Reconciliation and Hope

Author: Gary Hart

Most American historians trace high degrees of national unity to two causes: depressions and wars.  Americans put ideology and party aside, at least for the time being, during these conditions.

Only demagogues seek a platform when one-third of the people are ill-clothed, ill-housed, undernourished, and out of a job or when foreign enemies threaten our security.  On any score of national unity, we get together under these conditions and generally put ordinary politics aside until we recover some degree of economic and territorial security.

On the other hand, disruptions such as globalization, immigration, and technology are less tangible and more readily reduced to partisanship.  Politicians of one kind or another will seek advantage in the disruptions such trends and tides produce.  It is too easy to blame the other side for lost jobs or economic dislocations these trends produce.

We are currently in such an era of blame and accusation and seem […] Continue Reading…

A Hole in the Heart

Author: Gary Hart

Today, September 11th, will remain a solemn and sad day for the nation for many years to come, possibly forever.  But it bears a particularly personal burden of memory in my case.

For most Americans, especially senior officials of the new George W. Bush administration, it was a vicious Pearl Harbor-like cowardly sneak attack.

In reality, however, it was not so simple.

In an interim report in 2000, and in its final report delivered to the President and the new administration on January 31, 2001, the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century warned of terrorist attacks on the nation sooner rather than later and predicted that “Americans will die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.”

Composed of eleven senior bipartisan members, the Commission undertook a review of our national security for the following 25 years, a task not performed since 1947.  It was, otherwise, without precedent.  With the late Senator Warren Rudman, […] Continue Reading…

An Appreciation

Author: Gary Hart

Many thanks to quite a number of you who have sent personal condolences.  A reprise of a post four months ago.  GH


Captain John McCain was the U.S. Navy liaison officer to the United States Senate when we first met in 1977.  Thereafter, he was escort officer on a number of Senate delegation trips and my escort on board two aircraft carriers underway in the Indian Ocean.  The most notable delegation included Senators John Glenn, Sam Nunn, William Cohen, and myself on a tour of Asian nations ending in South Korea.  Our report urged President Jimmy Carter not to carry out his proposed withdrawal of U.S. troops in South Korea and the President reluctantly conceded.

The solo aircraft carrier visits, thanks to John McCain’s arrangements, enabled me to fly off the decks in the radar operators back seat in high performance combat aircraft.  For anyone who has shared that experience, it […] Continue Reading…


Author: Gary Hart

A friend brought to my attention a new biography of Charles de Gaulle, De Gaulle, by Julian Jackson, yet to reach these shores.  One of the common perceptions of de Gaulle is that he remained always an ardent nationalist.  In a recent review of the book in the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik makes a more subtle observation.  De Gaulle was, he claims, much more a republican, which many interpreted as being rigidly conservative, even right-wing and absolutist.

“…de Gaulle always offered a staunch reaffirmation of republican values”,  writes Gopnik.  “His life is proof that unapologetic right-wing politics do not necessarily bend toward absolutism; they can also sometimes stiffen the spine of liberal democracy.”

This, better than anything I have read or written on classic republicanism, summarizes what America needs now.  It is the recovery of the classic republican ideal—performance of citizen duty and protection of the commonwealth—that will restore American democracy, […] Continue Reading…

Considerable time has been spent on my part over quite a few years trying to decide what this means.

It is the title of a book of stories by Flannery O’Connor and is taken from an aphorism by the Jesuit theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, popular with seminarians in my theological days.  I learned recently that it also a concept valued by my friend, law school classmate, also a former seminarian, Governor Jerry Brown.

Fr. De Chardin wrote:  “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.

To “rise” in this context, it seems to me, is to have spiritual wings, to lift, to “slip the surly bonds of earth” in that memorable phrase taken by another Irishwoman, Peggy Noonan, and […] Continue Reading…

Just when our nation requires principled alternatives to the current non-American wave of nationalism, isolationism, and racism, the Democratic party absolves itself of responsibility for presenting a statement of its core convictions and a summary of its identity.

