In Their Own Words 12 000 Physicians Reveal Their Thoughts On Medical Practice In America

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In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words Pdf/ePub eBook Author: Phillip Miller
Editor: Morgan James Publishing
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In Their Own Words by Phillip Miller Summary

In Their Own Words invites you to become “doctor for a day” and see medical practice from the physicians’ perspective. Drawing on one of the largest physician surveys ever undertaken, “In Their Own Words” offers insights from hundreds of doctors, who reveal in candid comments exactly how they feel about being physicians and why it matters to patients. Read why: Close to half of all doctors plan to opt out of medical practice in the next one to three years, or reduce the number of patients they see. Many physicians are compelled to close their practices to Medicare and other patients. Health reform could reduce access to physicians. Most physicians would not recommend medicine as a career. Many physicians say they are strained to the breaking point. A wake up call for policy makers and the public, “In Their Own Words” reveals why what doctors think about the practice of medicine matters to anyone who cares about the quality and availability of healthcare in America today. If you have ever been a patient or are ever likely to be one, read In Their Own Words.

Epidémies : vrais dangers et fausses alertes

Epidémies : vrais dangers et fausses alertes Pdf/ePub eBook Author: Didier Raoult
Editor: Michel Lafon
ISBN: 2749944244
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Epidémies : vrais dangers et fausses alertes by Didier Raoult Summary

De la grippe aviaire au Covid-19 - 3e édition mise à jour Anthrax, chikungunya, Ebola, grippes aviaires, H1N1, Zika, SARS-coronavirus, MERS- coronavirus... Pour toutes ces épidémies, on a prédit des millions de morts : il n'en a rien été. Qu'en sera-t-il du coronavirus chinois qui provoque une panique mondiale ? Cet affolement provient en grande partie des exagérations de la presse, qui sait que la peur " fait vendre ". Mais que nos gestionnaires – les politiques – surfent à leur tour sur le pire peut être lourd de conséquences. Nous avons affaire à des événements que la science elle-même peine à expliquer, telles la transmission accélérée des épidémies à leur début, leur variation saisonnière et... leur disparition spontanée sans raison apparente. Dans ces conditions, brandir chaque jour le nombre de nouveaux cas et de morts comme un épouvantail ne sert qu'à provoquer des réactions disproportionnées par rapport aux risques réels qui, eux, ne peuvent qu'être négligés dans le même temps.

Beyond the Consent of the Governed

Beyond the Consent of the Governed Pdf/ePub eBook Author: Craig M Farnham
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Beyond the Consent of the Governed Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and the Erosion of American Values [email protected] or contact me directly at (203) 228-2619. Mailing address: 64-4 Deerwood Lane, Waterbury, CT 06704. Craig M. Farnham There are several important people to whom I dedicate this book: Pa My Dad may or may not agree with some of the views as I’ve expressed them in this book. However, even as I write these words, I feel the rock solid love he’s always shown for his son. In him, I will always have a best friend and a powerful example of how to treat others. Uncle Russ In the last few years I’ve been very lucky to get to know, respect, and love one of Pa’s older siblings: he is a person with whom I share a deep curiosity for art, literature, religion, and politics. His mind is open to the world around him, and his thoughts—shared generously and without guile—push me to continue asking the tough questions. Scott Lindsay For as long as I can remember, my older cousin has been more like an older brother whose love and support have never been in short supply. He reminds me often that his door is always open; he does not have to remind me that the same holds true for his heart. Our deep bond is a testament to the fact that family has nothing at all to do with genetics and everything to do with a person’s spirit. Larry Rowlands My good friend and co-worker is a passionate person whose conservatism has, over several years and during countless lunchtime discussions, helped to focus my arguments and sharpen my pen. Sometimes we agree, other times not so much; however, he constantly challenges me to see things from another perspective—and without his help, this book could not have been written. Kathy Clough Kathy’s political mind has—time and again—been a kind of sharpening stone against which I’ve been able to focus my efforts. They say one should avoid certain topics (like politics) in polite company; that said, honesty and love of family runs much deeper between us than any political contest. While our discussions are riven by geography, I always picture her broad smile as I read her thoughtful, history-infused opinions. And I have to say this: that without her opinions as a guidepost, this book could not have taken shape. Uncle Frank My Grandma’s brother was an amazing person for so many reasons, not the least of which being that he was one of my earliest—and biggest—fans. In a world where kids can be cruel to one another, I had a rough time—it was Uncle Frank who told me that I was special, and to Hell with people who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take the time to see it. He passed away in 2008, but I know he’s still in my corner. And my Grandma, Jeanne M. Deschamps Of the many things she gave me, I know I inherited her passion for history and politics. Cancer took her away in 2010, and words can’t express how deeply I feel her loss. Her spirit is still with me, though—and always will be—especially in the following pages. My Mother and sister, as well as countless Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and friends have made my life more interesting and rewarding than I could begin to describe. Introduction. My first clear memory of a President of the United States is of an address made from the Oval Office on the evening of January 28, 1986. I was six years old. That morning the nation watched as the space shuttle Challenger lifted off into the sky and, moments after liftoff, exploded. The crew was lost. The President, Ronald Wilson Reagan, had been scheduled to deliver the state of the union address that evening. The decision was made, however, to make a different sort of address—this one to the American people. I remember watching the television screen, seeing the kind face sitting behind a large desk. He didn’t look like a commanding person, a leader; rather (to my six-year-old mind) he looked like a Grandpa. And what he said has stayed with me—and with generations. Speaking of the Challenger crew, Reagan said, “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them: this morning, as they waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to touch the face of God.” I was only six, and yet the power of his words hit me even then. We refer to Ronald Reagan with a kind of nostalgic gloss as the Great Communicator. He was. He had an actor’s ability to deliver and—rare in the world of politics—a charm that allowed him to express a compassion that was genuine. His words did not feel empty. During his first inaugural (January 20, 1981), President Reagan said: “It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.” This was the Great Communicator at work, using big, wonderful words. Heartfelt words. To touch the face of God—these words haunted me the moment he said them. My second memory of a President is of the same man sitting at the same desk in the Oval Office. On March 4, 1987, he spoke to the same television audience, this time saying: “A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart—and my best intentions—still tell me that’s true. But the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” What? Granted—I was young; however, this statement confused me. What was he trying to say? He lied? Well, no, not really—that’s not what he said. But that’s what it meant. In my parents’ house, my sister and I would get in far worse trouble for lying than for any particular act of bad behavior. Had the president lied? And what did he mean by “trading arms”? I had no idea. I’m sure at the time I didn’t spend too much energy dwelling on it—at seven years old, I was likely more interested in turning the channel to find better programming (the Muppet Show, Masters of the Universe, maybe G.I. Joe). It was years later that the importance of the President’s words—his claiming responsibility and yet not claiming it—would sink in. As I take time now to look back, I remember not really paying close attention to the faces on the nightly news or to what was being said. But I do remember the faces. I recall a young Lt. Col. Oliver North standing before a congressional committee, raising his right hand, swearing to tell the truth. Something about trading arms. There it was again: “trading arms.” Apparently it was a big deal. In the last twenty years, there have been many—many!—books written about Ronald Reagan: some glowing, others critical. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the majority would fall into the former category, far fewer in the latter. In today’s Republican party, Reagan is lionized as a transformative president. During the GOP nominating conventions of 2008 and 2012, his name was spoken in reverential terms. All but forgotten by today’s republicans is the runaway deficit spending of the Reagan administration; the illegal actions undertaken in Iran and Nicaragua; the amiable presidential figure who saluted the U. S. armed services but whose inaction left marines in an untenable situation in Beirut—an ultimately deadly affair which cost some 304 American lives. Reagan was without question a great communicator. But missing in today’s analysis of Reagan is nuance. Context is necessary. There is a children’s rhyme which can be instructive, and it goes as follows: “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” The song is wrong. Words are powerful (and Reagan surely knew this). Words can move people. They can inspire and can pull at one’s heartstrings: “to touch the face of God” still puts a noticeable lump in my throat. Words sometimes command armies. And they can kill. The purpose of this book is to bring nuance back into the discussion; to take a more honest look at the legacy of Ronald Reagan and of his successors. We are today living with the cost of that legacy. We can remember President Reagan for the kind smile, the important moments shared with [soviet leader] Mikhail Gorbachev, the soaring rhetoric, the “shining city on a hill.” But we must also contend with his failures—Beirut, Iran-Contra, Reaganomics. It would be intellectually dishonest to rest blame for the nation’s troubles on one man. No administration can alone bare responsibility for difficult times. The failures of the Reagan administration, though—both economic and from a military standpoint—had sustained repercussions that were further expanded during the presidency of George W. Bush. Indeed, one cannot appreciate the Bush II presidency or the ‘war on terror’ without analyzing it in terms of a “Reagan restoration.” George W. Bush is, by his own admission, a Reaganite. This would have tragic consequences for the nation. George W. Bush attained the presidency in hopes of exorcising his father’s ghosts—in other words, to succeed where his father had failed. The first President Bush failed to win over the more “conservative” element within the republican party. He raised taxes. He led the nation, first through diplomatic means and second through military force, against Saddam Hussein—but did not remove the dictator from power. George W. would not make the same mistakes. And in this, he proved to be very adept. George W. Bush did not repeat his father’s mistakes. His mistakes were of a different sort and had far greater implications. Historians have rightly come to see the first President Bush as a man whose pragmatic, cautious approach to things served the nation well, whereas his son’s “shoot-from-the-hip” energy led him to embrace a reckless, ill-informed management of the United States both in economic and foreign policy matters. This is why, in the previous paragraph, I wrapped the word conservative in quotation marks. The people who have claimed the word as their own—men like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney—proved to be anything but conservative, whereas the first President Bush (in the pragmatic, cautious temperament discussed) embodied the word as it is truly defined. The men who today claim to be conservative (politicians like Mike Huckabee, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh) each recall, with admiration and affection, great names of Republicans past: Theodore Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. Such men have so distorted the conservative orthodoxy that they cannot see clearly. They are blind to the evidence before them—that the party they have fashioned would never be caught voting for the very men they admire: Roosevelt, Goldwater, Reagan. In fact, all three have records that—when one takes a hard, honest look—would enrage today’s “conservatives.” Things are equally disheartening for today’s Democratic party. In 2008 and again in 2012, the nation voted for “change,” electing the first African-American as President of the United States. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign had, in fact, been a referendum on the Bush II years, touting change. And yet when one looks closely at the current trend, the disturbing truth must be recognized: that, rather than a dramatic split with past practices, the nation has been delivered more of the same. For example, the use of secret drone strikes during the Obama administration has re-ignited fierce debate over the role of government and its war-making powers and the need for security. That debate intensified recently, when (illegal) leaks of classified documents detailed domestic spying operations by the NSA. This re-opened a heated argument between those who suggest that national security is an end that justifies any means and those who extol the right of privacy. These are old arguments, offering a rehash rather than a “change” in direction. Defense spending continues to stagger the imagination, and military forces of the United States under President Obama are still faced with deployment into far corners of the globe where American interests are questionable at best. Indeed, as these pages are being written, congress is (at the urging of the President) debating whether or not to approve military strikes—limited in scope, according to the White House—against the nation of Syria. The proposed strikes would preclude “boots on the ground” and would be carried out not against the Syrian government in particular, but in order to “degrade [Syrian leader] Bashar al-Assad’s ability to continue to use chemical weapons.” While this sounds reasonable from a humanitarian standpoint, one cannot overlook the reality that such strikes would involve the United States (however limitedly) in what is essentially a civil war in Syria, a country which has not—to date—invaded, attacked, or shown aggression towards the U.S. Neither Secretary of State John Kerry (who favors the proposed strikes) nor Libertarian-Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky—(who questions the wisdom of intervention) can know what will happen in response to American action or inaction. The American people have spoken. According to a Pew Research poll, as of Sept. 1, 2013, a solid 48% of Americans oppose Syrian airstrikes, while only 29% are in favor (23% “don’t know”). While it would be unsafe to suggest that foreign policy matters should be decided in the court of public opinion, it is hoped that our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. speak for us rather than to us, and that they will act with American sentiment and with history—and not simply with partisan rhetoric—in mind. With unemployment still very much a problem at the heart of our great republic; with defense spending—still—at remarkable levels; and with talk of possible U.S. intervention in yet another troubled part of the Middle East, it is time to press pause, to take a “time-out.” The United States cannot continue (without undermining its long-held values and risking its soul) to be the world’s indispensable police force, attempting to solve other nations’ problems while ignoring our own at home. This book will argue that it is indeed time, far past time, for the Republican Party to denounce men like Ted Cruz and Rush Limbaugh and embrace the true definition of conservatism. It is also time for the Democratic Party to shed its hesitancy, to actively engage in a full-throated fight rather than continue to sheepishly call for bipartisan compromise. Such calls are honorable, to be sure; however, Democrats need to accept that which has become increasingly clear to interested observers: that compromise will continue to be a fanciful—unattainable—vision so long as the other party is uninterested in finding common (or middle) ground. It is time for Americans to call on our elected leaders to lead rather than showboat for the cameras; to govern rather than play games in hopes of scoring political points before the next election cycle. It is time, far past time, that we—liberals and conservatives alike—call on members of both political parties to (as Ronald Reagan suggested): “…check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.” Chapter One: Inaugural Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004. He was laid to rest in his beloved California. He was, in fact, so closely identified with the state in which he lived most of his adult life that many forget that his were not the values formed “out West” in the California sun but from the mid-West of his boyhood. He was born in Tampico, Illinois—to an alcoholic father and a determined, loving religious mother—and he reflected the values of Middle America. Hard work. Belief in God. And a stout love of country. He would embody the “American Dream” in ways that, as a boy, he could not have foreseen. Or maybe he did foresee a bright future for himself, even as he had to deal with a life that included a father whose troubled relationship with alcohol kept the family forever in search of finding itself “settled.” Could he have known or imagined that he would one day become President of the United States? January 20, 1981 marked the first inauguration of Ronald Wilson Reagan (the little boy from Illinois nicknamed “Dutch”) as the nation’s 40th chief executive. His candidacy, in which he challenged incumbent democratic President Jimmy Carter, had been a milestone in American political history. Not since the presidential campaign of 1964—in which Barry Goldwater ran unsuccessfully against Lyndon Johnson—had the Republican Party put forth a strictly conservative nominee. During his inaugural address, Reagan issued a clear, conservative agenda for the nation. It is worth extended quotation. He said: “These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.” He continued, “Great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.” Thus far, anyone who had ever listened to a Reagan stump speech would quickly recognize the familiar elements of his argument. There were economic problems facing the nation, to be sure, and the government—rather than being a responsible force for fixing the problem—was only making things worse by mismanagement through high taxation and over-spending. Further into his speech, Reagan crystalized his argument: “The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we’ve had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom. In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” His message? Less taxation, and less federal spending. Let hard-working Americans keep more of the fruits of their labor—their earned paychecks—(so it was argued) while putting an end to, or at least reigning in, the harmful overspending in Washington, D.C. This was a very Jeffersonian argument. The new president wanted to preside over a less-intrusive government, and the idea had great nationwide appeal. With unemployment at a rate of 7.5% for the better part of the year 1980 under the Carter administration, Americans were open to a new, or at least to a different, vision. When, during a televised debate with Carter, Reagan asked the audience if they felt they were better off than they were four years ago, he succeeded in presenting the election in its simplest terms. Now, immediately after being sworn into office, he once again shaped his vision in simple terms. Further government intervention was not the solution to the problems Americans faced—government was the problem. And he intended to act. His stated goal? A balanced budget for the nation by 1984. How could the assembled audience not applaud? The former film and tv actor, former governor of California, indeed the “hero from the West,” was here to fix things. Reagan liked the role of hero. In the movies he rarely ever played the villain. Here was his chance to make a difference on a grand stage. It started out in promising fashion, too. On November 4, 1979, Islamic extremists had taken over the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking sixty Americans hostage. (What business the U.S. had in having a presence in Iran will be explored later.) President Carter was painted into an impossible position, wanting to work for the release of the hostages while somehow remaining firm in the government’s policy of refusal to ever negotiate with terrorists. The crisis lasted throughout the campaign year of 1980, which spelled trouble for Carter, who came across as a well-meaning man of sound moral character who was in over his head in the Oval Office. The news reports broadcasting footage of the hostages wearing blindfolds and losing weight in captivity were forcing Americans into a state of anxiety and anger. It was only after Ronald Reagan had been sworn in as the nation’s 40th president that word spread that—after 444 days—the hostages had finally been released. In fact, the timing turned out to be anything but a coincidence. In an effort to add salt to an open wound and further undermine President Carter, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini had ordered the release of the hostages, but reportedly kept the plane they boarded waiting on the airport tarmac until after Reagan’s swearing-in. Americans were at once sensitive to the insolent snub to their nation and to the painful experience of their fellow citizens who’d been held hostage, and relieved to have the awful ordeal finally over. And the man at the center of attention? The new Commander-in-Chief, Ronald Reagan, who (through no real effort of his own) suddenly looked much more effective than the in-over-his-head Carter. He ld not on only cumericans safThere would be no need for a Hollywood director—a Spielberg or Scorsese—to intervene. The Reagan presidency had barely begun and, almost on its own, the image of a tough, straightforward, no-nonsense “hero” was quickly taking shape. Just as Herbert Hoover witnessed the political ascension of Franklin Roosevelt to the tune of “Happy days are Here Again” in 1933, now Jimmy Carter, after only a single term as president, had to watch gloomily from the sidelines as a new team took credit for a turning of the tides. Americans that day might be forgiven for having imagined “Happy Days are Here Again” playing in the background during Reagan’s inaugural. It is sad that history has saddled Carter with an impression of ineptness. Jimmy Carter was born in rural Georgia. His was a humble boyhood that was every bit as important in shaping his life and legacy as Ronald Reagan’s had been. Both men—in fact—believed in a strong work ethic and in a Heavenly Father watching over the faithful. Their origins were alike, their faith was heartfelt, and their politics overlapped, too: both felt that government had a real responsibility to be more frugal with the people’s money. He was, in point of fact, a conservative democrat—not nearly the “tax and spend” liberal (in the fashion of a Lyndon Johnson or a Ted Kennedy) that the Reagan team portrayed throughout the 1980 campaign. Carter had done much in an effort to moderate his party. He called for less waste in government spending and made proposals for less American dependence on foreign oil. In other words, he was the kind of democrat that conservative republicans could work with. The times, however, were not kind to Carter. His term of office was encumbered by the economic problems—inherited from a Nixon/Ford term—of high inflation (as Reagan pointed out in his inaugural), high unemployment, a gas crisis, and finally, the untimely and tragic events of the hostage crisis. Had the “perfect storm” of these several upsets not taken place—all swirling at the same time—Carter may have proven to be an effective president. Such speculation is, however, an academic exercise. The cards, once dealt, are those with which Carter had to contend. The question on January 20, 1981, was: how would Reagan perform in office? To be sure, Reagan’s first and overriding concern was the economy. He knew 1) that economic trouble had been largely responsible for Carter’s loss at the polls and 2) his agenda for economic recovery—based on tax reduction and a federal spending overhaul—was something that he was eager to set in motion. It was a philosophy he’d been detailing for years. He was not going to waste time in trying to get things moving. Detailing for years. One is then forced to ask: how had Reagan handled this agenda—the one he would bring with him into the Oval Office—while he was Governor of California? This is an important question, and one that too many of today’s conservative republicans tend to either overlook or be ignorant of. Ronald Reagan had served as California’s governor for two terms, from 1967 to 1975. It was a difficult time for America. The war in Vietnam had become an un-winnable nightmare. At home, Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, and the civil rights movement—which had started with such promise—worsened as city after city erupted in violence and disorder. The purported Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” The late 60s was a living-out of that curse. Reagan proved to be a tough chief of state, sending troops in when the campus at Berkeley was taken over by student protest. While this did not endear him to the younger generation of Californians, most average, middle-income workers (Nixon’s “silent majority”) approved of Reagan’s determined stand as a call for law and order. But what of his fiscal policy? How did Reagan, the Jeffersonian idealist, perform as governor? Journalist Lou Cannon, a Reagan biographer whose books include “Governor Reagan: His Rise to power,” and “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” answers: “No amount of budget reductions…could have balanced California’s budget in 1967. The cornerstone of Governor Reagan’s economic program was not the ballyhooed budget reductions but a sweeping tax package four times larger than the previous record California tax increase obtained by [democratic] Governor [Pat] Brown in 1959.” Governor Reagan oversaw a top income tax rate increase from 7 to 10%. The bank and corporate tax rate increased from 5 ½ to 7%. According to Lou Cannon, “An economist who analyzed the tax bill without knowing its political background might conclude that it had been crafted by a New Deal Democrat,” rather than the no-holds-barred conservative governor. All told, state revenues—through tax hikes—tripled from fiscal year 1966/67 to 1974/75. Poor Jimmy Carter. If only he’d been able to better inform the voters during the 1980 campaign of his opponent’s true colors. Sadly, voters were less concerned with specifics (say, for example, the actual record of the republican candidate) than they were ready to hear what they wanted to hear, which, it turned out, was “better times are around the corner.” Happy days are here again, indeed. As the new president, the 40th Chief Executive, stood looking out at the crowd that had gathered to listen to and to witness his swearing in—and as he made promises to the American people that he would usher in a new term of fiscal responsibility and lower taxes—Californians (those with good memories at any rate) must have felt a pang of uncertainty. I’m almost sure Carter did. Chapter Two: Context George Bush (not to be confused with his son, George W. Bush) was Ronald Reagan’s running mate in 1980 and again in 1984. But before joining Reagan on the Republican ticket, he was himself a primary candidate running for the nomination. It was a bruising primary season and a crowded one at that. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee, Senator Lowell Weiker of Connecticut, and U.S. congressman John B. Anderson of Illinois all tossed their hats into the ring. The state of Texas was well-represented in the Republican primaries, too—with CIA director George Bush of course and former Texas Governor John Connally also in the running. It was during the primary season that the term “voodoo economics” was first used to deride Reagan’s “supply-side” or “trickle-down” philosophy. The term originated with—of all people—the man who would eventually share the ticket and become Ronald Reagan’s vice-president, George Bush. Despite the bumpy beginning to the relationship, it was a successful team-up. In fact, one of the first things Bush told staffers while settling in as Vice-President was that he would, as “veep,” support his President, and expected those staffers who worked for him to do the same. He would not tolerate any back-stabbing between the two offices. Any disagreements with official White House policy would be kept quiet. What troubled Bush was not the idea that, if business owners for example were given tax relief, the fruits of a “lighter load” would, in waterfall fashion “trickle-down” (hence the term) to the working classes. No, Bush’s problem was with Reagan’s math: with the seemingly incongruent call for 1) tax reduction and 2) a simultaneous increase in defense (or military) spending. (I will undertake a further examination of Reagan-era defense spending in Chapter Three). Bush knew that this would not work—never mind the fanciful notion that it could lead, as Reagan proposed, to a balanced budget by 1984. Bush argued that, while he approved of a tax cut, the notion that a cut could somehow lead to an increase in revenues (which is what Reagan was suggesting would happen) was ridiculous. Bush called the idea “voodoo economics,” and the term stuck in the press. Obviously this didn’t do ruinous or permanent damage to Reagan’s run for the presidency, and really—nothing Bush or any other critic said would shake Reagan’s core belief in his limited government/tax relief agenda. However it was certainly something that must have initially unnerved the presidential hopeful. No, no ruinous damage here: in the election of 1980, the Reagan/Bush ticket walloped the Democratic Carter/Mondale team. George Bush was the son of a wealthy East Coast family. His was a privileged boyhood that could not be more unlike Ronald Reagan’s. In fact, George Bush was everything that Ronald Reagan pretended to be in the movies: an all-American team player (he played baseball at Andover), a young man who served his country as a pilot in World War II (Reagan served stateside filming propaganda pictures), and a true-blue Republican (Reagan started his life as a Democrat who voted for FDR). For anyone looking at the political landscape in 1980, it was not Ronald Reagan but George Bush who would have struck potential voters as the genuine article. Despite their personal or temperamental differences (or perhaps because of those differences), the two men worked well together. After 8 years working alongside one another in D.C., Ronald Reagan retired to the California hills and his Vice-President would become the nation’s 41st President. Mr. Bush was the first VP since Martin Van Buren (in 1836) to be elected President in his own right (as opposed to assuming the presidency following the death of a sitting president). During his own term, Bush would walk the line between continuing Ronald Reagan’s policies and moving away from those policies. He wanted to preside over what he called a “kinder, gentler America.” He applied this attitude when dealing with other nations, most especially in working with leaders of the Soviet Union; he also tried to work in a more bipartisan fashion with Congress here at home. His was a less-strident approach to such domestic issues as taxes, for example. While he memorably declared during his 1988 campaign, “Read my lips: no new taxes,” he worked with leaders of both parties to fashion an acceptable compromise bill when the economic health of the nation needed a shot in the arm. It has, in fact, been argued in recent documentaries that Mr. Bush’s tax bill greatly helped the economy: giving it an injection which—of course—bore fruit during the Clinton years. Such action would cost him re-election; however, when considering the first President Bush with the 20/20 clarity of hindsight—especially in view of the breakdown of cooperation in today’s Washington, D.C.—one can’t help but feel a deep appreciation for his bipartisan leadership. It is interesting—and terrifically important—to note Mr. Bush’s differences with Ronald Reagan, both in terms of personal approach and specific policy, for reasons that would become obvious to a later generation of voters. The proposals made by Ronald Reagan as a candidate during the 1980 primary season (as well as over-all approach to governance) would, in large measure, be adopted by a future President of the United States: the 43rd, George W. Bush. While his father proved to be cautious (showing an early hesitation in acceding to the wisdom of Reagan’s economic vision), the son would later venture into shaky territory, with disastrous results. Chapter Three: The High Cost In 2006, the man who had been Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense—Caspar Weinberger—passed away. Donald Rumsfeld, who was then serving as George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, said (of Weinberger): “He left the United States armed forces stronger, our country safer, and the world more free.” Not one of the three things Rumsfeld notes can or should be taken as absolute truth. The realities on the ground—in fact—would tend to support an argument to the contrary: that the military under Reagan’s (and Weinberger’s) watch was left morally weakened, our country exposed to greater dangers, and the world at large made to struggle with the fallout. This chapter does not reflect an abrupt change in topic from the last. The economy was, as previously noted, Ronald Reagan’s overriding concern as he entered the presidency. National defense, like any other operational role of the federal government, falls under the umbrella of the American economy. It is more than just a catchy slogan when supporters of the military say that “freedom isn’t free.” To—for a moment, and for the purposes of this chapter—set aside the fact that the reference is to the high cost in blood and sweat of our brave servicemen and women, the statement is rather accurate. Freedom is not free. In fact, during the Reagan administration, national security became very, very expensive. While liberal politicians like Ted Kennedy lamented Reagan’s tightening of the purse-strings when it came to domestic spending to fund “big government” programs (federal aid to education for example), those same liberals shook their heads to little effect as the president pushed successfully, time and again, for increased defense spending. From the outset, which is to say even before becoming president, Reagan was a man who 1) saw the world in very stark terms and 2) was determined to make a difference. This, he believed, would involve a strong military posture. Why? Very simply put: Reagan felt that an aggressive American posture had been missing from the geo-political scene and he was ready to up the ante in order to confront the “evil empire”—Russia. Much has been made of Ronald Reagan’s anti-communist zeal, and it is true: he was not a half-hearted believer. He was the real deal. One should not make the mistake of viewing Reagan’s commitment as either insincere or politically calculated. One has to understand the world as Reagan perceived it in order to appreciate this zeal. Or at least, one must understand the post-war period following WWII. The world Reagan saw was one of absolutes. There was black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. In this context, America was a force for good in the world—and those aligned with the U.S. were fellow travelers on the side of the angels. Those in opposition were—clearly—evil. This is a rather simplistic view of things, but Reagan was not alone in this. The policy of “containment” (of containing the spread of communism in the face of soviet aggression) was adopted by the Truman administration at the end of World War II. This policy led to U.S. intervention when the communist forces of North Korea invaded South Korea in June of 1950. It also led, a little over a decade later, to U.S. troops being sent into the jungles of Vietnam—a situation, like the one in Korea, best described as a civil war. While historians rightly applaud Harry Truman for his strong conduct in bringing an end to the second World War, one must appreciate the scope of failure that the policy of containment left at each succeeding administration’s doorstep. The fault is not Truman’s alone. The country as a whole suffered from a sort of identity crisis after WWII. In the mind of many confident Americans, only secret dealings and soviet subversion could account for such disappointments as America’s inability to keep China from falling to communism, to keep Korea in check, or to keep Vietnam “free.” (Never mind that in each case, the scene on the ground was one of deadly national disagreement—civil war—in which Russian influence was limited, that is until the United States jumped in). Americans, like Ronald Reagan, viewed each of these unfolding engagements through the prism of a larger puzzle: as a test of American resolve in a cold war “showdown” atmosphere. Black and white, good versus evil. The problem is that, in case after case, rather than bringing needed stability to a region, American involvement in someone else’s fight has served to further destabilize the situation. For example: communist China only entered the Korean conflict after American forces pressed ahead and crossed the 38th parallel. (In point of fact, the Korean peninsula had been ruled by Japan until the end of WWII, when in 1945 Allied forces divided the country between Soviet forces in the north and U.S. forces in the south. Thus, in a way, we helped create the environment, setting the stage for our troubles long before 1950). Such nuance though was unfortunately lost on a generation of American leaders, from Truman all the way to Ronald Reagan. When Reagan became president, he took with him to the oval office a lifetime of experience. At 70 years old, he’d lived through the tragic valleys (and few peeks) of the cold war. And, as previously stated, he was determined to make a difference. He understood that, in order to win a game of cards, a player had to have a strong hand. And if the player attempted to bluff, that bluff had to be believed. The nation, Reagan felt, should have a large enough military threat to meet Russia at the card table. Reagan was, in a very real sense, ready to practice Teddy Roosevelt-style “big stick” diplomacy. The big stick—or to continue the card-playing analogy, the cards in his hand—would be an incredible build-up of American missiles to counter the presumed soviet stockpiles. Reagan called for, and received, an expensive push for greater military chest-thumping in the form of short, medium, and long-range ballistic missiles. The bluff (one hopes Reagan viewed it this way) was SDI, or “strategic defense initiative” (which was dubbed “star wars” by the media). He called on American scientists to put their energy and talents into designing space-based defensive technology that could hypothetically counter an attack. Star Wars, indeed. Of course, there was a cost to such endeavors. There is always a cost. In an article written for the Baltimore Sun, June 8, 2004, staff writer Tom Bowman says, “The man who spent World War II in Hollywood, wearing an Army uniform and acting in training films, went on to become the commander in chief responsible for rebuilding America’s military might and boosting the morale of troops dispirited by the Vietnam war and its aftermath.” Most people can agree: this was a good thing. Mister Bowman continues, however, noting, “Reagan presided over the biggest peacetime defense buildup in history, from high-tech weapons systems to larger training ranges and military pay increases” (italics added). Here, there are good elements mixed with extremely worrisome aspects. Larger training ranges were very likely put to good use by America’s brave servicemen and women. Also, one can assume that many struggling military families were greatly helped by pay increases. But, as noted before, there is always a cost. Bowman continues: “Still, some critics said Reagan’s focus on building up the military’s nuclear force…needlessly imperiled world peace and produced huge Pentagon budgets and federal deficits.” Later in the same article, Bowman succinctly details the problem. He says, “Between 1980 and 1985, the number of dollars devoted each year to defense more than doubled, from $142.6 billion to $286.8 billion.” Here it would be appropriate to remind the reader of Ronald Reagan’s stated intentions throughout his long public career, specifically during the campaign season of 1980 and during his inaugural address. Reagan was committed to a roll-back of government spending. “For decades,” he said in his inaugural, “we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present.” He said that, “To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.” He was right. Not to over-dramatize the point, but the lauded hero of the conservative movement who promised to reign-in government spending did the exact opposite. In fact, he revved the government engine to “full throttle.” The total national debt at year end 1981 (Reagan’s first year in office) was $994.8 billion; by year end 1988 (his last year in office) it was $2,601.1 billion. I have several close republican friends who never miss a chance to chastise and condemn “tax-and-spend liberals.” These are good and decent men who applaud thrift and who have honest disagreements with democratic party orthodoxy; however, one anxiously awaits the look on their faces (or perhaps the excuses they’ll offer) as they are confronted with the specific numbers mentioned above in the Baltimore Sun article. Any satisfaction on my part will be short-lived. The fact is that Ronald Reagan, due in great part to his arms race with Russia, never saw or sent a balanced budget to congress. On October 11, 1986, Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan met in Reykjavik, Iceland. It was their second meeting as leaders of the two largest superpowers. (I was seven years old). Gorbachev agreed that human rights were a legitimate topic for discussion—a first in U.S./Soviet relations. Then, to the surprise of advisors on both sides, an astounding set of proposals was put forth by the soviet leader, which included shelving (or dismantling) not only a specific class of armaments, but all U.S. and Soviet nuclear weapons. History, it seemed, could be made at a beautiful but modest white house situated halfway between Washington, D.C. and Moscow. There was one sticking point: SDI (strategic defense initiative). Gorbachev knew that in realistic terms, the troubled Russian economy would not be able to compete with a “space-age” arms race. However, he agreed to accept the continued development of SDI so long as Reagan limited the testing of any product of that research to the laboratory (in other words, to agree to keep advancements in scientific storage). Reagan said no. There would be an arms agreement, but not at Reykjavik. The two nations signed the INF (Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty, which eliminated a whole class of weapons systems, in 1987—a year after Reykjavik. Gorbachev’s offer for complete dismantling of U.S./Soviet nuclear weapons remains—to date—a fanciful dream that was sacrificed at the altar of SDI. From 1984 to 1993 (Reagan’s 2nd term through George Bush’s single term) approximately $39 billion was spent on the program. The “Star Wars” (SDI) contract the Pentagon had with McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co., which was estimated at $480.6 million, was dropped—canceled—in 1988. The high cost, though, of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy adventures was not limited to dollar signs… Chapter Four: Beirut “They had no mission but to sit at the airport, which is just like sitting in a bull’s-eye.” The quote is from Caspar Weinberger, who was—as previously discussed—Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Defense. One can read the rest online, at Foxnews.com, in an Associated Press article dated January 30, 2006. “I begged the president at least to pull them back,” Weinberger continues, “and put them back on their transports as a more defensible position.” In October of 1983, the United States had 1,800 marines stationed in Beirut, Lebanon. The forces were there on a peace-keeping mission, with approx. three hundred servicemen living in a four story building at the airport. At 6:22 a.m. on October 23, a truck carrying two thousand pounds of explosives crashed into the marine barracks at the airport. Two hundred twenty marines and 21 other service personnel were killed in the attack. It is extraordinarily sad to think that the facts of what happened are so succinct—so neat—as to fit briefly into this small paragraph. What words cannot express though is the human toll, the heart-rending loss of 241 American lives. Why were they there? This will be examined. Could their deaths have been avoided? If Weinberger’s account is to be believed, the sad answer is “yes.” Why were we there? Because Israel had an itchy trigger finger following what had been (in all fairness) a season of fear and attacks, and because the United States has had, since the beginning, a stronger than necessary relationship with Israel. Indeed, those succinct facts detailed in the earlier paragraph are not the beginning, but the near-end of the story: In June of 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had claimed responsibility for several attacks previously carried out against Israel, and the situation had gone from bad to worse. Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was justified in view of the PLO attacks—never mind the facts that there had only been one recorded Israeli death (thankfully, in each suicide bomb attack only the attacker was killed) or that the PLO was not the operational head of the Lebanese government (that distinction went to President Gemayel). One Israeli death leading to a full-throttle invasion is, to many minds—including my own—an insupportable overreaction. With America’s relationship with Israel feeling the pressure, though, U.S. marine forces were sent in hopes of calming the tension-filled situation. They were not successful. Following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, the U.S. embassy in that country sent cables warning Reagan that the scene on the ground was fraught with danger. No additional security measures were undertaken to reinforce the embassy. On the evening of April 18, 1983, the President of the United States spoke in a televised address. Grave reports had been coming in, sketched by news channels all day. The president began his speech, saying, “As you know, our embassy in Beirut was the target this morning of a vicious terrorist bombing. This cowardly act has claimed a number of killed and wounded.” He continued, “Just a few minutes ago, President Gemayel [of Lebanon] called me to convey on behalf of the Lebanese people his profound regret and sorrow…” This incident, in which 63 Americans—embassy officials as well as CIA agents—lost their lives, took place in April of ’83: six months before the marine barracks attack. That’s a total, in six short months, of 304 American lives lost in an effort to help stabilize a region in the middle east—part of the globe that has never known real peace. What’s worse is that the marines at the airport in Beirut were under orders, by instruction of the commander-in-chief, not to have loaded weapons (this was done—so the thinking went—in hopes that they would appear as peace-keepers and not be viewed as armed belligerents in a war zone). Secretary Weinberger’s analogy of sitting ducks in a bull’s-eye is appropriate. In his book “A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan,” Michael K. Deaver—Reagan’s long-time aide—says, “The closest I ever came to resigning…was when we did not react as quickly as we should have during the bombings of Beirut, Lebanon.” This from a man whose close relationship with Ronald Reagan lasted through the California governorship years on into the White House. Contrast this needless loss of life under (Republican) President Ronald Reagan with the deaths of 4—four—Americans in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 during the term of (Democrat) Barack Obama. Two of the three attacks are narrowly similar, both having been launched against a U.S. embassy. The differences, though, are substantial. In the case of Beirut, there were warning signs. It might seem petty to unnecessarily inject politics into the mix, and so one could ask “why would the author specify the political affiliations of the two presidents?” Because—several weeks after the Benghazi attack, I received a note from a republican friend of mine (alluded to earlier) in which he voiced support for state department firings and possible presidential impeachment. He said, “This is the biggest scandal in my life…I can’t think of one bigger.” This last sentence floored me—in fact it stirred inside the initial thoughts for what would become this book. Perhaps he simply didn’t know about Beirut. The reaction to the events in Benghazi were extremely overblown and will be discussed at greater length in a later chapter; for the purpose of this chapter, though, it offers a clear example of the confused hyper-partisanship in Washington, DC today. Republicans have become very comfortable accusing the current administration of all sorts of villainy without regard to the hypocrisy that their comments reveal. Reagan is to be exalted—his sins either forgiven or overlooked entirely—while Barack Obama is to be impeached. There is an obvious problem with such heated rhetoric: it wastes time in seeking blame rather than problem-solving, and it is intellectually dishonest. The loss of any American life in service to his/her nation is something to be deeply regarded; the seriousness of such loss should not be underestimated. Politicians should not use such moments of pain in order to score cheap political points while showboating before television cameras. (Men like Mike Huckabee, who called for the impeachment of President Obama after Benghazi, have offered no truly constructive leadership in such moments). Whether a marine unit in Beirut or a U.S. embassy worker in Benghazi, every American life lost can and should bring the nation together in 1) a sense of mournful resolve and 2) a determined effort to see that whatever miscues, mistakes, or failures occurred are dealt with honestly and possible systemic problems solved in order to avoid future tragedy. We have seen what an inappropriate response to tragedy can be. What, then, would the opposite be? First, one should look at the over-all strategic goals of the political moment. Does the foreign policy offer structure to a weak and hurting global community? More to the point: do the foreign policy objectives serve to strengthen or do potential harm to the United States? It is time the American people take a good hard look at the initiatives taken across the globe in the name of “national defense.” This does not need to be a defeatist or pessimistic exercise. To re-evaluate conditions as they exist and not as we would like them to be, to take a second look at the cards one is holding before placing a bet—these are reasonable and potentially productive moves. In dealing with the Middle East, it can be argued that the policies of several U.S. administrations have only served to undermine rather than safeguard American security. In an effort to buttress Israeli interests, American leaders have, time and again, put our armed forces in harm’s way. Rather than play to the cameras or to blindly support Benjamin Netanyahu’s political interests, American leadership should ask itself the difficult questions. The question “should we be doing A, B, C, or D?” must trump “can we do A, B, C, or D?” Because we can do a thing does not automatically presume that we must—that we should—do that thing. Can is easy. We can. American resolve has been tested before, and we have answered in the positive. Should is at issue. Let’s return briefly to Donald Rumsfeld’s statement (as quoted at the outset of Chapter Three). According to Rumsfeld’s glowing eulogy, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, “left the United States armed forces stronger, our country safer, and the world more free.” A cursory examination of the events of 1983 does not help support this statement. Did our presence in Beirut make our shores more secure or the situation in Lebanon less dangerous? The answer is clear. Was the loss of 304 American lives avoidable? Yes. While Weinberger “begged Reagan” to change the situation on the ground, he did not resign in protest. He and the rest of Reagan’s defense team are complicit in the unfolding horror. Sadly, Beirut would not be the last time Ronald Reagan’s “cowboy diplomacy” pushed American military personnel to stand in the crosshairs. For those who are interested, I would highly recommend Rachel Maddow’s excellent book, “Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power.” In Chapter 4 of the book, she offers a well-researched and invaluable analysis of Reagan’s adventure in Grenada (the “Isle of Spice”). I could not hope to capture the episode nearly as well as Ms. Maddow does. Should the United States have dedicated men and women serving in an embassy in Benghazi, Libya? Does our presence there make the shores of the United States more secure? Again, the answer—to any reasonable mind—is clear. If Obama is guilty of harmful neglect, then Ronald Reagan is no less so. One wrong does not make a right, and one man’s mistakes do not justify the mistakes of another. One would hope, in fact, that we could learn from our past wrong turns. However, to claim that Benghazi represents “the biggest scandal” of a person’s lifetime is, I am sad to say, either indulgent—politically motivated—rhetoric or powerfully naïve. I can forgive my friend for his statement (it turns out he was unaware of Beirut); however I do not think that the Rush Limbaughs and Mike Huckabees of the world—who are out there before microphones and cameras calling for impeachment—deserve any such forgiveness. The families of those lost in Beirut and in Benghazi deserve our love, our support, and yes: our apologies. Chapter Five: Reagan and PATCO For the purpose of full disclosure, because this chapter deals with a union strike, I should begin by mentioning that—for the last eight years—I have worked at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut. Sikorsky, for those who may not know, deals with government (as well as commercial) contracts to build helicopters and is a unionized “shop.” There was a shining moment that, for many years, I believed was Ronald Reagan’s best moment as a national leader. Today, though I still think that’s true, I must admit to being less certain as I once was about the outcome and feeling—overall—more conflicted. It took place in the summer of 1981, six months after Reagan was sworn in as President. The “crisis moment” involved PATCO (the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) which was founded in 1968 and whose members in August of ‘81—some 13,000—declared an illegal strike. The membership sought better working conditions, better pay, and a 32-hour workweek. Rather than get bogged down in the details of the specific work of air traffic controllers and whether or not the terms they sought held merit, I would highly recommend the book “Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, The Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike That Changed America,” by Joseph A. McCartin. The book is well-written, extensively researched, and covers the history of PATCO up to and including the 1981 strike. Here, it should simply be noted that the action taken by PATCO was illegal because it was in violation of Executive Order 10988 (signed into law in 1962 by President Kennedy) which barred federal employees from striking against the government of the United States. Following the PATCO walkout, Reagan held a press conference at the White House, during which he said, “Let me make one thing plain. I respect the right of workers in the private sector to strike. Indeed, as president of my own union, I led the first strike ever called by that union.” (Here, Reagan referenced his time as the head of the Screen Actors Guild.) He continued: “But we cannot compare labor-management relations in the private sector with government. Government cannot close down the assembly line. It has to provide—without interruption—the protective services which are government’s reason for being. It was in recognition of this that the Congress passed a law forbidding strikes by government employees against the public safety.” The President then issued a clear, straightforward ultimatum: “It is for this reason that I must tell those who fail to report for duty this morning they are in violation of the law, and if they do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.” What followed was a storm of questions from reporters. What would the legal recourse be in dealing with those union members who were on strike? Would the President cancel a scheduled trip to California if the strike continued? One reporter asked, “Mr. President, why have you taken such strong action as your first action? Why not some lesser action at this point?” The reply was decisive and yet searching in tone. “What lesser action can there be? They are violating the law!” It was with this last statement (before turning the question/answer session over to the Secretary of Transportation) that Ronald Reagan—still very early in his term as President—struck a determined note for law and order. It was, as suggested at the outset of this chapter, a defining moment. While he might sympathize with the air traffic controllers, he was unwilling to negotiate with those who had gone beyond the limits of the law. After the 48-hour deadline, some 11,300 workers who did not return to report for work were fired. In August 2011, on the thirtieth anniversary of the PATCO strike, Joseph A. McCartin (the author of “Collision Course”) wrote an op-ed in the New York Times. He said, “More than any other labor dispute of the past three decades, Reagan’s confrontation with…PATCO undermined the bargaining power of American workers and their labor unions. It also polarized our politics in ways that prevent us from addressing the root of our economic troubles: the continuing stagnation of incomes despite rising corporate profits and worker productivity.” It is in agreeing with this last statement where I, personally, have become conflicted. Reagan stood up and strongly advocated respect for law and order—an action that I consider one of his finest moments. And yet the outcome as described by Mr. McCartin is unavoidably difficult to wrestle with. This chapter may seem like a departure from the topics of government spending and military force during the Reagan administration covered thus far in the proceeding chapters. It is. There are reasons, though, for choosing to introduce this unrelated material. I did want to show that there were moments when I loved Ronald Reagan for his determined actions. But—more importantly—there is this: I wanted to introduce a ringing sound bite. Whatever the political disagreements or conflicted feelings one might have about Ronald Reagan’s 1981 stand-off with PATCO, one important statement should be remembered—and remembered well—as the reader moves on to chapter six. It is Ronald Reagan’s own voice, saying: “They are violating the law!” Chapter Six: Arming Terrorists A year ago I was involved in a discussion with several co-workers during which my friend—a republican—referred to President Barack Obama as the “Liar-in-Chief.” I can’t recall the specific topic then being discussed; however, I was not going to argue the merits of my friend’s accusations head-on. (This would’ve been a futile exercise as, in the time I’ve known him, he has never had anything good to say about any democrat. Nothing I said was going to suddenly change his mind about Obama). Instead, I took a different approach and challenged him to name for me—if he could—a President of the United States who we could agree had never lied (so far as anyone knows) to the American people. (Full disclosure: the name that came to my mind was Harry Truman.) I was, on the one hand, delighted with my interesting challenge; and on the other, sincerely curious as to how my friend would answer. He looked up and answered rather quickly with two words: “Ronald Reagan.” I have shared with the reader—in the book’s introduction—a number of pieced-together memories: Ronald Reagan’s speech to the American people about what he called his “Iran initiative”; Oliver North standing before a congressional panel before delivering his testimony. I was young then. In the intervening years, I had become a student of American political history. My bookshelves are filled with presidential biographies: Franklin Pierce, Grover Cleveland, Warren G. Harding, Ronald Reagan. I was therefore thunderstruck by my friend’s response. I had challenged him to name a president who had never lied to the American people. My friend was a good deal older than I—one thus assumes he’d be more knowledgeable—and yet I knew he was serious. This left one of two possibilities: either 1) he was unfamiliar with the particulars of Iran-Contra; or 2) he was fully versed in the complexities of the affair and still willing to cede Reagan the benefit of every doubt. Before further comment, a brief synopsis of America’s relationship with Iran would be useful. Iran was, for many years, one of our nation’s strongest allies in the Middle East under the secular leadership of the Shah—Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. In January of 1979 (the year I was born) violent demonstrations led to what historians call the Iranian Revolution, during which the Shah was removed from power and the country was re-shaped as an Islamic Republic by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini and his followers were Islamic extremists; their overthrow of the secular Iranian government was considered part of a “holy war.” The United States, meanwhile, was denounced as an evil imperial power whose presence in the region was unwanted, and in November of 1979, Khomeini severed official diplomatic ties and a number of his revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran. These—the officials working at the embassy—were the hostages Jimmy Carter was unable to successfully free in the remaining year of his presidency (as discussed in Chapter One). In time, more Americans would be taken hostage. In 1980, the Iran-Iraq War began. It was at this time, in an atmosphere of high tension and geo-political upheaval between nations that had once been allied, that Ronald Reagan stepped onto the stage as the newly-elected American President. From the outset, there was a genuine wish for a number of things: 1) to strongly condemn terrorist activity undertaken by Islamic extremists against the U.S. or any other nation and 2) to explore possibilities, wherever they might exist, of easing the tension and potentially improving relations between America and Iran. The first goal was easily achievable. The second would prove increasingly elusive in theory and problematic in dynamic terms. It was this well-intentioned second goal—a praiseworthy approach to be sure—which would lead the Reagan administration to engage in criminal activity, cover-up, and scandal. In March of 1984, a religious group connected to Iran kidnapped former Army officer William F. Buckley (not to be confused with the famous conservative author), who was working with the CIA in Beirut, Lebanon. (Recall that the Beirut attacks described in Chapter 4 had just taken place in the previous year). An American journalist for the Associated Press, Terry Anderson, was also kidnapped. These events, along with kidnappings of other Westerners, re-focused Reagan administration officials’ efforts to deal with Iran. In dealing with Iran, however, President Reagan offered a crystal clear imperative: that the United States did not—and would never—negotiate with terrorists. To do so would only embolden future anti-American forces to use similar terrorist methods (hijackings, kidnappings, etc). What the American leadership needed, it was thought, was a back-channel relationship (like those in the Soviet Union that proved very helpful to Jack and Bobby Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis) with moderate Iranians who, once Khomeini was either ousted from power or dead, could help guide Iran back into a more “America friendly” status. Once again, this was—at heart—a well-intentioned thought process. Iran was involved in its war with Iraq, and was in desperate need of military supplies. Because Iran was known to be a state sponsor of terrorist activities (the kidnappings in Lebanon, for example) the United States Congress had banned the sale of arms to that nation. A plan was devised, however, to offer sales of needed weapons to Iran in hopes of 1) securing the release of American hostages—both in Lebanon and Iran—and 2) strengthening goodwill between the U.S. and moderate Iranians. The biggest concern, and a real problem for the United States, would be the potential for weapons—once in Iran—to fall into ‘the wrong hands’. There would be little anyone could do to ensure that this would not happen. Throughout 1984 and 1985, Robert “Bud” McFarlane, Reagan’s national security advisor, met with several men in order to get things moving: Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi-Arabian businessman; Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer; and David Kimche, an Israeli diplomat and deputy-director of the Israeli spy organization Mossad. It was this group that laid the groundwork and executed the plan. Israel (through Kimche) was brought in for deniability reasons because of the congressional ban on arms sales to Iran. It was arranged that Israel would sell American made TOW (tube-launched, wire-guided) anti-tank missiles to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages. Khashoggi and Ghorbanifar would handle the money transfer on the “sale” end. Five hundred TOWs would be sold to Iran. In August of 1985, while President Reagan was in the hospital following surgery, McFarlane visited Reagan and discussed the proposed plan. It is important to note: both men have agreed that the discussion took place. According to “Bud” McFarlane, it was then that the President consented, giving his approval for the official ‘go-ahead’. In December of 1985, Admiral John Poindexter took over McFarlane’s post as the President’s national security advisor. The “Iran initiative” continued. On January 17, 1986, Reagan signed a “presidential finding” which authorized further sales of arms to Iran. The following month, February 27, 1986, one thousand additional TOWs were sent to Iran. No hostages were immediately released. “Regan told me without hesitation that we had been dealing with Iran for quite a while, and had sold them small amounts of arms, obtaining in the process the release of three hostages.” The quote comes from Peter J. Wallison’s book, “Ronald Reagan: the Power of Conviction and the Success of His Presidency.” Mr. Wallison, it should be noted, is not a Reagan detractor; rather, (as we see in the title of his book) he views Reagan as a success. Here, Wallison—who served as the President’s legal counsel from April of ’86 to March ’87—describes a conversation he had with the Chief of Staff Donald Regan, which took place in November of 1986. Mr. Wallison continues his recollections: “I said I was not certain about the legality of the activity under the Arms Export Control Act…but Regan said that the Attorney General had been involved in the discussions of the matter from the beginning, so he was reasonably sure that everything was done legally.” (Here, Mr. Wallison references Reagan’s long-time advisor/Attorney general, Ed Meese). Note that two important words stand out: reasonably sure. Those who were “in the know” were on record as feeling reasonably sure that what they were doing was legal. It is a remarkable disclosure. Are you certain you paid the parking ticket? Well, not really—no—but I am reasonably sure. In point of fact, the “reasonably sure” statement was an outright lie. Those involved (McFarlane, Poindexter, and associates at the NSC) had jumped through hoops—going so far as to involve Israel—to avoid public disclosure of the transactions. They were well aware that such activity was in violation of Congress’s arms ban. In all, some 1,500 missiles had been delivered to an outlaw nation that viewed the United States as an evil imperial power, 3 hostages were eventually released (others, including William F. Buckley, died in captivity), and $30 million had changed hands. And what would be done with the proceeds of the secret sales? Here, one is forced to revisit what was developing on the other side of the globe from an American foreign relations standpoint. The history of unrest in Nicaragua is too involved to invest deep analysis here. A brief overview, however, would remind readers that a revolution took place in the late 1920s, wherein Augusto Sandino led a rebellion against two formidable opponents: the sitting (American-sponsored) leader Adolfo Diaz in particular and American occupation of Nicaragua in general. Fighting continued as Diaz left power; Anastasio Samoza Garcia took Diaz’s place, with the “Samoza Dynasty” ruling over the next 43 years. It wasn’t until August of 1978 that rebel Sandinistan forces (using the name of the leader who died in 1934) captured the national palace, officially taking power in July the following year. Ideologically, the Sandinistas were of the Marxist fold, interested in re-creating Nicaragua as a socialist state. And, just as Augusto Sandino was, the group was opposed to U.S. intervention in the region. In 1980, the Sandinistas signed economic and cultural agreements with the Soviet Union. These factors, as well as press restrictions enforced by the new government, led the Reagan administration to view the power shift as undesirable and the Sandinistas as a potential threat to security in the region. President Reagan cut off aid which Jimmy Carter had authorized in hopes of smoothing the power change in Nicaragua. The Contras, trained in Argentina and operationally equipped in Honduras, was a rebel group in opposition to the Sandinistas. Though there was some evidence that the Contras purposefully targeted civilians, the Reagan administration viewed Contra efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas as a democratic revolution which must be encouraged and given aid. Americans had become increasingly weary of foreign intervention, however; and so, on December 8, 1982, Congress passed the Boland Amendment. This was a rider —named for the Massachusetts representative who authored it—to a defense appropriations bill. The rider specifically prohibited the use of funds for the purpose of overthrowing the Nicaraguan government. President Reagan signed the bill—Boland Amendment and all—(one imagines he did this grudgingly) into law December 21, 1982. The language of the Boland Amendment proved weak, as it had not been specific enough, barring only “the use of funds” in providing aid to the Contras. The CIA continued—with the President’s approval—to provide “on the ground” assistance, going so far as to mine the harbors in Nicaragua. Therefore, on August 1, 1984, Congress passed the Second Boland Amendment, which read: “During fiscal year 1985, no funds available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities may be obligated or expended for the purpose or which would have the effect of supporting—directly or indirectly—military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization, movement, or individual.” Talk about crossing one’s t’s and dotting one’s i’s! There could be no mistake made in reading the Second Boland Amendment—the language was straightforward and its tone forceful. No American aid to the Contras, period. To provide such aid would be in direct violation not only of the will of the American electorate in general (beyond the consent of the governed) but of the Second Boland Amendment in particular. This is where one catches up to national security advisors “Bud” McFarlane and John Poindexter (and their National Security Council associates) and the money from the secret Iran transactions. In order to circumvent the system, the funds had to be “re-directed.” But where? Certain actors had very bold ideas for an answer. Lt. Colonel Oliver North, a deputy director at the NSC who had been involved in what he called the daily “operational aspects” of the arms deals (meeting with Ghorbanifar, for example)—and who reported directly to McFarlane and Poindexter—felt that despite misgivings in Congress, more should be done to support the Contras. Of the reported $30 million that had changed hands, $12 million went to U.S. government reserves. The rest, a sum of $18 million, went to…that’s right…the Contras. Not to put too fine a point on it, but before continuing, let’s take a moment to carefully review the facts. The aim was to keep the Iran arms transactions secret because those actions were in violation of the Arms Export Control Act (specifically mentioned by legal counsel Peter J. Wallison in a discussion he had with Chief of Staff Don Regan as described above). To cover their tracks in one illegal adventure, Reagan administration officials engaged in a second illegal act by violating both Boland Amendments, providing financial support—and in some cases small arms (rifles, ammunition)—to the Contras. One must do intellectual cartwheels in order to believe that this was done without at least a passing awareness of the President of the United States. In realistic terms, I believe that, for anyone to think that such transactions were made without Ronald Reagan’s official—or at least tacit—approval stretches the bounds of believability, educated reason, and imagination. The public was made aware of the illegal activities following the disclosure of the arms deals by two Lebanese newspapers. At first, the administration sought to hush the reports as nothing more than anti-American blather from unreliable sources. The story, however, was quickly picked up and gaining traction. At some point as news broke, possibly as early as October of ‘86, Oliver North set to destroying potentially harmful NSC documents. In an address to the nation on November 13, 1986, President Reagan said, “The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon; that the United States undercut its allies and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists. Those charges are utterly false. The United States has not made concessions to those who hold our people captive in Lebanon, and we will not. The United States has not swapped boatloads or planeloads of American weapons for the return of American hostages, and we will not.” With each repetition of the phrase, Reagan stressed “…and we will not.” He continued: “Other reports have surfaced alleging U.S. involvement: reports of a sealift to Iran using Danish ships to carry American arms; of vessels in Spanish ports being employed in secret U.S. arms shipments; of Italian ports being used; of the U.S. sending spare parts and weapons for combat aircraft. All these reports are quite exciting, but as far as we’re concerned, not one of them is true.” Not one—this was an over-statement. Some sealift efforts had taken place in making deliveries, and spare parts and weapons had been sent, though the President was more-or-less accurate in assessing that reports were beginning to balloon into the realm of the fantastic. Fantastic, though, (as it turned out) didn’t mean untrue. He continued: “During the course of our secret discussions, I authorized the transfer of small amounts of defensive weapons and spare parts for defensive systems to Iran. My purpose was to convince Tehran that our negotiators were acting with my authority, to send a signal that the United States was prepared to replace the animosity between us with a new relationship. These modest deliveries, taken together, could easily fit into a single cargo plane.” This was a lie (or at the very least a dramatic over-simplification). According to Oliver North’s recollections, the sheer scope in terms of number of weapons (approximately 1,500) made the President’s comment all-but-impossible to support. The idea that multiple deliveries of arms—under a veil of secrecy—was anything other than a considerable undertaking was fanciful at best. A congressional committee—the Tower Commission—was organized to investigate what the President called “exciting” yet “utterly false” reports. In his excellent book, “President Reagan: the Triumph of Imagination,” historian Richard Reeves describes a meeting which took place at the White House on February 11, 1987 between the President and members of the Commission. The members involved were Senator John Tower (R-Texas), Edmund Muskie (D-Maine), and General Brent Scowcroft (USAF-retired; Republican; served as military assistant to Richard Nixon and national security advisor to Gerald Ford). The episode is worth quotation: “Reagan wanted to change his story about whether he had authorized the first shipment of American weapons and parts from Israel to Iran. Three weeks earlier, he had told the three commissioners that he had known about, and ordered, the shipment in the summer of 1985—as Bud McFarlane had told the commission under oath. Now, he said, he had talked with his chief of staff, Don Regan, and agreed with Regan’s testimony that he did not know of the shipment until early 1986. No recording or official note-taking was allowed, but news of the President’s shifting testimony leaked to the press within an hour” (Reeves 378). On February 25, the men went again to the White House. The President persisted in claiming that his efforts in dealing with Iran had nothing to do with trading arms for hostages; that he would never negotiate with terrorists. It was at this meeting that Scowcroft challenged the President. There was evidence, Scowcroft said, of a May 1986 action wherein assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Secord “and a plane full of missiles waited on a runway in Israel, waiting for word that hostages had been released” (Reeves 381). According to Reeves, it was only after being challenged in this way that the President confirmed the commission’s analysis: that, given the facts on the ground, the deal clearly appeared to be an arms for hostages swap. In 2012, the American public was drawn into following the real-life trial of Jody Arias, a woman charged with the murder of her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander. As an interested viewer, I tried to follow the proceedings without bias (as a juror would). There is an educated observation, however, that I embrace: that the testimony of an innocent person does not change, as there is only one truth. Changing testimony calls into question a person’s credibility. In the Jody Arias trial, for example, Arias first claimed that she was in another state altogether when her former lover was killed. After continued questioning, Arias changed her story, saying that she had spent the night with Alexander, and that intruders broke in and killed him. As facts continued to discredit this second story, Arias recanted her earlier testimony and said that she had killed Alexander in self-defense. Arias wanted her story to fit forensic facts, giving investigators three completely different accounts about what took place. This is not what an innocent person does. As the Tower Commission continued to look into the Iran-Contra affair, the President—as described above in the Reeves passages—sought to change his story, offering shifting narratives of what he knew, when he knew it, and the extent of his involvement. As I and many others did while following the Arias trial, the reader is here invited to make his or her own educated observations. In March 1987, following several months of silence on the matter as Iran-Contra continued to steal newspaper headlines, Ronald Reagan was back before the television cameras—this time telling his audience (as quoted in the introduction to this book) that: “A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart—and my best intentions—still tell me that’s true. But the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” I did a bad thing and lied about it…sort of. There is more to the complex series of events that came to be known as the “Iran-Contra Affair” than I have shared here. There were reports of a Boeing 707 loaded with crates filled with American weapons sitting on a runway in Tel Aviv; of meetings held by “Bud” McFarlane, Oliver North, and Ghorbanifar during which they were to meet with Iranian moderates who never showed; discussions at the White House between the President, McFarlane, Secretary of State George Shultz (who voiced concerns and outright opposition to the schemes) and CIA director Bill Casey in which the President allegedly said, “I want to find a way to get this done.” There are, as detailed in Richard Reeves’ book, presidential memos (or “findings”) that have Ronald Reagan’s hand-written notes in the margins. My own account here has been an effort to give a broad outline of the series of events. For anyone interested in further research, I would highly recommend the books I’ve drawn quotes from (Wallison and Reeves), as well as “Firewall: the Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up” written by Lawrence E. Walsh (who was the Independent Counsel appointed by a panel of judges and charged with the initial investigation). During his testimony before the Senate, Oliver North admitted that, in the process of illegally dealing with Iran, he had indeed engineered a diversion of the proceeds from the weapons sales to aid the Contras. Also in his testimony, he claimed to have forwarded (over a period of time) five separate memos—each involving the particulars of the diversion—to the President, but was personally unable to verify that Reagan had received the memos. North was charged with obstruction for initially lying during inquiries about the diversion of funds, as well as for his role in destroying official NSC documents. (The destruction of documents and resulting lack of paper evidence was especially aggravating, in part because the President was thus able to suggest that he was unaware of activities undertaken at lower levels by members of his administration). After an unsuccessful suicide attempt in 1987, Robert “Bud” McFarlane pled guilty to four misdemeanors of withholding information from congress. He was pardoned in 1992 be President George Bush. His successor as Reagan’s national security advisor, Admiral John Poindexter, was charged with five counts of conspiracy to obstruct the congressional investigation. He was found guilty; however a District Court of Appeals reversed his conviction due to legal questions regarding the immunity he was given during testimony before congress. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was involved as well. Though he denied having material knowledge of the Iran arms sales, his personal notes and diaries (which he attempted to conceal) proved otherwise. Weinberger was charged with five counts: obstruction, making false statements, perjury involving missile shipments, perjury involving knowledge of Israel’s role, and making false statements to the Independent Counsel and to the FBI. He was never prosecuted for these offenses, though, because President George Bush issued a preemptive pardon for Weinberger in 1992. No charges were ever brought against the President of the United States for his role in the Iran-Contra affair (and, though I was young, I do not recall Rush Limbaugh turning red in the face and yelling for impeachment). There was apparently too little evidence—perhaps because of Oliver North’s efforts at destroying documents—directly tying Reagan to specific planning or that he had full knowledge of any aspects of the affair. The public believed that, at his age, Ronald Reagan (as he himself admitted) was less concerned with specific details of administration than he was with providing over-all goals to be achieved. His own words, though, would suggest that he was fully aware of the arms sales: “During the course of our secret discussions, I authorized the transfer of small amounts of defensive weapons and spare parts for defensive systems to Iran. My purpose was to convince Tehran that our negotiators were acting with my authority…” Acting with my authority. The admission is right there. During our discussion last year, I challenged my friend to name a President of the United States who we could agree had never lied (so far as anyone knows) to the American people. Ronald Reagan was the last name I thought he’d give as his response. Chapter Seven: Morning in America? In his final message to the American people before turning over the presidency to his successor, Ronald Reagan said, “This is the 34th time I’ll speak to you from the Oval Office, and the last. We’ve been together eight years now, and soon it’ll be time for me to go. But before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts…” Farewell addresses tend to be reflective, and this one—his last as President—was certainly so. He continued, “It’s been the honor of my life to be your President. So many of you have written the past few weeks to say thanks, but I could say as much to you.” “It’s been quite a journey this decade,” he said, “and we held together through some stormy seas.” It was the first of several maritime allusions he would make during the speech. He ended, though, by returning to a subject he’d covered many times before: his vision of America as a shining city on a hill. “I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace…[t]hat’s how I saw it, and see it still.” His last thoughts before closing were given to those who, for eight years, embraced his message of smaller government. “As I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution…my friends: we did it. We weren’t just marking time. We made a difference.” He could not know how far-seeing those words would be. He did indeed make a difference. He pushed republican orthodoxy further to the right, and in the 25 years since Ronald Reagan left office, it has become increasingly apparent that he pushed the whole nation in that same direction. He won the argument. In a nation of many differing opinions—of political disagreements—the notion that “government is the problem” has become firmly rooted in the soil of our American discussions. Even during the democratic administration of Bill Clinton, there were no real attempts (other than, perhaps, the failed attempt at healthcare reform) to push back against such thinking and return to an LBJ-style, activist government. Rather, the new argument was for “smarter government.” For those who may not believe so, consider this: On January 20, 1997, during his second Inaugural Address, Bill Clinton said, “Government is not the problem, and government is not the solution…as times change, so government must change. We need a new government for a new century…one that is smaller, lives within its means, and does more with less.” This was different: it was not the “new deal” style argument that 20th century democratic administrations had embraced. One cannot imagine, for example, FDR or LBJ saying such things. Clinton continued, “The preeminent mission of our new government is to give all Americans an opportunity—not a guarantee, but a real opportunity—to build better lives.” Clinton’s approach was—to be fair—less strident, more nuanced than Reagan’s; however, it certainly had echoes of the Great Communicator’s focus on self-reliance and responsibility. Without question, it definitely owed more to—and had more in common with—Ronald Reagan’s vision of America than it did Lyndon Johnson’s. Reagan had succeeded in changing the discussion. There were other successes, too, that cannot—should not—be overlooked. When he became president, the national picture that he inherited from a beleaguered Jimmy Carter was rather gloomy. The economy was not at all well. There were gas lines (due to an oil embargo). There were American hostages in Iran. An over-all sense of unhappiness with the way the country was headed—if not outright desperation—had taken hold. Perhaps Ronald Reagan’s greatest achievement was restoring America’s sense of hope in the future. (In his successful 1984 bid for a second term, radio and tv ads proclaimed that, under Reagan’s leadership, it was “morning in America”). Many admirers credit President Reagan with the fall of the Soviet Union. While the arms race certainly did much to push the troubled Russian economy toward its eventual collapse, I would argue that no one person can take credit; rather, it was a number of U.S. presidents—from Kennedy to Reagan—whose firm stands against Russian aggression ultimately bore fruit. Also, had Reagan’s successor—George Bush—handled things in a more imprudent manner, the outcome might have been very different, indeed. For example: had he, in his own words, “danced on the wall” as the Berlin Wall was torn down, it would have forced Gorbachev into an impossible position within the Kremlin and may well have led to further hostility between the two nations. If Reagan’s posture made the fall of the Soviet Union possible, it is George Bush who is given too little credit for ensuring its peaceful outcome. We cannot forget, nor can we gloss over, Reagan’s failures. To do so would be foolish (and as stated earlier, intellectually dishonest). The economy did improve; however the experience was not an uninterrupted climb to greater and greater prosperity. The blue collar working class as well as those living below the poverty line continued to struggle. Under Reagan’s watch, the business executives did rather well. The 1980s were very good for the top 1% of Americans. The “trickle-down” effect, however, did not occur. The President cut taxes in his first term; however, he actually raised taxes during his second term in order to offset a period of recession. Though there were finally positive dividends (as mentioned above), the economic fallout from Reagan’s arms race with Russia was tremendous. The runaway spending created enormous deficits—a record that is either ignored or conveniently forgotten by today’s Republicans. One wonders: how might things have been different had President Reagan embraced diplomacy? If Reagan had—for example—continued the Nixon, Ford, and Carter efforts of détente, could the United States have made progress with the Soviet Union without spending many millions of dollars on creating stockpiles of weapons? Judging solely by Gorbachev’s behavior in Reykjavik (as discussed in chapter three) the answer is—very likely—yes. How did Ronald Reagan perform as Commander-in-Chief? The chapters I’ve dedicated to American foreign policy during his term speak for themselves. If a president is to be judged by the number of battles won; or by the lives lost in service to a soldier’s nation, by the gains made by such losses; by whether or not he has made the United States a safer nation—then I contend that Reagan failed us. Forget (for a moment) the Soviet Union. Recall Beirut. Recall 304 American lives snuffed out. Remember the illegal activities of the Iran-Contra affair, in which the U.S. supplied an outlaw nation with weapons. Remember, especially, the changing testimony of the President of the United States during the Iran-Contra investigations. And remember that while ANY shipment of weapons made to Iran was illegal at that time under the terms of the Arms export Control Act, Reagan quibbled over the SIZE of the shipments that were made: "During the course of our secret discussions, I authorized the transfer of small amounts of defensive weapons…these modest deliveries…could easily fit into a single cargo plane.” Oh! Well then, in that case…I guess it’s all ok. And then, his half-baked confession: “…My heart—and my best intentions—still tell me that’s true. But the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” To this day, there is—somewhere inside me—the six year old who heard the president and is still trying to understand the meaning of the “confession.” In truth: at 34 years old I still don’t understand how America heard those words, shrugged collectively, and said “Oh! Well then, in that case…I guess it’s all ok.” The fact that Ronald Reagan’s stated goals (less government spending, for example) are so radically different from the actual record, and that his record is ignored by admiring “conservative” fans, leaves me groping for a way to put his presidency in perspective. To honestly grade his performance is to—at the same time—call attention to an extraordinary hypocritical tendency in the current Republican party. His is, at best, a mixed legacy. It is a legacy that would eventually find further development—and failure—during the administration of George W. Bush. Chapter Eight: Thinking About George Depending on who you ask, you may get differing answers to the question: “who was the 19th President of the United States?” The same is true when inquiring about the 43rd. George Walker Bush, the son of the man who served alongside Ronald Reagan, entered the Oval Office as the nation’s 43rd President on January 20, 2001. He did so following the most turbulent election since 1876. In that election—between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio and Democrat Samuel Tilden of New York—several states (including Florida!) were in doubt, leaving the results to remain undecided for months before being settled (in Hayes’s favor) by an electoral committee. The election of 2000, between George W. Bush and Al Gore, also involved disputed votes (and Florida!) and was no less divisive. There are people who, today, still believe that the election was taken from Gore—that he was the nation’s 43rd president. The campaign season leading up to the election of 2000 hadn’t exactly been a picnic. Many—myself included—were initially underwhelmed by the choice of George W. Bush to head the Republican ticket. (During the primary, I voted for Senator John McCain, and had the opportunity to shake his hand when he visited Sacred Heart University.) In what should have been an especially telling moment, Bush—who was feeling pressured to dispel the impression people had of him as a lackluster “C student” mindset—was challenged to name foreign leaders of several nations. He had trouble doing so. Yikes! Gore had his problems, too. Whether or not this matched the man’s true colors, Gore was seen as dull, as academic and cold—a sort of aloof political statue. Bill Clinton had amazed voters with his capacity for sympathy (most famously noted in the “I feel your pain” quote). It was a political skill his vice president seemed to lack. While on the same stage during their debates, Gore was unable to match George W’s image as “the kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with.” This seemed to give Bush a real leg-up; however, one wonders how much damage this actually caused Gore’s campaign. In any case, it all led to an election that was—as noted—incredibly divisive. It was a difficult way—under a cloud of hurt feelings and rumors of voter fraud—for anyone to assume the presidency. Because the election had been so stormy, President Bush promised he would be “a uniter, not a divider.” Many Americans, even those who did not vote for him, hoped that Bush would succeed in uniting the country. For a time he did. The new president started his inaugural address by saying, “As I begin, I thank President Clinton for his service to our nation, and I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit and ended with grace.” Further into the inaugural, in a moment reflecting his deep personal faith, President Bush said, “Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty. But we can listen to those who do. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: when we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.” These were very caring words. Whatever one might think about the man, George W’s faith—like Ronald Reagan’s anti-communist zeal—was and is genuine. It is one of the very best parts of his character. And yet, the moment was meant to address the sin of suffering (in the form of what he called “deep, persistent poverty”). As the new leader not only of the nation but of the Republican party in particular, he was speaking more to active civic engagement, church-based initiatives, and community commitments rather than for government intervention on behalf of those in need. The “wounded traveler” was not about to be given a free helping hand from a new Lyndon Johnson; rather, he would see less Washington-driven legislation and a push for community-led charitable responses. It was an important distinction. I was (at the time) a registered Republican who, having gotten over John McCain’s primary loss, voted for Mr. Bush. His message of wanting to embrace the goal of greater personal responsibility in the country resonated with me. But as the Bush II presidency began I was, admittedly, less than impressed. I recalled the soaring words Ronald Reagan delivered; the careful way the first President Bush watched German reunification without bragging and beating his chest triumphantly; the caring, hopeful voice Bill Clinton gave to ordinary Americans who wanted to work hard, earn a decent wage for their efforts, and send their kids to college. In the first few months of the Bush II presidency, the “new guy” in the Oval Office seemed to lack a vision for what he wanted to do. He seemed, in fact, to be living up to the “C student” image. The few speeches he delivered—apart from the inaugural address—made me wonder about his speechwriting staff. I missed Peggy Noonan (who’d written many speeches for Reagan). There were significant successes early on, to be sure. One move I especially liked was the new president’s choice for Secretary of State—Colin Powell, a man whose sterling reputation and strong character were unimpeachable. I also had reason to applaud his choice for a running mate. I had no deep understanding of the man or of his views, but I had a peripheral awareness that Richard “Dick” Cheney had served in some capacity during the Ford administration, and I had always liked and respected Gerald Ford. (Cheney was Ford’s White House Chief of Staff. He went on to serve as Secretary of Defense under the first President Bush—another man I respect.) Donald Rumsfeld was, I believed, another inspired choice; he was another Ford man (he served both Ford and Bush II as Secretary of Defense). Ford was no radical; in point of fact he had been a voice of clear thinking and pragmatism as president. To see such men—Ford men—surrounding the new president left me feeling hopeful. The economy was doing well. We had, as a country, shaken our old Cold War attitudes in dealing with Russia. After eight years of Ronald Reagan—during which personal religious beliefs kept the President from engaging the problem of AIDS (which was then seen as a “gay disease”)—and a single George Bush term where he’d been defeated for re-election not so much by Clinton but by voices of the extreme element of the Republican party, I looked forward to having a Bush II presidency as he himself described: one that would unite the country rather than offer further division. A “Ford restoration” of sorts. Then, in September 2001, everything changed. Americans—and people around the globe—embraced President Bush as he carefully led the nation in the first hours and days following the attacks. The Queen sang the American national anthem at Buckingham Palace; on September 12, French newspapers announced, “We are all Americans.” In what I regard as being the most significant moments, Russian president Vladimir Putin called the attacks a “blatant challenge to humanity,” while German chancellor Schroeder said that the attacks were, “not only attacks on the people in the United States, our friends in America, but also against…our own freedom, against our own values…which we share with the American people.” With such tributes of brotherhood coming from Russia and Germany—two nations that shared with us a history not of peace and harmony but of animosity, distrust, and war—I admit, I was moved. We can each recall the moment when, while visiting Ground Zero, President Bush stood atop the rubble of the World Trade Center alongside firefighters and rescue workers. When someone in the back of the crowd called out “we can’t hear you,” his response (through megaphone) was powerful. He said, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Resolve. Defiance in the face of horror. It was an electric moment—one of the President’s best. Maybe he didn’t need Peggy Noonan; his own sense of self was working out pretty well. I remember being rather pleased at that hour with having voted for the man. At that moment, the President of the United States had a real chance to unite. To succeed as few others had in working to fashion a better world. To take the clay that was the chaos of New York and D.C. and mold a more united group of nations. (Woodrow Wilson experienced such an opportunity in Paris following the conclusion of World War I.) The goodwill was there: “We are all Americans.” In the days that followed, however, decisions were made that would completely unravel that sense of unity. My thoughts regarding Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld would come back to haunt me. The whole nation would—in time—be haunted. Yes, they had been “Ford men.” But neither man was anything like his former boss. David Gergen—who worked as an advisor to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton—called Ford, “The most decent man I knew.” Gerald Ford had been a magnanimous consensus seeker; however, his former lieutenants, Cheney and Rumsfeld, were political gorillas. (In a conversation with his chief of staff, H. R. “Bob” Haldeman, Richard Nixon called Rumsfeld a “ruthless little bastard.” Considering the source, the anecdote is quite revealing.) Altogether, their efforts to make the case for—and later to justify—war with Iraq (and to somehow tie that war with the 9/11 attacks) would cost many millions of dollars and untold American and Iraqi lives. I have a tattoo on the inside of each forearm. One is of a sentence—in her handwriting—lifted from a letter my maternal Grandmother wrote me ten years ago, while I was living in Georgia: “I think of you every day.” Grandma, who passed away in 2010, was my political companion, and she is still with me. The other tattoo is of the Green Lantern symbol, revealing to the world that I am what some might call a “comic book nerd.” In comics, as in science-fiction books and films, a topic that is often explored is the possible existence of alternate realities. Writers—including Newt Gingrich—have written “what if” books that examine alternate histories of the Civil War. (What if Lee had done X, Y, or Z?). It is an endlessly fascinating thing to contemplate “what if.” The Bush II presidency will be examined in the following chapters. Whatever political views a person might hold—conservative or liberal, whether you see George W. Bush as hero or villain—there is one absolute: his administration was a significant one. It is highly unlikely that his time in office will fade into obscurity along with the terms of Grover Cleveland, for example. That said, the second President Bush left the United States with many unresolved “what ifs.” When historians look back to the stormy election of 2000, many rather absorbing questions emerge. One is forced to ask: in an alternate reality, what would President Gore have done differently? How would he have dealt with the “wounded traveler on the road to Jericho”? Perhaps more importantly: how would President Gore have reacted to the events of 9/11? Chapter Nine: Bush’s Benghazi? On August 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received—during his daily briefing—an intelligence report with terse language which said: “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” What’s more, according to an article by Kurt Eichenwald that appeared in the New York Times on September 10, 2012, this was not the new president’s first briefing on the topic. The existence of several briefings prior to the August 6, 2001 document, according to Eichenwald’s report, offers evidence of “significantly more negligence” by the Bush II administration in addressing U.S. security concerns than previously imagined by many Americans. In fact, CIA officers informed Bush of reported threats as early as May that year, and continued to press the issue during meetings in June (the 22nd and 29th) and July (9th). On May 1, 2001, the CIA told Bush that they had intel of “a group presently in the United States” that was planning unspecified terrorist activities. The June 22 statement suggested that, according to reliable evidence, a possible threat was “imminent.” No initiatives were taken to increase security details in the nation’s airports, bus depots, or subway terminals. No statements were issued from the White House in an effort to inform the public of CIA concerns. Why needlessly alarm people—so the thinking went—without explicit proof? (Vice President Cheney’s personal reluctance to rely on CIA intel, in fact his outright distrust of the agency, will be explored in chapter ten). As early as May. Twice in June. Again in July. And then August. “In the aftermath of 9/11,” according to the report, “Bush officials attempted to deflect criticism that they had ignored CIA warnings by saying they had not been told when and where the attack would occur.” Dear Mr. Bush: we at the CIA have it on good authority that Colonel Mustard (who, according to our sources will be wearing a yellow cardigan) plans on killing the maid in the dining room two days from Thursday. He will use the candlestick. If only the CIA warnings had been so written, perhaps then the President would have done something? Sarcasm aside, this was the basic defense offered above. I am typically not one to kick a dead horse; however, I feel compelled to take the opportunity and refer the reader to observations made in chapter four. In September 2012, an attack was carried out against the United States embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Much has been made of the fact that the Obama administration failed to provide the embassy with extra security in the hours leading up to the attack. Still others in the conservative media (Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck) feel that Pres. Obama, (Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice each provided misleading—or outright false—accounts of 1) the timeline of initial hostilities in Benghazi and 2) the catalyst for the attack. Whatever the cause of the attacks, or when they began, the eventual outcome remains the same: that 4—four—Americans were killed. It was a tragic event. And, as I suggested in chapter four, the loss of ANY American life in service to his/her nation is an important moment that cannot—should not—be brushed aside and left unanswered. The gravity of the situation is clear. (This is especially true in the hearts of those who still have loved ones actively serving in the armed forces). That said, I echo my assertion that the Republican response to the event in Benghazi far outweighs the true gravity of the moment. For those who are overcome with a genuine concern over the “Benghazi scandal,” I would ask: are you as deeply outraged over George W. Bush’s inaction in the days—actually, months—leading up to the attacks on September 11, 2001? I would hope—sincerely—that your reaction to Benghazi is heartfelt, and not simply an example of partisan venom aimed at the current occupant of the Oval Office. Dear Mr. Hannity: may I ask, in light of the evidence that he twiddled his fingers absently while terrorists entered this country and engineered their sinister plan, why did you not call for the impeachment of President Bush? Surely, his failure to enact extra security measures before 9/11—in which, altogether 2,977 people were killed—is grave enough to warrant your just outrage. Sadly, Mr. Hannity, I have reason to believe that your reaction to Benghazi is simply an example of partisan venom. That goes for you, too, Mr. Limbaugh. Chapter Ten: The Contest On September 11, 2001, I was a student at the University of Connecticut. It was a Tuesday, which meant that I was scheduled to attend math class. I’ve always had trouble with math. I woke, took a shower, and came downstairs to find my dad watching the news. An airplane had apparently crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center. I sat and watched the live coverage. I noticed a small speck in the background and watched as it came closer and closer. I saw—in real time—the second plane rip through its target. “There were about thirty of us standing around, and as soon as the second aircraft smashed through the second tower, everyone said, ‘Bin Laden’.” The quote is from former CIA field officer Gary Schroen, given during an interview for the PBS news program FRONTLINE. “Everybody assumed that it was Al Qaida because the operation looked like Al Qaida, quacked like Al Qaida, seemed like Al Qaida,” according to Condoleezza Rice, who was President Bush’s National Security Advisor. Secretary of State Colin Powell—who was in Lima, Peru at the time of the attacks—immediately returned to the U.S. In describing his trip back, Powell said, “I had all that time to think about what happened and about what it was going to mean. Clearly, America was under assault, serious assault.” Everybody assumed, according to Dr. Rice, that it was Al Qaida. Not quite everybody, as it turned out. That very day—with smoke still rising from Ground Zero in New York, the Pentagon, and from a quiet Pennsylvania field where a third airplane was forced down—Donald Rumsfeld dictated a memo to a staffer which read: “Judge whether hit SH at same time, not only UBL.” SH was shorthand scribble for Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq. UBL (though miss-spelled) was referring to Osama Bin Laden. Though later classes held at Uconn were cancelled, the morning schedule was uninterrupted. While I sat in math class with fellow students, discussing—in near disbelief—what we had seen and heard that morning (and not getting anything done in the way of actual classwork), Don Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and certain other high-ranking officials in Washington, D.C. were already focusing their efforts at connecting the dots in a way which would allow the United States to “go after” Saddam Hussein. Former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who is now an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, offers a rather sharp analysis. Scheuer says, “Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Cheney—all cut their teeth in the Cold War, in the contest between nation-states. They’re not comfortable with thinking that the world’s greatest power can be threatened by a couple of Arabs with long beards squatting around a desert campfire in Afghanistan. It doesn’t register.” This, perhaps, shines a revealing spotlight on the psychology behind the line of thinking that took place in the first few hours following the attacks. Rather than simply gather information and launch a targeted assault on the group—or groups—responsible, the Unites States had to (so the thinking went) address certain countries that may have played a role or somehow been involved. This second initiative would, of course, involve a greater military operation than the first. No worries. For Donald Rumsfeld (as we’ve already seen), Iraq—or, more specifically her leader Saddam Hussein—was ‘target number one’ on a list for such consideration. It was decided that, once he was back in Washington, President Bush (who had also been in a classroom that morning, in Florida) would make an address from the Oval Office. This would be an attempt to show that things were still running, that the terrorists behind the attacks had not brought the nation to a standstill. They had. But it was important to show the outside world an America pulsing with determined strength. Defense Policy Advisor Richard Perle, who was of a like mind with Rumsfeld, has admitted that he spoke that afternoon with White House speechwriters in an effort to affect the language of the president’s address. He wanted to include language that would allow for decisions—whether made in the immediate future or down the road—that would involve the greater strategic aim discussed above (namely: to allow the U.S. to target nations that were deemed “state sponsors” of terrorist activity). That night, the President told an American audience—as well as people listening in far corners of the globe—that America had been badly hurt, but that the country was far from shrinking into despair or retreat. He began his speech, saying, “Good evening. Today our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist attacks.” He continued: “A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” It set an important tone. He continued: “The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I’ve directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” There it was. The words necessary to engage in an effort whose scope would be broadly outlined. The American response to September 11th would not be a limited engagement with specific actors (i.e. Al Qaida). Only hours after suffering the biggest defeat since Pearl Harbor, the President of the United States, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense (Rumsfeld), the Deputy SoD (Wolfowitz), and other lower level government agents set the country on a dangerous course: one that held real potential to expose American military families to greater levels of conflict than facts on the ground necessitated. But there was still room for uncertainty in the minds of people listening that night. What did the president mean when he alluded to “those who harbor them”? Which specific countries did he have in mind? He did not say—not that night. In fact, most Americans woke up the next morning—Sept 12—still not knowing who was responsible for what happened. I know that, for me, it felt as though I had dreamed the events of the previous morning. In my mind—and in the minds of most people of my generation who had not lived (as our grandparents had) through WWII—war had always been a distant thing. Black and white photos. Color scenes on tv of a place far away in a desert where men and boys threw rocks at one another and fired rifles at tanks. Dust-covered men and women running through streets that looked alien and unforgiving. I can easily recall pictures of demonstrations held in such uncaring streets (in 1979) in which Iranian citizens burned a straw doll of the Ayatollah Khomeini in effigy. Naked, burning, tortured streets. In such scenes, those streets looked nothing at all like the streets of New York City. Until 9/11. If the President and his cabinet did have a knee-jerk type of reaction to the events of 9/11, who could blame them? The horror of what we witnessed at a distance—through our television screens—and of what others who were there actually experienced, was incredible. On the most basic level, the human instinct was to do one of two things: to either ball up one’s hands into fists, or to shrink reflexively into a retreating posture. Fight or flight. We cannot ask our leaders to be anything other than human. And yet, they have to be. They have to be. They have to make hard decisions in hard times. They are asked to do so by a free people who vote into office representatives: people who will speak for us. It may not be fair to ask those representatives to be better than us, but that is what we do. We tolerate certain behavior in our own neighborhoods—marital infidelity, for example—that we condemn if exposed in Washington, D.C. It may not be fair, but it is what we do. That said, the days that followed the 9/11 attacks found certain powerful men in Washington, D.C. acting especially childish. In what can best be described as a middle school-style “p[crude term] contest,” (hence the name of this chapter), Vice President Cheney, SoD Don Rumsfeld, and Deputy SoD Paul Wolfowitz each tried to present the president with the best case for having the Pentagon (the military)—coincidentally under the purview of Rumsfeld—shoulder the official responsibilities of the “war on terror.” Each man wanted to have greater direct control over how the war would be waged than he would have if the operational, on the ground details fell instead to the CIA. Dick Cheney distrusted the CIA, which is perhaps the biggest reason for his wanting greater control. In part, he blamed the CIA for failing to predict or stop 9/11. His distrust, though, goes back further: to his time as Gerald Ford’s Chief of Staff. He felt, then, that the CIA had grossly underestimated Russia’s nuclear capabilities. During the early 1990s, Mr. Cheney served as Secretary of Defense under the first President Bush. He believed that the CIA failed then, too (for having missed signs of Saddam Hussein’s potential to pose a threat in developing weapons). Basically, he believed that the CIA could be counted on to be a day late and a dollar short when it mattered. The President’s “those who harbor them” statement during his 9/11 speech seemed to indicate that Cheney (and company) would have little difficulty in selling their point of view. But the Pentagon, it turned out, had no real plan of how to deal with Al Qaida. The CIA, however, had rather impressive amounts of intelligence (gathered over a period of many years) on Al Qaida and on the country where Al Qaida was known to “hide out”: Afghanistan. If there was ever a need—that is to say, if national security ever called for an Afghan mission—the CIA was prepared. Agent Gary Schroen, for example, had worked in the late 1980s as the agency’s Station Chief in Kabul, Afghanistan and had led CIA efforts throughout the 90s directed at capturing Osama Bin Laden. If there was one group whose advice was critical for the President to consider at this time, it was CIA director George Tenet and company in the Central Intelligence offices in Langley, Virginia. J. Cofer Black, a CIA operative who was made director of the agency’s “Counter-terrorist Center” (CTC) in1999, said, “We had been working on this for years. Where everybody else is looking for their maps on Afghanistan, we were ready to rock, ready to roll.” According to Black, things started moving quickly on Sept 11 when “George Tenet said ‘Ok, update the plan, have it ready by tomorrow’.” Michael Scheuer, who was quoted earlier and who worked with Cofer Black in the CTC, describes Black’s enthusiasm: “He said ‘we’re gonna put their heads on pikes and we want flies crawling across their dead eyes.’ Y’know, that kind of headquarters hero talk.” A meeting that included the President, Vice President, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Secretary Powell, Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director Tenet, and others was held at Camp David that first weekend following the attacks. The CIA put forth its plans for attacking Al Qaida in Afghanistan. The discussion, led by Paul Wolfowitz, then turned to whether Iraq should be involved. The CIA argued against such conclusions being made, that there was no evidence supporting Iraqi involvement. Director Tenet had, in fact, ordered an agency-wide search going back ten years in the files, looking for any information that would suggest a relationship—direct or indirect—between Al Qaida forces and Iraq. The search had produced no hard intelligence. This should have been enough to—at least temporarily—hush voices that were whispering “Iraq, Iraq.” The Camp David meeting ended with the President telling those gathered that he would think over the various proposals and have answers Monday morning. His decision must have stung: the CIA would take the initiative. Iraq was put on the “back burner.” But Cheney and Rumsfeld would eventually have their way. CIA operatives—including Gary Schroen—entered Afghanistan in late September 2001 and hit the ground running so-to-speak. They worked with local forces: linking up with anti-Taliban forces, distributing money and small arms weapons. Once the groundwork had been laid, specific military strikes would proceed. That is, the CIA mission “in country” would be joined (if all went according to plan) by Donald Rumsfeld’s military forces. Things did not go according to plan. “We were there for just about a month by ourselves,” recalls Schroen. They were waiting for the military backup that the planning had called for. The CIA complained that Rumsfeld was dragging his feet. It was only in mid-October, after Donald Rumsfeld was told that he—and the Pentagon—would oversee the CIA operations, that special forces moved into Afghanistan. It is fairly extraordinary: the United States had been attacked, thousands of men and women killed, and the men in charge—those closest to the President: the VP, the Secretary (and Deputy Sec) of Defense, and the CIA Director—were engaged not in a hard-hitting attempt to combat those responsible for 9/11, but in a “[crude term] contest.” Some might find it trivial—perhaps even an example of partisan sniping—to devote energy discussing that particular time in our shared history by combing over the backroom politicking that took place. I admit: there is something to that argument. However, I submit that it is not an irrelevant topic. Far from it. How decisions were made at that critical point in time is just as important as the reasons they were made. And the outcomes that flowed from those decisions were of ultimate significance. In the following months, operations in Afghanistan looked to be proceeding slowly but successfully. Many Al Qaida members were captured; those that escaped capture fled into the mountain regions. U.S. Special Forces set to routing sympathetic clusters one village at a time—gaining ground and then falling into holding patterns. It was war just as wars had long been fought—typically one nation at war with another nation—fighting to control territory. It was not the kind of war that the situation called for, however, because we were not at war with a specific country (in this case, Afghanistan). We were dealing instead with a new kind of threat: an enemy that was not tied to any one region or country. A moveable enemy, with sympathetic groups—and individuals—scattered in pockets around the globe. As I’ve said, I was only a college student at the time. I had not served in any capacity in the armed forces, had not attended any military academy. And yet in my mind it was evident—even then—that, in order to meet the new type of challenge and engage a new kind of enemy, the United States had to re-think its strategic vision for war. We didn’t. And so the early successes in Afghanistan developed—over time—into a sort of standstill, with U.S. troops maintaining gained territory (“freed villages”) while dealing with occasional, sporadic flare-ups. Meanwhile, the political landscape back in Washington continued to bubble and churn with efforts to find something. CIA analysts dug through available reports and made inquiries through multi-national sources (per repeated requests from the White House) in hopes of gathering information on possible Iraqi links to Al Qaida. No reliable leads were discovered. At the same time, the Defense Intelligence Agency—or DIA—(the info-gathering division at the Pentagon) organized its own investigations, hoping to succeed where the CIA had so far failed in finding potential links. One episode in particular is worth noting: In December of 2001, a three day meeting was set in Rome between several DIA officials and Manucher Ghorbanifar—yes, that Ghorbanifar—in hopes of uncovering prospective leads. Ghorbanifar: the man with whom Oliver North had dealings in the 1980s during the Iran-Contra affair. This was the same Iranian arms dealer whom the Congressional Committee investigating Iran-Contra described as “an intelligence fabricator” who should be regarded as “untrustworthy”). Yes, by all means, let’s meet again with him. The DIA/Ghorbanifar meeting involved discussions of secret offers from various shady characters in Iran who were—according to Ghorbanifar—reportedly interested in providing information. Ghorbanifar, it was suggested, hoped to be paid for his role as middleman. When news of the meeting broke, a Senate hearing was convened during which Donald Rumsfeld himself called the affair insignificant. No reliable info was exchanged. Rumsfeld admitted that “nothing of substance or of value” had been gained. This was how the “war on terror” was developing (in its embryonic stage, so to speak) during the first charged—highly-caffeinated—months after 9/11. The President of the United States, only months into the first year of his term and dealing with an impossibly horrific new challenge, struck an important tone of strength and defiance in the face of evil. His 9/11 speech was good. Vice President Cheney and his old ally from “Ford days” Don Rumsfeld were involved in 1) the “[crude term] contest” with CIA Director Tenet and 2) a resolute effort to find Saddam Hussein’s fingerprints somewhere in the rubble of New York and D.C. And U.S. forces were settling into the beginning stages of “securing” Afghanistan. Let’s return briefly to the always intriguing question of “what-if”. Imagine—for a moment—that those who saw the benefits of waging a more limited war on terror won the argument. Rather than employ America’s full military resources in a conventional “boots on the ground” type campaign, the United States might have led several finely-focused raids on Al Qaida compounds in Afghanistan (and wherever else intelligence steered us). Rather than become bogged down in a war over securing gained territory, we may well have dealt a crippling blow while committing less capital and suffering less loss. Imagine if George Tenet—rather than Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld—had enjoyed greater access to the President’s ear. Might President Bush have been compelled by his arguments that the United States need not invade Iraq? It is entirely possible that—had our military muscle not been divided between two war fronts (Afghanistan and Iraq)—Osama Bin Laden could have been brought to justice for his crimes a decade sooner. That is a powerful “what-if.” The byzantine “[crude term] contest”—waged between VP Cheney and the Pentagon in one corner, and Tenet’s CIA team in the other (with Ghorbanifar thrown into the mix for good measure)—was only the unhappy beginning of what would be a long, protracted war (eventually led, as we all know, on two fronts) that would have a staggering cost: many, many millions of dollars and—worse—the lives of countless brave servicemen and women. Though it is a distressing thing to consider, Al Qaida terrorists must have relished the self-inflicted body blows the United States leadership so recklessly dealt their own armed services “from the get-go.” Chapter Eleven: Patriot Games Following the recent disclosures by intel leaker Ed Snowden, members of the Republican party have had a sort of collective conniption, losing their minds and falling all over one another—each trying to shout loudest in protesting the government’s activities in domestic spying. The National Security Agency (NSA) had collected e-mail and cell phone data in an effort to ferret out potential national security threats. To be fair, both parties have taken issue with NSA efforts; however, it is Republicans who have laid the matter at the feet of the current President, Barack Obama, citing it as another example of Democratic “big brother” government run amok. It is Obama, they argue, who has fostered an atmosphere in which secret spying and shadowy government activity is not only allowed but encouraged. Americans—yes, Republicans in particular—do seem to have short memories. Oliver North…who’s that? Dick Cheney? Don Rumsfeld? Never heard of ‘em. On September 16, 2001, just days following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Vice President of the United States, Richard “Dick” Cheney, sat with Tim Russert on “Meet the Press.” He said, “We’ll have to work the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows…a lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available…” In the coming weeks, the Bush II administration would act. Things would happen quickly and without debate. Here, Cheney hinted at a policy of disregarding the Constitutional role of Congress as the voice of the people. The war on terror would be waged with decisions made by those few closest to the Oval Office. Without any discussion. Those words should have sent shivers down the national spine. Members of both political parties—but Republicans especially, who have long raged against concentrated power—should have been alarmed. Why weren’t they? Isn’t it a matchless strength that this nation—made up of so many different religious and racial backgrounds—is able to debate difficult matters without resorting to violent outbursts (the 1960s notwithstanding)? Discussion is particularly American. The Vice President’s words—and meaning—seemed to dovetail with thoughts once offered by a friend of mine who said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” To play devil’s advocate for a moment, let’s assume that desperate times do—in fact—require desperate measures. What does that really mean? It means that anything goes. In other words, “whatever it takes.” If one really believes that sentiment, then it should surprise no one that the consequences of that belief often involve so-called “extra-legal” (or immoral) means. In the “Land of the Free” though, such thinking is dangerous. Just how dangerous? An example I’ve used several times is this: that in 1901, one man—a disturbed man named Leon Czolgosz—took action that had giant repercussions. He was deeply troubled by what he saw as inequality in the United States, with men like J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie having staggering wealth while others worked twelve-hour days in coal mines. Believing that such times called for desperate measures, Czolgosz shot and killed President William McKinley. I tend to shudder when I hear someone announce their belief that “desperate times call for desperate measures.” But this is what the Vice President was saying. In 2001, I was not a foreign policy expert, nor had I ever served in the armed forces. I was only a college student at the time—attending the University of CT—and yet I was immediately apprehensive when I watched Dick Cheney’s interview on “Meet the Press.” It is entirely unfortunate that more Americans did not share my sense of doubt. Rather, most polls at the time expressed the public’s mood to “kick some ass.” They were with the VP. Someone had to pay for the awful events of Sept. 11th, and the American public was ready and willing to stand with a President—and his cabinet—who would (to stretch the VP’s words) “work the dark side” and take us to war “without any discussion,” using whatever “sources and methods” were available. Despite the rhetoric of Mr. Cheney’s statement, there was some discussion. More was needed, it was quickly determined, for U.S. government agencies (the FBI, CIA, etc) to—in a more effective way—actively engage in counter-terrorism initiatives. Information gathering needed a boost; the process of information sharing between the different agencies needed updating. Knowing (in the aftermath) that men had entered the country with designs to carry out the September 11 attacks, holes in our border security needed to be addressed. What Congress came up with was a bipartisan bill: the “Patriot Act,” which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in October ’01. The Patriot Act would allow law enforcement to more easily obtain warrants and wiretaps as well as business records during anti-terrorism investigations; it also increased the penalties for those who commit crimes directly related to terrorist activity or for financially or materially assisting such activity. On paper this all sounded pretty good. Most honest Americans could support the idea that law enforcement need not have one arm tied behind its back while trying to catch criminals. But, as with many good—even heroic—intentions, sometimes the law of unintended consequences has a way of sobering a free citizenry. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 established a court—the FISA court—that would have the authority to either approve or deny warrants for information-gathering. During the Bush II administration, according to a December 15, 2005 James Risen article in the New York Times, eavesdropping activities were begun “without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.” Further in the article, it is maintained that senior White House officials asked that the article not be printed because its disclosures might jeopardize national security. The administration’s main concern was not working with the FISA court or being open and transparent. Much good was achieved because of the Patriot Act and because of efforts at state and local levels to help strengthen law enforcement, but there were also abuses (consider, for example, the Bush II team’s dancing around the FISA court to approve warrantless wiretapping). Really, we should have seen it coming. Vice President Cheney said we would have to “spend time in the shadows.” In the name of national security, officials would have an easier time listening in on conversations, of gathering information, of spying. And in the wake of the tragedy of September 11, people of both political parties nodded in agreement. Okay, let’s do this. In order to better protect ourselves, we may have to give up a little personal privacy. Okay. In his autobiography, called “In My Time,” (published in 2011) Mr. Cheney discussed the NSA spying program. “Although parts of the NSA program remain classified,” according to Cheney, “it is now public that a key element involved intercepting targeted communications into and out of the United States…” (p. 349). He goes on to describe how, after the initial ok for the program was given, further examination would have to take place every thirty to forty-five days by the President and his staff. In March of 2004, in accordance with this aspect of the program, the VP held a congressional briefing, with such political heavyweights as Speaker of the House Denny Hastert (R), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D), and Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Porter Goss (R). Vice President Cheney asked the group whether the program should continue, with the unanimous response that—yes—it should. He then asked if the administration should consider going before congress to seek further approval to continue intelligence-gathering efforts. According to Mr. Cheney, “Again, the view around the table was unanimous. The members did not want us to seek additional legislation for the program. They feared, as did we, that going to the whole Congress would compromise its secrecy.” (p. 351). I have added the italics here for emphasis. Widespread domestic tapping of cell phones, monitoring of e-mails, using drones not only for spying but for military strikes—the foundation for these activities was laid with such decisions. And, as noted, the aspect of secrecy was paramount. Those who today cry foul, who shout loud, long, and hard against such abuses of the public trust must have been either sleepwalking through the times or living under a rock while those in power passed the Patriot Act. They are—without question—attempting to re-write history when they blame Barack Obama for giving birth to the abuses. We are all in a way responsible for what took place in the halls of information gathering agencies like the NSA. The cowboy attitude of “let’s kick some ass and take names” was contagious in the aftermath of 9/11. (One might recall the lyrics of a Toby Keith song: “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.”) That said, if an American President is to be blamed for fostering an atmosphere where “big government”-style secret maneuverings were not only allowed but encouraged, it is the 43rd: George W. Bush. That atmosphere was not created by but rather passed along to the current administration. It is now for President Obama—and all Americans—to deal with the fallout. Make no mistake: just because the atmosphere of “whatever it takes” started and took root during the Bush II term does not excuse President Obama for continuing—or for not curtailing—practices that are abusive. If a child hits his friend, and is caught in the act, it is not an acceptable excuse to say, “But he hit me, first!” Can the current administration do more to protect the privacy of the American people? Absolutely. And it should. Chapter Twelve: What Scowcroft Said This chapter will deal with the American decision—following 9/11—to make war with Iraq (or, more specifically with its leader, Saddam Hussein). I do not intend to cover the topic from every possible angle or for very many pages. There have been many books—some well researched and well-written, others less so—about whether or not the United States (and her President) made the right call. Lots of ink has already been spilled in questioning the true nature of what drove the decision to invade Iraq (did we simply follow faulty intelligence, or was there an early, concerted effort to establish links that existed only in the most unreliable of reports?). I don’t feel the need to revisit this well-worn path. (I might remind the reader, though, of the memo Donald Rumsfeld dictated on 9/11/2001—as described in chapter ten—in which he suggested going after “SH” as well as “UBL”. With access to that bit of information in particular, the reader is here afforded free rein to consider the facts—and politics—of our common history and make up his/her own mind.) For those who are interested and have yet to delve into the labyrinth, I would suggest the following—excellent—books: “Hubris” by Michael Isikoff and David Corn; “Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy” by Andrew Cockburn; “A Tragic Legacy” by Glenn Greenwald; and “Why Presidents Fail” by Richard M. Pious. I would, to offer a balanced approach, also recommend reading the books “Decision Points” by George W. Bush and “In My Time” by Dick Cheney. I should note that—yes—I have read each of the books listed. I found in them plenty of truly helpful material—offered from both sides of the divide—and have come away with a rich sense of being able to make reasoned judgments from an informed standpoint. Whatever conclusions a person may take away from studying the foreign policy decisions of the George W. Bush presidency—be they in accord with or in opposition to the president—I would suggest that the act itself (of studying, researching, thinking critically in the classroom sense of that term) is of terrific importance. To attempt a deeper understanding of the times we’ve recently lived through is, if nothing else, a constructive use of one’s time. Such studies may—in time—provide us an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and keep us from repeating them. ** ** ** “We know that Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network share a common enemy: the United States of America. We know that Iraq and Al Qaida have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some Al Qaida leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq…and we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein’s regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.” President George W. Bush delivered those words in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 7, 2002. It was an effort to put forth, in easily digested terms, his argument for American “intervention” in Iraq. His main point was that there was a concrete relationship between Saddam Hussein—the secular leader of a nation-state in the Middle East—and Al Qaida (the fundamentalist terrorist organization). In fact, one of the Al Qaida leaders he referenced in the speech (the “high level contact”) was Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers. According to Vice President Cheney (who not only repeated the charge during several appearances on “Meet The Press,” but also in his autobiography “In My Time”) Atta had—prior to the attacks—met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. “We came to a different conclusion,” said John McLaughlin, who was Deputy Director of the CIA from 2000-2004. “We went over that every which way from Sunday. We looked at it from every conceivable angle. We peeled open the source and examined the ‘chain of acquisition’; we looked at photographs; we looked at timetables…” Former CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro, speaking during an interview for the PBS program FRONTLINE, echoed McLaughlin’s analysis. According to Cannistraro, “The FBI had Atta in Florida at the time.” The CIA, then, seemed pretty firm in its belief that such a meeting did not take place (or at least that there was no credible evidence to indicate that it had). But both the President and Vice President continued to suggest that Atta met with Iraqi officials in Prague. Here it was: “Proof!” they professed, of an Al Qaida/Hussein relationship. President Bush again addressed the supposed Iraqi threat in a speech given just a few months later, on March 17, 2003. This would be THE speech. He listed reasons supporting his belief that Saddam Hussein posed a clear and present danger not only to neighboring countries in the Middle East but to America. Aerial photographs, he said, had shown that efforts were underway in Iraq to produce dangerous chemical and biological weapons. Iraqi officials (including Saddam’s sons) had threatened U.N. weapons inspectors. And they had—according to the president—supported Al Qaida terrorists. Then, the President offered an ultimatum: “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing. For their own safety, all foreign nationals, including journalists and inspectors, should leave Iraq immediately.” (In other words, “Game on…your move.”) It was impossible to miss the deep conviction in his voice or the unyielding force of his words. There was a sense that it was high noon on a dust-covered patch of road in the old west. For those who felt as strongly as President Bush did that Saddam was a real and unbending source of evil, the moment must have been electric. It was definitely reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s impassioned stand against Muammar Gaddafi in 1986 following the bombing of a Berlin discothèque. I was admittedly less certain of the true threat the Iraqi leader posed—at least to the United States (I hate to sound callous, but how he treated his own people didn’t concern me)—and yet I, too, could feel the energy of the moment. One who is not active in the armed services can only imagine what those brave men and women were feeling. It should be noted that in the months prior to the start of the war, we—the American public—had been assured and reassured by the administration that we (our forces) would be greeted by Iraqis as liberators. We all know what happened next. As I said, I feel no urgent need to revisit the entire history of the war. What follows, though, is important. In a documentary on the life and presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush (the first President Bush) for the American Experience series on PBS, several of the president’s friends/cabinet members discussed Desert Shield/Storm: America’s first foray into Iraq. Our intervention, in January 1991, followed on the heels of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait—a country with friendly relations with the U.S.—and was viewed (at the time and over the years) as a positive affair. The United States (with support from a coalition of forces from other nations) set up a defensive line to ensure that Iraq would not invade Saudi Arabia. Following 5 weeks of chest-thumping intransigence, during which Saddam’s military force remained—defiant and unmoving—in Kuwait, Congress approved the President’s call to action. The U.S. led coalition pressed forward to drive Saddam’s forces out. It was a quick, ultimately successful enterprise. Much of Saddam’s military was crippled. Some Iraqis surrendered their weapons without ever having fired them. President Bush chose to officially end the war after four days. (The ground offensive became known as the “100 hour war”.) According to James A. Baker III (Bush’s Secretary of State) the war was concluded because, “We…achieved what the UN Security Council resolution authorized us to do, that is: kick Iraq out of Kuwait.” Saddam Hussein, though, remained in power. Our objectives had been met. Bring the boys home. Colin Powell (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at that time) offered another important reason for the U.S. decision to end hostilities with Saddam still in power. “We did not want to totally destroy the Iraqi army, and you can guess why: Iran.” The comment is far-seeing. The two countries had a long and adversarial history which—if left alone—kept the Middle East (albeit uneasily) balanced. It was a shaky but workable sort of symmetry: the Middle Eastern model of stasis or equilibrium. “It was always our intention,” Powell continued, “to leave Saddam Hussein with enough of an army…so that it would not leave him totally vulnerable to Iranian misadventure—keeping in mind that the Iraq-Iran War had only ended three years earlier.” A recollection from Brent Scowcroft—who was National Security Advisor for President Gerald Ford and for the first President Bush—helps support the combined assessments of Secretary Baker and General Powell. It is worth a brief digression to describe General Scowcroft’s bona fides. Even a cursory flip through his resume is striking: one quickly recognizes Scowcroft as a man who—both in the military (USAF) as well as in his private life—has dedicated himself to serving his country. After graduating from West Point in 1947, he earned a PhD in International Relations from Columbia University. His career in the military—one which spanned 29 years—included posts as Professor of Russian History at West Point, Head of Political Science at the Air Force Academy, and Assistant Air Attaché in the U.S. embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. In 1972, he accepted a position as “military assistant” to President Richard Nixon; in 1975 (following Nixon’s resignation in Aug ‘73) Scowcroft was reassigned, becoming President Ford’s National Security Advisor. General Scowcroft is a Republican; though (when one looks at his statements and positions over the years) it is apparent that he did not feel constrained to always tow the party line. This was due, perhaps, to the fact that he never ran for or held elective office. He was where he was—serving in each post—not out of party loyalty but because of a wish to serve. This, more than anything else, made his an important voice especially in the Bush I administration. In the years following Desert Storm, many people proposed the question: why did the United States choose not to remove Saddam Hussein from power in 1991 when we—clearly—had the opportunity to do so? The answer is here offered in clear prose: “We did not know,” said General Scowcroft, “what would happen if we went on into Baghdad [the capitol of Iraq]. It would have been simple to do. But we would’ve been occupiers in a hostile land…and we had no exit plan. How do you get out once you’ve occupied the country?” A chill might be felt prickling at the back of the reader’s neck as he or she reads General Scowcroft’s thoughts. Especially that last haunting sentence: how do you get out once you’ve occupied the country? If Saddam were to be ousted, someone would need to remain as an “occupying force” to impose stability. As we’ve seen, in Saddam’s Hussein’s absence—or, when a power vacuum opened up—the remaining opposing forces (in this case Sunni and Shia, whose differences are political rather than spiritual) would wrestle for the opportunity to fill the void. The price paid for attempting to remove the dictator—a foolish venture with little consideration given to planning an exit strategy—would be realized during the Bush II presidency. The national dialogue would, under W’s watch, involve terms such as “insurgents,” and “road-side bombing.” It is altogether appropriate to repeat a rhetorical question made in an earlier chapter (chapter 4) when examining the country’s strategic goals: “Does the foreign policy offer structure to a weak and hurting global community?” Let’s attempt a literal application of that particular thought process with a question that is not at all rhetorical: did the foreign policy objectives of the Bush II administration make the United States in particular (and the world in general) more safe? I would contend that, for any educated person, the answer is clear. W’s legacy, in terms of foreign policy, is—much like Ronald Reagan’s—agonizing to consider. In the years following Saddam Hussein’s ouster—as evidence of either 1) Colin Powell’s psychic abilities as a fortune-teller or 2) his ability to think strategically—Iran has indeed emerged as a bellicose voice thundering from the Middle East. Perhaps General Scowcroft was also psychic. His personal remembrances conclude—for the purposes of this chapter—with this: a rejoinder to those voices that questioned the wisdom of decisions made by our government in 1991. “For a number of years we heard ‘Why didn’t you finish the job’. We don’t hear that anymore.” It is a tragedy of global scale that George W. Bush (the 43rd President) did not have the same cautious men in his corner (particularly Baker and Scowcroft) that his father—the 41st President—had. One again wonders: “what-if.” Chapter Thirteen: Now, be nice. It was—I think—fifteen years ago that my maternal Grandma made me a box. It was for memories, jewelry (at the time, as a “cool dude” in the late 1990s, I had my ear pierced), photos, and whatever other important things that an organized pack rat might want to keep. I lived for a year (2003-04) in Georgia, and—yes—the box made both trips (there and home again) with me. In it, I’ve kept letters, little notes, and pictures: small things that—while they mean something to me—might be of little interest to anyone else. In 2010, I added Grandma’s funeral card to the collection of personal memories I keep in the box. There is a piece of paper that is among the items I’ve kept in the box: a single sheet from the Voter Registration office. It is dated September 11, 2009. It is the paperwork officially recognizing a change made in party affiliation. In the years before that date, I was a Republican. The change had been a long time coming: in 2000 I voted the Republican ticket during the presidential election; however, in 2004 and again in 2008 I was a Republican who voted for the Democratic ticket. At the time, I tried to discuss my reasons with a friend, and I recall telling him that I hadn’t left the party—it left me. I wasn’t trying to be cute…I meant what I said. I still stand behind that statement. In the twenty-five years since Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, the Republican Party has changed in ways that would make Reagan’s conservative predecessors—Barry Goldwater comes to mind—fail to recognize it. Even Reagan would, I think, be impressed with just how much it has changed. I will make the argument—successfully, I hope—that the changes have not been for the better. One especially significant change has taken place: a breakdown in civility and in political willingness to find (or even discuss) compromise. Once upon a time, politicians of opposite parties found ways to constructively deal with one another. There are far too many examples to go through them all; however, because this is Chapter 13, I might cite Millard Fillmore (the 13th President of the United States). Fillmore was the second so-called “accidental president,” (a Buffalo politician who—as VP—rose to the presidency following the death of Zachary Taylor) and he is one of the largely forgotten presidents. His term of office is remembered for one thing: the Compromise of 1850. The U.S. had gained vast amounts of territory as a result of the Mexican War. The question of whether this new land would enter the union as ‘free’ or ‘slave’ was at the heart of rising tensions. It was a terribly difficult time, with Northern abolitionists and Southern “gentlemen” looking to Washington in hopes of settling the matter. (Of course there were those on both sides of the argument who were perfectly willing to settle things with fists and bullets). Henry Clay—the old Kentucky politician—managed to fashion a “compromise bill” which contained certain measures that would satisfy the North as well as provisions (such as an extension of the Fugitive Slave Law) that would please the South, but it looked as though the bill was getting nowhere in Congress. In fact, President Taylor suggested that if the bill did find its way to his desk, he would veto it. Enter Millard Fillmore. When he became President, he could easily have done nothing and allowed the compromise bill to die in Congress. Certainly, there were those who suggested it would be foolish for Fillmore to take any course that opposed the policies Taylor embraced before his death. Fillmore chose to act: he endorsed the bill. The Compromise of 1850 was not a perfect solution, and of course it did not resolve the problems that eventually lead the nation to Civil War—but it did offer a temporary release of the building tensions. Had the Compromise not been approved—with President Fillmore’s support—it is possible that the Civil War could have sparked a full decade sooner than it did. At that crucial moment in American history, both Henry Clay and Millard Fillmore appreciated the importance of compromise. Their efforts weren’t perfect, but they were—I believe—necessary. In their own time (the 1980s), Ronald Reagan (R) and Tip O’Neill (D) worked to find compromise positions. In the last twenty-five years, though, especially in Republican circles, the very word—compromise—has become a sort of “four letter word.” One who does not embrace the party line 100%—or worse, who works with others “across the aisle”—is considered a kind of renegade or prodigal son and is fair game: open, in other words, to disapproval and to possible primary challenges from “true believers.” (As this chapter is being written, in fact, Senator Mitch McConnell is preparing for a 2014 mid-term in which he is being challenged not by a “bleeding heart” liberal looking to unseat him, but by Matt Bevin, who charges that Mr. McConnell is not “conservative enough.” In realistic terms, to call McConnell anything other than conservative is laughable—unless you are of the Bevin wing of the party.) This is an attitude that leads—as we have seen—to dysfunctional government. Rather than sort through and try to find points of agreement, Republican leaders in Washington today seem prepared—eager, even—to embrace an “all-or-nothing” mindset. Too often, now, we hear ugly utterances. Those who have a different point of view and who disagree with President Obama (Tea Partiers, for example) show no real interest in compromise; rather, they have time and again called the President “un-American.” This simplistic, black-and-white view of the world is troubling. It holds that “you’re either with me or against me;” “you either agree with my vision of how America should behave, or you are ‘un-American’.” This is a mindset that does not easily allow for compromise, creating—instead—an environment where even the word “moderate” has also fallen into disrepute. People who have adopted this mindset forget that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (who fought together for independence) had wildly different visions for what America should be. (They had many of the same arguments, in fact, that we continue to have today.) And both were, in the very best definition of the term, American. Leaders who are unwilling to engage in a search for common ground—of compromising—close themselves to the possibility not because they are (at heart) bad people, but because they believe doing so is a disgraceful ‘giving-up’ of one’s ideals. These people offer little in the way of genuine leadership. Had such people been in charge in 1850, the Civil War definitely would have begun a decade sooner. Thank God we had Millard Fillmore. I have had friendly disagreements with co-workers while discussing one political issue or another. In previous chapters I’ve provided examples of our lunch time exchanges. Sometimes we’ve agreed, other times—not so much. I have never once suggested (and hope I never will) that, because of our differences, the other person is “un-American.” Most behavior is learned. In responsible homes, we are taught to tie our shoes; we are taught to share our toys; we are taught not to lie. I was taught to be respectful of others. In other ways and in meaner homes, we are taught ugliness. (No child is born ready to use the ‘n word’ or call another child “un-American.”) Neither party should adopt nastiness as a part of its dialogue. And yet, it cannot be ignored that—lately—one party has done exactly that. Though George W. Bush was not the first president to paint opposition forces with a wide, accusing brush, the current (very heated) temperature of the dialogue in D.C. can be traced to (and certainly took root during) the Bush II presidency. After 9/11 and for the rest of his term, Bush argued that those who disagreed with the White House—especially in regards to foreign policy and national security decisions—were acting irresponsibly, potentially putting the United States in danger. Administration officials (including VP Cheney) backed up this rhetoric, suggesting that those who opposed U.S. intervention in Iraq, for example, were acting against the national interest. (There it was, for all to see: that distorted way of thinking that says “you’re either with us or against us”.) In the 2004 presidential race, in fact, the President ran a campaign that—in a very direct way—said, basically, “Vote for me because I’ve kept you safe” (the understanding, of course, being that a vote for the “other guy”—John Kerry—would be a potentially dangerous choice). It is clear that airing such toxic implications helps support the creation and maintenance of a divided, even bitter relationship between the parties. So much for being a “uniter, not a divider.” Just as the last pages of this text were being written, a news story broke that directly related to this chapter’s subject matter. In January, rock musician Ted Nugent (who, following the Sandy Hook tragedy when the country was busy debating gun control, said that President Obama should “suck on my machine gun”) appeared at a gun trade show and was quoted as calling the President a “subhuman mongrel.” To be fair, one cannot truthfully admit to being surprised by Nugent’s language (he’s not exactly known for diplomacy). But the rank atmosphere in which such language often goes unchallenged—in which one cannot “agree to disagree” and where simple disagreement becomes an open arena for such disgusting bigotry—has (sadly) become rather commonplace. The problem, in fact, was not that Nugent said what he did, but that Greg Abbott (the Republican front-runner in this year’s Texas gubernatorial race)—or, more likely someone on Abbott’s staff—scheduled two campaign appearances with the musician. To offer Ted Nugent (a person who has—time and again—offered such distasteful, offensive thoughts) part of the spotlight during an important political race was either 1) an exercise in extremely poor judgment or 2) a revealing moment in which the candidate’s own political insensitivity was highlighted. An internet search within the last few days exposes the degree to which nastiness has taken root in our political landscape: sites have sprung up supporting “Ted Nugent for President.” To their lasting credit, some Republicans (including both Rand Paul and John McCain) have openly voiced disgust and disapproval for Nugent’s statement, saying—as I have above—that such nastiness does not belong in the national political dialogue. There are others in the GOP, though, (Michelle Bachmann comes to mind, as does Rush Limbaugh) who can rightly take credit for fostering this ugly atmosphere with their own abusive language. I repeat the sentiment expressed above: that in responsible homes, we are taught respect for others; in other ways and in meaner homes, we are taught ugliness. One wonders—and might easily guess—from which of these two environments people like Nugent and Limbaugh spring. If it wishes to regroup from the recent losses (the presidential races in 2008 and 2012) and do something to help itself in future contests, the Republican Party should consider shedding the uglier, fringe elements that it has lately embraced. Step One: the Tea Party should be removed from Republican ranks and allowed to exist on its own as a legitimate third party. While it does share some basic principles with traditional Republican orthodoxy, the Tea Party is much more anti-government than the GOP has ever been. Can you imagine, for example, President Dwight Eisenhower (a Republican who presided over the construction of the Interstate Highway system) suggesting—and cheering for—a government shutdown? Of course not. Step Two: take a stand. Do as my father’s mother (my paternal Grandma) suggested when she said, “Now, be nice.” Members of the GOP (certainly its leaders) should follow the honorable example and do what Senators Rand Paul and John McCain recently did: denounce—loudly denounce—men and women who show up to local town hall meetings and call President Obama “evil” and “un-American” (or worse). Refuse to share space on the public stage alongside people like Ted Nugent. Remind audiences at public rallies, those dedicated voters, of the extraordinary line in Thomas Jefferson’s first Inaugural Address: “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” In other words: we—liberals and conservatives alike—are all Americans. While it was definitely a principal factor, this trend toward divisive ugliness was not the only thing that spurned my leaving the Republican fold. Much of what this book deals with—the central focus of my efforts, in other words—is the ongoing problem of hypocrisy. It is easy to provide examples: a personal favorite is Ronald Reagan calling for less government spending, all the while spending unconscionable sums—and creating huge deficits—in order to finance his arms race with Russia (as discussed in Chapter 3). I do not mean to suggest that any one party has a monopoly in this respect; however, it has been this writer’s experience that the GOP has—in recent years—done a remarkable job in diligently proclaiming one thing while practicing another. While one could easily devote enormous stacks of paper—bookshelves, even—to the topic, I will attempt a brief analysis in the next chapter. . . Chapter Fourteen: God and the Republican Party “He was in many respects a ‘senator’s senator’. He could differ but he was never personal, he was never vindictive. He had enormously powerful conservative beliefs about freedom.” The quote is from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, wherein he describes a longtime Republican colleague—Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona. In fact, Barry Goldwater and Teddy’s brother Jack were good friends. “He’s the kind of antagonist that I’ve always enjoyed,” Goldwater said of JFK. “I imagine that I’ve debated the President more on the floor of the Senate than any other man, and it never affected our friendship.” (I could have used these quotes in Chapter 13 as strong examples of how cordial politics used to be.) In my years as a Republican, I considered myself a “Reagan Republican.” In retrospect, however, it seems I was very much a “Goldwater Republican.” Barry Goldwater was an American original (and is often referred to as “Mr. Conservative” for his role in fathering the conservative movement in the GOP). His conservatism was honest and deeply felt. And of the many titles he wore—Air Force pilot during WWII, five-term U.S. Senator from Arizona (retiring in 1987), Republican Presidential candidate (1964), husband, father, amateur radio enthusiast—there was one thing he was not: a hypocrite. When Mr. Goldwater called for smaller government, he meant exactly that: smaller, less involved, less authoritarian. His vision was for a government that was unconcerned with delving into an individual’s private affairs, unwilling to entangle itself in the business of telling people how to live their lives. (That is to say a truly conservative government). This was the shared vision of the Republican Party. “Was” being the operative word. Sadly, in the last twenty-five years, Republicans have collectively turned their backs on genuine (dare I say “Goldwater-style”) conservatism and have instead embraced the politics of hypocrisy. In fact, a strong argument can be made—and I will so argue—that things have changed so dramatically within the party that the GOP which Barry Goldwater championed no longer exists. The greatest example of Republican hypocrisy—the one which ultimately forced me to re-examine my politics and change party affiliation—involves that continued call for a less intrusive government. This has long been a concept that is foundational to the party’s vision for American government, pre-dating Barry Goldwater. And it is an honest point of view. Even following my conversion as a Democrat, there are still aspects of thinking that recall my earlier politics (for example: I firmly believe that the decision of whether or not to allow smoking in a particular venue—say, a restaurant or bar—should rest with the owner of the establishment and not with government. We—as free citizens—then have the right and can choose whether or not we wish to patronize that establishment). Barry would applaud this train of thought. The hypocrisy arrives, however, when the reasonable call for less intrusion collides with Republican stands on certain issues (those which we breezily call the “social issues”): healthcare, marriage equality, and abortion to name a few. The pressing question is this: why has the Republican Party adopted certain strident—seemingly immovable—positions which are in direct contravention with the fundamental call for a smaller, less intrusive government? (An entire book—or series of books—could be dedicated to exploring this important problem.) The answer is a rather troubling one. It involves what can—in my mind—best be described as the GOP’s unhealthy relationship with (and the concentrated effort to court) the evangelical vote. Religion and politics have had a long and difficult history in our country. I would offer one poignant example which colorfully illustrates the tension between the two worlds. It involved a presidential race: In 1928, Democratic candidate Al Smith lost the presidential election to Republican Herbert Hoover in a landslide. Much of the outcome rested with Hoover’s popularity; however, another—very key—aspect to which Smith owed his loss was his Catholicism. He was, in fact, the first Catholic to win a party’s nomination for the presidency. There was a wide fear that, if Smith won, the government would be greatly influenced by the Pope. This may not have been a fair assessment of Smith or of his inclinations, but it is what happened. Such concerns resurfaced in 1960 when John F. Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon. (In this case, of course, Kennedy’s religion did not have the same determinative ill effects that Smith experienced). The fear that so capsized Al Smith’s run for the presidency harkens back to a long-established concern in American governance: the separation of church and state. It is a fear that seems all but erased from the minds of today’s elected leaders. Whereas the belief in less intrusive government should lead the party to reject involving itself in personal matters that are best left between a man or woman and his/her pastor, for example, we have seen in the last twenty-odd years the exact opposite occur. If a congregation is willing to allow same-sex marriages, it should be left to that particular group to do so without legislators stepping in. If a vote is held (with “we the people” speaking their minds through ballot) and a state decides to recognize such marriages, Republican representatives in the state—not to mention those of other states—should have nothing at all to say in the matter. That is, they should have nothing to say—if they are true believers in “limited government.” This is true (Goldwater) conservatism. In recent months, we have seen a raucous Republican outcry in opposition to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), suggesting that the law is an obtrusive example of over-reaching ‘big-government’. The cry is easily recognized: how dare the federal government assume such heavy-handed authority over a free people and their medical choices! How despotic! (So the thinking goes). This is, of course, a perfectly legitimate view and is in accord with the foundational argument for small, less-involved government. Let’s apply that very thinking, though, to a related issue now being widely debated. Somehow—almost unbelievably—Republican lawmakers seem unable (perhaps unwilling?) to connect the dots. . . If a woman seeks an abortion—let’s for a moment leave aside the distracting arguments over why the procedure is being sought—true Republican belief in smaller government should regard the decision as a personal one best left between the patient and her doctor. A 1972 opinion written by Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan (who was appointed to the Court by Dwight Eisenhower) says: “If the right of privacy means anything it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” We don’t want the government making our medical choices (right?). Wrong. Apparently the Republican Party sees no problem with inconsistent thinking (railing against excessive government intrusion under “Obamacare” while—in the very same breath—meddling legislatively in the most personal, private moments of a woman’s life). In the last several years there have been many ‘anti-abortion’ bills (at local and state levels)—some successfully passed, others stalled—which seek to restrict the ability to obtain the procedure. They all have one thing in common: each has been introduced by so-called “conservative” legislators and enjoy wide Republican support. Voters—of both parties—should call more attention to this hypocritical nonsense. It is this “split personality” kind of hypocrisy (of calling for smaller government while simultaneously proposing more government interposition in our private affairs) that likely has Senator Barry Goldwater—who passed away in 1998—tossing Heaven’s chairs around in frustration. John Dean (the one-time White House counsel to Richard Nixon) who authored several books including “Broken Government,” and a book detailing the senator’s displeasure with the extreme right called “Pure Goldwater,” was a Goldwater family friend. Mr. Dean’s recollections do suggest that the hypocrisy I’ve detailed here would indeed ruffle the man we still call “Mr. Conservative.” According to Dean, “He [Goldwater] thought that they had no business being in areas like abortion and sex. One thing after another, he just was appalled that this had become sort of the growing…concern of the Republican party.” The new GOP vision, in fact, does seem to be for smaller government for those who agree with specific Evangelical thoughts; for everyone else, proposals are offered which say that “we’ll be there to tell you what—and what not—to do in the bedroom and/or doctor’s office.” The new definition, then, of ‘small government’ would seem to be “a government which taxes less but which sneaks a peek in the window to make sure you’re being a ‘good Catholic’.” What is the root cause of such disjointed thinking? As suggested above, the answer lies in the Republican embrace of evangelical thought. The GOP has, in a rather transparent manner, turned away from the American belief in freedom of religion in order to win the “Southern Baptist” vote. Men like Mike Huckabee (who was, himself, an ordained minister before becoming Governor of Arkansas in 1996) have polluted the political environment in Washington with a particularly divisive form of leadership. Freedom of religion means exactly that: freedom. While there are certainly secular laws that conform to religious norms (Thou shall not steal), no one belief system is supposed to be able to impose its rules on the whole of our society. “We the people” are not all followers of one religion. Our politics cannot—should not—be swayed by religious arguments. And yet this is exactly what we have allowed in Republican discussions. The emotional debate on abortion is consistently—and heavily—sprinkled with religious reasons for opposing the practice. People who attend public pro-life rallies can often be seen carrying signs that read “God is for life” and “Babies are angels.” I believe there are honest reasons for adopting a pro-life point of view. In a free society, reasonable men and women with good hearts are able to come to different political conclusions. That said, the injection of religion into the discussion is, (I must go against my earlier objections and call this for what it is) un-American. In this case, the term is justified. When, in the 1980s, Barry Goldwater felt it necessary to stand up to the likes of commentator/ televangelist Jerry Falwell, he had this to say: “If its gonna take a fight, they’re gonna find ol’ Goldy fighting like hell. I’m probably the most conservative member of congress, and I don’t like to get kicked around by people who call themselves conservative on a non-conservative matter.” When Falwell was quoted on the record as saying that “good Christians should oppose” the nomination of Goldwater’s fellow Arizonan Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court, Barry said in response: “All good Christians should kick him [Falwell] in the ass.” Goldwater was appropriately gutsy—even feisty— in his assertions. He said, “I came to this Congress thirty years ago opposing the concentration of power in the hands of unions. And I have to oppose it today in the hands of church groups.” Well said, Mr. Goldwater. He continued to pounce: “Ol’ Tom Jefferson had us separate the church and state, and the ‘religious right’ scares the hell outta me. They have no place in politics.” He was right. It is true: the Founding Fathers of this great country (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and company) were men who did believe in a higher authority. But they also believed in our own unique capacity as free men/women—as Americans—to make important decisions without forcing any particular set of religious beliefs upon one another. Legislation was not—and should not be—a matter of religious faith. The grave marker for Thomas Jefferson, the father of conservative thought, notes his authorship of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (to which Goldwater’s last statement refers). Jefferson’s close friend and advisor James Madison, in a letter dated July 10, 1822, said of the United States: “We are teaching the world the great truth that governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that religion flourishes in greater purity without than with the aid of government.” Amen. And there is this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” These are the first sixteen words in the First Amendment to the Constitution. (Somebody might want to give Mike Huckabee a copy.) As laws are applied to all Americans, they cannot be made to suit the specific religious beliefs of a few. Though we as a nation may not wish to (nor should we) return to the unjustified fear that overturned Al Smith’s candidacy in 1928, we should regard religious language in political debates with a dedicated American sense of distrust. In Chapter Eight, mention was made (while examining an excerpt of his first inaugural address) of George W. Bush’s religious faith. I will repeat here what was previously said: that his faith is genuine and is one of the best parts of his character. Let me be absolutely crystal clear: though I was raised Catholic and have—since adulthood—moved away from the practice of that faith, I do not take issue with or question anyone’s religious devotion. At issue is not “do George W. Bush and Mike Huckabee really believe?” They do. (Neither is the question “should believers hold elective office?” John Kennedy answered that particular concern nicely.) The issue is, as discussed, the use of personal faith in deciding political matters. Those who today call themselves “conservative”—who argue for smaller government while proposing intrusive legislation—are really anything but. They’ve created in the GOP a hypocritical tendency and in doing so have terribly distorted the conservative movement that Barry M. Goldwater helped create. They also caused some young Republicans like me to abandon ship. From January of 2001 to January 2009, during the turbulent years of the George W. Bush administration, those church groups of the ‘religious right’ (that “scared the hell outta” Goldwater) had a very good friend in the Oval Office, and the invisible line separating church and state became very thin, indeed. Chapter Fifteen: Terri Schiavo On February 25, 1990, a twenty-seven year old woman named Terri Schiavo collapsed in her Florida home. After two months in the hospital, during which time she lay in a coma, her condition was updated to that of “persistent vegetative state.” For several years, doctors worked in hopes of returning Terri to a responsive state; their efforts, however, were unsuccessful. In 1998, realizing that speech and physical therapy efforts had failed to make any gain or to improve her condition, Terri’s husband Michael petitioned the court (as her legal guardian) to have Terri’s feeding tube removed. He believed Terri would not want to continue to linger in such a state. Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, opposed the move. They suggested that (as a Roman Catholic) Terri would not wish to defy church teachings on suicide. The removal of her feeding tube would, according to Terri’s parents, bare little difference to a distraught person choosing to end his or her life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The problem for the court—beyond the matter of an internal family disagreement—was this: that Terri (who, at 27 years old and in relatively fine health) did not have a living will which would disclose her “end of life wishes.” The lack of a will necessitated a trial to determine what Terri’s wishes might have been regarding life-prolonging measures. The trial judge—citing the claim that reliable oral disclosures between husband and wife had occurred (and that such disclosures would buttress his wishes)—initially ruled in Michael Schiavo’s favor and approved the petition. This decision was followed by years of dramatic court appearances, video tapes, and subsequent appeals by the Schindlers: an appeal to overturn Michael Schiavo’s relationship as Terri’s legal guardian (denied), to allow the Schindlers to attempt “natural feeding” with the patient (denied), and a second appeal which would allow her parents to attempt to feed Terri by mouth (denied). When her parents’ final appeal was exhausted, Republicans in the Florida legislature passed “Terri’s Law” which allowed then-Governor Jeb Bush the authority to intervene. (As discussed in the previous chapter, true Republican orthodoxy—the belief in limited, less-intrusive government—would have forced Governor Bush to reject intervention. He did not.) Further appeals were now brought before the court in which the question of the constitutionality of “Terri’s Law” was deliberated. (The law was eventually found to be unconstitutional). President George W. Bush—a “born again” Christian (not to mention brother of the Governor of Florida)—and congressional Republicans then intervened, passing a bill—proposed by Senator Rick Santorum (R)—which transferred jurisdiction of the Schiavo case from Florida state courts to federal courts. In a move that must have frustrated the President, federal courts refused to over-rule the state court decisions. Terri Schiavo, whose tragic circumstances had garnered first state and then national attention, died March 31, 2005. It is incredible—that is, it is incredible to any reasonable mind—to consider what happened in this case: to think of the lengths to which state legislators, the (Republican!) Governor of Florida, and the (Republican!) President of the United States went in order to involve themselves in what was a private legal dispute. The greater issues of right-to-life, legal guardianship, right-to-death (as in a person’s consenting to DNR instructions in a living will) and religious belief and practices all created a storm that certain politicians were unable to resist engaging. One might imagine the ghost of Barry Goldwater shaking his head in disbelief. On March 27, 2014 (according to the website www.terrisfight.org) the Life & Hope Network—formerly the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation—will hold an award gala with “honored speaker” Glenn Beck. Individual tickets to the event will set back interested persons $150. (For those who have deep pockets, there are also sponsorship opportunities from $100 to $12,500.) In 2013, the “honored speaker” was Sarah Palin, the one-time Republican Vice-Presidential hopeful. Under a banner that reads “Our Mission,” visitors to the website will discover that the Life & Hope Network is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “build a network of support” for what it calls the “medically-dependent” (people in a vegetative state) and their families. It is an organization made up of people—honest people—who call for the preservation of life, even when the life in question is one reduced to feeding tubes and mechanisms that perform the function of breathing for the patient. One imagines that those in charge of the daily operations of the Life & Hope Network (L&HN) were very excited to get such notable political personalities to speak at the events in 2013 and ‘14. Sarah Palin in particular is well-known for her vocal pro-life advocacy. As a presidential candidate in 2012, while speaking with CBS news anchor Katie Couric, Palin said, “I am pro-life and I am unapologetic in my position that I am pro-life.” She confirmed that she was against abortion in any case, even for pregnancies that were the unhappy outcome of rape. “I would counsel to choose life, and persuade them [rape victims] to choose life for their babies.” Her outspoken belief in the sanctity of life easily fits—hand in glove so-to-speak—with the “life-sustaining” mission of the L&HN. Life is precious, and therefore should not be tossed away in its earliest stages (abortion) or in its later, tragic hours (see the Schiavo case). (It might be worthwhile to remind readers that Palin is a Republican who is unfalteringly against government interposition in our lives.) The Republican position has thus become terrifically cloudy: a desire for smaller government, coupled with an intense, almost—you’ll pardon the pun—religious desire to instruct the rest of us (“We the people”) on how to live, procreate, and die. Wait. It gets better: Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck both support capital punishment. That’s right: they have spoken in favor of the death penalty (she as the former Governor of Alaska and failed political candidate, he as a “conservative” radio/television personality). So much for being “unapologetically pro-life.” Hypocrisy abounds. Chapter Sixteen: A Painful Legacy (or, Afternoon in America?) When Ulysses S. Grant left the White House in 1877, he left behind a lasting legacy (tarnished, though it was, by scandals not of his own design) of successful nation re-building. He is today remembered less for the scandals of his administration and more for his efforts to secure the rights and safety of the former slaves. It was Grant’s leadership not during but after the Civil War that brought the wounded country back together. He was a man of war—who had at one time been called a “butcher”—whose parting gift to the nation was a ringing phrase which was immortalized on his tomb: “Let us have peace.” To borrow a modern phrase, Grant was “a uniter, not a divider.” Though I am (through personal temperament) of the isolationist bent, I admit to being awed by the words and deeds Woodrow Wilson offered his country in terms of an inheritance: a legacy of defending humanity from barbarism. On April 2, 1917, Wilson addressed Congress, asking for a declaration of war against Germany. He said, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Wilson’s legacy was not the peace that Grant had wished for America, but with his vision for a League of Nations, he hoped that one day the United States and other countries would all find a way toward peace. For better (and oftentimes for worse) we have been living with the ghost of Woodrow Wilson—and internationalism—ever since. George W. Bush’s presidency came to an end January 20, 2009. As previously noted, his was an important tenure. It was also a very controversial one, with striking repercussions that will be felt—at home and abroad—for a long time to come. Whatever one might think of the man, it would be rather difficult for anyone to suggest that George W. Bush’s legacy is a positive one. Though he came into office wanting to extend hope and unity (to be a “uniter”), he left in his wake anger and division. He also left behind a bigger government. Following the events of September 11, 2001, the “smaller is better” Republican President created the Department of Homeland Security. A new, heavy-handed bureaucracy was added to the functions of the federal government. The next time a Republican legislator is forced to remove his shoes and undergo a full-body scan at the airport before he can enjoy the uncomfortable seats and other pleasures of air travel—and who is (to complete the picture) all the while bemoaning the evils of “big brother” democratic government—he may wish to take a moment’s time of honest reflection and thank George W. Bush for the experience. The next time that same imaginary Republican traveler laments the awful abuses of privacy through government wire-tapping and domestic spying, (once again, in a moment of honest reflection) he knows who he should rightfully thank. “Yes,” some say, “Bush made the federal government bigger, but that was in response to the horrible terrorist attacks. He had to! And anyway, think of what he did for the American people through his tax cuts!” Ok, let’s. . . Republicans have long derided Democrats as “tax-and-spend” politicians who endanger America’s economic health through such activity. (Never mind that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act—it passed Congress without Republican support—which cut taxes for 15 million low-income families and small businesses.) When George W. Bush took office in 2001, part of his agenda was his goal to give Americans a tax cut. Sounds good, right? I can’t think of anyone—myself included—who would turn his nose up to keeping more of his/her earned income “in pocket.” The economy was doing well, after all. It could take it. Before what became known as the “Bush tax cuts,” the highest marginal income tax rate (itr) was somewhere around 39%. After the cuts, the highest itr was 35%. In a relatively stable economy—that is to say, in “good times”—such cuts are welcomed. When the country sets itself on a war footing, however (as it did after 9/11) one is forced to re-evaluate the situation. War is an expensive endeavor, both in terms of human initiative/sacrifice and in financial (or “pocket book”) engagement. President Bush, as discussed in earlier chapters, led the nation into a “war on terror” which was at first launched in the hills of Afghanistan and then proceeded into Iraq. The tax cuts remained in place. This meant that the United States generally (and her government specifically) had less revenue with which to pay for the war. Greater spending without the necessary revenue to cover the costs—this was Mr. Bush’s “gift” to the American economy. Richard N. Haass was director of policy planning in the Department of State under George W. Bush. In his excellent book, “Foreign Policy Begins At Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order,” he says: “George W. Bush fought costly wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, allowed discretionary domestic spending to increase at an annual rate of 6 percent, and cut taxes deeply. The fiscal position of the United States declined in eight years from a surplus of just over $100 billion in 2001…to an estimated deficit of approximately $1.4 trillion in 2009” (pg. 29). According to Haass, this led the cumulative federal debt to increase, “from just under $6 trillion in 2001 to $10 trillion over that same period” (pg. 29). I contend that such an irresponsible economic record is rather reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s time in office. You’re thinking “holy crap!” right? Indeed. Rather than a burst of conservative Republican outrage, however, there was—throughout the 8 years of the Bush II administration—a surge in flag waving patriotic display. Any person in the political world—local, state, or national—found second-guessing the administration (or without a flag pin on his/her lapel!) was immediately suspect. “Don’t you support the war? Aren’t you an American?” As for conservative thoughts about the economic dangers of deficit spending: these went by the wayside, only to find new life and new breath when Barack Obama became President. This, then, was the Bush economic legacy. What of other domestic affairs? As discussed, the government—far from having less of a role in our private lives—exercised greater interposition. For those who would argue this point, I would refer you to Chapter Fifteen and the struggles of the Schiavo family. If you were a person of faith, perhaps you didn’t mind the government’s new intrusive role during the Bush years. The first time Mr. Bush used his veto power as President involved a bill allocating government funding for stem-cell research. It is evident that his personal religious beliefs drove this action; this is understandable generally (church/state having received attention and analysis in chapter 14) because stem-cell research as a specific issue has wide room for disagreements, religious or otherwise. An honest person can believe that the destruction of an embryo for any reason would constitute the ending of a life, regardless of faith. Once again, however, there exists an example of deep hypocrisy: “I was the governor of a state that had the death penalty and, as far as I was concerned, I reviewed every case and was confident that every person that had been put to death received full rights and was guilty of the crime charged.” The quote is from—you guessed it—George W. Bush. He strongly favors the death penalty (as Governor of Texas, he oversaw the executions of one hundred fifty-two souls). To be clear: at one point in time, Mr. Bush, each of those 152 people was an embryo. His was a disappointing legacy in economic terms, and let’s call it ‘confused’ in domestic policy (contradictorily calling for smaller government while creating a new bureaucracy and plenty of red tape to accompany it, standing up for the unborn—through use of the presidential veto no less—while simultaneously supporting capital punishment, etc). I don’t wish to sound hyper-partisan or mean-spirited, but I must admit to having a difficult time not imagining circus music playing when I imagine what it’s like to set up camp in Bush’s brain: a place where such inconsistent public stands make sense. What of foreign policy? This is where the Bush legacy suffers greatest (and where we—as Americans—will, for a long time, live with the consequences). This chapter began by briefly reflecting on the ghosts of Grant and Wilson. It is Wilson’s ghost in particular that has given the United States much to worry about. Isolationism gained a measure of support after WWI (it certainly gave its last foundering breath after WWII) and it can be argued that since Wilson’s time in office, the U.S. has been concretely on an internationalist path. We are—and have been, despite the shared visions of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, etc—engaged (one might use the Founders’ term “entangled”) with the rest of the world. For better or worse, it is wishful thinking to hope that this nation could return to Warren Harding’s “normalcy” of a more isolated course (let’s worry about our own problems/affairs and let others deal with theirs). We are left, rather, to try our best to navigate global waters while suffering—or causing others to suffer—the least amount of disruption or ill effect. At this we have a patchy, checkered record at best. Especially in the Middle East. Without returning to the subject of already written chapters, we can here note simply that George W. Bush’s diplomatic efforts as a leader were wanting. Without regard for potential outcomes, his foreign policy actions (as President and as Commander-in-Chief) seemed to reflect the overly-simple thoughts of a schoolyard bully: “Who do we hit and when do we hit ‘em?” Sadly, he was very much a ‘cowboy diplomat,’ where his father—in comparison—proved to be the real deal: acting in measured ways and alongside the leaders of other nations. It is not without cause that many in the Middle East view the United States as an evil empire. Since Ronald Reagan sat in the White House, the U.S. has continued to work toward gaining greater and stronger access to Middle East oil reserves, which has driven much of American foreign policy in the region. Rather than work towards deal-making, though, American activity has been—time and again—bent on undermining existing governments in order to gain access. If only we had listened to Jimmy Carter, who (in what would be called his “malaise speech”) cautioned Americans that we needed to find ways to limit our energy dependence on the Middle East. He delivered the accurately titled “Crisis of Confidence” speech some thirty-five years ago on July 15, 1979. (I do not remember the speech, as I was one month old.) Noting America’s relationship with OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela), Carter said, “I am tonight setting the…goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade.” He continued: “To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my presidential authority to set import quotas… (and) I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow.” Way to go, Mr. President! He went on to detail the need for an energy commission, to research and develop alternative sources of fuel: from coal, oil shale, plant products. His energy leadership was upended by a Congress that was unwilling to spend what was necessary and unwilling to do potential harm to relationships with the Middle East. Imagine if Americans had taken Carter’s message to heart. Perhaps we would be more energy independent (or, at the very least we could be dealing more extensively with countries like Canada and Brazil). Perhaps, had we shaken our OPEC dependence, people in the Middle East would not view the U.S. as a force pushing its weight around, trying to foment discontent and revolution in hopes of seeing friendlier, “pro-U.S.” governments in place. All this is, of course, speculation. What we do know is that much of the reason for George W. Bush wanting to invade Iraq and oust dictator Saddam Hussein (despite stated claims of a 9/11 terrorist connection that was never concretely made) was the hoped-for potential of having greater unfettered access to Iraq’s oil reserves. According to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff from 2002 to ’05, “If you know the region as well as I do now, particularly after spending many years in the military doing war planning for the region, it’d be risible for me to say ‘it wasn’t about oil’. Of course it was about oil.” Bush apologists strongly deny that the United States engaged in “war for oil”; however, for anyone paying close attention during the campaign season of 2000, the writing was on the wall. In an appearance before a GM production center in October of that year—just one month prior to the election—George W. Bush said: “On the Clinton/Gore watch, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq has become a major supplier of oil to America. This means that one of our worst enemies is gaining more and more control over our country’s economic future.” One of our worst enemies. Bush was, of course, referring to the man whom the U.S. military had (under the first President Bush) militarily upbraided—literally—in a matter of days. The true level of threat (from a military standpoint) posed to America by the truculent Iraqi dictator was laughable. Economically, in the form of oil, was a different matter. The message was—or should have been—clear: Mr. Bush, if elected, intended to act. And he did. Of special note: while we dithered in the desert, looking for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, another nation—North Korea—actually was engaged in developing nuclear capability. On October 9, 2006, what was initially thought to be a terrific 4.3 magnitude earthquake turned out to be the detonation of an atomic bomb. While the Bush administration set its eyes on Iraq, it ignored Kim Jong Il’s repressive regime. The destabilization in the Middle East that we have witnessed in the years following Saddam Hussein’s removal from power—the lives lost in needless war and in violent revolutions—offers us the painful picture of one leader’s bloody legacy: hypocrisy at home and bullets for oil abroad is—and will forever be—President George W. Bush’s legacy. So much for Grant’s wish: “Let us have peace.” In 2008, the United States held a presidential election. The hope was “hope.” The promise was “change.” The following chapters will examine whether or not (or to what extent) we as a nation have successfully turned the corner. Have we done enough to emerge from the shadow of the Bush legacy. . .? Chapter Seventeen: 2008/2012 “Rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge—not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our security—but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved nation. The issue of equal rights for American negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation.” The speaker continued: “Their cause must be our cause, too. Because it’s not just negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.” These words, which echoed the popular civil rights anthem of the time, were spoken before a special joint session of Congress March 15, 1965. They were said not by a charismatic Northern firebrand but by Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States. For just a moment, imagine: think of hearing those words being delivered with—of all things—a Southern accent! It was a magic moment. This book began with my personal remembrance of Ronald Reagan’s speech following the Challenger disaster, with the admission that the final line of that speech tends to put a lump in my throat. The same is true when I hear LBJ’s words (I believe it would take a very cynical person, in fact, to have a different reaction). 1965. At a time when lynchings were still carried out in Southern states—where bigotry was law—a man of the South stood (with the power of the Oval Office in his hands) and spoke for those who had for so long suffered with too few powerful men joining their cause. One hundred years after Lincoln’s issuance of the emancipation proclamation, LBJ suggested that time was long overdue for America to live up to her promise of equality. He could not know that forty-three years later, a black man would stand in his shoes as President. 2008 was an election year. After eight years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney calling the shots (with Mr. Cheney declining to run for the presidency himself) both the Republican and Democratic parties were ready to look to new faces for leadership. The primary season that year would offer voters a crowded cast: The Democrats were especially ready to reclaim to White House. The candidates were Barack Obama of Illinois, New York senator (former First Lady) Hillary Clinton, North Carolina senator John Edwards (John Kerry’s running mate in 2004), Joe Biden of Delaware, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Chris Dodd of Connecticut. The Republican primary stage was no less crowded. The candidates were John McCain of Arizona, former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Ron Paul of Texas, “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Tom Tancredo of Colorado, and Alan Keyes of Maryland (former U.S. ambassador to ECOSOC—the United Nations Economic and Social Council). Early in the season, it seemed clear that there were certain “all-stars,” and most political pundits thought it was clear that the election would come down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Few of the other names could claim the affection or the sizable spotlight—the sheer recognition—that Clinton or Giuliani could command. Giuliani started strong, but his candidacy was undone in self-inflicted fashion when the fault in his stars was highlighted (by Joe Biden). During a Democratic primary debate, Biden said, “There’s only three things he [Giuliani] mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and 9/11.” Perhaps it was an unfair shot, but the charge (though it must have stung) was largely true: it was rare that the former Ney York City mayor failed to mention his role during the events of September 11th as illustrating his qualifications for the presidency. He was—is—a good man, but with the political wind taken from his sails, Giuliani withdrew from the race in January of 2008. Mike Huckabee had early successes, winning the Iowa caucus before winning both the Kansas and Louisiana primaries, but his campaign suffered from too little financial backing. With Giuliani out and Huckabee hoping for third-place finish opportunities in later primaries, the crowd had thinned, leaving McCain and Romney as the favored front-runners. By September, Senator John McCain was—if not the party’s overwhelming favorite—in a real sense (after a bruising primary contest) the last man standing and the Republican nominee. The drama, meanwhile, had been less scorching for the Democrats. Hillary maintained a strong lead in most polls for the better part of the season. But the allure of his magnetic speeches—and the historic possibility, the real potential of electing the first African-American to the presidency—led many in the party to undertake a closer examination of and friendlier look at Barack Obama. Both candidates, in point of fact, were representative of alluring “first” possibilities: a black man and a woman actively looking to be the next President of the United States. An important issue, though—one that would doggedly haunt Hillary’s campaign—was her post-9/11 vote (in October of 2002) in favor of authorizing President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. It was this sensitive issue that particularly impressed the author of this book when considering my vote during the primary. In the end, when the primary dust settled, the 2008 race would be between the Democratic Obama/Biden ticket and the Republican McCain/Palin ticket. Both parties ran campaigns offering a change, taking the country away from the divisive style of leadership as offered by the Bush II administration. Obama was a clear embodiment of change; McCain suggested that his profile as a “maverick” in the senate (who was willing to work with Republicans and Democrats) would make him a different kind of leader, less polarizing than Bush had been. One cannot overstate, then, the impact John McCain’s choice for running mate had on the eventual outcome of the election. Sarah Palin was an unknown, especially in comparison to the men who’d enjoyed (perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t the right word) the spotlight during the primary debates. I recall the moment I heard that McCain had announced his choice for a running mate. I was at work. A co-worker (the same person I challenged—as described in Chapter Six—to name a president who never lied) came over and handed me a piece of paper on which he’d written the last name Palin. He said, “That’s it: McCain/Palin.” My response was: who’s that? When he gave her complete name, my initial, knee-jerk reaction was that it was a rather transparent, cynical move on McCain’s part to attract former Hillary voters. (There is no way to know for certain—other than perhaps interviewing McCain campaign advisors, who would likely never admit it—whether or not this was the case.) What is known is that McCain waited until August (pretty late in the election year) to choose, and then to announce his choice for, a running mate. There was little time for a comprehensive, in-depth vetting process—a truth which quickly became all-too apparent when Palin’s sobering lack of informed thought on the issues was broadcast by television cameras and radio stations. While no one could seriously question John McCain’s experience and years of service, the question of Sarah Palin’s qualifications to be Vice-President of the United States created a firestorm. Her lack of experience was not the only weight threatening to sink the ticket. Sarah Palin belonged more to the far-right wing of the GOP than McCain. Her placement on the Republican ticket was never likely to attract middle-of-the-road (or moderate) voters. McCain advisors surely knew this. The hope was that her presence would be enough to attract and keep hard-core conservative votes (votes which, during the primaries, Mr. McCain had some difficulty in drawing). What history makes clear, however, is that to ignore—or worse, to snub—moderates is not a successful strategy for winning the White House. The McCain/Palin ticket was, essentially, the physical as well as the symbolic personification of the Republican dilemma: In his book “What Went Wrong: the Inside Story of the GOP Debacle of 2012,” author Jerome Corsi treated readers to his ‘autopsy’ of Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama. (He actually looked at both the 2008 and 2012 elections to make his argument.) It was—in effect—a recitation of the far right’s problem with moderates. Corsi believes that, in order to put a Republican back in the White House, the GOP needs to dump so-called “centrist” candidates like John McCain and Mitt Romney (never mind that, in my lifetime, Republicans who did win the White House—Reagan, Bush, and G. W. Bush—were able to appeal to moderate voters). This is something that far-right candidates of Mr. Corsi’s preference—Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin, for example—are unable to do. In both 2008 and 2012, the Republican candidates suffered when they felt sidetracked into answering for the noise created by extremist down-ticket candidates in state elections. Recall, for example, Todd Akin of Missouri who was recorded as having offered up what was potentially the most nonsensical comment ever uttered by a candidate for office, saying: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” (That ‘whole thing,’ of course, being an unwanted pregnancy.) Rather than discuss the economic health of the nation—as he certainly would’ve preferred—Mitt Romney was forced to either agree with or denounce Akin, and was thus drawn into the debate over abortion and the role of government in women’s reproductive lives. Had John McCain not embraced the far-right element with his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, the image he had carefully burnished as a consensus-building ‘maverick’ may have fared better. Likewise, had Mitt Romney run as the real Romney (that is to say, as the moderate former Governor of a “blue state”) rather than bend to the pressure he doubtless felt of having to appear more conservative than he truly was, the outcome might well have been different. The conservative pressure is not a desert mirage or phantasm—it is real. There is no way that Romney could have embraced his actual record vis-à-vis healthcare, for example. Had he stood firm behind his Massachusetts program, but simply said, “It works, and can be a model at the state level” (which would have been an honest approach) the ultra-conservatives of the far-right (like Mr. Corsi) would have howled. So Romney was forced instead to walk away from his actual record, which is what created so much of his awkward “flip-floppy” persona. The damage done, Mr. Corsi, is not when GOP candidates prove to be too “centrist” but that the party has delivered unto itself repeated, self-inflicted losses: having moved—and it has—further into Palin territory and away from the comfort zone where men like John McCain and Willard “Mitt” Romney (not to mention their political godfather Barry Goldwater) stand. It is a middle-of-the-road zone where, like it or not Mr. Corsi, a majority of Americans stand: a point to which 2008 and 2012 results can attest. It should be no surprise then—with this dynamic of internal combustion at play within the Republican Party (with people like Corsi, Palin, Limbaugh, etc. temperamentally at odds with nominees of John McCain’s mien)—that in the election of 2008, Barack Obama won, becoming the nation’s 44th President. Party unity (or lack thereof) often looms large as a deciding factor in elections. Really, it’s as if the Republican Party is collectively unaware of its own storied history of fractious disunity. A brief look at the election of 1912 offers a sharp lesson to which the GOP should pay particular attention. In a contest between the liberal and conservative wings for the nomination that year, Republican delegates were split between incumbent President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt. The division (which led to a Roosevelt defection to run as the 3rd party Bull Moose candidate) proved costly: ultimately paving the way for the Democrat, New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, to easily win that November. Anyone at all familiar with the history of—and lessons gained from—the year 1912 would have seen John McCain’s loss to Barack Obama in 2008 coming a mile away. Clearly, disjointed matchups (like McCain/Palin) aren’t the answer. Unless and until the GOP can put aside the internal differences and coalesce around an overall vision, clearly spelled out for the American public, they will continue to experience small wins in state or local elections and losses at the national level. The ghosts of Taft, TR, and Wilson will continue to haunt the RNC (Republican National Committee). There were, of course, other elements at play in ‘08: One cannot analyze the contest of 2008 without discussing it in terms of race and the history of race relations in the United States, which is one reason for the decision to begin this chapter as I did. When Barack Obama offered “change” as his key promise, he was addressing the idea that his would be a campaign based on a referendum of the Bush II years; however, he was himself—it is impossible to deny, whether he wished to be or not—a symbol of greater change in an historic moment. (A “we shall overcome” moment.) When Mr. Obama beat out Hillary to become the Democratic Party’s nominee, John McCain’s aspirations to reach the Oval Office were almost certainly dealt a very large hurdle to overcome. It may not be a fair assessment (I believe it is), but one cannot discount the role that emotion played in ’08 voter turnout. For so many reasons, the election of 2008 proved to be a truly interesting one. I, for one, was glued to the news channels—CNN, MSNBC, FOX—watching the reports through the various primary debates to the nominating conventions. When Barack Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009 with George W. Bush in attendance, I was hopeful. One man was leaving the political stage; the other taking over. The offer—the promise—of “change” sounded good to me. But what would that change mean? Would Obama be the spiritual inheritor of LBJ’s liberal vision, or would he chart his own, moderate path? More importantly: would his actual record in office live up to his promise? The following chapters will be dedicated to the examination of that question. Chapter Eighteen: Keeping Us Safe? It has been said, time and again, by detractors of President Obama that he has (as Commander-In-Chief) failed in his topmost responsibility to keep America safe. This charge has been made—in particular—by those in the conservative media: Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh to name a few. This is a rather amazing suggestion that deserves to be examined, for there can be no stronger or damning accusation made against a sitting president than that he has fallen asleep at the wheel where American safety is concerned. Certainly, if a president were to be found derelict in his particular role as the “chief protector/defender” then—in this writer’s mind—he would be open to calls for inquiry for impeachment. It is difficult, not to say impossible, for anyone to judge any presidency until history has had a chance to look at it through the lens of the rear-view mirror. It would be difficult to come to a conclusive verdict on the Obama presidency in any respect before it is ended. This chapter, therefore, will study President Obama’s actions as Commander-In-Chief in comparison—whether favorable or not—to the actions of previous administrations. This approach will also afford readers a measure of context with which to consider the failure charge (as described above). To offer what is perhaps the clearest example of presidential failure—indeed, an example of dereliction of duty insofar as keeping American citizens safe—I might refer readers to the sad figure of James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, the 15th President of the United States. When a man takes the presidential oath of office, he swears to “preserve, protect, and defend” the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Buchanan believed that, in condemning the activities of abolitionists in the North (he saw them as domestic terrorists), he was defending the Constitution as it was written. True enough. He failed, however, to fully appreciate that the Constitution in this case—in declaring an entire segment of the American population to be pieces of property—was the problem. He ignored the moral implications of what was happening in the closing years of the 1850s. Of course, it may be said that, by the time Buchanan took office, the groundwork for the coming of the Civil War had already been laid. This fails to take into consideration the fact that Buchanan personally intervened in the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision which further enflamed North/South tensions. Rather than forestall armed conflict, the President’s actions contributed to the hastening of the conflict. The political strength of his friends in the South was foremost in the President’s mind; the safety—meanwhile—of the American people on both sides of the moral divide was, for Buchanan, a secondary concern. When South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union (on Dec. 20, 1860), President Buchanan challenged the legality of secession; in his weakness, however, he claimed he had no constitutional authority to stop it. The ghosts of Buchanan’s failure still haunt the unquiet fields of the Civil War. Buchanan’s example, though, is perhaps too remote for readers to fully appreciate. A more immediate (or modern) example of presidential failure exists in the unfortunate administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States. President Johnson had great successes in the administration’s war on poverty and in wresting concrete change during the civil rights movement; his foreign policy record—though—will always be a stain on his reputation as a leader. In the summer of 1967, as America waded further into the mire of hostilities in Vietnam, something took place—a tragedy—that the LBJ administration would cover up, lest one of America’s ‘allies’ be perceived instead as a bully (so the thinking went). Here, the sad truth: In June of 1967, the Middle East was swept into the Six-Day War (between Israel and several Arab states). Throughout, the United States maintained neutral status. On June 8, the USS Liberty (classified as a Technical Research vessel) was in international waters near the northern coast of Egypt performing signal collection (very likely spy intel, keeping tabs and monitoring the escalating situation) when she was attacked by both Israeli Air Force fighter aircraft and Israeli Navy torpedo boats. Thirty-four Liberty crew members were killed, 171 were wounded. According to Vice Admiral William Martin, the Liberty was “a clearly marked United States ship” and “not a participant” in the hostilities when she was attacked. Israeli reports of the incident claimed that the Liberty had been mistaken for either 1) an Egyptian ship or 2) a Soviet warship or battle cruiser. According to intercepted radio communications, at around 2:30 (near the beginning of the attack) two Israeli helicopters were dispatched to the scene in order to verify the identity of the vessel, to determine whether or not the Liberty was flying an American flag. This alone would seem to upend Israel’s argument that the affair had been a case of mistaken identity. Such reports notwithstanding, the U.S. and Israeli governments conducted investigations into the incident, and both concluded that the attack had been in error. Survivors maintained that for several hours before the attack, they witnessed a number of Israeli fly-overs (which, if their accounts are to be trusted, would give every indication that Israeli forces had full opportunity to make visual contact and correctly identify the ship as a “friendly” or “neutral”). This testimony, along with the record of helicopter communications, supports the belief that the attack was deliberate (perhaps to send a message to “keep your distance”?). In the aftermath of the attack, Israel apologized. In May 1968, the Israeli government paid over $3 million to the families of those killed; in 1969, it paid another $3 million to those wounded; and in 1980, it paid the United States $6 million as a settlement for material damage sustained during the attack. One imagines that Israel would’ve put up more of a fight in having to pay out such large amounts if the incident had in fact been strictly accidental in nature. To some, there seems to be an odor of guilt that encircles the “Liberty payments.” The important question must be asked: why would the President of the United States support investigation findings that so clearly contradicted the facts on the ground as witnessed by survivors of the attack? The sad answer is clear: President Johnson’s primary concern—rather than defend the brave men serving in the U.S. armed forces and call for justice (certainly for recompense) in the occasion of their deaths—was to avoid the potential for an unpleasant international scuffle with Israel over what was clearly an act of unwarranted aggression. He had his hands full as it was (so the thinking went) with the situation in Vietnam. It was a political decision. Americans—the families of those lost in the attack in particular—were told that it was all an accident. As suggested in previous chapters, another sad example of presidential failure—this one greater in scope (to this writer’s mind) than LBJ and the USS Liberty—exists in the more immediate history that “We the People” have lived through. . . As discussed in Chapter 9, President George W. Bush was warned by the CIA on several occasions throughout the fall and summer months of 2001 that the radical group Al Qaida, led by Osama Bin Laden, had operatives in the United States and had plans to carry out a deadly attack. No attempts were made to tighten security in the nation’s airports, bus terminals, or subway systems. No measures were taken to tighten security at the United Nations building or at the twin towers of the World Trade Center (which had previously been the scene of an attack by Al Qaida). During a White House press conference held March 13, 2002, Mr. Bush was asked a two-part question: 1) if he had any sound intelligence as to Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts—in fact, did he know if bin Laden was still alive—and 2) could he say anything regarding the nature of the threat that Bin Laden continued to pose? As discussed in previous chapters, the administration had—at this time—already begun to shift its attention to Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Bush wanted the focus to be on Iraq, not on the elusive mastermind of 9/11 who had yet to be captured. Of course, the President wouldn’t be so bold as to dismiss the threat that Osama Bin Laden posed, right? His answer: “You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you.” The President went on to discuss how he believed that terror “is bigger than one person.” True enough, but Bin Laden was the leader of the terrorist organization—leader of the enemy we faced—and as such was an important figure in the struggle. He had orchestrated the 9/11 attack. The reporter gave President Bush a chance to clarify his position, asking again specifically about Osama Bin Laden. He said, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” One imagines a person who lost a loved one in the rubble of the twin towers hearing this. One can only imagine their reaction as military families watched the press conference and heard the Commander-in-Chief suggest that the concerted efforts of their sons and daughters in the mountains of Afghanistan was something that he “didn’t spend that much time on” and that finding and bringing the leader of Al Qaida to justice was not a concern. Good job, Mr. Bush. On many different occasions on his television show, Sean Hannity has stated that “President Bush kept us safe.” Hannity never has acceded to the fact that Mr. Bush was negligent in the months leading up to the attack (a point which was made by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura when he was a guest on Mr. Hannity’s show—May 18, 2009). Mr. Hannity, says—often—that while “President Bush kept us safe” President Barack Obama has not. . . On May 2, 2011, President Barack Obama—the man who succeeded George W. Bush—(and who has, according to people like Sean Hannity, been negligent in keeping America safe) addressed the nation. He said, “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.” He continued: “It was nearly ten years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory; hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville , Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.” President Obama was right: these are images that we will never forget. All because a President of the Unites States—the 43rd—failed to keep us safe. Where Osama Bin Laden is concerned, I would suggest that President Obama’s actions stand in far better light than his predecessor’s. While Mr. Bush spent 8 years promising—in grand, strutting cowboy fashion—that he would bring those responsible for 9/11 to justice, he failed to do so. In fact, he said that he “truly” was “not that concerned” about Bin Laden. It was left to his successor to get the job done. Killing Bin Laden, then, is an Obama “win.” Where Mr. Hannity and his conservative friends fault the Obama administration must lie elsewhere (and indeed, it does). They see horrible events unfold like the embassy bombing that took place on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya and find that the President was “asleep at the wheel.” The argument is made that the President should have done more to protect the Americans who were serving in a hostile atmosphere. Should he—or could he—have done more? Yes. Is this a matter that deserves to be examined in hopes that we act better in the future? Yes. Is it an over-reaction to suggest that the President be impeached? Yes. Should the United States take a closer look at where we have servicemen and women stationed overseas? Yes. Should our elected leaders take steps to rethink our global position, to question whether we should have embassies in certain “hot spots” around the globe (places like Sudan or Libya for example), where Americans serving their country might be at great risk? Absolutely! Rather than attack the president, we should pause long enough to ask: “President Obama, given U.S. history in the region, why in the world did we have a U.S. embassy in Libya?” This would be a constructive activity. We as free citizens have every right to ask “why” if our leaders decide to place our fellow Americans—serving in either a military or civilian capacity—in harm’s way. And Mr. Obama needs to be ready with an answer. It is not enough for us to mourn the loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the others who died in the Benghazi attack; nor is it enough for us to engage in partisan sniping and fault-finding. “We the People” have to ask the difficult questions. . . and our president and other elected leaders in the Congress need to answer them. For the moment, let’s set aside Benghazi and examine another, more recent development which has given cause for conservatives to argue that President Obama’s actions have endangered—rather than ensure the safety of—Americans. In this particular case, sadly, I am completely inclined to agree: In May of 2014, an exchange was made which set the nation into a frenzy. Five Taliban prisoners who were being held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay were freed in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. Army serviceman who had been captured in Afghanistan in June 2009. For some, the action was seen as a humanitarian effort by the administration to secure the release of a long-suffering American; for others, though, the idea that the United States negotiated such a transaction with the enemy was and is (however noble the intent) an unacceptable move—really, an accommodation with terrorists—which will, in the long run, cause more harm than good. The prisoners who were released as part of the exchange were known to have been high-ranking Taliban officials before their capture: the Taliban army chief of staff, the deputy minister of intelligence, an interior minister, and two other “senior Taliban officials.” In other words, these were not “small players” in the war on terror. Following the exchange (even prior to Bergdahl’s June 13, return to the United States by way of an Army medical center in San Antonio, Texas) it was learned that the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance and subsequent capture in 2009 were shady to say the least. In a Rolling Stone article written by Michael Hastings, Bergdahl sent an e-mail to his parents back in the states prior to his capture. According to the article, Bergdahl wrote the following: “Mom and Dad, the future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong.” He continued, “I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be [A]merican.” Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (again, according to the Rolling Stone article) ended his e-mail with this: “I am sorry for everything. The horror that is [A]merica is disgusting. There are a few more boxes coming to you guys. Feel free to open them, and use them.” The e-mail would seem to indicate that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance from his platoon was in reality a desertion on his part: the act of a man who was disillusioned with his role in the Army and was ready to leave it behind. Bad enough the United States negotiated with the enemy. The Stone article, taken together with word from several of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers testifying to his disaffection, is rather damning. If these accounts are to be believed, then the President as Commander-in-Chief engineered a risky prisoner trade in order to free a man who had—in effect—delivered himself into harm’s way (into the hands of the enemy) when he deserted his post. In point of fact, if he was a deserter, then he also put his fellow soldiers in harm’s way, as they led several missions in search of Bergdahl. Though the Pentagon quickly released a statement saying that it was impossible to confirm, the news network CNN reported that—according to some who were involved—at least six soldiers were killed during the search/rescue missions. The entire “Bergdahl Affair” is a very dark stain on President Obama’s record. Of course, there were plenty of Republicans who were guilty of acting no less foolish. In a Memorial Day message, New Hampshire’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte urged the Department of Defense to continue its efforts to do all it could to find and return Bergdahl; following the prisoner exchange and his release, however, Ayotte (of course) criticized the President. In what I believed to be the most surprising statement made at the time—this, before the exchange—Sen. John McCain of Arizona (who was himself a prisoner of war during the Vietnam era) initially called the idea for a “swap” a “mistake.” (One imagines that his experiences would lead him to encourage any effort to attain the release of an enemy-held prisoner). Then, the inevitable ‘flip-flop’: when asked about the potential for a 5-for-1 deal in the making, McCain told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “Obviously I would need to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home, and if exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.” Republican flip-floppy criticism after the fact notwithstanding, as stated, the affair is indeed a stain on Mr. Obama’s record. History, of course, will be the ultimate judge as to whether or not the move proved dangerous. One fervently hopes that the released detainees (the so-called “Taliban Five) do not proceed to engage again in future attacks against Americans. If they do, President Obama will have no one else to blame. He will have to wear the responsibility on his shoulders, the blood on his hands. Now, having examined various administrations and different situations, it would be smart to re-visit the question that formed the basis for this chapter: has President Obama failed in his duty to keep America safe? I would have to argue that the answer is a complicated “maybe.” It is, for me, far less crystalized than it is in the minds of the president’s critics. For such people, Obama is a captain who, standing at the bow of the ship, has led it in a disorganized and ultimately dangerous manner. Especially when taking into consideration how his predecessor—President Bush—handled the ship of state, I must frankly conclude that while President Obama’s leadership has been lackluster, he has managed to do far better than his critics suggest. Has his term of office been an unmitigated failure? No. Has it been a rousing success? No. I sadly return, then, to the complicated “maybe.” It is this writer’s considered opinion that—rather than politely listen to those who make the ridiculous claim that George W. Bush kept us safe while Barack Obama has not—we may wish to ignore the likes of Hannity, Palin, and Limbaugh. Theirs are simply voices of distraction. We are best served not by the static of such voices but by the clear timbre of our own, when we—as free, thinking Americans—begin to demand of our elected leaders a more vigorous accountability when it comes to national security and the deployment of our armed services. Chapter Nineteen: War The Founding Fathers of this nation were wary of seeing too much power vested in the hands of one man. They feared that, if he were given unmatched or unchecked powers, a President might succumb to the urge to scratch the itch of corruption and become—essentially—an American dictator. The Fathers fought a revolution in order to shed the shackles of what they saw as foreign tyranny; they hoped the new government structure that they were forming would prevent itself—through established checks and balances—from embracing or acting upon the worst aspects of human nature. They translated their fears into specific rules by drafting the U.S. Constitution. Article I Section 8 of the Constitution rather unambiguously spells out the various responsibilities of Congress. (Among the specific responsibilities, it mentions the power to lay and collect taxes; to regulate commerce with foreign nations; to establish post offices and post roads, etc.) Importantly, the founders went on in this section to say that the legislative body—the Congress—shall have the power “…To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water…”. Accordingly, when he decided that the U.S. could no longer safely remain neutral while Europe fought the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson appeared before Congress on April 2, 1917 and made his case for a declaration of war. Four days later, Congress obliged. On December 8, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt memorably addressed an emergency session of Congress and did just as Wilson had years before: asked for a declaration of war. Both men followed a constitutionally-prescribed path. In his Inaugural Address, Ronald Reagan said that “government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” In the years following Ronald Reagan’s successful rhetorical flourish, Republicans have sincerely adopted the conservative argument against too much concentrated power in the Oval Office. They have fought—hard—to bring influence and power back into the halls of Congress where representatives of the people speak for us. We know that Thomas Jefferson would happily endorse this point of view and course of action. The educated reader may shrug and say, “Yeah, I already knew that. So?” In this book’s introduction, I briefly described the situation as it then existed in Syria: violent unrest between the Syrian government and her people, with the United States looking on from the sidelines and considering intervention. Thankfully, President Obama (though he was in favor of ordering air strikes) decided against issuing an executive order of action. He called on members of Congress to vote either for or against an authorization for the proposed strikes. Congress held off from taking any immediate action. Fast-forward one year. In recent weeks, Islamic militants—calling themselves ISIS (or, the “Islamic State”)—have gained a foothold not only in Syria but also in neighboring Iraq, pulling Iraq back into the depths of violence. Iraqi forces (having been aided by American military “advisors” for over a decade) proved pitifully ineffectual in defending themselves against the ISIS insurgency. Once again, Iraqi leaders are looking to the West to intercede. In a recent discussion, a friend suggested that (as examined in the previous chapter) President Obama has not kept America safe. Specifically, my friend argued that more should be done in an effort to meet the deadly challenge that ISIS forces represent. I do agree with my friend in his thinking that the situation with ISIS in Iraq currently calls for greater U.S. action. In recent days, horrible footage of American journalists being killed—beheaded by ISIS forces—has stirred a terrific discussion across this nation. We do need to act. ISIS is a brutal cancer that the world needs to excise. My friend went on, however, to lament Mr. Obama’s family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard and to bemoan images of the President playing golf while “the rest of the world is burning.” The picture, my friend argued, was of a President who seemed to provide a callous indifference to the situation rather than true leadership. I offered—for the record—that Congress was also on vacation at the same time, though the President’s critics and likeminded news networks seemed not to notice. I then suggested that my friend’s anger, while understandable, was a little misplaced. I said that it was Congress’s place to “do more,” that it was their responsibility (rather than the President’s) to engage the problem of ISIS. My friend asked: “Since when?” He recalled the United States’ entry into Korea and Vietnam (both of which were undeclared wars, Korea in particular having been called a “police action” by President Harry Truman). He argued that if Mr. Obama were to “pass off” the decision to Congress, then he would be doing so out of a desire not to be holding a political ‘hot potato’ (as the decision to make war is of great consequence, and those who vote to engage in war—historically—are either celebrated or blamed after the fact). In response, of course, I referenced Article I Section 8 of the Constitution. Korea and Vietnam were excellent examples, I told my friend, of what our Founding Fathers wanted not to have happen. The ‘hot potato’ belongs in Congress’s hands. Speaker of the House John Boehner can bring a vote for action to the floor of the House of Representatives at any time. Why was my friend’s anger directed at the President and not at Mr. Boehner’s inaction? The argument that the President needs to do something more in response to ISIS does not constitutionally “pass the smell test.” It is Congress that has not kept America safe. The silence on Capitol Hill has been loud. The voices of our elected representatives need to be heard. Chapter Twenty: A Question of Energy A brief look at the United States history vis-à-vis energy has already been undertaken (in discussing President Jimmy Carter’s efforts in Chapter 16). It is an enticing thing to consider where we as a nation might be today had we paid greater attention to Carter’s warnings. Here it would be beneficial to once again quote Richard N. Haass from his book, “Foreign Policy Begins At Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order.” It is an unfortunate, well-known fact that our dependence on foreign oil brings with it substantial geo-political risks. Mr. Haass says, “The need to import large amounts of oil has…added to the budget deficit, weakened the dollar, and contributed to US economic vulnerability” (pg. 130). “The problem,” Haass continues, “is that the United States consumes 19 million barrels of oil a day, nearly twice what it produces” (pg. 130). I have added the italics for emphasis. Obviously this is an unsustainable situation. There are positive signs, though: just cause for a more hopeful outlook. In recent years, for example, there have been technological developments in the area of natural gas. It is necessary, when formulating a strategic American energy policy for the future, that our leaders include natural gas for two very important reasons: 1) it is a source of energy that, when burned, is less damaging to the environment than oil and 2) the U.S. is currently the world’s largest producer. Development in this area would mean that, rather than rely so heavily upon other nations for our energy needs, America could be more directly responsible for her own economic security (and thus less vulnerable to erratic swings in the global market). When he took office, President Obama inherited an economic mess. One of his early successes (a promise made during the campaign) was his stated goal of winding down the American commitment of troops in Iraq. The hope was that allowing Iraq to regain its footing and self-composure after a decade of violent disruption will in time lead not only to a less disordered life for Iraqis but also to a measure of more normalized relations between Iraq and other countries. In particular, the potential for a positive relationship between the United States and Iraq—and restored opportunity for trade between the two—would provide obvious energy benefits. Of course, though, this offers a return (rather than a turning away from) U.S. dependence on Middle East oil. We need to look elsewhere. We need to. Consider the topic discussed in Chapter 19: the ISIS threat and the terrible, on-going events in Iraq and Syria. Herein lies the problem with American intervention/involvement, whether military or economic, in the Middle East. We cannot—cannot—allow our future happiness or prosperity to be deeply interwoven with the fortunes of nation-states that have such a disturbing history of violence, of insurrection, and of religious bloodshed. As we have seen in recent weeks: despite our best efforts and wishes, one brush fire often rolls and rages into another. It is not this author’s suggestion that the United States cut itself off permanently from the rest of the world; we must, though, consider (in a more careful manner) our strategic goals and the nature and cost of future commitments. We must be especially careful when those goals or commitments involve energy. On May 4, 2012, the U.S. State Department received an application for a proposed oil pipeline that—if built—would tap into the second largest petroleum reserve on Earth and would run from Canada to an existing pipeline in Nebraska, with an extension that would then run to the Gulf Coast. Critics argue that the pipeline would represent a grave danger to the environment (especially to natural waters). In point of fact, though there are people who oppose the project for reasons having to do with climate control, much of the push-back against the pipeline has less to do with a genuine concern for the environment and more to do with legal arguments over land rights (coming—as it does—from various residents of Nebraska who are unwilling to sell off or lose any portion of land for the project). There are many people—both republicans and democrats—who openly support the Keystone XL proposal. Supporters—I am one—suggest that the pipeline would create jobs (somebody has to build it!) and would benefit the U.S. through greater access to “friendly” oil. Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a supporter of the XL pipeline proposal. Her support, given her official position, is especially important. Another voice of support comes from Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), who, in April of 2014, urged the Obama administration to approve the pipeline. Heitkamp was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “It’s absolutely ridiculous that this well-over-five-year-long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time.” No one wants to knowingly or unnecessarily endanger the environment. But the appeals process has become something of an ongoing tragic comedy, with the administration showing no leadership while it approves delay after delay, with various government agencies assessing groundwater conditions and whether potential dangers to the environment exist. Senator Heitkamp’s frustration is indeed well founded. As these words are being typed, the Keystone XL proposal is still in limbo. Thus far, the White House has appeared very reluctant to move in either approving or shelving the project. Here is a chance for Mr. Obama—for the President of the United States—to do what his predecessor in the Oval Office (Jimmy Carter) wisely advocated so long ago: lead the country in breaking away from dependence on Middle-East oil. We the people are watching, Mr. President. Chapter Twenty-One: A Bi-Partisan Prescription? “The American healthcare system is the best in the world.” Several friends and co-workers of mine (as well as many people in local, state, and federal government) in recent years have uttered these words when discussing—indeed often arguing over—‘Obamacare’. As a person who was born with a birth defect (a cleft lip and palate) who has experienced the setback of being denied insurance coverage for certain corrective procedures, I would quickly argue with the above assessment. As it turns out, I am not the only person with a considered, dissenting opinion. “As a nation, we are doing less than now lies within our power to reduce the impact of disease. Many of our fellow Americans cannot afford to pay the costs of medical care when it is needed, and they are not protected by adequate health insurance. Too frequently the local hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes…either do not exist or are badly out of date…(and) there are critical shortages of the trained personnel required to study, prevent, treat, and control disease.” –Special Message to Congress, January 31, 1955. (34th U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican). “Nothing should impede us from doing whatever is necessary to bring the best possible healthcare to those who do not now have it—while improving health care quality for everyone—at the earliest possible time.” –Special Message to Congress, March 2, 1972. (37th U.S. President Richard Nixon, Republican). The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) was passed by Congress in 1986—during Ronald Reagan’s second term—and requires hospitals to accept Medicare payments to provide treatment for anyone needing it, regardless of citizenship, legal status, or ability to pay. Reagan, though, was still concerned with the U.S. healthcare system. “…Our proposal calls for the Treasury Department and others to find ways of helping families meet these costs…it’s too early to predict what will work best, but the important point is that our proposal calls on the government to start working.” –Radio address to the nation, February 14, 1987. (40th U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Republican). Further along in Mr. Reagan’s speech: “We will take steps to improve catastrophic illness coverage for all Americans, regardless of age. Under our plan, the Federal and State governments would work together…to provide insurance for those who could not otherwise obtain insurance.” Feb 14, 1987. “Today we spend approximately $1 billion on the medical cost for the uninsured. It is fair to ask all residents to purchase health insurance or have the means to pay for their own care. This personal responsibility principle means that individuals should not expect society to pay for their medical costs if they forego affordable health insurance options.” –signing the Mass. Healthcare Reform Act, April 12, 2006. (Gov. Mitt Romney, Republican). People who refused coverage—here, the idea of personal responsibility (which has long been a stalwart Republican theme) comes into stark focus—would be fined approx. $1,000 a year, about the same amount they would have paid if they had entered one of the state programs in the first place. “A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available healthcare. When it comes to healthcare, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children, and we will meet those responsibilities.” –State of the Union Address, January 23, 2007. (43rd U.S. President George W. Bush, Republican). Further along in the speech, the President said: “States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing federal funds and use them to create ‘Affordable Choice’ grants [which] would give our nation’s governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.” So, Bush on healthcare: federal funds for state aid. (But don’t call it socialism!) Senator Ted Kennedy (Democrat): “Quality care shouldn’t depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.” In other words, healthcare (like education) should not be just for wealthy sons and daughters with famous last names like Rockefeller, Bush, or Romney. “This is the cause of my life: new hope, that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American—North, South, East, West, young, old—will have decent quality healthcare as a fundamental right and not a privilege.” –Democratic National Convention Speech, August 25, 2008. (Ted Kennedy). Uh-oh! A Democrat wants affordable care for all. NOW it’s socialism! “Six months ago today, a big part of the Affordable Care Act kicked in as healthcare.gov and state insurance marketplaces went live. And millions of Americans finally had the same chance to buy quality, affordable healthcare—and the peace of mind that comes with it—as everybody else. Last night, the first open-enrollment period under this law came to an end. Despite several lost weeks out of the gate because of problems with the website, 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces.” –Rose Garden remarks, April 1, 2014. (44th U.S. President Barack Obama, Democrat). Here, the President acknowledged the rocky start to implementation of his landmark law, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Here, however, is where President Obama damaged his program with a wildly self-inflicted wound: “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.” –speaking to an audience in New Jersey, July 16, 2009. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, the truth came into greater focus. Clearly, there were plans that did not meet the new standards prescribed by the new law. Businesses were made to carry different plans for their employees. Men and women who found they had to switch plans—even carriers—cried foul. The President lied, they said. Yes, he had. A great deal of time had been spent developing a workable program, worrying about various ins and outs of a law that would have to be cobbled together by disagreeing political factions—some of whom raged against the very idea of a federal program and who feared the potential (more imagined than real) of government “death panels” and the like—that nobody had addressed the problem of allowing people to keep coverage they liked if that coverage did not measure up to new requirements. Could such language have been written into the law? Absolutely. But the President, in trying to sell the idea to the American electorate, over-reached himself. He promised more than he could deliver. Whether you perceive his comments to be a blatant lie (as many do) or as an exaggeration of hoped-for benefits, the damage in the end was very real. The credibility of statements coming from the Oval Office took a beating. Even the President’s supporters had difficulty accepting the fallout. In politics, it is easy to make promises. It is very good advice, however, to steer clear of making bold pronouncements. For another perfect example, think of the promise made during the 1992 campaign by Vice President George Bush when he became the Republican Party’s nominee: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” It was a promise that—once in office—he could not keep. Had he lied? Well, not really, no. He had expressed his hope that he would not have to raise taxes. (This, of course, is a much more nuanced message). But that’s not what he said. No nuance, no wiggle room should the need arise and economic forces require movement on taxes. Just “read my lips.” Similarly, Mr. Obama’s statement in 2009 regarding his healthcare initiative was a bold assertion which left no necessary wiggle room. What the President should have said was this: “You can keep your insurance so long as the plan you currently have meets the new requirements.” But that’s not what he said. That’s not as flashy, not as easy a sell. In football terms, the President’s team had gained several yards on a nice play, but had to be called back after a flag was thrown by the American people. It is a shame. Even if—and it is a big “if”—history eventually records the Affordable Care Act as a success, the shadow of the lie will hang in the air. The words President Obama so carelessly tossed out without contemplation of possible stipulations will continue to ring in the ears of both his admirers and critics. Where do we go from here? From Eisenhower to Obama, the idea that all men—having been created equal, as our Founding Fathers suggested (though didn’t always endorse, as many were slaveholders)—should have access to good healthcare has been something that politicians of both parties have endorsed. As we have seen, Presidents and Governors alike—Republicans and Democrats—have said much about the inequalities in the American system of healthcare. All have wanted to see, in their lifetimes, a more just and equitable structure where all Americans (and not just the wealthy) have access to affordable treatment. In fact, the “Great Communicator” himself, Ronald Reagan, spelled it out rather nicely: “A catastrophic illness can strike anyone—the young, the old, the middle aged. The single distinguishing characteristic is simply this: whatever form it takes, a catastrophic illness costs money. Lots of it.” True enough. He continued: “All of us have family, friends, or neighbors who have suffered devastating illnesses that threatened their financial security.” What, then, did Reagan recommend in response to this problem? He said: “Our proposal…would take steps to provide…coverage for Americans of all ages.” –Radio address to the nation, February 14, 1987. . . . . Enter the Tea Party. “In 2017, I believe a Republican president will repeal Obamacare in its entirety.” –USA Today op-ed, October 19, 2014. (Sen. Ted Cruz, Tea Party). Yeah, never mind the history of Republican presidents—as clearly expressed in their own words—who fought for the idea that all Americans should have equal access to good medical care regardless of background or circumstance. It’s those damned bleeding-heart Democrats who’re trying to force us all into (gasp!) suffering the evils of greater access and affordability. “Before Obamacare, there had never been a confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S.” –Twitter posting, October 23, 2014. (Nick Muzin, senior advisor and deputy Chief of Staff to Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz). All together now: whaaaaat? Those men and women who charge Democrats with never missing an opportunity to politicize a horrible accident or disaster should take note of the special brand of venom being coughed-up by people like Mr. Muzin. With such illogical and hyper-partisan (not to mention clearly mean-spirited) rhetoric surrounding the healthcare debate in America, it is no wonder that—while we may be better off today than we were, say, forty years ago—(to borrow a line from the poet Robert Frost) we still have miles to go before we sleep. Chapter Twenty-Two: The Days Ahead According to James Parton, the first person to attempt a biography of Andrew Jackson—the 7th President of the United States—Jackson was, “a patriot and a traitor. He was the greatest of generals, and wholly ignorant of the art of war. He was the most candid of men, and capable of the profoundest dissimulation. He was a democratic autocrat, an urbane savage, an atrocious saint.” Parton, in these few words, successfully captured the difficult character of our 7th president. He was, like his country, filled with contradictions. In the prologue of his 2008 book, “American Lion,” Jon Meacham had this to say: “Like us and our America, Jackson and his America achieved great things while committing grievous sins” (pg. xix). Both scholars connected the personal character of our 7th president with the young and still-maturing nature of the country he was called to lead. I would argue that we were—in the 1820s and ‘30s—as we are today in the early years of the 21st century: a country (and a people) filled with the potential for both extraordinary goodness and deep injustice. We are an imperfect mix of hero and cynic; of a willingness to expand opportunity and a wish to—in stingy fashion—hoard that opportunity for ourselves. There are those of our number who wish to see a more limited federal government who, too often, condemn our elected leaders in Washington when they do not act quickly or stridently enough (I’m looking at you, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas). I would further contend that our imperfect mix, however frustrating it may be, is truly the best that we as Americans can hope for, because it is—in the end—the clearest testament we have to the imperfect humanity that informs the government that “We the People” created so many years ago. And that is a good thing. Our disagreements—some of which we have been having since Adams and Jefferson were young and dreaming men—are what make us unique among nations. Where other nations have had histories filled with bloody revolution, ours is able to see (though there may be hurt feelings and upset hopes) the peaceful transition of power from one political party to another: without war or bloodshed. For the cynical reader, this fact alone should commend our imperfect system above others. We will continue to disagree. We will continue to have lively, even raucous debates on issues of great—and sometimes of smaller—importance. And that is a good thing. We will, as we move forward, continue to elect men and women to represent us to the best of their ability at the highest levels of our government. There will be more saints, more sinners, and—perhaps—there will be a few more like Andrew Jackson, who will occupy a troubled (if distinguished) place in both categories. And, of course, we will continue to differ in our judgments as to who has done right by America and who has done her wrong. As the title of this book suggests, and as the chapters testify (one hopes successfully) I have offered my personal conclusions regarding specific presidents who’ve held that high office in my lifetime. It would be arrogant to think or to suggest that every reader will agree with the sentiments I’ve expressed in the pages of this book, especially at this time in our history, when it seems that our elected leaders cannot agree even on the color of the sky. My hope, in fact, is that there are people who read these pages and who disagree with my conclusions and—rather than dismiss the book as a waste—will engage in a discussion. Ask questions. Make bold assertions. Engage in a dialogue with others who agree or disagree. Ronald W. Reagan came to the Oval Office in January of 1981, one hundred fifty-two years after Andrew Jackson first took the presidential Oath. Both men would leave the country with a “mixed bag” legacy. To borrow Jon Meacham’s words, both men—the 7th President of the United States and the 40th—“achieved great things while committing grievous sins.” One cannot examine Reagan’s stated hopes, as expressed in his first Inaugural Address, without also taking the time to consider the record of his accomplishments while in office. The actual record is one that has had—and will continue to have—grave consequences for this nation. Let’s for a moment try to draw from the various chapters: In Chapter 18, the matter of “keeping Americans safe” was examined with respect to the charges made against the current president, Barack Obama. When one considers how he needlessly led American military personnel into harm’s way in Beirut (as discussed in chapter 4), it must be said that President Reagan failed as Commander-in-Chief to protect those 304 brave souls. Additionally, Reagan’s later involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the administration supplied arms to a rogue nation in exchange for the release of hostages, continues to cast a long and haunting shadow: as evidenced by the troubling “Bergdahl Affair” (President Obama’s Taliban prisoner exchange discussed in chapter 18). One must eventually come to the considered belief that the role Ronald Reagan played in our history—the “role of a lifetime” as it has been described by some historians—was a damaging one to American honor, credibility, and…yes…American safety. The damage done was multiplied tenfold during the two stormy terms of the George W. Bush presidency. For those who today rage—with just cause (for theirs is an honest point of view)—against the expanding powers of an overly-involved federal bureaucracy, it is an unavoidable truth that their anger must rest at the feet of the 43rd president. The warrantless wiretapping and other unsavory acts carried out by intelligence officials—all in the name of greater protection—began in the weeks and months following the Sept. 11th attacks. Such activity had no stronger defender than the man then living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (and of course, his V.P. Dick Cheney). While Mr. Obama must answer for continuing the secret practices, he cannot be made to take full responsibility (as repeatedly suggested by Republicans with poor memories) for implementing them. To re-examine Mr. Bush’s role in the Middle East, I feel, would be to needlessly kick at a dead horse. I have provided several chapters relating to W’s foreign policy initiatives. To appreciate the disastrous Bush II legacy, one has simply to turn on any of the 24/7 news networks—CNN, FOX, MSNBC—and can be treated to awful images being reported from Iraq (where ISIS, as discussed in chapter 19, is terrorizing humanity on a heart-breaking level). While no one would ever rightfully call Saddam Hussein a good man, this much can be said: that under his iron-fisted watch, warring factions and such groups as ISIS were kept from gaining a true foothold in the region. Hussein’s removal from power has created the kind of power vacuum that prescient men (like Brent Scowcroft, as we have seen in chapter 12) hoped to avoid. If there are saints and sinners in United States history, then I must maintain that George W. Bush is one of our sinners. The administration of our 44th President, Barack Obama, is still in the making. His first four-year term ended, and he is now (as this page is being written) in the second year of his second term. It is, therefore, too soon to write the definitive account of his time in office. What scholars and history buffs can do is look at what has happened thus far in the broader context. Has President Obama successfully given his fellow Americans the “change” that was promised—time and again—during the 2008 campaign? I would argue that—no—he has not. There are reasons, of course (not the least of which has been the existence of a formidable opposition in the republican-led House of Representatives). In 2010, when Republicans gained control of the House, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was quoted as saying, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” Not job creation. Not immigration reform. The top priority for Republicans was to erect a brick wall over which the President of the United States could not climb. Yikes. . . I was told in a conversation just the other day that Mr. Obama has failed to constructively compromise with leaders of the opposition party. My reaction was, “how is a person supposed to find compromise when there is an atmosphere—as exists in Washington today—of such a heated level of obstruction and resistance?” When the person sitting across from you at the table boldly announces that he has made your failure his priority, compromise becomes a fanciful notion. Through much of this book I did challenge Ronald Reagan; however, I must take a moment to commend his ability to deal with Democrats—Speaker of the House Tip O’Niell in particular—as being rather admirable. Mitch McConnell (and likeminded friends) could stand to learn a thing or two from “the Gipper.” There are readers who may question the choice I made in not fleshing-out a chapter offering deeper analysis of the Obama presidency vis-à-vis the fight over healthcare. Certainly, passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or what has become known as “Obamacare”) was a large milestone for the administration. Indeed, whole books could be written on the subject. Why address it in the limited manner as was done in chapter 21? An argument could be made, and I will so argue, that some of my personal thoughts regarding aspects of healthcare were provided in chapters 14 and 15: I believe that one of our two great political parties has, over time and to our detriment, embraced religious argument in political dialogue and legislation. This ‘discoloration of ideology’ has had important consequences for each of us as individual Americans. Republicans, who decry an intrusive government, have fought hard to see Obamacare either repealed or reformed (going so far as to endure a 16-day government shut-down in 2013 rather than support a budget that upheld the ACA); meanwhile, they approve measures that intervene in the most sensitive and private decisions (like abortion) that should be left between a person and her doctor. This hypocritical tendency has damaged the GOP’s credibility in many moderate (or purple) states. And, of course, the fight over Obamacare is on-going. A chapter that deals (however effectively) with that continuing fight would—necessarily—end very abruptly. Perhaps chapter 21 does this. As previously stated, though, it is too early to write the current administration’s closing chapters. We will have to wait and see. As stated in the introduction to this book, it is time for both political parties to take certain steps towards becoming more truly representative of the people. Through both a lack of energy and focus (Democrats) and a determined effort to court religious voters (Republicans) our government has grown unwieldy. Government has spiraled “beyond the consent of the governed.” It is time to reverse this trend. People want government to work, not for politicians to blindly fight one another with no resolution in sight. In the days ahead, it is fervently hoped that Americans will 1) take the time to know some of their shared history and 2) engage in political discussions. It is too easy to dismiss an opposing argument if one does not have the relevant historical evidence to back-up his own assertions. It is also—I believe—folly to assume that some discussions are too sensitive to engage in. Disagreement is not un-American; in fact, it is particularly American. I struggled with the dilemma of how I could best end this final chapter, and I have decided to allow Thomas Jefferson—Founding Father and 3rd President of the United States—to have the honors: “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” A Note on Source Attribution. The following source materials were essential to my understanding of the various historical times discussed in the chapters of this book. Some, but not all, of the books listed were directly referenced, and in each case were cited accordingly. Those not directly referenced were works that I read in the past which provided me with an interest in the subject matter and in fleshing out my own opinions. Along with written materials, I found video recordings of enduring value and have listed (and cited) them as well. I owe a terrific debt to the many authors, historians, archivists, and video producers whose work allowed me to build a framework of knowledge which led to this book. Cannon, Lou. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. New York: PublicAffairs, a Member of the Perseus Books Group. First Trade Paper Edition ed. 2000. Cheney, Dick. In My Time. New York: Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Paperback ed. 2011. Cockburn, Andrew. Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. New York: Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2007. Deaver, Michael K. A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Hardcover, 1st ed. 2001. Goldwater, Barry. The Conscience of a Conservative. New York: MJF Books (published in arrangement with Regnery Gateway, Inc.) 1990. Greenhouse, Linda. Becoming Justice Blackmun. New York: Times Books (Henry Holt and Company), Paperback ed. 2006. Greenwald, Glenn. A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed The Bush Presidency. New York: Three Rivers Press (an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group) a division of Random House, Inc. 2007. Haass, Richard N. Foreign Policy Begins at Home. New York: Basic Books, a Member of the Perseus Books Group. Paperback ed. 2014. Isikoff, Michael/ Corn, David. Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and The Selling of the Iraq War. New York: Three Rivers Press (an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group) a division of Random House, Inc. 2006, 2007. Maddow, Rachel. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. New York: Broadway Paperbacks, a division of Random House, Inc. 2012. McCartin, Joseph A. Collision Course. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. Paperback ed. 2011. Middendorf, J. William II. A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement. New York: Basic Books, a Member of the Perseus Books Group. 2006. Reeves, Richard. President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 2006. Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York: Random House Trade Paperback ed. 2008. Naftali, Timothy. George H. W. Bush. New York: Times Books (Henry Holt and Company). 2007. Pious, Richard M. Why Presidents Fail. Maryland: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2008. Reagan, Michael. The New Reagan Revolution. New York: Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin’s Press). 2010. Reagan, Ronald W. Speaking My Mind: Selected Speeches. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. Paperback ed. 2004. Zelizer, Julian E. Jimmy Carter. New York: Times Books (Henry Holt and Company). 2010. Essential Video Sources. Bush’s War. FRONTLINE. Michael Kirk (director), David Fanning (exec. Producer). Kirk Documentary Group, LTD. PBS Home Video. WGBH Educational Foundation. 2008. George H. W. Bush. American Experience. Sharon Grimberg (senior Producer), Austin Hoyt (director/producer), Callie Taintor Wiser (producer). PBS Home Video. WGBH Educational Foundation. 2008. Jimmy Carter. American Expericence. Sharon Grimberg (series producer), Adriana Bosch (writer/producer/director), David Condon (co- Producer). PBS Home Video. WGBH Educational Foundation. 2002. LBJ. American Experience. Sharon Grimberg (series producer), David Grubin (writer/producer), Chana Gazit (senior producer), David McCullough (narrator). PBS Home Video. North Texas Public Broadcasting, Inc. 1991. Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater. HBO Documentary Films. CC Goldwater (exec. producer), Judith Aley (archivist), Nancy Abraham (supervising producer), Julie Anderson (director). Sweet Pea Films, LLC. 2006. Reagan. History Channel program. Matthew Ginsburg (writer/director), Robert Palumbo (producer), Russ McCarroll and David McKillop (exec. producers for History). A&E Television Networks, LLC. 2011. Reagan. American Experience. Mark Samels (senior producer), Adriana Bosch (writer/producer PART 1), Austin Hoyt (writer/producer PART 2). WGBH Educational Foundation. 1998. PBS Distribution 2009. ATA: Craig M. Farnham was born in Bridgeport, CT in June of 1979. He attended the University of CT as a literature major and is the author of one previous book: a collection of poems published in 2004 entitled \"Stranger Through the City.\" For some twenty years, he has dedicated much of his free time to writing (always with Bob Dylan or CCR playing in the background) and to the study of American political history. He is a writer, though he makes his living otherwise: as an electrical assembler at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, CT. He lives in Waterbury, CT. : An actor who left the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and stepped onto the political stage. The son of a former president who, as president himself, led the nation to war. And the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. American history is filled with saints and sinners as well as leaders who inhabit a space somewhere in-between. It is important that we learn from them, and from our successes and failures as a nation, as we look ahead and map out a role for the United States in the 21st century. In this engaging new book, the author examines three presidential administrations whose legacies are --at best-- mixed. Ronald Reagan is the man who conservatives love to love, though his actual record as president involves runaway deficit spending and a scandal (Iran-Contra) that nearly cost him the White House. George W. Bush was a president whose personal faith resonated with many Americans; however, his decisions following the attacks on 9/11 would lead the United States into war abroad and ultimately endanger the economy at home. It is too soon to judge (in history\'s full scope) the presidency of Barack Obama. An early verdict, though, would be less-than-glowing: pointing to a period of political stagnation in Washington and of a president\'s inability to successfully deliver on the promise of \"change.\" Whether one agrees or disagrees with the assessments laid out in the pages of this book, hopefully readers will put aside the name-calling and the venom of recent partisanship. It is hoped that \"We the People\" can agree in spirit while disagreeing on specific policy, and together begin a more open and honest discussion of the roads already traveled and the decisions we face looking forward. This cannot be done, though, unless and until Americans acknowledge the cracks and imperfections in the image Ronald Reagan painted of a \"shining city on a hill.\"

Nous sommes tous mortels

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Nous sommes tous mortels by Atul GAWANDE Summary

La mort est souvent perçue comme une injustice, un échec, une souffrance continue. L’allongement de l’espérance de vie dans nos sociétés occidentales, qui nous a éloignés des réalités de notre condition de mortels, y est assurément pour quelque chose. La pratique médicale aussi, qui a tendance à multiplier les soins et les traitements coûte que coûte, même quand l’espoir n’est plus permis.Face à cet état de fait, le chirurgien Atul Gawande s’interroge sur la mort et les limites de la médecine, et pose une question fondamentale : au crépuscule d’une vie, comment continuer à mener une existence aussi riche que possible ? Nombre de solutions existent, et une structure adaptée permet de gagner en qualité de vie. Atul Gawande l’illustre en racontant des histoires, parfois bouleversantes, et livre un véritable plaidoyer pour une médecine qui saurait écouter et discuter avec les patients de leurs désirs et de leurs peurs. À travers son approche humaniste de la question de la fin de vie, Atul Gawande a provoqué un vrai phénomène aux États-Unis, démontrant que la mort peut être apprivoisée et acceptée, et que l’on peut profiter jusqu’à la fin d’une vie pleine de sens, de satisfactions et de plaisirs. Traduit de l’anglais (États-Unis) par Odile DemangeAtul Gawande est un chirurgien américain réputé, professeur de médecine et rédacteur pour le New Yorker. Ses précédents ouvrages, Complications, Better et The Checklist Manifesto ont rencontré un très grand succès aux États-Unis.

