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…

Destiny Abandoned

Author: Gary Hart

It is an interesting, and important, question for political historians whether a nation can, in a relatively short period of time, abandon many of its standards of behavior, political norms, types of leadership, ethical rules, and qualities of governance and still retain the same historical ideals to which it has been attached and principles upon which it was founded.

The answer most readily available is, wait until the next election.  If a majority of voters, or as most recently a minority, ratify those departures from solid tradition and principle  and hasten the process by which the America we thought we knew becomes a different country altogether, it is pretty clear evidence that the new and different America is emerging.

So long as laws and traditions stay within often flexible Constitutional limits, one administration can undertake to reverse, virtually across the board, bipartisan principles of foreign policy and domestic policies regarding energy, […] Continue Reading…

The Intractables

Author: Gary Hart

There is something that defines the United States that is tangible, identifiable, and definable.  It is called the national interest.  It is the sum of what it means to be a nation of citizens pursuing the common good, what is best and most important for all, for ourselves and for our posterity.  We see it most vividly and clearly in times of economic failure, the Great Depression, and security threats, World War II and the Cold War.

Both these conditions cause us to put the national interest and the common good ahead of other, narrower concerns.  Faced with neither of these threats, too often Americans divide over lesser concerns.

In recent years those narrower issues have sharply divided our nation.  They include guns, abortion, immigration, and perhaps one or two others.  Having no unifying challenges to address, political parties instead migrate toward coalitions composed of single issue voters such as gun […] Continue Reading…

Welcome to the Deep State

Author: Gary Hart

It is unclear when the Deep State was created or created itself.  It almost certainly took shape in the 20th century.  Candidates for creating the Deep State, or permitting it to create itself, are Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman.  Roosevelt for domestic purposes, Truman for international purposes.

Being a machine that runs of itself, its members almost certainly are senior career civil servants in every cabinet department and agency.  That means, at least, fifteen cabinet departments and anywhere from seven to fifteen principal agencies.  To be effective the minimum number of Deep State members must be at least a hundred per department and agency.  Thus, the core of the Deep State would be in the neighborhood of two or three thousand individuals.

Over time, senior officials retire and must be replaced.  If this mysterious State arose under Roosevelt, then there must have been over time some tens of thousands of secret […] Continue Reading…

Protecting the Republic

Author: Gary Hart

The Department of Justice, where I once worked in the National Security Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is the principal federal law enforcement agency, are, together with the Central Intelligence Agency and a dozen or so related intelligence service and, of course, the Department of Defense, responsible for the security of our nation.

What weakens them, weakens our nation.  That is why those of us who served on the Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Intelligence Services of the United States (the “Church Committee”, 1975-1977) took extraordinary care to fairly treat these agencies while building Constitutional barriers to unlawful behavior.  Veterans of those agencies agree that they were made stronger by constraints placed upon them.

Virtually non-stop since legitimate questions were raised by the Justice Department about Russian tampering with our 2016 election, universally confirmed by all intelligence services, the President of the United States has conducted open […] Continue Reading…