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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: January 2012

A few years ago, I wrote on these pages about a forthcoming documentary series for Showtime, produced and directed by Oliver Stone and co-authored by American University left-wing historian Peter Kuznick. You can find what I wrote here and here. I also took Stone on about this project in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and you can also look at my op-ed.

Now, in an interview appearing in the January issue of Rock Cellar Magazine, Stone announces that the 10 part series will air on the network this coming May, and in late April, the companion book written by Stone and Kuznick will be published by Gallery Books, the same publisher that ironically published Dick Cheney’s memoir.

Now, Stone argues this history documentary will be “a liberal progressive history of the U.S.” Titled The Untold History of the United States, the information Stone offers us about it first shows how disingenuous the title is. Rather than never being told before — at least the title was changed from the first version that it would be the “unknown” history — it is a repeat of a very old and now stale leftist version of our past that dates not from the work of the late Howard Zinn, but from the old CPUSA “scholars” like the late Herbert Aptheker and the secret KGB agent and American Communist activist Carl Marzani, who in the early1950s wrote a book titled We Can Be Friends, the very first “Cold War revisionist” account that blamed the then-ongoing Cold War not on the aggressive policy of Joseph Stalin, but on American imperialism and the warlike anti-Soviet policy of the “fascist” president, Harry S. Truman.

Here is Stone’s message, in his own words:

The Cold War itself.  The whole concept we grew up with in school is that we have been aggressed by the Soviets since World War II; that they started the Cold War, and we responded. We deal with that very in depth, and it’s important because it sets up the mindset that has infected America since then.

Stone continues to say that the U.S. thought “we had to respond to communism because it was seeking to dominate the world. I think that’s a very important thing to overcome.”

To Stone, the well-grounded view that John Gaddis spelled out so thoroughly in his 1998 book Now We Know: Rethinking Cold War History (which I reviewed here) in which Gaddis wrote that “Once Stalin wound up at the top in Moscow, and once it was clear his state would survive the war, then it looks equally clear that there was going to be a Cold War whatever the West did,” appears nowhere in Stone’s repertoire of all those books he claims to have read for his series.

In fact, Gaddis wrote his book as a corrective not only to his own earlier thinking, but to all those who were mis-educated in precisely the kind of history Oliver Stone is again going to present to us. Most Americans who have gone to college from the 1960s on have learned precisely the kind of history Stone is presenting — the Cold War revisionist account that is only now beginning to be challenged by writers like Gaddis and the Notre Dame University historian, Wilson B. Miscamble.

Among other surprises in  Stone’s documentary, he reveals, is the portrayal of FDR’s first Vice-President and then Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace, whom he says “emerges as one of the unsung, forgotten heroes of our history.” Again, for decades, Wallace has not only not been forgotten, but has been continually resurrected by the American fellow-travelers of Communism as a hero. In 2000, we had John C. Culver and John Hyde’s American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace (which I reviewed for TNR), in 1973 the Communist historian Norman J. Markowitz’s The Rise and Fall of the People’s Century:Henry A. Wallace and American Liberalism,  and in 1976 Richard J. Walton’s Henry Wallace, Harry Truman and the Cold War, all of which argue precisely what Stone claims is going to be a new argument in his documentary. Most recently, we had the documentary about Pete Seeger shown on PBS, filmmaker Jim Brown’s Pete Seeger:The Power of Song, which goes out of its way to treat Wallace as one of America’s great unsung heroes.

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Any viewer who stayed tuned after our campaigner-in-chief’s SOTU speech last night had the opportunity to watch the GOP response by Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana. The feeling of many Republicans and conservatives, including myself, is an instant one: why isn’t this man a candidate for the presidency? Evidently, judging from this new website, many people feel the same way.

Republican responses to a presidential SOTU speech can be career killers for politicians who hope at some time to run for the executive office. Remember the disastrous appearance by Bobby Jindal of Louisiana a few years back? But those who saw President Obama’s lengthy, boring, and uninspiring faux populist presentation could see a strong contrast from the Indiana governor. As the full text of his speech shows, Daniels touched upon the important themes that our president completely ignored. Daniels said:

In three short years, an unprecedented explosion of spending, with borrowed money, has added trillions to an already unaffordable national debt.  And yet, the President has put us on a course to make it radically worse in the years ahead.  The federal government now spends one of every four dollars in the entire economy; it borrows one of every three dollars it spends.  No nation, no entity, large or small, public or private, can thrive, or survive intact, with debts as huge as ours.

