TIME magazine rebounds

June 9, 2014

is it just me or has anyone else noticed how interesting TIME magazine has become lately?  For the first time in years I find myself buying it off the newsstand at airports even though I subscribe.  The stories are too compelling for me to wait to get home to my own copy.

I confess that I moved to television cable news long ago.  My subscriptions to newspapers and magazines expired.  They were too late with the news, too predictable in their interpretation and just beyond vanilla to the point of bland.  The new TIME has something rare for our age, old fashioned journalism.  It’s coverage of the crisis in Ukraine was actually ahead of television news.  (How can you trust a television reporter who cannot pronounce Sevastopol?)  

And there is something new for TIME, raw, beyond-the-stale-boardroom predictable perspectives. I may be wrong about this but as a reader, it appears to me, that after years of trying to cram their version of he world down our throats the Gods at TIME have turned their talent lose.


Hands on Diplomacy: the foreign policy failure of America

May 14, 2014

American presidents can’t keep their hands off of other heads of state.  It has become embarrassing.  They touch their shoulders, their backs and hold their arms as they guide them to places to stand or sit.  It is as if their guests were little children or blind men who need the assistance of the almighty American president-father.  Kings, Queens or common dictators?  It doesn’t matter.   Our presidents manhandle them all, especially  the women.

Not since George H.W. Bush have we had a president who has enough foreign policy experience to know what most American tourists have learned from their own world travels, namely, that you should not touch other people without permission.  In some countries of Asia and Africa it is considered unsanitary and dirty, the ultimate offense.  You respect the body of the other person.  Shaking hands, a western habit, has only been recently accepted and even it is an offense to many of the masses. One can see the awkwardness in the faces of our visiting heads of state.   Except in rare political instances, such as Queen Elizabeth’s encounter with Michelle Obama, they don’t touch back.  They don’t say, “Thank you for helping me find my spot for the photo op, I was lost and couldn’t read my name on the floor of the stage.”  Or, “Say, thanks Mr. President, for the assist in getting into my chair.  Although I am younger than you I was afraid I was going to take a tumble.”

One can see when they are the host in their own country and our president is the guest, they are not hugging or manhandling him.  He isn’t required to kiss on both cheeks in France.  He is allowed to stand tall, with dignity, not inches but feet away from the French president.  The ushers, doormen and military aides in many foreign capitals (including  France) actually still wear white gloves.

My guess is that there are diplomats and analysts in the U.S. State Department who are horrified by this presidential behavior and have written eloquent, respectful memorandum, tediously explaining the toilet habits of masses of people from different cultures, offering excellent explanations for why and how these traditions have evolved.  And why no matter how close they feel to their leader counterpart, it is often an offense to the people to see their nation’s leader pawed over.   If so, such memorandum never made it past the White House sycophants who cannot stop telling the president-emperor how wonderful he looks in those clothes of his.

The fact is, the emperor is naked.  America’s ignorant presidents from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama make us look patronizing, rude and condescending.  Their obsessive manhandling of foreign leaders and their small gestures of touch and feel, meant to endear, have had their part to play in the collapse of America’s foreign policy.  It is not what the actions themselves have done as much as the contempt they express toward other nations and their cultures.  If an American president is so isolated that he can’t get this obvious memo from Foggy Bottom, then what else is he missing?  What other, more outrageous and idiotic mistakes are being made?  No wonder America has moved from a country that is hated to a country that is now ridiculed in jokes around the world.

In years past I have despised the soft on communism apparatchiks at the State Department.  Now, I admit that we need them to assert themselves.  Someone needs to blow the whistle.  American is losing its public relations battle worldwide out of ignorance and arrogance.  We can see it on television.  Yes, this touchy-feely tendency is only a symptom but it shows that the corruption is complete.  Even our recent secretaries of state have been too cowed by the all powerful American celebrity president.  Somebody needs to speak up.

