springing up across Europe, including ominously Germany.

Mass South-North migrations that a few of us forecast some years back have fueled movements of national identity.  Pretty predictable.

You shouldn’t read the papers unless you are prepared for massive hypocrisy.  Corporate executives may join the business ranks supporting Trump but quietly urge members of Congress to let in enough workers from the South to take low wage jobs in agriculture and food services.

One of the solutions that has been available and needed for the past thirty or more years is serious and mature immigration reform that established reasonable, enforceable quotas and that opened doors to seasonal workers as well as technical geniuses.  That will not happen under the present political make-up in Washington.

But laws will not solve deep sociological grievances.  If a substantial number of Americans, mostly older, think they have lost dominant status in their own country, there is no quick political fix.

We have ridden out anti-immigrant, nationalistic movements in the past and we will simply have to ride this one out as well.  Generational change will solve part of the identity problem.  Young people, especially those fortunate enough to have traveled abroad, are more open minded, tolerant, and accepting of international trends and tides than their grandparents.  The danger there is that they will lose a reasonable and thoughtful notion of patriotism.

Asking what we can do for our country must not become a cliché`.  It is possible to love America and still be good citizens of the world.  This is particularly true of climate protection, arms control, and disease prevention.

White Americans, by themselves, may not dominate our future.  American may no longer dominate the globe.  These changes need not lead to destructive measures to retain national identity.  We do not have to dominate to retain the status offered by maturity and thoughtfulness.

Trump’s bombastic notion of separating ourselves from the rest of the world was doomed before he uttered it.  He may not care about global matters, but global matters care about him.

 

We Are Better Than This

Author: Gary Hart

These are the times that try Americans’ souls.  For more than a year now we have tolerated a small group in national leadership who have little or no government experience, who seem not to have studied our nation’s history, who disdain the bedrock of our culture, and who do not value the truth.

This is not the government uniquely devised by our Founders.  It is not based on the principles we were taught to hold dear in our classrooms.  It is not the government hundreds of thousands of young Americans fought and died for.  In terms of demeanor, maturity, and even good breeding it is a disgrace.

Decent Americans turn away when asked to justify the behavior of our leaders by foreign friends.  This is not the shining city on a hill, or the statue in our harbor with its torch of welcome raised, or the refuge of those seeking a better life that have been our symbol and our glory.

Overwhelmingly, Americans are decent, caring, and benevolent people.  But our current leadership buries those characteristics in a daily sea of turmoil, chaos, and blatant falsehoods.  There are no adults in charge here anymore.

To a person, the president’s party has lost all moral authority.  It has sold its courage to the highest bidder.  It is terrified of its own voters, or at least a militant minority of them.  The opposition party cannot decide whether to return to the age of Franklin Roosevelt, at a time when people are distrustful of government, or mill around in an undefined “centrism” undistinguished by hard-won principles of justice, fairness, and inclusion.

We as Americans are better than this.  If statesmen and women do not rise up and reclaim their beliefs founded in four thousand years of republican democracy, we will be washed away by the relentless tides of history.  We are better than this.  But it is up to all of us to show that we are better than childish and petulant occupants of high office and those too cowardly to confront them.

If not, we will sacrifice our self-respect and the lingering respect of friends around the world.

Resistance to the current childish anarchy begins with refusal to remain silent.  It begins with polite but strong response to media demagogues.  In every church and synagogue, in every school, in the coffee shops and civic groups, voices must be heard proclaiming America’s historic principles.

To remain silent in the face of daily assault upon those principles and the common decency derived from centuries of evolution of common civilities is not American.  It is the beginning of the silence of fear that welcomes in authoritarianism and eventually fascism.

Demand a free press but equally an honest press.  Insist on the right of public assembly and debate.  Respond to the demagogic barbarians who have entered our gates and emerged from under the rocks where they have been hiding from the bright light of decency and civility.

We must restore honor to our nation.  The events of this past year are unprecedented in our history.  They must not, for the sake of our nation’s honor, become the new and degraded norm that threatens to replace the highest aspirations for which generations gone by struggled to uphold.

We are better than this.  That must be our watchword.  We are more decent than the man seeking to destroy the office he now holds.

