Previous posts in this discussion:
PostEurope (Nigel Jones, -UK, 01/03/13 3:39 am)
Responding to various points in the Europe discussion from Istvan Simon and Angel Viñas (both from 2 January):
In advising John Heelan to get more involved in elections to the European Parliament after John remarked on the prevailing popular attitude of apathy towards this bogus assembly, Istvan forgets the one vital thing about this "Parliament": it is a sham. It is as much a representative and genuine Parliament as the late Congress of People's Soviets or the current Chinese Parliament. Totally controlled by the unelected EU apparat, the "Parliament" has no right to remove EU commissioners or otherwise hold them to account. It is a mock facade, a Potemkin village of a Parliament with no democratic legitimacy whatsoever. Which is why no one, or next to no one, bothers to vote for its nominated members or takes any interest in its fraudulent "debates."
Angel Viñas objects to my "disparaging" of the democratic histories of various European countries. I note, however, that he does not dispute my assertion that virtually every EU state was within living memory a dictatorship, which helps explain the lack of democracy in the current EU. Angela Merkel, for example, the current mainstay of the faltering European project, spent her entire childhood and youth in the Stalinist German Democratic Republic, so it is no wonder that she has scant understanding of or respect for democracy.
Angel is quite correct that Marta Andreasen held or holds Spanish citizenship (she was actually born in Argentina), though she is clearly of Swedish descent. At all events she is now a British UKIP politician, thus demonstrating that party's internationalism and lack of xenophobia. I warmly recommend her book Brussels Laid Bare (and as the EU's former Chief Accountant she should surely know!)--for its exposure of the massive fraud which has prevented the EU's own accountants from signing off its "accounts" since 1994! If the EU were a private company, its Board of Directors (Commissioners) would now be sharing cell space with Bernie Madoff.
I can't help noting that when the going gets tough for EU proponents, they resort to irrelevant retorts--such as Angel's reference to Britain's colonial record in Kenya. Not the least of the reasons why the EU project is bound to fail is the lingering historical hostility between European member states who have been intermittently at war for centuries. Another reason is that it is a top-down project most keenly supported by those who have a personal stake in it--financial or otherwise, a professional Nomenklatura, rather than by the people it purports to represent. Yesterday (2 January) was an important milestone in Britain's relationship with the EU--the 40th anniversary of its accession. Yet I did not notice crowds thronging the streets waving EU flags. There is no enthusiasm for this misbegotten project among the people who matter: the Europeans themselves. I am reminded of General de Gaulle's comment when asked whether the Olympian Giscard d'Estaing might make a suitable successor to himself. "Giscard?" the General loftily replied, "His only problem is the people."
Not uncoincidentally Giscard, having been duly rejected by the French people, is now one of the EU's more prominent apologists. It figures. The project is made by and for people like just him.
JE comments: I don't see how growing up in a dictatorship precludes one from ever understanding democracy--re: Angela Merkel (or my wife Aldona, for that matter). Quite the contrary, I would think such a background would make one respect democracy all the more
Europe; Response to Nigel Jones
(Angel Vinas, Belgium
01/03/13 7:05 AM)
It is a bit tedious having to write trivialities in replying to Nigel Jones´ new post of today (3 January).
1. There are obviously EU members which "enjoyed" dictatorial regimes. This is a banal statement. Let´s look a bit into it. Geography as destiny is a formula frequently adscribed to Napoleon. Former Communist countries had very little to say in their enjoyment. WWII was won by the Western democracies allied to the Soviet Union. No less than Winston Churchill was a strong proponent of that alliance in application of the old adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Forgotten was the Nazi-German Pact of 1939. After Victory Day the Soviet occupation of Poland and other Central European countries was countenanced. Czechoslovakia followed. The Cold War had started. Fortunately it didn´t escalate into a hot war. I suppose that Nigel Jones in his crusade for democracy would not have liked it. And what were the Poles, the Czechs, the Bulgarians, the Romanians, the Eastern Germans, the Yugoslavs, the Albanians to do? As little as the democratic Spaniards, Portuguese and Greeks. All of them sacrificed to the realpolitical imperative of preserving the geostrategical and geopolitical status quo. As a Spaniard born under Franco and half-educated under Franco, I am a bit touchy about being given lessons on democracy. Certainly we don´t have to thank the UK for any attempt at applying pressure for enlightening us.
Geography as destiny: the UK is an island. A fortunate situation, because had it not been an island I wonder whether it wouldn´t have followed the way of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. Certainly there was a British potential fifth column in the shadow. France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway had their own as well. And, fortunately enough, people who cared very little for fascism. About the remaining paragons of neutrality, historians have long laid bare the price which Sweden and Switzerland paid. From Spain not to speak.
It was a good thing that the Cold War came to an end and the EU (and NATO) was extended to almost all Central European countries. The Treaty of Rome did not make distinctions amongst European countries. The Copenhagen criteria (to which the UK mightily contributed) established the political conditions to be fulfilled.
And so what? Should foreign-imposed, foreign-maintained dictatorships, albeit with sometimes strong domestic support, have been the irrevocable destiny for all European countries?
I´ll make two very simple points. The first is that there is no immaculate history. Neither the British is nor any other. The second point is that when contempt becomes a political category, there is a potential for fascism (Albert Camus, L´homme révolté).
2. I haven't read Ms Andreasen´s book. If what Nigel Jones says is correct, I´m a bit perplexed. The Santer Commission crisis formally arose because the powerful COCOBU (Budgetary Control) parliamentary committee refused to sign the acceptance of the EC accounts. Under the Prodi Commission, this was settled satisfactorily. The analogy with Madoff is misplaced. By the way, did Ms Andreasen appeal to the Court of Justice?
3. Politically the European Parliament has been strengthened. It is true that its formal ability to force the resignation of the Commission is an atomic weapon which has been used only once. But in reality prospective commissioners or sitting commissioners have been brought down when unacceptable for the Parliament. I remember two cases. Both of them, a coincidence, were extreme conservatives.
JE comments: This conversation is getting heated, but I've found it extremely instructive. I'm pretty sure I speak on behalf of many of us sitting on WAISworld's sidelines.
