Sunday, June 28, 2009

June 26, 2009

"The bottom line is this," he said, "I have been unfaithful to my wife."  He said it all started about a year ago, "that whole sparking thing."  Then the relationship went into "serious overdrive."  They met twice in secret;  third time, not so lucky. So, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford joins a distinguished list:  former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Republican Senators John Ensign of Nevada and David Vitter, Louisiana.  Want to go back a littler earlier?  Add President Bill Clinton, former Republican Senator Larry Craig, former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey...  What gets into these guys?  I used to think it was simply arrogance - "I'm big and powerful;  I can get away with stuff.  You can't."  But there have been so many now who didn't get away with it that it's hard to imagine a thoughtful newcomer to the gang adopting that rationalization - especially a Republican who has run as "Mr. Family Values Guy" knowing perfectly well that he isn't. It's also possible that it's easier for Democrats to cheat.  Did John Kennedy?  Everybody I knew back then who covered him thought so.  Did his brother, Edward?  Same answer. And perhaps the most flamboyant -  "In your face, voters;  I got away with it" - was Bill Clinton, a reasonably successful, easily re-elected two-term president.  I remember covering stories in Cuba (the Pope was visiting Fidel) when half of us suddenly got cables:  "Come home!  There's this intern!  Come home!"  Well, we did go home and we did all learn about the intern.  Monica, her name was.  And we learned about the blue dress, cigars and kneepads.  Lurid?  Yes.  Vulgar?  Yes.  Gotten away with?  Damn straight.  You can argue about the tarnish on his presidency.  You can't argue that he survived impeachment. Is it easier for Democrats to sin unpunished?  I don't know.  The only thing we can be sure of, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, is that it ain't over 'til it's over.  And, in fact, it ain't over.  You can almost hear the anchor announcing, "Joining Mark Sanford and John Ensign is...."  But I'll leave the next name up to you.  I'm sure we both agree, there will be one.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

June 24, 2009

   "The more things change," some pesky Frenchman said, a century or two ago, "the more they are the same."  Right again, pesky Frenchman. This week the National Archives in College Park and the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, released about 30,000 pages of previously classified documents and tapes from the Nixon years.  Did we learn new things?  Sure.  Did we learn big new stuff about the players?  Good heavens, no. We learned, for instance, that in 1970 President Richard Nixon, the hero of these pages, told Armed Services Committee Chairman John Stennis of Mississippi that the United States was going to provide arms and run incursions into Cambodia, as well as continuing secret B-52 bombing raids "which only you and Sen. Russell know about."  (Russell had preceded Stennis as Armed Services Committee Chairman.)  Nothing new or surprising about Nixon in this.  The President loved secrets and surprises, loved having as few people as possible know what was going on, was not a believer in wartime democracy.  No surprises about Russell or Stennis either.  These were duty-honor-country senators of an earlier era who, told "It's for the good of the country," would say, "Yes, sir, Mr. President.  My lips are sealed." The Washington Post reports that the memos also give insights into a "well-known characteristic" of Nixon and his aides - "a hair trigger sensitivity to political rivals and quick machinations against them."  Example?  A Nixon directive to "destroy" Democratic vice-presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton.  Nixon's notes call Eagleton a "pipsqueak."  Nixon did destroy Eagleton, of course, when news leaked that the Democrat had undergone electric shock therapy.  That might not matter all that much nowadays - we are more sophisticated about treatment for mental illness - but back then, it blew the ticket out of the water.  Eagleton begged to stay.  McGovern, originally behind him "1000 percent," eventually pushed him off the ticket.   One genuine surprise:  Nixon turns out to have supported the Equal Rights Amendment.  It lost. Another surprise:   Nixon supported some abortions.  He told Charles Colson after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, "I admit, there are times when abortions are necessary, I know that.  When you have a black and a white...Or rape."Shocking?   Oh yes.  Out of character?   Not at all. The tapes cover new and old issues - Watergate and so on.  Sometimes they tell us new things about what happened, but mostly they don't - mostly they confirm what we thought we knew about those men - about Richard Nixon and H. R. Haldeman,  John Ehrlichman and the rest. The more things change, the more they are the same?  Damn right, pesky Frenchman, damn right.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 4th, 2009