We must not privatize our nation’s schools.  We must not hand our natural inheritance, which we hold in trust for future generations, to robber coal barons.  We must not permit the wholesale destruction of our diplomacy.  We must not turn over the keys to the nation’s treasury to those who need tax giveaways the least.

We are better than this.

We must not let our Congress, the representatives of all our people, be owned lock, stock, and barrel by thousands of special interest lobbyists, too many of whom were previously elected to office.

We are better than this.

What do we say to our children, who look to us for instruction and guidance, in the wake of corruption and deceit in our nation’s capitol?  Is this our political legacy to them?

We are better than this.

One thing must now guide us.  It is the rule of law.  No one, including a lawless president, is above the law.

We must hold up the banner of truth, of justice, of honor, of decency.  These are not just political jargon.  They are the pillars of this society and nation.  They either reflect what America is and believes in, or we are doomed.

In the face of a growing open sewer running through the highest offices, we must resist, and we must be heard.  To be silent today is to be complicit.

At its very best, there is a nobility running through the American ideal.  It is our duty to recapture that nobility.

Let the voices of millions of decent, honest, caring American citizens be heard and increase in volume.  Let justice ring.  Let us restore our dignity and self-respect.  Let us restore our nation’s honor.

We have no choice.  We are better than this.

Diplomacy versus Delusion

Author: Gary Hart

Effort is required to sort through a patternless brief history of the current U.S. administration for any clues as to its foreign policy principles.  Despite the challenge this presents, certain factors do seem to reoccur: reversal of virtually all initiatives of the previous Obama administration; rejection of cooperative trade and security agreements, including those negotiated by previous Republican Presidents; adoption of policies that favor the United States even at the cost of trusted allies; and adopting what was known several decades ago as an “I’m alright, Jack” attitude toward the rest of the world.

[Based on a British movie that placed Great Britain first and sought to make it great again.  “We’re the best and to hell with everyone else.”]

But even these xenophobic and nationalistic attitudes (they cannot be called principles) fail to begin to explain what quite possibly, if not probably, could motivate the current administration to turn its back on the Iran nuclear agreement of 2015 (JCPOA for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

This agreement, to which Great Britain, France, and Germany are signatories and which Russia and China support, severely limits Iran’s ability to produce fissile material necessary to make a nuclear weapon for at least fifteen years but the agreement goes further.  The first paragraph of the JCPOA reads: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.”

The agreement provides for ongoing inspections for compliance with its terms by expert investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with special focus on the Arak and Natanz nuclear facilities.  One, among many, expert states; “The IAEA has certified that-some minor violations aside—the Iranians have implemented the agreement.”

An overwhelming number of experienced diplomats and scientists of both political parties have endorsed and strongly supported the agreement as manifestly in America’s and the world’s security interests.  In addition to its merits, it is also a symbol of the faithfulness and dependability of the United States to its international commitments.

Now comes a new Secretary of State and National Security Advisor who adamantly oppose the JCPOA but have no alternative plan to replace it except direct military confrontation. For without the agreement, “the IAEA inspectors would leave Iran and the [nuclear weapons] program would restart at full bore.”

No cogent argument as to how ending the JCPOA and a consequent Iranian nuclear weapons arsenal makes America, the Middle East, and the world safer.  That is because there is none.  For those who really want confrontation with Iran, the agreement is a hindrance.  Do not let a Western security alliance, they seem to say, get in the way of bringing American military might down on Iran and risking a very wide war in the Middle East, another one to join Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

In a recent article summing up the case for the agreement by a noted theoretical physicist, Jeremy Bernstein, he concludes: “One cannot say with any certainty whether the countries that will remain in the agreement will be able to constrain the Iranians, who have made absolutely clear that they will not agree to any modification of it.  The notion that President Trump has of somehow getting a ‘better deal’ is delusional.  There is no better deal.  The Iranians have everything they need to make nuclear weapons—including uranium. The JCPOA is our best, and perhaps our only, chance of preventing Iran from getting the bomb.”

If the president is delusional about something as important as the Iranian nuclear agreement, about how many other significant matters is he delusional?

