Federal Europe is an inevitability, same as the coming of age or maturity of the teenager in all of us. It is clearly inevitable — save for the teen suicides.
Although Europe is on suicide watch right now over the Eurozone’s banking corruption, power imbalances, and sovereign debt — we are still able to dream of a United Europe.
This United Europe Dream – seen through the stormclouds of our recurring crises – best be imagined as an inevitable evolutionary aspiration. In biological terms it can be seen as an act of adaptation of the political species. It is akin to Darwinian evolution towards balance and harmony. It is best be viewed in those terms because politicizing the European Project issue, is plain wrong.
Surely, a bunch of morons think that the Federal Union of Europe is not an inevitability and they are fast politicizing the issue knowing full well that sowing seeds of doubt, fear, and uncertainty is the best way to Stop the nascent Union. Their reasons for this and their particular gain — I leave up to you to discern or imagine.
The Euro-deniers are of course engaged in this right & proper discussion of their navel-gazing ideological experiences. They also deny biological evolution and their small brains are good evidence that they are probably right. Still their narrow political and parochial neighbourhood views are rather divisive because they attract all those citizens who are focused on their very own football team, their lovely flag, and on their own small tribe, little village, city, and state. Yet any intelligent life form can tell you that, the City-States cannot be resurrected. But romantics and fools abound. Yet they seldom lead people to water and instead lead them to perdition. Instead well schooled leaders in the arts of war, reasonable politicians, Machiavellian practitioners, and Realpolitik mavericks are what Europe craves right now.
Still we are voicing the Integrity leadership gospel and we are amongst those few who speak for a European Citizenry that does not want to be deceived by racist demagogues.
Because the Europeans of today are facing a true dilemma: Europe or Not. This is not a new problem. These same questions arose across the pond a couple of centuries ago and Denialism and Scepticism of the Union, are the two key questions that were asked of the people when the American Project first came to view. The American leaders sorted this out through education and the series of Federalist papers served just this purpose.
So in the UK, Scotland, and other places that now consider their plebiscite vote for or against the European Union — it’s best to at least have an educated Citizenry. Let us shift through the tea leaves, and observe critically, analyse the thoughts mindfully, and vote intelligently; for the best political and historical outcome.
Of course the ideological politicizing is only done by the slower minds; those unable to see the bigger picture. But let’s see this adaptive Vision playing out Fast Forward in the future for our lot.
It’s a vision of wise leadership that needs to evolve within Europe and in our world because the whole European Project points towards Integration and Strength through Unity.
“United we stand — divided we fall”
Simple as that.
Yet this inexorable march forward, takes a shitload of Vision in order to carry the disillusioned and desperate Peoples of Europe along. And who can bring this on but a Real Leader?
And where is it that we can harvest a leader like that from?
Sadly there is no gardening shed to give us fresh green shoots, nor is there an incubator to get the good eggs to hatch and give us fresh new leaders. Most all public Administration and Business Administration schools produce Managers at best. Brussels excels at producing bureaucrats and the national political parties of Europe produce only mediocrities pliant to the wishes of the “elders.”
Corruption abounds. So where are the new leaders gonna come from?
Maybe they will just sprout up from the ground after a bloody war or such a destructive shambles that the ruins will birth a new creator of the European Project.
But why do we always have to go through this terrible hardship, destruction, and bloodshed in this old continent of common destiny — just to get a new Real Leader to guide us out of the desert?
Why don’t we prepare leaders carefully; and then nurture them based on merit? Why don’t we allow Integrity clad leaders to blossom into the European stage? and instead we push terribly undecided minions to the positions and controls of power?
I know that there is no school for this, yet history has taught us that Integrity leadership through the school of “hard knocks” of Life is the best training ground for great leaders and I believe that during this time of constant crises and buffeting headwinds, we are sure to get a fresh face.
But training is still mandatory.