EU and Democracy; Spielberg's *Lincoln*
(Robert Whealey, USA
01/03/13 10:38 AM)
I have read all of Angel Viñas's replies to Nigel Jones. I know of no American historian who understands better than Angel, the subtle debates between the European demo cries from 1939 to date, within the EEC and EU, which have evolved from 1951 to date. British democracy peaked in 1951, and American democracy peaked in 1973-74. The multinational corporations do have more power in EU, UK, and US then ever before. Democracy begins in the towns and counties of the US, UK and Spain, among the working and middle classes. They are inspired by the intellectuals like Albert Camus and historian-teachers such as Angel Viñas. The military elite as well as the corporate elite tend to erode democratic societies.
America from 1947 pushed the "Cold War," so that Spain in 1986 had to look to France, Germany, and even Britain more than to US for inspiration. Franklin Roosevelt inspired European democrats. American elections since 1980, and perhaps since Richard Nixon, are becoming less democratic every year. Barack Obama is a weak democrat compared to Roosevelt, but I am glad he defeated John McCain and Mitt Romney. Today the democratic spirit is on trial in all three nations. I recommend everybody see a current film Lincoln to restore one's faith in democracy.
JE comments: Shall we get a discussion going on Lincoln? I saw it over Thanksgiving weekend. The film is a delight for us history buffs and Lincoln junkies. "Regular" folks will find it overlong and too political.
Daniel Day-Lewis will be a frontrunner for his third Oscar; he absolutely suspends the viewer's disbelief in his masterful portrayal of Lincoln. It is interesting that Robert Whealey would see the film as "restoring one's faith in democracy"; although US citizens have nothing of the access to their president that they did in 1865, the film also shows that the slimy underbelly of US politics is nothing new--note the coercion and dealing that took place for Lincoln to win the Congressional votes to pass the 13th Amendment.
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
01/03/13 2:00 PM)
I share John Eipper's enthusiasm (3 January) about Lincoln the movie. I would enjoy seeing it a few more times. To me the most interesting lesson was that I was wrong for despising politicians for their lying and deceit which everyone seems to accept as part of the game. Even Abe Lincoln, one of my historical idols, lied and deceived about the Confederate armistice delegation, in order to coerce everyone into his anti-slavery legislation before any cease-fire. To me that was mind-boggling, since I always saw Abe as a brilliant philosopher, but gentle and very careful with human life. While people flatter me for being a good project manager which requires some political skill, this movie makes me think I could never be a good politician. Even though I can't explain why, to me it is a fascinating question requiring a deeper understanding. Too bad Abe is not around for me to ask him; he would know.
JE comments: Re: Lincoln's "gentle" part, remember that he sent more Americans to their deaths than any other President. Yet we sense that each and every dead soldier pained him deeply.
- Spielberg's *Lincoln* (Robert Whealey, USA 01/04/13 8:44 AM)
Referring to JE' s comment of 3 January: Lincoln, like Lyndon B. Johnson, was a "wheeler-dealer" behind his public speeches. Doris Kearns Goodwin, who was behind Spielberg's film script, has written standard biographies of both LBJ and Lincoln. As a historian, Goodwin knows that democratic politics is an art, as well as an intellectual problem of research.
JE comments: The Lincoln-LBJ comparison is counterintuitive for sure--at first glance, one would associate Lyndon Johnson more with Andrew Johnson. (Both were Southerners, both assumed the presidency after an assassination, both are not particularly popular with historians, both were named Johnson...) One might wonder why Goodwin chose Lincoln and LBJ as her subjects, but it is worth noting that she also wrote books on JFK and FDR.
Lincoln and LBJ
(Robert Whealey, USA
01/05/13 4:11 AM)
In response to JE (see my post of 4 January), Lincoln in 1861-1865 and LBJ in 1963-1968 dominated Congress and did something for the civil rights of the blacks over the objections of the white establishment in the South. Andrew Johnson, like Clinton, had great hopes for the blacks and achieved little. Both were impeached.
JE comments: A good point from Robert Whealey: Lincoln and LBJ probably did the most of any US presidents for the rights of African-Americans. Might we place Truman, who integrated the military, in third place?
In Defense of Nixon
(Nigel Jones, -UK
01/05/13 8:17 AM)
While discussing US Presidents (see Robert Whealey, 5 January), can I put in a word for the much maligned Richard Milhous Nixon on the occasion of the centenary of his birth?
According to his British biographer Jonathan Aitken, like Nixon a sinner whose sins found him out (Aitkin, a former British Tory Cabinet MInister, served a prison sentence for perjury, where he found God and now works for prison rehabilitation), Nixon's Presidential achievements were numerous--and not just in the foreign field.
Coming from what Aitken calls "a hardscrabble poor background," Nixon owed his political advancements to his own high intelligence and hard work rather than to money, still less to charm (Nixon had none of either).
Aitken lists the following achievements of the Nixon Presidency:
The ending of Chinese isolation (a prize shared with Henry Kissinger).
The first US President to visit Moscow, where he negotiated the SALT treaty.
Saving Israel from near annihilation in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Ending the Vietnam War.
De-segregating southern schools.
Ending the Draft.
Launching the Environmental Protection Agency.
Creating more national parks than any other President.
Launching the Federally funded national war on cancer.
To these, though Aitken does not mention them, I would add Nixon's pre-Presidential achievements of
Nailing and exposing the Soviet spy and traitor Alger Hiss.
Publicly standing up to and berating the bullying Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev.
Compared to all this, I agree with Aitken that the Watergate cover-up is pretty small beer--and looks smaller still as it recedes into time. It should never be forgotten that it was the so-called "liberal" Democrats who launched and prosecuted the disastrous Vietnam War, and it was the arch-conservative Nixon who ended it.
By a strange reversal of fortune that would have brought a wintry smile to Nixon's lips, it is he who looks as though, in Aitken's words, like a "good buy on the stock exchange of history," while the tawdry Kennedys, with their corruption, drugs, crooked money, nepotism, look more and more cheap by comparison. JFK stole the 1960 election from Nixon with the help of rigged votes in Chicago. And Nixon, when he finally got to the office, proved an incomparably better President.