 

Identity

Author: Gary Hart

Scholars and practitioners are investing much effort these days searching for the root cause or causes of the tidal wave of nationalism, xenophobia, and right-wing politics throughout much of Western democracy.  Early victims of this wave are immigrants, trade and security agreements, and abandonment of much of the post-World War II international order.  Spokesmen, not leaders, of this historic shift—Trump, Bannon, Orban, Five Star, and others—stir up a stew of hostility, resentment, racism, and an occasional dose of fascism to feed the rising tribes

A recent assignment in Northern Ireland on behalf of the U.S. Government helped provide some clues to the causes of this wave.  There the division between Protestant unionism, the desire to remain part of Great Britain, and largely Catholic republicanism, the desire to be part of the Republic of Ireland, has plagued the province since it was carved out of the new Republic following the Irish civil war in the 1920s.

To say that feelings run deep is a gross understatement.  After power sharing arrangements associated with the Good Friday Agreement gave way to these tensions last year, there has been a stalemate over standing up Stormont, the Northern Ireland parliament, once again and how to resolve the impact on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic brought on by Brexit.  With exception for the on-going stalemate in the Middle East, it is as complex a nightmare as exists anywhere in the world.

One of the canny party leaders in Northern Ireland boiled it down to this: identity.  The unionists see themselves as British, the more ardent as English.  The republicans see themselves as Irish.

Recent re-immersion in early American history suggests there was a struggle then over whether Founders and various constituencies saw themselves as Virginians or New Yorkers or as citizens of a new nation called America.  The history, and particularly the Federalist, largely skirted confronting the identity issue directly.  But the issue underlay all the debates over North and South, finance and trade versus agriculture, small states and large states, and the slave question.

They were in the process of creating a new nation and much of the debate across the board was over where power was located and who would possess it.

A century and a half later, Americans had clearly become Americans and thought of themselves as such, but the world of nation-states, with decades of war over territory and then war over fascism, required U.S. leadership to create an international order, one that would provide collective security, a managed international trade structure, and international institutions to help manage mass migration, failed states, post-colonial transfers of power, arms control, and emerging threats from climate change and much else summarized as globalization.

Four decades ago, as a young parliamentarian and ardent internationalist, I was a small voice of warning against assuming all aspects of globalization were benign and beneficial.  Too many U.S. factory workers lost their jobs overnight, mass south-north migrations across the globe were altering political landscapes, and more nations were joining the nuclear club.

There are huge economic reasons for the revolt against the international order.  But for the everyday citizen, it is changing demographics that threaten their identity.  It was as predictable as sunrise.  When did Americans become dark-skinned?  Why are most of the products I buy made in China?  Because “liberals” are also internationalists, aren’t they to blame?

Right now, we are in the midst of an historic struggle over identity.  To preserve my identity as an American, many now think, I must erect walls—against immigrants, foreign products, the world’s troubles, and all these agreements and treaties.  We will become great America again by returning to some wonderful time that never was, except in some nostalgic recollection.

Western democracy is now trying to recreate a 19th century world of the nation-state with rigid borders against movement and commerce.  Any clear reading of that century’s history makes it less than ideal.  It may have seemed grand in retrospect as we grew into America as a nation, but it was much less than grand in fractious, colonizing Europe.

Thus, the challenge to us all is to imagine a new American identity that truly does comport with out best principles and ideals, those in our Founding documents that brought 13 and eventually 37 more states into a nation.

This will not be easy or quick.  It will not be achieved in one national election.  It will require leaders who know how to combine international collaboration with a renewed national identity.  If we achieve this, other democratic nations will follow.  But it means understanding that national identity is not the preserve of right-wing authoritarians.

 

Politics Above Politics

Author: Gary Hart

There is a great difference between Politics as it is practices today and politics as the only way devised for men and women to organize their societies.  Politics today is corrupted by money, self-interest, narrow-gauge thinking, dedication to office and power, and is becoming increasingly mean spirited.  In its authentic form, politics is a noble profession, especially when it does not become a profession, populated by people dedicated to the common good and by those whose concern is for future generations.

One of the participants in Plato’s Dialogues describes politics as “the care of souls.”

As one of the perennial few in each generation who migrate from religion to law and government, it was a natural transition.  I could spend a life helping those whose souls were sooner or later in transition to the hereafter.  Or I could do what little I could to help the public lives of those souls while here on this earth.

