Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Nixon's Impeachment, Trump, and American Politics


Nixon’s Impeachment, Trump, and American Politics
Peter Schultz

            Rick Perlstein in his Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, writes about “a spirit of the age” that led “Americans … to train their eyes on ugly truths. They had to abandon their heroes. They had to join the suspicious circles - to abandon blithe optimism.” [261]

            But this is precisely what the impeachment, the hunting of Nixon was all about: Confronting this “spirit of the age,” where the ugliness of American politics and even American life was being revealed – by the war in Vietnam, by the investigations into the CIA, by black power advocates, by feminists, by gays and lesbians coming out, by the free speech movement, by “stagflation,” to name a few phenomena of importance. Impeaching Nixon was a way to hide the ugliness of American politics behind a façade of righteousness. And then, once again, Americans could be made to believe that their politics was not ugly; rather, it was Nixon who was ugly. And, of course, it made perfect sense that this project led to the election of Ronald Reagan, a person who represented, even incarnated the idea that Americans and American politics were not ugly, who incarnated “blithe optimism,” that Perlstein shows was so much a part of Reagan’s politics.

            And after Nixon’s resignation, two phenomena confirm this. First, by forcing Nixon’s resignation, the establishment could claim, once again, that the political system “worked.” It cleaned itself up, as it were, confirming that the Constitution is one of the greatest political documents ever created. Second, by not following through with the impeachment proceedings against Nixon, which would have been perfectly constitutional as early on in our history the Congress decided that a resignation could not stop an impeachment, the curtain of respectability was once again drawn closed, covering over the ugliness of American politics. Nixon was banished and all was well again in the house built by our founding fathers.

            And this is how the story was played, from the White House to the mainstream media. From Gerald Ford, now president: “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” [273, Perlstein] A pundit at the NY Times said that “the end of the ‘Watergate agony’ presaged ‘an era of more open government.’” Frank Wills, the security guard who stumbled on the break in at the Watergate was quoted as saying “NO POSITION TOO HIGH” in a headline whose article said “in America even the president is not above the law.” NY Times senior columnist, James Reston celebrated “A SENSE OF NATIONAL RECONCILIATION” while guest writers quoted James Madison. As Perlstein summarizes: “They all resounded with the very same theme: the resignation proved that no American was above the law, that the system worked, that the nation was united and at peace with itself.” [273. Perlstein]

           
            And what a contrast the new president presented to the recently resigned president. He made his own breakfast; that is, he toasted an English muffin, which became “the joyous keynote – a national talisman of normalcy restored, “ according to the Washington Post. And Ford was “just a balding, square-jawed, honest, straightforwardly pleasant man….a man, who smoked a pipe, like one of those kindly old dads in a 1950s television situation comedy. A pure pragmatist, with no ideology to divide the nation.” Let the good times roll. [278, Perlstein]






            Hiding the ugliness of American politics behind a façade of righteousness has a certain ring to it, especially these days as so many righteously call out Donald Trump for his crassness, his politics, his racism and sexism. And, of course, like Nixon, Trump’s impeachment allowed this righteousness to flourish, while hiding the ugliness of our politics from view. There is no Reagan available to cap this project off these days but there is “Stumbling, Stuttering Uncle” Joe Biden to fill that role. While Biden is no Ronald Reagan, perhaps he will do until the next blithely optimistic doppelganger gets here.


           As William Faulkner wrote somewhere: “The past isn’t dead. In fact, the past isn’t even the past.” Indeed. Or as Mark Twain wrote somewhere: “Maybe history doesn’t repeat itself but it certainly rhymes.”  

           Of course as Perlstein points out, the ugliness of America was still there, even though buried beneath platitudes of pompous patriotic drivel. Three female Episcopalian deacons were banned from performing their official duties because they were …. women. In Jamaica, Queens “a criminal gang of police sergeants had extorted $250,000 from legitimate business owners.” And in Los Angeles, cops were buying bulletproof vests with their own money because they were being shot frequently and the police department wouldn’t buy the vests. It was also the year when Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson as a homicidal vigilante, became one of the most profitable movies of all time. . [274, Perlstein] And Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, asserted “the same kind of people who were paid to do the dirty work in Watergate were paid to so the dirty work in the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations.” [276’ Perlstein] As Malcolm X use to say, you would have to be asleep to believe the American dream, which was actually a nightmare.


           
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Sunday, March 1, 2020

No Country for Old Men? Violence, Bloodshed, and American Politics


No Country for Old Men? Violence, Bloodshed, and American Politics
Peter Schultz

            Americans like to think that our political order is somewhat peaceful, running along fueled by elections every two years and presidential elections every four years. There are debates, sometimes nasty, and there are scandals like Watergate or Iran-Contra. Sometimes presidents resign (once), sometimes presidents step down or don’t seek re-election (once in recent years, LBJ), sometimes a president is not re-elected (twice in recent years, Carter and Bush I). But by and large, people think of the American political order as non-violent and bloodless, even if not exactly peaceful.

