Richard Reeves
The Kennedy Years

The Kennedy Years:

From the Pages of The New York Times

Pub. Date: October 22, 2013 (400 pages)
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
ISBN: 1419708554
ISBN-13: 978-1419708558

The year 2013 is the 50th anniversary year of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, who still ranks as one of the top five presidents in every major annual survey. To commemorate the man and his time in office, the New York Times has authorized a book, edited by Richard Reeves, based on its unsurpassed coverage of the tumultuous Kennedy era. The Civil Rights Movement, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, the space program, the Berlin Wall—all are covered in articles by the era’s top reporters, among them David Halberstam, Russell Baker, and James Reston. Also included are new essays by leading historians such as Robert Dallek and Terry Golway, and by Times journalists, including Sam Tanenhaus, Scott Shane, Alessandra Stanley, and Roger Cohen. With more than 125 color and black-and-white photos, this is the ultimate volume on one of history’s most fascinating figures.


Portrait of Camelot

Portrait of Camelot

A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House

Author: By Richard Reeves Photographs by Cecil Stoughton
Imprint: Abrams Books
ISBN: 0-8109-9585-9
Publishing Date: 11/1/2010
Trim Size: 9 x 11
Page Count: 352
Cover: Hardcover with jacket
Illustrations: 500 black-and-white and full-color illustrations,plus film on DVD.

Published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's election as president of the United States, this book is a revealing and intimate portrait of a leader, husband, and father as seen through the lens of Cecil Stoughton, the first official White House photographer. Stoughton's close rapport with the president and first lady gave him extraordinary access to the Oval Office, the Kennedys' private quarters and homes, to state dinners, cabinet meetings, diplomatic trips, and family holidays. Drawing on Stoughton's unparalleled body of photographs, most rarely or never before reproduced, and supported by a deeply thoughtful narrative by political historian Richard Reeves, Portrait of Camelot is an unprecedented portrayal of the power, politics, and warmly personal aspects of Camelot's 1,036 days.

DVD INCLUDED: packaged with a DVD created exclusively for this book, containing color and black-and-white film footage Stoughton created of the Kennedy family in the White House, in Hyannis Port, and on holidays.

Reviews

"Like the TV series Mad Men, this book is also a remarkable period piece . . . informative and beautiful." Publishers Weekly


Daring Young Men

Daring Young Men

The Heroism and Triumph of The Berlin Airlift-June 1948-May 1949

Pub. Date: January, 2010 (336 pages)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1416541195
ISBN-13: 978-1416541196

"Daring Young Men" reached #29 on The New York Times Bestseller List. The book was named the best history book of the year by the Book of the Month Club. The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Norton Schwartz, announced this month that it is one of the ten books on his personal reading list for the year and recommends it to all officers interested in augmenting leadership skills. The Christian Science Monitor has named Daring Young Men as the best nonfiction book of the year.

From the bestselling presidential biographer, a stirring tale of young men in old planes who achieved the "impossible.": with planes landing and taking off 90 seconds apart supplying the food and fuel and medicines to supply a city of more than two million people by air for almost a year.

In the early hours of June 26, 1948, phones began ringing across America, waking up the airmen of World War II — pilots, navigators and mechanics — who were finally beginning normal lives with new houses, new jobs, new wives and new babies. Some were given just 48 hours to report to local military bases. The President, Harry S. Truman, was recalling them to active duty to try to save the desperate people of the western sectors of Berlin, the enemy capital many of them had bombed to rubble only three years before.

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had ordered a blockade of the city, isolating the people of West Berlin, using hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers to close off all land and water access to the city. He was gambling that he could drive out the small detachments of American, British and French occupation troops because their only option was to stay and watch Berliners starve — or retaliate by starting World War III. The situation was impossible, Truman was told by his national security advisers including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His answer: "We stay in Berlin. Period." That was when the phones started ringing and local police began banging on doors to deliver telegrams to the vets.

Drawing on service records and hundreds of interviews in the United States, Germany, and Great Britain, Reeves tells the stories of these civilian airmen, the successors to Stephen Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers," ordinary Americans called to extraordinary tasks — again.

They did the impossible, living in barns and muddy tents, flying over Soviet-occupied territory day and night, trying to stay awake, making it up as they went along and ignoring Russian fighters and occasional anti-aircraft fire trying to drive them to hostile ground.The Berrlin Airlift changed the world. It ended when Stalin backed down and lifted the blockade, but only after the bravery and sense of duty of those young heroes had bought the Allies enough time to create a new West Germany and sign the mutual defense agreement called NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And then they went home again. Some of them forgot where they had parked their cars after they got the call.

Reviews

"Re-evaluating what has been called the first battle of the cold war, noted presidential biographer and syndicated columnist Reeves (President Kennedy) takes a closer look at the courageous young American and British pilots who, in order to bring food, fuel, and medicine to a Berlin blockaded by Russia, flew aging cargo planes into Soviet airspace in the fragile post-WWII years. Vying with the West for control of Berlin and Germany , Stalin choked off the defeated German capital with 400,000 Red Army soldiers, and the Washington hawks called for war with Moscow. But Truman, whom Reeves calls a hero for persevering against skeptics, pursued the airlift instead. Using diaries, letters, and government documents, Reeves shows the suffering of the vanquished German people, the calculated coldness of Soviet officials, and the individual pilots who risked their lives to save their former enemies. This probing book reveals the intricate talks that led to the unraveling of Stalin's demands, the partitioning of Germany, and the creation of NATO. Reeves gives us a mesmerizing portrait of America at its best when challenged by Russia's tyranny." 16 pages of b&w photos. Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

"As the book's title suggests, Richard Reeves's main emphasis is on the human side. At centre-stage are General Lucius Clay, the iron-willed military governor of the American sector of Berlin, and the workaholic logistics chief William Tunner, who during the war had supervised a trans-Himalayan military airlift. Behind them stands the figure of Harry Truman, the American president who overruled his entire military, diplomatic and security staff to insist that Berlin be saved." The Economist

"...wonderfully told by Richard Reeves in "Daring Young Men," his account of the Berlin Blockade and the heroic efforts to defeat it. Could Berlin be supplied by air? "Absolutely impossible," said the American military governor, Gen. Lucius Clay. The British were optimistic, though; they would not only feed their own garrison but have a go at supplying the Berliners as well." The Wall Street Journal

"Richard Reeves, a bestselling author of three presidential biographies and several other books, has delved into declassified archives and provided fresh insights into the power clashes between Truman, Stalin and other leading figures... But the real value of Reeves's book lies in the remarkable human sagas he collected through hundreds of interviews with uncelebrated pilots, mechanics, weathermen and ground controllers who sustained the airlift for almost a year." The Washington Post

"...Reeves has helped to ensure that this enormous accomplishment will not fade from view. ... The individual stories Reeves tells are illuminating and often very moving. " The Christian Science Monitor


Upcoming Events

Paris, France — November 29, 2013 — The Center for the Study of International Communications hosted talk to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of JFK. La Galerie Joseph JFK Exhibition 7:15-9:30 PM.

Dallas, TX — February 18, 2014 — Sixth Floor Museum and Southern Methodist University’s Presidents and Their Crises symposium. Keynote speaker at symposium’s opening presentation at the Sixth Floor Museum. 7:00 PM.


Audio of Recent Interviews

Click to listen to an interview of Richard Reeves from For Your Ears Only. Original broadcast April 3, 2011.


Videos of Recent Appearances

Richard Reeves on his book "Portrait of Camelot: A Thousand Days in the Kennedy White House", on Charlie Rose

Richard Reeves, author of "Daring Young Men", on Charlie Rose


Recent Articles

The Last Campaign: Legacy

By Richard Reeves
Senior Fellow, Center on Communication Leadership & Policy
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

This paper was delivered at the 100th Birthday Celebration of President Ronald Reagan at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley California on February 2, 2011.

For presidents there is always one last campaign: Legacy. How will they be remembered? The last campaign is manned by family, former cabinet members and assorted other assistants, biographers, political scientists, policy analysts, librarians and archivists, television talkers, bloggers and just about anyone else who can get their voices heard in America. A president may leave the White House in triumph or in disgrace, but the moment he leaves office, he and his followers begin the construction (or revision) of a legacy for the ages.

When President Reagan, the 40th president, left office in 1989, his legacy did not seem of Mount Rushmore quality. He left office with a good approval rating (63 percent). People always liked him. But there was limited enthusiasm for his record in office. Many of his ideological soulmates were disappointed with the Gipper, thinking he was a tired old man who was being manipulated by younger aides in such capers as the Iran- Contra scandal, but also outflanked by the more energetic and trickier Soviet leadership. Some of his men thought the old hard line anti-Communist was even losing the battle of the second half of the 20th century as he palled around the world with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Howard Phillips, the founder and chairman of the Conservative Caucus, in 1987, called Reagan "a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda."

And then there were liberals in journalism and the academy who never had much use for him and enjoyed repeating Clark Clifford's sarcastic description of him as "an amiable dunce."

For true believers in the man's greatness, the autobiography and biography that presidents traditionally rely on to try to explain, revise and improve their records seemed to be controlled by outsiders: Lou Cannon of the Washington Post, who had covered Reagan since his first California gubernatorial campaign in 1966, set the standard - a high one and a fair one - with President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, published in 1991. Men and women ready, willing and able to seriously argue greatness for their former boss were frozen in place because not only did the ex-president plan to write an autobiography, but the Reagans (really his wife, Nancy) had also selected an official biographer. Few were willing to publish until that biographer - the talented historian Edmund Morris, who had access to the Reagan White House, including multiple interviews with the president - finally published Dutch in 2000.

Despite the obvious fact that friendly biographies add to an ex-president's legacy - David McCullough's Truman was a recent example, Parson Mason Weems' The Life of Washington an old one - Morris quickly learned the president did not share much of his wife's enthusiasm for the project. Morris complained to anyone who would listen that Reagan was not "opening up" to him. Unlike many of his predecessors, among them Richard Nixon and John Kennedy, Reagan was not obsessed with his legacy or what history would say of him. Perhaps it was because he was so much older than they were. He already knew what he wanted to know; he was set in his ways, stubborn and generally uninterested in what journalists or the hired help thought of him. In 1985, when one of his political staff, Ed Rollins, brought up the subject of legacy, Reagan cut him off, saying: "First of all, history will probably get distorted when it is written. And I won't be around to read it."

Morris' book Dutch, though brilliantly written, turned out to be a mix of fact, fiction and frustration (about Reagan's ability to avoid serious subjects and personal insight), and did little to burnish the subject's works and reputation. And Reagan's own autobiography, An American Life, was a rather bland story that might be characterized as "Tom Sawyer Meets the Presidency." In his diary entry on December 8, 1987, the day he and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Reduction Treaty (INF) nuclear arms treaty, Reagan wrote without reflection or passion, "This is the big day."