That meant that, first by supporting younger progressive candidates for office and then holding public office myself, I had to care for both fellow human beings but also the earth we all inhabit.  Words like security became central.  Nuclear weapons might make us secure against others who have them.  But we would all be better off without any anywhere.  Chemicals came to be used to grow food.  But they also contaminated air and water and caused cancer in humans.  Burning carbon fuels might heat our homes and get us from here to there.  But it soon began to warm the very climate upon which life on earth depends.

Politics has yet to redefine genuine security.  It will not.  But politics might.

To read Rachael Carson on the oceans and the interrelationship of all life is to see the difference between Politics and politics.  To read the Declaration of Independence is to begin to understand why men and women of social conviction enter public life.  To contemplate Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and other similar religious texts is to know that human existence must encompass charity, empathy, and service or that existence is merely time spent transiting from birth to death.

A life in Politics used to be interesting and amusing.  Now it about nothing but power, access to power, influencing power, and shouldering into the public trough.  To have known it in more noble and idealistic times and to see it now is to fear for the future of American democracy.

Against the sordid backdrop of Politics today, how can a still idealistic but aging public servant urge young people, who now fill the streets of our great cities to save their lives, that there is something called politics and that it is a noble profession.  They are frighteningly aware that fear of the gun lobby, and careerism among elected officials, rob those elected officials of the courage required to put the lives of America’s next generation ahead of the lobbyists and their own timid careers.

It is not accidental that there is no present-day book called Profiles in Courage.

We must either restore politics or continue down a darkening path that will not lead us to any kind of greatness any of us would recognize.  Correcting our present course will require Americans dedicated to civility, the common good, politics instead of Politics, tolerance, respect for difference, generosity of spirit, and maturity of judgment.  We must make the public square a forum for adults who know a little history, who don’t think their ideological church is right and everyone else’s is wrong.

An aspect of tolerance is mature understanding that those who seek to lead are not perfect.  Standards must be met, and character is demonstrated over a lifetime.  The caliber and quality of those willing to submit to the ritual hazing by the media, and now particularly the partisan media, have deteriorated in the last few decades.  Having loosened the dogs of expose`, predictably the pendulum has now swung so far the other way that all is permitted and what would have been outrageous behavior a few years back is now accepted if it is demonstrated by someone who shares our anger.

Returning the train of our nation to the relatively straight rails of history will not happen overnight.  We did not replace politics with Politics in the blink of an eye.  We are in the process of making epic mistakes in addressing the new era of mass migrations, globalization, and technology and will suffer for those mistakes until we exhaust ourselves with excess and the adults arrive.

But when those who place politics above Politics, the national interest above special interests, do arrive, we can once again become the beacon of the world whose principles are admired and respected by all men and women of good will everywhere.

A Choice of Who We Are

Author: Gary Hart

We have many ways to live our lives, but two significant ones stand out.  One is to be generous, big-hearted, concerned with others, helpful, and most of all kind.  The other, the opposite, we see too often these days.  It is mean-spirited, most of all angry, self-absorbed, heedless to the plight of others, and dismissive.

Pragmatically, we all have to get along to go along.  So most human interactions in the market place of life are reasonably civil.  The political arena, where who gets what is decided, is the most obvious test of the two kinds of humans.

This is often explained as a division over the role of government: the government should or shouldn’t be doing this or that.  This division is age-old and will not disappear, though in times of widespread financial hardship or foreign threats everyday people do seem to soften and want to offer a helping hand.  I remember this well from the end of the Great Depression.

Is it too much to ask why we cannot conduct our lives in this big-hearted manor.

Obviously, leaders set a tone.  If a president says that Americans should care for each other, that life should not be a dog fight, that makes a difference.  But if a president says get out of my way, don’t come begging to me for help, make it on your own, that makes the opposite difference.

If a president, by word and deed, encourages racial suspicion, even hatred, suggests that those who are not white or are from foreign countries are less than human, there are, tragically, segments of our society who long to have their basest convictions confirmed.

But a steady drumbeat of negative, hateful, and divisive messages changes our very culture and the principles upon which we claim to stand.  Our society must decide whether we are all in this together or it’s every man for himself.  The former outlook is the cement of a nation.  The latter is a ticket to a hellish nature red in tooth and claw.

Nothing will tear us apart more quickly than a bitter, mean-spirited, leader seeking to reduce a basically benevolent society to his level of hostility.  Such a leader is not seeking to make this country great again.  He is seeking to destroy the legacy of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and many others.