            The facts, however, tell a different story, a very different story. In fact, violence and bloodshed are central to our political drama, driving it and impacting its character. Consider the following: JFKs presidency was cut short when he was cut down, assassinated in 1963. Certainly this violent bloodshed had a tremendous impact on our politics insofar as LBJ became president. Consider too that LBJ decided – within days of JFKs assassination – to embrace the use of US troops fighting the war in Vietnam. (JFK approved advisers but never the use of ground troops in Nam.) This led to what is called “the quagmire of Vietnam,” which of course had a tremendous impact on the US, including more violence and bloodshed even within the US as happened at Kent State and Jackson State where American soldiers fired upon and killed American citizens. And this violence and bloodshed eventually let to LBJs abdication of the presidency after one full term, along with more violence and bloodshed in Chicago during the Democratic Party’s national convention.

            It also led to the election of Richard Nixon, who continued and even expanded the war in Vietnam to include almost all of Southeast Asia. Nixon engaged in massive violence and bloodshed not only in Vietnam but also in Cambodia and Laos, the former leading to the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and its “killing fields.”

            Also, in the late 60s, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, along with alleged “radicals” like Fred Hampton in Chicago. Surely these violent and blood soaked assassinations impacted our politics in significant ways as MLK, Malcolm, and RFK espoused significant political alternatives to the prevailing consensus.

            The violence and bloodshed continued with wars in the Middle East and with the overthrow of the Shah in Iran and, eventually, the taking of American hostages. Even Jimmy Carter turned to violence both in Iran – to try to rescue the hostages – and in Afghanistan – where his administration supported jihadists and other Muslims seeking to expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Carter started what became the largest “covert” military action ever undertaken by the CIA.

            The Reagan administration also embraced violence and bloodshed in Nicaragua against the Sandinistas and in Afghanistan where it continued what Carter began, funding the likes of bin Laden, as well as the ISI in Pakistan. The violence and bloodshed in Nicaragua led directly to the Iran-Contra scandal that almost cost Reagan his presidency. Upon his succession to Reagan, George Bush I turned to violence and bloodshed with regard to Panama and, more significantly, with regard to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The latter violence and bloodshed was billed by Bush as liberating the US from what was called “the Vietnam Syndrome,” as well as being the foundation of “a new world order.”

            The Clinton administration embraced violence and bloodshed as well, preferring to label it “humanitarian,” at least in Eastern Europe. It continued the violence against Iraq via sanctions and continued the bloodshed against Iraq with continued and constant bombings. And the Clinton administration even brought violence home via his war on crime that led to the militarization of police forces and the mass incarceration of, primarily, African Americans.

            And then, of course, on 9/11 the violence and bloodshed hit “the homeland,” with the attacks on NYC and the Pentagon. Needless to say, the second Bush administration turned to violence and bloodshed in response to these attacks, using 9/11 as the justification for spying on American citizens, for making war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for torturing “enemy combatants,” et. al. American society was militarized to a degree hitherto unknown, with troops appearing throughout society as well as being glamourized as the protectors of our freedoms and our prosperity. Violence and bloodshed spread throughout the world via the US military, and the phrase “endless wars” became as acceptable as our wars on crime and drugs. The Obama administration continued these wars embraced by the Bush administration, a sign of how deeply indebted our politics was to such violence and bloodshed.

            And yet through all of this history, very few seemed to notice this indebtedness, to the point that the Trump presidency was often presented as a unique challenge to a politics that was, if not always peaceful, devoid of much violence and bloodshed. In fact, however, US politics cannot be understood except as recurring cycles of violence and bloodshed. Which is why perhaps the title of Cormac McCarthy”s book, No Country for Old Men, is a most apt description of the United States.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Democrats 2020: Working for Trump Part 4


The Democrats 2020: Working for Trump Part 4
Peter Schultz


See the below link to a Washington Post article where it is obvious that the Democrats are trying to de-legitimize Sanders' candidacy even though it means re-electing Trump. For those who think my assertion is "off the wall," the Democrats did the same thing to Jimmy Carter in 1980 when they preferred Reagan to Carter. Leon Jaworski, Watergate special prosecutor, headed "Democrats for Reagan" and said he'd prefer "a competent radical [Reagan] to an incompetent moderate [Carter].”  Sen. Eugene McCarthy [Dem. Minn.] also endorsed Reagan. Carter, like Sanders, wasn't the choice of the leading Democrats and so had to be removed even though it meant putting Reagan in the White House. Like today, the establishment Democrats then cared more for their own well-being than the nation's well-being. And it was in response to Carter that the Democrats created what are called their “super delegates” so that a person like Carter, that is, a person popular with the people but not the Democratic establishment, could not get the nomination. And, of course, these super delegates will be helpful in denying Sanders the Democratic nomination this year, leading to the re-election of Trump.