The President’s grand experiment in trickle-down government has held back rather than sped economic recovery.  He seems to sincerely believe we can build a middle class out of government jobs paid for with borrowed dollars.  In fact, it works the other way: a government as big and bossy as this one is maintained on the backs of the middle class, and those who hope to join it.

Mitch Daniels excels in making conservative principles and ideas coherent and understandable to everyday Americans. He does not come off as condescending or hectoring, but rather, as a man who wants a good and strong America, and who realizes that the decades of crony capitalism and stale reactionary liberalism have had their day.

Rather than seeking to pit have-nots against haves, or the so-called 99 percent against the greedy evil 1 percent, Daniels makes this cogent argument:

As Republicans our first concern is for those waiting tonight to begin or resume the climb up life’s ladder.  We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves.

He holds out a political and economic future in which all have the ability and access to climb the ladder to success; rather than to demand a redistribution of wealth from the elite to the many that would drag down the economy and make our country another Greece in the near future.

Democrats want to depict Republicans as a party and conservatives as a group of people who want to push Grandma off a cliff. As a grandfather a few times over myself, I know that the prescriptions of liberalism would bankrupt our whole country, and push us collectively off to a dark future. I too want a better future for my grandchildren, and that means addressing our debt and instituting policies that would save the fabric of our social order, while at the same time providing a real and manageable safety net for those who really need it. As Daniels points out,

we must unite to save the safety net. Medicare and Social Security have served us well, and that must continue. But after half and three quarters of a century respectively, it’s not surprising that they need some repairs. We can preserve them unchanged and untouched for those now in or near retirement, but we must fashion a new, affordable safety net so future Americans are protected, too.

With that explanation, he cuts through in one fell swoop the false charge that conservatives are enemies of the poor and the needy, and want to abandon them entirely to the vicissitudes of the free market. His answer is to stop giving the wealthy social benefits they do not need, reserving the programs for those who actually do. It is not to take their wealth from them and supposedly give it out en masse, a step which in reality would do little to address our nation’s problems.

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Why Obama Turned Down the Keystone XL Pipeline

January 19th, 2012 - 1:17 pm

With our campaigner-in-chief’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to sections of the United States, President Barack Obama made what columnist Joe Klein today on Morning Joe called perhaps the worst political mistake of his entire presidency. After all, the scheduled pipeline meant, above all, the potential for perhaps 20,000 jobs immediately and many more in future years.

In today’s Washington Post, economics columnist Robert Samuelson spelled out the many advantages of the Keystone pipeline. It will not have a major impact on global-warming emissions, as the environmental activist community claims would be the effect if the pipeline were to be approved. Indeed, should Canada instead build a pipeline to the Pacific for Asian export, eventually shipped by tanker to China, there will be even more emissions and the risk of oil spills.

But more importantly, rejection means worse relations with our nearby good neighbor, as well as perhaps the loss of thousands of new desperately needed jobs that would help rejuvenate the economy. As Samuleson writes, no matter whether there are less or more than the 20,000 some claim, “it’s in the thousands and thus important in a country hungering for work.” And the pipeline is exactly the type of infrastructure project Obama supposedly favors.

Moreover, by vetoing it, Obama helped our competitor China, which is wondering “how the crazy Americans could repudiate such a huge supply of nearby energy.” Yes, it means we are still going to be dependent upon oil. But let’s face it, Obama’s big green energy push has gone nowhere, as symbolized by the wasted heavy investment in Solyndra and the hype about the electric cars that Americans have ignored completely. Shouldn’t our country have more trade in oil with Canada, rather than have to turn to the Saudis, and to Venezuela, or to other potential and current enemies?