The pundits’ anguish over liberal or conservative misses the point.  If the decision of our time is whether America will lose or gain its soul, each of us has our own idea which path to follow.  But our new dilemma is not left or right, blue or red.  It is deep in our souls.  It is about our character as a nation.  It is about what kind of people we genuinely are.

In the political realm, character is usually determined by how power is used.  If it is used to create chaos and disruption by hiring, firing, and replacing as a demonstration of authority and the uses of distraction, that is not authentic power.  It is childish petulance.  Real power is wielded maturely, thoughtfully, and confidently.  Otherwise, it is merely a child breaking crockery to get the attention of adults.

Our current detour should not be seen as a nation regaining it strength and authority.  They were never lost.  We have almost always been great and, God willing, we will remain so despite our current thrashing about in search of policies that have never worked.

Power, authentic American power, is demonstrated by respect, not contempt, for the Constitutional principles and institutions created at our nation’s founding.  Running rough-shod over traditional norms of behavior demonstrates contempt not only for those norms but also the American people in whose name they are practiced.  Petulance, juvenile behavior, is not the mark of true strength or leadership.

As in our individual lives, our nation must always seek to make itself better, to improve on past mistakes, to behave with generosity and good will.  The sins of the warm hearted and those of the cold hearted, as Roosevelt observed, are weighed on different scales.

 

 

Destiny Abandoned

Author: Gary Hart

It is an interesting, and important, question for political historians whether a nation can, in a relatively short period of time, abandon many of its standards of behavior, political norms, types of leadership, ethical rules, and qualities of governance and still retain the same historical ideals to which it has been attached and principles upon which it was founded.

The answer most readily available is, wait until the next election.  If a majority of voters, or as most recently a minority, ratify those departures from solid tradition and principle  and hasten the process by which the America we thought we knew becomes a different country altogether, it is pretty clear evidence that the new and different America is emerging.

So long as laws and traditions stay within often flexible Constitutional limits, one administration can undertake to reverse, virtually across the board, bipartisan principles of foreign policy and domestic policies regarding energy, environment, education, entitlements, and stewardship of public lands and resources, among virtually all other consensus achievements.  That is, until many in the public remember why those policies were established in the first place.

American citizens are at liberty to change their minds, or at least depart from the ideals of their forebearers.

Times change, and we must adapt to those changes.  New policies must address new realities.  But we must remember enough history to know why previous generations thought it important enough to enact laws, negotiate treaties, engage in and not retreat from the wider world, and appreciate why engagement in and not retreat from a shrinking world in our own national interest.

There was a relatively brief period of time following the successful conclusion of World War II when America was dominant.  Wise statesmen and women of both political parties had the wisdom to understand several things: we would not and should not seek to govern the world unilaterally; we became stronger by constructing an expanding security umbrella that would prevent another world war; expanding global markets properly governed offered huge trade opportunities for American products and prevented trade wars; and new challenges, especially in the environment, were international, not national, and required multi-national collaboration.

Anyone who thought we were losing in this new international world didn’t understand what winning and losing meant.

The United States will not “win” by abrogating trade agreements, departing security arrangements, becoming isolationist, or insisting on dictating terms to other nations of the world.  Anyone whipping up a Fox news crowd with overheated rhetoric about making America great doesn’t understand the meaning of greatness in the 21st century or the genuine statesmanship required to demonstrate to friend and foe alike why our greatness will not come at the cost of diminishing the stature of other nations.

It goes without saying that truly great leaders do not welcome chaos in government, including in White House, say one thing and do another, appoint friends to high office with little or no experience, leave key Embassies without official ambassadors, demean serious democratic foreign leaders and praise authoritarians, constantly reverse policies on a whim, and derogate key allies.

Serious presidents, those history will remember for more than just destructive eccentricity, respect this nation and the office they are granted.  They have read and demonstrated an understanding of the Constitution and principles upon which it is based.  They demonstrate humility rather then arrogance.  They know enough about the nation’s history to understand that it is more important than their own ego.

To understand the difference, read Abraham Lincoln.

Will Lincoln be there when he is needed.  Not if we institutionalize our current detour from all that has truly made us great in the past.