George H.W. Bush, experienced as a diplomat and ambassador, a former head of the CIA, was America’s last respectable foreign policy president.  He accomplished something that history had never seen.  He united the world behind the effort to enforce the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.  Yes, he didn’t finish off Saddam Hussein but that was part of the price for world unity and Saddam was clearly kept in check.  Today, having finished off Saddam Hussein and seeing the death of tens of thousands, Iraq has turned into an Islamic nation.  Christians who trace their  heritage back to the apostle Thomas have been tortured, murdered and burned out.   Being Gay or even looking gay has become a death sentence in Baghdad.  Al Qaeda now operates freely in Iraq. And the American economy, suffering from a $2 trillion war that was off the books, has fallen into its second worst depression in history.

Critics are now berating President Barack Obama for backing down from world leadership.  Maybe we should leave him alone.


Presidents and their mothers

May 11, 2014

“All I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother, God bless her.”

- Abraham Lincoln

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to confirm that most of America’s presidents are “mama’s boys.”

It must make Sigmund Freud smile for one of his most enduring discoveries was how the perceived favorite child of a mother is empowered for life.  Consider the overwhelming evidence that mothers play a key role.  Many recent presidents were literally named after their mothers but none of their many siblings.

Ronald Wilson Reagan named after his mother Nelle Wilson.

Richard Milhous Nixon named after his mother Hannah Nixon.

Lyndon Baines Johnson named after his mother Rebecca Baines.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy named after his mother Rose Fitzgerald.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt named after his mother Sarah Delano.

Woodrow Wilson named after his mother Janet Woodrow.

And on and on it goes back into history. Rutherford Birchard Hayes named after his mother Sophia Birchard.  Of course it is not a perfect formula or Marvin Pierce Bush would have been elected president, not his older brother, George W. Bush, but it is common enough to defy any odds.

“You are a Delano,” FDR’s mother, Sarah Delano used to tell him, “not a Roosevelt.”

“I was a mama’s boy,” said Woodrow Wilson, “no question about it, but the best of womanhood came to me through those apron strings.”

“God bless my mother,” Abraham Lincoln supposedly said to his law partner William Herndon,” all I am or ever hope to be I owe to my angel mother.”

Keep in mind, the above famous quote, attributed to Lincoln’s law partner, may never have really been uttered.  Yes, it is featured prominently in almost every biography of Lincoln and appears in the first pages of Pulitzer Prize Award winning books but recent research shows that  the time and place named by Herndon  just couldn’t have happened and so, now even the quote is suspect.  But there is no denying that Lincoln loved his mother and perhaps, even more, his stepmother, who gave him the gift of books.

When I wrote The Raising of President I blind copied some of the above information to five psychologists, asking them to each give me their opinion.  I was especially intrigued why so many of the children who were namesakes of their mother went on to become presidents.

All five answered back with the same conclusion. When the mother took that infant to her breast she felt a special bond with the child who would bare her name for life and the infant could feel it.

I am only a layman who doesn’t pretend to understand such things but if it is true, if a baby can “feel” favoritism then just imagine the power and the impact for good or bad a mother, or a father’s words have on their children?   I was reminded of the experiments conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society.  If the human voice can empower a plant, then it must surely cause powerful reactions for good or bad on a human being.

There is a very predictable family formula for strong leaders, good and bad.  They have an attachment to the mother and an absent father.  Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedung all fit the pattern as neatly as Washington and Jefferson.

Andrew Jackson’s father died before the future president was even born.  His mother died when he was 14 years old.   Even when alive, she was often gone .  As a nurse she tended the wounded during the Revolutionary War.

When Andrew Jackson died as an old man, many years later, his body was full of bullets, including one lodged near his heart and too dangerous to remove.  They were the result of a life of action, including duels and wars.  It was as if he wanted to be worthy, the equal of those Revolutionary War soldiers who took his mother away from him as a boy.

In a sense, Andrew Jackson’s life was one long  journey back into the arms of his mother.

Start reading The Raising of a President right now on Kindle.  Order it for your mother.


Not another Clinton – Bush election? Please!

April 10, 2014

Get ready, we may indeed see another Clinton – Bush election.  This time, Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and former Secretary of State pitted against Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.  It’s like being Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day.  Ever get the feeling you’ve been here before?