That said, An American Life revealed something important in Reagan's leadership style. More than once he had read the short, uncelebrated autobiography of the 30th president, Calvin Coolidge. Among the lines he underlined were these: "In the discharge of the duties of the office there is one rule of action more important than all others. It consists of never doing anything someone else can do for you." So maybe Ronald Reagan was Tom Sawyer, a barefoot hustler in overalls sitting on a barrel in the shade, munching someone else's apple - a shrewd kid watching others whitewash his aunt's fence because he persuaded them it would be fun.

************

Whatever the impact on the president's legacy, the Reagan Legacy Project has been a useful tool in organizing lobbying groups in the 50 states, including a group in Nevada trying to rename a mountain for the 40th president. More important than mountains and buildings in revising the Reagan reputation has been the work of Martin and Annelise Anderson of the Hoover Institution on the Stanford University campus.

With researcher Kiron Skinner, the Andersons - both of whom worked in the Reagan White House - spent years at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where Martin Anderson's top-secret clearance from his days as an assistant to the president was sometimes helpful in gaining access to documents. But their most important discoveries were not in the president's official papers at all.

Skinner, now an associate professor of international relations and political science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, with the permission of Reagan's office in Los Angeles, was working with Reagan's closed pre-presidential papers when she came across four boxes of handwritten scripts Reagan had used for daily radio commentaries in the years between his governorship and his presidency. He recorded 14 or 15 at a time for a syndicate of 286 stations. (Edmund Morris was apparently the only other researcher allowed to see those particular pages, which were not government property, because they preceded the Reagan administration.) Skinner showed two of the scripts to Martin Anderson, who immediately suspected that a trove of such commentaries on the issues of the day in the 1970s could be used to disprove the perception by friend and foe alike that Reagan was a charming, empty-headed actor skilled at projecting other people's words and ideas.

The scripts, 686 of them, were Reagan's ideas and thoughts - in his own hand! That was the point emphasized in the title Reagan In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America.

"One of the things these commentaries do is blow apart the notion that Reagan was a flighty actor who floated through the presidency on the basis of charm and communication skills," wrote David Brooks in The New York Times Book Review. The book was a bestseller, laying out a fairly comprehensive map of how Reagan thought, and was much quoted by both friends and adversaries of the 40th president. No one proclaimed him an intellectual, but his writings made clear that Reagan was a man of ideas with a sense of what he wanted to accomplish as a national leader.

************

The Andersons, with occasional help from Skinner, wrote six books on the Reagan presidency, the first, Revolution, published in 1988. Martin Anderson, a Reagan loyalist, began with a cool, somewhat academic tone but the books, always based on documents - letters, newspaper columns and even classified National Security Council minutes - show his passion for Reagan and the president's achievements escalated along with the conservative push to establish greatness. In a forthcoming essay by Martin and Annelise Anderson, they analyze the Reagan years and policies and conclude that he was one of only four "great" presidents:

The Andersons, of course, were not alone in using biography - or revisionist biography - to champion their cause. Over the years, hundreds of less influential books, many of them by other former Reagan aides - attempted to build a case for Reagan as one of the nation's greatest leaders. That case usually rested on four pillars:

  1. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War.
  2. Ronald Reagan reduced federal taxes and his policies led to the subsequent boom in the American economy in the 1980s.
  3. Ronald Reagan reduced the size of government.
  4. Ronald Reagan restored Americans' faith in themselves and in their government.
************

Counterarguments can be made to all of those boasts - beginning with Reagan's inaugural pronouncement that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." - but the fact is that books attacking presidents' records tend to be written by journalists and published with the president in question still in office. Examples in Reagan's case would be Gambling With History: Reagan in the White House by Laurence Barrett in 1983 and Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988 by Jane Mayer and Doyle MacManus, published in 1988. The end of any administration is too early for historians and, by the nature of their craft, White House correspondents and other reporters tend to move on to a new president or new assignments. That's when former White House assistants - most of them acolytes - begin remembering the glow and glory of the Oval Office. Many are perceptive; many are of an old genre: "And then I told the president. ..." Occasionally, a former insider will write a negative book - Donald T. Regan's For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington is an example - but the overall effect is almost always positive.

If published portraits of a Mount Rushmore-ready Ronald Reagan can be considered revisionist history or biography, there has been notably little re-revisionist work in recent years. One book that would qualify is Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future, published by Philadelphia journalist Will Bunch in 2009.

Bunch went down the list of "accomplishments" attributed to Reagan by conservatives, dismissing the claim that any one man ended the Cold War, arguing that it was a triumph of the American people and a line of presidents going back to Harry S. Truman. As for Reaganomics, Bunch quoted a Washington Post series in April 1987 that concluded: "In less than a decade, the world's largest creditor nation has become its leading debtor, foreign competition humbled America's mightiest companies, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs have disappeared and middle-class living standards have declined in many communities."

He portrayed Reagan as a politician who rose by attacking "tax and spend" Democrats and then became the father of Republican "borrow and spend" economics. Under Reagan, government spending increased by 2.5 percent, and the number of federal employees increased from 2.8 million to 3 million.

************

When presidents leave office, there is some residual bitterness and score-settling to be sure, but political opponents usually have little reason to re-fight old battles. In Reagan's case, there were more books than usual, more than a thousand, most of them ranging from positive to adoring. There are, however, particularly in Reagan's case, important reasons to mount and continue a last Reagan campaign that continues today. And, for those reasons (among others), Reagan's historical stature rose after his personal, political and ideological allies began to make their arguments. Reagan's Gallup Poll approval ratings increased from 63 percent when he left Washington in 1989 to 74 percent in November 2010. Only two other modern presidents did better. Jimmy Carter's approval rate went from a very low 34 percent to 52 percent as he wrote a series of books about his humanitarian efforts as an ex-president. John Kennedy - whose aides and friends launched a "last campaign," framed by his wife's invention of "Camelot" to describe his White House years, as vigorous as the later Reagan campaign - jumped from 58 percent to 85 percent approval in Gallup polls between 1963 and 2010.

(In general, poll numbers for presidents tend to rise after they leave office, as memories mellow and adversaries take on new, more immediate targets. Gerald Ford's approval numbers in Gallup polls steadily increased from 53 percent to 61 percent after he left office in 1977. Even Richard Nixon's numbers have improved, from 24 percent to 29 percent. One example of the differences between contemporary polling and later perceptions was USA Today polling four days after the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989. On the question of who was most responsible for the ending of the Cold War, only 14 percent of American respondents named Reagan, while 43 percent said Gorbachev. Among Germans, 2 percent said Reagan and 70 percent said Gorbachev. Since then, however, dozens - perhaps hundreds - of books have been written by former Reagan assistants crediting their boss with ending the Cold War almost single-handedly.)

******

It is no exaggeration to say that Ronald Reagan - or "Reaganism" - is the true core of both the Republican Party and the modern conservative movement in the United States. To diminish him and his legacy is a step toward fracturing the cause. To begin with, Reagan is the only president known by an "ism." There is no "Rooseveltism," even though the 32nd president and his policies were at the core of the Democratic Party and American liberalism for decades.

It is, again, no exaggeration to compare Reagan as an ideological figure to Roosevelt. There is an old New York political story about a candidate for the State Assembly in Brooklyn who complained to his county chairman that the party was doing nothing for his campaign. The chairman asked the candidate if he ever watched the ferries come in from Staten Island and saw the garbage and flotsam that swirled into the dock with the big boat. Said the chairman: "Roosevelt is the ferry. You're the garbage he'll bring in on Election Day."

Roosevelt's public-policy legacy, nurtured by his family and liberal politicians, has remained a remarkable thing long after his death. In effect, he was "president" to much of the country for at least 30 years or more. Even Richard Nixon, elected in 1968, essentially governed within the liberal tradition - the Roosevelt tradition. The same lasting impact can be said of Reagan. In many ways, he is still "president"; his ideas and rhetoric, sometimes embellished, are part of every modern policy debate.

This is what I wrote covering the 1984 Republican National Convention for The New York Times Magazine:

I assumed that the whole spinning apparatus would implode when the nucleus, Reagan, was removed. I was wrong: Some of that did happen, but it was soon replaced by "Reaganism." In effect, "Reaganism was a word that could be used by all men for their own things.

Whenever it was used or Reagan's name invoked, it was proof of a sort that Reagan was still the center of the party. That it is why it is so important to Republicans and conservatives to build and preserve the "Reagan legacy." It is what unites them.

Whether they call themselves fiscal conservatives, tea-partiers or social conservatives, they are all proud to call themselves Reagan Republicans. And they honor or swear by the four pillars of Reaganism: (1) Strong defense, (2) lower taxes, (3) smaller government, and (4) nationalism/unquestioning patriotism. Pull out the core - Reaganism - and the party and conservative movement are again in danger of spinning out of control.

Jeff Shesol, a speechwriter for President Clinton, made a similar argument in discussing the impact of In His Own Hand in a review of Reagan-related books in the May 22, 2005, edition of The New York Times Book Review, writing:

But the true believers, led by conservatives like Norquist, aggressively claimed victory and Ronald Reagan's legacy as their own as the president rode off into the sunset. When he began the Reagan Legacy Project, Norquist told the Baltimore Sun of his grand ambitions: "The guy ended the Cold War; he turned the economy around. He deserves a monument like the Jefferson or the FDR - or the Colossus of Rhodes!"


This is the Text of the speech Richard Reeves gave at the Allierton Museum on Berlin on the 60th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Airlift:

The Airlift in American Global Politics

Richard Reeves

Asked years later about the importance of the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49, Clement Atlee, the British prime minister during those years said: "It wasn't until the Berlin Airlift that American public opinion really wakened up to the facts of life."

The facts of life, as Atlee called them, were the ambitions in Europe of the Soviet Union. Or, in shorthand, what the rest of us called the "Cold War." His words were apt. It was ordinary people - including that "ordinary" man, Harry S. Truman - who immediately and instinctively grasped the importance of the United States and its allies staying in the city divided into four sectors, occupied by the Soviet Union and by the United States, Great Britain and France.

Even after President Truman uttered, in private, the words, "We stay in Berlin. Period," almost all of his top advisers, including Secretary of State George Marshall, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Omar Bradley, and almost the entire National Security Council continued to believe that it was not possible to hold Berlin or that the old enemy capital was not worth holding. Marshall's Undersecretary, the formidable Robert Lovett, contributed two memorable quotes to the dialogue inside the White House:

"All the Russian's need to overrun Berlin is shoes."

"Mr. President, have you thought this through?"

Pessimism

It was not much different among American leaders on the other side of the Atlantic.After the Soviets blocked the roads, railroads and canals leading from the Allied-occupied territories of western German through 110 miles of Soviet-occupied territory to Berlin, General Lucius Clay, the United States Military Governor for Germany, was asked by Marguerite Higgins of the New York Herald Tribune whether Berlin could be supplied and sustained by air alone. His answer: "Absolutely impossible."