The Intractables

Author: Gary Hart

There is something that defines the United States that is tangible, identifiable, and definable.  It is called the national interest.  It is the sum of what it means to be a nation of citizens pursuing the common good, what is best and most important for all, for ourselves and for our posterity.  We see it most vividly and clearly in times of economic failure, the Great Depression, and security threats, World War II and the Cold War.

Both these conditions cause us to put the national interest and the common good ahead of other, narrower concerns.  Faced with neither of these threats, too often Americans divide over lesser concerns.

In recent years those narrower issues have sharply divided our nation.  They include guns, abortion, immigration, and perhaps one or two others.  Having no unifying challenges to address, political parties instead migrate toward coalitions composed of single issue voters such as gun ownership, opposition to abortion, and rising anti-immigrant nationalism.

An entire political industry has arisen in recent years composed of those skilled in promising such constituency groups what they demand in return for their votes.  These manipulators are also skilled at finding narrowly focused wealthy families who donate tens of millions of dollars.  And they use partisan media and new social media platforms to promote their platforms, often falsely, and denigrate those who do not share them.

In exchange for party political and financial support, they demand one hundred percent loyalty to the coalition’s strict platform.  No deviation is permitted.  No compromise, the essence of democratic government, is allowed.  To seek a middle ground is anathema in the political church of sanctimony.

Years of gerrymandering by State legislatures has made eighty to ninety percent of Congressional districts either solidly red or blue.  And the electoral prize goes to the candidate of the most rigid orthodoxy on the most sacrosanct issues.  It is a demonstrable fact that conservatives have been much more successful at enforcing their orthodoxy than have progressives.

On the intractable issues such as immigration, what efforts at Congressional compromise have occurred have virtually always involved Senators from so-called purple, or swing, States where independent voters not aligned with any interest group make the difference.

It is no wonder that the hue and cry across the land is: why can’t they get anything done in Washington.  This comes often enough from members of one or more of these intractable factions who must be understood to mean: why can’t we get what we want.

One of the unifying themes of those responsible for founding this nation was the fear of “factions”, what today we would call special or narrow interest groups who care primarily if not only about their issue.  So much for the national interest.  So much for the need to meet halfway, to give something in order to get something.

The most intractable of all the intractables is abortion.  Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, abortion opponents see only black and white, good and evil.  The hypocrisy of the “pro-life” label is seen most clearly when strict anti-abortionists support the death penalty or for that matter bombing civilian villages in Southeast Asia.  We are all pro-life.  No group in America owns that label.

Our largest task today is to recover the national interest, that which we all share in common.  We will not be able to do so unless that vast army of voters who want us to export democracy but do not vote are heard from.

If, instead of fifty or perhaps sixty percent of voter turn-out in national elections (and not much more than forty percent in off-year elections), Americans do their duty to the Republic and vote.  If this percentage rose to eighty percent or above, we might find that a clear majority of Americans want compromise instead of political polarization and the intractables reasonably quickly found traction and resolution.

Even if the single-issue voters did not get the absolutist policies they demand, our nation would be better for it.  And we would regain our self-respect and become adults once again.

 

Welcome to the Deep State

Author: Gary Hart

It is unclear when the Deep State was created or created itself.  It almost certainly took shape in the 20th century.  Candidates for creating the Deep State, or permitting it to create itself, are Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman.  Roosevelt for domestic purposes, Truman for international purposes.

Being a machine that runs of itself, its members almost certainly are senior career civil servants in every cabinet department and agency.  That means, at least, fifteen cabinet departments and anywhere from seven to fifteen principal agencies.  To be effective the minimum number of Deep State members must be at least a hundred per department and agency.  Thus, the core of the Deep State would be in the neighborhood of two or three thousand individuals.

Over time, senior officials retire and must be replaced.  If this mysterious State arose under Roosevelt, then there must have been over time some tens of thousands of secret members of the Deep State.

Were they required to take an oath of secrecy to join this covert government?  That must have been part of the arrangement, otherwise one book, not to say a whole library of books would have been published by now describing in thrilling detail how it all works.

Perhaps the Deep State has enforcers who take care of those who squeal.  Great research question as to how many members or former members of the Deep State met untimely and violent deaths.

And where has the Washington press corps been all these years.  Anyone remember a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the Deep State right under their noses?

