All posts by Craig Shirley

Common sense and insensibility

Last century, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The rich are different from you and me.” In the first decade of the 21st century, that phrase has evolved into, “The elites are different from you and me.”

No one believes this more now than the media, government, academic, labor and monetary privileged classes now running a country once famous for its populism, self-reliance, federalism and a citizenry suspicious of any concentration of power.

As President Barack Obama surveys the wreckage of his first year in office, capped by Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts on Tuesday, he would do well to remember that he campaigned for “change” for all the American people. Or so millions believed – and not the usurpation of power for the privileged few. Nor does it probably serve his purposes to mock the millions of Americans who drive pickups.

A day and a half after yet another electoral disaster for his party, Obama might finally come to grips with how he and his ilk got to Washington in the first place. Since the time of Andrew Jackson, the working man and woman have long been associated with the Democratic Party. Each party has had its reliable factions over the years; academics on the left, mercantilists on the right, peaceniks on the left, neocons on the right.

Both, however, sought these crucial voters, and often Republicans, such as Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, won them over.

The balance of power, however, rested with the working middle class, mostly blue collar. The candidate and the party making the best case that they could secure a better future for working middle-class voters and their children were awarded their votes. Both parties actively vied for them; none insulted them.

Until now.

Having gained power a year ago, the dominant liberal intelligentsia of the Democratic Party – from Keith Olbermann to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – has engaged in a shooting gallery of taunts at their own countrymen and countrywomen, hurling insult after insult, questioning their class, style, patriotism and intelligence. Just consider MSNBC’s David Shuster, who, on the day of the Bay State bombshell, said the conservative tea party protesters were not “very literate.”

Obama, meanwhile, has behaved as if the government were his personal plaything while engineering policies that have made the Democratic Party into a coalition of “bigness”: Big Government, Big Wall Street, Big Labor, Big Academia, Big Lobbyists, Big Banks.

Even worse was the elites’ and Obama’s gross misreading of health care reform, foolishly comparing it with Social Security and Medicare. What they failed to understand is that taxpayers never saw either program as welfare but, rather, as exactly how their government pitched it to them, in the form of “insurance” plans. Taxpayers agreed because they spent their lives paying into both programs and felt invested in them. Indeed, any taxpayer can check on the status of his or her “account” with the Social Security Administration.

The same followed with Americans’ own private health care plans. They were invested in them and have come to see a government takeover as “hostile” and an unnecessary power grab. They may have complained about their individual health care, as they did about Social Security, but it was theirs and it was not to be taken away from them.

Obama has slowly come to grasp the enormous mistake he has made, as his recent feckless attempt to pitch a fee on big banks demonstrated. But he is trapped. Every program he now offers is seen by the American people as yet another excuse for centralized authority.

Obama has met the superlunary elitist: himself.

The Massachusetts Senate election was a referendum on the elites as much as anything. In good times, they are barely tolerated. In bad times, the tax cheats, frauds, political phonies and fakes, Hollywood scum, K Street cretins and sleazy money-changers who make up America’s “best and brightest” are loathed.

The irony in all this is that the GOP is temporarily benefiting from the arrogance of the liberal elites without having to pay any penance for its own devotion to Big Government and corruption. Still, the GOP can be counted on to do the stupid thing, as its defense of bankers having to pay fees, after diving snout-first into the trough of the Troubled Asset Relief Program recently demonstrates.

But such are the fortunes of class warfare.

Craig Shirley is president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs and the author of two books about President Ronald Reagan, including the newly released “Rendezvous With Destiny,” the first detailed account of the 1980 campaign.

LOAD-DATE: January 22, 2010



Elites overlook power of populists

As always, when conservative insurgencies fall short, as happened with Doug Hoffman’s monthlong quest to win in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, the establishments of both national parties fail to comprehend the meaning of it all.

Forget that Hoffman was a neophyte or that he was badly outspent by his Democratic opponent or that the national Republican establishment forked over $1 million to the most liberal candidate in the race, Dede Scozzafava, or that Hoffman was viciously attacked by her and that same Republican Party establishment. His race was nonetheless a victory for populist conservatism, disgusted with the “insiderism” and corruption of both political parties.

Republicans, meanwhile, are high-fiving themselves over their wins in Virginia and New Jersey. But in both cases, voters were faced with the choice of two parties they have come to loathe. Last year, the nation picked Barack Obama because he wasn’t George W. Bush, and this time, voters chose Republicans not because of them but in spite of them.

