Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Four Conservative Mavericks: Sarah Palin Comes Into the Country

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill at 9/01/08

Americans were always meant to be Alaskans, just as we were meant to be Texans and New Englanders. Emerson instructed us to “ . . . go alone; to refuse the good models, even those which are sacred in the imagination of men.” Our fate is to find ourselves again here in nature and don’t look back. That is why we go west and that is why we go to Alaska.

But it is one thing to go alone into the wilderness as Thoreau did when Concord was still in sight and with Emerson within a short afternoon walk for thoughtful conversation about the Vedas. Quite another is Jack London’s narrative of the Klondike almost a hundred years later: “He knew that at fifty below spittle crackled on the snow, but this spittle had crackled in the air. Undoubtedly, it was colder than fifty below – how much colder he did not know.”

These are the original stories of the American tribes and they inform us and are useful to us as at one point in our lives’ journeys we each make a choice that makes us the kind of American we will be and we chose one of three things: Go west? Go back east? Or stay put? It is the Concord celestial bard’s view and it is endlessly embedded in American folk lore that the best among us will always go west. She who goes alone shall come to look at the world with new eyes, he writes in his Nature essays, and “ . . . shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect, What is truth? And of the affections, What is good?”

And none have gone so far west as Sarah Palin.

Not since the last ten seconds of the Super Bowl when a Giants receiver caught the ball on his head have I seen so many people in the state of shock.

The Democrats understandably are almost numb. The liberal blogs have turned into a venomous horde. They are coming up with the most barbaric analyses of why Sarah Palin should not be Vice President. For example, and this is verbatim: 1) She is from Alaska. 2) She is from Alaska and they have Walmarts in Alaska. Walmarts are bad. 3) She hunts. 4) She eats moose burgers. 5) She is beautiful.

Where is it again in the Democrat’s boss handbook where it says that to be seriously considered as a candidate for President of the United States one must necessarily be as baleful and plain as a plateful of mortal sins?

For 12 hours they had it wrapped up. Obama gave the speech of a lifetime; a masterpiece, said historian David Gergen. He had finally pulled in the entrenched Hillarycrats who were going over to McCain. He had finally outmaneuvered Bill. And the bookies were sure that Mitt Romney would get McCain’s VP slot, giving the election to Obama with dead certainty. The talking points were all lined up.

Then out of nowhere, it was the little-known governor of Alaska with five kids; the wife of a fisherman, who hunts moose and bear and drives a snow machine a hundred miles an hour.

I’m still getting angry letters even from people I haven’t even seen in 40 years.

Not only the Democrats. The Republican columnists for The Washington Post who see America as a pliable sub-state of Europe – this would be in opposition to Emerson; he would consider these backsliders – are apoplectic. Charles Krauthammer is fully sketched out. He says the choice “ . . . seems near suicidal.”

How many cracks in the glass ceiling? 18 milllion? Something is definitely cracking here and it is more than a glass ceiling.

What caught my attention was in listening to McCain’s introduction to Palin. He said that she stopped the “bridge to nowhere . . .” and sent the cash back to Washington. And she used this phrase: “I said if we wanted a bridge we would build it ourselves.”

Build it ourselves? States aren’t supposed to do that. The federal government is supposed to do that for the states. It would defeat the whole worldview of Alexander Hamilton and ruin the way we have been doing things here since 1865 if states started doing things for themselves. That is the kind of crazy talk we heard from Ron Paul and Angus King and Jesse Ventura and those other independent governors and legislators of a few years past. That’s what Arnold and Mike Bloomberg and Jodi Rell, governor of Connecticut, are doing. Telling the feds; if they don’t take change of environmental innovation they will initiate new entrepreneurial legislation themselves, and the Governator is already doing so. It is seditious. It is Jeffersonian.

It was only that one comment, but I was struck by it because the Alaskans I know are actually all like that. They are inherently libertarian and don’t really care what people think in the Lower 48.

This independent streak has been popping up in the last few years all over the West. And it started with the first Republican maverick of modern times, Barry Goldwater; the spirit father, possibly, of Sarah Palin. The same panic set in when The Establishment, both Democrat and Republican (Kennedy and Henry Cabot Lodge; same foreign policies, different churches), first encountered Barry Goldwater. His petty bourgeoisie, small-time entrepreneurs (“ . . . a nation where all who can will be self reliant,” – Goldwater speaking at the 1964 Republican Convention) were considered a clear and present danger to the global post-war order.

When Palin walked on the stage with McCain she joined a string of Western mavericks; Goldwater, Reagan and McCain, all with incipient Jeffersonian ideas in varying degree.

These four conservative mavericks all share an inherently Western point of view which has risen in our time and it is the most important division in our American condition since World War II. Palin, with Hockey Mom support in the Great White North and NASCAR Moms below, fits into this tradition and could well be the appealing and effective avatar of this new set of ideas; ideas of “small government” and local creativity that first came into the mainstream with Ronald Reagan. The American West has awakened and it rises now in opposition to Obama and the Eastern establishment.

Overnight, this has become the race of the age and the most important one we are likely to face in our lifetimes. Obama and Co. are still very much plugged in to the Eastern Establishment. With Romney out and the others, the neocons and their coat carriers and fellow travelers in all the major newspapers now may suddenly find that they have more in common with Obama in terms of geopolitics than they do with Palin.

I don’t think Obama has it all wrapped up anymore. From what I have seen, she is formidable.

We know little or nothing about her and few details about her life. But we do know something about Alaska. When I was young many of my friends left the East to go work the pipeline on Alaska’s North Slope. Some stayed and became different, better.

There was a very popular book out back then by John McPhee called Coming into the Country and it raised in his readership the same sense of freedom and fresh air that Emerson celebrated in Concord and Jack London found alone in the woods in the coldest hinterland. It was a renewal; a restoration of what the Transcendentalists here in New England used to call Natural Religion.

McPhee writes of the life and times of Alaskans like Donna Kneeland, who spend much of her time in her cabin while her man was out on the trial trapping. This is before liberals entered a state that my Boston aunties used to call “Lace Curtain” and became squeamish just at the mention of trapping an animal and eating it and selling its skin. We don’t know much about Palin but we know she is through and through Alaskan. Maybe Donna Kneeland will tell us something about Palin.

She cooks and cans things, writes McPhee. She grinds wheat berries and bakes bread. She breaks damp skins with an old gun barrel and works them with a metal scraper . . . . Her copy of The Joy of Cooking previously belonged to a trapper’s wife who froze to death. Donna’s father, a state policeman, was sent in to collect the corpse.

This is the life proposed by Emerson and attempted with poor results by Thoreau at Walden Pond. McPhee’s book is full of stories like that; stories of Jack McQuesten who used to plow his garden with a moose, Wyman Fritsch, a miner, an Eagle mayor who died at a Council meeting, Nelson, who runs a health clinic in her kitchen and a gold panner named River Wind.

Many of these and perhaps all of these and Todd and Sarah Palin as well appear to have gone to Alaska for the same reason. Hamlin Garland who headed north in the Gold Rush in 1898 expressed it well: “I wished,” he said, “to return to the wilderness . . . to forget books and theories of arts and social problems, and come again face to face with the great free spaces of woods and skies and streams. I was not a goldseeker, but a nature hunter and I was eager to enter this, the wildest region yet remaining in Northern America. I willingly and with joy took the long way round, the hard way through.”

Now they have come back to us. I for one am glad they are here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain’s VP Pick, Governor Sarah Palin

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/29/08

In his acceptance speech on Thursday night, Barack Obama made the point that John McCain voted with George Bush 90% of the time. Therefore, he’s only been right 10% of the time, Obama quipped.

It was a good and catchy line, but it is that 10% that makes McCain a maverick. And that maverick quality is what has always made McCain interesting and trusted by a large bi-partisan swath of Americans. What makes mavericks necessary and important is that they invest the rest of their party with flashes of insight and original thinking that the others are constitutionally incapable of experiencing. Mavericks are not hidebound and blinded by institutionalization and orthodoxy. They open new gates and horizons. And McCain has done just that in his choice of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, for his Vice President.

The choice of Palin came from McCain’s 10% - his maverick corner. I can’t think of any one else in the Republican run up who would have chosen her. It is such a perfect choice for McCain. And it might prove to be the best decision McCain has ever made in his life.

