First, our proverbial hats off to Rep. Jim Ramstad for trouncing us, as anticipated, in yesterday's primary, with 90% of the vote. Jim is a gentleman, and we like gentle people almost as much as we like our gentle dogs.
Second, our thanks to the splendid minority -- the prescient ten percent who voted for us, people who can say "I told you so" to the other 90% whenever something goes wrong.
Third, we're having a fire sale of our unused campaign memorabilia, including our virtual campaign buttons, virtual bumper stickers, virtual billboards, and our virtual blimp, which was last seen floating over the ruins of ancient Edina, where the 2008 Republican Convention will be held. These collectibles can only go up in value.
Fourth, we're going to allow this site to remain as is for awhile and will use the campaign journal to continue posting our opinions, observations, etc., on the President and the other usual suspects. At the end of the election season we will allow the site to magically morph into a personal political blog. Also, we soon will be reviving BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else, the law-related weblog we launched in 2000, a blawg that has been on hiatus for a year but still has a following, and we will be starting a new blog, the name and contents of which we'll keep under wraps until it's launched.
Vote for the Curmudgeon! An entry by "David" in the MNPolitics.Com blog dated 09.07.2004 amusingly calls me The Challenging Curmudgeon:
Burton Hanson looks like a curmudgeon. From his writing he seems a bit crusty and if he's ill-tempered, well, it probably stems from the fact that as a self-described Eisenhower Republican, he's more than a bit unhappy about the current constitution of his party (or, perhaps, the fact that he's running against Jim Ramstad). Finally, the very fact that he calls himself an Eisenhower Republican might just betray his age.
The author also calls me "the most prolific Minnesota political commentator no one had ever heard of" (before reporter Anthony Lonetree wrote his fine piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, published also on 09.07) and calls my campaign blog or journal (which you're reading this very instant) "an entertainingly erudite commentary on the political landscape," adding:
The blog is well written and informed and he pulls citations out of left field to buttress his points. Example: In one post he cites 19th century British novelist Anthony Trollope's description of politicians to make the point that some things never change....If you want to hear the type of honesty and sincerity that everyone says they want from their politicians but no pol with half a shot at winning would dare to practice, you really ought to spend a few minutes at BurtonHanson.Com.
I don't mind people making fun of the naturally-gloomy set of my Scandinavian face or of the degree of benignity of my Minnesota temperament or of the shocking details of my superannuated 61-year-old state and I don't mind people attacking my Eisenhowerian ideas, but when they attack my little dog Fala (a/k/a Jane), then I....
Here's one of my early postings in my law-related weblog, BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else, in the days immediately following the coordinated attacks on 09.11.2001:
A poem. "Give balm to giants,/ And they値l wilt, like men./ Give Himalaya, --/ They値l carry him!" from "I Can Wade Grief," a poem for now by Emily Dickinson. (Note: in the original, Dickinson used the word "Himmaleh." I have taken the liberty of changing that to "Himalaya" for clarity's sake. Dickinson's spelling was common in the 1800's. See, e.g., Emerson's reference to "Himmaleh mountain-chains" in his 1844 essay Nature.)
I can wade grief
I can wade grief,
Whole pools of it, --
I知 used to that.
But the least push of joy
Breaks up my feet,
And I tip -- drunken.
Let no pebble smile,
探 was the new liquor, --
That was all!
Power is only pain,
Stranded, through discipline,
Till weights will hang.
Give balm to giants,
And they値l wilt, like men.
Give Himalaya, --
They値l carry him!
Endless war? It appears that whether we re-elect the President or elect Senator Kerry, we may be facing a virtually endless military presence in Iraq. My opponent, who voted for the war and whose enthusiasm for it continues, was quoted in a suburban newspaper on 08.24 as saying that he had no idea how long U.S. troops would remain in Iraq -- some will remain for a "long time," he opined. Senator Kerry was quoted a few days ago as saying he will have substantially reduced the number of troops in Iraq by the end of his term, which is another way of saying he won't bring the troops home soon. Senator McCain, in an interview on CNN the other day, said our troops will be there for "a long time," adding "Not so bad -- ten years, twenty years. We've been in Korea for 50 years. We've been in West Germany for 50 years. We've been in Bosnia for what...nine or ten years."
In 1967 the poet Robert Lowell, whom I met in the winter of 1966-1967, read his great poem, "After Waking Sunday Morning," at an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. The final stanza reads:
Pity the planet, all joy gone
from this sweet volcanic cone;
peace to our children when they fall
in small war on the heels of small
war -- until the end of time
to police the earth, a ghost
orbiting forever lost
in our monotonous sublime.