These GOP apparatchiks are whistling past what could be their own graveyard.

A message has been sent, but if the reaction of former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis – a self-described “moderate” – is any guide, then the Republican house is still not answering its front door, instead wishing conservative populists would go around to the back entrance.

On the Wednesday after the election, Davis appeared on Laura Ingraham’s national radio show and proceeded to brand the tea party protesters, conservative activists and those sickened by the behaviors of the governing elites as “unsophisticated.”

Ingraham, as a Reaganite, has as good a finger as anyone (and better than most) on the pulse of the people of this country and was aghast at Davis’s dismissive comments.

From experience and observation, it is the commentariat, it is the intelligentsia, and it is the “beautiful people” of Washington, Los Angeles and New York who are the unsophisticated, who are the anti-intellectuals, who are the ill-mannered and who are the rude.

Money, celebrity and access are no substitute for common sense, timeless values and decency.

Only among this group came the cocktail approbation when President Obama claimed that he inherited a huge deficit and the only way to shrink it was to grow it. The beautiful people all cooed while the rest of the country scratched its head and said, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Of course, the “common-sense people” have been proven right.

Obama (and the Republicans) are sailing into dangerous waters. The GOP continues to be dense about the populist anger out there, not just at the überelitist Obama playing George to the clueless GOP, aka Lennie. Of men and mice, indeed.

Under Obama’s policies, he is reorganizing the Democratic Party into the elitist coalition, representing Big Government, big bankers, big Wall Street, big universities, big Hollywood – all protected under the mantra of “too big to fail.” However, the mantra for the rest of America is “If it is too big, then it should fail.”

They know what the elitists refuse to understand. “Bigness” inevitably leads to corruption. Bigness inevitably leads to a diminution of personal freedoms. The rules that the rest of America abides by, whether paying taxes or not using cell phones while driving, are not followed by the elites. Indeed, at the elitists’ core is a fervent belief of themselves as somehow better – or at least more privileged – than the “little people.” They are getting the shaft while the elites are riding the elevator.

Ronald Reagan as early as 1977 took it to the tattered remains of the GOP, calling for a “New Republican Party” that was not the party of the country clubs and the corporate boardrooms but, rather, of the “individual” and not of the “group.” In order to win, the party needed to reach out to the men and women of Main Street – to the cop, the homemaker, the religious leader, the shopkeeper.

The GOP has a simple choice: Continue to be the party of “Big Government Republicanism” and of Bushism, or be the party of freedom, of the individual, of a community of shared values – and a party of the future.

Craig Shirley is the author of the newly released “Rendezvous With Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America,” the first comprehensive story of the 1980 presidential election. His firm, Shirley & Banister, was retained by Doug Hoffman to organize his national media efforts.

LOAD-DATE: April 15, 2010



New book pins ‘debategate’ on Dem

In the annals of Washington scandals, “debategate” in 1983 may have set some sort of record for flare followed by fizzle. It looked to some reporters, for a brief moment, like it could topple a CIA director, a White House chief of staff and maybe even a president.

In the end, though, investigators never determined who pilfered and turned over to the Ronald Reagan campaign the briefing books President Jimmy Carter was using to prep for his 1980 debate with candidate Reagan. No one fell, and debategate got filed away decades ago in the musty museum of political trivia, under the heading of unsolved mysteries.

Now, in his new book, “Rendezvous With Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America,” a much broader look at the campaign that elected Reagan, Craig Shirley, Reagan biographer and conservative public relations executive, has gathered a wealth of evidence, all of which points to one man – the late political operative and onetime Kennedy family confidant Paul Corbin – as the culprit.

There’s no smoking gun in the book – but there’s lots of gunpowder and interviews with people to whom Corbin admitted that he was the one.

In the summer of 1983, the city of Washington was in an uproar. A scandal erupted when it was revealed that just days before the 1980 presidential election, someone had stolen top-secret debate-briefing books from deep inside Jimmy Carter’s White House and given them to Ronald Reagan’s campaign.

When the news broke, the FBI and a congressional subcommittee set out to discover who had stolen the briefing books. The congressional investigation, headed by Michigan Democrat Donald J. Albosta, took 10 months, cost $500,000, interrogated hundreds of witnesses and eventually produced a report totaling nearly 2,500 pages. Yet the panel never officially determined who had pilfered the documents.

To this day, President Carter is deeply upset about the purloined material. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that it made some difference,” he complained when I interviewed him. Before the debate, held just a week before the election, he and Reagan were in a dead heat; Reagan ended up winning the election in a landslide. But who stole the documents has remained a mystery.

Now, almost 30 years later, the answer can finally be revealed: It was Paul Corbin, a Democrat from the 1980 Ted Kennedy campaign, who orchestrated the theft of the Carter briefing books and gave them to Reagan’s campaign.


How did Paul Corbin, a lifelong Democrat, labor organizer and former Communist agitator, end up working for the ardently anti-Communist Republican Ronald Reagan? The answer lies in the fact the diminutive, shadowy Corbin was a political troublemaker par excellence.

An FBI file opened on Corbin in 1940 – only four years after he entered the country illegally from his native Canada – had swelled to nearly 2,000 documents by the time of his death in 1990. Papers released by the FBI under a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that Corbin spent much of his life one step ahead of the law, grand juries, the FBI and union thugs. He was arrested multiple times, including twice for running a scam in which he threatened businesses with strikes unless they bought ads in union publications: The publications were fraudulent, and he pocketed the ad money.

Corbin was also a card-carrying member of the Communist Party (registration number 62908). Nevertheless, in the early 1950s, he did brisk though surreptitious business with the biggest anti-Communist headline seeker in America: Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.). As McCarthy barnstormed the Midwest in the early 1950s, Corbin (as he later told reporters and friends) would go into towns in advance of McCarthy’s appearances and sell American flags to the people eagerly awaiting “Tail Gunner Joe.” Corbin and the senator split the profits.

Corbin was loyal to almost no one except the Kennedy family, and especially Robert Kennedy. His relationship with RFK began to flourish in 1960, when they both worked on John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. As attorney general, Bobby wanted to get Corbin a job in his brother’s administration. But RFK’s principal assistant, John Seigenthaler, reviewed the massive FBI file on Corbin and, as he recalled in an interview, told the attorney general, “You can’t hire him! You can’t hire him!” Instead, at RFK’s instructions, Corbin was quietly put on retainer with the Democratic National Committee. Kennedy even gave Corbin the key to his private elevator at the Justice Department.

Few understood Bobby’s close friendship with Corbin. Old Kennedy hand Joe Dolan called Corbin “the dark side of Bobby Kennedy,” according to Jeff Shesol’s book “Mutual Contempt.” RFK’s daughter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend admitted that her “Uncle Paul” was “a rascal” who “didn’t respect people,” but she told me she understood what her father saw in Corbin: “My father appreciated somebody who would find out what’s going on in the government or in politics and would be forthright about telling him so that he could have eyes and ears in places that he wouldn’t normally have them.” Columnist Drew Pearson characterized Corbin’s role more bluntly: He was “Bobby’s backstage henchman.”

When RFK was assassinated in June 1968, Corbin was shattered. But he got back into politics after moving to Tennessee. Corbin later bragged to some friends that he had the goods on Democrat Al Gore. Joseph Sweat, one of Corbin’s associates in Tennessee, remembered that Corbin accused Gore, then a young congressman, of renting rooms in a motel in Cookeville to watch pornography. “That goddamn Gore, he is up there in a motel … watching those dirty movies!” Corbin exclaimed. Asked how he knew, Corbin replied, “The desk clerk; I paid him a little bit, and he gave me the receipt.”

In the late 1970s, Corbin went back to Washington. Held at arm’s length by the Carterites, he grew to hate Carter. Naturally, he supported Ted Kennedy’s presidential bid in 1980. He couldn’t stand watching Kennedy concede the party’s nomination to Carter at the Democratic National Convention in August. As Kennedy spoke, Corbin stormed off the convention floor. His friend Bill Schulz of Reader’s Digest called after him, asking what his plans were now that Kennedy was out of the race.

Corbin yelled back, “I’m going to go work for Reagan!”


Just before Ted Kennedy officially launched his presidential candidacy in the fall of 1979, Carter’s ambassador to Mexico, Pat Lucey, abruptly quit his post and announced his intentions to help Kennedy.

Lucey was good friends with Paul Corbin. They had become close back in 1960, when Lucey, then Wisconsin’s Democratic Party chairman, had brought Corbin in to work on JFK’s campaign.

Lucey’s daughter, Laurie, had been working in the Carter White House at the time as a confidential assistant to Landon Butler, deputy to chief of staff Hamilton Jordan. But just days before her father quit his post in Mexico, she resigned from her White House job. She, too, was close with Corbin, who had taken her under his wing.

Around the same time that Laurie Lucey was leaving the White House, Bob Dunn was coming in. Dunn went to work for Carter’s head of scheduling, Phil Wise. Dunn was Pat Lucey’s longtime aide, having worked for him in Wisconsin and in Mexico. And Dunn was Corbin’s friend. Corbin had cultivated the young activist since 1971. In fact, it was Corbin who helped Dunn get the job on [former Wisconsin] Gov. Lucey’s staff.

“Dunn’s new job has attracted some attention since Lucey joined the campaign for Sen. Kennedy,” National Journal reported at the time. But the Carter team took no action.


According to David Keene, a senior adviser to George H.W. Bush who frequently played poker with Corbin, and Adam Walinsky, an old RFK hand who was friends with Corbin, it was Corbin’s idea to persuade Pat Lucey to go on the ticket with independent candidate John Anderson. The thought was to bleed more liberal votes away from Carter. Lucey didn’t need much convincing after Kennedy was out of the race, as he loved Kennedy and despised Carter and his aides. In late August, Anderson presented Lucey as his running mate.

Corbin also contacted Reagan campaign manager Bill Casey. The two had been introduced soon after the Democratic convention by syndicated columnist Charles Bartlett, a fixture on the Washington social scene. Corbin proposed to assist Reagan, ostensibly with organized labor. Casey agreed, putting Corbin on retainer to the Reagan campaign.

Corbin first visited the Reagan-Bush headquarters in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 29, meeting with senior campaign adviser Jim Baker and then with Casey. He would make at least three more visits, signing in on Oct. 11, Oct. 25, and Nov. 3.

On Oct. 25, Corbin signed in at 9:35 a.m., gave his destination as “Casey” and picked up a check for $1,500. It was just three days before the big debate between Reagan and Carter.

On Nov. 3, the day before the election, Corbin picked up a second and final check from the Reagan campaign, this time in the amount of $1,360. He also spent nearly two hours meeting with Casey.

Carter’s debate briefing books had been assembled and copied in the White House starting the night of Oct. 23 and finishing around 11 o’clock the next morning. Copies of the briefing books arrived at the Reagan campaign’s headquarters not long thereafter. Reagan adviser David Gergen later recalled a package arriving at the Reagan-Bush campaign on a rainy Saturday, “probably Oct. 25” – the same day that Corbin met with Casey.

The “debategate” scandal didn’t explode until 1983, when Laurence Barrett of Time reported in his book “Gambling With History” that someone in the Reagan camp had “filched” Carter’s briefing material. A number of figures came under suspicion in the resulting investigations but were never charged. Paul Corbin was one. Congressman Albosta’s committee was unable to pin Corbin down. Frustrated, Albosta told The New York Times, “He denies everything, … doesn’t even know his own name. This leads people to suspect he had some effort and involvement.”

Furthering suspicion was the fact that, as phone logs revealed, Corbin had called Bill Timmons at the Reagan campaign “on several occasions.” The Albosta committee reported that Corbin was informing Timmons of Carter’s travel in advance, including stops scheduled for “a week-and-a-half away.”

The Albosta committee’s final report stated the committee’s belief that there existed “organized efforts to obtain from the Carter administration, and from the Carter-Mondale campaign, information and materials that were not publicly available.” The investigators could not come to more precise conclusions, in part because the Carter White House – featuring many holdovers from the Ford and Nixon administrations who didn’t like the Carter gang – leaked like a sieve. The investigation found that 13 Reagan staffers had either received or were aware of Carter material that had come into the possession of the Reagan campaign. With so many possible culprits, Corbin escaped the noose.

At the height of the Albosta investigation, Baker received a call from Congressman Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.). Cheney told Baker that a member of his staff who had long known Corbin, Tim Wyngaard, confided that Corbin had privately acknowledged orchestrating the theft of the Carter briefing books and giving them to Casey. Wyngaard, the executive director of the House Republican Policy Committee, confirmed to Albosta committee investigators and to The New York Times that Corbin had claimed credit for lifting the briefing books.

At various other times, Corbin admitted directly or at least hinted that he’d stolen the briefing books. A number of sources have confirmed various aspects of Corbin’s role in the caper, including Cheney, John Seigenthaler and Bill Schulz. What’s more, Gerald Rafshoon, who was in charge of Carter’s media, recalled seeing Corbin around the Carter White House late in the 1980 campaign and thought it odd that this Kennedy man and Carter hater would be there. He had no idea at the time that Corbin was covertly working for Reagan.

Corbin did deny in a sworn statement to the Albosta committee that he’d given the briefing books to the Reagan campaign. But lying to federal officials was old-hat for Corbin. As Time magazine politely said, his “reputation for veracity is uneven.” Likewise, the FBI observed in one of its many reports on Corbin that he seemed to be a “prevaricator.”

Regardless, Corbin, the old master, left no fingerprints – in this case, literally. Although the FBI found both Jim Baker’s and David Gergen’s fingerprints on the briefing books, they found none of Corbin’s.

Corbin was too smart to make that dumb mistake. After all, how many Washington political operators had a downtown office with an unlisted phone number?

LOAD-DATE: April 15, 2010



Rile versus substance

During his presidency, Lyndon Johnson notoriously said of an international ally that he was a “sonofabitch, but he’s our sonofabitch.”

LBJ, no sentimentalist or stylist, nonetheless often had a way with words.

His public attitude might also be ascribed, from time to time, to leaders on both the left and the right when they’re confronted with some of their more radical supporters – even if, in private, they can only shake their heads.

Presumably responsible Democratic and liberal leaders found themselves sometimes embarrassed by Code Pink and other protesters who resorted to violence and goofy street-theater tactics to bring attention to their varied causes, the most recent being the war in Iraq. depicted George W. Bush as Hitler in a 2004 commercial, and Bush was regularly mocked and burned in effigy as a war criminal by elements of the angry left. Cindy Sheehan made herself emblematic of the embarrassing left.

Democratic leaders in the late 1960s, while sympathetic to the message of the anti-Vietnam War protesters, often found themselves attempting to keep activists at arm’s length while working toward their goal of getting the U.S. out of Southeast Asia. Republicans of the era – claiming to speak for a “silent majority” – did their utmost to drape the more radical elements of the anti-war movement around the necks of Democratic Sens. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Ed Muskie of Maine, among others. In the end, however, the protesters might have prolonged the war, as Middle America resisted being on the same side as a scruffy bunch of spoiled brats.

Today, conservatives and GOP leaders are finding turnabout is, indeed, fair play: Right-wing protesters carrying guns or signs of President Barack Obama sporting a Hitler mustache – or ridiculously claiming he wasn’t born in the United States – are finding their political adversaries (including the gentle and soft-spoken folks at MSNBC) doing their level best to indict all those on the right for the actions of a lesser number.

Yet what the elites don’t understand is that by mocking the opposition from on high, it does not humiliate or embarrass it; it makes it even angrier, stronger and more resolute.

Welcome to the big asylum – 2009 – where everybody has a blog and the attention is on the more radical elements of the right.

From the end of the Civil War up until the beginning of the 20th century, the GOP raised the notorious “bloody shirt” of that conflagration to remind voters it was the Democrats who were the party of the South and of slavery. It was an effective technique by Republicans to hold onto the White House during most of the era.

Taking a step back, cooler heads know that radicalism has a long tradition in America, from the Shays’ Rebellion to the Whiskey Rebellion to John Brown’s attempt to start an insurrection among the slaves of Virginia – not to mention the many pro-slave whites he and his sons killed in Kansas. Carrie Nation often resorted to violence in her attempt to turn America into a country of teetotalers. Unfortunately, she succeeded for a time, until Franklin D. Roosevelt had the sober sense to know that a man without a job could sometimes use a good stiff drink.

During Janet Reno’s tenure as attorney general – when dozens of innocent people were killed after she ordered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI to storm the barricades of the Branch Davidian compound – she gave the excuse that they were religious nuts with guns, to which satirist P.J. O’Rourke retorted, “This nation was founded by religious nuts with guns!”

The problem is there are nuts, and then there are nuts. Since the beginning of the republic, there have been zealots in the cause of righteousness such as Sam Adams and Thomas Paine, always pushing, always agitating. In the cause of emancipation, suffrage, war, peace, coinage, land and the expansion of freedoms, this country has always allowed and then finally acceded to the demands of the radical visionaries. The status quo has rarely been acceptable for Americans, and principled nuts have served a valuable purpose.

The zealots of the extreme right and extreme left today have fewer claims on such noble aspirations, and many of their antics seem more about adding to their YouTube profiles, being covered by the media or driving up their ratings than about achieving real goals. Ignorance and hate seem to be their organizing principles. Having recently been the target of a left-wing disinformation campaign, we know about the sting of an info-battle, especially the now-commonplace death threat, brought about by rants.

It isn’t enough to say it comes with the turf. I’ve been at this game for nearly 40 years, and in all that time, no one has ever told me my days on the streets were numbered – until now. Adlai Stevenson once said his “definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”

Boat rockers come in two different forms: those who rock the boat to change course and those who rock the boat simply to scare other people.

Two things are missing from both sides today: decency and expanded knowledge. Indeed, both extremes seem to revel in anti-intellectualism and bad manners. Street theater and attention-getting antics are all well and good, but they must serve a purpose. Once a cause has the crowd’s attention, it must do something beyond simply causing more acting up.

Many believed the anti-Iraq war protesters had a legitimate point. And many today believe the fear on the right of Big Obama and his notions to “remake America” is also legitimate, but in both instances, the messages were muddled because of the more extreme elements.

Many conservatives find the birthers especially frustrating, as it isn’t necessary to make up things about Obama. The truth of his policies is scary enough, and if the shock troops of the right want to be the conservatives’ sonofabitches, they’d better learn more effective and practical ways to protest the liberal policies of Obama than simply painting mustaches on photographs. They need to recall the words of the great philosopher Emil Faber, founder of Faber College: “Knowledge is good.”

Craig Shirley is the president of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs and is the author of the forthcoming “Rendezvous With Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America.”

LOAD-DATE: April 15, 2010





“The political air is thick with intrigue about hidden agendas and unspoken scandals. Is she running for president? Was the burden of state office too much of a hindrance to that goal of national office? Is there yet another family problem (please no mas)? Or is there yet another investigation forthcoming, phony or otherwise?

“If she is running for the 2012 GOP nomination assuming there is a Republican Party left by then this has to be the most unconventional method ever of pursuing higher office. . . . This is not advancing in a new direction, at least toward that goal. Other straws, then, must be in the wind.”

“You most certainly don’t `effect positive change outside government,’ as the soon-to-be ex-governor put it, unless you have the deep pockets of Warren Buffett or George Soros or Bill Gates, or the bully pulpit of Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh or Chris Matthews, or the long-term commitment to some ideal of Mother Teresa.

“Now, maybe Sarah Palin has something in the works along those lines. Maybe the Sarah Palin Show will soon materialize on FOX. Or maybe she’s raised far more money than any of us have seen and will soon start her own philanthropic organization. Or maybe she’s headed off to a nunnery.

“Or maybe, as some would like to believe, there’s a Palin scandal soon to be announced, or a Palin medical problem about to be revealed, or some other sensible explanation out there somewhere. Then again, maybe there isn’t.”

“Palin paid little mind to her successor. As a viewer, I hardly knew that Alaska’s lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, was standing next to Palin during her announcement. She barely referenced Parnell’s readiness for the job and the continuity he’ll bring. Sure, he got to speak after Palin, but offering extensive, reassuring remarks about him would have gone a long way to comfort Alaska’s citizens.”


“With him goes a certain perspective on the 20th Century: the perspective of a man intimately involved in the military actions that defined both America and the world. World War II, Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam.

“In 2001, McNamara sat down with documentarian Errol Morris for a series of conversations that would examine the lessons he’d learned over the course of that life – lessons like In Order to Do Good You May Have to Engage in Evil, Empathize with Your Enemy, Proportionality Should Be a Guideline in War – and the result was the exemplary, Oscar-winning film, 2003’s The Fog of War. Some have called McNamara a warmonger; a monster; an unethical, immoral machine. The question of whether he was a necessary monster isn’t one for me to answer, but listening to a man like this take his own measure is transfixing. His vantage point on history was unrivaled.”

“Despite McNamara’s blunders and the immorality and unwinnability of not only the Vietnam conflict but also the present day Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and occupations, U.S. politicians still cling to the naive notion that they can make foreign countries safe this time around since they are in charge. McNamara’s death should not only commemorate the passing of the late Defense Secretary but also the death of the idea that the United States should exist to dominate or remake the world into its image.”

LOAD-DATE: July 7, 2009