On the surface, it appears to pull in the Hillary karma and the decision to pick Palin was certainly leveraged by the Clinton candidacy. Yet Hillary supporters are unlikely to like Palin, who used to get up at 3 am with her father to hunt moose and is the mother of five.

But people who like Alaska or the idea of Alaska will like Palin and Alaska still hovers in the American consciousness as an undiscovered country of the mind.

This is no longer a race between one candidate who brings to mind John F. Kennedy and another following in Bush’s Wall St.-with-cowboy-boots theme, or rows of candidates on either side who might have been classmates and colleagues at Choate or St. Paul’s or fellow undergrads at Harvard, Georgetown or Wellesley, for that matter.

It is a new paradigm and one closer to that gate opened by Ronald Reagan. It is a distinctly Eastern view of the world in opposition to a distinct Western view of the world with the Western view emerging in a new tradition. It opens an entirely new political dialog in the country pitting the Eastern establishment and all of the institutional thinking and baggage that entails against the new mores of the West and the rising spirit of adventure on a frontier still free and open, independent and self reliant.

Way to change the channel, Senator!
Obama’s Speech: Enter the Coyote

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/29/08

When I first heard tapes of Obama’s speeches I started checking the Chicago papers. There was a funny and distracting story one day about a coyote. A corner grocer in Chicago went to work one morning and found a coyote in his store. No one knew how he got there or what he was doing there. He was sitting peacefully near the cooler section. They called the city’s animal removal people to remove him. How could something like that possibly happen in a place like the Windy City, when everyone was asleep and no one was paying attention to the quiet things in the night?

I felt the first change in tone last October when I pulled my kids out of school to go see him at a high school in Littleton, NH. I usually dread going to these things because I can’t stand the music. Someone – a consultant of some kind – usually advises them to play the most fascistic music they can find to get the crowd “fired up.” It also makes them evil-minded. But Obama’s team was playing the sweet and gently rolling Motown classics of Sam and Dave.

After his speech, a girl from the audience asked Obama his position on gay marriage. I’d heard Edwards asked this same thing on two different occasions just before and he froze up each time like a Tennessee Fainting Goat that had just heard a car backfire. What was significant about this event and about this man was that Obama recognized first that in this high school crowd in this tough, working class, mountainous region of northern New Hampshire, the girl was uncomfortable and out of sync with the rest of her class. She was brave to ask the question. Before he answered the question he talked to her for several minutes and playfully incorporated her into the group until she felt that she was one of them and one of us; no one here would be left behind.

I knew this would be different because my kids listened to what he had to say and it was the first time in their lives that they had listened to a politician. It was about the time when they started comparing Obama to John F. Kennedy and I remembered feeling as they did when I was brought by my parents to hear Senator Kennedy speak when I was 12 years old.

I am struck by the stealth and the ability; the orchestration of these events that led up to last night. When the blunt instrument of the Clinton team felt they had territorialized the situation, Coyote Trickster always had something of his own up his sleeve.

It seemed almost like a dance with Coyote Trickster always one step ahead, doing new moves that the older people had not seen before. Like when the Clintons managed to get the two preceding nights to speak, Obama arranged to have his speech at Mile High stadium. It was a soft and subtle touch; a design of mind, eye and imagination to make the point of transcending the Clintons without words, like a great film maker such as Kurosawa might do to establish his point of view in a film. Again, when Bill Clinton felt he had dominated the night and the arena on the night before, Coyote Trickster suddenly made a “surprise appearance” to top the bill. Headlines the next day: Obama makes a surprise appearance. Front page picture on The New York Times in the morning; Obama and Biden waving to the crowd. Where’s Bill? It was a tale told in a subtle turning, like that moment when cash flow began to dry up on Hillary last summer and someone filmed her buying a Philly cheese steak then finding that she had no money to pay. “Where’s my money,” she casually asked her army of people all around her. Then with rising anxiety: “Where are the people who have my money?”

My kids wanted to stay up to watch last night. Another first.

I told them it was important because in what I write about history is designed in four quadrants and each quadrant is a generation. I am from the second generation and they are from the fourth and final generation of the post-war period. The world ends and begins again with their generation. The generation is the public psychological package in which they will lead their lives. Each generation has its own goddesses and archetypes and heroes and warriors and tricksters. Coyote Trickster is the first level of encounter with the world. Coyote Trickster always leads the way.

Coyote is different from the others. He doesn’t fit in with them. He seems to skinny to be in a high position as JFK was, but then he somehow seems a better fit than the other people were. Coyote is joyful as JFK was. Coyote is fearless and makes the others unafraid as well. Coyote is supremely confident although he seems to have no peers and no lineage and is way younger than the others. Coyote is a thin white duke who comes from nowhere in the night and when he is finished everything is different and things will never the same again. Others follow with greater organization skills and gifts which they find within themselves but they only find them because Coyote led them to them.

Coyote says things like, “ . . . I felt a single troubadour all alone on the stage could change the world if he knew what he was doing,” as Bob Dylan once said about himself in reminiscence.

Each generation has a very specific moment when it awakens and when it dies and it always awakens with Coyote Trickster. My generation began when Bob Dylan changed from a wooden guitar to an electric one at a folk music concert in Newport, R.I. 40-some years ago.

My kids’ generation began last night with Obama’s speech.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tom Friedman: China Olympics Bring a Sea Change

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill at 8/28/08

Back during the Nixon presidency Norman Mailer caricatured the binary nature of American politics by referring to left and right as “Beatniks” and “Protestants.” In his book Of a Fire on the Moon he wrote that the Beatniks had let their guard down, and while they were out getting stoned, the Protestants had sent a rocket to the moon.

The country was due for a restoration and within a few years we would have one.

Today we have come full circle. And once again we have let our guard down. Today we have no big name novelists like Mailer. But perhaps the most influential public citizen’s voice in our time is Thomas Friedman’s of The New York Times. And yesterday, after returning from the stunning Olympics in China, he called for a sea change.

The Hill’s Kathy Kemper has been reporting on this all along while most of the other print press was either in denial or hoping to demonize China. Friedman writes: “ . . . as snapshots go, the one China presented through the Olympics was enormously powerful — and it’s one that Americans need to reflect upon this election season.”

Friedman’s voice is today as influential as that of the greatest journalist ever, Ida Tarbell, the Progressive Era muckraker, in her day. Her editor, S.S. McClure, once said that she was the best journalist because when she felt something, he knew that millions of other Americans were feeling the same thing. Where Ida Tarbell was to go, all of America would soon go and it would be very bad news for The Standard Oil Company.

He was a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq. He even proposed that France be thrown off the UN Security Council and India be put on in its place, in hopes that India would support our invasion. But I knew the Bush/Cheney adventure was cooked early on when it started going badly and a California professor appeared on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer as a Bush apologist and brought to his point of view a swaggering endorsement of the failing mission by “his friend” Tom Friedman, hoping to add cache to his account. Next day Friedman came out against the war and that was the first and most important turning point. From there things would spiral downward.

Yesterday’s essay by Friedman is another such benchmark.

“As I sat in my seat at the Bird’s Nest, watching thousands of Chinese dancers, drummers, singers and acrobats on stilts perform their magic at the closing ceremony,” he writes, “I couldn’t help but reflect on how China and America have spent the last seven years: China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for Al Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.”

The difference is starting to show, he said. He compared arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks, to get to town in a blink.

“. . . ask yourself: Who is living in the third world country?”

Regarding the foreign adventures which both parties today support with varying degrees of subtlety and both with fully outmoded ideas (the Democrats from the late Carroll Quigley, Bill Clinton’s favorite professor at Georgetown who doubled as an erstwhile consultant to the Department of Defense, the Republicans from Robert Kagan) he cites the first rule of digging holes: “ . . . when you’re in one, stop digging.”

The business in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East will continue. But what about Russia, Kosovo, Georgia, South Ossetia; all of the Middle East? All of the tiny Orthodox countries surrounding Russia? All of Islam? Isn’t China a potential enemy as well? Today we have basically alienated ourselves from almost all of the world’s people who watch soccer. I added them up one time and it came to over two billion potential enemy to our 300 slightly plus million. The two billion soccer watchers are the donut, the 300 million football watchers are the hole in the donut.