Nixon will never be top of the pops because Liberals, so dominant in US culture, loathe him, but he had a far greater and deeper mind than his enemies give him credit for, and I believe that posterity will give him the credit that is his due.
JE comments: The Nixon centennial is Wednesday, January 9, which is a good time to re-appraise his presidency and legacy. There is a lot to say in Nixon's favor. The opening to China was possibly the most significant US foreign-policy initiative since the Marshall Plan. As Nigel Jones also notes, the EPA was a notable achievement on the domestic front. But how about wage and price controls (1971)? In terms of domestic policy, no "liberal" today could get away with the government meddling that Nixon practiced. And though Nigel Jones won't agree, this Latin Americanist cannot forgive Nixon's brutality in overthrowing the Allende government in Chile.
I especially hope Gilbert Doctorow will join this conversation, as (Vietnam excepted), I believe he is an admirer of Nixon's realpolitik.
Learning to Love Nixon
(Gilbert Doctorow, Belgium
01/05/13 11:03 AM)
My thanks to JE for the invitation to join the conversation in praise of Richard Nixon.
Nixon is an acquired taste, like single malt whiskeys or grand cru Bordeaux wines. It took me many years to join the party, but here I am. See my blog on this very subject:
So, let us raise a glass of bubbly in President Nixon's honor, to his revival of the Realpolitik tradition in the White House that was last seen in the times of Teddy Roosevelt and regrettably, has not been seen since.
In closing, I send all WAISers warm greetings from Essaouira on the Moroccan coast. Europe's own Florida...
JE comments: Ah, but Essaouira doesn't have giant crustaceans:
Gilbert: I hate to bother you while on Holiday, but we'd love a Morocco report. Few WAISers rival you when it comes to the travel genre!
- On the Other Hand, Nixon... (Randy Black, USA 01/05/13 12:59 PM)
Nigel Jones's list of Nixon achievements (5 January) requires some corrections:
To claim that Nixon desegregated Southern schools seems a stretch of the imagination. Even Nixon's biographer and noted historian Stephen Ambrose "observes that 'Nixon had to be hauled kicking and screaming into desegregation on a meaningful scale, and he did what he did not because it was right but because he had no choice.' The political scientist Michael Genovese concurs, telling us that Nixon sought to 'withdraw the federal government from its efforts at desegregation.'" See: Journal of Policy History, vol. 19, pp. 367-394.
Did Nixon end the Vietnam war? Ford was President when the US conducted its withdrawal that Nixon had begun. Nixon invaded Cambodia and initiated huge bombing campaigns that killed hundreds of thousands.
Did Nixon launch the EPA? Hardly. His only real contribution was his signature to an executive order that others proposed. Historical documents demonstrate that Senator Henry Jackson was the driving force in the creation of the EPA.
Ditto on the claim that Nixon launched the war on cancer. "Tricky" did nothing more than sign an act in 1971 that amended the Public Health Service Act.
Ditto Nixon and the National Parks system. Officially established by Woodrow Wilson, the National Park Service as a cabinet-level seat has flourished more or less since 1916.
Perhaps Nigel can verify where he learned that President Nixon established the most national parks.
Clinton, for instance, created 19 national monuments (part of the National Parks system) and expanded others. Nixon had none. I can identify only two of the 58 national parks that Nixon even had a connection to: Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and one in New York. www.treehugger.com rates Nixon 8th of 10 on its list of "greenest US Presidents," below LBJ.
JE comments: Shall we proclaim the week of 7 January "Nixon week" on WAIS? Randy Black told me off-Forum that he met Nixon, I presume on the golf course. Did any other WAISers interact with him? Other Nixon anecdotes or appraisals?
So who was the "greenest" President, you ask? I had the same question. First place (see the link above) goes to Thomas Jefferson. The list contains the expected candidates (Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter), but also some surprises: #2 is Andrew Jackson (?), and rounding out the top ten is that "closet green," George W. Bush.
Notably absent: Presidents Clinton and Obama.
On the Other Hand, Nixon...
(Paul Levine, Denmark
01/06/13 3:55 AM)
My thanks to Randy Black (5 January) for setting the record straight on Richard Nixon. From the beginning of his career Nixon was one of the most divisive politicians in postwar US
history. His sleazy campaigns against Jerry Voorhis in 1945 and Helen Gahagan
Douglas in 1948 set the low standard for the anticommunist paranoia that found its high point in McCarthyism. His racist and antisemitic rantings on tape reveal his true character.
Nigel Jones (5 January) trivializes Watergate. Nixon had commissioned a series of crimes and then tried to destroy the evidence. He was disgraced and was forced to resign the presidency or face certain impeachment. Gerald Ford became president and promptly pardoned Nixon for his criminal behavior. From 1974 until his death in 1994, Nixon campaigned to restore his tarnished reputation through a series of public gestures: a visit to China in 1976, a series of television interviews with David Frost in 1977 and the publication of his Memoirs in 1978.
Despite his efforts, Nixon’s reputation remained tarnished. "Richard Nixon was a
serial collector of resentments," notes Rick Perlstein in Nixonland (2008). Memories of his
earlier divisive political campaigns when he earned the name of "Tricky Dick" remained.
He once told his friend Leonard Garment, "You'll never make it in politics, Len. You
just don't know how to lie." When he was interviewed by Time Magazine in 1990, Nixon
was asked: “How do you expect the Watergate affair to be judged in the future?”
Nixon answered by telling a story. After his last trip to China, his friend Claire Booth
Luce told him that every historical figure could be summed up in one sentence and his
would be, “He went to China.” Nixon disagreed. He said that historians were more likely
to write: “He resigned his office.”
For once, Nixon was correct.
JE comments: Now, we remember both things: "Nixon went to China and later resigned his office in disgrace."
Nixon in USSR
(Randy Black, USA
01/06/13 9:57 AM)
While others see President Nixon's legacy as "going to China" or Watergate (see Paul Levine, et al., 6 January), I prefer his "going to the USSR" as a legacy. This morning, I ran across a hilarious video clip of his Kitchen Debate with Khrushchev in 1959 at the Soviet-US trade expo in Moscow.
