Can It Happen Here?

Author: Gary Hart

The social and political glue that holds democracies, especially large-scale, diverse democracies, together are institutions and laws, particularly where they are enumerated in a written Constitution.  But there are also unwritten rules or norms that guide the conduct of those elected and appointed to operate our government on a daily basis.

“…two norms stand out as fundamental to a functioning democracy: mutual toleration and institutional forbearance.”  This conclusion is reached by two authorities on democratic government, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, in How Democracies Die, a deeply disturbing and sobering recent book.

They attribute America’s political stability through a civil war, depressions, and many setbacks to the willingness of our two major parties to respect these unwritten rules.  But, they conclude, the process of racial inclusion begun after World War II and culminating in civil rights legislation in the mid-1960 began the process of political polarization that have led us to […] Continue Reading…

Juliana v US

Author: Gary Hart

A while back I posted a message from my friend Bill Becker, managing director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, regarding a suit brought by 20 young people against the US Government on the theory their lives were diminished or threatened by global warming.  Elizabeth particularly paid attention to this and wanted more information.  Here is the message Bill sent today.  GH

For those who did not see 60 Minutes Sunday night, it aired a story about Juliana v United States, the lawsuit being pursued by 21 young people against the U.S. government to stop its support of fossil fuels. You’ll find it here:

William Becker
Executive Director
Presidential Climate Action Project

A Businessman in Government

Author: Gary Hart

Practically everyone who has held office in the national government has heard, usually more than once, “why can’t we run the government like a business” or “let’s put a business person in the White House.”

Well, now these critics got their wish and, so far, it isn’t working out so well.

The current occupant had no national security, intelligence, or foreign policy experience.  He has let many State Department and U.S. Embassies stagnate.  He wants the Defense Department to organize parades.  He doesn’t have time or interest for intelligence briefings that are prepared by professional experts to bring him up to date on developments that affect our security.

Aside from a massive, deficit and debt-ridden tax cut for the wealthy, he inherited a growing economy and at least has stood aside to let it continue.  Otherwise, he has shown no tolerance for complex fiscal and monetary issues.

But all this is far from […] Continue Reading…

Damage Repair

Author: Gary Hart

When the era of Trump concludes, much work will need to be done.  The list is long but must surely include restoring and restructuring our alliances with our allies, returning to stewardship of our public resources, rebuilding public education, constructing a workable health care system, climate protection, and much else.

As a perceived “liberal”, it may surprise some that I propose adding to this list the repair of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including but not limited to the U.S. Department of Justice (of which I am an alumnus), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and all other agencies that comprise the national intelligence and law enforcement network.

For reasons still to be disclosed, Mr. Trump set out to demean this network and each of its component parts even during his campaign.  Since assuming the highest office of the land, and after taking […] Continue Reading…

America’s national identity is defined by its first principles.

In four years, my father’s family will have lived on this continent for 300 years.  Does that make me more American than a young Guatemalan woman who has just pronounced the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States “and the Republic for which it stands”.  That Republic was and is and always will be based upon its founding principles.

What makes us both American is belief in our first principles.  In America, nationality is not defined by race, creed, color, religion, or ethnicity.  It is defined by allegiance to a set of principles more clearly defined than any other nation on earth.

So the test of our patriotism, of our Americanism, is adherence to those principles.  When those of us who are American citizens, from whatever background, accept and follow those principles, then we are part of America.  When we […] Continue Reading…

Where Have You Gone, Elizabeth

Author: Gary Hart

We are missing Elizabeth Miller’s sometimes acerbic wit, keen insights, and often challenging observations.  We hope she is well and will return to this site when she is able.  Our numbers are too small to let anyone disappear.  The advantage of small membership is the identity each member reveals.  Perhaps nostalgically, I sense the identity of each of our regular commentators and the often illuminating exchanges that occasionally occur.  In moments of crises of the soul, I have sometimes been guilty of straying from the forum of political opinion and, if so, I pray that was not the cause of her leaving.  I promise not to indulge in my own personal preoccupations again.  Be well, Elizabeth, and come back to the matters of principle forum.  Gary

We all have our models, prototypes, frameworks, and agendas for sorting the bus load of candidates for the Democratic nomination for president.  The categories include gender, race, generation, and experience.  Some will sort among the several women, some among the minorities, some will want young and others will want older, and then there will be the struggle over who is the most liberal/progressive, as defined by a whole basket of issues.

Let’s step back and assess the situation.  By November 2020, we will have had four years of White House and Cabinet chaos, an endless struggle over a Melvillian wall, and most of all the destruction of almost eight decades of relative solidarity among Western democracies and others over security, trade, environment, and economic stability.

This is the reality the next president will face.  He or she will have three choices: continue Trumpian isolationism; rebuild the post-World War II alliances; construct […] Continue Reading…

Active Measures

Author: Gary Hart

Sometime last year a documentary entitled Active Measures was released.  A recent viewing revealed that it is a painstaking, well-documented review of Donald Trump’s activities and associations in Russia.  It makes no effort to be “fair and balanced”.  But there seems to have been no critical, documented rebuttal of the case against this continuing close association.

The crux of the matter, leading up to Trump’s unexpected presidential victory, has to do with the confluence of Russian oligarchical money, virtually all traceable to Vladimir Putin, and the global Trump hotel dynasty.

Following disastrously failed casino ventures in New Jersey, Trump experienced a series of bankruptcies and found conventional bank financing scarce.  Through ties Paul Manafort and others developed with spectacularly wealthy Russian oligarchs, money soon became available for the Trump Tower in New York, condominium developments in Florida and elsewhere, and a variety of other Trump branded hotels world-wide.

In virtually every case […] Continue Reading…

Fasten Your Seatbelts

Author: Gary Hart

“Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night,” according to the movie.  Or perhaps lots of nights.

Donald Trump does not respond to pressure well.  Pressure, in the form of Pelosi and Mueller among others, has increased virtually overnight.

He now has an interim Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and a temporary chief of staff.  “His” generals are gone.  His National Security Advisor contradicts him on a Syrian withdrawal, saying it would occur over an undetermined length of time.  Then the Pentagon starts moving equipment out despite that.

His border wall, which many in his own party do not support, has become an obsession of Melvillian dimensions.  Since popularized in the age of Gingrich, the party responsible for a government shut-down, and in this case it is not the Democrats, has been punished at the next election.  Republican Senators faced with re-election in 2020 are beginning to bail.

There have been […] Continue Reading…

The Darkness Before the Dawn

Author: Gary Hart

A very astute friend has been discussing changes in popular culture, occurring so gradually as almost to be unnoticeable, that will have the cumulative affect of producing a different kind of society with as yet unclear political implications.

He says, for example, that many, if not most, people will quit going to movie theaters and will watch movies at home.  The same is true of dining out.  We have only to wait for first run movies to appear on DVD and, with a somewhat larger screen, watch them at home.  Meals delivered to the home are expanding exponentially to a growing consumer base, especially for two wage-earner families.

In both cases the savings are the same: car parking, theater tickets, large restaurant bills, tips here and there, baby sitters, expensive sodas and popcorn at the movies, and on and on.  Not to say also maneuvering through urban traffic and the danger […] Continue Reading…