Hawks and Doves and War
a low voter turnout can be an indication of the public’s general
satisfaction with the state of their state, or the state of their nation.
And while complacency isn’t a desirable personal attribute, it does
speak well for the general state of affairs.
must go in times of crisis and in times of war. The gravity of our current
situation—the unprecedented terror attacks of 9/11, ongoing military
action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the daily, deliberate threats of new
terror attacks on American soil and abroad—calls for serious, engaged
citizens. And the American public has responded. Voters are energized,
engaged and ready, as they should be, to make a serious choice, to choose
remember 1992 when more than 20 percent of voters cast ballots for Ross
Perot. With the election already decided in favor of Clinton by the time
polls began to close in the West, it’s reasonable to assume that
many of those Perot votes were “why not?” votes, throwaways.
won’t work this election. This is a wartime election and the direction
we choose, the man we choose to lead us, matters. And many Oregonians
will vote by mail long before most polls around the country even open.
So how many
times have we been faced with this serious choice for our country? And
how did we decide?
James Madison won his second term just after war broke out with England.
As the war escalated in 1814, the British burned the White House and the
Capitol in Washington DC. But by 1815, the war ended successfully and
Madison’s term ended peacefully.
Abraham Lincoln faced a tough re-election fight against Gen. George McClellan,
the young Napolean. A war-weary nation nearly decided against their incumbent
leader in favor of his general, who had been fired for his reluctance
to engage in battle.
Franklin Roosevelt won a closer than expected race against Dewey for his
fourth term in office. Despite his length of time in office and failing
health, the country stayed the course during WWII, hoping to end the war
under consistent leadership.
the presidency was open. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower faced Adlai Stevenson
during the Korean War. The country chose their military general and voted
in a Republican for the first time in 20 years.
the presidency was open again. At the height of the Vietnam War, both
candidates spoke about peace—Hubert Humphrey (running from Johnson’s
failed war record) and the Democrats were dove-ish on the war, and Richard
Nixon claimed to have a “secret plan for peace.” The country
voted for party change,
a crack down on rioters, and Nixon’s vision to end
we learn from history? Maybe 200 years later, 60 years later, 40 years
later, everything has changed. But maybe not.
In all three
instances with an incumbent in office, the nation held the course through
the waging war. And in the open races, the country chose the more “hawkish”
candidate to bring the war to conclusion.
the most significant parallel appears between the Lincoln-McClellan election
and this year’s Bush-Kerry election. The nation is war-weary and
the incumbent is somewhat unpopular due to the war. The opponent is known
for his military service, but also for his personal disdain for war.
equally striking that in both elections the war tears at the nation’s
soul, pitting citizen against citizen, brother against brother. But oddly
enough, in this election we’re not just talking about Iraq, we’re
also talking about Vietnam. And Bush didn’t bring it up;
curious about Kerry’s obsession with his Vietnam War record and
his blithe dismissal of his 20 years in the U.S. Senate. Nearly 40 years
later, most veterans and citizens alike have put to rest their conflicts
over Vietnam. Said former Green Beret Tom Whitehouse to the Oregonian,
“Veterans don’t go back and revisit these things and nitpick
watchers find it highly unusual that Kerry made his four-month Vietnam
service the highlight of his bio film, his convention appearance, and
indeed his whole campaign. They find it unusual, because, like Gen. McClellan,
Kerry served his country, but as a reluctant warrior at best. Upon returning
from Vietnam service, Kerry railed against not just our presence in Vietnam,
but also, in testimony before Congress, he accused his fellow soldiers
there of atrocities. Until recently his picture hung next to Jane Fonda’s
in a Vietnam museum honoring those who helped against the Americans.
inconsistent, almost irrational behavior? Why highlight service in a war
the candidate considered immoral? Why focus on a skill area, that the
candidate clearly finds repugnant?
the nation’s voting history, why take the role of McClellan in a
race against a Lincoln?
only one explanation. From the time he was a young man John Kerry plotted
his political career based on a different historical figure—John
Kennedy. He was thorough enough in his plans to take his video camera
to war with him, careful enough to get a Swift boat assignment to capture
the JFK similarity. And though he publicly despised the war and those
who fought it, he was careful to keep records, photos and contacts from
his short service for later political use.
seems to notice that history has given him an entirely new, and different,
set of circumstances. With his political stage pre-set, Kerry doesn’t
seem bothered by the turmoil he has created by re-igniting the internal
clashes over Vietnam. In fact, he and other liberals seem almost eager
to rehash the old fights and reopen all the old wounds.