While the expo video is entertaining, that verbal exchange led to the introduction of Pepsi to Russia 15 years later. Even though Khrushchev is alleged to have remarked later that Pepsi tasted like shoe polish, the fact that more than three million Soviets sampled the cola during that Expo eventually led to its introduction, which even later, benefited me when I arrived in Russian in 1993!
That said, last Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of my departure to Russia for a year of teaching and yet another life-changing adventure.
Twenty years ago (January 2, 1993), I got on a American Airlines flight in Dallas, overnighted in New York, and boarded a very large Aeroflot Il-96 aircraft at JFK the following afternoon. Seated in the forward cabin, I watched in amazement as two Russian fellows struggled a console television onto the plane as "carry-on" baggage. On the takeoff roll, I watched a young boy get up and go to the toilet as the plane picked up speed down the runway. The flight attendant did not seem particularly concerned as the boy entered the lavatory just at the pilot lifted the huge plane's nose. Those two matters should have clued me in on what surprises lay ahead.
Our Aeroflot jet had to refuel in Shannon, Ireland at four in the morning because the fully loaded Soviet-made plane did not have the range to fly non-stop on one tank of avgas. The good news was that the bar in the Shannon airport was open. For the next hour, a good portion of the passengers drank the wonderful Irish beer and bought a few more souvenirs. We finally landed in Moscow 12 hours after leaving New York. From there, my "handlers" loaded me onto the midnight "express" train to Omsk where I, as well as the administrator for the university where I would work, their translator and a bodyguard, arrived 42 hours later, just in time for the Russian Orthodox Christmas celebrations.
Two planes, two taxis, two buses, one 42-hour train ride later and voila, I'd gone from the 60 degrees, overcast January weather of Dallas, 12,500 miles away to the 36 below zero, blowing snow charm of Omsk.
Still suffering from the culture shock of the trip, the following evening I was able to celebrate yet another Christmas in the warmth of a Russian host family's apartment. In that friendly setting, I spied a couple of cans of Pepsi next to the other drinks on the very crowded dinner table. My host saw me licking my lips and offered one of the Pepsis. It was a little taste of home, a trail that led back to that Nixon-Khrushchev meeting in 1959.
JE comments: This seven-minute video is a historical jewel--I haven't watched the "Kitchen Debate" since my college days. (Actually, the clip above is the Nixon-Krushchev press conference which followed the Kitchen Debate.) Comrade Nikita comes across as a crude guy, though affable and avuncular: this is a "chelovek" you'd want to drink vodka with. Nixon is stiffer, but still very cordial.
Fast-forward to Black in Russia: if you haven't already done so, you must read Randy's Tales from Siberia. I just saw that Amazon Prime members can download it for free--but won't you want your own hard copy, which Randy will be happy to autograph for you?
- Nixon in China (Istvan Simon, USA 01/07/13 4:21 AM)
Richard Nixon was no angel. And Watergate was a serious crime. But I disagree with Paul Levine (6 January). Richard Nixon will not be remembered for Watergate, but for his very significant contribution to world peace and shrewd policy towards China. The consequences of that move were much deeper than Watergate, whose consequences were themselves huge. It allowed in particular the United States to "win" the Cold War.
Now, if Nixon were an angel, he would not have gone to China. For after all, Mao Zedong was a mass murderer and no better than Hitler or Stalin. Nonetheless, Nixon's going to China opened a new era in China-United States cooperation which certainly had a huge effect on world peace.
Furthermore, though no one could know it at the time, China undoubtedly made tremendous strides towards more freedom and a more democratic, and less autocratic government than was the case under Mao. One can say with truth that China's government today is corrupt, anti-democratic, and autocratic, but compared to the government of Mao it is a paradise of freedom and democracy. Everything is relative.
Nixon was at least partly responsible for this transformation in China.
JE comments: How "visionary" was Nixon's China visit? Can't we assume that an opening to "Red China" would have taken place more or less at the same time, regardless of who occupied the White House? To be sure, Nixon's long-standing reputation as a Cold Warrior made it politically more acceptable for him to reach out to the enemy than it would have been, say, for Hubert Humphrey or George McGovern.
Nixon in China; "From Mao to Mozart"
(Rodolfo Neirotti, USA
01/07/13 10:55 AM)
Ivan Simon wrote on 7 January: "Nixon's [visit] to China opened a new era in China-United States cooperation."
As a musician, Istvan may remember the movie "From Mao to Mozart" about the visit of Isaac Stern to China in 1979, as China re-opened its doors to the West. The visit eventually had a significant impact on young Chinese interest for classical music. Some of the children Stern taught have become master musicians themselves on the international scene. In Cambridge, we often see the Youth Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra with a large number of Asian players, most of them Chinese, particularly in the string section.
Happy New Year to all!
JE comments: As WAISworld's best violinist and #1 Mozart fan, Istvan Simon must certainly know this film.
One of my resolutions for 2013: to finally meet Dr. Neirotti in person. (Rodolfo: hold me to my promise!)
- Nixon in China (Paul Levine, Denmark 01/07/13 3:11 PM)
I often agree with Istvan Simon but not this time (7 January). Please explain Nixon's contributions
to world peace in Vietnam and Cambodia. And please explain his contributions to
China's policy-making after his visit. This strikes me as typical American hubris.
Just as some claim that Reagan was responsible for "winning" the Cold War, so we
are now to believe that Nixon "transformed" China. Just as Gorbachev responded
to Russian reality--the collapse of its economy--so Mao's followers responded to
Chinese reality: the collapse of the CCP during the disastrous Cultural Revolution.
Deng was the architect of Chinese economic reform. But he was also the architect of
the Tiananmen Massacre and the subsequent paralysis of China's political reform.
JE comments: Nixon was the first US president to "engage" China. But as Paul Levine asks, should we give him any credit for the Chinese economic miracle?
A presidential trivia question: who was the first US president to "engage" Japan? Hint: he was also the only president not to receive the nomination from his own party for re-election. As always with these kinds of contests, no Googling allowed.
