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…

The Assault on Language

Author: Gary Hart

When words lose their meaning, tyranny is at the door.  Behind all the unprecedented cacophony emanating from the White House, there is an assault on language, words and their meanings.  Many Americans have brushed aside all the talk, during the last national campaign and thereafter, about “fake news”.  That is a mistake.  If society loses its respect for commonly understood and accepted definitions of everyday words used in politics and elsewhere, communication of important information necessary for self-governance in a republic is replaced by propaganda.  Propaganda is the essential tool of dictators.

The New York Times, among others, has tried to keep track of an ever-expanding list of lies told by the President and others in his Administration.  This is one way of trying to protect definitions and meanings.  But the lies, or misstatements if you prefer a kinder word, are promoted on purpose.  They are to create a different […] Continue Reading…

Today, virtually all Americans will remember or be reminded of the early 21st century’s version of Pearl Harbor.  For the few of us who saw something like 9/11 coming, and warned the nation, it will forever be tattooed indelibly on our souls.

Because the lesser versions of that evil hour have been more or less home grown and carried out by deranged fellow citizens in theaters and kindergarten classrooms, we tend to think that a 9/11 will not, possibly cannot, happen again.  After all we have, as the US Commission on National Security for the 21st Century urged eight months before 9/11, a US Department of Homeland Security, TSA, and increasingly militarized local police departments.

Don’t be too sure.

And don’t assume that, having made it more difficult for a handful of young men to highjack domestic airplanes and crash them into tall buildings, we have solved the problem of domestic terrorism.

The […] Continue Reading…

There is a consensus, with a high degree of confidence, among relevant US intelligence agencies that some individuals and groups in Russia hacked into computers regulating the 2016 US national elections.  Whether these hackers were authorized by the Government of Russia or were free lancers, and how extensive the interference was will require some authoritative report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

At the very least, it would be a mistake of historic importance to let this matter simply drift away into the dust bin of history.  If nothing else, prudent people must conclude if it happened once it will surely happen again.

Interference in our elections by a foreign power or foreign agents is not just one more damn thing left over from the Cold War.  Boys will be boys, cynics will say, and besides, are we Americans absolutely sure that one or more of our intelligence services, or their myriad […] Continue Reading…

Vignettes for These Times

Author: Gary Hart

*Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist signs are not in evidence in Houston these days.  It would be interesting to hear how a lily-white society and government might have prevented Hurricane Harvey or managed its response better.

Indeed, what is striking about the dramatic pictures from Houston is how multi-racial the rescue is.  Blacks helping whites.  Hispanics helping blacks.  Asians helping and being helped.  Why does it take a natural disaster, or for that matter a war, for race to take a holiday?  America is always at its best when we are all in it together.

*Texas is among the most conservative and anti-national government States in the Union.  But the Federal (repeat Federal) Emergency Management Agency is there on the front lines of rescue and recovery and not a word is heard about the wasteful government in Washington or the tax dollars that it is spending.

Which brings up again the unanswered and […] Continue Reading…