The editorial endorsement of Obama’s veto by the editors of the left-wing New York Times (I have purposefully called the paper “left-wing” rather than “liberal,” since it is a more accurate description of its editorial slant) provides some insight as to what lies behind the veto by Obama. Noting that the State Department has primary jurisdiction over the proposed 1700 mile pipeline, it notes that it would “cross through ecologically sensitive areas in the Midwest.” Thus it favors a new “comprehensive environmental review.”

Keep in mind that reviews and investigations had been carried out, and none of them had concluded that the pipeline posed any real danger. The editors also make charges answered effectively by Samuelson in his column, such as the false claim that it would “cause far more greenhouse gas emissions” than if it was not built. They also argue that much of the refined oil would “be destined for foreign export.” On this issue, Samuelson counters that “this would be a good thing.” The exports would go to Latin America, keep refining jobs in the U.S., and reduce our trade deficit in oil.

So what, then, explains the president’s veto of the project? Here are my thoughts on the answer to this conundrum.

Recall the article appearing a few weeks ago, noting that the Democratic Party has decided to write off the votes of the white working-class in the 2012 election, which it has judged is going to overwhelmingly go to the Republicans. Instead, it has decided to try and increase the vote of the suburban upper-middle class and coastal elites, as well as the vote of college students who had been so enthusiastic about Obama in 2008. Without such an increase to make up for the loss of working-class votes (once a Democratic mainstay), the Democratic policy wonks believe Obama will lose.

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Nothing I have written in some time has aroused so much passionate and often informed comment than my last column on Judith Clark. I have, in addition, received a great deal of private e-mails from people who preferred not to post comments online. One prominent legal expert replied that his head agrees with me but his heart sympathizes with those who favor harsh punishment. This lawyer also, like David Horowitz, does not believe her repentance. Another former public official replied that he believes all those convicted of killing police officers — including someone like Clark who was guilty of felony murder — “should suffer the death penalty.” That is a response even more harsh than any of those who commented on my post made.

So the thoughts and comments of respondents and critics have caused me to re-examine the issue again. I began by re-reading Tom Robbins’ article, and then trying to frame the different arguments and separate them. Here are my latest thoughts.

First, Robbins’ article is, as David Horowitz suggests, part of the New York Times’ long effort to paint favorable portraits of ex-60s radicals, people of the same generation as many of their own writers and editors. Robbins is a freelance writer now at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, and a former reporter at The Village Voice. He writes that “he wanted nothing to do with her after the crime,” and had no sympathy for her, regarding her as someone on “the left’s outer reaches.” After talking with her, Robbins is convinced that her repentance is true, not a mere ploy to finally get out of prison.

There is some evidence for this, aside from his impressions. He tells the story of how when Judith Clark praised black revolutionaries, her father told her she should honor instead true democratic radicals like the Pullman Porter’s union chief, A. Philip Randolph.  Robbins got that story from Judith herself, since her father was dead. That suggests in essence that she was saying in effect that her father was right, and she should have listened to his counsel decades ago.

Secondly, unlike the others of her now free comrades, she accepts responsibility for her actions, and that driving the get-away car does not exonerate her from being guilty of murder of the two police officers. The grandparents raised her abandoned daughter; she did not give her over to Ayers and Dohrn, as Kathy Boudin gave her child to be raised by her two Weather Underground comrades. She accepts that whatever her fate, she did it to herself — not the state, the authorities, or her fellow terrorists. Moreover, while Susan Rosenberg and the others called themselves “political prisoners,” a term implying innocence of any real crime — Clark accepts her guilt and does not use any such political terminology to describe her plight. To me, that says her perspective is quite different than the others in her old movement.

Finally, Robbins is more than unfair to Clark’s father, who should be the hero of the article, rather than somewhat of a villain. He describes him as someone who “became vehemently anti-communist, raging at former friends,” as if that is somehow a bad thing. He does not note that Clark still was on the Left, and was a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, not any kind of a conservative or right-winger.  They were right to have no “patience for their daughter’s rabid politics,” and Robbins should have made that much clearer.

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The incredible story by Tom Robbins about Judith Clark that appears in today’s New York Times — an advance posting of a feature in their coming Sunday Magazine — tells the story of Clark, one of the four arrested on Oct. 20, 1981, after a failed attempt to rob a Brink’s truck in a shopping mall in Nanuet, New York. The action led to the murder of one black and one white police officer, in what Robbins correctly calls “one of the last spams of ‘60s-style, left-wing violence.”