Time to change course.

Friedman calls for nation building and the nation which has to be built – some from scratch and some rebuilt – is America: “The rich parts of China, the modern parts of Beijing or Shanghai or Dalian, are now more state of the art than rich America. The buildings are architecturally more interesting, the wireless networks more sophisticated, the roads and trains more efficient and nicer. And, I repeat, they did not get all this by discovering oil. They got it by digging inside themselves.”
Rebuilding America’s inner state is what we have been hearing from Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia and Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas, as well. And even Friedman’s conservative colleague, David Brooks, has complemented Barack Obama on his vision of focusing long-term economy on education for children and young people; rebuilding American economy from childhood - an idea which was piloted by Mark Warner in Virginia. As Brooks says, John McCain has no such programs. Nor do the other Republicans.

Both parties are guilty of playing politics with tax gimmicks and capitalist riddles and mantras to get rich quick while our cities and bridges have crumbled around us. Both parties have seen imperial gain in these adventures abroad and looked in the witch mirror to see Russia and Islam as enemies. It is the ugly side of human nature to do so.

There will be consequences. Crimes have clearly been committed in the execution of war. Terrors have been brought by our allies and ourselves equal those at Guernica. And torture as a tool of state has been introduced by Americans. Not by some itinerant nihilist assassin living in the shadow of Prague Castle, but by the most esteemed professors at Harvard and Berkeley and the most prominent editorial writers at The Washington Post and the LA Times. These are situations which remain unresolved and must be come to terms with if we are to remain a republic.

But when Tom Friedman says it’s time to move on, its time to move on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life after the Clintons: Mark Warner

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/26/08

Joe Biden: He of the plagiarized speech; he of the bad hair weave; he of the long-winded and sonorous stemwinder and random aside. The one really good thing about Biden is that he is not Hillary and it is driving the Republicans crazy that she will not be VP. Rove and Co., with an obvious hand now behind McCain’s show, are as broody as Russians. Their whole game book is based on one Clinton or another poisoning the political water. It has granted them easy and unlimited access to unspeakable power. Such easy targets. Sort of how Bush & Co. thrill to invading little, tribal countries and then . . . uh-oh . . . suddenly finding themselves facing Russia.

This week Elvis leaves the building and so does the missus and nothing could be worse for Bush/Rove. Bush/Clinton is like Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty locked in embrace, going over the waterfall together. Good for America. Good for Obama.

Of course, there are and always will be ongoing problems with Bill. It is that Elvis karma and we are seeing now Elvis in winter. He is supposed to speak on Wednesday night but he doesn’t like the assigned topic; Securing America. He wants to talk about himself.

Nevertheless, the Clinton industry is in remission. Tonight Hillary will sing her swan song although she doesn’t know it yet. Even Mark Penn is trying to pitch his way out, writing an obsequious op-ed for the NYTs yesterday for no other reason than to be in new company. This time Rasputin will not go down with the Romanovs. Perhaps he could put together a dog and pony show with Karl Rove as Timothy Leary and E. Gordon Liddy did when history passes by their brief and giddy moment and work the talk shows and county fairs.

This convention rises with the Kennedy family and that light will transcend all the shadows the Clintons intend to bring in from the dark side. From what I can see, the Clintons are today pariahs in their own party. The Clintons have not changed. The people have changed. The Clintons are today as they have always been. The Democrats have matured.

And Penn’s “I told you so” campaign, already in ascent as Hillary sends out op-eds to The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post; complicated op-eds on economy which by her own admission she knows nothing about – she says she doesn’t even consult with those “elitists” - has no chance. Even if Obama fails, she will face Mark Warner in 2012 but this time he will raise the money.

Not since Madame Mao and the Gang of Four has a political operation held on with such veracity, and not since then has a group been so spent and irrelevant. This week at the Democratic Convention, the generation which began to rise with the internet in 2004 begins to take shape.

It is fully appropriate that Hillary speak tonight on the same night with Mark Warner, for in the space in between those two speeches the political season fully changes. The most important thing that will happen in politics between now and 2012 is that the generations will substantially begin to shift and the rising generation will begin to make its mark. Both the Democrats and the Republicans alike have to leave it all behind. But long before Monica and well after Marc Rich, the Clintons have made the Democrats apologists for the politically unimaginable and defenders for the indefensible. To get a fresh start, they need to be left behind.

Several years ago, Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia and candidate for Senate today, and Jim Webb, the new Senator from Virginia, started the new season for the Democrats. It was first identified when Markos Moulitsas, Hill commentator and founder of the original political blog, The Daily Kos, identified a generational division within the Democrats in an op-ed for The Washington Post. He mentioning Mark Warner and Howard Dean as "new Democrats" or representative of a new generation of Democrats.

These divisions need to happen. In that same period he had a post on Daily Kos asking, "Won't these Clinton-era Democrats ever go away?" Moulitsas is a representative voice of the new generation. It is a large and primarily young crowd that visits The Daily Kos and the statistics in this generational divide reveal destiny unfolding. Mark Warner and Jim Webb have always had sky high ratings with this group. Hillary’s ratings have usually hovered around zero and were never higher than 11%.

The Democratic Party is slipping its skin. It is casting off its shadow. A new party is growing. It began with people like Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Warner, Webb and Governor John Lynch here in New Hampshire. They are a new breed of Democrat and not particularly beholding to the Clintons. Barack and Michelle have since become the catalyst and are awakening this new talent into an actual new movement. And further, the new generation – the all-important fourth post-war generation – is clearly behind Obama.

Mark Warner will deliver the keynote address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention tonight. As the Clintons close one door, Warner opens another.

Obama owes much to Hillary. If it was not for her, he would not be here as her incipient candidacy has been a creeping uncertainty for more than 20 years. As Jules Feiffer expressed it first in a New York Times picture op-ed; Obama, although we knew little about him at the time, was satisfying at first precisely because he was “not Hillary.”

Back in 2005 Hillary supporters and perhaps cultists (“The Clintons are the closest thing we will ever have to a king and a queen,” I was told by one of their major fundraisers years ago) were already drawing so much funding for her 2008 run that one Iraq war veteran running for representative in North Carolina had to pull out because he couldn’t raise money for his 2006 race.

Warner was making initial moves as well for his own run for the Presidency. Wisely, he very early on saw where this was going to go and pulled out.

His time is ahead and tonight he brings himself to the country at large and he brings with him a new generation.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What Joe Biden Does for Obama

By Bernie Quigley

for The Hill on 8/23/08

At first glance it appears like The Beatles after a rousing start, suddenly hired Perry Como to sing vocals. Media is stuck in conditioned response; Obama picked Senator Joe Biden for his Vice President for his experience; especially for his foreign policy experience.

Yes, Joe Biden has experience but it is in the wrong area. Two Senators on the ticket lessens the kind of experience an executive needs. Senators discuss, ruminate, advise or don’t. Senators talk, Presidents do, and the more experience they have, the more they seem to talk.

A First Tier candidate should have management experience – it is primarily a management position and problems will be solved by management abilities and strategies. Best choice in this regard might have been Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas and one of the best governors of the country or Ed Rendell, governor of Pennsylvania. But Obama did the right thing in choosing Biden as his VP.

LA times and most everybody else suggests Biden was picked because Obama was “caught off guard” on the Georgia invasion and thus picked someone with “foreign policy experience.” But in these matters Biden, who voted for the invasion of Iraq and parallel’s the neocon playbook in Georgia, personifies experience with neither intuition nor judgment. But in my observation this past year Obama doesn’t stay off guard for long and he is not off guard here.

In short hindsight it is interesting that Obama said just days ago that he would take a Vice President who would “challenge him” and he trailed off saying that he wouldn’t take a vice president to tell him what to do in foreign policy. It is no way near the VP’s role except in the Cloud-cuckoo-land of Cheney and Co. Here, Obama is the adult in charge.

Anyway, Obama has friends in higher places on foreign policy; Sam Nunn from the old school and in a great and historic moment of American karma, Susan Eisenhower, who in the last 14 years has shown the wisdom, sensitivity and nuance of her esteemed ancestor. She has this week left the Republican Party to help Obama.