(Nigel Jones, -UK
01/08/13 4:53 AM)
Paul Levine (January 7th) seems to be so consumed with hatred for Richard Nixon that he cannot give him credit for any achievement at all.
My own--admittedly grudging--admiration for the late President transcends his often shabby personal conduct, as demonstrated post-Watergate. (Let's face it--all politicians lie). Above all I admire his realism and his resilience. The former shown by his melting of the Cold War with China and Russia which he was able to do as a convinced anti-Communist; the latter by his continued bouncing back from disaster. How many times was old Tricky counted out by the Press and the voter--only to climb back into the ring to deliver an eventual knockout blow?
And, say what you like about Nixon, he never drove his car off a bridge leaving a young woman to slowly asphyxiate inside while he failed to report the incident.
JE comments: "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more" (1962): one of the least accurate political predictions of all time. Here, 50 years later, we keep on kicking (or conversely, praising).
For Nixon Week, I'm still waiting for some first-hand anecdotes. Didn't any WAISers meet him?
(My thanks, by the way, to Nigel Jones for launching Nixon Week with his post of 5 January.)
- Nixon, Vietnam and Cambodia (Istvan Simon, USA 01/08/13 5:27 AM)
Paul Levine (7 January) asked me to explain Nixon's contribution to world peace in Vietnam and Cambodia. I will be glad to explain.
Nixon's policy in Cambodia was the correct policy, just as it was correct in Vietnam.
Those who opposed the Vietnam war have a tremendous responsibility in the subsequent events; a responsibility that the protesters that forced America's defeat in the Vietnam war never acknowledged.
When North Vietnam took over South Vietnam, a whole generation of Vietnamese fled the Communists in rickety boats, preferring the dangers at sea, where they were often attacked by pirates, murdered and raped at sea, and for those who reached safe haven, long stays in refugee camps in terrible conditions, until they could be absorbed by the countries that were generous enough to receive them, mostly the United States. These are the "boat people," and their suffering was directly caused by the "peace protesters" in the United States.
It was President Kennedy who said in his famous inaugural speech, to which I listened in 1961, mesmerized:
"We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
These marvelous words inspired me as a teenager. I, who had seen the disgraceful freedomless slavery offered by Communism in the streets of Budapest in 1956, believed and admired President Kennedy for saying these inspiring words.
But they were not true. For the generation that was asked to fight the Vietnam war in defense of liberty was not willing to bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, and oppose any foe. So America was forced to the Vietnamization of the fighting, by the peace protesters--the Nixon policy that Paul Levine wants me to explain.
But what other policy could a President of the United States have followed in Paul Levine's opinion, in response to those that opposed the war? Because, let me say it without mincing words: it was certainly less burdensome for the protesters to listen to rock music, and the Beatles, than to die in the jungles of Vietnam in defense of liberty. What would Paul Levine had done if he were in the position of President Nixon? Just hand over Vietnam to the Communists?
So, Nixon's policy of Vietnamization of the fighting was a natural response, and an honorable one, to the challenge of those that opposed the war in the United States. The response to the Jane Fondas, who went to her eternal shame to Hanoi, while Senator McCain was being tortured a few miles from her. Shame on Jane Fonda. She was a traitor to her country, and she should have been shot as one. She would have been in any country, but the United States, where instead of being shot, as she should have been, she became an even richer multi-millionaire, marrying Ted Turner, and peddling exercise videos.
Likewise, in Cambodia, Nixon's policy was correct. Nixon bombed Cambodia, because Cambodia needed to be bombed, because the Ho Chi Minh trail went through Cambodia, through which the North Vietnamese were smuggling military supplies to their forces.
The consequences of the "peace protesters" of the United States, which forced the United States' defeat in the Vietnam War, were the people hanging from the helicopters leaving Saigon--the eternal shameful images that to my knowledge, none of the peace protesters ever acknowledged. To the boat people that I already mentioned. To the genocide committed by Pol Pot against the Cambodian people. To our allies in Laos being abandoned to their fate.
The domino theory was correct. The peace protesters were not.
JE comments: This is a polemical post from Istvan Simon and I'm bracing myself for the responses. For now, I'll have to emphatically disagree on a few points--is Istvan saying that had the US stayed the course in Vietnam/Cambodia, democracy would eventually have triumphed, and Vietnam today would be more or less like South Korea? How much longer should we have persevered in that quagmire? Another 40,000 or so US dead? As for America's youth in the 1960s preferring the Beatles over dying in Vietnam, I say: absolutely.
Finally, if nothing else, Vietnam proved that the domino theory was not correct: "we" actually lost Indochina, but the entire world didn't succumb to Communism.
Nixon in Recent Books
(Harry Papasotiriou, Greece
01/08/13 2:51 PM)
Nixon was a highly polarizing figure in his own time and evidently remains so today, judging from the recent WAIS discussion. Recently I read Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, an interesting overview of the period from LBJ's landslide victory in 1964 to Nixon's landslide re-election in 1972. While Perlstein comes from the left, his book can be read with profit by anyone interested in that fascinating period regardless of one's ideological orientation. Perlstein does--if somewhat grudgingly--acknowledge Nixon's quest for greatness in international affairs, which led to his most memorable successes. He is very weak on the strategic analysis of the Vietnam War (the Vietnam chapter in Pape's Bombing to Win is infinitely better). Perlstein is very good and vivid in describing the changes and movements in American society in those turbulent years--both on the left and on the right--and he also has found some fascinating and sometimes sordid bits of conversation in Nixon's office. (Nixon was of course secretly recording the conversations in his office for some two-and-a-half years.)
It is worth pointing out that Nixon created the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). He also with his wage and prices freeze arguably moved further away from the free-market system than any other American president, though he did so entirely for political reasons (he did not believe in the freeze economically, but wanted to do it so that the Democrats couldn't blame inflation on him for not doing it). He was a complex, multifaceted historical figure. For his foreign policy I recommend Dallek's Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power. Even though Dallek is not a conservative and is critical of Nixon's Vietnam policy, he acknowledges his greatness regarding China and détente with the Soviet Union.
JE comments: Excellent recommendations; my thanks to Harry Papasotiriou.