Just a year earlier, in 1966, a wise old conservative-minded Republican from Vermont, Senator George Aiken, suggested that we ought to "Declare victory" in Viet Nam and bring the boys home. It took nine more years, until 1975, before our leaders in effect took Aiken's advice and pulled out, not having accomplished a thing in the interim between 1966 and 1975. In all, over 58,000 Americans lost their lives in the quagmire in Viet Nam. If we had taken Senator Aiken's counsel in 1966, and Robert Lowell's in 1967 and Eugene McCarthy's in 1968, many, many thousands of those soldiers would not have died -- would still be with their wives and children and grandchildren, and with us.
The President's unjustified and unwise war and his poor planning for peace have gotten us involved in another quagmire. This week the death toll for American troops there passed the 1,000 mark. In "four years" -- or "ten or twenty years" -- how many more will have died? As eventually happened with respect to Viet Nam, more than likely we'll eventually wind up "declaring victory" and getting out of Iraq without having accomplished anything more in the interim. Not only will we have not reduced the risk of further terrorist attacks within our country, we will have increased the risk.
Since this district is a "safe" Republican district -- Mr. Ramstad received 72% of the vote in the last general election -- I urge Democrats, Independents and independent-minded Republicans to make your vote count by participating as Republicans in the September 14th primary. If you support the invasion of Iraq, as my opponent did and continues to do, vote for him; if you wish to avail yourself of the opportunity to protest the invasion, as well as other policies of the President that Mr. Ramstad has loyally supported, vote for me. I'll sleep well on the night of 09.14 regardless of how you vote. I've met my obligation to my conscience and to the public and to my descendants by filing and giving the voters a clear choice. You should follow your conscience in voting. If you do, then you'll sleep well, too, regardless of the outcome.
Anthony Lonetree, the reporter, wrote a fine and fair piece (click here) on the primary contest between Rep. Ramstad and me in the Tuesday, 09.07.2004 issue of the Star-Tribune, a paper I was lucky to deliver to apartments and businesses on the downtown Benson route for a number of years, starting the summer after fifth grade -- the Star in the afternoon Monday through Saturday and the Tribune on Sunday morning. Trofast (Norwegian for "steadfast"), the town dog, a stray that everyone loved for his independence and character, would be lying asleep next to my big, heavy stack of Tribunes when I picked them up early Sunday morning in the semi-sheltered entryway just to the east of Pederson Variety and just west of the marquee at the DeMarce Theater. "If dogs have a Heaven,/ There's one thing I know/ Old [Trofast] has a wonderful home."
The "Style Section" of yesterday's New York Times contained a piece titled Deploying Children as Weapons of Mass Affection by Shaila K. Dewan, a piece prompted by the Bush campaign's use of the President's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, at the Republican convention. The piece stated in part:
Politics is now increasingly personal -- especially presidential politics -- and voters accept a child, more than any other surrogate, as a facet of a candidate's personality. In a culture obsessed with the inside story, a candidate's wife and children are the ultimate insiders. "It's part of our Freudian obsession," said Gil Troy, a McGill University professor who has written about American presidential families. "We want the kids as a window into who is the true George Bush, who is the true John Kerry." * * * Children soften a candidate's image (war presidents make sandwiches, brainy senators make pancakes). But in the image-heavy game of politics today, they play another crucial role, that of celebrities.
If it's arguably shameful the way candidates "use" their children to get votes, it is arguably equally shameful for a candidate to use cute puppies to suggest to voters, not too subtly, that he's an okay guy. I wouldn't think of it. However, I think you'll agree that an exception should be made if the dogs insist on supporting one's candidacy in some way. The dogs in my life fall under that limited exception. See, my mini-essay titled Politics and Dogs.
a) I hope by my campaign to convey to my kids that it's not a big deal to run for office and not a big deal to lose, but that it is a big deal if good people of good faith don't run and as a result the voters don't have a choice. If the voters aren't given a choice, both within the party and without, then our elections are no better than those in countries in which typically only one candidate runs for each position.
b) I hope that at the end of my brief campaign I can say accurately, whatever the outcome, that I've honestly expressed my views in a fair and reasonable way, without regard to how they will "play" with the electorate, so that fifty years from now some descendant of mine, scouring through the family archives in search of family history, will be able to say to herself, "He wasn't one to sell his soul in hopes of getting elected."
