Abdication of Courage

Author: Gary Hart

It has been apparent for some time that virtually all Republican members of the House and Senate who are clinging to their positions have chosen to place career and party over courage in the national interest.

By doing so they have undermined our Founders’ reliance on checks and balances to prevent the danger of autocracy in the executive branch and the requirement of independence of the legislative branch.

Rarely if ever has a Congressional majority abdicated its Constitutional responsibility in the face of an unhinged executive.

But other senior Republicans are equally culpable.  When was the last time you heard a critical word against President Trump, as he systematically seeks to undermine the G7, NATO and collective security, the European Union, the World Trade Organizations and multiple trade agreements under it, and virtually any and all of the pillars of the Western democratic alliance, from the following list of Republicans often labeled […] Continue Reading…

Catastrophe Ahead

Author: Gary Hart

Sooner rather than later we will experience a major cyberattack on one or more parts of our critical infrastructure.  We will not know, at least immediately, where it has originated from because it will be redirected through a number of cut outs.  It could come from a major national power or from renegade cyber pirates.  Its target will most certainly be either our transportation, communications, financial, or energy networks.

Whatever the target system, the result will be catastrophic.

We actually entered the international cyber era with the Russian disruption of our 2016 elections representing an attack on the fundamental aspect of our democracy.  That is just the beginning.

In 1999, I was co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, the most far-reaching analysis of our national security challenges since a series of similar assessments following World War II.  We concluded that “America will be attacked by terrorists […] Continue Reading…

Nero in the Coliseum

Author: Gary Hart

“Rome was robust enough…to survive terrifyingly bad rulers.”  This is Professor John Lewis Gaddis in his new book On Grand Strategy commenting on Caesar Augustus’ failure to train a successor before his death and the subsequent decline in the caliber and quality of Rome’s rulers, including the notorious Nero forty years later.

The book is a graduate seminar in 313 pages, covering not only Caesar Augustus but also Xerxes, Pericles, Thucydides, Augustine, Machiavelli, Lincoln, and Isaiah Berlin, among many others.  It represents true joy in learning.  Had he more interest in learning, in books, in history, I can think of a current president who should read it.

Very few bad leaders have these interests, or to put it another way, without those interests bad leadership is guaranteed.  It was Jefferson himself who said he could not live without books.  The man now occupying his presidential office cannot live with them.

If that […] Continue Reading…

A Hinge of History

Author: Gary Hart

There has been an assumption that once Donald Trump leaves office, American politics will return to its traditional patterns.  There is an increasing likelihood, however, that he is disrupting standard political norms and practices for years to come if not permanently.

The probability increases daily that American politics is in the midst of historical, irreversible changes.  Patterns are emerging in the Trump era that reflect little if any similarity to anything previously experienced in the nation’s history.  These include ideological restructuring of the judicial system, denigration of the role of the free press, concentration of greater power in the executive branch and shrinking the role of the legislative branch, rejection of America’s role as leader of the democratic world, alignment of American politics with nationalistic movements elsewhere, rejection of science and facts, and steady presidential reliance on falsehoods.

The strongest evidence for the assertion that all this and more is establishing […] Continue Reading…

Assuming that Mr. Trump continues his project to dismantle what is usually referred to as the liberal world order, the security, trade, environment, and a range of international agreements to encourage international cooperation on matters of common concern, at least two options will emerge for his presidential successor.  One is restoration of the multi-national agreements that Mr. Trump has abandoned or sought to destroy.  The other is the invention of a new approach to common problems that lie ahead.

The first approach may be as straightforward, although not simple, as rejoining agreements and arrangements from which he seeks to withdraw the United States.  The Group of Seven, whose La Malbaie meeting he unaccountably and petulantly disrupted, is an instance of a new, more rational president simply saying “sorry, folks, we’re back in the club and looking for ways to work together.”

Although candidate Trump disparaged NATO, though seeming not to grasp […] Continue Reading…

Idealism in Hiding

Author: Gary Hart

“I am an idealist, without illusions.”  John Kennedy

The era of the assassin, at least those who use bullets, came to a close, praise God, fifty years ago.  To say that much has changed since is a massive understatement.  Whether the rise of the petty tyrant and the destruction of governing norms and behavior is here to stay or is a detour and frolic remains to be seen.  At the least it is safe to say that the idealistic tendency to see government as an instrument of fairness and justice is in hiding.

During the very brief Kennedy days the ideal of public service as a means to right society’s injustices (“ask what you can do..”) opened the way to the era of civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, worker safety, a war on poverty, and much else.  Today, priests of the right dismiss all this as “liberal big government” and […] Continue Reading…


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…