Thursday, September 28, 2006

Letter to Jim Jeffords RE Habeas Corpus:

- by Bernie Quigley, for The Free Market News Network, 9/29/2006

Congratulations on your retirement from a life of good work & work that needed to be done. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that you gave your parting speech in the same week that the Senate allowed the President to repeal Habeas Corpus. Over the years I have admired your character and courage and solicited your support. One such time was at the beginning of the war on Iraq when I started an ad hoc group called The Acadian Alliance, and claimed that we three northern New England states, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, had the Constitutional right not participate in the war (and the moral obligation not to). I also proposed at the time that we send our own representative to the UN. This idea brought praise and chuckles from John Kenneth Galbraith, still at his desk at Harvard deep into his 90s.

I am strongly supportive of the war against the Al Qaeda network operating out of Afghanistan and even more deeply sympathetic to the needs of Homeland Security. If the FBI wasn’t reading my email I’d feel like a failed writer. Some of the others I’ve encountered in opposition to this war were in my opinion, deluded Sixties Reenactors and irresponsible political nihilists seeking opportunity in tragedy. But now that Habeas Corpus has been repealed, it appears that I (or anyone who holds a dissenting opinion) could be taken from my house with complete legality, held indefinably, never to be heard from again. As one legal commentator pointed out last night on the evening news, I could even be legally executed without explaination to my family.

The question is this: Is the repeal of Habeas Corpus a real need in a time of uncertainty for securing the nation, or is this what we have become? If so, perhaps we in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine should begin to consider our relationship with the federation. As Howard Dean said when he was governor of Vermont, we have more in common with our Canadian neighbors in the Eastern Provinces than we do with Texas. We are an Enlightenment people; people of the Age of Reason. Habeas Corpus is our legacy.

Not long ago The Nation magazine called states secession one of the "bold new ideas" of the new century. I find it irresponsible and dangerous; the realm of mischief makers and the disenchanted. Only the most dire circumstances should begin such a conversation. But the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, under the guise of fighting terrorism, is one such circumstance. Preemption is another. A President who seeks extra-Constitutional powers is another. The repeal of Habeas Corpus is a landmark.

Our laws and our kind of government evolved from the Enlightenment and the ideas of John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. But it may be that those ideas are too lofty and difficult for a country as vast and inclusive as ours and the arc of grace and light which brought us here to the millennium was only a temporary condition. And we are returning today to an earlier sensibility. Bush's war on Iraq increasingly gives all the impressions of the continuation of a war on Islam which has been going on by Christian nations since 1096. Worth noting, as the proposal to repeal Habeas Corpus gives no date for return to Constitutional governance - it is not a temporary aberration as Lincoln's suspension was during the Civil War. It is open-ended and quite possibly a permanent change to our American life.
Rage and Sock Puppets

by Bernie Quigley – for The Free Market News Network, 9/27/2006

This morning The New York Times reports: “Republicans and Democrats began showing at least 30 new campaign advertisements in contested House and Senate districts across the country on Tuesday. Of those, three were positive.”

The battle is highlighted by the Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, conspicuously defending her husband (who holds no political office) against Condi Rice (who does).

We enter today the third phase of acrimony between North and South since post-war. Historian Dan Carter well describes the first phase in his provocative and brilliant book, Politics of Rage, From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, a political biography of George Wallace.

Carter wrote that the entire Wallace rise and fall was a reaction to the new initiatives of the culture of the 1960s, of the Freedom Riders in the South, the integration decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the hippies and so on.

“Journalists might greet this growing counterculture with curiosity, even approval. But Wallace knew – instinctively, intuitively – that tens of millions Americans despised the civil rights agitators, the antiwar demonstrators, the sexual exhibitionists as symbols of a fundamental decline in the traditional cultural compass of God, family, and country.”

Wallace invoked images of a nation in crisis, Carter wrote, a country in which thugs roamed the streets with impunity, antiwar demonstrators embraced the hated Communist Vietcong, and brazen youth flaunted their taste for “dirty” books and movies. “And while America disintegrated, cowardly politicians, bureaucrats, and distant federal judges capitulated to these loathsome forces."

After 49 states voted for Ronald Reagan, the country entered into a kind of stability. Phase two came with the election of Bill Clinton to the Presidency. The South had an immediate and visceral response against Clinton, which I gauged as starting the moment quite shortly after his inauguration when he stopped Air Force One at the end of the runway to wait two hours for him while he paid $175 for a haircut by a famous Hollywood hairdresser.

The climate change was palpable in Tobaccoville, North Carolina, where we lived, worked and reared our kids on our farm. Red state/blue state alienation would begin to rise. Within the first years of his Presidency both the House and the Senate would be lost to the Republicans, allowing right wing extremists to grow within the party unhindered.

The Christian Right would rise with the Southern economy, and the common people of the South throughout would clearly define who they were and who they were not. And where they would go and with whom, and where they would not go. As the Clintons vacationed yearly in Nantucket, the conspicuous playground of the Liberal Very, Very Rich, the Sixties theme of which as Carter writes, which originally alienated the South, came to acculturated the whole of the Democratic Party – fab Sixties pop culture figures like Carly Simon would greet the President at the Airport. Today editors of The New Republic and the liberal publishing houses in New York and even England’s Gordon Brown who hopes to follow Tony Blair, vacation in Cape Cod. It is the vortex of Clinton Democrats.

Today we go to Phase Three as it begins to become clear that Senator Clinton and her husband will continue to dominate the political atmosphere. A reader asks “what does a dollar for Hillary is a vote for Bush” suggest? Money is power, and each dollar sent to empower the Clinton Party will have an equal and opposite counterforce in the red states, further alienating the regions.

But a fight between Clinton and Rice, as representative of contention between Democrats and Republicans, brings to mind the old Sherlock Homes presented on public television years back, in which the series ends with Holmes and Moriarty horns locked in battle, going over a waterfall. The image kept coming to mind at the end of the millennium.

Both parties today seem spent forces; the Bush Republicans amateurish and incompetent, the Democrats vituperative.