The pessimism among American leaders was generally shared by what is now called the "elite press." Months before the Soviet blockade was instituted in June of 1948, Newsweek magazine had published a scenario based on interviews with officials in Washington. The headline read: "Dateline Germany, 1948: The Big Retreat."

The dispatch, plausible fantasy backed by real State Department cables, was from James O'Donnell, the magazine's Berlin bureau chief, reporting on the exodus of American and British officials and soldiers from the city as the Soviet Union took complete control. In O'Donnell's fantasy, Clay cabled Washington that he intended to order B-29 Superfortresses, to begin attacking Soviet installations across Germany - and beyond. Washington responded: "Withdraw to Frankfurt."

Then, the Newsweek story continued: "At 1000 hours Saturday, the American cavalcade rendezvoused with the British.... The bedraggled and demoralized caravan proceeded along the 117 miles of Autobahn to Helmstedt in the British zone...." Newsweek got real at the bottom of that two-column account published on August 8, 1947: "This fantasy does not sound so fantastic in Berlin as it does in the United States. For the German capital has been buzzing with rumors that the Western Allies would this winter recognize the irrevocable division of Germany and pull out of Berlin. The Germans probably envision some dramatic exodus. Actually, policy makers in Washington have seriously considered quietly leaving Berlin for the Russians to rule - and feed."

Then the magazine printed a genuine "Top Secret" cable from Ambassador Robert Murphy, the State Department's man in Berlin, Clay's chief political adviser: "The next step may be Soviet... demand for the withdrawal from Berlin of the Western powers. In view of the prospect that such a ultimatum would be rejected, the Soviets may move obliquely, endeavoring to make it increasingly impossible or unprofitable for the Western powers to remain on; for example by interfering with the slender communications between Berlin and the Western Zone, taking further actions towards splitting up the city.... Our Berlin position is delicate and difficult. Our withdrawal, either voluntary or non-voluntary, would have severe psychological repercussions which would, at this critical stage in the European situation, extend far beyond the boundaries of Berlin and even Germany. The Soviets realize this full well."

The Public Opinion

It all could have happened, except for Truman's determination, British initiative and determination and the steadfastness of the people of Berlin - and of the people of the United States. I would argue that, from an American perspective, the Airlift was a striking example of people leading leaders.

That July of 1948, a month after the Red Army blockaded land routes into Berlin in late June, as Truman was campaigning for reelection, he received a memo from the State Department about public support for the Airlift in the United States - even as American and British planes had been struggling, not very successfully, to fly food and fuel into West Berlin. The memo, titled "U.S. Public Opinion on the Berlin Situation," read in part: "The overwhelming majority of press and radio commentators remain united in support of the official United States position - that we shall not be 'coerced' out of Berlin." Some of the editorial support Truman saw confirmed that judgment: From The New York Times: "We were proud of our Air Force during World War II. We're prouder of it today."

From the more conservative San Francisco Chronicle: "The forthcoming Congress will be properly concerned with expenses. But we agree with General Clay that a pivotal operation like the Berlin Airlift - which will cost less for an entire year than a single day's operation toward the end of World War II - is no place to begin economizing. On the contrary, we would consider it cheap at ten times the price."

Public opinion polls backed up such editorials, generally showing support of 80 percent to 90 percent of respondents supported the Airlift, even when the possibility of war with the Soviet Union was mentioned in the questions. That same 80 percent of Americas thought the Allies would stay in Berlin, which compared with 43 percent in French polls. Ironically, as the Airlift continued, polling of Berliners done by OMGUS (Office of Military Government for Germany, U.S.) rose to that same 80-plus percent level among Berliners.

People Leading Leaders

Truman, running far behind his Republican opponent, Governor Thomas Dewey of New York, in electoral polls, was the big winner in those airlift polls. As Republicans usually did, Dewey was accusing the Democratic president of being "soft on communism" and of "blunders" that led to the crisis in Berlin. John Foster Dulles, known to be Dewey's choice for Secretary of State, called the Airlift "almost untenable."

It was soon obvious that American voters were not buying the Republican line on Berlin. Soon enough Dewey and Dulles began toning down their attacks on the Airlift. Dulles came to Berlin on October 17, 1948 and went to Clay's house for lunch. The two men despised each other and it was widely assumed that Clay would be fired in the first days of a Dewey administration.. They lunched in silence until the arrival of Berlin's elected Mayor, Ernst Reuter - invited by Clay. Dulles seemed annoyed that he was being asked to talk to a local official. "This is your problem," the General whispered to Reuter as he left Dulles and the German alone.

"Will the Germans stand fast during the winter?" Dulles began. "Or will they give up, accept Russian aid, and get us out of Berlin?"

"The people of Berlin are accustomed to suffering," said Reuter. "We are willing to suffer a great deal more to escape Russian domination."

The rest of the conversation is unknown to history. But, after leaving Clay's house, Dulles never said another negative word about Berlin or the Airlift.

Dewey got the message three days later at a major political event, the annual Alfred E. Smith dinner hosted by the Archbishop of New York, Francis Cardinal Spellman. Clay who was in the United States to plead for more planes - he got them after Truman overruled the National Security Council - was seated next to Dewey, an old friend. When Clay spoke, defending the Airlift and other American policies that Dewey had been attacking, the crowd of two thousand New Yorkers, stood as one, applauding and cheering for several minutes. Dewey stood, too, and most American newspapers ran photos showing the Republican candidate applauding America's military governor.

Whatever effect it might have had on the 1948 presidential campaign in the United States, the Airlift turned out to be as great a public relations triumph for the country as it was a technical and logistical success for the Air Force. Publicity was always a consideration and the Air Force proved to be one of the great public relations machines in the world. In August, the operational chief of the Airlift, General William Tunner, received a cable from his immediate superior, Major General Laurence Kuter, the chief of the Military Air Transport Service:

"We should make every effort to have the 'Vittles' story told by qualified aviation writers who can appreciate the implications of such strategic air transport and who can explain both the techniques of the effort and its essential place in any plan for national defense."

Tunner replied: "No one is more aware than I of the terrific public relations potential in this operation - that this is the greatest opportunity we have ever had, or probably will have, to tell the air transport story and make certain that people will pay attention to us. [It's] more than just an airlift. [It's] a propaganda weapon held up before the whole world."

Propaganda War

And, indeed, the United States fought a brilliant propaganda war on two fronts, winning the hearts and minds of both Berliners and Americans. Anyone my age, a young boy in New Jersey, would have thought Berlin was actually an American state. Mothers told their children to eat everything on their plates: "Think of the poor starving children in Europe" - meaning Berlin.

Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen, a young airlift pilot who had dropped, by little parachutes, candy bars to children gathered at the fence of Tempelhof airport to watch the planes take-off and land, was rushed back home to appear across the United States on the most popular radio and television shows. Predictably, candy makers sent tons upon tons of their sweet products to Germany, while ordinary folks contributed handkerchiefs by the tens of thousands to make the mini-parachutes. President Truman handed over 10 U.S. dollar - on camera - to send a CARE package to a family in Berlin. Walter Cronkite of CBS News did the voice-overs for television documentaries promoting the Airlift, films produced largely by the Department of Defense. Actors Paul Douglas and Montgomery Clift starred in The Big Lift (1950, dir.: George Seaton), a feature film that used pilots and airmen playing themselves. When Mayor Reuter came to the United States after a series of favorable magazine and newspaper articles, he was treated as a hero, an American hero, greeted with a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in New York City.

Germans were no longer the enemy. Germans were people. America was engaged with the world again. In Berlin, the Americans were no longer seen as occupiers; they were seen as protectors.

Lieutenant Arlie Nixon, who was the chief pilot of Trans World Airlines, before being recalled for "Temporary Duty" as an airlift pilot - reducing his pay from 550 U.S. dollar a month to 180 U.S. dollar - walked into a restaurant in Wiesbaden just as the Airlift was beginning and, without a word being spoken, every German stood, left their tables and food, and walked out. Two weeks later, he came back to the same place and every German stood again, walking to the bar and then lining up more steins of beer than he could drink in a week. A corporal, Louis Wagner, was huddled in a cold train headed for Frankfurt, when a German man walked up, uncorked a bottle of schnapps and said in English, smiling: "This could be poison, Captain, would you like to test it with me?"

Americans were being seen as they saw themselves, as crusaders for the right and true.

A Fundamental Change

In Berlin, RIAS (Radio in the American Sector), once a tiny-voiced 800 watt station grew into the most popular station in both West and East Germany, mixing entertainment, news and advertising in the American way. Most importantly, in a city starved for both news and electricity, RIAS trucks equipped with loudspeakers went from square to square to read the news of the day to the crowds that formed around the soundtrucks.

The world was turned upside down. Lieutenant Noah Thompson, was called away from his farm, wife and new baby in New Hampshire for Temporary Duty. Within 24 hours of arrival, he was piloting ten tons of coal toward Berlin. He knew the landscape below from 21 bombing missions over Germany in the B-17s of the Eighth Air Force. More than 40 percent of his Group's 450 crews had been shot down or just crashed. Below him now were the people who beat to death his buddy, Lieutenant Don Dennis, the man in the bunk next to him in 1945, who had parachuted onto farmland from his burning B-17 one spring day. "And now I'm bringing them food," Thompson thought. "What a world."

When the Soviet blockade of Berlin ended on May 12, 1949 with Berliners cheering in the streets as the first trucks came down the Autobahn from Helmstedt, a talented British correspondent, Anthony Mann of London's Daily Telegraph was there and wrote: "It was a victory of great political and psychological consequence, but in fact it decided nothing fundamental in the East-West war of ideologies...." In the United States, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who had succeeded Marshall, added: "[We are] again in the situation in which we were before the blockade was imposed." Diplomatically, Acheson and Mann may have been correct. But, politically, everything was different. The American people had decided the nation had to stand up in Berlin, in Germany, everywhere in the world. Atlee was right: The hardening of American attitudes represented fundamental change.

In 1945 and 1946, the United States had demobilized its great military machine as quickly as possible after World War II. "Bring the Boys Home!" was the cry of the nation. Those were the boys called back by Truman to feed Berlin and America rallied around them. They may have been the reason Truman was elected in one of the great upsets in democratic history. It was, in large measure, the reason the American public was willing to support and pay for the Truman Doctrine of fighting communism globally, to support the idea of containment, to cheer the Marshall Plan, to accept the idea of two Germanies, East and West, in September of 1949. And, most of all, Americans chose to stay engaged, to support and pay a great deal for the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense treaty that extended far beyond the borders of the United States.

Atlee was right about the United States and the facts of life. What a world, indeed. As prime minister, Atlee visited British stations only once during the Airlift, on a rainy day in March, 1949, coming home to call the effort: "One of the wonders of the world."

And so it was.

Richard Reeves has the lead article in the Fall 2007 edition of Berlin Journal, the magazine of the American Academy in Berlin.