Amazing that it took President Donald Trump, who had never participated in government or particularly spent much time in Washington to reveal this secret.  Perhaps he is waiting for the appropriate moment to document the existence of the Deep State and its membership.

Perhaps not.

As a veteran of a few years of service at the U.S. Departments of Justice and Interior, there was little evidence of Deep State activity.  Almost to a person, the career civil servants were intelligent, diligent, hard-working, and highly knowledgeable about their responsibilities.  They could, of course, have been sly devils meeting in the furnace room after hours passing out assignments for subverting the current Administration.  How were we to know?

Believers in the Deep State surely hold open the possibility that the Russian Government and its FSB have known about this all along.  They would, of course, have passed on what they know to their new friend, but circumstances being what they are, he would be foreclosed from employing them as his principal source of intelligence.  Speaking of which, Deep State members must be all over the dozen and a half of agencies in the intelligence community.

From the Masons to UFOs Americans have loved mysteries.  Once it was established that George Washington was a Mason, among other Founders, we have let that mystery go.  There are still those pesky UFOs that somehow pop up, much like Arthur Schlesinger’s cycles of American history, every twenty or thirty years.

Kurt Anderson’s new book calls this “Fantasyland” and the Deep State has its own neighborhood there.

If you are out to practice the politics of distraction, how better to do it than to place a bright spotlight on the Deep State, and it has the added advantage of nourishing and feeding the “base” as well as accounting for unfulfilled campaign promises.

Where is P.T. Barnum when we need him?  But wait, perhaps we have him after all and he is the consummate ring master.

[This essay appears in this month’s The National Interest.]

Protecting the Republic

Author: Gary Hart

The Department of Justice, where I once worked in the National Security Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is the principal federal law enforcement agency, are, together with the Central Intelligence Agency and a dozen or so related intelligence service and, of course, the Department of Defense, responsible for the security of our nation.

What weakens them, weakens our nation.  That is why those of us who served on the Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Intelligence Services of the United States (the “Church Committee”, 1975-1977) took extraordinary care to fairly treat these agencies while building Constitutional barriers to unlawful behavior.  Veterans of those agencies agree that they were made stronger by constraints placed upon them.

Virtually non-stop since legitimate questions were raised by the Justice Department about Russian tampering with our 2016 election, universally confirmed by all intelligence services, the President of the United States has conducted open warfare against his own Department of Justice and the FBI which works with it and under its direction.

There is no precedent for this in American history.

The President fires the Director of the FBI, rants that his own Attorney General will not do what he is told, and claims that the FBI is in “tatters” even as he directs the tattering.  Knowing nothing of American history or our Constitution, he enters the White House believing that the Department of Justice is his personal law firm and he can order it to do, or not do, what he wants.

Once again, there is no precedent for this.

It is paranoid mendacity for the President and those around him to claim overtly and covertly that the Department of Justice and FBI are riddled with Democrats out to get him.

To prove there is no end to this, on top of it all he approves the release of a report by the staff of one Member of the House of Representatives that claims to prove this preposterous assertion, against the appeal by the Director of the FBI that national security will be compromised (this is the sources and methods claim), and without the common decency and traditional decorum to permit his Committee’s minority members to issue a rebuttal to the false and misleading claims it makes.

Despite the media sound and fury surrounding this issue, this phony report is already falling of its own weight and will not achieve its intended purpose of distraction from the Mueller investigation and attempt to discredit the Department of Justice and FBI.  But the damage, which seems to characterize most of this Administration’s actions, will have been done to two critical agencies upon which our security depends.

For the better part of a year, as misstatements and misrepresentations (credible journals have called them lies) have mounted, a student of Jefferson could not help but wonder what he and his founding colleagues would make of a former reality television host dismantling years of bipartisan progress at home and abroad with the ignorance of an undisciplined child.  They feared, and rightly so, an oligarch or authoritarian who would directly and indirectly deconstruct and disregard the Constitution and balanced governing system they created.  Unsuccessful attempts have been made here and there, usually by presidents facing retribution, but none on the scale of what we see now.

I imagine Jefferson and the others whispering in the ears of those who will listen: Be careful.  Be very careful.  Do your duty and be on guard.

 

[Anyone questioning the author’s credentials on national security is free to do so.  But the author has a fifty-year record in response.]