Had Obama wanted to continue the new generation theme he would best have picked Chet Edwards, the representative from Texas, recommended by Nancy Pelosi. Not much again in management experience but a bright new face and some good instincts. But Obama is not so narrow as to be an exclusively generational avatar for rising Millennials – as the Clintons and Al Gore proposed to be and pretty much were for Boomers. He is the favorite of the rising generation but he transcends generationality.

Obama brings more a change of theme rather than a collectivized shift of blood and gene pool; it is a show which can work for everyone - much as Ronald Reagan brought a change of theme; a distinctive change of political culture to something quite new: Something from the West; something from the air and mountains it seemed rather than from the entrenched earth temples of the upper Atlantic regions. And then Reagan brought in George Bush the First to show that clearly he intended to amend the tradition in a completely new way and advance it, not destroy it – the usual generational path of the naïve and inexperienced. Obama has done exactly the same. He brings in an entirely new show but in bringing in Biden as VP he holds the rope to his tradition and promises to amend it; to nurture it as one does in a marriage; something old and something new; an old house with new rooms.

Bush I in that relationship to Reagan would not take the spotlight from where it needed to be, on Ronald Reagan. He would be a funeral-goer vice president and I expect Biden will be too.

Obama is the Fourth Man in the four-generational sequence of post-war power: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Obama. He needs to stand alone and bring with him a strong line of the best and the brightest while VP stands aside with grace and in admiration.

And what a start: Caroline Kennedy, Oprah, Susan Eisenhower; the Three Celestial Sisters. Obama and his campaign has shown professionalism and deft not seen here since James A. Baker ran things for the Reagan administration. As a management project, I believe Obama will bring in a great front office as Reagan did. Starting off we are seeing Sam Nunn as senior foreign policy advisor and a sea-change of America’s presence and perception abroad. And at home an Obama Quaternity of Mike Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathleen Sebelius and Ed Rendell to rebuild the cities and rebuild our country.

Next week Joe Lieberman will speak at the Republican Convention but Arnold Schwarzenegger, the star of the last Republican show who spent a million bucks to attend and entertained the burghers with quips about “economic gurly-mans” will not. Too busy fighting over the California budget, don’t cha know. It is a good trade; Lieberman for Arnold. He will cross over to Obama as Eisenhower has and maybe he will even bring with him his interesting and cool friends like George Schultz and Warren Buffett.

This is a big front line. Joe Biden, like Bush I to Reagan or Dan Quayle to Bush I, won’t steal the show.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Nobel Prize for War

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/21/08

It is well forgotten today but the idea of putting missiles in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary was first insinuated into the hearts and minds by Newt Gingrich when he suggested it in the period of his Contract for America, which had such great influence on both parties at the turn of the millennium. It became fully integrated as national policy in 1997 when President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore pressed the Senate to pass it. Susan Eisenhower led a group of senior foreign policy people from the World War II era calling it ‘ . . . a policy mistake of historic proportions.” But there was something distinctly generational about this group which inhibited them from taking advice from the old and the wise and 90 Senators voted to pass it.

At the time the Democrats were in a Clinton trance and they are only now beginning to come out of it. The liberals were enamored of the Czech poet Vaclav Havel, the poet turned president, thinking perhaps there would be peace if a poet was president. In the English Department and on NPR he was considered kind of a monkey god; the kind which engenders new abstractions. Many considered that the poet actually “brought down” the Soviet Union when in fact, the cat just died. They did not realize or did not care perhaps that promoting a binding war alliance with the Czech Republic and some of the Orthodox and Muslim countries swinging to the south meant advancing the nuclear option and committing America to war with Russia. Good thinking, like the suggestion of E. Pendleton Banks, a Soviet expert and scholar suggesting a “Danubian Federation” were not even aired. Havel talked about Frank Zappa and the Sixties and that did the trick. He was from the Sixties and they were from the Sixties. No number of wise elders can defend against Frank Zappa. Had we had such an agreement with Georgia, which it certainly wants, we would be at war with Russia today.

It was primary to the neocon world view; encircling Russia with weapons over there to the left (Part II), with American boots on the ground to the south, dropping them down from Germany where they were no longer needed, to permanent occupation bases in Iraq and thereabouts (Part I – complete, thanks to the neocon’s the great, good luck of 9/11). In the first days preceding the invasion of Iraq some advanced dharma was aired by fellow travelers and coat carriers, like the suggestion that India be brought in as an American ally – just imagine the extra foot soldiers we could get to occupy all those pesky places in the Middle East out of India’s horde of one billion - and replacing France on the UN Security Council with some American sycophant to minimize the pout factor.

I happened to be at the time a speech writer for a big supporter and fund raiser for Al Gore. I wrote Gore a letter to complain that his administration would lift this idea, like so many others, from Gingrich and Kagan. To my surprise he fiercely supported this program saying that the Clinton administration intended to push NATO into every nook and cranny of the recently freed Orthodox and Islamic neighborhoods of Russia.

I found the naivety of this position astonishing. Just a few years before Bill Clinton had appeared on TV with Eli Wiesel claiming he “ . . . didn’t know what to do” in Bosnia and it was well apparent that he did not. Then he hired a marketing strategist to tell him what to do, much as Hillary gets Mark Penn to tell her what to do now.

It was kind of unprecedented. Jimmy Carter hired a consultant to discuss hair and general appearance so as not to look too Southern in a country just getting used to it, but never about war. They already had people who knew about that. Not since Rasputin had a national leader just advised about things which he had no background in and simply with market share in mind. But to be fair, Rasputin’s advice to Nicholas was actually quite good. He was alone to warn Nicholas that war with the West would bring devastation. All the professionals advised Nicholas to go to war, just as most all the professionals today of both parties advise that these war initiatives are the best course and war with Russia would be inconsequential.

The Clinton people came up with the same playbook: the Kagan/Kristol playbook which primarily asks us to pretend there is no China and return instead to the 1950s and the Dulles Brothers – nuke Russia before Russia nukes us. There is a little twist to the Bill Clinton version – it appears to be the same old Dulles Brothers but edited and with a new introduction by Nathan Bedford Forest.

Something to think about when those pensive eloi of the Nobel Committee next consider their prizes. Bill Clinton is said to want a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Africa on AIDS. Or for something else. Makes it worse for Bill that they already gave one to Al Gore for his environmental movie even though as I recall he signed the contract for China to build a million Buicks there as VP. Do they still have Buicks? In China, apparently, millions of them.

I don’t know. The people who decide these things are Old Swedish Men who live in tiny little rooms in a cold and gnarly land like where I live and they never go anyplace fun. I know they have never paddled the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and Wisconsin and heard the night cry of the loon or been to the Dixie Classic or drove all night to Nashville and got tattoos. I’m quite certain that not one of these venerables has a tattoo of the Zig-Zag man on his forearm like my friend Burt.

They would never give the award to a guy who invented bicycles or something as sublimely elegant and simple as that environmental wonder, the clothes line. I never expect the poets I admire like Kurt Cobain to get an award like this. Or actual peace bringers like Nora Jones. But we have come today to the tipping point. Let us consider it from here back to the point of origin. And let’s, with grace and responsibility, give prizes where they are deserved and likewise, where it is deserved, let’s begin to assign blame.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Wes Clark for VP?

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/16/08

The New York Times today has an article titled: "Obama’s Southern Strategy Omits Arkansas, So Far." It makes the point that Arkansas has a Democratic governor, an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, two Democratic United States senators and three Democratic Congressional representatives out of four. And the Democratic presidential primary there drew 80,000 more voters than the Republican one.

But what would be the point of throwing campaign cash into Arkansas in spring and summer if Wesley Clark is going to be sent up as VP in August. He will automatically carry the state.

Several months back Obama publicly listed his foreign policy advisors and Clark, a four-star general who commanded NATO, was conspicuously absent from the list. Clark was critical in bringing the Democrats to a turning point on foreign policy in regards to the Iraq war. It was widely suggested then that the only reason he would be absent from that list is because he was being considered for Obama’s Vice President.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Draft Sam Nunn. There’s Still Time.

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/14/08

The Russians planting of the flag at the North Pole last autumn was a Sputnik moment but underwater. Its purpose was to territorialize our northern regions and turn our gaze north as surely as if it was a war dog peeing on the frozen tundra property line to warn off Canadian coyotes. Just as the U.S. intended to territorialize - by which we mean to dominate psychologically [see Sun Tzu] - Russia by planting missiles on its borders.