Sunday, February 23, 2020

Democrats 2020: Working to Re-elect Trump


Democrats 2020: Working to Re-elect Trump
Peter Schultz

            As this article from the Washington Post makes perfectly clear, the Democrats are prepared to work to re-elect Donald Trump if the alternative is Bernie Sanders.

Democrats are already moving to undermine Sanders' campaign. Expect this to continue even after Sanders gets the nomination, if he does get it. As this article makes perfectly clear, the mainstream Democrats not only prefer Trump to Sanders but would work and even are working to undermine Sanders and support Trump. "Many of them loathe Trump with a burning passion, but they do not want somebody who is proposing to double the size of the federal government." Take note: while "loathing" Trump, Democrats prefer Trump to Sanders! It can't be any clearer that the Democrats will work to elect Trump again if the alternative is Sanders.

“The leading Democratic candidates running for the four most vulnerable Republican Senate seats — in Arizona, North Carolina, Maine and Colorado — have all come out against Sanders’s signature health care plan, as have many House candidates.”

Well, if these Democrats are against Sanders, then they are or will be for Trump should Bernie get the nomination. That allegedly “burning passion” of hatred for Trump will be doused and Democrats will end up working with Republicans to defeat Sanders and re-elect Trump.
“Former astronaut Mark Kelly, the Democratic Party’s hope for flipping a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, tried to do no harm this month when he was asked about Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I will ultimately support who the nominee is of the Democratic Party,” he said.
“That was enough for Kelly’s Republican rival, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who is trailing him in early polls, to go on the attack. The television spot she debuted days later spent nearly as much time talking about plans by the democratic socialist from Vermont to raise taxes and award new benefits to undocumented immigrants as it did about Kelly.”
            This is how our political order, controlled by two oligarchic parties, works to maintain the oligarchy. Here, the Democrats refuse to support in any real way an insurgent, thereby empowering the Republicans to defeat that insurgent. The result is the continuation and even fortification of our Orwellian oligarchy. And people wonder nothing changes. It’s rather simple actually. Things don’t change because our two parties don’t want change, not real change.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Democrats 2020: Part 2


The Democrats: 2020 Part 2
Peter Schultz


The best take on the Democratic Party, the “debates,”and it’s candidates I’ve seen. Obviously, the debates have become, as intended, a diversion from debating any significant issues. And with two multi-millionaires moderating, the faux-drama went on as planned. This reaffirms my belief that the Democrats not only are untroubled by another Trump term, but actually would prefer one. That’s the best way for them to maintain or fortify their legitimacy as they are unprepared to address the public’s most pressing concerns because they are, essentially, oligarchs waging class war on the public. As is obvious now, with Trump in the White House the likes of Bush Jr., Bill Kristol, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, et. al. look like anything but the imperialistic oligarchs they are. And if anyone thought Bloomberg would be a formidable threat to Trump, that thought should have dissipated after the debate. I suspect, however, this didn’t surprise the mainstream Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer, who aren’t fools. It looks more and more like another four years of Trump, which not only won’t bother the Democrats but might even be welcomed. The oligarchy is desperate to preserve itself and if the oligarchs deem Trump necessary, then so be it, Trump it will be.


https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/02/21/deba-f21.html

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Friday, February 21, 2020

The Democrats 2020


The Democrats 2020
Peter Schultz

            It’s finally become clear to me – although it won’t be to others – that the strategy of the Democratic Party is to ensure, insofar as they can, another 4 years of Trump. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Even sounds crazy, doesn’t it? So what’s up with this? Have I gone around the bend? Perhaps, but……

            So why would the Democrats want 4 more years of a Trump presidency? One reason is because if Trump is president that means that someone like Bernie Sanders isn’t and can’t be president. And it doesn’t take too much imagination to recognize that Bernie represents a threat to the power, to the legitimacy of the likes of Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer, and of course other mainstream Democrats.

            Second, if Trump continues as president than policies that are appealing to large numbers of American citizens but that the Democrats oppose won’t be enacted and the Democrats won’t have to take the blame for their rejection. For example, if Trump is reelected than forgiving student debts will not become law and this is what the wealthy who support the Democratic Party want. These student loans and subsequent student debt is a way of redistributing the wealth of the US upwards, which is of course what the mainstream Democrats have been doing, along with the Republicans, since the Clinton presidency.