Such talent is kept hidden with the Dems, from Wes Clark, to Tammy Duckworth, to Kathleen Sebelius. But orthodoxy and tradition, writes William James, prevents the spirit from rising and spends its fortune institutionalizing the Old Ways, and keeping it imprisoned.

And the Prudence Pillars of the Republicans – General John Vessey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Ronald Reagan, George Shultz, Reagan’s secretary of state, Colin Powell and others, who today criticize the President, resonate with inherent American integrity. It is unfortunate that the Democrats have no similar Council of Elders. But a party of the aging young, nostalgic for its college days, does not get to have elders.

So in this season of acrimony, who’s doing the work? Arnold Schwarzenegger gets headlines with activist actors George Clooney and Don Cheadle, signing legislation to end California investment in Sudan. Arnold Schwarzenegger discusses climate change. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs bills on carbon emissions. Arnold Schwarzenegger leads Democratic opponent Phil Angelides by 17 points.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Beyond Elvis: Bill Clinton is Leviathan

by Bernie Quigley for The Free Market News Network, 9/24/2006

I’m sure you’ve seen him these past weeks. He is everywhere. On The Daily Show, in a 23-page interview in The New Yorker – his core constituency, they love him at The New Yorker, and give him the kind of treatment usually reserved for Churchill – on the cover of The Huntington Post, on Fox News Sunday; Elvis here, Elvis there, Elvis everywhere. Elvis has not left the building. He is staging a comeback.

It is one of the core mysteries of life that certain people seem to resemble famous others. When he first appeared in the world outside Arkansas, The New York Times Magazine ran an odd story about how much he resembled Elvis. I found it to be way spooky. He does look like Elvis. He wears the same size 13 shoes. He has a penchant for trashy women which appeals to some of his constituency and which he orchestrates as part of his charm and charisma. And he married an out-of-town woman, which he saw as moving upscale into the world beyond Hope and Memphis and Little Rock. It caused some resentment among his own; as the Southern Gentlemen would sing it, he drifted too far from the shore.

When I worked in the South they used to say about Elvis, “He never should have married that Yankee woman.” Caused him to want to rise above himself and cursed him to chase it back throughout his life in Graceland’s Jungle Room with any woman on hand. But Elvis would go home too and sing Gospel - beautiful, simple and utterly sincere, as none other could, to the very end of his life. When I left the South they started saying the same thing about Bill Clinton: “He never should have married that Yankee woman.”

For some things there is no explanation. Perhaps Elvis was America’s Vishnu; emanating in part or in whole elsewhere in space and in time – with Michael Jackson, with Eminem, with the Deathless Child of Enlightenment wherever that entity would awakened in the world. After his first popularity had passed (my mother and father wouldn’t allow my sister and I to watch on The Ed Sullivan Show - it was considered too scandalous – lucky for You Tube we can see it today) he began to think of himself as transcendent. Like when he started wearing the white god outfit in his Vegas act. Then letting the crowd at his feet touch his garments. And like many other minor deities and artists before him, he descending into sadness, drug addiction and confusion when the spirit abandoned.

The curse of celebrity took him. But it was not an addiction to the drugs and the women which brought him down. It was an addiction to himself. He’d come to see himself as a god-king, and when people called him the King, he’d scold them and remind them onstage that Jesus Christ was the King. But then he dreamed too that he was Jesus.

Celebrity is a killer. When The Beatles first played large stadiums it made John Lennon nervous. The tens of thousands of teens screaming and crying hysterically, some taken out in a trance in ambulances. And it gave him the creeps that they rolled in the sick and the crippled to the front rows as if The Beatles were healers.

It is not only pop stars who fall victim to it. Politicians, religious figures, even scientists do. It is a kind of persona madness; a conviction that one’s public role in the world becomes the true self. The adoration of the hordes becomes a personal conviction: I must be a god king if all these millions think I am. It is a core theme of some of Rudyard Kipling’s and Joseph Conrad’s best work, perhaps because the Victorians were most susceptible to it.

Even Einstein suffered from it, possibly more than most. He adopted some of the most tragically misguided ideas of the century; the passing fancies and affectations of Europe’s avant garde, such as world socialism, after he’d become famous and sought after. He even invited Freud to join him as kind of avatar on the world stage, but Freud had the better sense. But no matter what Einstein proposed, including the building and use of nuclear weapons for warfare (“my biggest mistake,” he later demurred) the Eloi of the governing classes, which held him in awe, were certain to adopt it.

I was at the first Clinton inauguration on assignment. At Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, a man was reciting the Baghavad Gita and every time he got to the name Lord Krishna, he substituted Bill Clinton in its place. And Elvis was there of course, as Clinton promoted an image of himself as Elvis and his FBI code name encryption was Elvis. An Elvis Impersonator marched in his inaugural parade.

Clinton had forgotten his own Southern Baptist roots or maybe he felt he had outgrown them. Any sincere and earthy Pentacostalist preacher from Memphis or beyond would have told him that it’s not good to mess with the dead. It’ll come back on you.

Clinton’s new Popular Front this week had some good commentary. I read in The Huffington Post that he’s sick of “ . . . Karl Rove’s bullshit.” So am I. A good number of us have been sick of it for six years. So where has this guy been? And now he’s speaking out against torture. Now that the crisis has passed. Why did he wait to resist until the crisis had all but passed? The only Dems we’ve been hearing in opposition these long six years have been Robert C. Byrd, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Russ Feingold and Jim Webb of Virginia.

Now that the country has been shamed and disgraced by practices abhorrent to every wave of America from Jefferson to Eisenhower, he speaks out. Why should we listen now? Till now only John McCain has been able to carry influence in opposition to this President. The Democrats have either acquiesced to him or appeased him, including at the very top of the list, the Senator from New York, that Bible thumpin’, flag lovin’ born-again Warrior Princess, Hillary Clinton.