Yet it went unnoticed by a Democratic Party still laughing and dancing through the night with a flower in its mouth, as Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright did when the wisest voices in American foreign policy declared our intentions in Orthodox Europe to be, “ . . . policy error of historic proportions.”

The Republicans are worse as Georgia, preparing for its invasion of South Ossetia this past Sunday, facilitated the attack with bribes of hundreds of thousands of dollars to McCain’s highest-level staff.

Foreign policy of both teams and certainly in the still Clinton-dominated Democratic Party is virtually identical and seems unevolved since the 1950s when the Dulles brothers pressed to nuke the Russians before they got nuclear weapons themselves. In the secret histories told here in the hollows of the White Mountains, it is said that our Governor urged Eisenhower to run before we were either Red or Dead. We might be at such a moment again.

We have been 16 years without adults in the White House. Obama showed promise and maturity in selecting Sam Nunn as a foreign policy adviser. But the Dulles element still dominates the party and from public expression by his key supporters since Sunday, quite possibly still dominates Obama. His commentators are entrenched Clinton-era people and on the talk shows, Clinton-era voices bringing outright lies.

Planting the flag in the North Pole began the drive to new action and passion in the new century. It began a new era of growing things and creating things and killing things and thinking things up and making them on a vital and brand new, snow white and pristine Canadian canvas.

The fight, when it comes, is only the result of forces and efforts which have been working unnoticed or willfully overlooked in political delusion or hubris over long periods. Over decades perhaps and possibly interlinked to the beginning of human history itself. Countervailing and struggling possibly even to the Creation. It comes maybe - as Walt Whitman said in the greatest ever observation on American karma - from our “unsatisfied Soul” seeking passage to the sun and moon and all the stars and Sirius and Jupiter.

When moral purpose is set the spirit flares and a dissident individual or a minority oppressed by the opposition must be found to team up with. Then organically, that interior minority or individual falls into the alliance with the side which opposes its master. But that individual may only be an abstraction. That is Georgia President’s Mikheil Saakashvili’s problem. He thought they really meant it. He thought that simply bribing a few Senators would do the trick.

Bush in 2005 wanted to ally his cause with every dissident group he could find on the planet, in effect seeking a global struggle to “democracy” by direct military invasion and intervention not proposed since Christendom’s twilight. Party touchstones fled in utter confusion and from there he lost his thoughtful middle and had only the edges to hold on to: Those out there where the buses don’t run like Religious Right columnist Cal Thomas, who proposed within weeks after the tragic day of 9/11 that we use nuclear weapons in the war against terror.

War changes a country’s collective personality and psychology: The Mexican War prepared the South psychologically to fight in a greater war shortly after, and World War I awakened a barbaric sensibility in Germany – a primal spirit of the earth god Woden depth psychologists have called it – that would shock the world as it had never been shocked before 25 years later.

The Iraq war has changed America as well. Several of the Democratic candidates running for President last summer, desiring to show that they have the manlies of Khrushchev or Stalin, virtually swaggered and bragged about their willingness to use “First Strike” in the war against terror, adopting Thomas’s position and the Religious Right position of five years ago.

This (“never take any of your tools off the table”) became a standard Best Practices consideration adopted by Presidential candidates who Mitt Romney said correctly, “have never managed even a corner store.” One claimed experience in this end-of-the-world-nuclear-winter scenario simply because one of her relatives was President and she watched for eight years. Not unlike the way one of the family, possibly one sweetly but sadly Touched by the Lord, would learn to milk cows up here in New Hampshire. To his credit, Obama said he would not use nuclear weapons in the fight against terror under any circumstances.

This systemic incompetence started to become apparent when President Clinton, with Eli Wiesel two feet behind him shaking his head in dismay, uttered the phrase, “I don’t know what to do,” regarding Bosnia in 1993. It continued in stark outline last summer when Bush, asked why the Iraqi Army was disbanded two months after the invasion, predictably advancing chaos in the region to catastrophic levels and costing thousands of lives and endless broken spirits in families and neighborhoods, used this phrase: “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said ‘This is the policy, what happened? . . . Again, Hadley’s got notes on all this stuff.”

The chaos and incompetence afflicted both parties. But on the Republican side, the adults stepped in. The well-needed Baker-Hamilton report was simply an action by the well-regarded Bush family-fixer, James A. Baker, to stem a disaster wrought by a son randomly cast into the Presidency and fully unprepared for his responsibilities.

Then last summer Unity 08, with prominent Libertarian, Democrat and Republican features and clever supporters like New York’s William Weld, proposed that it was time for a new approach and possibly a third-party candidate. Sam Nunn, the highly respected former Democratic Senator from Georgia, also announced that he had held talks with both Unity 08 and with New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg about running for President as a third-party candidate.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Nunn, who retired from the Senate more than ten years ago, “ . . . has watched what's happened to the country, and he's more than a bit ticked — at the "fiasco" in Iraq, a federal budget spinning out of control, the lack of an honest energy policy, and a presidential contest that, he says, seems designed to thwart serious discussion of the looming crises.”
In the Journal-Constitution interview, Nunn admitted he was also tempted by the fact that a presidential run would offer him a world stage to press for a revolutionary shift in U.S. defense and foreign policy.

Perhaps more than any living American politician, Nunn has brought sense and sanity to a world hell-bent on mutually-insured-destruction. Last summer he traveled to Russia with Senator Richard Lugar to mark the 15th anniversary of the start of the Nunn-Lugar program, which is intended to help rid Russia of fissile materials left over from the Cold War.

Ultimately, he told the Journal-Constitution, if there's to be any chance of persuading smaller countries to give up nuclear weapons technology — and keep it out of the hands of increasingly sophisticated terrorists — world powers will have to put themselves on a gradual, verifiable path toward total nuclear disarmament. That includes the United States.

Political debate has been captured by the extreme wings of both parties, he said, ignoring solutions that can only be found in the middle.

"I do not see tough calls willing to be made by the body politic," he said.
Nunn is a conservative and a hawk on defense. He is also CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private charitable organization originally bankrolled by Ted Turner. Like colleagues Kissinger and George Schultz who he consulted with last summer in private talks in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin on how to improve U.S.-Russian relations, he brings to the table a maturity that the neither party has not shown in recent years.

This week the Russians raised the stakes. In truth, neither candidate has reacted well to the Russia/Georgia conflict. But there is still time. In the few days left before the Democratic convention, the Democrats might think again about Sam Nunn.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Gorbachev Initiative for Europe’s Quaternity: Sarkozy’s Opportunity

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/13/08

An article by Charlemagne of The Economist this last week succinctly explains that the EU is made up essentially of four economic sub groups - Mediterraneans, Continentals, Anglo-Saxons and Nordics. These groups seem a union of traditionally Catholic and Protestant Europe intentionally designed to keep out Orthodox Russia. This reflects the oldest and the first division of rising European consciousness and one that has plagued Europe since the fourth century. In light of the on-going conflicts in Kosovo, South Ossetia and Georgia, perhaps older cultural contours of Christendom would work better. Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant were Europe’s ancient four pillars from its beginnings and through its history. These four form a European Quaternity; a quaternity is a psychological pattern of wholeness described by C.G. Jung as a complex and interacting pattern in which any one element was not complete, but broken, without the others.

If Europe ever hopes to solve its problems - and Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia will always be Europe’s problems and will again soon be Europe’s problems as America begins to turn East – it will have to fully include Russia and it will have to include parts of Islam. Someone, perhaps France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, who is in Moscow for peace talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, might initiate a forum to consider a new approach. And while in Moscow he might look south to the Hagia Sophia as Tolstoy did. He would find that culturally, if you walk until to get to Muslim lands, they are different only by degree and not by kind to Orthodoxy.

Whatever else you might say about him, Sarozy was right to initiate the Mediterranean Union and to welcome the southern regions as part of Europe’s remembrance of its shared past and its future. It was something that needed to be done and something that the Germans, the nominal economic leaders of the EU but still beholden to America, would never have done. Say what you like about him, but he and possibly he alone is able to open Europe to new ideas and new vision – ideas unhatched in America by think tanks and heavily-funded lobby groups and special interests which at best see Europe as an American sub state and at worst, a submissive vassal state of a conquered territory.

