Friday, October 29, 2004

An Exchange of Views

What follows is an email exchange between me and 'Don' over the past few days. I found it interesting on several levels but ultimately frustrating, as you will see.

Here is Don's original message broadcast to me, among many others. It includes a rather vicious screed against Kerry that you don't need to read to appreciate the dialogue between Don and me.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Interesting view from Britain
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 2004 22:43:57 EDT
From: Jamhar To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Interesting view from Britain

From Sue Pollard

Some of you may be familiar with the eminent British historian, Paul Johnson.. I was surprised to see a piece that he wrote about our forthcoming election, and I recommend it as a view from an "outsider". It is not written by a columnist from the Weekly Standard, The Nation, or by any conservative or liberal "talking head", or by some obscure blogger, but from a student of history.
Some may disagree, but I seriously doubt that they can argue the points that Johnson makes.

To save looking, here it is:
- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quite simply, Kerry must be stopped; and Bush must win
By Paul Johnson

The great issue in the 2004 election-it seems to me as an Englishman-is, How seriously does the United States take its role as a world leader, and how far will it make sacrifices, and risk unpopularity, to discharge this duty with success and honor? In short, this is an election of the greatest significance, for Americans and all the rest of us. It will redefine what kind of a country the United States is, and how far the rest of the world can rely upon her to preserve the general safety and protect our civilization.

When George W. Bush was first elected, he stirred none of these feelings, at home or abroad. He seems to have sought the presidency more for dynastic than for any other reasons. September 11 changed all that dramatically. It gave his presidency a purpose and a theme, and imposed on him a mission. Now, we can all criticize the way he has pursued that mission. He has certainly made mistakes in detail, notably in underestimating the problems that have inevitably followed the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and overestimating the ability of U.S. forces to tackle them. On the other hand, he has been absolutely right in estimating the seriousness of the threat international terrorism poses to the entire world and on the need for the United States to meet this threat with all the means at its disposal and for as long as may be necessary. Equally, he has placed these considerations rig ht at the center of his policies and continued to do so with total consistency, adamantine determination, and remarkable courage, despite sneers and jeers, ridicule and venomous opposition, and much unpopularity.

There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to "try men's souls," as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory. There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding: "Let us see who can pound the hardest." Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." However, something persuades me that Bush- with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue-is the president America needs at this difficult time.

He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.

This impression is abundantly confirmed, indeed made overwhelming, when we look at the alternative. Senator Kerry has not made much of an impression in Europe, or indeed, I gather, in America. Many on the Continent support him, because they hate Bush, not because of any positive qualities Kerry possesses. Indeed we know of none, and there are six good reasons that he should be mistrusted. First, and perhaps most important, he seems to have no strong convictions about what he would do if given office and power. The content and emphasis of his campaign on terrorism, Iraq, and related issues have varied from week to week. But they seem always to be determined by what his advisers, analyzing the polls and other evidence, recommend, rather than by his own judgment and convictions. In other words, he is saying, in effect: "I do not know what to do but I will do what you, the voters, want." This may be an acceptable strategy, on some issues and at certain times. It is one way you can interpret democracy.

But in a time of crisis, and on an issue involving the security of the world, what is needed is leadership. Kerry is abdicating that duty and proposing, instead, that the voters should lead and he will follow. Second, Kerry's personal character has, so far, appeared in a bad light. He has always presented himself, for the purpose of Massachusetts vote-getting, as a Boston Catholic of presumably Irish origins. This side of Kerry is fundamentally dishonest. He does not follow Catholic teachings, certainly in his views on such issues as abortion-especially when he feels additional votes are to be won by rejecting Catholic doctrine. This is bad enough. But since the campaign began it has emerged that Kerry's origins are not in the Boston-Irish community but in Germanic Judaism. Kerry knew this all along, and deliberately concealed it for political purposes. If a man will mislead about such matters, he will mislead about anything.

There is, thirdly, Kerry's long record of contradictions and uncertainties as a senator and his apparent inability to pursue a consistent policy on major issues.

Fourth is his posturing over his military record, highlighted by his embarrassing pseudo-military salute when accepting the nomination. Fifth is his disturbing lifestyle, combining liberal-even radical-politics with being the husband, in succession, of two heiresses, one worth $300 million and the other $1 billion. The Kerrys have five palatial homes and a personal jet, wealth buttressed by the usual team of lawyers and financial advi sers to
provide the best methods of tax-avoidance. Sixth and last is the Kerry team: who seem to combine considerable skills in electioneering with a variety of opinions on all key issues. Indeed, it is when one looks at Kerry's closest associates that one's doubts about his suitability become certainties. Kerry may dislike his running-mate, and those feelings may be reciprocated-but that does not mean a great deal. More important is that the man Kerry would have as his vice president is an ambulance chasing lawyer of precisely the kind the American system has spawned in recent decades, to its great loss and peril, and that is already establishing a foothold in Britain and other European countries. This aggressive legalism-what in England we call "vexatious litigation"- is surely a characteristic America does not want at the top of its constitutional system.