The few who have spoken out clearly have been marginalized by the big bucks Nantucket Democrats who get their news from The New Yorker. Why does he speak out now? Because the many Bill Clinton appearances this Fall, coordinated with a full blog roll on the internet by Hillary apparatchiks, along with the rumor last week that Clinton Democrat Terry McAuliffe (“Terry McAuliffe?,” commented Marcos of the Daily Kos) had been hired by Senator Clinton for her Presidential shot next year, are a coordinated effort to begin Senator Clinton’s rise to the Presidential race in 2008. McAuliffe said he would raise 100 million dollars to that effort and he let it leak to the press on Capitol Hill.

No doubt he can. It should be considered scandalous to exploit an issue like torture or Karl Rove’s bullshit for political advantage, but we have passed that marker long ago. Nothing is scandalous to these people. Everything is marketing.

It seems to be backfiring. On the Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace this morning Clinton appeared to unravel. He went on the show to talk about his Global Initiative and was irked when Wallace asked him why he hadn’t “put bin Laden and al-Qaeda out of business.” Then he attacked Wallace, insinuating that he was one of Fox’s conservative hack commentators, but Wallace has generally been free of that and has been respected in the profession for 30 years. It seems a fair question. I’d like to know.

Clinton wanted to talk about the Clinton Global Initiative, which is kind of his own UN, but more hip. He wanted to talk about how his cool friend, Richard Branson, who made Virgin Express airlines and those trendy TV shows where they jump out of airplanes into snake pits or something is going to help stop global warming by giving Clinton a billion dollars.

Giving away a billion dollars is getting to be a pretty cool thing. Everybody Bill Clinton knows now since he became President practically has that much money. But, somebody tell these guys: Cool is passé. It has been now for a full generation. It was Kurt Cobain, the innocent waif and god-king of a whole generation since which began with his anthem: “I’d rather be dead than cool.”

Is there any way that someone like Bill Clinton can be led to understand that there is something preposterous about him thinking that he is the man at the Center of the World, and that his trendy, but aging and post-seasonal friends can start their own UN? Can someone tell him that he can’t stop global warming or cure AIDS because he gets Mick Jagger to hang out with him?(Mick Jagger?)

Bush’s ratings have gone up considerable in the past two weeks. My own theory is that a misconceived quote by a careless Pope with a Medievalist bent had an unintended, pneumonic, feeling effect and as it appeared to offend Muslims, likewise it appeared to millions of others who instinctively trust in his traditional authority to have been a Bush endorsement. I think the new Clinton presence has helped Bush as well. Mainstream Democrats seem unable to understand this simple logic of politics; a dollar for Clinton is a vote for Bush.

Bill Clinton was President in a time of soaring hopes and rising economy. Half of the country was invested in the stock market. In this America everyone was going to be rich. It was a grand illusion, but not an unfair one. When the sun shines bright on people they feel that Jesus loves them.

But the country changed on 9/11. And the century changed and the millennium changed. The attitudes of the Clinton period were perhaps right for that time. But they are not right for this time. The True Believers in the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party are the last to know.

History will pass them by. Charles Baxter today in The New York Times gives a more relevant picture. In reporting on Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, he gives a sense of the new century.

The campaign is in crisis mode, he writes. The race is between Michele Bachmann, the Republican, and Patty Wetterling, the Democrat, and it reveals a Bush-era national trend now visible locally. In Minnesota’s Sixth District, he writes, liberalism is the new conservatism. Baxter describes the Republicans as in a state of constant crisis, and “crisis rhetoric, which is inherently radical rather than conservative, dissolves social stability.”

The Democrat, on the other hand, is “tame and pleasant and sensible” — conservative, that is. In the Democrat’s view “ . . . we are not in the end times but in a stable world shaped by well-financed public education, Social Security, benefits for veterans, a decent respect for the opinions of others, a reluctance to engage in foreign adventures, and balanced budgets.”

Lake Wobegon in this day is the avant garde. These attitudes can be seen growing in many places in America. But as the Democrats have moved beyond Apocalypse and are bringing stability to the heartland in many places, they keep getting dragged back by the Second Millennium Clintons.

Baxter’s piece is prescient and shows the Democrats in a position to make progress in the country by accentuating the solid values of Lake Wobegon. But not if they can’t get past the Clintons.

This is what Tibetans do. When someone dies, they put a little boat a stream and light a candle in it. As the boat goes down the stream, the candle burns, and when the candle is out, the loved ones left behind go on with their life. But all things die and nothing dies – the day passes on to a death and so does the millennium. Tibetans make no distinction. They likewise let go of these and avoid attachment, which locks them into a figment of their imagination, and let go of the past as they let go of mother’s hand.

The Democrats should put a candle in the boat – two candles – and send it down the river. And go forth into the world in peace and good hope with new eyes and new ideas.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Suddenly a Southern General: Wes Clark Is The Last Best Hope for the Democratic Party

by Bernie Quigley - for WesPAC, 9/17/2006

When Wesley Clark arrived in Concord, New Hampshire, to sign the book and officially enter the New Hampshire primary, there were few on hand to greet him. But it was a wonder that anyone was there at all.

Silver-haired Southern Generals had less than made their mark here in New England’s north country where New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine blend into their own distinct and independent-minded province.

We get Willy Nelson today in Bernie’s TV ads. Everyone calls Vermont’s Senate candidate Bernie Sanders by his first name as he is one of us. (I think Bernie’s got it. At the Tunbridge farm fair in Vermont yesterday, I saw hundreds of people wearing Bernie stickers and only one wearing a Tarrant sticker and that was Tarrant.) And in truth, Willy seems more likely to belong here. But a Southern General? As time passed us by like a river which brought us here then headed South, then Southwest and West and across the Pacific on its auspicious American journey, we’d all but forgotten our soldiers.

Joshua Chamberlain, who with a small band of Down Easters, out of ammo and alone at the peak of Cemetery Ridge, turned a page of world history, but is forgotten today in Maine and even despised. And Robert Gould Shaw, buried on the battlefield with his African-American men at the request of his Boston Blue-Blood father, is passed unnoticed by tourists and New England visitors alike on their way to the Duck Pond and the Make Way for Ducklings statuary in Boston Common.

I’ll say this bluntly: If you were raised in New England at the end of World War II you would be taught that soldiers are bad (and Southern Generals the worst of all). Necessary sometimes, but not something you would aspire to be yourself. That would be mostly for guys from Texas. Or Arkansas.