Reports this week state that, instead, the Party turns its candidates loose to define themselves however they wish.  This is not only confusing to voting citizens, it is cowardly.  And it is intellectually bankrupt.

The Republican party has had it easy, at least until the age of Trump.  From the post- Theodore Roosevelt era onward, it stood for less government, balanced budgets, light taxes, and heavy defenses.  Pretty simple, certainly enough to give Ronald Reagan eight years in the White House.

By contrast, from Franklin Roosevelt onward, the Democratic party created a social safety net principally composed of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, increasing equality for races and genders, a healthy environment, expanding public […] Continue Reading…

Books become classics because they contain ageless truths.  Of such, perhaps none is more a classic than Il Principe (The Prince) by Niccolò Machiavelli.  Though written for Giuliano di` Medici in early 16th century Florence, it nonetheless survives five centuries later for the insights into the uses and misuses of power it contains even today.

A true leader must be both lion and fox.  A fox to detect and avoid the snares and a lion to overawe his opponents.

The final chapter, XXVI, is entitled: “Exhortation to Liberate Italy from the Barbarians”.  Up to this point, Machiavelli has only occasionally referred to barbarians.  But he also does so in a much-neglected work (unlike The Prince, not meant as a job application) Discourses on Livy.  These references disclose that he viewed barbarians singularly and as entities.

The hordes of barbarians are generally foreign, that is outside Florentine Italy, attacking the much better educated […] Continue Reading…

The Elite

Author: Gary Hart

Trump supporters, we are told, forgive his many indiscretions so long as he pokes the eyes of the “elite”.  Often used, but seldom defined, what does it mean to be elite and who are they?

We each have our own image.  Mine is a corporate executive with an Ivy League education earning high six or usually seven figures annual income with kids in prep schools, membership in one or more exclusive country clubs, whose social circle is composed of similar types, and with high end cars in the garage.

But that individual, man or woman, voted for Trump.  And he or she ain’t me.  By not voting for Trump, did that make me one of the hated “elite”?

By any definition, no cohort in our society has benefited financial under Trump more than that kind of elite.

Let’s compare profiles.  The author grew up in a working-class household in a small Kansas farming […] Continue Reading…

The Lion and His Fate

Author: Gary Hart

It must have been in a very early visit to the Carnegie Free Library in Ottawa, Kansas, when I first encountered an essay and pictures of African lions, probably in National Geographic.  I immediately knew the leader.  He was magnificent and he was indeed the king of the jungle.

Since then, and throughout a complex life, I’ve identified with this lion and to a certain degree with his avian counterpart the bald eagle as avatars of the creatures of nature whom God has created.

Since the dawn of wildlife conservation beginning with the age of the great Republican Theodore Roosevelt and much beyond, most of us who revere nature have assumed nature’s most magnificent creatures, and in more recent years, smaller, less charismatic species, are worthy of decent respect and preservation from man’s predatory expansionist instincts.

That was then, the heyday of conservation and preservation.  But we have entered a new, a […] Continue Reading…

A Contrast

Author: Gary Hart

The first week of December 1986, I met with Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin for almost four hours.  It was toward the end of his first full year in office and less then 60 days from his Reykjavic summit with Ronald Reagan.  He had yet to become acquainted with members of the Democratic party and especially those representing a new generation of leadership.  In 1984, I had been runner-up for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, and the Russian Embassy in Washington believed I would be a candidate again, and possibly a successful one, in 1988.

Mr. Gorbachev was congenial, relaxed, but curious.  He graciously invited my daughter Andrea, then studying U.S.-Russian relations at the University of Denver, to join our conversation.  Former Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Dobrynen, whom I knew well joined the conversation as did Doug Wilson, my foreign policy advisor and former State Department official.

Much of […] Continue Reading…