Thursday, June 12, 2008
The True GOP Legacy...
It was a warm and muggy day twenty one years ago today. June 12th, 1987.
I was an exchange student in (what was then, West) Germany. I remember standing there at the Berlin Wall watching the President of the United States, state in words so clear, so commanding that they seemed to reverberate through the crowd like an electric current.
"Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
An elderly man standing near me the crowd saw I was an American and tapped me on the arm, and asked if I spoke German, I said yes. He then pointed towards the podium and said "only the American President could say that and mean it."
It wasn't until days later back in Munich I asked the grandfather in my German host family what did he think the man meant by that. He explained to me at the end of World War II German soldiers were fleeing westward with one goal in mind: Escape the advancing Soviet troops and surrender to the Americans. It was a known fact that the Americans would treat captured enemy combatants in accordance with the Geneva Convention and if you were caught by anyone else you were taking your chances.
It gave America a moral authority in the post war world that the Soviets didn't have. It was "moral capital" that gave successive American Presidents from Truman to Clinton the ability to stand before the world, demand justice, speak for freedom lead the world and mean it.
It was moral authority that allowed Truman to fight communist aggression on the Korean Peninsula, Eisenhower to deliver his Atoms For Peace speech at the United Nations proposing an international atomic energy agency and peaceful development of nuclear energy. It was moral capital that gave Kennedy the ability pull the world back from the very brink of nuclear war and face down Soviet military ambitions in Cuba. It gave Richard Nixon the chance to move détente' from being a nice idea, to real dialogue in China, and over a kitchen counter in Moscow.
It was a moral authority that Americans and the world would find reassuring in hands of Gerald Ford, and it enabled Jimmy Carter to take two nations that had been at war since the time of Moses, and into the woods of Camp David and lead their two leaders to peace.
The moral authority that came from America doing the right thing, the fair thing and the just thing in war , forty years later would empower Ronald Reagan to call an evil empire by its name, and demand the wall it built through a city be torn down. The trust that America does the right thing, would enable George Herbert Walker Bush to say in his inaugural address "When America says something, America means it. Whether in an agreement, a treaty or a vow made on marble steps!" The faith that America does the right thing would let George H W Bush meet with that same soviet leader and end a cold war that gripped the world for decades. The idea that America does the right thing would lead skeptical Arab nations to follow that same President Bush to free Kuwait from Iraqi aggression.
The faith that America does the right thing, would lead a hesitant and fickle Europe to follow Bill Clinton when he said the world community could not allow the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia to go unchallenged.
That authority, that capital, that faith in America as the nation that does what is right, has been destroyed by the Republican Party of George W. Bush. The pictures from Abu Ghraib prison, the FBI reports on torture and abuse of enemy combatants takes that great American legacy of doing what was right, and tears it to shreds.
Rather than lead with the moral authority stemming from generations of American soldiers and leaders doing what was right. We have a President of the United States who has to attack Amnesty International, ridicule the United Nations and insult traditional allies all to avoid admitting his own massive mistakes . Such as claims in the State of the Union Address, they have to be "re examined " when they turn out to be completely false.
Now we find when the President of the United States needs most to enlist the help and support of the global community the best he can do is "You are either with us or you are with the terrorists". Now we find when America goes to war, it is for reasons that are continually changed as they are proven to be fabricated, cherry picked and far more spin, than truth.
I was never so proud to be an American as I was twenty-one years ago today. The American President, MY President stood before the Berlin Wall and before the world and affirmed that American would demand what was right and mean it. Now I watch the President and cringe. For the last century when the American President spoke, the world stood up to listen.
Now when the President, or more importantly, when Senator John McCain - the man who would replace him, speaks; the best we can hope for is they won't be forced to "clarify" things when reality, facts and the truth continue to prove the President and his would be successor to be either wrong, or deliberately dishonest.