I spent the better part of the last twenty years researching and writing a trilogy on the American presidency, doing books on John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. I knew I had said what I had to say on all that. I had to find some new subjects. At the same time, I continued writing a syndicated column for newspapers around the country, an exercise that kept me up on the politics and people of the day and of the twenty-first century. I was not happy many of those days. My country was becoming, or being — seen as, arrogant, self-righteous, and brutal — a monster using its very substantial power to try to enforce a new order, a kind of neo-imperialism. Of course, we meant well; Americans usually do. After all, didn't these people want to be like us?


Reader Emails

I guess Lardo Christie knows now that kissing Obama and the brain-dead liberal's butts wasn't the way to go. What a rude awakening. I can't believe a governor would be that naive and stupid. All I can say to him is "welcome to reality."—D.S.

Learn all you can, and pull every string you can, to get in on the radical extension of healthy lifespan likely in the next few decades. See Aubrey de Grey's book Ending Aging. Log in to maxlife.org. Would you rather be one of the last to die early, or one of the first to live long?

If you get bored by long life, an often voiced concern, just stop showing up for your quadrennial aging reversals, and in time dear old Mother Nature will solve your problem - permanently. Better to develop new interests.

Vital research is stfled because the FDA does not regard aging as a disease. But many of us who suffer from it do so regard it. Something that first uglifies (at least in this culture), then debilitates, then imiserates, and finally, kills everyone not already dead from other causes, is a disease.—F.W.

All you say is true, but not complete. In addition to abandoning those in the countries we invade, we consistently abandon many of those Americans we send to fight in those places in the first place. Frankly, I would rather that we learn to quit invading other countries than that we learn how to more humanely treat the citizens of those countries who help us, and I would rather we learn to not expend the precious flower of our youth over and over in wars, especially wars against third world countries who are no threat to us. Our failure to learn that lesson is creating more and more enemies for us, laying the rationales for more and more invasions. Can we do nothing to stop the vicious circle?—V.P.

I agree with your column. Why on earth do the Republicans always have a platform on abortion in the first place? It is the law of the land no matter what they think. I guess the days of a Nixon, or a Nelson Rockefeller, Bush the first more liberal republicans will never come again .

I agree with you if they don't get their act together they are going the way of the Whigs and I think they should get rid of Karl Rove. He is seriously out of touch. In fact I think its those twangs that turn people off. We are not all from Dixie after all.—Anon.

By 2062, 84-year old Nate Silver will be able to brain scan one randomly-selected independent voter and, using the results, accurately predict the outcome of the election 10 months out to an accuracy of 99.9999999999%.

Since they so eschew actual facts and hard reality, Fox News viewers will be plugged into some sort of brain machine that allows them to live entirely within a far right wing virtual reality. Irrespective of what happens outside their mental bubble, their white male candidate always wins 75% of the popular vote and carries all 538 electoral votes. Consistent with ever rightward drift, their virtual world has been gradually transported beyond the idyllic times of 1962, all the way back to 1862 and a Civil War which they can repeatedly win until the batteries on their life support systems (paid for by Obamacare version 20.0) finally run down.—M.O.

Wishful thinking Richard. It was a razor close election in the popular vote. The electoral College does not speak to the will of the people but is a device to make every state heard so the large states don’t dominate the agenda. The fact of the matter is that no mandate was levied for higher taxes, nationalized medicine or a national welfare state. It is going to be long 4 years. It was just 2 short years ago that the Democrats were overwhelmingly run out of the House, and by the way, that has not changed. In fact the weak leadership of Obama has delivered the same result after 2 billion was spent in the Presidential race. The people at the Politico can play their cute word games, but people like myself who pay the lion share of the taxes, employ people and adhere to the tenets of the Constitution will not make easy for the rest of you. Note the Dow is down over 426 points in two days since the election. Atlas Shrugged will become a reality.—C.R.

Your columns are taking on the shrill sound of the Huffington Post and MSNBC. Being a conservative businessman, I could give a rats flight suit about Obama being black. If this is your final argument it is so weak as to be sad that it is even being mentioned. Obama won a considerable amount of independent and Republican votes in 2008 or he would not be President. Obama has failed on the economy and is leaving America vulnerable to another attack. He shows how completely out of touch and Harvard elite that Americans really don't like his detached demeanor. Why is Allen West so popular with so called "Tea Party people"? A strong black conservative (remember Herman Cain , example purposes only) or a strong Hispanic conservative such as Marco Rubio would probably be picked over a white candidate and go on to get a nomination.

Sorry Richard, I have all the respect in the world for you(although you ended the book on JFK abruptly, which I do not understand) but on this, just not true!

Hope you and family did well and are warm and safe from the aftermath of the storm. God bless you and the good people of the Northeast and be safe.—C.R.

I'm with the Obama team on the totally confounding notion that Mitt Romney could be considered an acceptable alternative for the presidency by approximately half the American public. Roger Ebert is equally confounded in a recent column he wrote on the subject. As I have mentioned to you before, Mitt is the most dishonest, disrespectful, arrogant, high-handed and immoral bastard ever to run for the presidency in my lifetime, which dates to the first Truman administration (sorry I just missed FDR). I deem him much worse than Dubya (who at least kept most of these character traits hidden) and probably even worse than Cheney and Nixon, both of whom set the previous standard for pure evil in a holder of high office. With the lies he incessantly spews about anything and everything right to our faces, as though we were fools or powerless peons, he disqualifies himself from ANY elective office, without meriting any consideration of what he might propose...because his words have no meaning. Without character or veracity he cannot be trusted whatsoever, even if he deigned to tell us what he intends. If Obama were also just a power-hungry, morally hollow shape-shifter like Romney, I would have to sit this election out, or vote for a third party candidate. Fortunately, he is not, as he has already demonstrated to the nation over four years of dedicated service, though constantly obstructed by the Republicans in Congress. It would be a national tragedy, followed by unmitigated calamities on so many levels, if Obama were to lose to this greedy grasping soulless plutocrat who would take us back to an era of robber barons, bread lines and back-alley abortions. Like so many other liberals, I just keep hoping that Nate Silver's projections, tenuous as they are, hold up through November 6th.—M.O.

A conservative, a moderate and a liberal walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, "Oh hi Mitt."—R.C.

It's amazing how drastically American politics have changed since Richard Lugar was known as President Richard Nixon's favorite mayor (of Indianapolis). During that era I was a Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry at Indiana University and Indiana's two senators were the liberal Democrats Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh. Birch made his blue dog son Evan, later elected both governor and senator, look like a right wing extremist in comparison, always--of necessity--pandering to the wing nuts who eventually took over the state. Hell, back in the day we elected liberal Democratic mayors of Bloomington and 8th district congressional representatives, like Frank McCloskey. Environmental activism was widely embraced by most of the people, before the oligarchs co-opted enough of the media to convince the masses that it is all a communist plot to destroy capitalism and the American way of life. Even wanting collective bargaining, good health benefits and deferred compensation in the form of pensions is spit upon by the very people who desperately need these things, and so only useful idiots like Mordack are elected. You've got to be a tea bagger to win in Indiana these days. The people have been brainwashed into believing that they need to make any sacrifice for the good of the multinational mega-corporations, their upper management and their wealthy shareholders both foreign and domestic--otherwise known as the beneficent "job creators." Anything less would be unpatriotic and, uh, *liberal,* as in traitorous. How Obama narrowly carried the state in 2008 was a major miracle, probably made possible by the batshit craziness of Sarah Palin and the fact that Obama claimed that Lugar, whom Hoosiers still loved at the time, was his mentor in the senate. Don't expect it to be repeated this year. When most of the posts in open forums on MSM websites come out in support of Mitt Romney after the WaPo expose' of his bullying the closeted gay student during his prep school days, I fear that plenty of other states will also turn their backs on Obama this time around and the Republicans will again have all the pieces in place to continue Dubya's dismantling of fair and rational American governance. Bush's Supreme Court legacy, the Citizens United decision and the monetary investment of less than a mere dozen billionaires in the political campaign will transform Obama into a mere bump in the road for the right wing juggernaut to fascism.—M.O.

Bipartisan Government? We have collapsed government. We lost the ability to conscript thanks to the stupidities of Viet Nam. Now, we have lost the ability to say "no" to disability claimants. Take the horrible "Agent Orange" case. How many claim their falling hair or cancer came from riding in a boat off the coast of Viet Nam in 1967 or 68? I was spraying it daily as a combat navigator-never where friendly forces were located! The Air Force health study showed no real difference between our crews and similar type crews unexposed. We lived in the stuff every day! Social Security, paid in over a lifetime of working class Americans is considered just another welfare program (entitlement) like food stamps. And it is becoming one! No one seems able to say "no" to the unemployed seeking income for "disability". We can't say "no" to tax breaks for the wealthy. Imagine a 15% tax rate on dividends, while "earned income" is hit for twice that! Remember the good old days of "PayGo"? How about the benefit of saving? Just figure the "Miracle of Compounding"! But if you are TBTF, you get bailed out and no one at the top is even indicted for fraud anymore! Let the good times roll! Some future generation can figure out how to pay the bills!—R.C.

It's not just Obama's ACA that the Republicans want to dismantle but also 80 years of successfully-run Social Security and nearly 60 years of Medicare, to say nothing of Medicaid which is mostly administered by the states using federal money. It strikes me that this is not being done because it will improve the lot of the average American working stiff and his family. To be sure, privatising those safety net programs will only make them as unwieldy and inaccessible as the rest of medical care is for the great masses today via the private health insurance companies. The Republicans want to make this transformation for two equally potent reasons: i) they want their cronies in the world of big business to monopolize another major source of profit from a service that everyone ever born will need at some point in their life; and ii) they want to force their will on the system. They want to totally vanquish the political opposition with stunning finality. This is not even a matter of ideology, it is pure unadulterated partisanship. The very worst of the lot are the young punks in the Republican party like Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Marco Rubio, who clearly never experience a lucid thought, ever. At least the old timers in the GOP, like Everett Dirkson, Jerry Ford, Bob Dole, Howard Baker, George Bush the elder, and even Barry Goldwater understood what worked, what was practical and what was good for the country as a whole, irrespective of the financial leverage insiders could gain from making ill-advised changes, and they didn't undertake to "burn down the village to 'save' it," which is what these young fanatics are all about. The leadership of the Republican party today seems to be like an out-of-control chapter of the college Young Republicans who really understand nothing about the issues, but are deluded into believing they are deep thinkers because they learned a few catchphrases from mountebanks like Rush Limbaugh, and only care about winning for its own sake. Now even the remaining elders in the party who should know better, like Mitt Romney and Bush senior, are simply acquiescing to the mob and to the oligarchs who are among those few in this country who really do know the score. It's all to empower and enrich them...even further. The rest of you can go die, and we appreciate your cooperation in the matter.—M.O.