All of our uncles and family people had served – in Mark Clark’s army in southern Europe, in General Patton’s tank corp – but in New England, the season had changed.

Some generational theorists suggest it changed at a very specific moment at the Newport Folk Festival about two minutes away from my high school, when the howling lament of the young Triskster and generational waif, Bob Dylan, traveled his lonesome road from Minnesota’s border land wilderness to our little town. His first voice, raw and apocalyptic, would ring of Changing Times and echo the sentiments of John F. Kennedy’s speech writer, Ted Sorensen, particularly the great speech about the “new man of the Sixties,” Kennedy gave in Los Angeles when he accepted the Democratic nomination. It would electrify a new generation.

Kennedy was dead before that age could awaken and the mood darkened with his assassination. A different age would open when our eloquent and volatile Magical Animal changed from a wooden guitar to one electric at Newport. A year or two later when my only high school friend to willingly enter military service was killed in Vietnam, his death was marked only by the aging; veterans of the Legion Hall and the generous town people of the Lion’s Club.

It was not a good season for war. We’d seen too much of it. Raymond Aaron had called it a century of Total War. And with the advent of nuclear weapons, the world had changed intrinsically. The great physicist Wolfgang Pauli made the claim that the human psyche itself had changed; that is had been shattered and maybe destroyed.

But there was innocence to our American endeavors. French liberated by American soldiers at Normandy commented on how free and almost childlike our soldiers were. Andre Malraux, who admired our newness in the world, once said we were the first people to become first in the world without wanting to be. We’d been cast there by fate and circumstances, and the elegance, élan and style – Norman Mailer called it “animal grace” – of Jack Kennedy and his astonishing wife Jackie (who’d read Malraux and brought him to the White House) brought an awakening to the world and a turning of the page in history.

Later, when I served in northern Thailand, I noticed that the shops and stalls in the marketplace all featured pictures of the King of Thailand, the Queen, and JFK. I thought they might be trying to appeal to G.I.s sent to war in Vietnam. But a friend in the Foreign Service said it was the same in huts and villages throughout Africa. Which was a little mystifying to us in New England. Our families knew his families back to Ireland. He was born in our neighborhood and he married Jackie in my high school parish church.

Something left us when he was assassinated. Something from which we have not yet fully recovered.

You can always tell the character of a good man by the wife he gets. Nancy Reagan was smarter than Ronald Reagan and insiders say she was responsible for his brilliant second-term initiatives in Reykjavik (at which Gorbachev said Reagan was incoherent). Likewise, Jackie’s world was deeper and broader than Jack’s and she brought to the White House a fullness we had not seen before nor since. It was that caliber of character and intelligence which first began to ascend again in Concord when Wes Clark first came to New Hampshire.

When General Clark signed the book in Concord, it was crystal clear who was in charge of this country. War fever had gripped the country and the populist press marshaled it relentlessly, dominating and territorializing the political scene. At a brief news conference General Clark asked the reporters present if they wanted to hear his ideas on the war on terrorism. It was a brilliant and practical plan about inviting the Saudis to engage in the war as much was (and is) at stake for them. But the press didn’t seem particularly interested.

General Clark brought thoughtful consideration and in depth analysis to the political condition. To us biased New Englanders, it was a little surprising for an army General, even for one who had served as NATO chief and brought peace to Kosovo. One of the most striking moments came a month or so later at a house party in Concord. At the end of the informal gathering, one of the reporters present asked General Clark a question and it just came naturally to him to create an analogy to a similar historical situation which occurred several hundred years before in Europe. Clark explained the situation in terms of historical dynamics, in the same way that Kennedy advisors and supporters Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith or Henry Steele Commager might have. One of the reporters broke out laughing, from joy and surprise. He’d not, in our time, seen this in a politician.

President Bush, who rises to a populist drumbeat and acts “from the gut”as he likes to say, has stated in personal interviews how he found thoughtful discussion in his classical Yankee education at Andover, Yale and Harvard to be contemptible. He finds it pretentious. This confuses us New Englanders, because he seems to hate us, even the 99% of us who went to ordinary schools. Yet to us up here it is clear that this Connecticut-born President is Yankee though and through and the only thing Southern or Texan about him is his desire to be one. He brings to mind Eudora Welty’s cat that had kittens in an oven and called them biscuits.

It works for him in the populist press, but this is not a way to solve problems.

As bad as this President is, for Democrats, the war on Iraq and the desire to do the right thing after 9/11 make him hard to counter. Perhaps because the shadow of JFK’s death still afflicts Democrats, particularly those of us from the Northeast, and when we come forth we come forth to some degree out of shadow, and we bring with us vengeance and a sword. It alienates mainstream America which does not want to be disloyal at a critical time.

It seems almost impossible today for anyone but Senator John McCain to question the administration as it presses on with the most disgraceful policies, advancing torture and interrogation methods more suited to the Viet Cong than Jack Kennedy’s America (or Telford Taylor’s, for that matter, or Dwight Eisenhower’s). Among the Democrats, only Wesley Clark seems to be able to manage to get through without shrillness and dark rhetoric. Perhaps because he is a soldier through and through. Perhaps because he is a warrior/scholar, like the Man in the Center of Lao Tsu’s and Sun Tsu’s ancient vision of wisdom guiding action. I think it is that it just comes naturally to him to find decency in himself and a positive outlook no matter what the circumstances; that he can find that life force whole and within himself, which was unique to JFK as well.

It is possible today to go back on You Tube and other internet venues and hear Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sing at Newport in 1964 and hear Jack Kennedy speak in Boston and Washington. It provides a nice documentary picture – a snapshot of the moment’s intangibles that you can’t quite describe in words. It is a worthwhile exercise to go back and listen to the Kennedy press conferences, not so much for the President’s message, but to observe the complexity of the reporter’s questions and the President’s answers. The complexity of a post-war world of common people. And compare to the simplicity of “gut reaction” press and politics of today.