            Or consider another example, the “defense” budget. Increasingly, Americans have become skeptical of the nation’s endless wars and have become fidgety about the massive “defense” budgets that are needed to support them. Trump has no problem proposing and securing such massive “defense” budgets, while the Democrats get to complain about them thereby pretending to be less warlike, less imperialistic than Trump and the Republicans. Of course, as past history illustrates any differences between the Republicans and the Democrats regarding US imperialism and US foreign policy in general are miniscule. So, by having Trump serve another 4 years, the Democrats can avoid responsibility for these “defense” budgets that are controlling fiscal and social policy in D.C.

            Also, consider the fact that with a Trump presidency there will not be Medicare for all or any significant reforms made to the Affordable Care Act. And, of course, the mainstream Democrats have made it clear that they don’t want Medicare for all or any single payer health care system. Further, Trump might even be able to propose and pass modifications to social security and Medicaid so that the Democrats won’t have to do these things, even though, again, some mainstream Democrats have indicated they desire to do so.

            Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, a second Trump presidency would ensure and might even fortify the legitimacy of the Democrats, whose authority has eroded significantly along with the authority of almost every US institution you can think of. With Trump in office, who makes it easy to despise him, the Democrats actually look responsible once again and this after they acted irresponsibly in supporting Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, Obama’s drone warfare in nations that the US is not even at war with, supporting the overthrow of democratically elected governments and attempting to overthrow the government of Venezuela, while pursuing a humanitarian militarism in several places in the world. All of this while being the allies of such nations as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

            US institutions have lost the respect of large numbers of the American people, and of course this includes the Democratic Party, which is one reason they lost the 2016 presidential election to the likes of Donald Trump. But as Trump has behaved in such a way that it is easy to despise him, the Democrats recovered some legitimacy and, hence, some respectability as well. Of course, this legitimacy is paper-thin and it could disappear in a slight breeze. But so long as Trump is president, this is unlikely to happen. Combined with the possibilities of maintaining or advancing policies that they like but the people don’t, I think the Democrats are more than willing to try to ensure that Trump gets four more years.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Theh Trump "Crisis" and the Democrats


The Trump “Crisis” and the Democrats
Peter Schultz

            Crises are, always, opportunities. They are opportunities to take stock, so to speak, of one’s situation, study what led to the crisis, and to imagine alternatives to avoid such a crisis from recurring.

            Assuming momentarily that Trump’s presidency is a crisis, the Democrats have not served the nation well in their response to that crisis. In response to Trump’s presidency, they have not articulated any reasonably thoughtful analysis of what preceded and led to this presidency. They seem content to engage in Trump bashing, which has culminated in Trump’s impeachment and, eventually, his acquittal, an acquittal that reflected the Trump bashing that led up to it. To rest impeachment on a phone call of minor importance, when Trump’s assassination of the leading Iranian general brought us to the brink of war with Iran, was ill conceived from several points of view.

            I cannot help but think that the Democrats have chosen this strategy because they don’t actually want to know or acknowledge what led to the Trump presidency. And they don’t want to acknowledge this because they know that their actions and policies have led to Trump’s presidency. They prefer to think that the order they had created pre-Trump, an order that gave us the presidencies of Clinton, Bush, and Obama, represented a distinctly full and almost final political order, one that cannot be imagined to be significantly different or better. In their mindset – a mindset that informs the thinking of all status quo politicians – Trump represents an aberration that is difficult to understand, except by labeling his supporters “deplorables” or mindless people looking for the security offered by a demagogue.

            So, the thinking is, get rid of Trump and return to the halcyon days of Clinton, Bush, and Obama. All was well before Trump and all will be well once again after Trump.

            In this way, the opportunity offered by Trump’s ascendancy to take stock of how our political order contributed to Trump’s rise if forfeited. No doubt this is what mainstream Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer want, especially in light of the challenges they face from those labeled “left-wingers.” So, they engage in bashing Trump – much as he bashes them – while supporting his “defense” budget or attempts to overthrow Assad in Syria or the democratically elected government in Venezuela. To say such a strategy constitutes “a resistance” in any meaningful sense is to reduce resistance to the almost child-like petulance of a two-year old. Such “resistance” provides no basis for a political order that would be immune to the likes of a Trump in the future.

            But then this too is favorable to the mainstream Democrats because, without Trump, their legitimacy and their authority would be tottering on the edge of an abyss. It is difficult not to think that the “Trump crisis” was created by these Democrats to fortify and perpetuate their rule. Such a situation might seem weird, even “conspiratorial.” But the other option, that it is merely coincidental, seems altogether delusion.