And the only way this can be done is by useful comparison with others who’ve gone down that road before us. And the greatest United Democracy in our world today, is a good lead for observing this path. So let’s start by reviewing the U.S. history that brought that Union to fruition, and the Great men who shaped the vision and sharpened the Resolve of the disparate nations and their citizens to Unite.
The individual states of the United States of America have also gone down the rocky path of Federalism for more than two centuries now and are good leading indicators of our common destiny.
Here it goes: Although the US cannon, same as the European history have been systematically distorted by an entrenched racism that has minimized ethical responsibility of some early events for building the ideological framework that rationalized the Union — we are not going to whitewash the enslavement of African-Americans, nor the genocide of Native Americans and the minimization of individual State’s rights for the benefit of a better Union. We’ve come to realize that being moral and upstanding about individual Human Rights and personal Responsibility is far above the quotidian of what State’s rights are. Because if we ensure the Human Rights doctrine — we automatically sort out the local, regional and state rights.
Recently and slowly some of the bias towards our own history of internecine warfare has been squeezed out, and we are able to see the real story through the trees. The World Wars [Great War and the Second World War] were in reality European Civil wars that spilled over and engulfed the rest of humanity. Still History is always written by the Victorious armies and their historians. That is given, yet it’s not all black and white. Alexander the Great same as Charles the Great and Napoleon all had a dream for a United Europe – albeit of a different nature. Today it’s Democracy that defines us and not the benevolent or malevolent ruler’s whimsy or grandiose vision. It is Democracy that gives us the best benefit of the doubt policy that is our greatest asset and our gravest handicap all the same.
But you look at history and learn all the way from Herodotus to today’s revisionists. A good grip of history is our only insurance to not go blindly and repeat the mistakes of the past. No need to spill blood over the same issues all over again because these things were resolved before our time. But you need to know History to understand that. So as Europeans today we need to learn from the past — or be doomed to repeat it.
Somewhat like Grammar School…
Still those of us who have observed the American evolutionary political experience know that the greatest part of the Republic’s early struggle to unite was defined as the war over slavery. Soon enough, this led to Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and Ratification of the Amendment that banned Slavery. Yet it’s good to remember that it was this battle that defined America forever. A Democratic Republic based on Human Rights and Civil Rights — borne out of the ashes of internecine blood and sinew wasting war.
We all know the nastiness and bloodletting of the Civil War, yet what we don’t know is that those who lost the US civil war went on to define America afterwards. The Southern States gave us most of the subsequent presidents after Abraham Lincoln and General Grant – for the next eighty years. And they used the only tool at their disposal. Their capacity to reinterpret the Constitution to their liking – through political discourse and lobbying. A useful lesson from history when viewed in light of what they accomplished. They turned a benevolent constitution which was drafted by the Federalists to make the National governments or state governments “supreme,” over the states and responsible to “provide for the general Welfare” to a set of laws that reduced Civil Rights. History doesn’t stop. It keeps on going and is claimed by the Victors of today’s battles and not of yesterday’s victories. These mostly Southern men who reinterpreted the Constitution through Demagoguerry and sharpish language; brought about new laws that came to be viewed as the instrument of terror and injustice by many on the receiving end of diminishing civil rights. Citizenry and the Democratic franchise suffered. The American Democracy was gravely injured…
This was the point of inflection where the powerful parties of the South saw that many Southern slaveholders saw the broad federal powers as an eventual threat to slavery so – after failing to block ratification of the Emancipation proclamation – they turned to simply reinterpreting the document’s clear language.
Thus, “states’ rights” and a “strict constructionist” view of federal power derived from the interests of slavery from the beginning of the Republic. The same notions later justified racial segregation and were embraced by laissez-faire capitalists who wanted no federal constraints on their exploitation of labour and despoliation of the environment.
The damage that these “interpreted concepts” did to the American Democracy and the American people – both black and white – was vast. Beyond the barbarity of slavery (and Jim Crow laws) for blacks, working whites suffered from low wages and from the boom-and-bust economic cycles of unregulated capitalism in the Nineteenth, Twentieth and, indeed, Twenty-first centuries.