One of the wisest and most thoughtful observations General Clark made was on his last visit here to New Hamshire at the end of the primary. Those of us who had volunteered for him at the beginning were called to come again to Concord on the morning John Kerry announced his Vice President. We thought it would be Wes Clark, but on the radio on the way down, we learned it was to be John Edwards. The primary had passed, and as it was at the beginning, again there were few in attendance. General Clark encouraged us to go out and work for Kerry and Edwards in this most critical election.

And this is what he said to us: “The Bush administration does not really represent the will of the American people. But if he is reelected, in five years it will.”

It was a chilling though and a lucid observation of cultural passages as they trail through political opinion and processes.

It came to mind yesterday morning reading about President Bush’s attempt to “redefine” treatment of prisoners and pass legislation that would create special military tribunals to try terrorist suspects and continue secret interrogations in clandestine prisons abroad.

Colin Powell said, in support of Senator McCain, “the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.”

The world at large and here at home, for these comments reflect us as well, as we have come to doubt our own moral basis. And if this is what we have become, we have failed ourselves and failed our Republic.

Powell’s comments were amplified as the night before we had watched the terrific and instructional movie Black Hawk Down, about American soldiers on a UN mission to Mogadishu; humiliated, broken and shot to bloody pieces. It was the same Mogadishu where my state department friend had seen pictures of Jack and Jackie Kennedy in huts and shops 30 years before.

From then to now a process can be seen; one of retreat, one of arrogance, one of incompetence and one of hubris. The Somalian tragedy in hindsight began to look like Khartoum as it was to the Brits; the end of a power arc in world history which left Victoria’s Imperial England running in naked terror from the end of a spear. Jack Kennedy carried a flame cupped in his hands to these same places where we were welcomed, trusted and cheered.

Today the path seems open to McCain, who wants the Presidency badly. And that is good for the country as it will repudiate the Republicans who have brought us shame and disgrace at home and suffering abroad. But if generational theory is correct, and in hindsight it always has been, the thing that is supposed to happen at the critical turning point never does and we get something else entirely different and unexpected instead.

We are at such a critical historical juncture now. In times like this, just when we go looking for the new Eisenhower, we get Jack Kennedy instead; just when we go looking for the new John Wayne instead we get Luke Skywalker; just when we hope to see the new Pope John Paul appear among us, we get instead the Dalai Lama. It is then that the least expected happens. It is then that a lone, undernourished troubadour with a Biblical bent and the fire of free youth will change the world overnight simply by putting aside a wooden guitar for an electric one, and a whole new generation of men will put down their swords and grow their beards. It appears as an anomaly and it comes in the night like something out of Revelation; suddenly a Strong Man; suddenly Woodstock; suddenly a Hollywood actor turned politician; suddenly a Georgia Sunday School teacher and peanut farmer turned President; suddenly a Southern General. And everything moves forward from that moment, and everything which came before is suddenly forgotten.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The New Democrats

I’ve been searching . . . looking for one good man; a spirit who would not bend of break who would sit at his father’s right hand . . . - Johnny Cash/U2

I’ve got to go back to work tomorrow on my autumn job and wanted to leave a brief outline of my thoughts from November last until now and my predictions of what is ahead. In a word, all points come from something Alan Greenspan suggested in his outgoing book. He said a third party could well enter in either 2008 or 2012 as both political parties are polarized. That would be NY’s Senator Senator Clinton on the one end and Virginia’s George Allen on the other. A Presidential race like this in 2008 would almost insure someone like Mike Bloomberg, Mayor of NY, entering as an Independent and taking the middle (80% the electorate, according to Unity08).

But that “third party” can just as easily be a new Democratic Party or a new (or “New West” Republican Party). The current parties are dying of their own negative energy. But both have excellent managers among them, Mitt Romney and Arnold Schwarzenegger among the Republicans, for example, and Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas, and Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania, among the Democrats. Yet all we seem to hear about are candidates like Senator Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, who has barely taken office – retro candidates; candidates who bring a remembrance of things past.

As I proposed in my radio interview this last weekend, in the 60th post-war year competence is plagued by the institutional compulsion to look back rather than forward. The Republicans look back to WW II, the Democrats to the Clinton Presidency and to the Sixties. (Can you imagine Eisenhower, a Texas, looking to Nathan Bedford Forrest for strategy and culture in 1941?) The situation is getting caricatured to the point of both parties looking like Political Reenactors. Had you seen the anti-Iraq war event I attended in Montpelier, VT, shortly after the onset of hostilities you would know what I’m talking about. It was virtually a Sixties Reenactment by Sixties Reenactors.

Right now, all hinges on Senator Clinton’s apparently overwhelming ambition to be President (and Elvis’s refusal to leave the building). Most likely opposition will be Senator McCain. This would bring the Republicans their fourth unanimous victory in the post-war period (Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan). Such an race could well spell the end of the Democratic Party. A McCain Presidency with Romney as VP and Arnold as Secretary of State, would create a “New West” Republican Party which would send the “Old South” Republicans into remission and confirm the new Republicans as the party of American destiny, giving them control for the next 20 years.

If the Democrats cannot come out of the past and pull themselves away from blinding generational influences (which always attempt to lock upcoming generations out of play) I believe they will be finished, and political contention will go forward in the new century between the new Republicans and a new party, perhaps a combination of Independents, Libertarians and “Old South” Republicans. But on three critical occations this last year, the first step forward has been taken by General Wesley Clark, a key voice of the New Democrats, so there is indication that the party is finding a new path.

The war in Iraq will have a psychological effect on 2008. In one scenario, things could turn out as they did in the Mexican War about which Ulysses S. Grant said that it was a war simply of the strong against the weak, but nevertheless, anyone who did not take part in it would not take part in the dramatic events just ahead. In this the Republicans have the advantage. However, they conducted this war with complete incompetence and the crisis – linked with the Katrina storm – revealed layer upon layer of incompetence in federal government.

The voting public may turn instead to the Democrats simply to turn the page. People have tired of war. But of this I am certain: they will not turn to an “anti-war” Democrat to lead them even if that Democrat voted in favor of the war at the beginning. This is a tendency now with some Democratic candidates and also of the press; both are “retro” analyses and approaches which try to understand the future as they understood their own personal and generational history – largely irrelevant to the issues ahead.