Nixon Government a "Well of Contradictions": Lins da Silva
(David Fleischer, Brazil
01/10/13 3:55 AM)
Another contribution to the "Nixon Week" collection. Lins da Silva is a Brazilian journalist who was a correspondent in Washington and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. As you might imagine, I do not agree with most of his statements herein.
09/01/2013 - 06h05
Análise: Governo de Nixon foi um poço de contradições
CARLOS EDUARDO LINS DA SILVA
ESPECIAL PARA A FOLHA
É comum a elaboração de listas dos melhores presidentes da história dos EUA por historiadores, jornalistas ou pelo público geral. Nelas, o nome de Richard Nixon, cujo centenário de nascimento ocorre hoje, nunca aparece entre os dez primeiros.
No entanto, poucos dos que em geral ficam no topo entre os 44 homens que ocuparam o cargo fizeram tanto quanto ele, em termos de políticas públicas de consequências duradouras e benéficas para o país e de atos de Estado importantes para a história mundial.
Apesar de suas realizações, o legado de Nixon estará sempre maculado pelo escândalo de Watergate, que o forçou a ser o primeiro (e até agora único) presidente americano a renunciar ao posto (para evitar um impeachment que era absolutamente certo).
Nixon foi um personagem shakespeariano. Não por acaso motivou filmes, peças e até uma ópera. Sua gestão foi um poço de contradições.
"Falcão" histórico, pôs fim à Guerra do Vietnã, que ceifava a vida de 300 americanos por dia quando ele assumiu o poder em 1969, e acabou com o serviço militar obrigatório em seu país.
Anticomunista histérico, estabeleceu relações diplomáticas entre EUA e China comunista; com isso a referendou como integrante da comunidade internacional e acelerou um processo de "détente" com a União Soviética.
Antissemita instintivo, fez de um judeu, o secretário de Estado Henry Kissinger, a pessoa mais importante de seu governo, ao final até mais relevante que ele próprio.
Beneficiário de doações políticas de empresas dos setores econômicos mais depredadores do ambiente, criou a Agência de Proteção ao Ambiente e sancionou uma revolucionária legislação de combate à poluição.
Associado a grupos políticos que tentavam boicotar o avanço dos direitos civis para os negros, criou e implantou as primeiras leis de ação afirmativa e garantiu o fim da segregação racial em escolas públicas.
Nixon viu o homem chegar à Lua, aprovou o programa Apollo-Soyuz, que colocou americanos e soviéticos em cooperação científica e terminou com a corrida espacial.
Seu projeto de assistência médica à população era quase tão inclusivo quanto o de Barack Obama e só não foi implantado porque os democratas na oposição, liderados por Edward Kennedy, o derrotaram por quererem outro, que fosse universal.
Mas a personalidade paranoide, autoritária, obsessiva de Nixon o levou ao desastre político de Watergate e obscureceu sua biografia.
Candidato à reeleição em 1972, era o favorito absoluto contra o frágil candidato democrata, George McGovern.
Nada impediria sua vitória, que de fato ocorreu com uma consagradora avalanche de votos (60,6% dos populares, a quarta maior porcentagem de todos os tempos, e 520 dos 537 eleitorais).
Apesar de todos saberem que se tratava de uma "barbada", que o redimiria definitivamente das derrotas eleitorais de 1960 (para a Presidência, contra John Kennedy) e 1962 (para o governo da Califórnia, contra Pat Brown), Nixon autorizou a execução de atos ilegais para assegurar sua vitória.
Entre eles, a invasão do diretório nacional do Partido Democrata no edifício Watergate, onde esperava encontrar documentos comprometedores contra o adversário McGovern, e contribuições de campanha irregulares.
Os invasores de Watergate foram presos, doações ilegais, descobertas e reveladas ao público. Para piorar, Nixon agiu para encobrir os crimes, destruir provas que o ligassem a eles e obstruir a Justiça.
Resultado: processo de impeachment, renúncia, humilhação pública, da qual só conseguiu se recuperar, e apenas parcialmente, muito tempo depois.
CARLOS EDUARDO LINS DA SILVA é editor da revista "Política Externa"
JE comments: We don't post often in Portuguese, but it's important to show the international scope of Nixon Week! Lins da Silva's essay brings up many of the same points Nigel Jones listed in the NW opening salvo of 5 January: Nixon's overtures to China, the EPA, health care policy, and advances in Civil Rights. As one of Nixon's "contradições," Lins da Silva also mentions the appointment of Kissinger as the President's most important adviser, despite Nixon's "instinctive anti-Semitism." I'm not sure what instinctive anti-Semitism is, but I had no idea Nixon practiced it.
A minor correction: It was President Ford, not Nixon, who abolished the military draft in the US (1975).
Here's a Portuguese vocabulary word I've never seen before: "o impeachment." Wonder what that means... (?).
- Trivia Question: First US President to "Engage" Japan (David Pike, -France 01/08/13 11:15 AM)
To answer JE's trivia question of 7 January: Truman, obviously (without looking!).
There are similarities with the case of Lyndon Johnson, who had to contend with far more attractive Democrats than he: McCarthy, then Bobby Kennedy. Johnson announced on the day he withdrew that there comes a time in any man's life when he gets tired of being hit over the head. In the case of Truman, I remember his showing a certain disregard for re-election, or at the very least a benign resignation to losing the nomination. He let this slip when he was saying goodbye to Princess Elizabeth during her stay at the White House, saying that she would always be welcome, whoever had the White House.
JE comments: Truman certainly "engaged" Japan, but he wasn't the first President to do so. Nor did Truman fail to win re-nomination from his party. Still, David Pike's "wrong" answer shows the historian at his/her best--it's a thoroughly interesting response!
Bienvenido Macario proposed Chester A. Arthur. No: we have to go back a few more decades.
So, once again, here's the TQ (trivia question): who was the first US president to "engage" or open up trade with Japan? Not only did he fail to win his party's nomination for re-election, his birthday was yesterday (7 January). Now, no more hints. And remember, Googling is forbidden.
- Nixon and Health Policy (Utkan Demirci, USA 01/06/13 4:21 AM)
Happy New Year to all WAISers.