Yesterday Karl Rove, the President's main and craftiest political adviser, admitted to an interviewer on CNN that, as we already knew, the Republican convention, like the Democrat convention, is not only choreographed but that the remarks of the various speakers appearing in prime-time are screened. There is something very odious and almost un-American about that, I think. It partly explains why as a lawyer I've never been the "bar association type" and as a Republican I'm not the "party type." Two years ago our current governor got a call from Dick Cheney asking him to drop out of the race for the party's endorsement to run against Senator Paul Wellstone and to run instead for governor; he complied, assuring another Cheney yes-man, Norm Coleman, of the endorsement. Unlike our governor, if I got a call from Dick Cheney asking me to drop out of the race, I'd tell him to butt out. But loyalty like that shown by the governor and by Mr. Coleman is usually rewarded. Yesterday I heard some local talking mouth declare that rumors are afloat that the governor might be considered for a cabinet position in the next Bush term or might even make it onto the national ticket four years from now. And Norm? -- he's already been rewarded: he got to act as chair of some of the morning sessions at the convention. So it goes. In any event, I'm not the type to put party above my own independence and I wouldn't go to the convention (or to a Roman circus, for that matter) if I got free round-trip air fare and free lodging and the best seats in the arena; nor would I ever let anyone write a speech for me or tell me what I should or may or may not say. Thomas Jefferson said it all better than I can:
I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to Heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.
The spectacle of grown men and women willingly submitting to this kind of follow-the-leader discipline in order to advance themselves or protect their current spot in the pecking order would be funny if the consequences occasionally weren't so devastating. It's because of this blind follow-the-leader mentality that a majority of the members of congress gave the President the requested blank-check authorization to invade Iraq on the flimsiest of evidence, evidence a novice judge or other neutral party would have concluded was not even close to being sufficient to justify a pre-emptive invasion and occupation.
Coincident with watching the Republican convention on channel 17 last night, I finished reading the autobiography of Anthony Trollope, the great 19th century British novelist, many of whose many novels contained politicians as characters. I was amused by his dead-on description of ordinary "political characters." What he wrote then, in 1878 (the autobiography was published posthumously in 1883), still rings true of ordinary American "political characters" today:
The strong-minded, thick-skinned, useful, ordinary member, either of the Government or of the Opposition, had been very easy to describe, and had required no imagination to conceive. The character reproduces itself from generation to generation; and as it does so, becomes shorn in a wonderful way of those little touches of humanity which would be destructive of its purposes. Now and again there comes a burst of human nature, as in the quarrel between Burke and Fox; but, as a rule, the men submit themselves to be shaped and fashioned, and to be formed into tools, which are used either for building up or pulling down, and can generally bear to be changed from this box into the other, without, at any rate, the appearance of much personal suffering. Four-and-twenty gentlemen will amalgamate themselves into one whole, and work for one purpose, having each of them to set aside his own idiosyncrasy, and to endure the close personal contact of men who must often be personally disagreeable, having been thoroughly taught that in no other way can they serve either their country or their own ambition. These are the men who are publicly useful, and whom the necessities of the age supply,預s to whom I have never ceased to wonder that stones of such strong calibre should be so quickly worn down to the shape and smoothness of rounded pebbles.
I grew up in the old 7th District, which was where the "prairie fire" of populism & progressivism & the Farm-Labor movement was kindled. I've always been attracted to the mavericks and the dissenters, lone eagles like Charles Lindbergh himself & his father, the progressive congressman, Rev. O.J. Kvale (minister of my family's church, who defeated incumbent Andrew Volstead, author of the Prohibition Law, a/k/a the "Volstead Act"), Floyd B. Olson, and others that came after them. I suppose I see some of that independent streak in Senator John McCain, whom I applaud for urging the President to disown the dirty campaign attacks on Senator Kerry.
But I'm sorry to say I was irked by McCain's speech to the convention, especially with his broad statement that "Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war." He very cleverly blended the "war on terror" & the "war in Afghanistan" & the "invasion & occupation of Iraq" into one big "this war" & said those who doubt the necessity of "it" are "most deluded." I guess that includes Pat Buchanan, of whom I'm not particularly fond but who says of the Iraq war in his new book, Where the Right Went Wrong:
We invaded a country that did not threaten us, did not attack us, and did not want war with us, to disarm it of weapons we have since discovered it did not have. We may have ignited a war of civilizations it was in our vital interest to avoid. Never has America been more resented and reviled in an Islamic world of a billion people.
In short, I don't think it's deluded to think the invasion/occupation of Iraq has made things worse, not better, and I'm irked at McCain for saying it.
Gary Keillor basically has it right -- the Republican party, in Minnesota & nationally, was a lot mellower & more civil back in the 1950's when Ike was President (more and more). The Ike wing & the Taft wing disagreed but got along. Nelson Rockefeller talked about reclaiming the party in 1964, when he was shouted down by the Goldwaterites at the convention. But he failed. Once the religious right joined the Goldwaterites, it's not been a party I'm particularly proud of. Even Barry Goldwater, who was a good man, eventually disavowed the religious right -- and was basically disavowed by it, over his support of abortion rights (more). The party's extremist platform this time around makes me even less proud of the party. The platform headings all sound so good, but, as they say, the devil is in the details.