Both candidates have something to prove.  Clinton wants to scrub her husband’s impeachment off the books and this would do it.  In a hundred years when some ten year old boy scans through the list and sees that Bill Clinton was impeached but his wife was elected president shortly thereafter he will make the ready conclusion, “The impeachment must have been political or else the country would never have turned so quickly to his wife.”  And Jeb Bush is running to prove, well, that not all Bushes should be judged by the last one.

How did it come to this?  There are three dynamics at work.

1.) Political dynasties are active in both parties simultaneously.

Normally, one can count on the opposition to raise a fuss.  If there was a Democrat dynasty the Republicans would howl.  If there was a Republican dynasty the Democrats would be outraged.  But now two have appeared at the same time.  No Democrat will raise the issue of corruption and attack the idea of the Bush family dynasty and risk alienating the powerful Clinton’s.  And no Republican will attack the Clinton’s and risk alienating the Bushes?  Even if the latter prove weak and Jeb Bush fails to show well in the primaries, the GOP nominee will have to have that powerful, fundraising machine supportive in the general election.

Now, in a very rare moment of history, the two dynasties have cancelled each other out.  As a result? There are dynasties gone wild. The electric fence is down and the cows are roaming all over.  The Cuomo’s, the Paul’s, the Kennedy’s, the Carter’s don’t get me started.

2.) Journalism is dead.

Normally, one can count on a vigorous Fourth Estate.  No less than Joseph Pulitzer railed against the idea of Robert Todd Lincoln running for president.  Throughout American history the media has been vigilant.  Attempts at family dynasties were always shot down.  This was America, not a monarchy.  After the Revolutionary War, when George Washington was presented a massive family genealogy by the English government he rejected it, pointing out that in these United States success or failure was determined by the choices of the individual not the bloodline.

This is not the Philippines.  This is not Indonesia.  This is not Panama, where fifteen families rule the country.

But in case you haven’t noticed, journalism is dead.  If a reporter can’t even pronounce Sevastopol what hope do we have that they are telling us anything accurate about Russia and the Ukraine?  We now live behind our own iron curtain.  News has become entertainment and the Clinton’s, Bushes, Kennedy’s all sell well.  Don’t expect any help from the media.

3.) Obama has failed.

Finally there is Barack Obama.  His election has been a great historic milestone but by just about any measure, including his own, his presidency is ending in disaster.  For example, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer at a rate that would make an Eastern establishment Republican blush.  The Nixon administration spied on its enemies but the Obama administration spies on its friends too and on its own political allies in the U.S. Senate.  Having tried an “outsider” like Obama, the American electorate is now more likely to turn to an “insider,” a Bush or a Clinton.  Better to have someone who doesn’t have to learn on the job.

While a Clinton – Bush rematch might just happen, almost any historian will warn that the idea of multiple presidencies in the same family is a recipe for abuse and disaster.  Having been in power and then spending time out of power, a family can muse about what might have been.  Who was loyal and who was not?  What should be done if given another chance?  How could the office have been better monetized?  Who should have been an Ambassador?  Whose corporate jet would be better appreciated and useful, added to the fleet of corporate jets loaned out to a former president?  What government contracts could legitimately go to whom and why?  How can the next family power contender be groomed?

America, already beginning to experience the corruption of a Third World nation, doesn’t need to grease the skids to fall any deeper into the abyss.  Clinton – Bush?  It may happen.  But if it does, expect America’s post constitutional drift to gain full sail.  The abuses won’t be pretty.


No war over Ukraine, please.

March 19, 2014
doug in kiev 2

Dooug Wead & translator speaking at the Olympic Village in Kiev, Ukraine, November, 2013.

The Obama State Department rejects the vote in the Crimea to rejoin Russia on the grounds that it violates the Ukrainian Constitution.  But according to the Ukrainian Constitution, the pro Russian president Victor Yanukovych should never have been driven from power in the first place.   Our feckless national media tells us that he was overthrown in a “popular uprising.”   Would that work here?  In the United States?  Obama’s support is now below 42%.  Can we demonstrate and force him out?  Is that okay with the national media? Don’t hold your breath.