Sarko is ready for his close up. He could bring Europe’s four corners together at a benign center somewhere; a four-cornered mandala in which all in Europe’s traditions might interact.

He might also tap Mikail Gorbachev to this purpose and as an outside observer and avatar of new awakening, he could bring in his hot new wife’s pal, the Dalai Lama, and a few other outsiders, but this should be essentially an initiative for and about Europe; Cold Warrior-free, Bush-free, McCain-free, Clinton-free and Obama-free.

Some 15 years ago Gorbachev established an innovative forum through The Gorbachev Institute to discuss the state of the world by inviting world leaders from all paths of life – monks, soldiers, artists, historians, poets; invitees ranged from Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and Margaret Thatcher to George Schultz and James A. Baker. Even Shirley MacLaine and New Age guru Fritjof Capra. He might do the same now for Europe.

We are entering now the fourth political generation of America’s post-war arc of power. Europe is returning to itself and the buzz words and propaganda models which have become conditioned reflex to second and third generation no longer resonate. Zbigniew Brzezinski – said to be an Obama advisor these days – was first off the mark Sunday in comparing Russia’s Putin to Hitler, then suddenly it was springtime for Hitler as all the secondary press and its lobbyists and entrenched interests followed suit.

Not to be outdone, George Will said that he was even reminded of Hitler when he heard the traditional Chinese drum corps on its ancient instruments and saw the children waving at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. It reminded him of Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda films for the Third Reich. This is the old school; a wog’s a wog and a foreign devil by any other name is still a foreign devil.

But Will bemoans the passing of the night and the fog in a generation without history: “A worldwide audience of billions swooned over the Beijing ceremony,” he writes. “Who remembers 1934? Or anything.”

I remember Will on his Sunday morning TV talk show a year after he had been denouncing all of Europe as fascist accommodators and anti-Semites for not supporting Rumsfeld and those fey French in particular, saying wistfully: “I don’t think anybody really thought it would turn out like this.”

Anybody? Did somebody say Brett Scowcroft, Wesley Clark, Gary Hart, Jim Webb, so many others? And who gave Will and these other apologists soviet-style life contracts anyway? Couldn’t we treat them with the same honor, respect, love and equality that we grant to sports figures and fire them when they fail? Hockey legend Pat Quinn, a Canadian national hero who led the men’s hockey team to gold in the Winter Olympics of 2002 was fired within minutes when he failed to bring the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Stanley Cup.

Had any American commentator or statesman spoken adult-to-adult and in good faith about the Russian invasion of Georgia on Monday he would have been hounded off the stage by the voice of the horde as Wesley Clark was several weeks back when he responded simply to a journalist who had commented that crashing a jet fighter does no necessarily prepare one to be President.

But Gorbachev still has cache. In an essay published beneath Will’s in Tuesday’s Washington Post he writes: “The roots of this tragedy lie in the decision of Georgia's separatist leaders in 1991 to abolish South Ossetian autonomy. This turned out to be a time bomb for Georgia's territorial integrity. Each time successive Georgian leaders tried to impose their will by force -- both in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia, where the issues of autonomy are similar -- it only made the situation worse. New wounds aggravated old injuries.”

Nevertheless, it was still possible to find a political solution, he writes. For some time, the peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians fulfilled its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, found common ground.
Through all these years, Russia has continued to recognize Georgia's territorial integrity, says Gorbachev. Clearly, the only way to solve the South Ossetian problem on that basis is through peaceful means, but the Georgian leadership flouted this key principle.

“What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension,” he writes. “The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against ‘small, defenseless Georgia’ is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.”

Gorbachev points out that the Georgians were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a "blitzkrieg" in South Ossetia. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was expecting unconditional support from the West, and the West had given him reason to think he would have it.

“By declaring the Caucasus, a region that is thousands of miles from the American continent, a sphere of its ‘national interest,’ the United States made a serious blunder,” he writes. “Of course, peace in the Caucasus is in everyone's interest. But it is simply common sense to recognize that Russia is rooted there by common geography and centuries of history. Russia is not seeking territorial expansion, but it has legitimate interests in this region.”

This is plain talk from one of the world’s most highly regarded politicos; a statesman unparalleled in our time who risked his life and that of his family to bring about the end of 70 years of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe.

But I question today whether either political party or Presidential candidate in America, boxed in by entrenched and antiquated ideas – some more than a century out of date - of dominant special interests and lobby groups and a fully propagandized public, is willing or able to listen.

Where is the one free man who will break the trance?

Gorbachev might look to Sarko.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trouble in Rumsfeld’s “New Europe”: Russian Bears

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/11/08

It was characteristic of Donald Rumsfeld to refer to Eastern Europe’s oldest Byzantium regions as “New Europe.” This was the kind of oxymoron and conspicuous make believe that marked the all hat, no cattle Bush administration. What was a little spooky about it all was that when they pretended to tell the truth with fixed jaw and flat eyes, people pretended to believe them.

When these states of Europe’s oldest soul; Kosovo, the Czech Republic, South Ossetia and Georgia among them, were released from the grip of the Soviet Union, they had little in common with Catholic and Protestant Europe, but they wanted to join NATO. They did have the experience of television and radio. And they had cousins in America, some of whom were Senators. What they really wanted was to become secondary American states and have America defend them against their closest and oldest cultural relative, Orthodox Russia.

What they wanted, it was said at the time, was not Trotsky and Lenin. They wanted America. And not just Jefferson and Lincoln. They wanted Michael Jackson and Calvin Klein. They wanted Frank Zappa.

Not long ago they began to realize that the price of being American pseudo-states could be high: Rumsfeld would need them as soldiers in his war on Iraq when no one else in the world but England – our own trusty Gurkhas who would loyally follow us to hell and back – would join him. And he would need Poland and the Czech Republic as military bases for his defensive anti-Russia missiles. The conspicuous, shared delusion reached farce level when he claimed it was to defend against Iran. When they signed on, Russia was sickly and they were told it was dying. But then overnight, it was stronger than ever; rich in oil wealth and the rubble was booming.

At the beginning, way back say 20 years ago, Russia was weak and the neocon apparatchiks hoped to kill it, advancing the very unique theory of the end of time; the United States being the center of a clock, with everything else descending into hinterland and Russia at the farthest edge of nowhere. They came to that because they studied public policy at Yale and Harvard instead of Gogol and Tolstoy which guys like George Kennan studied in what Paris Hilton calls the olden days.

Taunting Russia when it was sick and weak became regular practice for the last two Presidential administrations, Henry Kissinger said recently, hoping to advance more mature foreign policy in the near future. Back in 1997, the Senate, egged on by Vice President Al Gore, voted to expand NATO to include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary although a group of elder statesmen, led by Susan Eisenhower, called it “a policy error of historic proportions.”

Under the new NATO agreement U.S. troops would be committed to respond to conflicts involving any of the new member nations of Central Europe. But even Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, the dean of Cold Warriors, asked President Clinton: “What would be the impact of extending coverage of the U.S. nuclear umbrella to them?”

Helms, who had about as much affection for Russia as General Jack D. Ripper, asked in a letter to President Clinton: “Is a border dispute involving one or several of the new NATO members so vital a national security threat to the U.S. that we are willing to risk American lives?” Nevertheless, swelled by a sense of infallibility at a time before stocks came crashing down and claims were being made that the Dow Jones index would soon hit 35,000, almost 90 Senators voted for the resolution.

Gogol or Tolstoy would have taught them that Russia actually never dies; it just sleeps for very long periods, like a bear. And every time Hitler or Napolean or Rumsfeld thinks that this time, the bear is really dead, it wakes up.

This week the bear woke up.

George W. Bush will be remembered as a gatekeeper in a number of ways. But most importantly, what Bush did for the first time since Eisenhower threw England and Anthony Eden out of the Suez in 1956 was to legitimize the use of military force as an everyday tool of diplomacy. In 2005 he virtually declared war on any place in the world which had a dissident who would invite him to challenge its enemy.