I have just added material on a proposal for auto insurance reform. If enacted, the proposal will save each person who now has auto insurance a significant sum of money. Click here.
* * *
"Who is Rev. Theodore Parker?" you may ask, referring to the man I quoted in some detail in my essay on marriage and the law, which I posted yesterday (click here). He was a contemporary of Emerson, a fellow Transcendentalist, who was theologian, independent public intellectual, and advocate of women's rights and abolition of slavery. He died young, in 1860 at age 50. Here's what Emerson wrote of him after his death:
Theodore Parker was our Savonarola, an excellent scholar, in frank and affectionate communication with the best minds of his day, yet the tribune of the people, and the stout Reformer to urge and defend every cause of humanity with and for the humblest of mankind. He was no artist. Highly refined persons might easily miss in him the element of beauty. What he said was mere fact, almost offended you, so bald and detached; little cared he. He stood altogether for practical truth, and so to the last. He used every day and hour of his short life, and his character appeared in the last moments with the same firm control as in the midday of strength. I habitually apply to him the words of French philosopher who speaks of "The man of Nature who abominates the steam engine and the factory. His vast lungs breathe independence with the air of the mountains and the woods."
Although it likely won't win me any votes and may lose me the few votes I otherwise might have garnered, I am today posting a detailed explanation of my thoughts on the divisive issue of allowing same-sex marriage (click here). Everyone has his own set of priorities, personal and political. For me, the most important issue in this campaign is the issue of the war in Iraq, which I opposed from the start and from which I believe we need to extricate ourselves now rather than later. See War in Iraq and War on Terror. While that ill-advised war is costing us the lives of more and more of our soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars, it seems to me we ought to be talking of little else than how to end it on our own terms and bring home the brave troops. Despite my priorities and despite the fact I might be tempted by the thought of saying as little as possible about certain other issues, e.g., the issue of allowing same-sex marriage, I believe I owe it to those who attach so much significance to these other matters to address them -- to tell you what I think and tell it straight (pardon the pun).
I try to be accurate when I characterize my opponent's position on his vote for and continued support of President Bush's decision to pre-emptively invade Iraq in order to protect us from the grave threat Iraq ostensibly posed to our national security, a decision the conservative commentator, Pat Buchanana has called "the greatest strategic blunder in 40 years." I have said, believing I was being accurate, that my opponent "continues to defend the vote in the face of overwhelming evidence it was a mistake." It turns out I have not been overestimating his continued support but perhaps underestimating it. In a puff piece published yesterday by an obviously friendly "news" group, ECM Publishers of Coon Rapids, a piece that conveniently doesn't even bother to mention that Mr. Ramstad has opposition in the primary on 09.14 (so much for the pretense of journalistic accuracy and objectivity), Mr. Ramstad is quoted as saying he has no second doubts about the invasion:
"How can you say it's a mistake to liberate 25 million people who were brutalized by the ruthless dictator Saddam Hussein," said Ramstad. He's confident, said Ramstad, Iraq will be secured by January for a free election. Although saying he had no idea how long U.S. troops would remain in Iraq -- some will remain for a "long time," he opined -- hopefully after the election they'll be able to begin a withdrawal, he said.
Ramstad is optimistic, he said, in the end a democracy will be established in Iraq.
In short, he remains gung-ho about the invasion -- the purpose of which, we now learn, was to "liberate" the Iraqi people. Hmm, I didn't think the purpose was to liberate the Iraqi people (at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of nearly a thousand soldiers thus far); I thought the purpose was to defend our country's security. But wait -- the piece seemingly indicates that he still sticks to the theory that our security was at risk: "While the pre-invasion intelligence on Iraq was 'very poor,' Ramstad defends the policy of preemptive war as justified when the nation's security is at risk."
In any event, I am pleased I did not misrepresent his continued enthusiasm for the invasion, although I'm sorry he remains such a cockeyed optimist. As I've made clear, I'm not optimistic. I was against invading Iraq when the subject was first broached back in 2001, I've been clear in my opposition to it ever since, and I'm not optimistic, considering that our soldiers, without doubt the best in the world, are still getting killed in large numbers.
As I've said before, around 1966, when we were increasingly getting mired down in that other native Texan's war in Viet Nam, a wise old conservative-minded Republican from Vermont, Senator George Aiken, suggested that we ought to "Declare victory" and bring the boys home. It took nine more years, until 1975, before our leaders in effect took Aiken's advice and pulled out, not having accomplished a thing in the interim between 1966 and 1975. In all, over 58,000 Americans lost their lives in the quagmire in Viet Nam. If we had taken Senator Aiken's counsel in 1966, and Eugene McCarthy's in 1968, many, many thousands of those soldiers would not have died -- would still be with their wives and children and grandchildren, and with us.
Our current President's unjustified and unwise war and his poor planning for peace have gotten us involved in another quagmire. We're now fast approaching the mark of 1,000 dead Americans. According to the puff piece, Mr. Ramstad says that he has no idea how long U.S. troops will remain in Iraq but that some will remain for a "long time." In my opinion, if we keep on fighting, who knows when it will end and how many more young men and women will be killed and at what cost to our country's economy and our reputation -- and, more than likely, we'll eventually wind up "declaring victory" and getting out without having accomplished anything more in the interim. Not only will we have not reduced the risk of further terrorist attacks within our country, we will have increased the risk.
In summary, thanks to Mr. Ramstad's clarification that he continues to enthusiastically support the war, what I've said before is true: the primary election on 09.14 provides the voters with a clear, stark choice, one candidate who supported the war by his vote and continues to play follow the leader, the other who has opposed the war from the start and will be a liberal-minded, progressive, pragmatic, independent-thinking representative who will not be afraid to stand up to the President, if need be, whether his name is Bush or Kerry.
Since this is a "safe" Republican district -- according to the puff piece, Mr. Ramstad received 72% of the vote in the last general election -- I urge Democrats, Independents and independent-minded Republicans to make your vote count by participating as Republicans in the September 14th primary in what is a "safe district" for Republicans. If you support the invasion of Iraq, as my opponent did and continues to do, vote for him; if you wish to avail yourself of the opportunity to protest the invasion, as well as other policies of the President that Mr. Ramstad has loyally supported, vote for me. I'll sleep well on the night of 09.14 regardless of how you vote. I've met my obligation to my conscience and to the public by filing and giving the voters a clear choice. You should follow your conscience in voting. If you do, then you'll sleep well, too, regardless of the outcome.
a) David D. Kirkpatrick's news report of conservative commentator Pat Buchanan's new book, Where the Right Went Wrong, quotes Buchanan as calling the invasion of Iraq "the greatest strategic blunder in 40 years." Hmm, I've referred to it as "the biggest political mistake of the last 25 years." As the old expression goes, "Close enough for government." Other quotes from the book: i) "If prudence is the mark of a conservative, Mr. Bush has ceased to be a conservative." ii) Mr. Bush's foreign policy is "a Wilsonian foreign policy that means war ad infinitum." Kirkpatrick continues:
[Buchanan] notes that American conservatives have traditionally opposed foreign interventions, and that Mr. Bush campaigned against "nation building." But after Sept. 11, he argues, Mr. Bush embraced the views of a group of neoconservative thinkers who Mr. Buchanan contends had been looking to justify a march on Baghdad. He aims some of his fiercest attacks at Mr. Bush's frequent statement that perceptions of weakness, not the use of force, invite terrorist attacks. Mr. Buchanan contends that containment has often proven an effective strategy, while intervention sows the seeds of terrorism. Noting that he criticized the first President Bush for the first gulf war, Mr. Buchanan quotes himself campaigning as the Reform Party candidate in 2000. "How can all our meddling not fail to spark some horrible retribution?" he said then. "Have we not suffered enough - from Pan Am 103 to the World Trade Center [bombing of 1993] to the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam - not to know that interventionism is the incubator of terrorism? Or will it take some cataclysmic atrocity on U.S. soil to awaken our global gamesmen to the going price of empire?"
b) Kerry: Slo-Mo on Swifties, by Maureen Dowd (Op-Ed piece):
[T]he Bush crew is shamelessly doing to Mr. Kerry what it once did to Mr. McCain: suggesting that the decorated Vietnam vet has snakes in his head and a temperament problem. "Senator Kerry appears to have lost his cool," Scott McClellan told reporters in Crawford on Friday. And the Bush campaign chairman, Marc Racicot, said on CNN that Mr. Kerry looked "wild-eyed" responding to Swift boat muck. It makes sense for W. to use surrogates to do his fighting, just as he did when he slid out of Vietnam and just as he did when he sent our troops to fight his administration's misbegotten vanity war in Iraq.
You may ask why a Republican, as I am, links to such a piece. I do so because i) I think the Bush campaign's refusal to disavow the attack ad by the so-called Swift Boat Veterans is disgraceful and ii) fair play, which is the soul of the law, my profession, ought also to be the soul of politics. In other words, I want the other side to play fair and I want my side to play fair.