But no matter
how much John Kerry wants to pretend that he’s John Kennedy, he’s
still John Kerry. And no matter how much he wants to rehash the painful
arguments over Vietnam, this war is the War on Terror. Politicians can
emulate historical figures but they must live in the reality of their
whole campaign has a quaint late-60s retro feeling to it, George Bush
moves forcefully (too forcefully for some) to shape the nation’s
future foreign policy and national security.
States is at war and the nation’s voters have a serious choice to
make. The last time they faced similar circumstances, they chose Lincoln—quiet,
and at the time, considered inarticulate, uneducated, too bent on war.
Today the union survives.
May we choose
seriously, and choose well.
A Pair to Draw To
that Portland Mayor’s race? “Diamond Jim” Francesconi
versus “Teflon Tom” Potter. Geez, somehow I can’t see
myself cracking a Pabst Blue Ribbon with either one of those guys.
Primary, Francesconi put the touch on every suit in downtown Portland
for donations, raised close to a million bucks, and was promptly walloped
by Potter, whose only platform in the primary was that he wouldn’t
take any money. Kinda makes Commissioner Sten and Auditor Blackmer’s
“clean money” campaign finance reform look a little silly;
seems you can’t buy an election in Portland after all.
happens after the primary? “Diamond Jim” cans his campaign
team, throws on his Birkenstocks, jumps on his Vespa and tears squealing
off in the tightest left turn we've seen in Portland since Ivancie told
the cops to turn in their axe handles. He tries to force a police reform
resolution through the council, gets his wrist slapped for bureau meddling,
and leaves all the suits wondering just what planet he’s from. I’ll
betcha the Francesconi fundraiser mailing round two didn’t do so
“Teflon Tom,” who’s probably as surprised as anybody
that he made the primary cut, decides he better come up with something
new; he can’t ride that $25 contribution limit all the way to the
general election. He secures the endorsement of commissioner “Water
Boy” Erik Sten and is quoted in the August 10th Oregonian as saying
“I want to shift the thinking of the community from being reactive
a notion. Maybe while he’s at it he could “shift the paradigm”
and keep everything “sustainable.” In the first days of his
mayorship Potter says he plans to become the CEO of the City, take over
every bureau, and straighten this mess out. Commissioner Saltzman chuckles
that it might be a little challenging for one person long term, and Commissioner
Leonard quips that he’s “always wanted to learn play golf.”
about the issues? Francesconi says he opposes burying the reservoirs and
Potter says “me too.” Francesconi says he wants to increase
racial diversity in the police department and Potter says “me too.”
Francesconi says he wants to help small business to create jobs and Potter
says “me too.” Do we detect a pattern here?
decides he’ll have to go
after Potter on his record. Problem is,
really remember anything about Tom Potter as police chief, other than
him being a guy with nice hair and a lesbian daughter? Those ex-police
chiefs are all kind of a blur to me. Potter, Moose, Harrington, Kroeker.
Portland runs through Chiefs of Police faster than sewage into the Willamette
on a heavy rain day.
So the other
day Francesconi runs some radio spots saying that way back when Potter
didn’t properly reprimand some cop who took 23 shots at a fleeing
shots? I don’t know about you, but it seems to me the only bad thing
you could say about Potter over that incident is that maybe he didn’t
run a very good target range. I’ll bet 9mm ammo for those Glocks
isn’t cheap; seems like a little accuracy
would go a long way toward helping out the taxpayers on the police budget.
I never did hear if the cop hit the guy, but it turned out that Francesconi
was the alleged suspect’s lawyer after the incident.
the press screams bloody murder over the attempted mudslinging, the Oregonian
tells Francesconi to “turn in his shovel” and the Portland
Police Association pulls their endorsement. Francesconi defends himself
by comparing his examination of Potter’s record with presidential
candidate John Kerry’s questioning of “Bush’s failed
Hey, a public
Bush-bashing and the loss of the Police Association endorsement. Maybe
I’ve got it wrong. Maybe Francesconi really does know how to get
elected in Portland after all.
the heck do I know. I’m just an Eastside guy.
BrainstormNW - Sept 2004