A clever and seasoned political operative like Vladimir Putin, a mirror to Bush just as Stalin was a doppelganger in the witch mirror to America's rise to power under FDR, would immediately see the advantage.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What the Egg Means

The Bird’s Nest and the Egg, the symbol of the China Olympics are a dream archetype. That is, the egg is a dream of original experience which suggests the very beginning of a new and creative period. Original artists and other creative persons dream of an egg in a nest or two eggs in a nest (See Quigley in Exile). The Surrealists group almost all dreamed of eggs in a nest. The dream is often two eggs in a nest and there is a statue of Lord Krishna in Michigan State’s anthropology museum of Krishna holding two eggs one in each hand. Another rendition of this is a theme of two birds in a tree – the eggs have hatched and represent the two forces of live, intuition and order, which might be considered a kind of yin and yang. Teh Bird's Nest and Water Cube divided by a street likewise represent the yin and yang in an intuition and order manifestation; circle or organic form always represents "psyche" or yin force and square always represents Yang or external order force. A line between them becaue as Neils Bohr said Particle and Wave are seperate.

The most famous of the egg pictures in the Surrealist Movement was Salvador Dali’s painting of Geopoliticus Man, a picture of man hatching out of an egg. Seen in context with other of Dali’s pictures, particularly Poetry in America, the blood dripping from the man can be seen to be coming from the Christ wound – the painting represents the “second Christ” or the Aquarian, who Dali has pictured elsewhere as a Buddhist monk in yellow robes descending from the Christ wound of a horse – Pegasus, who awakens the Age of Aquarius, and landing in a desert which in connection with the other pictures might be Texas. Dali did a series of the “egg” pictures all of which have the egg as the world and hatching in the place on the map which is the United States.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

China and the New Man: Blade Runner meets Lao Tzu

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/8/08

The China Olympics is all about eights. The eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year and the eighth something else.

Inscrutable. The FBI might call in Fox Mulder for a consult when he is finished with Father Joe. Eight, you see, is the number of sides on a Ba Gua. Eight is, as any teen-aged viewer of Lost will tell you, the number of stacks on the five-thousand-year-old oracle known as the I Ching (which is a Ba Gua) and it is also the shape of the hatch and the shape of all things of the Dharma Initiative on the mysterious island. Eight is the sum total of the male quaternity and the female quaternity; the yin and the yang. Eight is the totality of human consciousness as it interfaces with cosmic consciousness.

It has been long since we have we seen such excitement. Not since the moon went blind in Boston when Big Papi, offering a prayer to Angela Rosa Arias, his mother in heaven, lifted the curse from us in 2004. The Yellow Emperor himself seems to be winking, as the sun fell into total eclipse on opening week. I wonder if the Politburu Standing Committee consulted court astrologers on this. I think not. As the I Ching points out, things just happen that way. Anyway, Mao had them all executed. But this is sure a long march from Mao.

As the opening ceremonies of the Olympics begin, viewers and visitors will be treated to an astonishing sight; a masterpiece of China’s oldest traditions in ancient costume and dance, peeks of which have been popping up all week on TV. The march of performers brings to mind the Terracotta Army, the 3,000 life-size statues built in the 2nd century to protect the tomb of the first emperor of China. It brings to mind the flying Taoist warrior monks of karate opera which have become mainstream soap and kid culture in the West since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It also brings to mind the strength, brutality and might of the Red Armies which marched across the 20th century in Tiananmen Square and Moscow’s Red Square.

But up in Shanghai a different cord is heard when Gregory Rodriguez of the LA Times interviews Qingyun Ma, dean of the architecture school at USC and one of the world’s most promising architects, who spends his time between L.A. and his firm’s offices in Shanghai.

There's little room for historical sentimentality in Shanghai, Ma tells Rodriguez. It is a place that constantly looks to the future. The explosion of new skyscrapers going up everywhere seem to have the architectural density of cotton candy.

“Most of them are so superbly ugly that they're exciting,” says Ma. "If they're ugly, they'll be torn down sooner,"

Rodriguez says that as Westerners marvel at the enormity of China's urban building boom, they also tend to bemoan the ongoing demolition of the country's architectural patrimony. Even his guidebook complains about China's "perverse delight in destroying its own heritage" and the fact that in Shanghai, an enormous city of 19 million souls, only 600-odd buildings have been designated as protected historical sites, compared with nearly 40,000 in London.

But, he adds, Ma sheds no tears for the quaint buildings that have given way to thousands of new structures -- and they aren't all ugly by any means. In fact, Ma barely conceals his disdain for architectural nostalgia.

"The concept behind historic preservation is foolish," Ma tells Rodriguez. "It assumes that there is infinite space for future generations. We have to allow people in the future to build their environments based on their own needs and intelligence."

L.A.'s lack of historical sentimentality is one of the reasons Ma enjoys his adopted home.

Ma's worldview embraces a certain kind of chaos that he might say actually defines ‘tradition,’ writes Rodriguez, at least in the built environment: Things change, and that's the way it always has been.

It might be no surprise that Ma loves L.A., which he considers a city “ . . . for the future.”

Blade Runner meets Lao Tsu; the ancient and the endless comes to greet the temporary and the throw away.

Ma is China’s New Man. The New Man goes forth without a backward glance. But these same words and ideas have their own tradition and orthodoxy. They were heard a hundred years back when the great architect Albert Kahn brought the New Man to Detroit while his brother, another New Man, took offices in Moscow. We have seen the New Man in New York in early part of the 20th Century, in France and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and the New Man of Russia as early as 1835: Lermontov was perhaps the prototype and Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov the primal archetype. But no where was the New Man so successful as when Comintern agent Gregory Voitinsky brought him to China and Andre Malraux and friends bought him to the Far East.

In the Olympics today China shows that it is beginning to learn what Russia and the West have learned; that the Old Soul does not die, it just sleeps. Beneath the picture of Stalin is the Black Madonna, and when the time is right, the Red Army with its tens of thousands of thermal nukes will be no match for a slim volume by Solzhenitsyn. Even Ford’s and Kahn’s industrial vision, presented by Huxley as a Brave New World, could not survive the sweet overheard chords of Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. Then it is suddenly all over for the New Man of Marx or his twin, the New Man of Industry and Capital and his People In Black (PIBs) who execute their ideas in steel and glass.

During the Cultural Revolution Mao set out to destroy every shred of the past that he could find. Monks and mandarins were hounded and destroyed by the hundreds of thousands. Then in 1981, Deng Xioping, desperately trying to find a way to raise cash, sent a state educated and trained athlete named Jet Li to an abandoned monastery called Shaolin Temple to think about making a movie about warrior monks who were said to be masters of kung fu. He found ruins. Only three monks had survived the torture and beatings in the new wave of chaos that was the Cultural Revolution. But that was enough to relearn China’s most ancient traditions and to make the movie, Shaolin Temple, which became a runaway hit and created a new genre.

Jet Li’s kung fu was strong. Reports are that so many Chinese young people left home to find their way to Shaolin Temple and become martial arts monks and experts that the Chinese government had to build new trains to send them back home.

China today is not the best of worlds, but it is a better world than that which existed before for over a billion of the world’s people. And from this day on, 8/8/08, the Chinese are a people that the rest of us will have to come to terms with as friends and competitors, much as the world had to learn to come to terms with America as we built in strength and imagination all through the 19th century.

And it found its way here, to us and to the 2008 Olympics, by finding its way back to itself via three Buddhist monks.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

War is Over. We Won.

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/06/08

The war is over before it’s begun, said Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, quoting Sun Sun Tzu’s famous phrase from The Art of War. It should be noted that as per the Taoist arc of ascending and descending power that Sun Tzu describes, war is likewise already well over before the end is acknowledged. I felt it mid Spring in 1968, a few hundred miles to the left of Quang Tri where the battle of Khe Sanh was blazing. Others did too. I felt it again on November 8, 2006, when Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

Bret Stephens, who writes the Global View column for The Wall Street Journal, made that claim yesterday. He says the war in Iraq is over and he bet Francis Fukuyama $100 that it is.

“The war in Iraq is over. We've won,” writes Stephens.

It might not be quite fair to bet with someone who declared “the end of history” in 1992. But Stephens is right; the war is over and we won.

