Intelligence

Author: Gary Hart

With multiple-meaning words, it is always necessary to designate which meaning is intended.  In everyday usage intelligence means knowledge, understanding, appreciation, ability to mentally process, and much else.  In official circles, especially since World War II, it means collection and processing of information necessary to make wise political and military judgments in the national interest.

The first is produced by education and study.  The second is produced by a constantly expanding network of official agencies and some unofficial collection sources.

Whether through cognitive processes or street-smart common sense, most Americans who bother to vote assume that public officials up to and including the president have the innate intelligence to understand and appreciate the significance of national security intelligence.

There is always the chance, remote as it may seem, that a president might not have the intelligence or even interest to appraise and evaluate the national security intelligence he is tasked with receiving […] Continue Reading…

The Deep State Revealed

Author: Gary Hart

It would be interesting to know who schooled Donald Trump on what he calls “the deep state.”  When he first began to allude to it he made it sound like a cabal inside the U.S. Government, a secret cult that managed the complex institutions of government regardless of party or administration in office according to its own evil designs.  For any of us with experience in everyday governance, this was delusional at best and wacky at worst.

Now it is beginning to emerge that Mr. Trump was actually referring to the senior civil service in our Government, the people who rose through the ranks of one agency or another to management level positions.  They may not be the exact equivalent of the professional civil servants in the British Government, but a somewhat more casual version of that.

As individuals and as a collective group the senior civil service remains through changes […] Continue Reading…

On This Day

Author: Gary Hart

In 1992, a journalist named Richard Ben Cramer published a book entitled What It Takes.  It contained profiles of seven candidates for the presidency in 1988, became a best-seller, and is still used in political science classrooms.  A year or two later, as one of those profiled in the book, I asked Richard if the seven of us had anything in common.  “Oh, yes,” he said.  “You all had strong mothers.”  “They told each of you that you could be anything you chose to be.”

This story is a tribute to mothers everywhere.  God bless you all.

Gary Hart

Let Us Now Praise a Famous Man

Author: Gary Hart

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 is one that is never forgotten.

Thereafter, in 1980, John persuaded the Navy to commission me as an officer (Lt. j.g.) in […] Continue Reading…

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 […] Continue Reading…

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 […] Continue Reading…

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 […] Continue Reading…

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 […] Continue Reading…

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 […] Continue Reading…

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.  […] Continue Reading…