Of Kerry's backers, maybe the most prominent is George Soros, a man who made his billions through the kind of unscrupulous manipulations that (in Marxist folklore) characterize "finance capitalism." This is the man who did everything in his power to wreck the currency of Britain, America's principal ally, during the EU exchange-rate crisis-not out of conviction but simply to make vast sums of money. He has also used his immense resources to interfere in the domestic affairs of half a dozen other countries, some of them small enough for serious meddling to be hard to resist. One has to ask: Why is a man like Soros so eager to see Kerry in the White House? The question is especially pertinent since he is not alone among the superrich wishing to see Bush beaten. There are several other huge fortunes backing Kerry.

Among the wide spectrum of prominent Bush-haters there is the normal clutter of Hollywood performers and showbiz self-advertisers. That is to be expected. More noticeable, this time, are the large numbers of novelists, playwrights, and moviemakers who have lined up to discharge venomous salvos at the incumbent.

I don't recall any occasion, certainly not since the age of FDR, when so much partisan election material has been produced by intellectuals of the Left, not only in the United States but in Europe, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. These intellectuals-many of them with long and lugubrious records of supporting lost left-wing causes, from the Soviet empire to Castro's aggressive adventures in Africa, and who have in their time backed Mengistu in Ethiopia, Qaddafi in Libya, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua-seem to have a personal hatred of Bush that defies rational analysis.

Behind this front line of articulate Bushicides (one left-wing columnist in Britain actually offered a large sum of money to anyone who would assassinate the president) there is the usual cast of Continental suspects, led by Chirac in France and the superbureaucrats of Brussels. As one who regularly reads Le Monde, I find it hard to convey the intensity of the desire of official France to replace Bush with Kerry. Anti- Americanism has seldom been stronger in Continental Europe, and Bush seems to personify in his simple, uncomplicated self all the things these people most hate about America-precisely because he is so American. Anti-Americanism, like anti-Semitism, is not, of course, a rational reflex. It is, rather, a mental disease, and the Continentals are currently suffering from a virulent spasm of the infection, as always happens when America exerts strong and unbending leadership.

Behind this second line of adversaries there is a far more sinister third. All the elements of anarchy and unrest in the Middle East and Muslim Asia and Africa are clamoring and praying for a Kerry victory. The mullahs and the imams, the gunmen and their arms suppliers and paymasters, all those who stand to profit-politically, financially, and emotionally-from the total breakdown of order, the eclipse of democracy, and the defeat of the rule of law, want to see Bush replaced. His defeat on November 2 will be greeted, in Arab capitals, by shouts of triumph from fundamentalist mobs of exactly the kind that greeted the news that the Twin Towers had collapsed and their occupants been exterminated.

I cannot recall any election when the enemies of America all over the world have been so unanimous in hoping for the victory of one candidate. That is the overwhelming reason that John Kerry must be defeated, heavily and comprehensively.

Here's my first reply:


I don't want to offend you, but I would guess that we are 180 degrees apart politically. I could foam at the mouth for hours, but let me just be brief: I think that G W Bush is probably the worst president we have ever had, his stupidity, intransigence and arrogance have put our country in the gravest danger both internally and externally. It will take, quite literally, generations to undo the damage he has done to us.

If you wish, I will be glad to take apart Mr. Johnson's essay, point by point. I will also be glad to discuss my opinions with you, should you so desire. I must say that my experience with backers of Mr. Bush has been that their faith in him precludes any critical examination of the facts and functionally protects them from the intrusion of reality.

Let me know if you would like to continue this dialogue.

Craig Della Penna

NB: I would like to add that I do not generally impose my political views on others, as you may have gathered, I am quite opinionated. But I also do not regard politics as affecting other business relations, I am quite content to live and let live.

...and Don's reply

Dear Craig,

I understand your emotional response to a candidate. I have equal ...if not more severe .... reaction to Kerry. Democrates Against Kerry and Anybody But Kerry are two organizations I fully support. I think to have a closet Communist as a candidate, a man who has never held an executive position, a man who has never had to meet a payroll, a man whose campaign plans and promises are 1980 degrees from what his record proves he has stood for in 20 years in Washington, a man who uses his "religion as a crutch but who does not abide by any of his church's foundations ... and on and on .... is the most scary time in American history. As people of Massachusetts have shown their ignorance over the years with Kennedy and Kerry representing them, now we have a cadre of people who also have bought into that stupidity with the excuse they "don't like Bush".

Anyway, it is good to have differing positions. I only think that of all the candidates running for President, Bush is the only one who can keep Kerry from totally destroying our nation and all it has stood for though it's founding and history.


...I thought I saw an opening in the armor:


Yeah, I thought we were diametrically opposed. my problem with your position is manifold.

First, I think that Mr. Bush has already gone a long way towards "totally destroying our nation and all it has stood for though it's founding and history", frankly I think we need to reverse course, since it is empirically evident that this one is not working.