Regarding your column "A little too eager to go to war" The world is concerned that North Korea's new leader, Kim Jung Un, will do something dramatic, drastic to show that he is macho and in control. Many are afraid he will fire on South Korea, sink a ship or cause some other international incident. Perhaps America should fear what the next Republican president may do. In order to appear macho and in control, he may start another war somewhere. Candidates have said they would order troops back into Iraq, make the U.S. military stronger and bigger, and have threatened to invade Iran to stop their development of nuclear weapons or to retrieve the missing U.S. drone. If another chicken hawk - someone who never served in the military - is elected, the threat of a sudden, stupid act just increases. Americans should pay close attention to militaristic or threatening statements made by Republican candidates.—R.L.

Powerful, pungent & persuasive. What a year! Juliet Sorensen - writing from Chicago in NY Times Wednesday - set the record straight on JFK speech - something I've read & re-read since covering '60 campaign at AP.—H.L.

Paul will bring in moderates like me. We have no candidate except him, and he is stuck with being a Republican. Of course, he won't make it as an independent, but he is an is electable as a moderate. Obama is a disaster, and the rest are extremests.—R.C.

I am a Ron Paul supporter myself and I am glad you can see he is right about the war machine. Naturally he is the only man in the race who was ever in the military and that gives him in my mind credibility . Lately he said the only big export the US has is war,around the globe.It always annoyed me that commentary from pundits for an Iran attack did everything they could not to go to Vietnam when they were young ex Bill Oreilly The spin on cable is hilarious to me.Are we to assume Israel with 6000 missiles facing all the Arab nations is a little place that is terrorized?

I know he cannot win the nomination but he will get my vote if name on ballad because I cant pull lever for the other war mongers including Obama who was once called by Pat Buchanan "Bush on steroids" Since the US decided years ago to stop creating good paying manufacturing jobs for its citizens we are slowly on the way to only two directions left for young people of a certain age welfare or warfare.—Anon.

The main stream media as it is called in the rightist circles I run in, is very concerning indeed. The fact that George Stephanopoulos brought up the contraception issue in one of the hundreds of Republican debates before the drastic and very un-American action proffered by the White House, that Catholic dogma as it relates to contraception must offer employees free contraception was a collusion that is just not right. And why with Obama everything is free? Healthcare, College, Housing, energy efficient vehicles, and oh yea, energy itself extracted from the Sun and Wind! Free!

Richard, the media has been evolving for some time now, and Breibart and especially Drudge are really old news. The issue of the revolution, yes it is coming! Working Americans that don't ask for anything from the government are taking a very hard screwing. This president and his party are so divisive and punitive, that this will not hold. As I told you before if Obama is re-elected, the anger of the Occupy movement will merge with the well deserved change agents of the Tea Party movement and it will not be pretty. The Media is a mouthpiece of the left and we are paying dearly for it. High gas prices, foreclosures, closing small businesses, all the while Wall Street sky rockets and elites vacation almost monthly, even though they too are government employees.

Richard, you must leave the comfort of Northeast environs and experience what is going on in Flyover country before it too late!—C.R.

LOS ANGELES - Andrew Breitbart, the publisher of Breitbart.com and a couple of other popular websites, set the tone for a program at the University of Southern California last Wednesday by calling George Stephanopoulus of ABC News, a little rat with a runny nose.
Well, ahhhh, ummmm ......

He continued by equating mainstream newspapers and television news, National Public Radio, Hollywood and American universities with totalitarians around the world, citing Joseph Stalin, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, cultural Marxism and storm troopers.
Well yes, everyone knows that including you.

He was joined by Jon Fleischman, founder of FlashReport.org, a popular website out here that aggregates and reports on California politics, government and cultural life. He offered the opinion that "President Obama represents the abyss. He is taking us over the socialist cliff."
And you can make an argument that he's not.

Then he added: "We're in a war here, a cultural war, fighting over the future of the country. We're playing defense against the dominant culture."
Everyone on both sides, whom aren't imbeciles, know there's a war going on - you do also, that's why you write a piece like this one acting as if Obama's just another Democrat, ACORN is doing the Lord's work, and the MSM is just doing it's best to fairly cover the news and politics.

Breitbart, you may remember, made his bones trying to destroy ACORN, a social agency advocating for poor people, by using hidden cameras to photograph a community organizer offering advice to a phony "pimp," actually a Breitbart staffer - then editing the film and giving it to Fox News.
Ummmmmmmm - you left out a little bit of information on the activities and agenda of ACORN.

He is a very serious, very angry man, and a professional (with his own definitions of professional) who helped found and establish The Huffington Post. And though he might deny it, I, for one, found him more angry than he is Republican or conservative.
There are tens of millions of us more angry than we are Republican or conservative.

"I don't give a damn about Romney or Santorum," he said. "I am trying to level the media playing field," which he sees as tipping wildly to the left.
Why I've noticed that myself and consider MSM journalists as children pretending to be journalists.

In addition to Stephanopolous, who worked for President Clinton, Breitbart is enraged by the fact that James Carville, another Clinton product, is on television so often playing the folksy Southerner. He also has a thing about Christiane Amanpour being married to James Rubin, a former Clinton spokesman.
They all get on my nerves too.

(No one mentioned that Diane Sawyer of ABC News was in President Nixon's press office, and so was David Gergen of CNN.)
Probably were spies for the leftists.

It was a revealing hour, sponsored by the Annenberg School's Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, opening a window into what kind of thinking is behind or under the Republican Party, the tea party and the conservative movement, which are not all the same thing by any means. The panel included a student, Lizzie Breiter, president of the USC Republican Club, and Jonathon Wilcox, a CCLP instructor who once wrote speeches for Republican governor and senator Pete Wilson. In fact, the person they attacked most often was George Soros, who helped finance MediaMatters.org, which presents itself as a rapid response monitor and corrective to right-wing websites and blogs.
Oh my, you've left out volumes of stuff about Soros that every American should be informed about. I hope that wasn't on purpose.

They all seemed to see this as an exciting time for media - and it is. Breitbart said his mentors or examples were Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, who forced their way onto the media playfield. If you think back to what Drudge managed to do from a small apartment with no money in West Hollywood in the mid-1990s, he is practically the Guttenberg of aggregating news and opinion to serve a political purpose. It was Drudge whose career has best illustrated a basic Breitbart tenet: Today, anybody can be the media.
Hooooo-ra for Drudge.

Where does all this go? I don't know. To me it seems like the just-below-the-surface rage against the machine in the Democratic Party during the Vietnam War. But Breitbart, a great performer, says this phenomena is at best still in its adolescence. Can't argue with that.
No - you priests of the Liberal religion are the adolescents. Never have gotten past about 15 or 16 yrs. old.

As for me, both an academic and a liberal columnist, Fleischman had this to say: "American colleges are the petri dish for hell."
I experienced massive anti-American, anti- religious indoctrination in college and it has gotten worse as the left has continued to infiltrate our education system at all levels.—S.K.

Interesting column. I see the current decade as a bizzaro version of the 1980s. I don't think weak leadership killed the Dems in the 1980s. It was that they pushed a continual solution of more government to solve problems, whatever the problem, and people were losing faith in this. Now, Repubs push tax cutting and deregulation as the cure-all, and after 30 years people have lost their faith in it. In the late 70s, the weakness of the Dems was masked by the fallout of Watergate. In 2010, the weakness of the Republicans was masked by the bad economy. But the Republicans blew the chance they got after 2010 by spending all their political capital trying to kill their enemies, like Planned Parenthood, NPR and labor unions, instead of working on jobs. Like 1984, the economy isn't great, but if the Repubs stay stupid, Obama will get re-elected. If the economy picks up, the Republicans are going into the wilderness, and will stay there a long time.—L.K.

Perhaps the most astute and succinct analysis of the Newt boomlet I have read.

I think part of the problem is that many of commentators weren't thinking about politics when Gingrich first commandeered the house cameras before empty chambers to discredit the Democratic leadership and don't even consider the significance of the lack of support from fellow Republican politicos. I do not know whether Newt is the conservative he claimed he was when he became speaker of the house, or the liberal that the conservative Republicans claim he is. I do know that regardless of my considerably more conservative politics now than when Gingrich was speaker, I would crawl over broken glass to vote against him, because I detested him so much then. His manner of speaking is condescending. He has the same sort of sneering tone to his voice that Joe McCarthy had. In his case, the messenger definitely not only undercuts, but actually detracts from the message.

Much of the support for Gingrich, such as today's news that Sheldon Adelson (a man who earns his money by being the house that moral pontificator in chief Bill Bennett regularly loses to)is ponying up $20 Million to a super-pac, comes from neo-cons, Likudniks, and Jewish Republicans who like his stance on Israel. That's all well and good, but speaking for myself as a Jew, I don't think that is the way to select the President of the United States.

If by some chance Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination, what will be fun to watch is all the Republican and conservative columnists who have attacked Obama for being everything from a socialist to a hater of America and a hater of Israel and responsible for the deficit and the recession/depression, fall all over themselves to explain the reasons Obama is preferable to Ron Paul. David Frum laid the groundwork on his website today. Of course it won't happen, but it will be intriguing to see how they decide who is the bigger threat to America.—D.M.

He is a communist.

"Capitalism works better from every perspective when the economic decision-makers are forced to share power with those who will be affected by those decisions."

And: "Community action is as valuable a principle on the international level as it has been domestically." Or: "Increasing inequality in income distribution in the country has broader policy implications, and there is also the growing problem of perverse incentives that result from executives receiving grossly disproportionate compensation based on decisions they themselves take."

Oh my, a Capitalist behind every bush!

The following passage came to mind when thinking about Frank, Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Biden, Holder, Clinton and to a lesser degree, most of the current Congresspersons on both sides of the aisle:

John Chapter 8
43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.—S.K.

Bill Moyers is a smarmy slime ball who was LBJ's hit man. He's the poster boy for defunding PBS.—R.H.

It is not the Coke company s responsibility to keep people from throwing plastic bottles into the Colorado river, it is the park authorities job. And why if i , a non throwing abiding citizen who throws his plastic bottle away properly suffer because some do not? Moyers new show? Who is paying for that? You, Moyers, Nador, you guys are just 3 peas in the same pod called the extreme left.—S.R.

Bravo! You do speak the truth on so many levels in this column. Being center right, my question to you is, how to change it?—C.R.

I think your column is correct in setting out the implications of the cutbacks in higher education in California.

I do think your column, which by necessity, is not detailed omits some relevant information regarding the decline of higher education in California.

First, the political underpinnings for funding the schools has changed. When the three tiered system for higher education, (and elementary and secondary education as well) was developed, education was thought of as core function of the state. What I see happening is that other things that are core functions, such as the courts, are getting short shrift, because politicians pay attention to their constituents. Many other constituencies, particular recipients of social services, prison guards in particular and public employees in general , have benefited to the extent that as far as the legislators who fund those programs are concerned, they are core function of the state on par with education (or the courts.) In the absence of increased revenue, the state legislature has to decide how to cut programs to fit the budget. Unless the legislators actually agree that their pet social programs, or satisfying the public employee unions that donate to their election campaigns is less important than what were originally understood to be core functions, the schools will suffer.