So, I believe that today in Europe the State’s Rights and unique regional characteristics vocal defenders — always have a bit of racism hiding in their chests. Their role in blocking the constitutional mandate of an international government for a United Europe is not lost on us.
When we observe that the American Constitutional Message of “providing for the general Welfare” as the drafters foresaw, is the key factor; it’s easy to see the consequences the very lack of a founding document in this much maligned Europe, brings.
To add insult to injury Europe has not got a single Great Leader to call it’s own today.
Yet today is her hour of need. It is a critical moment because the Democratic mosaic that Europe is, faces it’s biggest challenge today. The will of this Union to survive has been sapped from Europe. It has been sapped by the same ones who inflicted unnecessary suffering and misery often in the past and should be held accountable for their actions in the present and prevented from doing so in the future.
Rather than counting beans we best learn from the American experience that predated us in building a United federal country.
Let us look thoughtfully at the American leaders and visualize the kind of leader we want to bring forth in a United Europe.
So let us seek leaders who can set us on a course for greater well-being for the majority of the people and for a more perfect Union.
Though Europe does not have a George Washington — we regularly hope for one to spring up from this much bloodied soil, because George was great.
Great for many of his qualities but above all for his uniquely American vision. He was great because He became an American above being a Virginian. He was great not just because of his actual service as the first chief executive under the Constitution – but because he gave us Victory against the Redcoats. Yet no one remembers the general Washington, when talking of the Great Man…
And the very fact that we forget that, reflects the lingering hostility toward the Federalists who principally drafted the Constitution, got it ratified and structured the early government around it. Yet George Washington lived and embodied the Constitutional Union that made America GREAT.
And although the Federalists made their share of mistakes and can be fairly criticized for elitism, one of the chief reasons why they have been disparaged in US history was their general opposition to slavery as reflected most clearly in the abolitionist sentiments of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, and their belief in a strong and activist central government.
That put them on the outs with the powerful and politically victorious backlash, in the 1790s and early 1800s to redefine the Constitution away from its original intent of a powerful federal government, toward a system more supportive of states’ rights and thus more tolerant of the South’s slave interests.
Though a Virginian and a slaveholder, George Washington gained a sense of the new nation from his service as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army which brought together Americans across all geographic, cultural and racial lines. Washington, like other officers in the Continental Army, became the first true American, in the sense of seeing the diverse 13 colonies/states as one nation.
That is the one singular and remarkable achievement of George Washington. He was able to transcend his provincialism and national identity towards a new America…
From his military post, Washington also understood how unworkable were the Articles of Confederation, which made the 13 states “sovereign” and “independent” and thus inept at supporting a national effort such as the Revolutionary War and the establishment of a functioning republic in the first years after the conflict ended.
Europe understands this debate well enough, today when the idea of a Common Defence finds no givers and no takers either…
The failure of this Common Defence also bedevilled George Washington and it was this very “state rights” concept that led George Washington and other Federalists to convene the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.
George Washington led the charge through his strategy to set the case for a Common Defense. George and his allies, managed the public and the bureaucracy and effectively scrapped the old system entirely, and replaced it with a structure that eliminated the idea of state sovereignty and declared a national sovereignty based on “We the People of the United States.”
This is how George Washington built the first American men, women, and children. He mindfully changed and transcended his own parochialism for himself — declaring that from now on He was an AMERICAN.
He was greatly assisted in this endeavour by the original founding document, and the Revolutionary War’s need for a Common Army and Central Command and because the US Constitution’s centralizing of governmental power was recognized by both supporters and opponents. This explains the lack of fierce opposition from the stalwart defenders of the old decentralized system.
Let’s observe this political shift of power and the elegance of George using the crisis of war as an opportunity to remake the American United States into an American Union. It is the best lesson for those of us aspiring to effect this type of change in Europe.