Clark was part of an offspring of the Weather Underground that they called the Republic of New Afrika, a non-existent utopia that Robbins writes “existed mainly in their fevered dreams.” She was part of those young people whom Peter Collier and David Horowitz termed the “destructive generation,” the movement of those who had turned against everything America had given them, and proceeded to ruin their lives trying to build a revolutionary movement that would bring the United States down as they rebuilt their native land along a Stalinist-Maoist model.

Clark had grown up in a Communist household. Her late father was Joe Clark, once the foreign editor of the Communist paper The Daily Worker. After the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, Clark joined with his colleague Joe Starobin and the paper’s editor John Gates in an effort to move the Communist Party towards a new anti-Soviet position. Within a few years, all had left its ranks.

I knew all three fairly well. They had evolved to advocates of social-democracy and had become firm anti-Communists of the Left, who ended up as Clark did on the editorial board of Dissent magazine. I never met Judy Clark, but her infant daughter — whom she left with a sitter as she went off to perform her duty for the revolution — attended P.S. 87 on W. 78th Street in New York City, the same public school my son Michael attended in which she was in the same grade.

What is amazing about the profile of Clark is that unlike other leftist terrorists inexplicably freed by President Bill Clinton in the amnesty he granted to Silvia Baraldini in 1999 and to Susan Rosenberg in 2001 — one of the last acts carried out before he left office — Clark acknowledges thoroughly and honestly the depth of the crime she committed. Those Clinton pardoned, including the Puerto Rican terrorists who had tried to kill Harry S. Truman, have never said anything to indicate any regrets for their crimes.

Journalist Robbins’ article is a powerful example of the effect that ideology can have on young people, who in effect give up all that God has granted them in an American life to serve the dictates of the warped revolutionary ideals they believe in. After years of acting like a hardened revolutionary who spouted rhetoric in an attempt to prove her fidelity to the cause to her comrades — a woman who could condemn Vietnam War vets she spoke with for would-be murder of our enemies in wartime, and yet sanction the blood-curdling murder of police officers with young families by her own comrades — Clark was a model of a deluded young person consumed by ideology.

Judy Clark believed for a time that she was “the keeper of the flame that flickered out in her parents’ lives” instead of realizing that perhaps her parents had something vital to teach her about disillusionment, and hence believed that “anything less than total commitment to the cause was betrayal.” What shattered the core of her belief system was her daughter, whose existence slowly led her to realize that she had to abandon her loyalties to become anything of a mother.

Clark did not kill anyone herself; she was driving what was supposed to be a getaway car for her comrades. Her comrade Kathy Boudin pleaded guilty and got 20 years to life, and was paroled in 2003. Clark refused to follow Boudin’s path, and hence received the harshest sentence possible, although Boudin was as guilty if not more so than Clark. Eventually, a sociologist visiting the prison made her comprehend that she did everything she suffered to herself, and that she had no right to cry for her own daughter “and not see that the children of the men who were killed cried the same way for their fathers.”

No longer using her radicalism to “avoid confronting her own doubts” and walling herself off in “the safety of doctrine,” she acknowledged that what she believed was crazy. As Clark told Robbins: “I’ve experienced so much loss, and created so much loss, for the sake of an illusion.” (My emphasis.) She eventually found her once-neglected Judaism and attended Jewish services. After her father died of a heart attack in 1988, she spent Yom Kippur “alone, walking and thinking about the crime and about my father.” She also said aloud the names of those who had been killed by her comrades, and realized that “there were nine children who were a lot younger than me grieving for their fathers. And I was responsible for that. There was the human toll. It was a terrible truth, but it was my truth.”

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Today’s New York Times runs one of its usual idiotic op-eds from a contributor. It is not quite as bad as the time the paper ran the late Libyan dictator Gaddafi’s op-ed on how the world should deal with Israel, but it comes close.

This time it is from the pen of Harvard lecturer Jonathan M. Hansen and is titled “Give Guantanamo Back to Cuba.” Mr. Hansen’s argument is simple: We should give the base back to Cuba, from whom we leased it in 1901. He says it represents the American presence on the island that “has been more than a thorn in Cuba’s side.” The real issue is, Hansen claims, our continued occupation of Guantanamo itself, since the base is nothing more than an “imperialist enclave.”

Mr. Hansen’s very language is a give-away. It makes me wonder if the name is really a pseudonym for Fidel or Raul Castro, since it is the kind of article one expects to read in the Cuban regime’s propaganda sheet, Granma. The author condemns “America’s long history of interventionist militarism,” and he continues with the argument that our entrance into the Spanish-Cuban War was not one on the side of Cuba against its brutal Spanish rulers, but one meant to take over the island for the United States. As he writes: “The United States wanted dominion over Cuba, along with naval bases from which to exercise it.”

The rest of Mr. Hansen’s op-ed touts the usual leftist interpretation of U.S.-Cuban relations: our country exploited Cuba for our control of its resources, leaving the island as nothing but a giant plantation which the United States controlled and benefitted from. He notes that between 1900 and 1920 44,000 Americans flocked to the island, “boosting capital investment…to just over $1 billion from roughly $80 million.” Not one word from the author about the benefits to Cuba from this capital for industrial development, which made the island a place of prosperity with a growing middle class.

Hansen clearly does not know his history. As Mark Falcoff writes in his book Cuba:The Morning After, U.S. intervention had nothing to do with economic pressures. “American business interests in Cuba,” he points out, “had traditionally been on the side of the Spanish.” Unlike Mr. Hansen, who writes that the administration of Cuba by General Leonard Wood after the war’s end was a disaster for the Cubans, Falcoff writes that although Wood ruled “with arrogance and insensitivity, …the accomplishments of his administration were many.” He demobilized the Cuban army, improved public health, eradicated yellow fever, developed Cuba’s communication network, and set up its first public schools. In contrast, all Hansen wants his readers to learn is that there was “no real independence left Cuba” after the U.S. occupation under Wood took place.

As for the U.S. investment, Falcoff notes that “the economy was almost instantly revitalized by the massive entry of American capital, which invested not only in sugar, but railways, utilities, tobacco, minerals and other resources.” As Cuba developed, it actually was the one country in the region that had a higher standard of living than any other, including Mexico. But Cubans compared themselves not to their Latin neighbors, but to the standard of living in the United States, a comparison to which, of course, it suffered.

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As we all await tonight’s debate in New Hampshire, it becomes clear that those of us who understand the necessity to unseat Barack Obama have a lot to worry about. Mitt Romney is still leading the pack, and is ahead even in the South Carolina polls. But the momentum of Rick Santorum’s challenge and the no-holds-barred attacks on Romney coming from Newt Gingrich (Gingrich regularly refers to Romney as the “Massachusetts moderate”) are taking their tolls.

Even the liberal columnist Joe Klein writes respectfully of Santorum, a candidate whose brand of social conservatism he strongly disagrees with. The man “lives his faith,” Klein writes, and he thinks that Santorum “will pose a significant working-class challenge to Romney’s corporate conservatism.”

Santorum will not win the nomination, and neither will Newt Gingrich. But the problem is that with many Republicans and especially self-proclaimed conservatives not being enthusiastic about Romney, as Klein writes, he “may not inspire sufficient numbers of Republicans to come out and vote.” The result, then, will be a second term for Barack Obama.

Then one must consider Newt Gingrich’s new motivation for his campaign — revenge against the Romney Super PAC for running the negative ads that resulted in the complete collapse of Newt’s efforts in Iowa. The man who only a few weeks ago predicted with confidence that he would get the nomination is now down in all the polls. Rather than maintain his prior promise of running no negative ads, Gingrich is promising to blast Romney with everything he has, to show the Republican electorate that Romney is not a conservative and will lose to the president if he gets the nomination.

If one is looking ahead to the November 2012 election campaign, all the anti-Romney attacks will work only to do precisely what Klein predicts — cause a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the  Republican Party conservative base and quite likely lead them to not get to the polling booth on voting day.

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