The war in Iraq was from the beginning a revenge kill plain and simple. The sacking of Baghdad was the price of 9/11. To get the true picture you’d have to have gone to Southern States – Southern States is a farm and feed chain that runs through the South – in my old neighborhood of Tobaccoville, NC. Tobaccoville is about the nicest place on earth. It is right next to Mount Airy, NC, which is, in fact, the nicest place on earth. Mount Airy is the real-life Mayberry, as in Mayberry RFD, and it is just like that TV show.

I stopped in at the Southern States in Tobaccoville to buy a new pair of Pointer Brand overalls just after they bagged Saddam. At the cash register they had a photoshoped picture under glass of Barney Fife driving the patrol car with the bearded and forlorn Saddam Hussein blankly staring out the window in the back seat.

That tells you all you really need to know about the war on Iraq.

They never talk about it and it would be impolite to do so, but for every war there is an inner war. That’s Sun Tzu. The external war calls for neutralizing the opposition, holding real estate and extracting fortune and retribution. The inner war calls for revenge. It is the animal life force and it is required to regain equilibrium. That was Sherman’s purpose in sacking Atlanta when victory was elsewhere. Atlanta was the price of Southern secession, just as Hiroshima was the price of Pearl Harbor and Wounded Knee was the price extracted for the death of Long Hair at Little Big Horn. Black Elk, the Lakota mystic, took his first scalp there as a child soldier and beaming with pride, brought it to his mother, who sang a little tremolo for him. He said so many Indian ponies had trampled through that Custer’s body could not be distinguished from the others in the pile of horses and soldiers. But the massacre at Wounded Knee would inevitably follow. Likewise, the sacking of Bagdad would inevitably follow 9/11.

This is what war is really about. Later they come with Telford Taylor or Henry Kissinger and Thich Nhat Hanh and the other tiny Buddhist monks in their big oversized government-issued overcoats, the quiet and serenity which sustained them through warfare since Dien Bien Phu challenged by the rainy cold of January mornings at the Paris Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. That is something else. That is something other than war.

Here is something you’ve got to watch out for. Anyone who has ever been in a war will tell you that it is hard to slow down later. And the bigger the war, the bigger the afterglow. The phony Cold War was an afterglow of WW II so vast that it threatened world stability for decades to come and it still does. It is also hard to stop being a soldier once you’ve been one. It is hard to change course and go back because everything you did prior to the war now seems too easy.

Gaze is shifting now from Iraq to Afghanistan. And that is what President Obama has to watch out for.

On his recent trip to Afghanistan Obama said, "losing is not an option." He said that he wants to "rebuild the country” and to stabilize the country and to promote a rising standard of living and disable al-Qaida and the Taliban to the point where they cannot cause problems for anyone.

But that is something else entirely. Haviland Smith, a foreign policy expert and a former CIA Station Chief who served in East and West Europe and the Middle East and as Chief of the Counterterrorism Staff, says there could be problems with that.

“And now,” he writes in a recent editorial, “we sail off into Afghanistan! It is almost as if, in the aftermath of 9/11, we are morally obliged to do that. We have to find Osama bin Laden. After all, he launched that attack on us from Afghanistan, with the protection of the Taliban – the same organization that has now morphed into an insurgency against our presence in their country.”

Historically, he says, where terrorist organizations hardly every win anything significant, insurgencies almost always do.

“Afghanistan is very different from Iraq. Where Iraq is fairly flat, Afghanistan is anything but. The terrain is mountainous and not favorable for conventional warfare. The people are different. Although they are not Arabs, but a mélange of Central Asians, Persians and other minor groups, they are 80 percent Sunni and 20 percent Shia. Their main languages are Indo-European and their culture is tied more to Persia than to the Arab world. They have the reputation of being unconquerable and ungovernable.”

As a people, says Smith, Afghanis are not terribly interested in being ruled by anyone outside their own tribe or clan, let alone their nation. They have tried that before. If our goal in Afghanistan is to pacify the country, or bring them democracy and prosperity, let's think again.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Obama’s African-American Race Hecklers

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/1/08

“Why have you not one time spoken . . . not one time . . . to the oppressed and exploited African-American community?” a young black man asked Obama today in Florida.

Of course, he has, but he sometimes didn’t say what they wanted to hear. It was the soaring rhetoric from the mid Sixties, but derivative, imitative and absurd. Obama in a word, told the heckler that this is a democratic dialog which gives him the option to vote for someone else, but the only way we are going to solve our problems in this country is for all to come together.

And incidentally, the first Black President, Bill Clinton, is this week in Africa, where he has many friends, trying to grasp shards of a racial legacy that is rapidly sinking into the twilight.

This is a good moment, because if offers opportunity to see the two faces of race which have emerged and institutionalized themselves here since integration.

What the Clintons, he and she, have offered throughout their co-career, such as it is, is a vision and model of victimization. But it is a patronizing vision when it is coming from white folk, and especially so when it comes from an Arkansas governor and his missus.

Clinton fully endorses the views of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. All of Bill Clinton’s major black supporters are in the matriarchal tradition of the Deep South. They are either elderly women writers of accusatory and racially outraged prose, or black male preachers. Vernon Jordan aside, Bill Clinton has almost no other black friends.

Bill Clinton obviously hates Obama. Bill hates Obama because he took away his opportunity to play again in the White House as a kind of male Eleanor Roosevelt, acting as Hillary’s legs – going around and giving speeches everywhere while she takes care of business.

Jackson – Bill’s pastor and conspicuous confidant – also hates Obama. But he hates Obama because Obama suggests and demands that black people, like all people, hold some responsibility for their present state and destiny. In essence, Obama treats black people as equal to white people. Jackson and most all of Bill’s other black preacher friends (and his celebrity priest friends in Africa) seek and find with Bill a special relationship and a very different status of responsibility.
Bill, Hillary and myself grew up with the fierce people; the best and most beautiful among us died before 30 and if they didn’t die of their own passion they were gunned down, like Malcolm X and John Lennon. But strangely enough, the fierce ones, more than the rest of us, seemed to die anyway, like Otis Redding, killed in a plane crash and Jerry Rubin, run over by a car. So today it is odd – even tiring – to see a generation remembering itself through this phony Arkansas governor and his wife.
But what I want to know is how did a group of black Baptist preachers in the South unite to show their support for Hillary at the historic moment when a black man was running a juggernaut, in the words of David Brooks, to the Presidency of the United States. They have shifted now to Obama but only because they were relentlessly hounded by the press as “Uncle Toms” and as a “black boy network.”
He’s forgotten now, but in the days of the fierce people, Malcolm X, the fiercest of the lot, used to call people like this “House Negroes.” Bill’s got the silver hair. He plays the saxophone. And he loves the colored girls – Malcolm’s phrasing - don’t cha know. Andrew Young’s ill conceived and ill-spoken comments in support of Bill Clinton and his preacher man pals showed an attitude long familiar to the South and to readers of Southern history. Such a man – quite often called Governor by the slaves - is the pride of Malcolm’s “Mr. Big” – the slave put in charge of the blacks in the plantation culture to keep them in line. It shamefully showed pride in a white politician clearly because of his arrested sexual attitudes and the disconnect between sexual behavior and love and the responsibility which naturally flows from these relationships.
Welcome to the old school. This is precisely how “massa” behaved to the disgust of the civilized and thoughtful black and white in the Old South, like Mary Chestnut, whose astute observations are faithfully reported in C. Vann Woodward’s publication of her wartime letters. “Massa’s” black mistresses are a theme which runs through the whole of Southern literature. All the “mullato” children of the “House Negroes” – the favored of “massa” who are brought into his parlor, clearly bear the same facial features as the white children, and the Governor showed no public disgrace, but a pride in his virility; a pride shared by his fellows.
“The Governor” and “Mr. Big” are symbiotes. “He loved his master more than the master loved himself,” Malcolm said of the “House Negro,” and the house slave identified fully with the master: “If the master was sick, the House Negro would say, ‘What’s the matter, boss, we sick?’”
Malcolm X, banished today, was not afraid to die and not afraid to live. He was the “Field Negro”, he called himself, who came to push the “House Negroes” out of their fawning, complacent and submissive spot in the white man’s parlor.

Obama is no such man. He has his own originality and authentic power. His is a new moment. A moment of maturation of attitudes. Even if he is not elected, it is too late for Jesse Jackson and Bill’s special friends and their “special relationship.” They have lost their special place in the Governor’s parlor.