Second, a point made by many conservative commentators, I am thinking particularly of Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, is that state Universities seem to have money to ever expand their diversity administrators and increase their salary, or find money for politically correct but not terribly relevant courses at the expense of more traditional courses.

Third, I don't know if this is true at the higher education level, but in the public schools the ratio of administrators to class room teachers continues to increase. Although teachers have complained about the number of administrators for as long as I can remember, this problem relates to the number of administrators needed to comply with various Federal and State edicts. This is I suppose part of the unfunded mandates problem that state and local governments have long complained about..

Finally, its important to appreciate that the shifting demographics in the state have shifted attitudes toward funding education. For better or for worse, California was an overwhelmingly white state up through the mid 1970's whereas whites are no longer a majority. Again, most of the tax revenues in the state, including property tax revenues comes from whites. But once whites left the public school system (I realize this is a generalization and doesn't apply to many suburban school districts) in L.A. first as a reaction to forced busing, then a belief that their child would be unsafe and get a poor education in a public school, to the point now where their child will be in a small minority since the L.A schools are overwhelmingly Latino, they lost an incentive to fund it. If the people who paid the taxes were of the same demographic group of the people who directly benefit from providing sufficient funding to public education at all levels, and they sent their children to the public schools, I don't think this would be a problem, or at least not to the same extent it is today.—D.M.

I appreciate you note and agree with it. Leaving race aside,I think what is happening is thatv people are livingh longer and no longer care about education when their children move. They happily ignore the fact that taxpayers past paid for both generations of education. —R.R.

Growing up in the 60's and 70's, California was a trend setter in culture, economics in almost all aspects of American life. The other trend that California has pioneered in is fiscal irresponsibility. Your commentaries have been quite illuminating as it relates to the referendums that in many ways have been very detrimental to health of the state. I am not going to rail on the public officials that the state has chosen, by my count the decline of California has been ushered in by both by Republicans and Democrats. But what I do know is, that Jerry Brown's successor, Lt. Governor Gavin is akin to the greatest excesses of past Roman Emperors in his behavior, and under his tutelage, we should see the final decline and fall of the State of California.—C.R.

I have been spamming around that $10.15/hr 1968 federal minimum wage ($1.60/hr adjusted) -- going by the Minneapolis fed reserve bank online inflation calculator... ...and that today's US median wage is $15/hr going by chart 3.5 on p. 134 of "The State of Working America, 2008/2009." The lost growth facts may be more extreme. According to the BLS online calculator -- which uses the most widely accepted index (CPI-U) -- $10.43/hr was the 1968 minimum... ...and dividing an annual median wage of $26,363 -- reported by Harold Myerson -- by 2080 hours, today's US median wage comes at $12.68/hr. All -- following 43 years of improving productivity (we are both old enough to remember the typing pool) -- double the per capita income since. Somebody please just say the words out loud: sector wide labor agreements, sector wide labor agreements, sector wide labor agreements. Friedman? He found something positive in Reagan firing air traffic controllers. Knew I didn't like him ever since.—d.d.

I think you are spot on. I am 55 yrs old and I am embarrassed for my generation. I cringe every time I see AARP commercials threatening to hold the country hostage. We have known for years about the impact on Social Security and Medicare of the baby boom generation aging. Yet, we encouraged Congress kick the can down the road by not standing behind any politician who had the courage to speak the truth. We have no one to blame but ourselves.—S.S.

Your commentary "The Worst Generation" was published in the Charleston, WV Sunday Gazette-Mail on October 30 where I discovered and read it being a devoted admirer of your columns for many years.

This particular column could be the best short piece you have written in your distinguished career, certainly the most poignant, although reading it made me feel even more ashamed than usual of myself and my fellow Baby-Boomers.

A short background story: As a college freshman at Stony Brook University in 1969 I returned to my dormitory complex from a sparsely attended meeting of perhaps 8 students questioning the university administration's plan to compete for Defense Department research grants by transforming a small liberal arts / teacher's college into a major scientific research institution. Entering the main hall, I found a growing crowd of at least 100 students eagerly awaiting the Friday night beer blast. Excoriating them for their self-absorbed hedonism and lack of social conscience I had little idea that I was confronting the true nature of my generation. My tirade was quickly dismissed as a mere annoyance by the few individuals not already engaged in prospecting for and cornering their respective partners for the evening.

Disappointed but not surprised by the corruption and self-aggrandizement common to my experience and your commentary I can't help wondering if both ego-consumed personality characteristics might be consequences of the pervasive fear of nuclear self-immolation with which The Worst Generation grew up magnified by JFK's inaugural pledge that a new generation of Americans would make any sacrifice and pay any price in defense of liberty. Why worry about the future if it offers little more than sacrifice and cost while all life on the planet could disappear in the next moment?

Hey, pass me another brewsky, the game should be on any minute!—J.S.

PLUNDER. I wish this destructive issue received more analysis. It is obvious that war profiteering is today acceptable. Look at the billions passed to Dick Cheney's own company-Halliburton-on no bid contracts to provide thousands of mercenaries in Iraq, and other Defense cronies who reap profits from "privatization".

NATIONAL SWINDLE. This was not carried out by an abstraction called "Wall Street". It was and is being done by corrupt individuals in powerful financial positions. The "Too Big to Fail" panic provided cover for individuals to loot billions-directly and through undeserved and unearned "bonuses". The AIG bail out reveals a few of the specifics. We have unindicted fraud and a ruined economy- caused largely by the very individuals who used the resulting panic to enrich themselves.—R.C.

You nailed it in your latest column. America has become like the old Soviet Union, where the government functions basically to enable the upper crust to exploit the rest. Quite a transformation of a society in a mere thirty years. Moreover, those who foolishly started the movement, and have now passed on, probably had no idea where their political and economic heirs were going to lead the country, purportedly in their name, just as Marx could never have envisioned Stalin. You know who I'm talking about, you wrote books about them.—M.O.

Thanks to Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" conceit, we have become the World's "Indispensable Nation". Thanks, too, for giving all of us Social Security-our very own prepaid old age pensions! Personal thanks to Tom Brokaw for appointing his father's generation the "greatest", while some of his contemporaries were giving their lives and/or limbs in Viet Nam (to considerably less acclaim).—R.C.

I had hearty Irish laughs reading your Oct. 20 piece - especially Romney's lawn being paved. As for TV, I wrote a guest column that my alma mater www.scrantontimes.com (before AP) ran Oct. 15 recalling that date in '58 when ED Murrow stressed TV's role to inform & illuminate in remarks to the Radio & Television News Directors in Chicago. Then, 2 days later, I read NBC had canceled its new Playboy Club series & installed - starting Oct. 31 - a "magazine show" anchored by Brian Williams. Documentaries like Murrow's "Harvest of Shame" Thanksgivng weekend 1960 are passe at CBS, NBC & ABC. Nets say nobody would watch.—H.L.

As one who has been uplifted by the growing "Occupy Wall Street" movement, I want to thank you for your brilliant piece, "Which Side Are You On?", which appeared in my T, 10/18 edition of the Kitsap Sun. Your commentary is always succinct and to the point...this piece was no exception. I will continue to look forward to your writing.—C.O.

Too many people are too ignorant of their own best interests to know what side they should be on or what side opposes their best interests. Only a very few tea baggers realize they are being used to advance the Koch Brothers agenda through the organizational efforts of Dick Armie and a few other corporate flacks. It is a dangerous time in America, especially since the Supreme Court has removed all doubt of its' corrupt majority.—W.G.

Our hope is there for this protest movement! I am too old for the streets, but am proud of those out there. The skeptic in me is on alert, however, after Obama's collapse (or sell out). "Hope", after all, is passive-no "Audacity" in it.—R.C.

Was there nothing in that book about him being personally annointed by Jesus to save America from the secular liberal Babylon it has become? The more I learn about the mean-spirited ravings--I mean political philosophies--of Rick Perry, the bloviating alumnus of A&M with the 2.2 GPA and a major in animal science, the more I desperately hope the Republican rank and file choose the flip-flopping, wishy-washy Mitt Romney as their candidate to oppose Barack Obama, just in case you are not prescient and Obama does not garner the needed electoral votes to retain his office. (Just in case he has so alienated a critical mass of his own base to the point where they sit home on election day rather than vote for a Quisling.) Being a pragmatic businessman (which inherently implies duplicity), Romney just might promote some of the policies needed to turn the economy around, you know, the same ones that the GOP will not allow Obama to effect because he is not one of them. Cocksure Mr. Perry, who governs like Dubya riding a wild mustang and packing a six shooter, will stick to ultra-right wing ideological purity, just to be cussed, if nothing else. The rich will love the increased tax breaks and deregulation under Perry until the middle class is beggared, the economy totally crashes and their big corporations stagnate with no American customers. That's what happens when one player winds up with all the money in the board game Monopoly. It's game over, everyone else is a loser, and even the winner can't make any more money.—M.O.

Obama will not be easily reelected. The people in fly over country who work and own small businesses and those who work for large corporations alike do not like Obama and also see the folly of the last congress that brought our once great country to the brink of ruin.

I have always thought you to be kind and intellectually balanced, but your portrayal of all "tea partiers" which is now a media driven watch word for racism, to be ignorant and foolish is very snob filled Northeast bombast that we in South and Midwest hate about that part of the country. Regardless of your shameless and superiority driven labels, the freshmen republicans were elected to cut spending and stop any increase in taxes. They won a resounding mandate in the last election. They have stuck to it by not voting for the debt ceiling. They are not stupid or uninformed, they just happen to disagree with liberals like yourself who think you know better than everybody, although your policies are ruining our country. Who is uninformed. If we raise the debt limit and raise taxes with no spending cuts, where does it end? I will tell you where it ends, the candidate be it republican or democrat who proposes a balanced budget amendment and a flat tax either on income or value added or a combination thereof. The democrats would never do that, it makes too much sense, so it will be up to the republicans to put up a leader who can make this happen.

I must say, I am very disappointed by the tone of this article, and believe the divide you are promoting will not end well for our country.—C.R.