Our hypocritical foreign policy calls for supporting democracy when it does what we want it to do, or what our national media wants it to do, but we easily dismiss it when it does what  we don’t.   Like Iraq and Afghanistan where we re-wrote the constitution the way we wanted it to be written.  Or in Egypt where they voted in the wrong man and so now we support the military.

I’m not against what we want.  Nor am I always against what the national media wants.  I like the women’s rights, for example, that we insist our newly created “democracies” enact.  But I am against sending our sons to die to try to force other people to do what we want.  Only to have it come undone later.  If we truly cherish freedom, let’s let other people have it and mind our own business.

No one was a bigger hawk during the Cold War than I but before we rush into war over Ukraine stop for a moment and consider these very different circumstances.  

1.) Communism is dead.   Has anybody noticed? The threat of a newly formed communist governments killing millions of citizens, including teachers , students, intellectuals and Christians is over.  Far from closing churches, there is a religious renewal sweeping the CIS.  

In the 1990’s the Russian government rebuilt the Cathedral of Christ the Savior that Stalin had burned to the ground.  It had originally been built to honor the victory over Napoleon and was the site of the world premiere of the Tchaikovsky Overture of 1812. When a rock band, Pussy Riot, climbed up on its altars and shouted and sang obscenities Vladimir Putin had them arrested.  American politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi said that this was suppression of free speech.  (Presumably, Pussy Riot is welcome to shout the “F” word and other obscenities in the well of the U.S. House of Representatives or maybe the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.)

2.) Kiev, not Moscow, was the first capital of Russia.

3.) Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union longer than Hawaii and Alaska have been American states.  Imagine banishing them from the union?  (Come to think of it, President Sarah Palin might like that.)  Russian soldiers and naval officers have been in the Crimean city of Sevastopol since 1784.

4.) The people of Ukraine, east and west, elected a pro Russian leader because the previous pro western presidents were incompetent and corrupt.  (Although Yulia Tymoshenko was a “looker.”)  The economy was in a shambles.  I had friends show up at their bank to learn that the government had taken half of their savings.  Money soon fled the banks.

Meanwhile, crime was rampant.  My translator and close friend was married twice and both times the spouse was murdered.  A Ukrainian teenager who attends a private school I help administrate in Oregon had a brother killed over a parking place.  Small wonder that during my annual visit a few years ago there were bumper stickers all over the Ukraine saying, “Give us your Putin.”  At least he could maintain law and order.

5.) The American television executives, who liked the idea of war with Iraq, may not support a sustained war against Russia.  The war in Iraq, however personal it was for George W. Bush, had the additional value of forcing America to jump into the frying pan with Israel and become a still bigger target of Islamic extremists.  Now Israel was not alone in the world.  It was Israel and us.  But will those same television executives be ready to  send hundreds of thousands to die for the people of western Ukraine?  These are the people whose grandparents ran many of Hitler’s death camps, like Sobibor.  Antisemitism is today stronger in western Ukraine than anywhere in the world outside of radical Islamic nations.  Keep in mind.  Until World War Two, western Ukraine was Poland.  And before that, some parts were in the Austria-Hungarian Empire.

Most of all, a war over Ukraine would cause the death of thousands and thousands of innocent people who are now our friends.  People with whom we work and love.  So let’s calm down.   Yes the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union is not coming back but a little tweaking of those borders based on language and politics is inevitable.


Why Rand Paul can beat Hillary Clinton

March 9, 2014

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky may be the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.

