Do Narcissists Leave Legacies

Author: Gary Hart

A theory making the rounds is that Donald Trump’s vulgar and anti-presidential behavior is intentional not accidental, that he intends to shock, that he is completely unconcerned about critical comments from press and public alike.  His greatest fear is not condemnation.  It is fear of losing the spotlight and he will do anything, however shocking, to maintain center stage.

As bizarre as this sounds for anyone, let alone the President of the United States, it does account for his ugly behavior as the worst boy in the class.  And, thus, there are those of us who try not to reward that behavior by joining the growing chorus of outrage and providing him what he wants.

But it is necessary to assume he will be around for another three years, that is unless boredom genuinely sets in and he decides to wander off, and questions arise which deserve thought and attention: is […] Continue Reading…

What Awaits

Author: Gary Hart

Blessings on all who visit this site and who have been such loyal friends, critics, and commentators.

Whatever the coming year may hold, stay close to those you love, care for those in need of care,

stay strong in your convictions, and never, ever sacrifice principles.

Gary Hart

I Aspire to Be a Christian

Author: Gary Hart

What follows breaks two personal writing rules: too many first-person pronouns in an age of ego; and personal focus on my religious beliefs.  Starting with the New York Times commentary page and working outward, every writer makes sure you understand that it is him or her who is rendering an opinion, as if we didn’t know that already.  And though for a time a public man, I served in an age where serious public figures tried to live their beliefs rather than chant them and thus advertise their hypocrisy.

One way or the other many if not most of us practice the politics of identity.  So, Christians say “I am a Christian.”  Perhaps because I was raised in a humble evangelical household, attended an evangelical college, and graduated from divinity school, and have, for better or worse, always been a literalist, the Christian religion requires some qualifications for self-identification.  And […] Continue Reading…

It requires little in the way of foreign policy study or experience to understand that Russia’s foremost priority has been to erode if not destroy the alliance of Western democracies whose creation began to take shape even before the closing days of World War II.  Even before Hitler’s destruction became inevitable, Churchill and Roosevelt began to plan a democratic détente that would confine the Soviet Union and make the world, or at least the European part of it, safe for democracy.

After 70 years of patient waiting, Russia’s wait is paying off.

Now the cornerstone of the Western Alliance, the British-U.S. special relationship is eroding due to Brexit, shared anti-immigration grievances, the rise of right wing nationalism, and distrust of alliances generally.

Similarly, U.S. relations with Germany, France, and Italy, among others, are being casually neglected.

And most dangerously, American reliance on traditional diplomacy to maintain and foster close relations with traditional allies […] Continue Reading…

Heroism Amidst Brutality

Author: Gary Hart

If you live long enough, sooner or later life will break your heart.  Thoughts of this bleak observation arose from watching this Sunday’s 60 Minutes story on the bombing of hospitals in Syria and the magnificent heroism of the Syrian American Medical Society’s doctors trying to save badly injured children.

Try as we might, decent human beings cannot fathom conscious, purposeful evil directed at children, the most vulnerable among us.  But even in the midst of unfathomable despair, the rare courageous individual bears that evil away and gives us a faint hope that desperate meanness cannot and will not prevail.

As we contemplate courage in the midst of overwhelming evil, we can only remember Faulkner’s beacon of light: Man will not merely endure; he will prevail.

As we struggle to understand and rise above forces of hatred, forces arising from ethnic, religious, tribal hatreds, divisions not only used to identify ourselves but […] Continue Reading…

A quarter century ago I became a self-initiated convert to classic republicanism and thereafter pursued a graduate program in political theory and published a thesis on Thomas Jefferson’s idea of the “ward” or “elementary” republic.

He sought to create community-sized republics to achieve the classic twin goals of local citizen participation in self-government on a scope and scale where individual participation is possible and to resist corruption of those local republics by money and favored access.

My project was to explore whether the Jefferson ideal could be made to work in a mass democracy of more than 300 million Americans.  I chose three arenas of public policy as a test: public education; security; and public assistance or “welfare.”

Almost from the outset of the American Republic public education had been placed under the purview of local citizen school boards.  (Not having read Jefferson or cared to, those now in power want to […] Continue Reading…

Return from the Detour

Author: Gary Hart

Whether tomorrow or seven years from now, the passing of the current US Administration will leave behind a to-do list of some dimension.  Without seeming to be pushing anyone out the door, it is not too soon to be considering the priorities for damage limitation and damage control.  Even if no further damage is done, the list of those priorities already is daunting.

Though it is by no means certain, one must assume that the historic US political pendulum will deliver a reasonably centrist Democratic or center-right Republican Administration into power.  After this experiment in reversion to the age of Hoover (Herbert that is), emerging new realities demand a return to a mainstream at home and abroad.

Given Heraclitus’s admonition regarding constant change (you can’t step in the same stream twice), simply returning to 2016 will not be an option.  But there are some mainstream conditions that offer guidelines.

First, in the […] Continue Reading…

Unless our current President changes his mind, and he has repeatedly shown his willingness to do that, several thousand sequestered documents related to the John Kennedy assassination will be released in days.  Despite the President’s claim that he is releasing them, they are being released according to a law passed by Congress in 1992.

Though by no means a conspiracist, I was a member of the Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Intelligence Agencies of the U.S. Government in 1975 and 76 and thereafter became a charter member of the new Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee created on the recommendations of the Select Committee (popularly known as the Church Committee for its chairman, Senator Frank Church).

One of our most startling discoveries was a pattern of attempted assassinations of half a dozen foreign leaders by the CIA from the late 1950s until the mid-1960s.  The most notorious and persistent of these plots […] Continue Reading…

The Founders and Donald Trump

Author: Gary Hart

The Founders of the United States created a republic on a scale never before attempted.  In doing so, they hewed closely to the principles of historic republicanism from Athens and pre-imperial Rome forward through Venice, the Swiss cantons, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, and the English and Scottish Enlightenments.  They feared most of all corruption in the form of special pleading factions and concentration of power in an executive, especially one with an unconventional agenda.

As argued before by this writer [The Republic of Conscience], we have succumbed to the first of these fears in the past three decades.  The question for consideration is whether we are edging toward the second.

The vaunted “balance of power” government they created was the principal bulwark against concentration of power in the Executive.  The Legislative branch alone can enact new laws or repeal old ones.  The Judicial branch can declare Executive branch rules and Legislative branch laws […] Continue Reading…

The Age of Regression

Author: Gary Hart

Service, first through religion then through politics, is what gave life meaning.  It was the light which guided a young man’s journey.  But then the light of public service flickered and dimmed.  The public one believed in and wished to serve turned fickle, angry, and bitter.  It did not respond to idealism.  It rewarded naked self-interest and excused vulgarity.

Threats replace diplomacy and sharp elbows displace patience.  And of statesmanship there is none.

And if there is doubt about regression, consider public education, climate and the environment, health care, sustainability, the Paris Accord, foreign policy leadership, trade agreements, arms control.  Pick a topic.  We are turning our backs on every area of human improvement.

How is one who has sought and experienced public service to rationalize a world that seems increasingly irrational?

Did the character of Americans change overnight?  If so, then why?  Reasons, even excuses, are given for a gross deviation in […] Continue Reading…