I hope you are a clairvoyant when you say that Obama should win re-election handily, because another Republican presidency linked to another solid Republican congress will prove disastrous for anyone not in the top 1% of income recipients. These guys are not keeping it a secret what they have in store for us non-billionaires. I mean, consider the Ryan budget which they've already had the audacity to pass by a wide margin. Does it not concern you that the current polls have Obama behind Romney by several percentage points in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Iowa, all states that he absolutely must have to win--each of which he carried by a wide margin in 2008? Moreover, he barely squeaks by extremist Michelle Bachmann in these same states. I would wager that he is already far behind any Republican here in Florida, in spite of the stink that Gov. Rick Scott is causing for the GOP with his Gestapo moves against working folks. Old folks here do not see him as a strong protector of Medicare, still buying the specious Republican narrative which gave them nearly a sweep in the 2010 congressional elections and a complete sweep at the state level, including massive majorities in both houses (veto proof as if necessary with Scott). Now they think he's put Social Security on the cutting block to balance the budget. If that's not his intention or message, he's not getting through, he's having one helluva failure to communicate. I know, as they say in baseball, that it is "still early" in the presidential election season, but the Republicans, especially the tea bagger variety, have played Obama like a fiddle in several key confrontations and, let's face it, the man is looking weak not only to his detractors but also to his base. In fact, if you visit the liberal blogs, they are feeling downright alienated from the guy and many swear never to campaign or vote for him again. I think he has created himself a world of trouble. I don't think he has attracted the "centrists" and independents he was after by repeatedly giving the back of his hand to the liberal faction of his own party and I think he is in real big trouble with regard to this election. I fear he will lose handily, not win handily. So, truly, I hope you can see, smell or feel the future--whatever it is that clairvoyants do.—M.O.

Just wanted to strongly support your conclusions that it will not matter how long we wait to build a nation in Afghanistan. It seems like the various tribes and cultures in Afghanistan are programed to hate and kill each other no matter what we do. You have so much wisdom. Too bad you are not sitting at the left elbow of President Obama! I grew up in Lyndhurst and Rutherford in the 30s and 40s, and my first wife in Jersey City. She died in 1992, and I am now married to a German woman whose family and my family were "connected" in a Prussian town in Silesia in the 1840s and 50s! Some personal events are not predictable.—R.M.

I agree 100% with what you wrote in "It's time to get out of Afghanistan".

Body parts and lives lost for what?

Good article --- Thanks—R.M.

I often don't agree with you, but in this article you were "right on". I believe that our military needs to be a citizen military. Everyone needs to have a vested interest by participating in a draft or UMT. Integration is important in that it keeps the military centered and less likely to create a constitutional crisis in some distant year. Also, we can then thank all of us for our service.—H.P.

Just wanted to drop you a short note to express my agreement with your recent, entitled, "The New American Segregation: The Military". As a Korean War veteran (U. S. Navy, 1954-57) and a staunch supporter of our present military, it pains me to see most of our young people seemingly indifferent to the military. Although they generally seems to appreciate the efforts made by our troops, these young people have no sense of identification with our military's plight. I am the father of two sons and two grandsons and as much as I would hate to see them sent to the Middle East, I feel that required military service would give them a much better sense of commitment to the country. We are indeed moving in the direction of the "warrior class". Thank you again for an excellent article,—C.G.

I am one of those people you see at the airport who greet military personnel with that same line "Thank you for your service." I do not extend this "small courtesy" out of guilt. I greet them out of heartfelt appreciation. My father served. I served and my son recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan. So, yes, I get it. I understand the commitment and personal sacrifice. I understand your point. Understand mine. The next time you see a middle aged woman thanking a military person for their service do not be so quick to cringe. That lady might be me.—S.K.

Amen! I couldn't have said it better myself.

Regards A Veteran,—L.W.

Richard: you nailed it. Yet David Brooks, in his NY Times Op-Ed page piece this week, wrote the country demands too much of its college-age generation adding they deserve better. He was born in 1961. I knew, in college, the draft awaited. I served in Army after graduating. I was fortunate: it was between Korea & Vietnam. Nobody was shooting at us when some of us in an Army PsyWar unit ran special "missions" in SE Asia.—H.L.

We grew up with the obligation and celebration of national service. When we gave up that "duty" and the government authority to conscript-we began the decline in America we are in today. I served in Viet Nam and am proud of that--even now when I see the horrors in MENA and reflect on my earlier beliefs.

Tom Brokaw, who did not serve, named his father's generation "The Greatest Generation". This Depression/WW2 theme drained all the oxygen from the national honors due Korean and VN war heroes. As one VN vet put it, "We play the hand we're dealt."

The swaggering and belligerent, tough talk of political "leaders" (and their media cheerleaders), who misled America into Iraq is a continuing outrage. We have destroyed an entire country and disgraced America to feed the egos of these chickenhawks--hypocrites who managed to avoid military duty when they were called.—R.C.

I never understood the grudge that the modern state of Pakistan holds against former British India. Does it date back to the time of the Moguls, when Islamic warlords ruled all of Hindu India? Do they still think it their birthright to run the whole place? Is it a race-based thing, with the lighter-skinned tall northerners (sometimes considered the mythical "Aryans," whom, by the way, the Iranians also claim to be) feeling compelled to exert their superior force of will against the darker and genetically different southerners? Is it right to assume that there is much less animosity (maybe even harmony) along the Indian/Bangladeshi frontier? My money would be on the outrage surrounding the lost Mogul empire. It's a similar type of outrage (loss of the ancient Persian empire) that drives a lot of Iranian bad behaviour. The arrogance lingers long after the power has been lost. Perhaps a lesson for us to keep in mind as the passing decades change global political and economic realities.—M.O.

I was just remarking to a friend today about how difficult it was proving for Nato sans the United States to contain even a third rate third world military like Qadaffi's. Surely some lesson is contained therein. All the rest of the world combined spends less money on their militaries than we do, and the weak performance of Britain, France and Italy versus Qadaffi's mercenaries from Chad and Niger certainly reflects this. Even Russia spends a pittance on the ability to make war compared with us. Only second place China maintains a robustly growing military establishment. How will this emerging red dragon react to the apparent military impotence of the West? By relaxing and opting for a peace dividend? Or, will they see an opening to pursue the military hegemony they've traditionally accused America of enforcing on a less advantaged world? If China and the rest of the world see the benefits and the historical imperative of standing down, will we follow suit? Or, will the right wing loons who never seem to lose much influence in the American political arena continue to beat the war drums and spend us into bankruptcy on ever more complex and expensive weapons systems (conveniently manufactured by their corporate financiers) even as social programs are shaved to the marrow to make possible even more tax cuts for those cronies? Moreover, since advanced weaponry seems to be the last product line that America produces in quantity and quality, can we afford to start beating our swords into ploughshares without totally busting what remains of the economy? In my opinion, starting with Ronald Reagan, the conservatives have relentlessly pushed us into a corner that seems to provide no escape (certainly none that is popular with the propagandized masses), so where we go from here, I don't know. I don't think anyone really does, but the Republicans are certain to chauffeur us straight to perdition a lot sooner than the better informed and more deliberative Obama. At least he will try to avoid mowing down pedestrians in the roadway, and, who knows, may even make some attempt to use the brakes (and veto crazy GOP legislation). To the Republicans, anyone worth less than a billion bucks is just potential collateral damage...tough luck if you're in their way!—M.O.

I totally agree with you on our brain power being doubled and the good it has done and will do to have women in power positions. Unfortunately, it has come with a heavy price to the American family (divorce, inept child rearing, and the most horrifying and problematic - wives too tired for sex). Everything is a trade-off.

A capitalist monster. It still beats all the other monsters by a long shot. The same people at the top of the heap in our capitalist system would be on top in any system because they are brighter, meaner and overachieving maniacs. In any other system, you, I and everybody else would shake out about where we are in this one.—S.K.

My wife and I remember you from your Esquire column many moons ago, and have always been impressed with your clarity and style. Your column on Obama's 11 choices in Libya is exactly the kind of objective, clear-headed thinking we need more of. Well done, sir.—D.M.

Choice #12 - stay out of Libya and the entire middle east (except to defend Israel) and begin drilling our own oil and gas plus building nuclear power plants. This is what we would have been doing for the past thirty years if logical thinking were allowed to prevail above the din of baby face Liberals.—S.K.

Well said, but its not enough to point fingers at Republicans. Democrats such as Jerry Brown here and Andrew Cuomo in New York are looking at cutting public employee's pay and benefits. And its pretty clear that will happen along with a severe cut in government services and direct aid.

Its also worth mentioning that one of the reasons the rich did fine (I read recently that the average hedge fund manager's compensation in 2010 was a billion dollars and even if that's exaggerated, we know that 2010 paid record bonuses to the employees and partners of the Wall Street investment houses that survived the 2008 meltdown) is because the Obama administration is in bed with them. Obama's selections for positions ranging from Treasury Secretary on down come from the same people who raped the public with the TARP bailout. Also they were heavy contributors to Obama and the Democrats in 2010. I believe a strong case can be made that Obama either (1) failed to grasp the import of what was happening or (2) simply delegated the decision making to people like Emmanuel, Geithner, Bernancke and Summers, and I think that history will judge him very poorly on this point, in contrast to the actions taken by Roosevelt to regulate financial markets in 1933-34.

I don't think many people think through the consequences of reducing the pay of public employees. They make up a substantial part of the consumers of goods and services and as private sector employment dries up, they are the ones who keep the economy from total free fall. But on the other hand its hard to argue that without a significant uptick in the economy generating more tax revenues, maintaining salaries and benefits where they are will lead to inevitable bankruptcy (figuratively not literally) for the states.

There has also been an erosion of the notion that a public office is a public trust and its substitution at the highest level that a public office is a public trough, and at the lower level that the employees protected by a variety of civil service rules and union negotiated protections, are remarkably unresponsive to the public that pays their salaries. Its one thing to complain to the management in the restaurant and stop patronizing the place. Its entirely different kettle of fish, to complain about an employee at the DMV, let alone, to boycott the place.

But we are seeing in fairly fast motion the destruction of the middle class and the social contract that had been in existence since at least the end of WWII. What comes out at the end of that process is not going to be pretty.—D.M.

Hi Mr Reeves, I'm a big fan for years; I've read most of your books too. I'm also one of those returned PC volunteers from way back, 1965. Let me clue you in on something: All of us quickly shed any illusions we might have had about changing the world not long after we got there, but we also knew, almost from the first day, that we ourselves would never be the same. We called it "the cross cultural experience." We were the first Americans to really do it that way, be immersed in the place, the food, the pace, language, the whole thing. Not tourists, not diplomats, not military. That's the way Sarge conceived it, and he was right. He was a hell of a guy, and any Kennedy should consider himself lucky to be related to him.—P.M.

CBS Evening News aired 1-27 segment in which several women Corps volunteers said they had been raped in their duties & the Corps did nothing & made it seem they caused the problem. It wasn't reassuring and the Peace Corps had no comment, or so CBS said.—H.L.

I saw the report. I took it to mean the PC ain't what it used to be. Shriver was big on both public relations and on-site reporting. Journalists were hired by Inspector General Charlie Peters -- later founder of the Washington Monthly -- to report directly to Shriver on local problems. That system seemed to work better than whatever they have now.—R.R.

Thanks for this positive information on JFK. Unfortunately he is remembered more for the Bay of Pigs debacle, but later credited for forcing the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba. I have read or heard some analysts wish Obama had the courage to stand up to the war mongering generals the way Kennedy did. At least JFK made them pretend American troops and pilots were only "advisors" in South Viet Nam's resistance. But as you know we were already deep into it. Our much expanded base in Clark AB, Philippines was a staging ground for the air war as were bases in Thialand and Viet Nam itself. It took Pres Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin "Incident" to give up the pretense. I hope one of your next books gives a history of the contrived events that were catalysts for many of our wars.—R.C.

Thank you Richard for another reminder of what it was like when JFK was in office. Please keep hitting some of these 50 year milestones, including the Berlin speech when the time comes. Too many Americans today are incapable of understanding how loved and admired President Kennedy was.—J.P.

"You have to get close to your enemy, and he or she is going to fight back." The same applies to someone breaking into your home and whether the intruder(s) have a gun or not they very likely can overpower the home owner, so, a home owner with a firearm has, at least, evened the odds no matter how physically weak they may be.

You know all the pro-gun rhetoric so I'll just bore you with one of them: Citizens need to be armed to protect themselves from a rogue administration. The present administration and their Democratic Party allies scare the sh!t out of many Americans. Besides appointing all of the socialist/communist Czars and advisors they can find under rocks and hay stacks, Obama has floated statements concerning a civilian army trained and armed as well as the military - wonder who might comprise that army.

I do agree that high tech weapons in the hands of the general public is a debatable issue, but, the bottom line is if you let a govt. take your gun, you are no longer an adult.

P.S. It would do you good to get out and do some deer and turkey hunting.—S.K.

My comment on your comment. How do you expect gun control to work? Drugs are illegal, yet there are drugs. Driving under the influence is illegal, yet people drive under the influence. Texting while driving is illegal, yet people text while driving. Speeding is illegal, yet people speed. Etc, etc, etc. Gun control will never work. Some people will always have guns. Only law abiding people will be defenseless with gun control. I carry, packing as you say. For one and only one reason. To protect my family and myself. Since you will never get all the guns, I don't want to be sitting there while someone unloads his 30 rounds on a bunch of innocent people who can do nothing to prevent it. He may start shooting, but he won't get 30 rounds off. When there are no guns at all, I would be glad to stop carrying mine. Its heavy and uncomfortable.—C.D.

Thank you for your column 1/11/11 regarding the ignored problem of guns in our society. I grew up in rural Iowa and nearly everyone had a "squirrel" gun and maybe a shotgun for hunting. Policemen and bad guys (at least we thought that) had handguns. They served no purpose for anyone other than law enforcement people as a deterrent.

I spent several hours discussing gun control with a co-worker last night. He is my friend and I find him very intelligent and insightful. I could not understand how he could seriously believe that everyone should be able to buy a handgun and possess it at anytime. No waiting period, no background check, able to walk into a store and buy one as if you are buying a toaster. He's not as experienced as I am so he doesn't have an adult memory of our President nearly falling to a deranged assassin and the crippling wounding of Mr. Brady. How did we get here? It's now socially acceptable to attend a political rally packing your gun if you live in the Southwest?

Please help me understand how we arrived at this point. There must be a path back to sanity. It has been a tough last decade being a liberal in Illinois.—M.M.

Jan. 11 column personal, powerful, pertinent & persuasive. Robert Kennedy, addressing the City Club of Cleveland April 5, 1968, said: "...we make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire." The night before, in perhaps his most moving public utterance ever, he was the first to inform an Indianapolis black audience that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot hours before in Memphis.—H.L.



Latest Column

A Revisionist Take On President Obama

LOS ANGELES — "Democrats Worry Obama Is Helping Their Rivals" was the headline over an article last Friday in the Los Angeles Times. I think that was the one thousandth piece I have read in the last couple of months saying that the president has low approval ratings and will hurt Democratic candidates in November's Senate and House elections.


Column Archive

Cuba: Let's Get Over It

LOS ANGELES — "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these are, 'It might have been.'" So said John Greenleaf Whittier more than a hundred years ago.

Say It Ain't So, Joe!

LOS ANGELES — I could be mad at Vice President Joe Biden, who has been here for two days and tied up traffic for miles at a time. But it's hard. He's just too nice a guy, even if he talks too much — and worse, these days, tells the truth.

Learning From History

It is something of a cliche to quote George Santayana one more time, saying, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But for folks of my age, ignorant repetition has been a constant in our lives. And, of course, it is happening again right now.

Labor Day — You Remember 'Labor,' Don't You?

WASHINGTON — I woke up last Thursday morning to learn that my FedEx man does not work for FedEx. Voices on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" informed me that although FedEx controls just about every minute of its drivers' days, the corporation regards them as "independent contractors." Thus, no benefits — they even have to pay for their own uniforms — and the workers can be kicked out anytime FedEx feels like it.

Is Obama Too Thoughtful To Be President?

LOS ANGELES — Welcome to Presidency 101. What would you do if you were "the most powerful person in the world" and:

None Dare Call It Treason

WASHINGTON — Hooray! Hooray! The wicked Congress has gone home. So to speak, since most of the members actually live right here in the capital city and environs.

The Rising Tide: Will All Boats Be Lifted?

LOS ANGELES — We have lived for decades, even centuries, with the economic faith that a rising tide lifts all boats. But what if it doesn't? What happens then, economically and politically?

The Children Of The Border

LOS ANGELES — Last Monday, a chartered flight took 38 mothers and children, who had been held in a detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, to San Pedro Sula in Honduras. That's a tough town of drug dealers, violence and children soldiers, sometimes called "The Murder Capital of the World."

Catching Up With Big Data

LOS ANGELES — This is a column about "Big Data" and a new way to predict the results of presidential elections for the next 20 years.

Will The New York Times Take Us To War Again?

CHICAGO — I have never been much of a fan of the journalistic self-examination practiced by folks identified as "ombudsman" or "public editor." I changed my mind last Sunday, and I'll get to that in a minute.

American Is Being More Polarized — Again

LOS ANGELES — The most fascinating of the many theories about the fall of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary earlier this month has to do with the redistricting after the 2010 Census. He was supposed to be helped by having very politically conservative New Kent County added to the 7th Congressional District in place of more liberal precincts in the Richmond area. But the voters of New Kent, a 75 percent Republican stronghold, voted against Cantor by almost 2-to-1.

What Can We Do In Iraq? Nothing!

LOS ANGELES — Taking a couple of shots at President Obama over the latest round of war in Iraq, House Speaker John Boehner said last week: "This has been building for weeks."

Welcome Home, Sergeant

LOS ANGELES — If today's Republican Party had been around during the Civil War, it would have tried to stop its own president, a fellow named Lincoln, from appointing Gen. Ulysses S. Grant commander of the Union Army because he drank on duty — quite a lot, apparently. And if the president was a Democrat, say Thomas Jefferson, the Republicans would be calling for hearings to find out the "real" reason he was sending Lewis and Clark into the wilderness to learn what was out there between the Mississippi and the Pacific.

Preserve Us From Old Fools On Horseback

LOS ANGELES — "This is the beginning of taking America back," said Shawna Cox, who had come from Kanab, Utah, one of hundreds of "patriots" supporting Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who has refused to pay a million dollars in grazing fees to the Federal Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 85 percent of the dusty land of that state. That makes him a hero to folks like Cox, who have traveled hundreds and thousands of miles, toting their guns, to drive off U.S. Park Rangers trying to drive his cattle off federal land.

Why We Need Local Reporting

LOS ANGELES — Last Thursday was an interesting news day around here — and one that highlighted the importance of local reporting as newspapers fade away across the country.

Voting Laws: The Last Stand Of The Old And The White

NEW YORK — When the Constitution of the first modern democracy, the United States of America, was written, only about 10 percent of the population of the 13 states was granted the right to vote: white men who owned property.

War As A Spectator Sport

LOS ANGELES — Sad to say, the most telling commentary on world affairs these days seems to come from comedians. The latest is Jimmy Fallon, the new "Tonight Show" host, who responded to Secretary of State John Kerry's reaction to the news that Russian soldiers were moving into Crimea:

Deep In The Dark Heart Of Texas

DALLAS — Greg Abbott, a former judge and three-term attorney general of the great state of Texas, is expected to be the state's next governor. His official biography puts him on the side of God, the American way and children of all ages:

Presidents Are People, Too

DALLAS — A few months ago, I agreed to talk at a program at the Sixth Floor Museum here, the building once called the Texas School Book Depository, the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald waited, on the sixth floor, with a rifle for the motorcade that carried President John F. Kennedy to Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963.

One Nation, Indivisible

LOS ANGELES — Immigration is something like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but not many people really want to do anything about it.

A Little Giant Retires

LOS ANGELES — I took my J448 students — that's "Government and Public Affairs Reporting" at the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern California — to a local Democratic club last Sunday. I wanted them to see and meet the new mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, and one of the most effective elected officials of his generation, Congressman Henry Waxman.

Are We A Nation Of Cheaters And Liars?

LOS ANGELES — I was surprised to see two long stories in last Thursday's New York Times about the same subject: cheating.

Loving New Jersey

LOS ANGELES — I grew up in Jersey — Jersey City. I don't remember being west of the Delaware River until I was in college. I thought the United States was an Italian country governed by the Irish.

The Tea Party: Remember George Wallace

LOS ANGELES — It is refreshing for me to find myself in agreement with "mainstream" Republicans, beginning with House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan. I think.

Happy New Year, Mr. President

LOS ANGELES — There was a cigarette commercial in the early 1960s that went, "I'm smoking more and enjoying it less." The president at the time, John F. Kennedy, going through a rough patch, was asked how he felt about one negative story after another in the nation's press. "Well," he said, "I'm reading more and enjoying it less."

The Drone Next Door

LOS ANGELES — The news of the day Friday included a dispatch from Saudi Arabia reporting that 11 people were killed by drone-fired missiles in a remote corner of Yemen. The story added that five days before, three men were killed in a drone attack in another part of the country.

Should We Get Older? Why?

The International Herald Tribune is gone after more than 125 years as the American paper in France and then all over the world. Two months ago, it was renamed The International New York Times. That's a bit sad for someone like me who began at the New York Herald Tribune before it folded in 1966. Luckily, I was picked up by The Times, so my loyalties are split.

The Legend Will Never Die

NEW YORK — Twenty-five years ago, I asked Charles Bartlett, a syndicated columnist, about his old and close friend John F. Kennedy. I have seen his answer published and broadcast dozens of times these past weeks as the nation marks the anniversary of the assassination of our 35th president.

The Kennedy Myth? The Kennedy Legacy?

NEW YORK — It was the usual suspects taping the Charlie Rose show last Monday: a quartet of writers who had written books about the life or the presidency of John F. Kennedy — Robert Dallek, Michael Beschloss, Jeff Greenfield and me, along with Jill Abramson, the editor of The New York Times.