Paul decisively won last Saturday’s CPAC straw poll with 31%, his neo-Libertarian sidekick, Senator Ted Cruz, was second at 11%.  Jeb Bush and the Karl Rove faction of the party registered 1%.  According to a recent column in The Washington Post, Rand Paul is now leading the Republican field.  This is showing up in some recent presidential preference polls. It is puzzling to many political pundits.
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Polls don’t usually mean much this early in an election cycle. It’s usually all about name recognition. Former Secretary of State and former First Lady, Hillary Clinton obviously leads among Democrats, with Vice President Joe Biden trailing far behind.  In the GOP contest, former Governor and FOX television star, Mike Huckabee polls well, so does former governor Jeb Bush and so does former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.  All the other candidates who ran for president last time register small numbers too.  But why Rand Paul?
Yes, his father, former congressman, Ron Paul, ran for president three times but in a career that spanned a whole generation he never led the GOP in a national poll. 

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Part of the reason lies in the fact that, if he wins the nomination, Senator Rand Paul will be the first nominee since Ronald Reagan to lead a political Movement.  In this case, the “Constitutional Movement”, which includes conservatives, libertarians and others across the whole left to right spectrum. In fact, it represents more than a movement it represents a new political re-alignment, the first of its kind in several generations.  
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During most of our lifetime the debate was about the role of government in the lives of the people.  Liberals wanted a “liberal” use of government involvement, conservatives wanted a “conservative” use of government, relying more on free markets.  But the point of reference was always the role of government in meeting peoples needs, it was in relation to that point that one was liberal or conservative.
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The U.S. Constitution was a factor, but mostly over the issue of the Second Amendment and in understanding the politics of the Cold War where conservatives were actually more liberal about spending for defense and liberals more conservative.  Conservatives said providing a common national defense is Constitutional. Liberals said all of this military spending was robbing the poor of this country and hurting our own people.
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Liberals accused conservatives about not caring for the poor.  Conservatives accused liberals about being soft on communism and flirting with national destruction.
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In the past, candidates were touted as liberal or conservative but only Reagan and Goldwater were considered to be actual leaders of an ideological Movement.  Liberal Movement leaders?  FDR?  Later, Adlai Stevenson?  Hubert Humphrey?  Maybe?  But not really.  All were successful politicians and thus too involved in the process to have the ideological purity of a movement leader.
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Today the old liberal – conservative argument is almost obsolete.  The end of the Cold War has been a big factor.  There is no life and death struggle about left and right.  We have settled on a range of responsibilities that government should be able to assume and are now quibbling over details. “You said I could keep my own doctor, you’re a liar.”
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Foreign observers can hardly tell a difference between Republicans and Democrats.  It is the Red team versus the Blue team, not really much of contest over ideas. Just a contest over power between two societies. Oh, it is passionate, like all internecine conflicts. And the public is emotionally invested, like they are with their favorite college football team. They may shed real tears or not eat for days if their side loses.
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A good illustration of how irrelevant the philosophical argument has become was the recent presidency of George W. Bush.  In his last year in office, facing a worldwide depression, this Republican president nationalized American banks.  It took Socialist President Francois Mitterrand to do that in France.  And yet we call George W. Bush a “conservative Republican.” Meanwhile, liberal Democrats build no statues to him and conservatives still defend him.  It’s two teams with bitter past histories.  Liberals never applaud conservatives when they do something liberal, such as George  H.W. Bush extending the first White House invitations to Gay activists.  And conservatives never applaud a liberal, like John Kennedy or Bill Clinton, for doing something conservative, like balancing the budget
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The Constitutional Movement represents a new realignment of the political landscape.  It includes a variety of voters from the left to the right and everything in between.
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The argument is less about liberal and conservative and more about getting back to the Constitution. It is about ending corruption.  The special deals.  It is less about left and right or even, up and down, the rich and the poor, and more about in and out. Insiders are seen to be gaming the system, taxes, Wall Street, the regulatory agencies, banking.  There is great cynicism about this and even despair.  It’s as if only suckers depend on a free marketplace.  The American dream is over.
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It is not lost on many that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer on a massive scale under Barack Obama.
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While many poor people and certainly all people of color celebrate the rise of Obama, now that he is passing, some on the left are wanting to get serious about doing what they thought a person of such humble origins would do, namely, reform the system. Stop the looting.  End the cycle of corruption.
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Hillary – as a woman – represents a dynamic cultural moment and that will be hard to resist.  The media will be transfixed by the idea of a woman following an African American into the White House.  But no one seriously believes that this woman, who in 1979 miraculously turned a $1,000 commodities investment into $100,000 within ten months, is going to do anything about reversing the corrupt system that has clogged our economic arteries. She can only win a Red-Blue contest.  It will only be an argument about who gets the power and which insiders get the taxpayers’ money.
If 2016 become a contest of significant ideas on how to end the corruption Rand Paul will win.  He is the only candidate who has any.
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(Clip from 2012, when Rand Paul was stopped by the TSA.)