It seems some of the Nixon policies were also shortsighted in certain medical areas, as summarized in the following editorial:
I quote the the most relevant sections:
"On October 30, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed section 2991 of Public Law 92- 603, or the 1972 amendments to the Social Security Act. Enacted in July 1973, provisions within this amendment established end-stage renal disease (ESRD) as the only healthcare condition to be covered under Medicare for persons under the age of 65 and without other disabilities. At the time that this near-universal healthcare entitlement was adopted, there were approximately 7000 patients with ESRD needing dialysis treatment. This legislation was adopted with the vision that the ESRD Program would bring great social value at a modest cost, and with the further expectation that some form of national health insurance was likely to be implemented within one to two years (Nissenson AR, Rettig RA: "Medicare's end-stage renal disease program: Current status and future prospects." Health Aff (Millwood) 18: 161-179, 1999).
"In the 33 years since the adoption of this momentous change in healthcare policy, the scope and human impact of the Medicare ESRD Program have grown enormously. According to data provided by the United States Renal Data System (USRDS), there are over 400,000 persons in the US with ESRD, of whom 300,000 are receiving dialysis therapy, with expectations of growth to literally millions of patients by 2030 (Xue JL, Ma JZ, Louis TA, Collins AJ: "Forecast of the number of patients with end-stage renal disease in the United States to the year 2010." J Am Soc Nephrol 12: 2753-2758, 2001).
"Not only is the overall cost of the ESRD Program growing, but the cost of ESRD spending as a proportion of all Medicare dollars is also increasing over time. In 2002, Medicare spent $17.0 billion on the ESRD Program, approximately 6.7% of the total Medicare budget (United States Renal Data System. 2004 Annual Data Report. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD: 2004). Thus, the social experiment in sustaining life through dialysis care is also straining Medicare's resources during an era of growing concern about Medicare's long-term solvency. Moreover, there is a strong impetus to develop payment systems based on improving quality outcomes, a topic recently deliberated upon in JASN by representatives of the American Society of Nephrology and the National Kidney Foundation (Himmelfarb J, Pereira BJ, Wesson DE, Smedberg PC, Henrich WL: "Payment for quality in end-stage renal disease." J Am Soc Nephrol 15: 3263-3269, 2004).
"Despite seismic shifts that have developed within the ESRD Program, methods of payment within the program to physicians and providers have until recently remained static. Since 1983, the Medicare Program has reimbursed dialysis providers for a specified bundle of service at a flat fee known as the composite rate."
Overall, having a bundle type of reimbursement is in my understanding very similar to a socialist/communist economic system, which holds innovation at the door, as there is no incentive for the stakeholders to bring in new approaches, which could enable better patient services. For instance, an innovative technology that might actually help the patient would have to fit into the bundle, replacing some other service or product, unless the patients are willing to pay for it themselves. Recently, there is a trend towards bedside monitoring and rapid diagnostic tools, which could benefit patients. However, these technologies may find bundle-based approaches as impediments to emerge through viable business models. There needs to be changes in the structure of reimbursement and patient care strategies, where there is more responsibility for stakeholders to keep patients out of the hospital, and free of infections. Performance-based healthcare could lead to better solutions optimizing the parameters for the patient's best interests.
JE comments: I'd like to know more about the Nixon-era discussions on National health insurance. What prevented this from happening? Was it the general economic malaise of the mid-1970s?
Nixon Week on WAIS is kicking off with some very interesting comments. From Utkan Demirci we learn that Nixon's decision to add dialysis to the treatments covered by Medicare has proven to be exorbitantly expensive. Further thoughts on Nixon's health policy? His economic legacy? As Paul Levine pointed out (5 January), we tend to reduce Nixon's presidency to "he went to China, and later resigned his office in disgrace."
Best New Year's wishes to Utkan. It was great to re-connect with you in 2012. Look forward to a "WAIStastic" 2013!
- Spielberg's *Lincoln* (Alan Levine, USA 01/06/13 4:25 PM)
I saw Spielberg's film Lincoln last night, and I thought it was very good. The recreation of the mood of the times, with the smoke, fireplaces, and everyone wrapped in blankets in the White House was excellent. It did a good job of subtly indicating the horrors of the war. Daniel Day-Lewis let an Irish accent creep in in a few places, but he was truly excellent as Lincoln. Totally natural and believable. By contrast, Sally Field felt like she was acting.
But I didn't quite get the previous commentary by various WAISers about how Machiavellian Lincoln was. I saw only two signs of that. First, Lincoln corruptly bought votes. But was that so obnoxious that every WAISer couldn't do the same? And note, a few key Representatives refused bribes but voted with Lincoln in the end anyway out of conscience. Second, Lincoln delayed the peace mission from the South and lied to several of his allies about what he was doing. He had a coalition with conflicting interests and had to lie to both sides to get the 13th Amendment passed. That was quite distasteful because it involved lying to some of his closest friends and allies. Is that what WAISers were commenting on? Otherwise, I'm at a loss to see what was so Machiavellian.
JE comments: WAISers know I'm a Lincoln fan. I don't recall anyone calling him Machiavellian; certainly the adjective hasn't been used in recent posts. At most, a couple of us (Robert Whealey and myself) referred to Lincoln's "wheeling and dealing" to get the requisite Congressional votes for the abolition Amendment.
I thought Sally Field was a dead-ringer for Mary Todd Lincoln. Perhaps she came across as "acting" in the film, but the original MTL was known for her histrionics. Another excellent performance came from Tommy Lee Jones, who played Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens.
Daniel Day-Lewis's "Irishness"; Eric Edward Dorman-Smith
(Nigel Jones, -UK
01/07/13 4:33 AM)
Alan Levine (6 January) mentions in passing while discussing Spielberg's new biopic Lincoln that its star Daniel Day-Lewis sometimes "let an Irish accent through." This is odd, since Day-Lewis is as Irish as I am: i.e., not at all. He was born and brought up in Greenwich, London, with an English father, the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, and an English Jewish mother, the actress Jill Balcon.