Second, pardon my suspicious nature, but it seems to me that you would find similar spurious objections to anyone who stood in opposition to Mr. Bush. Canards against Mr. Kerry aren't worth your time to write, or mine to read. Kerry's just a good man who served his country and then spoke his mind... as is his right. I could pound on Mr. Bush for pages, but I won't. Instead I'll voice my objections to his followers:

I object to the cult like following so evident in Mr. Bush's retinue, I object to their expropriation of patriotism, I object to their presumption of righteousness, I object to their selfishness and venality, I object to their viciousness and cruelty, I object to their credo: "Might makes right", "The ends justifies the means." and the infamous three-card-monte routine: "Don't look at me, it's not my fault". For an administration that touts its moral superiority to anyone and everyone, I have never seen a single one of them accept responsibility for anything... truly sickening.

Setting aside my moral outrage and my clear partisanship: the presidency is just not that difficult a job, anyone with an average degree of intelligence can do it, I could, you could. The fact of the matter is that whoever is president is surrounded (or should be) by the brightest minds our nation can produce, with vast informational resources and the ability to call upon experts in any conceivable field at a moment's notice. When I see where we came from: peace and prosperity to where we are: economy in tatters and endless war. The answer is quite simple: these people are incompetent and need to be shown the door. I said, I could go on and on, the fact that you've written back is encouraging, it raises the hope that you might see through the nest of charlatans and scoundrels who have hijacked the GOP (Lincoln must be spinning in his grave). Let me know if you want to continue.


...and got disappointed, yet again:

Dear Craig,

Thanks for such a rapid response. Impressive.

No, there is little reason to continue. I have never found it productive to dialogue with profound and adulterated hate. Reason never is or will be heard or considered .. let alone accepted.

Don I signed off:


This is the last one, I promise, but I did not want to let this go with misperceptions of my position unchallenged;

This is not "profound and adulterated hate" (though I think you meant 'unadulterated'). I do not hate Mr. Bush... I am terrified of him. Let me put it in perspective: I hated Nixon, virulently, puissantly, but I was never afraid when he was president because I knew that, in the end, he was too smart to do anything truly stupid as far as the country was concerned (he saved that dumbness for himself).

When Bush was 'elected' I sucked it in and said to myself, "Well, the Supreme Court has spoken and besides there were at least six things Gore should have done and we wouldn't be here." In addition, I thought; he's got Powell, honorable and a sound thinker, Cheney, venal but not stupid, Rumsfeld, arrogant but experienced and bad could it be?

Well a lot of things happened that I didn't like much and thought were ill-advised, to say the least, but we've stumbled through worse as a nation and, I thought, we'll get through this as well.

Then 9/11 happened. Now, I lived in New York for 30 years and I know people who worked in the towers, I hope they jumped rather than waiting for the flames to get them, I've never inquired.

Well, I thought, here's an opportunity for Mr. Bush to make up for the contemptuous way he's treated the majority of folks who actually did not vote for him. And, for a time, it seemed to work that way. I did not object to the war on the Taliban, nor to the attempt to nail Mr. Bin laden, I thought they were proportional, focused and morally justifiable. Most of the world agreed, including 90% of the Muslim nations.

You can imagine my dismay when I saw the march to Baghdad begin, fiction upon fiction, lie upon lie. Idiotic fantasies about troop numbers and capabilities. No hint of a plan for 'afterward'.

And the reality was even worse, just about every conceivable nightmare about fighting a nationwide guerrilla war, provoking fundamentalist fanatics, Americans - Americans! - torturing prisoners. The respect and admiration of the entire world that we worked to engender for decades, the sympathy and friendship we found after 9/11 even from countries not usually our friends... all squandered in a vainglorious and unnecessary war against a tinpot dictator who was only capable of harming his own people.

What a waste, a waste of goodwill, a waste of treasure, a waste of lives.

I don't hate him, Don. I'm terrified of what he'll do to us with four more years.

Before I go I want to recommend that you do some research on the people who have hijacked your party;

Find out who Richard Melon Scaife is and ask yourself what his interest is, why he has financed, among other things, the ten-year war on Mr. Clinton. Get some information on Grover Norquist and ask yourself why he wants to gut Social Security and reduce the US government to penury Hint: he calls it 'Starving the Beast'. Why do you think he calls it that? Investigate Rupert Murdoch, the Australian who owns a significant portion of the broadcast and printed media in United States, including Fox (known in my circles as the new Pravda) .

Basically, be honest and take a look at ideological underpinnings of the new Republican Party and as always: follow the money. Ask yourself who benefits from these tax cuts? Who is doing well in this wartime economy? (Tax cuts during wartime?... but that's another story).

I remember the GOP of Estes Kefauver, Bob Taft, Everett Dirksen, Sam Ervin, honorable men all. They wouldn't recognize this bunch of poltroons.

You accuse me of hatred and unreason, this is not the case. I am terrified of the abuse of power I see committed in the name of the American people every day by these dishonorable men. My capacity to reason has forced me to see through the deception.

My perception is that you have been deceived by crowd of cowards and liars who are not worthy of your loyalty.


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