     I've been looking without success--I know it's in a file somewhere, I just haven't found it yet--for a tiny piece of history.   It's a white envelope, smudged by time, on which some then young hand had written "Long love democracy!"  One of the kids in Tien An Minh Square wrote that and gave it to me 20 years ago.  The grammar is shaky, but who could argue with the thought?
     Those of us who covered the demonstration got to know some of the kids, of course.  I helped one get into college later on here in Washington.  We got to know them and like them, care about what happened to them and admire what they were doing.   There were speeches;  who remembers what they said?  There were symbols--the giant statue of the Goddess of Democracy, wasn't it?  And one man standing alone bringing a line of tanks to a halt.  There were slogans - "the People's Army must not attack the people."  But they did, of course.  There was, in the end, quite a lot of death.   I left a few days before the killing;  my visa had expired.  But "long love democracy?"  What about that?  I guess I just don't know.
       China's economy has, of course, become a world-class force, maybe bigger than our own   You see Chinese goods everywhere.  Whether an economy can keep growing like that without any movement toward political freedom remains a fascinating question now, just as it did back then.
   I'd love to meet some of the kids I knew back then--middle-aged parents, they'd be now-- and ask them how they think it's gone, but that's unlikely.  The one I helped get into school here is American now with an American husband, American kids.
   My feeling, and that's all it is, is that the love of and need for freedom still burn among Chinese, even though they have no experience of it.   Maybe the American poet Langston Hughes sensed the answer when he wrote,  "What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ like raisin in the sun?/Or fester like a sore--/... Or does it explode?" .

Lauren found her dream laptop. Find the PC that's right for you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2, 2009

      On his day in 1953, 56 years ago, Elizabeth II was formally crowned Queen of England. She's actually become Queen sixteen months earlier when her father died, but the British don't like to rush these big ceremonies.
     And it was big.  "Elizabeth II," the title rolled out, "by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Queen, Empress of India..."  Actually it wasn't quite that grand even back then.  India didn't have an empress.  It and Pakistan had become independent in 1947.  Still, there were vestiges of the old empire busily turning into the new Commonwealth, and the Queen had lots of issues to worry about.
     She doesn't rule, of course.  The Prime Minister of whichever party has a majority in Parliament does come to see her on a regular basis to brief her on what's going on.  One person, with access to that kind of information for over half a century.  What if we had somebody like that?  Has she made a difference?
     Hard for an outsider to know, of course.  The suspicion is that, if she's a smart woman,  she probably has offered valuable advice from time to time.  She's had prime ministers like Tony Blair who were probably smart enough to take it, and unfortunates like Gordon Brown who probably weren't   But wouldn't it be fun to get her to chat about it for an evening! 
     Brings in the tourist dollars too.  I kind of wish we had one, don't you? .  

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Monday, June 1, 2009

June 1, 2009

     I think the poet William Butler Yeats had it about right:    
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction,  while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
I mean, how would you describe an America in which General Motors files for bankruptcy? They gave us hints of course.  The one that sticks in my mind is the day when the three auto company chiefs came to Washington to testify before a Congressional committee, each arriving in D. C. aboard his own private jet.  And you thought, can they really be that dumb?  And, of course, they could.
But that is not the America we were taught to believe in.  We were taught that it was government that was stupid and foolish, that the genius of America was its captains of industry -  masters of the universe, they sometimes called themselves.  If dumb, old government would just get out of the way things, would be swell forever.
So now it's all new and strange.  Is that a car company over there?  Nope, just a rusting Pontiac.  What was a Pontiac?  Never mind, son, doesn't matter any more.  Will there be an American car industry?  Beats me, pal.  Somebody somewhere will build 'em and we'll probably buy 'em, if we have the money.  The future?  A great mystery.  Mr. Yeats again:
"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile