Gnawing at the back of my brain for decades, eating away at the heart of my political philosophy, has been my feeling that I despise all politicians except I have to admit, “I do like Ike.”
The only President who has stood the test of my lifetime was Dwight David Eisenhower.
I didn’t like Ike when I was young, thought he was a stodgy and boring, an old man who didn’t know what was going on around him, a figurehead who was always talking about peace and prosperity — not like Adlai E. Stevenson who was an open-minded, free-thinking liberal with empathy that my parents thought made him one of us.
Things change over time, sometimes even people do.
I can honestly say today that in retrospect I LIKE IKE more than ever. He’s the only President to speak the truth directly to the people in my lifetime, even if it only came in his Farewell Address and all that he preached in his eight years was “peace and prosperity.”
Back then, I didn’t understand how lucky I was personally to grow up in a nouveau middle class family and how 99 percent of all human beings want nothing more than the chance to live in peace and prosper. Ah, the false idealism of youth!
JFK offered the totalitarian notion that I should ask what I could do for my country rather than what my country could do for me and then escalated the war in Vietnam and hesitated to defend the civil rights of people who were called Negroes back then.
Johnson was worse, Nixon a liar and criminal, Ford a bumbling boob, Carter too “good” for his own good, Reagan overrated, Bush the first a CIA stooge, Clinton an intellectual slut, Bush the second just a plain stooge.
And now there’s Barack Obama, a president who seems to only speak the truth in murmurs when he thinks the microphones aren’t on.
Back in November, Obama was with French President Nicolas Sarkozy who commented on Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu: “I can’t stand him. He’s a liar.” .
Obama replied, “You’re tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day.”
Oops, open mike.
Now there’s this political disaster: “This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility”
That’s what he told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with regards to the U.S. missile defense shield to protect Europe from what used to threaten their survival before the fall of the Soviet Union.
Oops, don’t these people know enough to yell, “Mic check.”
I’m disappointed in Barack Obama though it’s hard to see any Republican who isn’t worse at this point.
But it’s not just him. Long ago, I concluded our own Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was betraying every promise he ever made, every belief he ever held, every person who ever trusted him. And now I’m watching Jerry Brown sell out what he knows is right for what’s pragmatic.
Pragmatic — that’s the word Richard Riordan used to justify giving up on doing what was right in the face of a system that crippled his ability to deliver anything he actually believed it, a system that had evolved from the military-industrial complex decried by Eisenhower to the bankers-union-greed machine we have today enslaving us.
To paraphrase Barry Goldwater: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And “pragmatism” in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Like Adlai Stevenson, Goldwater was a loser in no small part because they both had a bad habit of speaking truth to power:
“I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass…I wouldn’t trust Nixon from here to that phone…Hubert Humphrey talks so fast that listening to him is like trying to read Playboy magazine with your wife turning the pages….The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government…I think any man in business would be foolish to fool around with his secretary. If it’s somebody else’s secretary, fine.”
A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular…A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation…Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady; but a newspaper can always print a retraction…Communism is the corruption of a dream of justice … the death of the soul… As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end.
Here’s to the losers, those who dare to speak the truth.
When you vote in June and in November, will you dare to ask of any candidate that you vote for whether they have ever spoken the truth to power in public?
And come next March when you decide the fate of this city, will you demand the truth from the candidates. Can you even live with the truth?
The truth I live is that there is hardly anyone who holds public office now who deserves your vote unless they can make a compelling case they did not buy in sooner or later and accept the corruption of the system as if it were normal.
I have covered government in Cleveland, Alaska, Alabama, Washington D.C. and Washington state, Australia, California and Washington and I can only remember a handful of people who ever won elected office and served as much as two years without losing their integrity.
It isn’t the people. It’s the system. It is corrupt to its core. Ike said it half a century ago.
The heart of what it means to be an American was stolen away from us by phony conflicts between Democrats and Republicans while big business, big labor and big government were uniting to serve themselves and turn us into a two-class society of “haves” and “have-nots.”
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded…
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.