I believe at this second that the Democrats have however the near advantage and it could well turn into the long advantage. Almost certainly they will take the House back in 2006 and probably the Senate. Since last November there has been emerging what I’ve been calling New Democrats. They are not in opposition to the old necessarily. They have been here all along. They simply have ideas which are now relevant to government and necessary for the rebuilding of our country political identity and character.

This new party is growing generationally. I talk about generationality in my radio interview below. It is the engine of time. The fourth post-war generation is beginning to awaken and this last year it has begun to reveal its features. Marcos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos and his four million regulars (20 million a month) is first across the line in this new generation. Those who follow will form events in the next 25 years. These are the first to take the generation initiative and they are forming a New Democratic party.

I’ve been writing these last 10 months about key individuals and features of the New Democrats: Mark Warner, former Governor of Virginia, brings a new face to the Democrats, a face not unlike my mythical countryman up here in the Green and White Mountains, Longfellow Deeds of Frank Capra's classic, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town; a happy and positive everyman whose life-force awakens in the darkest hour. He also brings a new idea to the Democrats; “a Democratic Team with Management Values.” Wesley Clark brings a uniform sense of honor, dignity, intelligence and duty to the country and to the party. At a Warner event two weeks back up here a woman said, “ . . . but I think he (General Clark) is too good for us.” He’s not too good for us. He is us. He is perhaps one of the best among us and if he finds his way to our center, he will bring us to our best and will bring a higher sense of leadership to our country.

The Fighting Dems bring a new theme of duty and character to the New Democrats, featuring Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Eric Massa of New York. Perhaps they will form the backbone of our new century. All veterans should consider translating the sense of duty which compelled them to serve in the military into service in public office. New Democrats are doing so. The black POW/MIA flag flying beneath the American flag in my town and in every other in our country is a Shadow; it is a sign of desperation – it is a call to our country from veterans, on whom our life blood depends, who have been ignored, despised and forgotten. Democrats share in this contemptible situation perhaps more than Republicans. They should reverse this trend and the Fighting Dems have begun to do so.

Jim Webb, Vietnam veteran and Sec. of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, candidate for Senate in Virginia, also begins to reverse this trend. At first it was supposed that Jim would do well in the distant west of Virginia where he is from, and not so well in the “urban professional” enclaves, like those of Alexandria, Virginia. In the primary, it worked out just the opposite. Jim beat his Democratic opponent almost two-to-one in Alexandria. This is very auspicious for the Democrats. It indicates that they are leaving retro politics behind and taking the challenge of the future. Jim’s race against George Allen presents the paradigm; how it goes in 2006 in Virginia, so it will go in 2008. In both, the Republicans are a spent force if they bring Allen as their representative figure. Allen is now in the national light and can be seen for what he is; a dinosaur of the Ideological Right bereft of ability and character. Allen has made a fool of himself and embarrassed the Republicans.

When Howard Dean was running for President up here he made a statement that he wanted to bring the Democratic Party to the South to “ . . . guys in pick up trucks with Confederate flags on them.” It was absurdly amplified by the press which had by then descended in a spiral of incompetence as deep as the Administration’s. We know what he had in mind and what he really was saying. I noticed yesterday at the store a pickup truck with a NASCAR decal on it, like those which feature The Intimidator, #3. The center of the sticker read NEXTEL; the car phone company founded by Mark Warner which sponsors NASCAR stock car races. Dean was correct in what the party should do. Mark Warner has been doing it for years. Warner sought out the voters left behind by the Democrats. He pointed out that most regional people in Virginia were born Democrats and have been abandoned. He campaigned at NASCAR stock car races and at “big top” Virginia churches.

We associate Democrats today with Nantucket, the mythical New England land of the richest of the rich. Bill Clinton and his wife vacation there every year. John Kerry owns half the island. If the Democrats continue in this vein they will be finished and will deserve to be finished. All candidates today should make pit stops at NASCAR events as they used to stop at Pat’s Steaks in South Philly and at an Irish pub in South Boston. They should stop as well at the new Assembly of God churches throughout the South and the Midwest. If they feel they don’t belong there they should leave politics. If they feel they would be laughed off the stage at places like that, then they should leave politics. And may I propose that Democratic candidates drop that horrible, egregious and crappy music like AC/DC that they always use to fire up the crowds and try Johnny Cash instead? And did somebody say The Dixie Chicks? Even better.

New Hampshire is a bellwether state. Our last governor featured a gimmicky Republican with trendy management ideas. He came at the end of a trend and was replaced by a responsible Democrat who works with both parties without prejudice, John Lynch. He is very much like Mark Warner, a skilled manager and a focused, detail-oriented politician. As Warner says, “ . . . 97% of my job is management.” Warner also replaced a gimmicky, novelty governor and one who’s poor management almost destroyed the state; George Allen. These Democratic governors, Lynch and Warner, represent the avante garde of the Democratic Party and both replace an old Republican movement bereft of ideas which events have passed by. Had we gone forward with the tradition of New Hampshire holding first primary, I believe Warner and Wes Clark would have done very well in the next set of primaries.

But the front-loading of primaries presents new territory. It favors orthodoxy rather than innovation; it favors tradition rather than new thinking. This will not change the flow of events. The New Democrats will continue to grow. Perhaps it will be better in the long run. But for now it may have taken the Democratic nomination away from Warner or Clark and given it instead to one of the three party regulars; Clinton, Kerry or John Edwards. Right now, John Edwards is 4% points ahead in Iowa and likely to win in South Carolina, which falls a week after New Hampshire. He is the frontrunner.

John Edwards is a New Democrat, and among the three frontrunners, only he is a New Democrat. He could well get the nomination now. If so, he would have the opportunity and the responsibility to form a New Democratic party; a new “third party” replacing the old Democratic Party and which would return America to itself and away from ideologs.