The future outcome of this giant shift of power in Washington’s favour, was not lost to the regional state leaders. And although the Constitution implicitly accepted slavery to placate the South, and as a necessary compromise to bring in the Southern states; key defenders of slavery warned that the combination of central authority and Northern abolitionism would eventually lead to slavery’s eradication, or as Virginia’s Patrick Henry colourfully put it: “They’ll free your niggers”
As the first US President under the Constitution, it fell to Washington to build the new government virtually from scratch. George worked hard on this, and he also delegated some of that responsibility to his aide-de-camp during the Revolutionary War; Alexander Hamilton, who was named Treasury Secretary. Since there were only three Cabinet members at the time — the others being the secretaries of war and secretary of state, Hamilton had a nearly blank slate to sketch the new government’s structure.
In some ways, Hamilton was even more an archetypal new American than Washington, since Hamilton was a bright and ambitious immigrant who had been raised in extreme poverty in the West Indies and who was sent to America by people who saw his potential. While attending college in New York City, he was swept up in the revolutionary fervour for American liberty, organized his own artillery unit, impressed Washington with his bravery and – because he was fluent in French – became an important intermediary to Lafayette and the French allies. At his request, he also led the final American bayonet charge in the decisive Battle of Yorktown.
Though Hamilton’s home was in New York, his allegiance was to the new country, not to any particular state, which made him a source of suspicion in the eyes of Thomas Jefferson and other early leaders who were anchored in their home states or their “countries,” as they put it.
Besides his perceived rootless origins and his self-made rise from poverty, Hamilton was disdained for his hatred of slavery, which he despised because he had witnessed its abuses first hand in the West Indies. He offended Virginia slave holders with his foot-dragging over their demands that the new government pursue compensation from Great Britain for freeing many of their slaves, an issue that Secretary of State Jefferson pressed aggressively.
During George Washington’s presidency, Hamilton acted as what we might call “Washington’s Brain,” hatching plan after plan for implementing the new government but also making many tough decisions that offended the Federalists’ political enemies. As the point man for Washington’s government, Hamilton also became the target of well-financed political attacks, some hatched secretly by Jefferson who emerged as the leader of the Anti-Federalist coalition, based in the South but drawing strength from Hamilton’s political rivals in New York.
Through these bitter battles, Washington generally backed Hamilton but sought to remain above the fray. Washington’s executive genius – as displayed as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, as President of the Constitutional Convention and as the first US President – was always less his personal brilliance than his ability to select talented subordinates, to delegate authority and to incorporate the opinions of others into his final decisions.
As historically important as Washington was as “the father of the nation,” he was a leader who didn’t let his personal ego dominate his actions. Though Jefferson and other critics of a strong central government were quick to accuse the Federalists of “monarchism” and allege that they secretly wanted to appoint a king, Washington set the standard for limiting personal power by leaving the presidency after two terms.
When Washington did step down, the new nation was off to a promising start, having put the government’s finances in order and dodging efforts to draw America in on the side of either Great Britain or France in their renewed fighting. Washington also set what could have become another important precedent by using his will to free his slaves.
To understand Thomas Jefferson, the third president and one of four faces on Mount Rushmore — you first have to separate Jefferson and his words from his deeds and actions.
Many Americans and historians regard Jefferson rather favourably because of his role as the key drafter of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, expressing some of the Revolutionary War’s most radical and noble sentiments, particularly that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Yet, Jefferson was a brilliant propagandist, deploying words both to fortify his own positions and to tear down the defences of his enemies. In the 1790s, he mounted one of the most effective political campaigns in U.S. history against the Federalists, as they struggled to establish the new government under the Constitution. He secretly funded vicious newspaper attacks, particularly against Treasury Secretary Hamilton and President John Adams.
Jefferson’s most long-lasting and pernicious shadow victory was his reinterpretation of the Constitution, which he had virtually no input in writing because he was in Paris as the American representative to France in 1787. Jefferson’s word-smithing; as he set out to recast the Constitution’s meaning, had almost a modern-day feel to it. Rather than seeking to change the new governing document through the amendment process, Jefferson simply asserted that the words didn’t mean what they said.
The Constitution’s Article I, Section 8 empowered the federal government to “provide for the common Defence and the general Welfare of the United States” and gave Congress the authority “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.” But Jefferson proclaimed his own principle of “strict construction,” declaring that Congress only could exercise the specific powers, e.g. coining money, building post offices, etc, as listed in Article I, Section 8.
Jefferson’s crimped interpretation of the Constitution and his reassertion of “states’ rights” – including the supposed right to “nullify” federal law or even to secede – pleased his plantation base in the South, which saw its huge investment in slavery better protected. He was undeniably a Great politician…
Through his skilful use of language, Jefferson, a Virginia aristocrat portrayed himself as the great protector of American liberty, while painting John Adams and Alexander Hamilton – both of whom were self-made men who rose from very humble origins and who opposed slavery – as pro-monarchy elitists.
Jefferson’s undeniable political skills enabled him to defeat Adams in the election of 1800, relying on the support of Southern slave states, Hamilton’s rivals in New York, and the Constitution’s “three-fifths clause” that allowed 60 percent of slaves to be counted as people for the purpose of representation in Congress and in the Electoral College.
Jefferson during his presidency, and while rhetorically insisting on his narrow interpretation of the Constitution, he effectively embraced the Constitution’s broad powers when they served Presidential purposes, such as when he purchased the Louisiana Territories from France in 1803. He acted Presidentially enough, in this transaction — though no such authority was spelled out in Article I, Section 8.
Though the Louisiana Purchase – doubling the country’s size – is considered Jefferson’s greatest achievement as President, he also saw it as a way to economic development in the United States by opening the new lands to all Americans.
He was less than perfect and as President, he also established the policy of expelling Native American tribes to west of the Mississippi River if they resisted white domination, an approach that set the stage for the Trail of Tears and generations of genocide.
In the years after his presidency, Jefferson grew wiser and would often express his personal distaste for slavery. Still to placate Southern opponents of the Union, he would cloak pro-slavery arguments in legalistic or obscure language. He was a very skilled diplomat and balance maker…
For instance, when he founded the University of Virginia to help train young men for a possible role within the federal government — he helped in eradicating the slavery system. But he called his reasoning for launching the university “Missourism,” a confusing term by which he meant the right of the new states carved from the Louisiana Territories to practice slavery — as a way to allow the Southern Aristocracy to embrace the new school and bankroll it’s future.
Many years later, Reagan accomplished a mirage over Jefferson by winning over a majority of white men to the revisionist view of the Constitution that Reagan claimed that it was first developed by Thomas Jefferson. Some of the “intellectuals” of Reaganism, such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, even espoused the false notion that Jefferson’s “strict construction” revisionism was the “original intent” of the Framers when the true “original intent” was the pragmatic nationalism of the Federalists.
Though Jefferson put the young nation on a collision course with the Civil War, Jefferson scholar John Chester Miller observed in his landmark book on Jefferson’s attitudes toward slavery, “The Wolf by the Ears” — “Jefferson began his career as a Virginian and he became an American”
Jefferson’s protection of the “states’ rights” movement that he built in the early 1800s and historical necessity, propelled the United States toward worsening tensions over slavery and ultimately to the Civil War…
It fell to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President, to defeat the Confederate States, reunify the nation and finally abolish slavery. In doing so, Lincoln reaffirmed a key original purpose of the Constitution, to establish the supremacy of the United States over the individual states.
Though Lincoln was not a fervent abolitionist, he came to understand that the carnage from the Civil War revealed the need – once and for all – to eliminate the buying, selling and abusing of African-Americans. He therefore issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863; created regiments of freed blacks to fight for the Union; and backed up his wartime emancipation edict by pushing through the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery, shortly before he was assassinated on April 15, 1865.
But let’s learn from the Best Leader out there: Old Abe – Abraham Lincoln – for what Europe needs now. Whether Lincoln could have orchestrated a more effective Reconstruction of the Republic had he lived; is one of American history’s great historical missed opportunities.
Still the efforts by the radical Republicans, who asserted themselves in the years after Lincoln’s death, led to the important enactments of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments seeking to guarantee equal protection under the law and the right to vote for Americans regardless of race.
Yet Lincoln’s name and Emancipation became dirty words in the South. This obstinacy and revisionist historical perspective towards State’s Rights drove much of the United States into a century of racial apartheid enforced by lynching and other acts of terrorism.
This Confederate resurgence also created a political alignment of sorts between the unreconstructed South which resented federal interference and the North’s new industrial and financial might which focused on economic development and modernism and opposed government efforts to regulate commerce.
Though Lincoln’s presidency was cut short by an assassin’s bullet, his contribution to the country cannot be overstated. Through the carnage of the Civil War, he finally addressed one of the nation’s founding crimes, the slavery of African-Americans.
In doing so, he corrected some of the distortions that had been inserted into the national narrative. But Lincoln’s death – at the start of his second term – left much of the business unfinished and enabled the states’ rights rationalizations to re-emerge through the era of Jim Crow and the Gilded Age.
In modern times we have Franklin Roosevelt who created the Modern State as we come to know it today.
The problems created by the resurgence of Jefferson’s restrictive view of the Constitution, which jointly served the interests of white supremacists in the South and wealthy bankers, financiers and industrialists in the North, contributed to gross inequalities across the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In the South, blacks were oppressed and terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan; across the nation, factory workers and small farmers were exploited by the Robber Barons. America may have been a land of opportunity, but it was increasingly a place where most of that opportunity ended up in fewer and fewer hands.
This combination of unregulated capitalism and the stunning disparity in wealth that it created contributed to boom-and-bust cycles that wreaked further havoc on average Americans who found their small businesses shut down, their farms foreclosed on, and their jobs often gone.
This cascade of panics, shocks and various recessions finally culminated in the Great Depression, which began with the stock market crash of 1929 and reverberated across the country in the form of bank runs, massive layoffs and lost farms.
It was Democrat Franklin Roosevelt who, after winning a landslide election victory in 1932, threw the weight of the federal government behind an array of initiatives, to put people back to work, to invest in the nation’s infrastructure and to stabilize the financial system through regulation of the banks. In effect, what Roosevelt did was to finally give meaning to the constitutional mandate that the national government “provide for … the general Welfare.”
Not every one of Roosevelt’s ideas worked perfectly – and he arguably pulled back on government stimulus too soon allowing the country to slide back into recession in the late 1930s – but his New Deal, including passage of Social Security for the elderly, laid a strong foundation for the creation of America’s Great Middle Class, which was essentially a product of a series of federal laws over several decades: from union protection to transportation projects to safer banking to the minimum wage to the GI Bill to technological research and development to conservation and environmental safeguards.
Despite facing fierce political opposition himself – from an old guard that still pushed Jefferson’s constitutional revisionism of “strict construction” – Roosevelt eventually fashioned a consensus around the necessity of federal government activism, which continued through the next several presidents, both Democrat and Republican.
Besides pulling the United States out of the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt guided the country through World War II, coordinating a sometimes fractious alliance that defeated fascism in Europe and Asia. Despite a shameful decision to intern many Japanese-Americans during the war, the Roosevelt administration also began the gradual movement toward the federal government taking a more supportive position in favour of civil rights for minorities.
As Best Presidents we also have John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to remember for their contributions to the Union.
The post-World War II presidents – including Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and continuing through John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson – are all marred by excesses of the Cold War, even as they deserve credit for building on Roosevelt’s New Deal legacy.
Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson also grappled with the terrible legacy of slavery and segregation. These presidents advanced the civil rights cause in fits and starts, fearing the political consequences of offending the Old South and the many white racists throughout the country.
But what distinguishes Kennedy and Johnson in this regard is that they finally brought the federal government down decisively on the side of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the movement to end segregation and Jim Crow.
The passage of landmark civil rights legislation represented a historic repudiation of Jefferson’s Anti-Federalist/states’ rights positions on the Constitution – or put differently, the civil rights laws belatedly gave meaning to Jefferson’s idealistic (but betrayed) rhetoric in the Declaration of Independence about all people being created equal.
Kennedy also contributed his own soaring rhetoric in the cause of peace (most notably in his American University speech on June 10, 1963), and Johnson built on Roosevelt’s New Deal legacy by pushing through Medicare for the elderly, declaring a “war on poverty” and enacting environmental laws.
But the Kennedy/Johnson escalations of the Vietnam War – one of the Cold War’s greatest crimes – will forever muddle and muddy their legacies. Though Kennedy increased the number of U.S. military advisers in Vietnam, his defenders note that he signaled plans to withdraw US forces after his expected re-election in 1964.
However, after JFK’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, Johnson reversed that tentative decision. After winning a landslide victory in 1964, Johnson sent in a half-million US combat troops and pummeled both North and South Vietnam with massive air strikes.
LBJ’s supporters contend he escalated the war out of fear that Republicans, like Richard Nixon, would otherwise exploit a “who-lost-Vietnam” debate the way they did the “who-lost-China” argument during the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy era in the early 1950s.
Johnson supposedly calculated that holding off a communist victory in Vietnam was the price he would have to pay to gain passage of his Great Society programs. Instead, the war began eating away the foundation for the decades-old New Deal consensus. Many young Americans grew increasingly suspicious of government, while tax money that could have gone to addressing domestic needs was squandered on a bloody stalemate.
The public’s harsh judgement of Johnson over the Vietnam War might have been mitigated if he had been successful in negotiating peace by the end of his presidency, but Nixon and his 1968 campaign maneuvered behind Johnson’s back to sabotage the Paris peace talks by persuading the South Vietnamese government to boycott in exchange for a Nixon promise to get Saigon a better deal, which meant extending and even expanding the war.
Though LBJ learned of what he called Nixon’s “treason,” Johnson decided not to expose the scheme before the election apparently for fear of splintering the nation if Nixon still managed to win. Johnson also hoped that he could convince a victorious Nixon to let the peace talks move forward. However, after winning, Nixon chose to live up to his promise to the South Vietnamese government and extend the war for four more years.
Kennedy and Johnson authorized the Vietnam carnage but also avoided the Nuclear War with the Soviet Union…
Yet, their crowning glory is their joint role in confronting America’s grim record of racial oppression. This stands as one of the greatest political accomplishments of U.S. history. It also was a rare example of a major party putting principle before politics. Kennedy and Johnson both knew the consequences of supporting Dr. King and the civil rights movement: the Democrats would lose the white vote in the South and in many working-class areas of the North. But they did it anyway.
Kennedy’s and LBJ’s intellectual successor, is Democrat Barack Obama, who volunteered to “look forward, not backward.”
At a time when the right-wing media reframed recent events as showing that what America needed was a weaker federal government and more “state rights” Barack Obama went boldly the other way and established Health Care for all the people.
And although lunatic fringe tea-partiers got hold of GOP and remade the prevailing narrative as one that Anti-Federalist slaveholders would have appreciated — they lost the public debate.
Looking back at the actual wisdom of the Framers of the Constitution – and the presidents who recognized the true message of the United States of America Constitution – the real answer to America’s current difficulties and assorted crises would seem to be another era of an activist federal government.
Obama does just that by reviving the battered middle class, raising taxes on the rich to address income inequality, putting the unemployed to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and tightening regulations on Wall Street and other out-of-control businesses.
But the Right and much of the mainstream media insist that we gaze back at the Founding era through a distorted prism that rearranges the heroes and villains in ways designed to confuse, not to inform.
This discourse leads one to be intensely jealous of America’s leaders.
Yet one must think for Europe that it needs the space to nurture these leaders before they emerge and to stop growing bureaucratic mediocrities and projecting them as leaders.
These are managers and they seldom if ever make the cut to be Real leaders.