Today I received a letter from a political interest group asking me to sign a formal pledge that, if elected, I would support an amendment to the U. S. Constitution confining "marriage or its legal equivalent" to "the union of one man and one woman." It stated that Governor Pawlenty and many of our state legislators had signed the pledge. I don't agree with the proposed constitutional amendment, for reasons that I will be stating in a later entry. But even if I agreed with it, I wouldn't sign the pledge. I spoke of my aversion to pledges in my law-related weblog on 11.07.2001, less than two months after the events of 09.11:
Why won't you sign the pledge? Someone in the U.K., it's not clear who, has drafted a pledge committing signers to religious tolerance of Muslims as part of Islamic Awareness Week. Prime Minister Tony Blair and others in his party have signed the pledge. The Conservatives announced they were not going to sign declarations signed by other organizations. Instead, their leader issued a statement in his own words. His spokesperson said, "It is better for us to express our views in our own terms, rather than sign up to other people's messages." (This Is London). I've always felt there is something odious and coercive about pledge drives, whether conducted by churches to raise funds or by political and social organizations for other purposes. Call me a misanthrope, but if you come to my door with a petition, I'll come up with a polite (or, if need be, impolite) way of declining to sign it. The last petition I ever signed was one I drafted and circulated in eighth grade. It was a petition to the city council urging the city to establish a "teen center." It was easy getting people to sign it. And circulating it provided me, a shy guy when it came to directly approaching girls for certain purposes, with a legitimate shyness-neutralizing cover to talk to some of the more attractive junior high girls. Curiously, I never presented the petition to the council. At some point I decided there were flaws in my idea. Or was it that I didn't want to give up my precious collection of signatures, some by the coolest chicks in school. :-) On occasion since then, I've pondered whether in some way it was unethical of me to unilaterally decide not to go forward after soliciting and obtaining signatures of support on the understanding that I would go forward. It's not necessarily an ethical question with an easy answer. What has concerned me more, though, is that somewhere along the line I misplaced (or maybe even discarded) the old petition. It is one of the tokens or artifacts of the past I wish I had. (11.06.2001) Update: Archbishop of Canterbury & Chief Rabbi refuse to sign pledge (Id) (11.07.2001).
Reuters reports that one of my opponent's Republican colleagues in Congress, Rep. Doug Bereuter of Nebraska, who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, has sent a letter to his constituents saying the invasion was a mistake. "The cost in casualties is already large and growing, and the immediate and long-term financial costs are incredible. Our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened." More. My opponent, Mr. Ramstad, although contemporaneously acknowledging misgivings about the adequacy of the evidence justifying invasion, nonetheless voted in favor of the resolution authorizing force. As I've said before, that is what is known as "having it both ways." It isn't exactly an act of political courage for Rep. Bereuter to admit his mistake, since he is not running for re-election. Nor do I believe it would be an act of courage for Mr. Ramstad to admit his mistake. He would merely be doing the right thing. He had his chance to be courageous by voting his misgivings -- that is, by voting against the war resolution. I publicly made it clear at the time that I would vote against the resolution. By one's vote on such an extremely important matter, one should be judged, particularly if one continues to defend the vote in the face of overwhelming evidence it was a mistake.
Yesterday's Science Tuesday section of The New York Times includes an excellent piece by Jane Brody titled Keeping Guns Out of Children's Hands. Too often the parties to the debate over gun control seem to assume that the options are for Congress and/or the state legislatures either to enact more legislation or to not enact any more legislation -- period. Brody speaks of a form of gun control all responsible people, regardless of political philosophy, should be able to agree upon, the kind that begins at home. She states, in part:
More than three-fourths of unintentional firearm injuries to children occur in private dwellings. In most cases, that means children got their hands on a loaded gun in their own home or the home of a friend or relative. And that means guns in people's homes are not properly stored - separate from their ammunition, with locked triggers, in locked cabinets unusable by children.
She reports, shockingly, that a survey of participants in a gun-lock training program taken before the training commenced showed that "participants' children were more likely to store their weapons unlocked and loaded than were participants without children."
A reservist signs up for one year, serves in Iraq, then finds "one year" doesn't mean a thing to his government, which issues a so-called "stop-loss" order requiring him "to return to Iraq for up to two years, and possible continued military service beyond that time." Today's Law.Com, in a story by Jeff Chorney from The Recorder titled Challenge to Be Filed to Military's 'Stop-Loss' Orders, states that "Civil rights attorneys plan to open another front against the war in Iraq today with a federal lawsuit targeting Pentagon orders forcing military reservists to remain on active duty."
Justice Brandeis in his oft-quoted dissent in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 485 (1928), wrote:
Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
The same contract law that applies to ordinary people ought to apply to the government when it enters into contracts with ordinary people, especially those who have given a good part of their lives to serve voluntarily in our country's all-volunteer military.
As I explain elsewhere, I think one of President Nixon's greatest acts was his decision ending the military draft and replacing it with an all-volunteer service. Bearing in mind not incidentally that a reinstated draft necessarily will include not just young men but also young women, I am unalterably opposed to reinstating it. Our military today is the most professional, best-trained, most highly-motivated, bravest military in our country's history. The problem is not with our military but with our civilian leaders. They are the ones behind the unfair "stop-loss" orders, and I hope the federal court issues a "stop-loss" order of its own, putting an end to what the critics have rightly called a "back-door draft."
I also remind voters that they have a power to issue a "stop-loss" order of their own by voting to end the mistaken and unjustified war in Iraq now.
"'Now,' you say?" Yes, now. Around 1966, when we were increasingly getting mired down in that other native Texan's war in Viet Nam, a wise old conservative-minded Republican from Vermont, Senator George Aiken, suggested that we ought to "Declare victory" and bring the boys home. It took nine more years, until 1975, before our leaders in effect took Aiken's advice and pulled out, not having accomplished a thing in the interim between 1966 and 1975. In all, over 58,000 Americans lost their lives in the quagmire in Viet Nam. If we had taken Senator Aiken's counsel in 1966, many, many thousands of those soldiers would not have died -- would still be with their wives and children and grandchildren, and with us.
Our current President's unjustified and unwise war and his poor planning for peace have gotten us involved in another quagmire. We're now fast approaching the mark of 1,000 dead Americans. If we keep on fighting, who knows when it will end and how many more young men and women will be killed and at what cost to our country's economy and our reputation -- and, more than likely, we'll eventually wind up "declaring victory" and getting out without having accomplished anything more in the interim. Not only will we have not reduced the risk of further terrorist attacks within our country, we will have increased the risk.
I usually find, without much effort, a couple things in the daily New York Times to irritate me. I found two today:
Item one: In a story titled F.B.I. Goes Knocking for Political Troublemakers, Eric Lichtblau reports: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been questioning political demonstrators across the country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National Convention in New York...." Hmm, does this bother you at all? If I were to bring up a number of possible historical parallels from other countries, try, Nazi Germany, would you laugh and say, "It can't happen here!" Here is what I wrote just days after 09.11:
In 1935 Sinclair Lewis, Minnesota's Nobel-prize-winning novelist, published It Can't Happen Here, a novel that imagined the coming-to-dictatorial-power in America of a demagogic politician who promised quick solutions to the Depression, as Hitler had done in Germany in 1933. Fact is, it already had happened. Right here in good ol' Minnesota. In April 1917 our democratically-elected representatives, responding to public hysteria over possible acts of domestic terrorism following our country's entrance into WWI, themselves acted hysterically. They created the Minnesota Commission on Public Safety and authorized it to "do all acts and things necessary" to protect the public safety. The Commission became a dictatorial police organization used by old line Democrats and Republicans and big business interests to harass loyal German-Americans and to suppress political activity by organized labor and the Non-Partisan League (the fore-runner to the Farmer-Labor Party), of which U.S. Rep. Charles Lindbergh, Sr., father of the then-barnstorming pilot, was a leader.
When Lindbergh, who was fearless (do you wonder where his son got his courage?), challenged the incumbent governor, J.A.A. Burnquist in 1918, Burnquist cynically wrapped himself in the flag, saying it was time to be "loyal," not a time to be "political." In fact, he was quite political and used the Commission, which was aided by members of the [Minnesota state] judiciary, to schedule his political rallies and to suppress the opposition of Lindbergh. Indeed, at one point Lindbergh was even arrested and indicted. Among the books detailing this, see, Carl H. Chrislock, Watchdog of Loyalty: The Minnesota Commission of Public Safety During World War I (1991), and Bruce A. Larson, Lindbergh of Minnesota: A Political Biography (1971, 1973). And see D.J. Tice, "Unsafe for Democracy," St. Paul Pioneer-Press (Sunday, January 4, 1998) (click here). According to Tice, when WWII broke out, Governor Harold Stassen, one of our few great governors, promised a friend whose father had suffered from the demagoguery of Burnquist & Co. that "nothing like that will happen as long as I'm governor."
Harry Truman once said, "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know." Merle Miller, Plain Speaking (1974). What has happened occasionally happens again. Surely, we haven't forgotten the misuse of the F.B.I. to harass opponents of the Viet Nam War in the 1960s and early 1970s. If someone else were in charge of the Department of Justice other than John Ashcroft, if the Bush Administration hadn't demonstrated in a number of instances its disregard for the basic civil liberties of some in its "war on terror," and if our U.S. Attorney in Minnesota were other than Tom Hefflefinger, I might say we in Minnesota shouldn't worry about reports like this. But....
Item two: In Cash Collectors for Kerry Race Run the Gamut, Robert F. Worth writes, in introductory part:
Behind the story of John Kerry's extraordinary turnabout - one that catapulted him out of debt into becoming the best-financed presidential challenger in campaign history - are people like Bobby Savoie.