Here are the waves of the New Democrats: Edwards, Sebelius, Warner, Clark, Lynch, Webb, Fighting Dems – Duckworth, Massa, the dKos generation and Johnny Cash to return the Democrats to their roots (“If you don’t like Johnny Cash you can . . . .”). Edwards can nurture this group and bring in more like-minded. My first, second, third and fourth choices for Vice President on a John Edwards Presidential ticket would be Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas. She, with Warner, was identified as governor of “one of the five best governed states . . .” She personifies everything that needs to be said about New Democrats, which I would capture with Warner’s phrase, “ . . . a Democratic team with management values.”

Here is a proposal for Edwards: Compare the U.S. Government with any major corporate structure or national or global network. In rating managers and their existing network it would find last place. Our vision of federalism is built on ideas of Alexander Hamilton well suited to a frontier society of 1776. Today it is structurally bereft, which is why the failure of Katrina took place. Consider new ideas, like Regional Circles of influence in places which have cultural coherence (like New England, like the Pacific Northwest, like the three Gulf States injured by Katrina). Try to imagine a national or global corporation or organization without regional management and you have only the U.S. Government.

Key Republicans have begun to adopt my phrase “one-size fits all federalism” to identify the failures of the U.S. Government. Consider a complete reconceptualization of government with more efficient and more up-to-date management models. Visualize as External Affairs and Internal Affairs, with both being equal "psychological spaces." We are at the moment an “outward-looking country.” The Cabinet person with the most status is Secretary of State. We have no management matrix for “looking inward” and have a random, eclectic and wasteful variety of cabinet posts with no cohesive organization of duties, which only intensified the tragedy and human suffering of Katrina. Below President/VP (Edwards/Sebelius) management should descend equally in two directions, Exterior/Interior (in this scenario, General Wesley Clark would represent us as we “look outward.” Mark Warner would represent us as we “look inward”). Consolidate and restructure the current internal bureaus - shattered, compartmentalized and lobbied to death - to one management vision. The unification and reawakening of the Katrina region as a healthy, prosperous and crime-free way of life with a positive, unique and indigenous American spirit should be first priority. It would be the perfect workshop for a new management model.

I’ve got to get back to work. I’ve had extensive discussions about these last issues with John Parker of Raleigh, NC, who runs Good Work, linked on right. Anyone interested might get in touch with him. Cheers, Quigley
Quigley on Radio

For anyone interested, I've done a radio interveiw for The Free Market News Network on the "Wormwood" essay below. It outlines the four-generational pattern in the "saeculum" theory of history, pointing out that we are in the 60th year, the year of collapse and awakening.

Friday, September 01, 2006


by Bernie Quigley - to The Free Market News Network, 9/1/06 (Painting: The Second Coming of Christ by Salvador Dali)

Behold, I come quickly. Revelation 22:7

As we approached the end of the millennium there was a reawakening of an old idea historians had not so much abandoned as forgotten, as it was a good idea, but maybe too good. As in the writing of Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee it gave such a comprehensive view of history ascending and yielding that it took all the air out of the room. We prefer Gibbon’s history of the fall of the Roman Empire. We understand falling. And sociologists can go back and tell us why we failed; to greedy, too driven, too stupid – a vision from which we can see ourselves repenting and repairing and starting all over again with renewed vigor and a clearer head.

But the saeculum theory being revived is based on ancient Roman historians view that no matter how smart, or how kind or how compassionate we are as a culture we will die anyway. Everybody dies. Not a unique idea, but one oddly displaced from human consciousness around the age of 60 when it becomes increasingly apparent that this is the destiny of all, individually or collectively. But as Spengler explained it in his typically oracular style, everybody dies but nobody dies, because like all things in nature, everything is born again in new forms.

Saeculum is Latin for a hundred year period and the saeculum theory of history has it that the big movements of history last 1,000 years and are divided into ten saecula; ten 100 year periods. It is kind of a neat picture, even with cosmic implications, as there are suggestions that the space between 1,000 year periods of advance, like that between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the English/American Empire, is exactly 1,000 years as well. At the fall of Rome comes the awakening of Clovis in 400 A.D., carrying to the fall of Medieval Europe in the 14th century, for example, an age Robert Graves describes as the high water mark of the Earth Mother – Notre Dame, on the Ile de la Cite and Clovis’s birthplace - as she morphed into the Christian imagination. What moved out for 1,000 years turns inward for another 1,000 years. The warrior empire of Caesar left a conceptual casing across Europe empty in spirit, an empty castle, but one which would become the home of a sacred empire in its place. As Toynbee said, Yang becomes Yin; Particle becomes Wave.

The saeculum always consists of four generations, one alternating in opposition to the other, like a cosmic machine, until it completes itself in four generations. Historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, who have written about this recently, make the point that the saecula consistently begin to fail in the 60th to the 70th year, at the end of the third generation (in our period, that would be now). What is cool about this – except for the death part – is that the 1,000 year period as well reaches its height of power in the sixth saeculum and begins to fall apart then and into the seventh saeculum. The Roman Empire and its widespread army becomes a universal matrix but one without a substantial spiritual core to sustain it. Its soldiers live in a spiritual vacuum and are vulnerable to new ideas. The Mithrians would sweep trough in a mass movement and so would the Christ.

And we are there again, as in the hour of the Christ, approaching the Seventh Hour in our own Seventh Saeculum, a miasma of modest annoyance and depression when there are no outward places of tribal shamans and dream weavers and monkey gods and leopard kings with spears and mandalas which we can go to and easily conquer; no place left to go outside at all for adventure besides the Moon and Mars. It is a time when UFOs and visions of the Yellow Monk appear in the sky; a time when the flying horse Pegasus accompanies the Astrological Twins of Lemuria, Sanat and Sanada, on a new Journey of Creation and the faces of John the Baptist and Jesus are seen in the swirling vortex of twin hurricanes, Kristi and John, swirling across the South Pacific. A time, says Revelation, under the star called Wormwood.

What distinguishes our rise to English/American empire compared to the Romans is perhaps rapid turnaround. Strauss and Howe point out that the saeculum in our history is no longer 100 years as it was in Roman time. It is shorter. It is shrinking. Our post-war historical periods now last only eighty years. Here at the fourth generational turning, we can look back in hindsight and see how fast Our Mother succumbed 100 years ago.

At the top of the energy, Personality Cult dominates and carries the day. The Queen is no longer she who identifies and personifies the strengths and virtues of our tribe; she who holds us together; she who makes us unique and beautiful in the world. Instead, she has become Gargantua. She is the Goddess Incarnate, the Empress of India, Queen of the Whole World. Robert K. Massie’s Dreadnought well monitors the transition. In June, 1897, Queen Victoria was 78, had reigned over Great Britain and its empire for sixty years and a Diamond Jubilee had been proclaimed. Victoria’s navy present at the ceremony “appeared to be an enormous city. One hundred and sixty-five warships of the British Navy . . . . Five lines of black-hulled ships, thirty miles of warships, they carried forty thousand men and three thousand navel guns. It was the most powerful fleet assembled in the history of the world.”

But her time in the world was soon up. When Victoria’s grandson, Kaiser William II sought world power, she would break her European alliances and instead seek support under the cloak of American power, and she would remain to this day, our protectorate.

The days of the high Victorians were marked by hubris and fantasies of Invulnerability; there will always be an England; the Sun never sets on the British Empire. It would bring a hard fall. Graves’ book, Goodbye to All That, would reveal in England an empire, like Rome’s, spiritually empty, sick and obsessed at its core. 50 years later, J.R.R. Tolkien would comment that all the boys he knew at age 12 were dead by the time he was 20. But the glory that was Victoria was unmatched in the annals of the English-speaking world. It was a muddled grandeur, says Victoria’s noble subject and loyal chronicler, James Morris, and at the time of the Diamond Jubilee, the imperial spirit was already cracked by the Boer War. Shortly thereafter it would be destroyed.

I’d begun to think we had reached our own Diamond Jubilee in America shortly after the first Gulf War, with President Bill Clinton bringing us our own high Victorian moment. Clinton had come to be seen, like Victoria, as a world figure, and he began to see himself that way. Clearly, he preferred to spent time with world leaders like Nelson Mandela and could barely tolerate ordinary political doings with regular folk like Trent Lott. Likewise, in retirement, he sees himself as a kind of Cosmic Figure, a cross between Elvis and Gandhi, a global healer, and like Elvis as he descended into delusion, more man-god than man. Last summer he actually wanted to start his own United Nations. To his surprise, few responded.

Perhaps in the Clinton Era we were at a World Moment as we were in Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Even world financiers like George Soros saw all the people in the world as Americans by degree and has suggested that all be given some say in American government. We grandly expressed Infallibility and Immortality as did the high Victorians. The stock markets, we were told, would rise to 35,000 and wiser voices which might prevail in journals like this one were silenced. Of well-known and popular writers only John Kenneth Galbriath, still at this desk at Harvard in his 90s, challenged this vision of globalization as one of colossal, pending failure. Indeed, rising NASDAC stocks in Silicon Valley, which were clearly and obviously unfunded, continued to skyrocket. It was only our vision of Invincibility which motivated these empty investments. It would be a hard fall and on 9/11 we would turn a page.

When historians return and look at our turn around, I think they will see it beginning at the moment we became a debtor nation. But decline will be graphed by character. Thomas E. Ricks’ new book, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, will provide a milestone. Ricks’ book clearly outlines the debacle in Iraq lie by lie, deceit by deceit. But in the end, the question has to be asked of the whole society, how did people of the lowest abilities reach the highest offices in the land? Ricks identified George W. Bush, the CIA’s George Tenet, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command, as key figures in the colossal failure of Iraq and points to Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle as the engineers of this misadventure, waiting in the wings long years for an innocent waif like Bush to come to the Presidency.

In my reading, Franks, who has been given the nation’s highest award and has been Knighted by Queen Elizabeth, establishes the paradigm in complete. Ricks describes Franks as virtually unable to understand strategy. In the military, strategy is the overall view; what are your objectives and what will the world look like in war’s aftermath? What is the world you are creating with warfare? But Franks was virtually unable to see that the “liberation of Baghdad” was not the same as winning the war. Again and again when he attempts to describe strategy, he describes tactics. We’re going to go in and whoop ‘em and this is how we are going to hit them. As Ricks points out, this is the job of a staff sergeant and Tommy Franks was virtually a staff sergeant with four stars.

Ricks describes many brilliant, brave and honorable officers, men and women of all ranks, who are as good as any we have seen at any time in our history. Perhaps the most important question we should ask today is how did these excellent men and women become systematically sidelined throughout their careers while incompetents like Franks were promoted to the top of the U.S. Army?

And it is a question which should be asked not only of the Army, but of the State Department, the CIA, and Department of Defense and in particular, the Presidency. And as National Dept grows at $1.71 billion a day to $8,506,731,239,927 today, it is a question we need to ask now of all aspects of government.

The vision of One World in the Clinton era, like that of the Woodrow Wilson era, was fleeting. Both parties now are nostalgico parties as in Franco’s Spain, the one yearning back to Our Victoria, Bill Clinton, the other yearning back to World War II. Neither has the élan of Jack Kennedy, the great rising spirit of the Democrats, nor the abilities of Dwight Eisenhower, perhaps the greatest military strategist of all time.

It would be good if like England, we had a Big Brother or Sister, 100 times our size, to come in and save us at the moment of crisis. But Russia is not our friend. India resents us. I hear from China investors that China truly hates us. And so does Islam now with its one billion people. That doesn’t leave many else.

Historians of Victoria’s vast empire easily illustrate it with graphic images of a map of the Empire at the rise of Victoria’s realm growing to cover what looks like most of the world. Then at the end it is only a few tiny and troubled spots on a map, without even little Ireland.

It brings to mind Eisenhower’s sphere of influence starting at Japan and crossing the world unstopped to half way through German. In contrast with Rumsfeld’s Coalition of the Willing; Slovenia, Armenia, Mongolia, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Romania and a few others. And of course, England.

In Revelation, the voice of the Seventh Angel says, “It is done.” Let us hope this Angel does not speak to us.