While reading the text of Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday, I was suddenly plunged back to my Dartmouth College undergraduate days when JFK was president and we were in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I remember sitting in a Hanover Inn lounge (no TVs in the dorms in those days) with many fellow (all male) students, watching Kennedy make the speech in which he announced the blockade of Soviet ships heading for Cuba.
There wasn’t a peep in the room while we listened. Republicans, Democrats, even wannabe sixties radicals, we were all American citizens that night, listening to an admired president who was clearly standing tall against totalitarianism.
Afterwards I remember considerable discussion among the students about what we would all do. Nuclear war seemed imminent. Some, given the college’s Northern New England location, were plotting their escapes to Canada in the event of attack. I was not sure if they were serious. Probably they weren’t sure themselves. But again, no one — repeat: no one – questioned that we had a leader up to the task of defending our country against an enemy who sought to destroy our way of life.
Thanks in part to JFK’s resolve, and to the resolve of later presidents like Reagan, not to mention the resolve above all of the American people themselves, that enemy backed down and later dissolved. (Well, to some extent.)
It is very different now. We have a very different Democratic Party and a very different president. The man currently in the White House would prefer to blame amateurishly made video trailers for a world conflagration that clearly stems from an ideology as evil and bent on world domination as Soviet communism. And with arguably more adherents.
A few years back, that same president, as Governor Romney correctly pointed out in his speech, looked the other way when the democracy demonstrators on the streets of Iran, in the midst of trying to rid themselves of the Islamofascist mullahs, chanted “Are you with us or are you with them?”
They begged us for support and we gave nothing, our president preferring to negotiate with the sociopathic Ahmadinejad, a narcissistic attempt that predictably went nowhere.
That selfish ignoring of the Iranian Greens was to me the most reprehensible act (or non-act really) performed by an American president in my adult lifetime. It was unconscionable and we are all suffering for it now in myriad ways.
But what fascinates me is what kind of man could have watched the happenings on the streets of Tehran and done nothing, not even lend verbal support. You tell me. I really don’t understand it. I cannot imagine the Democrats of my youth, JFK, Hubert Humphrey, etc., acting in such a callow and insensitive manner. It made me ashamed to be an American. I wonder how our liberal friends justify it now, if they do. (I suspect few of them even think about it, because if they did, it would create serious cognitive dissonance.)
I do not believe for a minute that Mitt Romney, had he been president, would have failed to give the Greens his backing in some shape or other.
So what happened to liberalism and the Democratic Party?
Well, I am at fault — I have to admit it — I and my generational cohorts who sought to turn the Democratic Party in our direction from 1968 onwards. We managed to turn the Kennedys with us. A family that was staunchly anti-communist went wishy-washy, first Bobby and then, of course, Teddy.
They played to our rabble of hippies and New Leftists, wanting to be of us and like us, to smoke pot with us and drop acid, to boogie until they dropped, and to sleep with as many women as they could. It went on and on with only temporary restraints and interregnums.
And then came the rise of Obama, forty years later and the self-hypnosis was complete. Not even 9/11 could stop it. Gone was the country that had the spine to stop Nazism and communism. Here was the country whose leader went to Cairo to tell the citizens of the Arab Middle East — those citizens that practiced misogyny and homophobia as if we were still in the ninth century, for whom the separation of church and state was a delusional psychosis, who made all their neighborhoods more judenrein than Hitler and nearly Christian-free as well and now have elected the Muslim Brotherhood and similar fundamentalist groups to lead virtually all their people — that all was America’s fault and that we would make amends.
No wonder they stampeded.
Well, we are at a crossroads now clarified by Mitt Romney’s VMI speech. The time has come to make a choice or it will soon be too late.
And how important is foreign policy in this election? Well, how about ninety percent of it? The economy is indeed in a disastrous state and may get Romney elected, but the truth is presidents have far less to do with economic affairs than they do with foreign affairs. Capitalist economies have the capacity to right themselves, even if their leaders are doing everything possible to sabotage them.
Not so foreign policy. The president and his people run the show. Do we want any more of this? I think not.
Here’s JFK on the missile crisis, if you’ve never seen it or, as in my case, would like to be reminded: