In light of the smear offensives unleashed at a number of potential Republican presidential candidates (Palin, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and now Gingrich) our beleagured GOP candidates can perhaps take solace in the knowledge that the similar intellectually-vacuous, but emotionally-charged, accusations were made against Reagan in his first race for governor.
As related in an earlier post, Reagan had called on President Johnson to present the facts on Vietnam and ask for a congressional declaration of war, or else get out—but in either case, end the half-#$@ policy he had been pursuing up to that point. Why, you might ask, would a question of foreign policy have entered into the California gubernatorial debate? It seems that in large part, Reagan’s statement on Vietnam arose out of frustration with Governor Brown’s failure to effectively address anti-war protestors on California college campuses. (Now it must be noted that there are those who maintain that anti-war protests in California did not really turn radical until after Reagan took over as governor. I have previously addressed some of these arguments here.) Reagan argued that if the President would exhibit the courage to ask for a declaration of war, then at least all the protestors and draft-dodgers could be prosecuted as traitors. This raised the hackles of then-Lieutenant Governor Glenn Anderson.
American presidents lead this nation into war only to defend the safety of the American people…This is a most appalling idea. The last fellow who proposed war abroad as a means of suppressing dissent at home was an ex-house painter named Hitler.
Of course, everyone recognizes in retrospect what Anderson should have known (and I suspect did) at the time: President Johnson was already committing drafted U.S. soldiers to a military operation overseas in which people were shooting at them and they were shooting back. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “I may not be a smart man, but I know what a war is.” If Lt. Gov. Anderson truly felt that “presidents lead this nation into war only to defend the safety of the American people,” then why wasn’t he raising cain with Johnson over an unnecessary war? If Anderson agreed with Johnson, however, that the war was necessary to protect American interests, why did he not join with Reagan in calling for an official declaration of that war?
It was just an earlier version of the same sort of contorted faux-logic we saw decades later, when the same people who cursed Reagan and George H. W. Bush for Grenada and Kuwait, suddenly discovered the redemptive virtues of military intervention when undertaken by the Clinton regime in Kosovo. Of course, military assaults on countries that did not directly threaten the United States again became evil when pursued by George W. Bush, but fortunately the cosmos reversed itself and that which was evil from 2000 through late 2008 became a moral imperative just in time for Barack Hussein Obama to become our 44th president and get involved in an undeclared war in north Africa.
Anyway, you get the point. I hope our candidates do…and I hope they exhibit the courage not to care what the elite cocktail circuit has to say about them.