My mind forms strange patterns of association and as I write this on November 22, the 42nd anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, I am thinking about U.S. Rep. John Murtha and Vice President "Darth" Cheney. My mind takes me back to 1960 and the campaign for president between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. I remember hearing the vice president solemnly warning the nation that Kennedy, then the junior senator from Massachusetts, was endangering America’s image abroad by running down our country and its policies and its standing in what is often called the "world community."
"I don’t need Mr. Nixon or anyone else to tell me what my responsibilities to my country are" Kennedy shot back when he was done laughing at his sanctimonious rival. It’s funny, but I feel the same way when I hear the White House warn us that Rep. Murtha, a veteran of more than 30 years in the Marine Corps and a decorated combat veteran, is from the "Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party." Or when I hear Vice Predator Cheney denounce the opposition to the war and the recriminations over how we got into it as a "corrupt and shameless" revisionism. I suggest Mr. O.P. (Other Priorities" at the time of the Vietnam War) Cheney is the last one from whom we need to hear lectures on what is "corrupt and shameless."
Now Jonah Goldberg, editor of National Review Online, has entered the only kind of fray he really likes to enter, one in which he may "argue" (if one may use that term as loosely as Jonah wields the facts) that any perfidy the Republicans may perpetrate is all right because the Democrats did it first. Goldberg did not invent the "So’s your old man" retort, but he may be among the first to make a living at it.
And I’m not even sure of that. It has been going on for quite some time. Apparently it was not so bad that agents of CREEP (the Committee to Reelect the President) broke into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in 1972 or that President Nixon sought to foil the investigation by using the CIA to obstruct the FBI. Why fret about that? After all, Ted Kennedy had driven his car off a bridge on Martha’s Vineyard with Miss Kopechne inside and. hey, "Nobody Drowned in Watergate." And as for all that secret taping and using agencies of government to go after critics of the administration, well, there was, if not justification, at least precedent for that. Thus reliable Republican hit man Victor Lasky wrote a book called "It Didn’t Start With Watergate," which sold many copies, especially through the Conservative Book Club.
Bombing and killing thousands of innocent people in an unnecessary war? Hey, pal, the Democrats have been there, done that. Detaining people indefinitely without charges? Well, look what FDR did to the Japanese in California! Going to war repeatedly without a declaration of war by Congress? Oh, man, the Democrats did that in Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, yadda, yadda, yadda! Of course, if you were to ask the good bi-partisan Republicans who opposed Democratic presidents when they did that to stand up, you would have none to count, unless Bob Taft were to rise from the grave.
So jovial Jonah (he is always pictured with a smug smirk), quoting the War Street Journal, has weighed in with a defense of Franklin Roosevelt (Oh, how the neocons love defending St. Franklin!) from the "Luce libel." Clare Boothe Luce supposedly libeled dear Franklin when she said he "lied us into war." Here we go with more revisionism about revisionism.
First of all, the quote is usually shortened to make the accusation appear more extreme than it was, much like Henry Ford’s "History is bunk." (Ford added, "as it is taught in the schools.") What Luce said was, "He lied us into a war into which he ought to have courageously led us." We might debate that proposition, but at least we would be debating what Ms. Luce actually said, rather than defending dear old Franklin, a hero to the "neo-conservatives," against a non-existent "libel."
Perhaps Mr. Goldberg has not seen the full sentence. (And, generally speaking. any quotation used in an argument should be at least a complete sentence. Certainly a partial sentence should not be represented as a full sentence if it omits qualifiers.) Perhaps the Wall Street Journal writer did not give it to his readers. Whether an honest mistake or not, it serves the purpose of any defender of Bush War II to use the shortened version. For who believes the Bush gang could have "courageously led us" into the current war without the fabric of lies or misleading statements, wild exaggerations, etc.? Let us call it for short, the fabric of fabrications.
The more I read this Jonah, the more I would sympathize with any fish that might swallow him and feel the need to spew him out. It is typical of "neocons" to divide their time between condemning historical "revisionism" and resurrecting old villains of the right to lionize them and thus show that the "old right" was wrong. The game now, as always, is to lead us into a "new world order" by a different route. Indeed, it calls to mind that one of the books that fueled the arsenal of the Old Right was "Back Door to War" by Charles Tansill, cataloguing and condemning the surreptitious, round-about route Roosevelt took to get us into war with Germany.
Now it is, perhaps, the "Side Door to a New World Order" that Jonah and his fellow National Review "conservatives" are holding open for us. But Goldberg does not really defend FDR against the charge that he "lied us into war." Instead, he cites it as a precedent that other presidents may follow, up to and including what Archie Bunker might call the "honorable incrumbent." Now even Jonah doesn’t pretend that Saddam Hussein was about to overrun Europe or bomb Pearl Harbor. No, he just says, in effect, that lying us into war is what presidents do. Get over it.
The headline over Goldberg’s piece in my hometown newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, accurately sums up the thrust of the piece: "If Bush lied about Iraq, what difference does that make?" Nothing subtle about that, is there? Goldberg, who pointed out in the fall of 2002 that Karl Rove was giving PowerPoint presentations on how the war would help Republicans, doesn’t want the Democrats to gain partisan advantage from the fact that most Americans now oppose the war and doubt Bush’s credibility. Let others make the case, if they can, that George W. Bush is not the kind of man who would lie the nation into war. Goldberg is Cassandra on that score. Lying us into a war is okay if the war suits the neocon agenda. Meanwhile, let us defend republican (or Republican) virtue on other fronts.
Let us return to the topic of education and condemn "moral relativism."
Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.