His father, Cecil Day-Lewis was, it is true, of an Anglo-Irish background (of the ruling Protestant gentry rather than the oppressed Catholic majority), but left Ireland as a small child and in 1948, when Ireland became a Republic, chose British nationality "because the [Second World] war had taught me where my real roots lay," eventually becoming Britain's official Poet Laureate.
His son's Irish affectations began in 1989 when he was cast in the role of the handicapped Irish writer Christy Brown in the film My Left Foot. As a well-known exponent of the Method school of acting, D D-L immersed himself in Irish life and assumed the "Oirish" accent which Alan mentions. But it is, in fact, totally faked: Day-Lewis, however ashamed of his nation he may be, is actually entirely English, and such Irish roots as he has are those of the formerly oppressive Anglo-Irish ruling caste.
Nevertheless, this raises the interesting question of why so many stars of a left-liberal persuasion loathe their Englishness with a passion that patriotic Americans might find hard to understand. My guess is that it is a hangover from the days of the British Empire, and has analogies with the anti-Americanism of "Hanoi Jane" Fonda at the height of the Vietnam War.
To be top dog is never attractive, and one can understand why so many identify with the underdog. It is interesting that so many members of the Anglo-Irish caste suffered such conflicts of loyalty. Many of the heroes of Irish nationalism in fact stem from this former ruling class, rather than the Catholic Irish majority they purported to represent: Wolfe Tone, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Charles Stewart Parnell, Roger Casement, Erskine Childers, Patrick Pearse, Maud Gonne, Constance Markiewicz (nee Gore-Booth)--all were Anglo-Irish rather than Irish and all hated their paternal homeland with a passion far outweighing their love for ould Ireland. An equally impressive roll call of Anglo-Irishmen, of course, served the Empire loyally (usually in a military capacity). These include Wellington, Kitchener and Montgomery.
I am currently researching a particularly interesting case study of such a figure. Eric Edward "Chink" Dorman-Smith was born in County Cavan and was heir to a large estate. Baptised a Catholic as an infant (his brothers remained Protestants), he was educated at an English Public School and the Sandhurst military academy and joined the British Army. He met and befriended Ernest Hemingway on the Italian front in the Great War, and Hem put him into several novels, notably Fiesta aka The Sun Also Rises and Across the River and Into the Trees. Always a maverick and a moderniser, "Chink" fell out with the Army Establishment over his impassioned advocacy of mechanisation between the world wars. However, in the desert war, it was his plan that led to an inferior British force defeating and completely rolling up the Italian Army in North Africa at Sidi Barrani in 1940 and the fateful deployment of Rommel's Afrika Korps to save the situation. "Chink" fell out with Montgomery and Churchill, and was abruptly dismissed in 1944. His embitterment with the British Establishment was so great, that he abruptly re-discovered his Irish roots, changed his name to the Irish-sounding O'Gowan, ran for the Irish Parliament on a nationalist ticket, and ended up by throwing his estate open to the IRA to conduct military exercises, offering to lead a full-blown IRA invasion of Northern Ireland! (Much to their embarrassment, since they were wary of this former pillar of the English Establishment's sudden conversion to their cause.) Chink died of cancer in 1969.
I don't think that D D-L's "faux Irishness" has yet gone as far as his!
JE comments: Interesting. Day-Lewis is a dialectical chameleon, in the sense that he speaks "American" in his recent roles (There Will Be Blood, Lincoln). Since this is dialect week on WAIS (in addition to Nixon Week--what about the dialect of Nixon?), it would be interesting to discuss the large number of UK actors who have learned to pass in Hollywood for Americans--besides DD-L, we have Kate Winslet, Christian Bale, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law. Nobody in the US watching their recent films would ever suspect their Englishness.
A question for Nigel Jones: are you researching a book on "Chink" Dorman-Smith? His life sounds like a real page-turner--and great material for a biopic.
Meryl Streep's "Englishness"
(John Heelan, -UK
01/07/13 1:34 PM)
JE commented on 7 January: "it would be interesting to discuss the large number of UK actors who have learned to pass in Hollywood for Americans."
And vice versa. Last evening I watched Meryl Streep portray Maggie Thatcher in the film The Iron Lady. She managed to capture Maggie's voice as PM, a role for which Thatcher took elocution lessons to lower the the tone of her voice to make it more commanding. Not only did Streep manage to get the voice pitch-perfect (to my ears anyway), but she also captured Thatcher's distinctive delivery that I remember so well.
Although I did not support Thatcher's later policies (despite my voting for her initially to defeat the overpowerful unions that were holding the UK to ransom in the late '70s and early '80s), I admired her as a brave, strong if sometimes mistaken politician who was head and shoulders above her contemporaries of any party.
Streep's portrayal of Thatcher strongly reminded me of the reasons I did so.
JE comments: No one can do an accent like Meryl Streep. Perhaps Sacha Baron Cohen? (Seriously).
- Meryl Streep's "Englishness" (John Heelan, -UK 01/07/13 1:34 PM)
- Trivia Question: First US President to "Engage" Japan (David Pike, -France 01/08/13 11:15 AM)
- Nixon Government a "Well of Contradictions": Lins da Silva (David Fleischer, Brazil 01/10/13 3:55 AM)
- Nixon, Vietnam and Cambodia (Istvan Simon, USA 01/08/13 5:27 AM)
- Nixon in China (Paul Levine, Denmark 01/07/13 3:11 PM)
- Nixon in China (Istvan Simon, USA 01/07/13 4:21 AM)
- Nixon in USSR (Randy Black, USA 01/06/13 9:57 AM)
- On the Other Hand, Nixon... (Randy Black, USA 01/05/13 12:59 PM)
- Learning to Love Nixon (Gilbert Doctorow, Belgium 01/05/13 11:03 AM)
- In Defense of Nixon (Nigel Jones, -UK 01/05/13 8:17 AM)
- Spielberg's *Lincoln* (Robert Whealey, USA 01/04/13 8:44 AM)
- Spielberg's *Lincoln* (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/03/13 2:00 PM)
- EU and Democracy; Spielberg's *Lincoln* (Robert Whealey, USA 01/03/13 10:38 AM)