Will Mike Huckabee Run For President in 2016?

March 3, 2014

Short answer?  Nobody knows at this stage.  Not even former Governor Mike Huckabee.  Well, maybe he knows at some unconscious level.

Yes, he is going through the motions.  He is visiting with supporters in Iowa, where he leads the field in the latest poll.  And he has made trips to South Carolina.  He will be back to both places for events again this Spring.  He has mended fences with Paul Pressler and the conservative crowd of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention.  Their support of Fred Tompson in South Carolina, arguably, cost Huckabee the GOP nomination in 2008.  Yes, he has been connecting with evangelical leaders for the last six years, leaders he ignored last time around.  But that is all work he has to do to keep the option open.  It doesn’t mean he will run.

Republicans are famous for sending “the next man in,” that is, selecting the candidate who has earned his turn.  Nixon,
Ford, Reagan, Bush, Dole, McCain all benefited from that imagination deprived process.  And many would say that Huckabee is the next man on the list.  But the world “it is a changin.”  Not many see Hukabee beating Hillary Clinton and the national media in a 2016 fall election showdown.

In the race for the GOP nomination, Huckabee will have FOX NEWS as a friend.  They may not fall all over him like they did Giuliani and Christie but at least they won’t actively try to destroy him.  Some at FOX will probably now tilt to Paul Ryan but Huckabee will get his moments in the sun.

Huckabee’s problem has always been money.  Organically, the former governor of Arkansas  will be able to raise more money on the stump this time, because he is a television celebrity.  He won’t need Chuck Norris to tag along.  People will pluck down $1,000 for a picture with just him alone, the FOX NEWS star.

But there will still be a gap.  Evangelicals give to World Vision, Convoy of Hope, their local church and not much is left over for political candidates.  Specifically he needs a big donor, someone who will chuck in a few million to a Huckabee super pak.  Without it he is dead in the water.  Rand Paul will have it.  So will Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan.  To look at it another way, Governor Huckabee is only ONE person away from making a strong run at the GOP nomination.  He just needs one.  But that one must be a multi-millionaire.

It may be a temptation for someone to take.  History is full of things that turned out differently.  Hillary Clinton is not guaranteed the White House.  Just ask President Dewey, or President Muskie, or President Hart.  Anything can happen. And Huckabee would be there to pick up the pieces and his billionaire would be at the pinnacle with him, like Raymond Tusk.

He needs for Sarah Palin to stay out of the race.  She might get to thinking that a run would be a good career move.  Like Rick Perry, she may want to get into the debates to win back some intellectual respect.  Her involvement would suck a lot of air out of a Huckabee presidential campaign.

Then there is Karl Rove.  He and his powerful pak will be watching.  Ready to take out Huckabee if he gets too close.

Perhaps the best evidence of Huckabee’s chances are two numbers.  The presidential preference polls, which have him as the GOP leader.  And the bathroom scales.

If the numbers continue to climb in the GOP polls he will have to run.  It is a case of “good stewardship.”  A Southerner, raised with the Protestant work ethic cannot let such a moment pass without taking action.  

But if the numbers continue to climb on the bathroom scale his subconscious may be saying, “Don’t do this to me Mike.  You are rich and famous already and you won’t win.”  

This latter process can be easy for all of us to track.  Just keep Googling for the latest pictures.  If the Governor starts getting trim in spite of all that good food and the difficulty in exercising when you are living on the road, well, his subconscious might be saying, “Get with it Mike.  We’re going to do this things with or without you.”

Mike Huckabee can run but he can’t hide.


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