A New Orleans executive and nuclear waste expert, Mr. Savoie began raising money for Mr. Kerry after Richard A. Gephardt, whom Mr. Savoie counts as a friend, dropped out of the race. As head of a company that does $200 million a year in contracts with the federal government, Mr. Savoie, 46, might stand to benefit from a Kerry presidency.
Another top fund-raiser is Hassan Nemazee, 54, a New York investor who joined the Kerry finance team two years ago. A veteran donor to Democratic causes, he was nominated to be ambassador to Argentina in 1999 but withdrew his name amid questions in the Senate about his fund-raising and business record....
If you know two things about me -- that I am an admirer of Martin Luther's opposition, in his 95 Theses, to the sale by the Church of so-called "indulgences" and that I've intentionally chosen to accept no contributions and to try limit my campaign expenditures to under $100 -- then you may get a glimmer of where I'm coming from when I say that stories like this one, whether about the Democrats or the Republicans, make me think we need yet another Reformation, this one of the way our parties and candidates sell their own kinds of "indulgences."
What's the solution? I tend to agree with those, like Eugene McCarthy, who say there's no constitutional (or even practical) legislative solution. Have the much-touted McCain-Feingold "reforms" gotten us anywhere? I don't think so. I can offer a non-legislative "solution." My solution puts the burden partly on the voters, partly on the legitimate press, and partly on the candidates. Click here if you're interested.
Thought prompted in part by bagging my groceries at Cub this morning: If voters are tired of the candidates' reliance on contributions and their wasting the money on pathetic TV ads, maybe the voters ought to, metaphorically speaking, start bagging their own groceries.
As I've said and explained elsewhere, I may be the only candidate for Congress in the country who believes that both contributions and endorsements are compromising and even corrupting of a candidate. I also may be the only one who's going to try limit his expenditures to under $100. Our political candidates are not only too beholden to outside, typically moneyed, influence but too beholden to control by the party to which they belong. (On the last point, witness the fact that all it took for Tim Pawlenty to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race in 2002 and run instead for governor was a call from Vice President Cheney. Is it any wonder, then, that Senator Norm Coleman, the beneficiary of that call, has toed the official party line?) Moreover, our campaigns are too beholden to money in general, as illustrated by the huge amounts being raised and then promptly spent on the Presidential campaigns (most of it spent foolishly, on pathetic TV ads and endless criss-crossing of the country by the candidates in order to mouth inanities) and as illustrated by the amounts raised and similarly spent on closely-contested races for Congress.
One of the reasons some poets still write sonnets and use formal rhyme schemes and meter is because subjecting oneself to external forms both stimulates creativity and imposes a bit of restraint upon creativity. There is a time for writing free verse and a time for writing in sonnet form, both in our campaigning and in our governing. I may well write in free verse in explaining my positions on the issues that matter most to me and that I think should matter most to the voters, but I'm metaphorically using the sonnet form in matters of contributions, endorsements and expenditures.
As I've also said elsewhere, at heart, I guess, I'm an idealist on the matter of campaign spending -- and, perhaps, even an optimist. I foresee the day when candidates, regardless of their economic positions or connections, will be able to file for office and receive from voters a fair and informed consideration of their candidacies on the merits, without the temptation for the candidates and their supporters spending (wasting) significant sums of money on vacuous, or even nasty, advertising, sloganeering, and name-calling. How might this political fantasy come about?
First, by a commitment by candidates to trying it.
Second, by a commitment by the print media, TV and radio newscasters, etc., to providing real and in-depth coverage of the campaigns on the issues rather than on silly matters such as "who's ahead" in "the horse race" and who's likely to win.
Third, by voters making a little effort to educate themselves on the issues, as by relying on multiple sources of news and better sources of news and as by visiting candidates' websites, such as this one.
Fact is, the way elections are conducted now, no one -- certainly not the typical voter -- wins.
Tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, in an edition of 2,000 copies. Amazingly, the book has never been out of print. I didn't discover Thoreau until the mid-1960's, when I was a student at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But I didn't discover him there. I discovered him when I was home on summer break while browsing in the cool retreat provided by the great old Carnegie Library in my hometown of Benson, Minnesota, presided over by Pansy Severson, mother of one of my friends, Mike. It was the right time for me to discover him. In some strange way, I like to think Thoreau found me, just as he has found so many other kindred souls across the years. Robert Frost, one of my favorite poets, said that in times of depression and turmoil, he liked to reread Walden, because its simple and pure sanity helped clear his mind. It is entirely possible that if our current President and his advisers and the members of Congress were more acquainted with Thoreau, we never would have embarked on our historic misadventure in Iraq. One of my favorite Thoreau quotes, and I have many, is this one: "Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step towards obtaining it." I am doing that by standing, not running, for office.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Burton Randall Hanson. Prepared & published by candidate on his own behalf and at his own expense. Candidate may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. Candidate does not solicit or accept contributions or endorsements.