The Contender Vol. 11 No. 1

The Contender Vol. 11 No. 1 Pdf/ePub eBook Author: Rev. Raymond Jackson
Editor: Faith Assembly Church
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The Contender Vol. 11 No. 1 by Rev. Raymond Jackson Summary

WE ARE NOT GOING TO USE ANY PARTICULAR TEXT FOR THIS MESSAGE, BUT RATHER USE MANY OF THE SCRIPTURES THAT PEOPLE HAVE A TENDENCY TO USE BY THEMSELVES IN ORDER TO BUILD THEIR CERTAIN DOCTRINE. WE WILL ENDEAVOR, BY BRINGING TOGETHER ENOUGH SCRIPTURES TO ESTABLISH OUR POINT, TO SHOW YOU THAT MOST OF THE TRADITIONAL IDEAS ABOUT HELL ARE JUST NOT SCRIPTURAL. THEY ARE TAUGHT WITHOUT TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION, ALL THAT JESUS AND HIS APOSTLES TAUGHT ON THE SUBJECT. I REALIZE THAT MANY PEOPLE GET UPSET WHEN THEY HEAR YOU SAY THAT HELL IS NOT ETERNAL, BUT IT IS TIME THAT THE BRIDE OF CHRIST CAST OFF HER OLD TRADITIONAL OPINIONS ABOUT THESE CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES, AND BEGIN TO ALLOW REVELATION TO HAVE A PLACE IN WHAT THEY BELIEVE. READ THE ARTICLE PRAYERFULLY, AND I AM SURE YOU WILL HAVE NO TROUBLE RECONCILING THE VARIOUS STATEMENTS MADE BY THE SCRIPTURE WRITERS. HELL IS NOT ETERNAL We are going to deal with a subject that has generated quite a bit of controversy, especially in the Pentecostal circles, ever since Bro. William Branham made the statement that he did not believe that hell is eternal. He never did take it as a subject and deal with it by the scriptures that show why it cannot be an eternal place; he just made the statement. That is why we are going to take it as a subject. We want to bring in the scriptures that will enable every sincere believer to understand completely, just what hell is, and also, just exactly when there will be no more use for the place called hell. EVERLASTING – ETERNAL – FOREVER I want to say, right in the beginning of the message, that we are living in the closing hours of the grace age, and much of what we believe is a result of ideas that have come out of the years of reformation as the church began to emerge from the dark ages. There are three words in particular, commonly used in the Bible, that do not mean, every time they are used, what our English language has attributed to them: therefore they can only be properly understood by comparing scripture with scripture until we get everything in its proper place. The three words are EVERLASTING, ETERNAL, and FOREVER. Our English language causes us to look at each of them from the standpoint of being without an end. That is why people read the scriptures that speak of everlasting punishment, and think it means that people will be punished forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, without an end. Without consecrated study, we just assume the Bible teaches that, but I will have to say, if we will just examine the whole scope of those verses, we will not miss the true interpretation. Just remember this, the apostles, Paul and John, had the last two revelations concerning the state of the lake of fire. You cannot use Isaiah nor Jeremiah, nor even the words of Jesus for the final analysis on the subject; you must look to Paul and John. Naturally, some will say, I would rather take the words of Jesus than anyone else, but let me show you where an attitude like that will lead you; that is what causes so many people to hold on to Matthew 28:19, and reject Acts 2:38. In this particular instance it takes the words of Jesus, as well as the words of Peter, for us to have proper instruction on water baptism. Jesus said that believers should be baptized in the NAME of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, (Matt. 28:19) but it was the apostle Peter who made that NAME known to those who inquired of them, on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:38. Therefore it is very foolish for people to hold to one verse of scripture, while trying to reject another one. Take for instance St. John 5:28-29, where Jesus said, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” He put it all together, as though it would all take place at the same time, but Paul and John separated the two events, to let us see that the resurrection of the wicked dead does not take place until after the millennial reign of Christ on earth. The two resurrections are not even associated, even though Jesus referred to both of them in the same statement as though they were. WHERE IS HELL? I believe that as children of God, if we will sit with an open mind, we will be able to see just exactly what the scriptures teach on these various subjects that cause disputes and divisions. Let us establish first of all, just where the Bible teaches that hell is located. Some will argue about it saying, No one knows where hell is located, but that is not true; the Bible tells us, if we will just get the scriptures lined up properly. We will get our first glimpse from the 12th chapter of Matthew as we begin reading with the 38th verse. “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.” In other words, they were wanting Him to do something extraordinary, to fit their ideas of what He should be doing if He was who He claimed to be. He had already done outstanding things, but they did not pay attention to that; they were wanting Him to do something strictly on their terms. They approached Him the same way the devil did when He had fasted forty days following His baptism by John. In other words, they wanted Him to do something special in an effort to convince them of who He was. Do a sign that we may believe; that was the same old story that He had heard before, Matt. 4:3, “And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Jesus did not submit to that temptation, and neither did He submit to theirs. Verse 39, “But he answered and said unto them, an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: (Verse 40 tells us where hell is, notice now) For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the HEART OF THE EARTH.” Now if you are one of those who would say, Bro. Jackson, that doesn’t say that hell is in the heart of the earth, just bear with me. We only use that verse to establish the fact that the Son of man (who is Jesus Christ) was going into the heart of the earth. We will show you what He was going there to do, by another scripture. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 3:18-19, and we will see what He did while He was in the heart of the earth. 18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) by the Spirit: 19, By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” When did He do that? It took place in the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection, while His body was lying in the tomb. He was not preaching in some earthly jail house or natural place of confinement where men are placed for a time. While His body lay in that tomb, His spirit went right down into the regions of hell itself; that is the prison that Peter was referring to. Peter said He went and preached to the spirits in prison, and Jesus had already said that HE would go into the heart of the earth during that time. Do we have a contradiction? Of course not; the simple truth is that He went right into hell, which is in the heart of the earth, and preached to those who had been confined there from every age since mankind had his first taste of death. It would be very foolish for us to think that hell was one place, and the heart of the earth is someplace else, and that Jesus was going from place to place while His body was lying in a tomb on the surface of the earth. I realize this paper may be picked up by some of the Jehovah Witness people who believe in soul sleeping, and such like, but there is no such thing as soul sleeping. The body sleeps in death, but the soul does not sleep. The soul and the spirit are inseparable; therefore, for the benefit of you who may think that is unimportant, let me say, the very life of every person is the spirit of that person, and within that spirit, God has placed wisdom, knowledge, emotions, the five senses of see, hear, taste, smell and feel, causing him to have a personality and an intellect. In other words for the sake of clarifying our understanding, we can say, the soul is the intellect and emotions of the spirit, but since the life is in the spirit, when the spirit goes out of a person, so goes the intellect and emotions. Keep in mind that God is the source of all life, whether it be human life, animal life or whatever; therefore when the spirit of life goes out of the body, that body returns to dust. God is a spirit and in the case of man, (who is created in the very image of God) it was a matter of God separating from Himself the very life that dwells in every one of His offspring. That is the sense in which God became Father: He produced offspring that were in His own image. It is not the flesh of man that is in the image of God. Man’s flesh is just a shell, or dwelling place for the purpose of identifying Him with matter, but the man himself is that spirit being, within that shell. Let me say also, that, even though we are begotten of God in the essence of life, there is within that spirit, something that gives us an identity apart from God, otherwise we would be identified in the same greatness of God, who is life everywhere. That is the something that gives each of us our individuality, and keeps us from being like molded copies of each other. That is why some of us like one thing, and others, something else. For instance, if a person is an inventor: that person was born to be an inventor; there is no amount of studying that could make an inventor of an individual. A person might study certain techniques of other inventors, and incorporate that knowledge in his own invention, but that is not what makes him an inventor. He is an inventor because of an endowment from the Creator. That is why every prophet could speak of future things, record them, and later generations watch them come to pass. They were born to be prophets by that special endowment of the Creator. God puts these things within the spirit that man is, and that is what makes up his soul. That is why we have to say that they are part of his spirit; not his body, and that is why we say that the soul and spirit of man are inseparable. Now you may say, Bro. Jackson, I differ with you. That is your privilege, but it will not get you any place, for when the spirit of life goes out of this old body, it no longer hears, sees, or has any feelings. That is why you can cremate it, and it does not howl and scream, and make a big fuss. Is that clear? Can you see why there cannot be any such thing as soul sleeping? I believe that is why we read in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is no wisdom nor device, or anything in the grave. What that really means is that the body lying in the grave has no more life in it, and therefore it is apart from all of the things that speak of life. The question then, is, Where would that life be? That is what this message is being published for: to answer that question, along with some others. SIN SEPARATES MAN FROM GOD Adam and Eve forced to leave the Garden of Eden and the presence of God by their sin Before there was an atonement, before God came in the form and likeness of man, and took the sins of man upon Himself bearing them on that old cross at Calvary, every man, regardless of whether he was good or bad, had to be confined to this planet. Death could not put his spirit back in the presence of God, for sin had separated man from God. Therefore, until the sin debt was paid, all men, both good and bad, had to be confined to a prison place somewhere in the heart of the earth. It was on this planet that sin originated, and this planet is God’s workshop, so He kept man here until the redemptive work was completed. We are still establishing the fact that hell is in the heart of the earth, before going on to show that it is not eternal. Remember now, Jesus said, as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so would He be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, and Peter said that when Christ had suffered for the sins of man, He went and preached to the SPIRITS IN PRISON. With that in mind, open your Bibles to the 16th Psalm, and let us hear what David had to say about this place called hell, this prison place in the heart of the earth. Apart from Job, David was one of the first that began to speak of this place in the heart of the earth called hell. Let us begin reading in verse 7. “I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” In other words, he put the Lord first and sought His will in everything. That is why he could say, “He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9, Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 10, For thou wilt not leave my soul in HELL: neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” David was anointed to speak this prophetic Psalm which carried a revelation of the hope for man, beyond the grave. As we look back to verse 9, notice that he said, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: My flesh also shall rest in hope.” He is speaking of his body; it will rest in the grave with a certain hope. What is that hope? Notice verse 10, “For thou wilt not leave MY soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One (that is Christ) to see corruption.” This was a prophetic utterance, pointing to the first advent of Christ in His sacrificial role, and when David saw that, it caused him to say, My flesh also shall rest in hope. Why? He could see the resurrection. He could see that, if his soul was not going to be left in hell, then to take it out of hell, was to reunite it with his fleshly body. That is what gave him hope for the flesh, and it has nothing to do with soul sleeping. I just do not see how these people get such an idea from scriptures such as these. David saw that the Redeeming One, the Holy One, would not see corruption. That meant that His body would not be left in that tomb beyond the point where it would begin to rot. According to Peter’s revelation, it just laid in the tomb while the life from it, went and preached to the spirits which were in hell. THE RICH MAN & LAZARUS Brothers and sisters: I believe we see that hell, in the sense that we think of hell, is a place in the heart of the planet earth. Now we want to see from the scriptures, just when this place had its beginning. We know that, according to the scientists, the heart of this earth is nothing but just a great big mass of hot molten gases. That is what THEY say. I am not telling you that the Bible teaches that; I only mention the fact that scientists teach that. We are not going to dwell on the various Greek and Hebrew words that deal with hell, for in the sense that we are dealing with it, we know that it is a place for imprisonment. Jesus spoke of it in Luke 16: 19-31, when He gave the illustration using Lazarus and the rich man. Those who believe in soul sleeping, call this a parable, but if you will check closely, you will find that Jesus did not use names in His parables. He would say, a certain man, a certain place, and so forth, but in this illustration, even though He did say, a certain rich man, there was also a man by the name of Lazarus in the story. This was a living illustration, given before His crucifixion, and he knew the characters in the story. We will just read two verses of the account, strictly for the purposes of establishing the point we are making; that will be verses 22 & 23. “And it came to pass, that the beggar (Lazarus) died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried; And in HELL he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” From those two verses we establish where both men were after their death; the rich man was in hell and tormented, (do not jump to conclusions; it does not say he was in the lake of fire, burning; he was in hell, tormented.) And Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom, and that was hell too, but you must realize that the righteous and the wicked were not both imprisoned together; they were separated according to the words of Jesus. Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom, and that was hell too, but you must realize that the righteous and the wicked were not both imprisoned together; they were separated according to the words of Jesus. Lazarus was in the portion of hell called paradise. Certainly I realize that when you begin to preach on a subject such as this, you have to expect the doctors of divinity, those who know all the Hebrew and Greek words, to find fault with your terminology. They think it is all wrapped up in their education, but I assure you it is not. It is wrapped up in the way the Holy Ghost led the various scripture writers to lay it out; one takes it so far, then another one adds a little more and so on, until the picture is complete, but you still must get it together properly or your picture will be distorted. That is why we want to add Paul and John’s revelation to the words of Jesus; it takes all of it together to open our understanding properly. When we just read of hell, in one, of the many places it is spoken of in the scriptures, without searching the scriptures to see what the word actually pertains to, it is possible to come up with all sorts of ideas about the place. I am afraid that is what most Christians are guilty of. DAVID WAS IN HELL BEFORE CALVARY In the story Jesus told concerning the rich man and Lazarus; the rich man was in hell, suffering, for he said, I am tormented in this flame, but he was able to look over in to the place where Lazarus was, the place called paradise, referred to as Abraham’s bosom, and remember former days. These souls were not sleeping; the one was comforted, and the other was tormented. Some have even said, I thought that meant that Lazarus was in hell also, and the reason a statement like this bothers you, is because you have not yet seen what the place called hell, actually is: A place where the souls of those who departed from this life were held. David was in hell before Calvary, but when you say that, people say, Do you mean to tell me that David was in hell? Yes, David was in hell. When David spoke the 16th Psalm into existence while he was still very much alive, he knew that his soul would go to hell when he died, the place of imprisonment where the souls of departed persons was kept, but he also had a revelation, or at least an insight of the fact that the Redeeming One was coming, and that He would not leave his soul in hell. He knew he would go to hell when he died, but he said his flesh would rest in hope, and that hope was the resurrection of the dead, and the fact that his soul would not be left in hell. When Cain slew Abel, his soul went to hell: not to be tormented, but to be kept there in the paradise part of it, waiting for the day when someone would conquer the very thing that caused him to be there, (death). When Cain died, his soul went to hell also, but he went into the tormenting section of it, where Jesus said the rich man was, in His illustration. From the time of Cain and Abel, right on down through the centuries to the cross of Calvary; every righteous person, as well as every wicked person who passed from this life was kept in a place of confinement in the heart of the earth, called hell. The flesh of those persons went into the CRUST of the earth, but the spirit, which is the life, the soul of those persons, went in the HEART of the earth. The righteous were comforted, but the wicked had to go through all kinds of torment and anguish, weeping and wailing, with no hope, nothing to look forward to. David knew his soul would not be left in hell, but the wicked have no such hope. JESUS PAID MAN’S SIN DEBT Brothers and sisters, as we establish the fact that hell is in the heart of the earth, we want to keep in mind, the fact, that it is the purpose of God to deal with sin, the thing that caused man to be in hell in the first place. Now, sin took place on the CRUST of the earth. The garden of Eden was on the crust of the earth, the outer surface of it. I am sure you all realize that, therefore, let us continue on. The body is laid in the crust of the earth to return back unto the elements from which it is made up, but the spirit which is not subject to tangible things was kept locked up in the heart of the earth where Jesus went to preach to them while His body was lying in the tomb. The very process of redemption began at Calvary, where Jesus willingly offered up His sinless life to pay the price for fallen mankind’s redemption. Once that price was paid He went right straight to the prison place to make the announcement. His preaching to the spirits in prison was not for the purpose of redeeming the wicked and giving them eternal life. We are not teaching anything like that. Brother, if you do not find your place in Jesus Christ in this life, and you go on in your sin and rebellion against God until the cold, clammy hand of death settles upon you: the lake of fire where you will suffer for awhile, and then be destroyed completely, is your promised reward. You may say, I just cannot see that. I say, God’s word is true and it declares that to be your end. I do not rejoice in your destiny; I only rejoice in the accuracy of the word of God. I have learned that if God said a thing: I can stake my life on it without fear. GOD’S PROCESS OF REDEMPTION When the time came for God’s process of redemption to be set in motion, and Jesus Christ (who was God in the flesh of man) walked on earth, being tempted and tested in every are of life that any other man was ever tempted: He actually set an example before all mankind showing us how to face the tempter without being overcome by the temptation. The Bible says that He, being made perfect, became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him, and that, though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered, (Heb. 5:8-9) The last thing that He suffered was death itself. As we look at this man, Jesus, He was every bit man, in the essence of flesh, yet He was not a sinner; He did not have the attributes of death, dwelling in His flesh; His flesh was perfect. His blood was perfect also, for He did not have the blood of Adam’s race in Him. Yet He was foreordained to die, that is, to taste of death for the sins of every man; therefore we will say that death was the final affliction that was heaped upon Him. He was crucified, and He submitted to it willingly. It was not cancer, nor tuberculosis, nor heart trouble, nor any of the other diseases that mankind is plagued with, that took His life; He was nailed to an old cross, and pierced with a spear, and those who stood by, watched until His head went limp and fell upon His chest. What was it all about? Simply this, mankind was hopelessly separated from God, and helpless to do anything about it, requiring God Himself, to take the initiative, if man was ever to be reconciled to His Creator. Now for the benefit of you who still do not have the trinity question straight in your minds, let me say this, it was not a question of God being three persons, (as some believe Him to be) and one of them having to go down to earth to take man’s place in the penalty for sin. Absolutely not! God is one. There never has been three persons in the godhead, and there never will be. This was purely a situation where God Himself, (being Spirit, and having no tangible form) spoke the creative word, to plant the seed of life in the virgin Mary’s womb, actually creating Himself a flesh body, for the purpose of walking among men on earth, but allowing it to be manifested through the natural process of human birth, so that He, coming to be man’s redeemer, and the Messiah that the Jews looked for, would have the prophesied identity with those whom He came to first. When I said His flesh was perfect; you must understand, there was no sickness, nor disease, nor any attribute of sin in His makeup. There was no hereditary death sentence hanging over Him. He was a perfect man from the standpoint of the flesh, and He was the very God of all creation from the standpoint of the Spirit. Hanging there on that old cross, He had all the sin of the whole human race piled upon Him, past, present, and future. He paid the sin debt for every man, woman, boy and girl of the entire human race. We read in Romans 5:19, “For as by one man’s disobedience (Adam) many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Christ) shall many be made righteous,” (those who believe and obey the gospel). Through the disobedience of one, the death sentence was passed upon the whole human race, but, Praise God, through the obedience of one, all shall be made alive. Bro. Jackson , did you really mean to say, All shall be made alive. Yes, that is what I meant to say; not that all who are made alive will receive eternal life, for the wicked dead will be resurrected for only one purpose, that is to stand before the great white throne judgement where their final sentence will be pronounced upon them, Rev. 20:10-15, but that is another part of the message. What I am trying to show you now; is what took place at Calvary. In other words, His death on the cross was the beginning of a process of redemption. That body that hung there on that old cross that day; though it had walked on the water, and done many other things that went beyond natural man’s limitations, when the life went out of it, there was nothing else for it to do until He, who is life, came back to it. In the meantime they hurriedly wrapped it, and stuck it in a tomb. It was just as dead as any other man’s body that the spirit of life had gone out of, but, Thank God, the life that went out of that body, was life that had no beginning, and shall have no end. That is the life that Peter said, went and preached to the spirits in prison, 1st Pet. 3:19. No, He did not preach a salvation message, to give the wicked another chance; He rather, reminded them that when they walked on earth, there was a chance given to every one of them to do right and they rejected it. He reminded them of all the times that when they were planning to do certain wrong things, there was a feeling, or an urging, not to do it, and they ignored that urgency. He is awakening their conscience to the fact that God gave them their chance to do right, and they chose to do wrong; therefore they must be judged, and they will be judged upon the basis of what they are hearing, especially those who lived in the days of Noah. I am sure that every one of you can remember times when you were planning to do a certain thing, and just about the time you would have done it, something go hold of you, and stopped you from doing it. You were just not able to go through with it. Is that not right? That is exactly what we are talking about. That was the spirit of God. That is what Christ is testifying to the imprisoned spirits about. Now once more, Why did He do it? It was to put their conscience alive to what God had offered them, and they rejected it. This was to give them a feeling of guilt. Now let us go to the next chapter, 1st Peter 4, and read a few verses which will clarify what we are saying. We will begin with the 3rd verse, but it is verses 5 & 6 that we are getting to. “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5, Who shall give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6, For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” Keep in mind that He (Jesus) preached to the righteous as well as the wicked spirits, who were in hell. In the days before the flood there was no law written; therefore men lived under the law of the conscience. That is why something had to be said to them to activate their conscience. You cannot hold a person guilty for doing something wrong, if he knows nothing about any wrong, but once Christ came and preached to them, reminding them of the times in their lives on earth when the spirit of God dealt with them, and they refused to take heed: that put them under guilt. Now when they stand, in the flesh, to be judged; they will be judged according to men in the flesh, for it was those things that they did in the flesh, that will determine the degree of their punishment. God keeps a perfect record. PREACHING TO IMPRISONED RIGHTEOUS SPIRITS Now, when Christ steps over into the realms of hell where the righteous have been kept, and begins to preach to them: it will have an opposite effect. Many of these also lived in the days when there was no written law to abide by, but they were sensitive to the spirit of God as He moved upon their conscience. They were righteous in their day because they were sensitive to something that gave them convictions, and standards, not knowing exactly that it was God dealing with them. That is why they are in the place of hell, called paradise. I can just hear David, as he saw Christ walking down the corridors of hell, saying, There is the One I sang about. He is the One I have been looking for. Think also how old Job must have felt. He is the one who said, (at a time when all outward appearances seemed that God had forsaken him) “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another,” (Job 19:25-27) In other words, his very own eyes, in an immortal body, of course, would see his redeemer stand upon earth in the latter day. Job spoke those words more than 1500 years before the advent of Christ, when he was in the darkest hours of his sufferings at the hands of the devil. Now, here he is in hell with David and all the rest of the righteous ones who had died before that hour. Suddenly that Redeeming One appeared, having come to conquer death, hell, and the grave, He is ready to lead these captive souls out of hell, and the grave, He is ready to lead these captive souls out of hell, and restore them back to their bodies. He had paid the penalty for the death sentence that hung over mankind, and now He was ready to take those righteous souls out of hell with Him when He went out. There will be no further need for the part of hell that held those righteous souls captive, for every one of them was going out. Why do I say that? Brothers and sisters, we are not to preach redemption, just from the standpoint of keeping people from going to hell; we are to preach it to cover the whole scope and objective of God. Now the objective of God is that, eventually He will erase from this planet, all traces of the original sin. It was on this planet that death had its beginning, and death has separated the life from the bodies; therefore, on this planet, God is working His plan of redemption to abolish death. CHRIST TOOK CAPTIVES In Ephesians 4:8-10, Paul wrote, “Wherefore he saith, When He ascended upon high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9, Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all things.” (check what David wrote in Psalms 68:18-19) We find that when Jesus went down into the lower parts of the earth, (hell, in the heart of the earth) He led captivity captive. Those who had been held captive by the devil in the paradise section of hell, were now taken captive by Christ, who had earned the right to do so. Praise God! I would rather be a captive to Christ than the devil anytime, wouldn’t you? That was Paul’s terminology, but we are grateful to God because He has led us to know what it means. There are no righteous souls in hell today; only the wicked were left in hell, to be tormented for their evil ways when they were alive upon the crust of the earth. Abel went up with Christ, but Cain stayed, and he will remain there until after the millennial reign of Christ on earth. Many times, people have asked, Was there really a resurrection of all the righteous dead when Jesus came up? They ask that question, mainly, because the account of it in Matthew 27:50-53, states that MANY of those saints which slept, arose from their graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, (Jerusalem) and appeared unto many. Think of it like this, What would have been the purpose of any Gentile going into Jerusalem after he was resurrected? Who would have recognized any of them? What purpose would have been accomplished, by anyone other than Jews (who could be recognized by some who would be in the streets of Jerusalem) going into the streets of the holy city after their resurrection? Do you see what I mean? That does not mean that only part of those righteous souls were resurrected. If that had been the case; which one’s would He have taken out, and how could it be said that hell was conquered, if it still held righteous dead, after the price of their redemption was paid? Now, as to how many arose, (number-wise) that is intruding into God’s business. We have no need to know that. Paul said, Foolish questions, and genealogies gender (that is, lead to) strife, or arguments. It does not matter whether there were 10 thousand, or 10 million, or what; that has nothing to do with what we need to see and understand, namely, that hell is in the heart of the earth, that Christ went to hell, that He took out all the righteous souls, and that the souls of the wicked are still tormented there. WHAT ABOUT OFFENDING MEMBERS? While we are thinking of questions that people ask, let us turn to St. Mark 9:43-48, where Jesus used certain terminology to make a point, and carnal minds have taken that scripture literally, and done exactly what the words in these verses say to do. Brothers and sisters, that has been a trick of the devil, to blind their eyes to the true meaning of that passage of scripture. I am going to read the whole thing; then I am going to explain something to you. 43, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell, into the fire that shall never been quenched; 44, Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45, And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46, Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Let me say first of all: this is figurative language. Jesus is not teaching that we should actually cut off our physical members, hands, feet, and so forth, and He is not talking about entering into eternal life, maimed. Brothers and sisters, we will not enter into eternal life with our immortal bodies maimed. Now I want to say this so it will be perfectly clear to you when I am finished. In figurative language, Jesus is saying, If it were a case where we would place more value upon having two hands, two feet, and two eyes, than we would upon having eternal life, or in serving God with all our heart, then we would be better off, entering into this present life maimed, than to value these members to the point where it would cause us to miss God, and wind up in hell. “IT IS BETTER FOR THEE TO ENTER INTO LIFE (this present life) MAIMED, THAN HAVING TWO HANDS TO GO INTO HELL.” In other words, put God first, instead of giving in to the lust of the flesh. You can live for God in this life with only one hand, eye, and so forth, or even without either one, but if we have all our members, and neglect God in this life we will go to hell when we die. It is not having two hands that will put you in hell, but if you have a healthy, whole body, and use it in the fulfilling of the lusts of the flesh, leaving God out of the picture, you will go to hell when you die. The actual physical body will not go to hell. It will lie in a grave or tomb of some kind until the maggots destroy it. Now, in hell, the worm that dieth not, is not these maggots that destroy the physical body, for remember, the physical body will not be in the heart of the earth, (hell) it will be left in the crust of the earth. Only the spirit goes to hell in this present realm of death; therefore if the body is not in hell, then there is no worm. Let that soak in real good, then listen to me. Jesus said, where the worm dieth not. Now what kind of a worm was He speaking of? When you have done something that is really wrong, and you can look back to see where you could have made a change, (in other words, to see where you had opportunity to do right, and you rejected it) your conscience begins to gnaw at you. You realize that it is too late to change circumstances, and you are carrying that guilt, with no relief to look forward to: it is just like a worm gnawing away at something. That is how it will be in hell, when a person suddenly realizes that his eternal destiny has already been sealed by what he did while he was still alive. That is what the rich man was experiencing in the illustration Jesus gave. Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom, while the rich man’s conscience gnawed at him, just like a worm gnawing. It just keeps gnawing, you are guilty, you are guilty, you are guilty, until it seems unbearable, but there is no let up, no way out, and the worst thing about it is realizing that you could have done differently, but now there is no way to change it. WHERE THE WORM NEVER DIES, does that give you an understanding of what Jesus was trying to get across to those who heard Him? This is what happens, many times, to prisoners who are facing capital punishment. They may not have had much to say in the courtroom, when they were being tried, but as the weeks, and months roll by, and they begin to move them from cell to cell, moving them into death row: it has been observed that when their final week arrives, they become very nervous and lose their appetite. What is it? In their mind there is something gnawing, I had a chance to do right; I did not have to be here, but I missed my chance. Many times they are drugged, while screaming, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die. The gas chamber, or electric chair, or firing squad, etc., will separate life from the body, but in hell that same conscience just keeps gnawing at them. The worm dieth not, and the fire of their torment, in their conscience, is not quenched. This same condition will be present for a period of time, in the lake of fire, after their final judgement at the great white throne, but for now, we are dealing with scriptures that pertain to hell, the prison in the heart of the earth. There is no one in the lake of fire yet, and please do not ask me where the lake of fire is located; I do not know, but I do know this: it will not be on this planet. It will have to be somewhere, apart from this planet. Some will say, Now Bro. Jackson, you are speculating when you say a thing like that. No, I am not speculating. It is very clear in the scriptures, that the final resurrection, which takes place in Revelation, chapter 20, will take out of the ground, and out of the sea, even out of hell itself, all traces of sin. Every wicked spirit, and everything that in any way identifies with sin, will be cast into the lake of fire. That is God’s final act in His plan of restoration for this old planet that has suffered the penalty of Adam’s sin every since the day he disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. When that final judgement is finished, and everything that defiles has been cast into the lake of fire, this old planet will be clean again. That is why we know that the lake of fire is not on this planet: if it was, there would still be those traces of sin, so that redemption and restoration would not be complete. WHAT DO THEY SEE? Within the past few years scientists have discovered something far out in space that they cannot distinguish for sure. It is so far away that no earthly instrument can measure its distance. They do not know whether it is another galaxy, or whether it is just an ocean of, or masses of gas, but I will never forget, when I read that article, it came to me that it very well could be the lake of fire, that God is moving into place for that day of final cleansing of this old planet. I will just leave this for you to think about. There is really no more to be said about it at this time, but we do know that there will be a lake of fire, and we are sure that it will have to be apart from the planet earth. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOW We must drop back now and finish our remarks on this scripture in St. Mark 9, for there is yet one verse that troubles people, which we have not covered. Verse 47, “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the KINGDOM OF GOD with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” Listen to me, and be sure you catch this. Entering into the kingdom of God is now. That is our opportunity to receive eternal life. Remember Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21). How can we believe in the resurrection and the glorification of immortality, and still believe that we will come up in the resurrection with only one eye, one foot, and so on? We enter into the kingdom of God, in this life, regardless of our physical handicaps, by believing and obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, then if we die before the Lord comes again, we will enter into that heavenly paradise, to await our change. On the other hand, if we have all our physical members, and find ourselves in good health, so that we can do anything we please, and we fail to surrender our lives to God; when we die, hell is waiting, and there, is that worm of our conscience activated, which gives us no rest, day nor night. While we are on the subject of the loss of physical organs, I will relate to you a little story, told to my by another pastor. It seems that he was in a camp meeting somewhere, and a certain man walked up to him and said, You know, the Lord has just given me a revelation concerning those who suffer the loss of a part of their body for the gospel’s sake. In the new life, when they receive their immortal bodies, they will be without that arm, leg, eye, or whatever member they lost for the sake of the gospel. (I suppose for a testimony, or a reminder of what they had sacrificed.) What do you think of that, he asked. This other brother, (being a very witty man) thought for just a minute, then said, Poor old John, He is going to look mighty odd, running around without his head. Some, like John, were beheaded for the gospel’s sake, but the kingdom of God is within you, now, and when we walk in the millennium, in our resurrected bodies, we will have a perfect body. It is ridiculous to think otherwise. When you consider the fact that those bodies that were buried years ago, have already decomposed, and the immortal bodies of all those dead saints will have to be called from the elements anyhow; it just doesn’t matter if parts of your body were buried in another place, or even burned. It is a very small thing for God who created all elements, to call them together from wherever they may be scattered to. Yes, we will all have perfect bodies when we walk in the millennium. WHO WILL COME WITH JESUS? Let us just carry our thought, concerning our resurrection bodies, right on over to 1st Thessalonians 4:13-17, where we will try to clear up another question in the minds of some. The question is this, What does it mean, where it says that God will bring those which sleep in Jesus, with Him when He comes to call the dead from their graves? We will read the scripture first, then I will explain it. 13, “Bur I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14, For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus (SAINTS FROM THE AGE OF GRACE) will God bring with Him. 15, For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16, For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17, Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Now to the question? Who will come with Jesus when He comes for the resurrection of the bride saints? Remember, we have already showed you that Christ went down into the paradise section of hell, and took all of those righteous spirits with Him when He left. Furthermore, He took them to glory with Him when He ascended. That left only the wicked spirits in hell, in the heart of the earth. Ever since that day, when a righteous person dies, (one that has found their place in God’s plan of redemption) his spirit goes right into the presence of God, into the heavenly paradise, to await the day of resurrection, which Paul was speaking of in this scripture we just read. Try to get the picture now, the spirits of those righteous ones are in heaven, and their bodies have been buried in the crust of the earth, or buried in the sea, or cremated. At any rate, they are all earthbound. But it was revealed to the apostle Paul that, when Jesus comes for the resurrection, He will bring those righteous spirits with Him, and that brings us to verse 16, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, (all the grace age righteous spirits will be with Him) with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” That will be the bodies of those spirits that are coming with Jesus. That is when their bodies, and spirits are joined back together. When that is accomplished, 17, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, (actually, it is a simultaneous occurrence) to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Those bodies will come out of the ground in immortality, and those who are alive on earth at that time will be changed, taking on immortality, and together, all will ascend, to meet the Lord in the air. Then we see the words, “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” There is where some others miss it; they think Jesus will take His bride to heaven, and there, spend the rest of eternity. That is the farthest thing from the truth. They go to the marriage supper with Jesus, but at the end of the week of Daniel, when the great tribulation has run its course, We find all those saints coming back to earth with Jesus, to rule and reign with Him (on earth) for a thousand years. You will find all the scripture you need for that, in Revelation, chapters 19-20, especially 19:7-14 & 20:1-6. Before we move on in the message, let us turn in our Bibles, over to 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, and read what Paul had to say to the Corinthian saints about he resurrection of the dead. 51, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, (die) but we shall all be changed.” That word, WE, applies to the believers who are still alive when the grace age runs out. These will be changed; let us read verse 52. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: (that is what we read in Thessalonians) for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we (living saints, believers) shall be changed.” Now, notice the process. 53, “For this corruptible (that is the dead bodies that have rotted) must put on incorruption, (that is, to be free from physical decay) and this mortal (those who are still alive) must put on immortality. 54, So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then (after the resurrection) shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Of course, we understand that the bodies of the wicked dead will lie in the ground until after the millennium, and their spirits will remain in hell until then, but there surely is coming a day when every person that has ever died, will be resurrected. After that, there will never be any need for another grave. FOR EVER – UNTIL THE END Having just made mention of the millennium; this seems like a good time to bring in some scriptures that use the term, for ever, and call your attention to its actual application. Like we said in the beginning of the message: our English language understands the term for ever, to be time without an end, but in the scriptures, that is not necessarily so. Turn to Isaiah 9:7 for the first example we will use. Actually we will read the 6th verse first, to establish the thought. This is speaking of Jesus. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: (in the millennium) and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth EVEN FOR EVER.” Right here, we find the term, FOR EVER, used in a setting that we know, applies to the millennium, which is a period of one thousand years of time, not time without end. When we go right over to the 43rd chapter of Ezekiel, and read verse 7, which pertains to the same period of time as that which we have just read, we find the term, FOR EVER, used again. 7, “And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel FOR EVER, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, not their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcasses of their kings in their high places.” Now to show you that this period of time, is exactly that: a period of time, let us go to 1st Corinthians, chapter 15, where Paul is speaking to them of the resurrection of the dead, and when we get down to the 24th verse, we find these words. “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” That will be for a period of one thousand years. Then at the end of that period of time, verse 26 has its fulfillment, the verse which reads, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Let us go over to Revelation, chapter 20, and pick up the apostle John’s revelation of that. We will just go ahead and read these verses in connection with the others. This is pertaining to the great white throne judgment which takes place at the end of the millennial reign of Christ. Verse 11, “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, (Christ, as the judge of all ages) from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12, And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, (the books of the deeds of men) according to their works. 13, And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14, And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” This is where death will be destroyed. There will never be another body put back in the crust of the earth. Now, that should help you to catch Paul’s revelation, which we have read from 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, and enable you to see that, for ever, does not always mean what most of us take it to mean. Keep in mind also, that even though the millennium is a time of peace and restoration, it still is not the perfect age; that comes later. In the millennium, Jesus will be ruling the nations with a rod of iron. That is because of the mortal realm of people that is repopulating the earth, and even though the devil is bound, all those mortal people still have that inherited nature, that just naturally rebels against God. That is why the devil must be loosed for a little season at the end of the one thousand years; all those who are born while he is bound up, will have to be tested before the final judgment. Those who do not submit to Christ will follow the devil, and will have to be destroyed, along with all the rest of the wicked people, from every age of time. Jesus Christ will grant life to all who submit to Him for He has the authority to do so. You will remember that He said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” That means He can grant life to whomsoever He will. It also means that He can, and will, raise from the crust of the earth, both the righteous and the wicked; He is the resurrection. He is redemption, and resurrection is a part of redemption. Saints: I realize that maybe this message just sounds like so much going around and around, but we are just endeavoring to follow the process of events that are to transpire, and in so doing, cause you to see that hell is not an eternal place. As we said before: these are not salvation truths that you would expect to hear in an evangelistic message, but the bride of Christ will be straight on all these controversial issues before she leaves the ground in immortality. Furthermore, let it be clearly understood that Faith Assembly is not a church that only teaches the salvation side of the word of God. We believe Christians ought to know what is in the Bible, and who it applies to. If you disagree with what we teach, I ask, only, that you study the scriptures we call to your attention, and keep an open mind, so that God may have opportunity to reveal His word to you. We could never list all of the scriptures that could be used to establish what we are teaching, and we are trusting God to bear witness of this fact to every believer who reads our paper. RESURRECTION Before we bring in the scriptures that deal with the word, EVERLASTING, let us go to Revelation, chapter 20, and establish the 3rd phase of the first resurrection. Matthew tells of the 1st phase. That was when the Old Testament righteous one’s were raised at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. Then Paul tells of the 2nd phase in Thessalonians. That is when the bride of Christ is raised, but now we want to see what the apostle John had to say about the 3rd phase of the first resurrection. Verse 1, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. (Notice what he does, and remember, this is symbolic language.) 2, And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, (or for a thousand years.) 3, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: (This verse tells us where the Devil is, during the millennium) and after that he must be loosed a little season.” Pay attention to verse 4, for it holds the key to our understanding the 3rd phase of the resurrection of believers. 4, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.” This is the bride saints that came back with Jesus after the marriage supper is finished. Rev. 19:14. John is seeing all this in a vision, and the remainder of verse 4, identifies a group of people who were martyred for their faith, and lets us see that they are resurrected before the millennium starts, for they LIVE and REIGN with Christ for a thousand years. Let us read it. “And I saw the souls of them that were BEHEADED for the WITNESS OF JESUS, (FOOLISH VIRGINS) and for the WORD OF GOD, (JEWS THAT DO NOT KNOW WHO JESUS IS) and which had NOT WORSHIPED THE BEAST, neither HIS IMAGE, neither had received his MARK UPON THEIR FOREHEADS, or in their HANDS.” This lets us know that they were beheaded during the great tribulation period, for that is the only time in history when mankind will be required to receive a mark for identity, and also, to worship the image of the beast. “And they (those who had been beheaded) LIVED (that is resurrection) and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” There is only one place for the resurrection of this group, if they are going to live and reign with Christ for a thousand years: That is between the great tribulation and the beginning of the one thousand year reign. John says these people were beheaded, and it was because of their faith in God, but when he sees them, they have already been resurrected, and I assure you, every one of them had their head when John saw them. This very scripture should settle the question about whether those who have lost members of their body in this life will be without those members in the life to come. If these had their heads back on, then those who have lost hands, arms, legs, eyes, and so forth, will have all their members back when they come up in the resurrection. Some may say, Why did you bring that up again? We are printing this message in an effort to help those who want to be set free from their traditional teaching by knowing the truth, and there are still a lot of people who disagree with the idea of a resurrection between the tribulation, and the millennium. This gives us a chance to emphasize the fact that there is going to be, literally, thousands, killed during that tribulation hour which is just ahead. They will refuse to worship the beast and his image, and they will refuse to take his damning mark in their hands and upon their foreheads. This will cause them to be beheaded, but it will seal their testimony of their faith in God. When John first saw this great multitude, (recorded in chapter 7:9-17) the angel which spoke with him, identified them saying, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.” Verse 9 speaks of them as being a great multitude which no man could number, yet, in the churches of our day, people are being taught that all who believe in God will be raptured when Jesus comes to take his bride. Can you now begin to see why we need to present the word of God (in its revealed form) to people who have been taught in such ways? We may as well face up to it: there is a great multitude of people (living on earth right today) who believe in God, but will not go in the rapture when Jesus comes, for the simple reason, that they will not settle down to be taught the revelated word of God. They will not be dressed properly when the rapture takes place, so they will have to stay here to be killed by the beast. Where will their soul’s go? Their souls go to glory, but their bodies must go into the ground until the time for their resurrection, just before the millennium begins. We can see that they are not bride people, but they do live and reign in eternal life, with Christ. Therefore, when their bodies are raised from the ground, that will leave only the bodies of the wicked dead to remain in the ground until after the millennium reign of Christ. This is what verse 5, in the 20th chapter of Revelation shows us. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” This also lets us see that the first resurrection is in phases, for according to this, all who will be resurrected before the millennium, are in the first resurrection: “on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” EVERLASTING – How Long? We will have more to say on some of what we have talked about already, but now I want to dwell for a little while on the word, or term, EVERLASTING. We find this word used throughout the Bible, and in most instances where it is used it is speaking of time without an end, or of God who is eternal, without beginning, or end, but there are a few instances where it is used, and cannot possibly be taken to mean time without an end. These are the ones we want to concentrate on for just a little while hoping to clear up some other areas where tradition has had the preeminence over the scriptures. Just for a few examples, Matt. 18:8 speaks of everlasting fire, and Matt. 25:46, of everlasting punishment, while 2 Thessalonians 1:9, speaks of everlasting destruction, all in connection with the wicked and ungodly who do not obey the word of God. Just looking at these scriptures we have mentioned ought to open your eyes somewhat, for how can you have everlasting punishment, and everlasting destruction, at the same time, still holding to our English understand of the word? In other words, take Matt. 25:46: If everlasting, in that verse is to be thought of as time without end, then those who were sentenced to everlasting punishment, could never be destroyed. But we know that the scriptures teach that the wicked will be destroyed in the lake of fire. Their destruction will be in the same sense that a stick of wood is destroyed when you cast it into the fire. It is not annihilated immediately, therefore if it had feelings like we do, Would it not be expressing itself as it burned? Of course it would, but there would come a time when it would be completely consumed; then there would be no more expression. The difference between burning a stick of wood in your stove, and God burning these souls in the lake of fire is this, The atoms that make up the piece of wood will not be destroyed, but it is the purpose of God to rid the earth of every trace of sin and wickedness, so, after a period of time, in which they will suffer, they will be completely annihilated. Every trace of them will cease to be. In Revelation 20:14, John called this the second death. Why? Not only will life be separated from the body, but the individuality of that life itself will be completely destroyed in the lake of fire. Do not ask me how long those souls will be left to suffer before they are finally disintegrated; I do not know. That is God’s business, and His alone. In verse 12, John says, “And I saw the dead, small (that is servant type people) and great, (these would be the kingly type, or upper class) stand before God; and the books were opened.” This is a time when mankind will be judged according to their deeds in life, and that judgment will reach all the way back to the first family on earth. In other words, it will cover the whole scope of time between Adam and the end of the millennium. Only those who have already been resurrected, and dwell in immortality, will be exempted form the last resurrection, and God’s final judgment. Remember, this judgment takes place after the one thousand year reign of Christ with his resurrected saints from all former ages, after Satan has been loose for a little season, and after he has had opportunity to gather up a great host of people from all nations through his deception. Verse 8 allows us to see that the number of those he deceives, is as the sand of the sea, but their lives are cut short when they join forces with Satan, for the first thing he does is gather his great army against the people of God, and God causes fire to come down from out of heaven and devour every one of them. CREMATION From the standpoint of the resurrection, people have asked many questions, and one of them is, What about the people that are cremated? Are they not approximately 87 percent water? Where does the water go? The water does not go down into the fire. In the process of cremation, the extreme heat causes all the liquid of the body to vaporize and go off in a gaseous form. Every element that was used in the makeup of that body returns to its original form. Every atom remains, and only the carbon itself is left to make up the ashes, but when it comes time for that body to be resurrected, God will not have any trouble reforming that body. For Him, it will be just as easy to resurrect a body that has been burned, as it will be to resurrect one that has completely decomposed over a period of time. Let me say this, When the wicked are cast into the lake of fire, it will be for the purpose of destroying every trace of body, soul, and spirit. Every atom used in the makeup of those individuals will be completely destroyed. SPIRIT OF ETERNAL LIFE Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being born again, and Nicodemus did not understand how that could be possible, thinking only from the standpoint of the natural, for he did not understand that Jesus spoke of a spiritual condition. That still remains to be a great mystery to the man of the world, for it is only understood properly, by those who have experienced it. God gives every person a chance to do right, just like He did with Cain in the beginning, but if we, as individuals, do not surrender our lives to God, and allow Him to place that seal of eternal life (His Spirit) within us, we are destined to be utterly and completely destroyed in the lake of fire. When we are born again, we receive the Spirit of God, (the Holy Ghost) which places us in a state of eternal, or everlasting existence. Keep in mind the fact that the word eternal, means, without beginning, and without end. Only God is eternal; therefore when we read in the scriptures, (John 3:15-16) “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” That means, He will place His spirit (which is eternal) within us, and that gives us, as individuals, everlasting life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” In this particular use of the word, EVERLASTING, it truly does mean time without end, for when we receive the Spirit of God, it makes us so that we will never die. Now what did we say? When one receives eternal life, that means he has received the life of God, (God is spirit) and even though that man had a beginning, with the life of the eternal God in him, he will have no end. I hope this is clear to you, for we are dealing with the various uses of certain words, in an attempt to show you that hell is not eternal, as some refer to it, and neither is it everlasting, in the sense of having no end, for I believe we have sufficient scripture to establish the fact that hell will have an end. You say, Bro. Jackson, why is mankind so long in finding this out? It is because of the way this Gentile society has treated the Gospel. They have built their seminaries and great institutions of learning, (please understand that I am not speaking against education, nor intellectualism) but there is not one of those places upon the face of this earth, that has been instrumental in bringing forth a true revelation to mankind. They are institutions that have been built around the teaching of some man that had an inspiration from God. Somewhere in his dedicated life with God, he received an understanding that stood apart from tradition. Naturally, he acquired some followers as he began to teach from his new understanding, and eventually, that lead to a denomination, an organizing of those who believe that teaching, and today we have hundreds of different religious denominations in the world, and most of them have their schools, but not one of those schools has produced a genuine revelation. They are built around theory and supposition, and their very approach to God, (intellectualism) limits them to just that. LUCIFER – THE DEVIL Now we have some more scriptures we want to get cleared up in this message, so turn with me to Isaiah 14:12-15. What we are looking at here, is the word hell, but let us read the whole thing. 12, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to HELL to the sides of the pit.” Somewhere in the ages past Lucifer was a righteous angel, but his attempt to make himself equal with God, caused God to cast him down to the earth. His domain became the heart of the earth, Hell became his place of confinement, his headquarters. Then later, God made the man, Adam, then Eve, to be with Adam, and placed them in the garden to have dominion over this planet. If they had obeyed God, they would have remained in complete control of the earth, and everything on earth would have been under their rulership, but when they sinned, they forfeited their right to have supreme authority over spiritual forces, as well as natural forces. In other words they sold their right of authority, and who do you suppose fell heir to that authority when they had to give it up? Old Lucifer of course, and he has continued to exercise his evil will on this old earth ever since. Since he was the one that introduced sin, and the penalty of that sin is death, we will have to say that he is the author of death itself. Now, as we said earlier, before Calvary, every soul went to hell when death came, regardless of whether they were righteous, or wicked. I know how some people will look at you when you say that, but it is true anyway. That is why David said, Thou will not leave my soul in hell. He was looking forward to Calvary, knowing that God would do something to deliver him from imprisonment in hell. David’s soul was truly delivered from hell by that which was accomplished at Calvary, but Lucifer, that old devil, is still the great prince of all evil in the world, and he is exercising his will on natural mankind in our day at a very much escalated pace. He knows his time is short. God is a spiritual power for good, and Satan is a spiritual power for evil. That is why the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 11-12, “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, 12, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Our greatest battles in this life as we try to live for God are not with flesh and blood people; they are with the spiritual forces of darkness. It is true, Satan does use people to come against us, but the real battle is with spiritual forces that cannot be seen. JUDGMENT OF MATTHEW 25 Let us go now, to the gospel of Matthew for another of the scriptures that trouble many people. This will be in connection with the judgment that takes place in the last part of chapter 25. Many have asked, Where is this judgment going to take place? Others ask, When will it take place? Then others want to know who will be judged. To answer the first question, (WHERE) let it be clearly understood that it is to take place right here on earth. Then the second question (WHEN) is one that many have trouble keeping straight on. It will take place after Christ and His bride saints have returned to the earth, after the marriage supper, and after the great tribulation has run its course. Christ and His bride will be back on earth in their immortal bodies, and the answer to (WHO) will be judged, is this, All the nations of the world will be judged, that is, all the living, (mortal people) who are still on earth after the tribulation, will be gathered together and judged to see who is worthy to live in the millennium age. I know you will not find the word, millennium, mentioned in the Bible, but, as we have said, it is a word that means one thousand, and the scriptures do mention one thousand years, as the number of years that Christ and His immortal saints will rule and reign on earth. Therefore, we are to see this judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, as taking place between the great tribulation, and the start of the millennium. This is not the great white throne judgment; there are no books opened here in this chapter. It is strictly limited to selecting a number of mortal people from each nation who will be left alive to repopulate the earth in the millennium. Let us read some of it now. Verse 31, “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.” Now, to sit on the throne of His glory, is to sit on the throne of King David, fulfilling the promise God gave to David concerning David and his seed. The exact location where Christ will sit, is in Jerusalem, naturally. 32, “And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” They will be judged, exclusively on their social and moral principles. After separating them into two groups, (verse 34) “Then shall the King (Jesus) say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37, Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” Notice now, everyone of these things that were mentioned are just basic things that a good moral person, or persons, would do in their natural every day life. These are traits of good social and moral character, and have nothing at all to do with the people being Christians. Christianity does not even enter into this judgment; it is based solely upon the character and actions of these people, especially at a time when certain people were really being persecuted. I am talking about all those people that the Antichrist and his beast system will have tried to kill and abuse, during the great tribulation hour that they will have just come through. Notice how Jesus answers them. 40, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” All of man’s words, and deeds, are open before the Lord. There is nothing hid from Him. He sees the good and the bad, and He does not have to write it down in a book to remember it. The books that are opened at the great white throne judgment, will not be books as you and I think of books. This is figurative language to enable us to realize that God keeps a perfectly accurate record. Before moving on to the fate of the wicked, let us notice how perfectly the words of Paul to the saints at Thessalonica match verse 31, here in Matthew 25. What Paul describes in 2nd Thessalonians 1:7-9, are the events that take place just prior to the judgment we are talking about. 7, “And to you who are trouble rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, (That is what Matt. 25:31 states) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” The first thing He does is lay hold on the spirit of Antichrist, who is the false prophet, and the spirit of the beast system, and cast those two spirits into the lake of fire. You will find that in Rev. 19:20, if you care to read it. When those two spirits (fallen angels) are cast into the lake of fire, the darkest hour of man’s history will be brought to a close. Jesus will take His throne and begin setting up His righteous kingdom. As the nations of mortal people pass before Him, He will be selecting a number of people from among them, who are fit to be His subject people in the millennium. Please do not misunderstand this judgment, for there are those who believe it will include people from the complete grace age. That is not true; there will be no resurrected people judged in this judgment. I want to state emphatically, that only mortal people will be judged here, and it is based upon how they reacted to the desperate need of the brethren of the Lord Jesus during that dark tribulation hour. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” After that He turns to those on His left hand and says, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into EVERLASTING FIRE, prepared for the devil and his angels.” It sounds like they are immediately cast into the lake of fire, but that is not the case at all. That will not happen until the thousand years are completed. The only thing that is cast into the lake of fire before the millennium, is the two spirits we just mentioned. This is their potential, (those on the left hand) for if they are not found fit to live through the millennium, they will not be fit to live after the millennium, so we may as well look at it as though they have been judged already. Can you see that? Even though they will be raised to stand before the great white throne judgment one thousand years later, they will already know what their fate is to be. Now, even though verse 41, declares that the lake of fire was prepared for the devil and his angels, remember, they are not in the lake of fire when this judgment is taking place. You can see why one must bring in other related scriptures on a study like this, or they might get something done a thousand years too soon. The two spirits that are immediately cast into the lake of fire when Jesus returns to earth are two of the chiefest fallen angels, of the great host that was cast down from heaven with Lucifer, but even though they were powerful, Satan still remains to be the ruler over all of them. We will just say that they are two spirits of the devil, one of them allowed to be characterized in the form of so called Christianity. The other one in that combined world system, called the beast. Brothers and sisters, the unifying of Europe, (the rapid rate in which they are coming together) lets me know that the beast of Revelation 13 is rising fast. CATHOLICISM WILL RIDE COMMUNISM One sister in the congregation spoke recently of something written to her in a letter from a sister down in Florida. It seems that during the time when the whole world was speculating on who was likely to be the next pope, she heard a statement made by one of the great leaders within the Catholic church. The statement went something like this, The church (meaning Catholicism) will ride communism to gain world attention. That is exactly what we read in Revelation, chapter 17, and remember, that did not come from the lips of a Protestant. That came from a Catholic dignitary. Saints, I do not know what your religious background has been, nor what your political affiliation may be. That is of no interest to me, but I want you to know that this old world is fast moving toward the end of this Gentile era. There is a little nation across the water that is just like a time bomb, and they have a leader, named Menachem Begin, that is very determined to do everything the Bible way. The rest of the world exerts pressure in an effort to gain a compromise, but to this date, Israel is still holding her ground. Not only is she continuing to build settlements on the West Bank, but she has also determined not to allow any more foreign troops to be used as a buffer between them and their enemy. We do not have the space to go into that, but, saints, I beg you: shake yourselves, and realize that this book (the Bible) is being fulfilled in current events right before our eyes. We have preached, and published messages, trying to show you that, even though communism and Christianity have always been bitter enemies of each other, in the end, Catholicism, (which is the great whore of Revelation, chapter 17) will ride Communism until she (Catholicism, the whore) shall be made desolate, stripped and burned, by the horns of the very beast that she is riding upon. The world beast system, as it runs its course, will become so politically, communist oriented, that Catholicism will be swallowed up by it. That is why we see the 10 major countries of Europe having such upheaval, and such drastic changes in their form of government. Communist power, and influence, is rising in those governments, and stands a threat to the now existing power of Catholicism within those governments. That is why the Christian Democratic party in those countries has been taking such a beating: we are getting close to the end. I have said, many times, When the hour arrives for that false prophet (religious prince, Antichrist) to move on the scene, he will update Catholicism to make it more acceptable to the world at large, but in doing so, he will become so politically oriented that he will be the very cause of Catholicism meeting her doom, when that beast system has run its course. When we speak of the beast system, please understand that we are referring to the world order, the ruling power as Gentile time runs out, made up of Catholicism and united Protestantism, which is combined to rule the world, and the Pope of Roman Catholicism will be in command. That is the time when he will fulfill his identified role as the Antichrist, but the sad part of it all is, that his teachings have been Antichrist all down through the ages, and in these last days organized Protestantism is too blind to recognize it, therefore they join forces with him. It will be a dark hour for mankind, but after it has run its prophesied course, Jesus will return with His great army and destroy all of man’s works, casting those two spirits, immediately, into the lake of fire. This brings us (in time) back to the judgment we are speaking on, in Matthew 25. We are just trying to pull into this message, related events that will help to establish the chain of events that are just ahead, as well as a time factor for them to take place. PACIFICATION AND DECEPTION Saints, do you realize that if Jesus was to come back to earth in the same way He did 2000 years ago, preach the same as He did then, teach and live the same, this Gentile religious system would be the ones to say, Crucify him? Do you know why? It is because their teaching is Antichrist. They will hold their creeds and dogmas, above the revelation of God’s word every time. Religion is a cruel thing; there is no life in it. Gentile organized religion is nothing more than the devil’s pacification program, designed to deceive people into believing they have eternal life. That is what we read in Revelation: that the devil which deceiveth the whole world, was cast out into the earth. Ever since God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, the devil has carried on a program of deception among mankind. Let us read three verses from the 19th chapter of Revelation that will help clarify the chain of events of Christ’s return to earth. Verse 19, “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against His army. 20, And the BEAST (the spirit of the beast) was taken, and with him the FALSE PROPHET that wrought miracles before him, with which he DECEIVED them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 and the remnant were SLAIN with the SWORD of Him (JESUS) that sat upon the horse, which SWORD proceeded out of His mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” Now, we have been talking about a judgment where Jesus will select an element of living people to rule over in the millennium, as they repopulate the earth. The verses we have just read, enable us to see what happens to all those who are not fit to live during that time. The King (Jesus Christ) will smite them to death with the sword of His mouth. All the wicked are physically slain, before the millennium starts, but they are not cast into the lake of fire until after the millennium, when the great white throne is set. How does He kill them? With the sword of His mouth. Does that make Him a sword swallower? Absolutely not! This is symbolic language. Think of how Paul spoke to the Hebrew Christians, (Heb. 4:12) “FOR THE WORD OF GOD IS QUICK, AND POWERFUL, AND SHARPER THAN ANY TWO-EDGED SWORD, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The sharp two-edged sword that Jesus slays the wicked with, is the word of judgment that proceeds out of His mouth. He speaks them to death. You can get a little preview of that kind of judgment, from the account of the deception of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, recorded in Acts 5:1-11. No one laid a hand on either one of them until after they were already dead. That is how it will be when Jesus speaks to the wicked at His return to earth. To slay the remnant, as it says in 19:21, is to slay the wicked, those that are left after the righteous selection has been made. I realize that it is very difficult to get these events laid out in a way that makes it easy to see, but we are depending upon the Holy Ghost to clarify these things for you. Some of the scriptures we read would lead a person to believe that Jesus comes riding out of the sky on a literal, white horse, and slays every wicked person with one great sweep of His great sword. John saw these things in the spirit, but he did not record them detail for detail in chronological order. That is why we must depend upon the Holy Ghost to lead us, as we collect the various verses together to complete the picture. John just saw all the wicked slain, but let me remind you that it does not all happen at once. COMMUNIST FIGHTING COMMUNISTS During the last half of that week of Daniel, when that beastly world order is in full swing, persecuting and killing those who refuse to take the mark of the beast, the kings of the East (Oriental Communists) will begin to make their way to the Middle East, their armies numbering about two million. As they gather there (their purpose being to take a spoil and conquer) the stage will be set for the battle of Armageddon. When that battle gets under way, you will have the Oriental Communist forces fighting against the communist armies of Western Europe. Russia will no longer be a great world power as she is now. She will already have had her whipping from the Almighty, when she came against Israel before the week of Daniel, to fulfill Ezekiel, chapters 38 & 39, and God kills all but one-sixth part of her invading armies. Now as that week of Daniel runs out, and the battle of Armageddon is raging: This is when Jesus and His great army from heaven, returns to earth. At that time, the scripture we read from 2 Thes. 1:7-9, speaking of Jesus being revealed from heaven, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, will be fulfilled. Those wicked armies will be destroyed, and the means of their destruction will give occasion for the fulfillment of the scriptures in Isaiah and Malachi, which scriptures caused Brother Branham to make the statement about the righteous walking out into the Millennium upon the ashes of the wicked. That is because they will be burned to death. But please do not think all of the unrighteous will be killed at that time. They will not. There has to be people left alive to fulfill this scripture we are dealing with in Matthew 25, and then, in Rev. 19:21. If Jesus kills all but the ones who will live in the millennium, when He is climaxing the battle of Armageddon; there would be no one left to fulfill this scripture. By this very scripture, we establish the setting on earth just prior to the millennial reign of Christ, on earth. We read down through verse 41, where the King said to those on His left hand, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into EVERLASTING FIRE, prepared for the devil and his angels,” and you will notice from the verses following that, the very reason they were placed on His left hand in the first place, was because they had failed to do the humanly moral deeds that the group on His right hand were rewarded for doing. This group is heard asking a similar question to the one the righteous group asked: Lord, When was it like you say it was? He answers them (verse 45) saying, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” This lets me know that these people are separated and judged strictly by the deeds they did or failed to do. Those on His right hand are not to be thought of as though they believed and accepted Christ, and that was the reason they were rewarded for He plainly tells them that it is because of the way they had showed compassion and ministered to His brethren in their desperate needs, that they, themselves, received mercy. He also makes it clear to the other group that it is because of their lack of compassion, and their failure to do what seems like very humanly deeds that sealed their doom. 46, “And these shall go away into EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT: but the righteous into life eternal.” As I said earlier, their fate, (the lake of fire) is actually pronounced upon them right there but they are not going into the lake of fire until after the one thousand years has run its course. At this particular time, He speaks death to them, (by the sword of His mouth) their soul goes into HELL, (the prison place in the heart of the earth) where they will be punished, until they are resurrected one thousand years later, and cast into the lake of fire to be destroyed completely. During that time their bodies will be confined to the crust of the earth where all the other bodies of the wicked are held. By the time the millennium starts, all three phases of the first resurrection will be completed. Only the bodies of the wicked will be left in the ground, and the souls of all the wicked will remain in hell. DEGREES OF PUNISHMENT Most of you have heard me teach that, just as there are degrees, or different levels of reward for those who live in eternal life, so also will there be different degrees of punishment for the wicked before they are finally destroyed completely. When final destruction comes, punishment and suffering will be over with. For this group in Matthew 25:41, I have looked at it like this, These are people that, even though you could not consider them to be mean people, they somehow just never did have any time for God. We have all known people like that. They would not cheat you for anything in the world. They believe in paying their bills, and they are just as honest as the day is long, but when you start talking to them about God, they are no more interested than a jack rabbit. In fact, they will become offended if you talk too much about God in their presence. Some of these intellectual, business dignitaries, which you could never class as being mean people, are exactly like the ones we are talking about. They do not go around trying to make life miserable for other people, but they are quick to say, I have never done anything wrong; Why would I need to repent? The fact of the matter is, God’s word says, All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23). We are born with an inherited nature to sin. The attributes of sin are passed on to us in birth, so that we are born a sinner. The very fact that a person does not want to repent, does not want to live for God, or even to talk about Him, proves that they are a sinner. The Bible says that God created man in His own image and likeness, and our own natural lives prove that we like to talk about our daddy once in a while. Is that not right? You show me a boy that does not like to talk about his daddy, and I will show you a rascal. To go a step further, you show me a man who feels that he has no need to repent, and regardless of how honest he may be, or how high he may be on the social ladder, and regardless of how many degrees he may have listed on his achievement record, I will still show you a rascal, for that is a man who feels that he is so good already, that he has no need for God. You may say, Bro. Jackson: That is a little strong, isn’t it? No! I repeat: I will show you a rascal. The Bible clearly teaches that all our righteousness are as filthy rags before God. As you read the first three chapters of Romans: you find the apostle Paul speaking explicitly about such people who have no time for God. I realize Paul covers the whole scope of man’s unrighteous ways in those chapters, and we are not calling such people as these in Matthew 25, murderers, gamblers, nor anything like that, but the self righteous man who trusts in his own goodness, is just as far from God as any murderer will ever be. Consider for instance, Sodom and Gomorrah: The people in those cities were not all abominable perverts, but because they had no time for God, they were all in the same boat; they all perished together. Therefore when we consider the lake of fire, and maybe feel that we know some who ought not be judged so severely even though they will not serve God: let us remember: there is no middle ground. A person will either be blessed with the righteous, or that person will be condemned with the wicked. You may say, Where is the justice of God then? I will try to show you. First, let me say this, God grants mercy to every soul that genuinely repents, regardless of how bad that person may have been, but where there is no repentance, that person must be judged with the wicked. Now I will try to show you something. We will use for an example, the man who went into the Chicago apartments some years ago, with a gun and a knife, and killed those nurses. I am sure many of you remember the case. He went in there, killed them, and then he cut them to pieces. I can see a man like that, as he goes into the lake of fire, lie there just like an old wet blanket. If you can catch what I am getting at: you will see that there are degrees of punishment, even in the lake of fire. This man’s spirit being so evil, if he never found any place of repentance before God, when he is cast into the lake of fire he would be just like a wet blanket, or a soggy piece of wood. He will lie there in the flames and smolder, and all the time he is lying there: that worm of remorse will be gnawing at his conscience. He may lie there smoldering in torment for a thousand years, or even a million years, I have no idea how long God will see fit to punish such a person. I am sure of this, though, He will hear the screams of those nurses over and over again as that worm of remorse gnaws at his conscience day and night. On the other hand, these people who were never so evil in their ways, those who morally, were real decent people: I believe God will allow them to burn up rapidly when they are cast into the fire, not having much to be punished for. That is little consolation, and a very thin thread for a person without God in his life, to hang on to, when you stop to think that such people are eternally separated from God, or for the sake of proper terminology, we will say they are everlastingly separated from God. In this instance the word, everlasting, truly means for ever, and for ever without an end. Their separation from God is without an end, for when their punishment is completed, every trace of them will be completely obliterated. That is why we say, HELL IS NOT ETERNAL, and that is why we say also, that even the lake of fire will serve its purpose and be needed no more. As for the degrees of punishment: God would be very unjust as a judge, if he gave every person the same degree of punishment. He is just, in destroying every one of them, but he would be very unjust, if He punished everyone the same. REWARDS FOR THE RIGHTEOUS Let me back up my statement about degrees of punishment, by showing you that God rewards the righteous by degrees, according to their works and faithfulness in life, and you should realize that God’s principles remain the same. He is not affected by emotions in His rewards, and His judgment. Let us first read 2nd Cor. 5:9-10, “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. 10, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” This is strictly a judgment of the righteous, to determine the degree of their rewards in the life beyond this life, and it is determined by the measure of obedience and submission to the will of God in this present life. There are some who work hard trying to do something for God, but much of their labor is through fleshly zeal, and not a result of the leading of the Lord; therefore their reward will not necessarily be the greatest. Let us look at a few verses in 1st Corinthians, chapter 15, now. In this chapter Paul is presenting revelated facts about the resurrection of the dead, and of the different resurrection glories. We will pick up the reading in verse 40, and read through verse 42. “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the GLORY of the celestial is one, and the Glory of the terrestrial is another. 41, There is one GLORY of the Sun, and another GLORY of the moon, and another GLORY of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in GLORY, 42, So also is the resurrection of the dead, It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” Now, if you can see it there; the apostle is saying that, just as the sun, moon, and stars all have a different degree of glory, so will it be also, with those who are resurrected from the dead to dwell with Christ in the realm of eternal life. The bride will have the highest level of reward, for she will have become one with Him, (Christ) and will reign with Him as His queen. Certainly there are other scriptures that we could read from the standpoint of various levels of reward for the righteous, but I believe this is sufficient to get our thinking pointed in the right direction. Revelation 20:12 shows books being opened at the great white throne judgment after the millennium, and the dead are judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works; therefore if there were no degrees of punishment; the books would be unnecessary, since they are all to be cast into the lake of fire after their sentence is pronounced upon them. Then the 13th verse which we used earlier to show you that hell is to be emptied of all its captives at this judgment, also states that every one of them were judged according to their works, and the 14th verse shows that everything that comes up from the graves, the sea, and hell itself, is cast into the lake of fire. Matthew 25:41 calls this EVERLASTING FIRE, and 25:46 refers to this punishment as EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT, and the apostle Paul in 2nd Thess. 1:9, refers to this last state of wicked mankind as EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD, and from the glory of His power. Since God is life, and that life is omnipresent, these people who are cast into the lake of fire will have to be completely annihilated, after their allotted time of punishment, in order to be EVERLASTINGLY DESTROYED from the presence of the Lord. Therefore there will eventually come a time when the lake of fire has no further use. We must reconcile these various uses of certain words and terms, for we are fully persuaded that there is no contradiction in the revelatory teaching in the word of God. EVERLASTING GOSPEL For another use of the word, EVERLASTING, let us go to the 14th chapter of Revelation, verse 6, where we read, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the EVERLASTING GOSPEL to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” We have recently published an article showing what the everlasting gospel is, who preaches it, and what affect it will have on the inhabitants of the earth at that time, but right now, I am only referring to it in order to pull out the terminology that pertains to our present subject. Understanding the setting here lets us know what this everlasting gospel pertains to, and how much time to allot to it. I suppose there are some who read that verse and say, When that angel flies in the heavens, he will preach a gospel that will last for ever. That is a wrong understanding of this verse. If you will read the next four verses, and find out what the message of that gospel is, you will know that it is for a certain period of time. If it was to be preached continuously, throughout the endless ages, then there would never be a millennium. This is the last gospel that will ever be preached to the inhabitants of the earth, and its message is for a short period of time: giving mankind one last chance to recognize the source of eternal life. It is because of this gospel that Jesus is fully justified when He comes from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God. There will not be one individual engaged in the battle of Armageddon that can say he had no chance to obey God, for, listen, as I reread a part of verse 6, that tells who this last gospel was preached to. “Having the EVERLASTING GOSPEL to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, AND TO EVERY NATION, AND KINDRED, AND TONGUE, AND PEOPLE,” (that includes them all). Let us read on down through here now, and hear the message of these angels, and you will know why I said men had one last chance before judgment fell. This is no longer a gospel of grace for the purpose of sealing a Gentile bride for the Lord Jesus Christ, she will already be at the marriage supper when this everlasting gospel begins to be proclaimed in the middle of the week of Daniel. Here is what is being declared with a loud voice, verse 7, “Fear God, and give Glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. 8, And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen (they are pronouncing judgment upon spiritual Babylon) that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. 9, And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man WORSHIP THE BEAST and his IMAGE, and RECEIVE HIS MARK IN HIS FOREHEAD, OR IN HIS HAND, 10, The same (those who are guilty) shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone (notice this now) in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” We know this message will not be proclaimed after the millennium starts, for it will no longer be needed. The beast and the false prophet will already be in the lake of fire, and the devil himself will already be chained up, for he is chained before the millennium starts. Therefore the term, EVERLASTING GOSPEL, only applies in the sense that it is the last message of good news that will ever give man a chance to turn to God. You will notice also, that the massage contained a warning against being identified with the beast in any way. That message would be of no benefit after the tribulation is over. COMMON MARKET CURRENCY In connection with the beast, let me say to you, That beast system is rapidly forming for its end time role in the history of mankind. We have read in the newspaper that the nations of Europe already have printed up, and ready to use, a Common Market currency. The article stated that, because of the decline in the value of the American dollar, it is believed that the hour is approaching when it will be necessary for the Common Market nations to begin using a common currency, one that would replace the German marc, the French franc, the Italian lira, the British pound, and all other individual currencies, so that one common currency would be acceptable to all. Saints: the world is getting close to the hour of that beast system. The ten horns are taking their place, and with Israel where she is, along with what we see in the realm of religion, and especially in the Catholic church, we know that the living element of the people of God are on the verge of being shook hard enough to get all their old Babylonian ideas shook loose from them, and allow them to get hold of the word of God. In Canada, many of the stores have already converted to a cashless system, and many more will soon follow. This is not the mark of the beast, just because it required those to participate to have an identifying number, but it is a forerunner, preparing the world for the mark, when it is time for it to be introduced. We will not dwell on this, for we are dealing with another message, and there are a few more things that I would like to point out to you from the scriptures we have read. In verse 10 of chapter 14, we read something that seems contradictory to a verse we read from 2nd Thessalonians 1:9, and I want to be sure that there is no misunderstanding about it. Paul said the wicked would be punished with EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD. Then John says they will be tormented with fire and brimstone IN THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY ANGELS, AND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB. Do we have a contradiction between two verses? No, there is no contradiction. Here is the beauty of it. God is Spirit; He is invisible, but He is the source of all life, and He is the supreme ruler of the whole universe. Everything rests in Him. If He ever rejects you; you do not have life; therefore when He rejects you from His presence, figuratively, it means that you are destined to perish, for you are without the source of life. On the other hand, to look at what John said about the wicked being tormented in the presence of the angels, and in the presence of the Lamb, we have to realize that God has always dealt with man through the ministry of angels, and the shed blood of the Lamb was the price of our redemption. The redemption that God offers to mankind, was purchased by the shedding of the blood of the Lamb which is Jesus Christ. In order for us to be reconciled to God, there is a process which we must pass through, and that process is brought about by the ministration of angels. When we carry that thought to Hebrews 1:7, where it is speaking of these angelic spirits, we read, “And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.” Then in verse 14, we read, “Are they not all ministering spirits, (still speaking of the angels) sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” You do not see those angels, but they are ever present with us. Our lives are constantly affected by these angelic beings. You may say, Bro. Jackson: I thought it was the Lord that is ever present with us. It is; but please do not overlook the fact that God has delegated the responsibility of ministering to His children, to His angels. Now I will tell you how all this fits in with what we are considering. If a person constantly turns his back on the wooing feelings that would lead him to God: there will come a day when it is everlastingly too late for him to find a place of repentance. He will die in his sins, be tormented in hell, and then when he is finally resurrected and cast into the lake of fire; he will suffer day and night in that fire of destruction, with gnawing consciousness that he had a chance to be reconciled to God and he spurned it. He will be constantly reminded; there are those angels, there is the Lamb; in other words, he will be constantly conscious of the fact that he rejected, one time too many, the very avenue back into the presence of the Lord. That is how the angels and the Lamb are present while the wicked soul is being tormented. It is in his conscience, that gnawing worm that dieth not. Some will say, But if he was not foreknown of God; he could not have been saved anyway. Well, that is right, if you keep foreknowledge in its proper place. A person is not condemned because of God’s foreknowledge. He is condemned because he was offered a chance to receive eternal life, and he rejected it, and the foreknowledge of God is what let Him (God) know that the man would reject his chance, even before the world was created. In other words, foreknowledge does not deny the man his chance, but foreknowledge does let God know ahead of time what that man will do with his chance. MINISTRY OF THE ANGELS I want to make it perfectly clear that we don not make a practice of preaching on angels, but if we are to have a proper revelation of the scriptures; we must recognize the place that God has given to his angelic creation. As I said in another message; anywhere you find God doing anything, you can be assured that angels are present. We need to recognize what place they have in God’s dealing with man, and by so doing, we will rid ourselves of a lot of our old traditional ideas. The church seems to have forgotten what they read in the Bible. Even the Lord Jesus Himself, who was God incarnate, with power to lay His life down and take it back up again, when He came forth from the tomb, who rolled the stone away from the door? Matthew 28:2, says the angel of the Lord rolled it back. We are not saying that Jesus could not have gotten out of the tomb without the help of an angel; He could come out with the door closed just like He did later, in the room where His disciples were waiting, but the fact remains that God’s word says an angel came and rolled back the stone. How did he do it? By causing an earthquake to shake the mortar loose, and roll that old stone back down the track. Why did he do it, if Jesus could have gotten out without it? That empty tomb had to be revealed. That empty tomb, and the presence of the Lord among His disciples later, produced some eye witnesses who could testify to His resurrection. But the point we are making is, that, God works through His angels, in His process of redeeming His creation back to Himself, and fallen man, as he burns in the lake of fire, will be tormented day and night with the thoughts of how he had a chance, but rejected the wooing presence of the angels, and the blood of the Lamb. We have already talked about the millennium, how that Jesus will reign as King for one thousand years over the whole earth, with His literal throne being in Jerusalem, the throne of David. When that thousand year reign of righteousness and restoration is completed: Jesus will never be King any more. After Satan has been loosed for a little season to deceive as many as he can; he collects those whom he has deceived together, and surrounds the camp of the saints, and the beloved city: and fire comes down out of heaven to devour them. From there, the great white throne judgment is set, and Jesus then becomes the Supreme Judge. He grants eternal life to those whose names are in the book of life, and all the rest are cast into the lake of fire. They are everlastingly destroyed from the presence of the Lord, but during the time of their punishment in the fire, the memory of the holy angels that would have wooed them to accept the provision of the Lamb, is ever present with them, gnawing at their conscience. Since the lake of fire is not on this planet, when all the wicked are finally cast into it: this old planet will be clean again, completely redeemed back to God in every aspect. We will go back to 1st Corinthians 15 now, and read verses 24-28, for this is where these scriptures are fulfilled. 24, “Then cometh the end, (the end of God’s complete process of redemption) when He (Christ Jesus) shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, (ELOHIM, ETERNAL SPIRIT) even the Father; when He (Christ) shall have put down all rule and authority and power. 25, For He (Christ) must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. 26, The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27, For He (ELOHIM) hath put all things under His (CHRIST JESUS’) feet. But when he (DAVID Psa. 8:6) saith all things are put under Him, (CHRIST JESUS) it is manifest that He (ELOHIM) is excepted, which did put all things under Him, (CHRIST JESUS). 28, And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, (CHRIST JESUS) then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him (ELOHIM) that put all things under Him, that God (WHICH IS SPIRIT) may be all in all.” This puts all of God’s redeemed family into the eternal age, and Jesus Christ, who has been, on our behalf, PROPHET, PRIEST, LAMB, (SIN OFFERING) INTERCESSOR, BRIDEGROOM, KING and then SUPREME JUDGE OF THE WICKED, now becomes our elder brother, and the scriptures declare that we are joint heirs with Him. Can you fully appreciate that? Let me explain what I mean by that question. In ancient times the eldest son was the sole heir of all his Father’s wealth. All that the other children in the family could expect to receive, was some lesser gift which the father would specify, but the bulk of the inheritance always went to the first born son. It was his to do with as he pleased. Now Romans 8:29, tells us that Jesus was the firstborn among many brethren. In other words He is the legal heir of the whole family of God. To Him is given glory, honor, power and authority by the great eternal Spirit, (God) but He did not want it just for Himself, therefore, we who were paupers, condemned, and doomed to destruction by the eternal God, with no hope for eternal life, have become joint heirs with Him by a voluntary act on His part. Did not He say that He had power to give life to whomsoever He would? Did not He say also, while speaking to the Father in prayer, “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one?” This is one elder brother that divides His inheritance among all of His brethren, making us joint heirs with Him, of all that the Father hath bestowed upon Him. In that great eternal age we will sit with Him, and share with Him, in immortality, and the glory that is with Him will be with us also. Brothers and sisters, this is a rich inheritance we have come into; let us be grateful in our hearts, and live for God with all our strength as these last days of this present age fulfill themselves. A LOOK AT MAN Before closing I would like to share with you a little illustration I used in talking to some of the brethren on this subject. Maybe this will help some of you to better understand the makeup of man, and enable you to understand the final estate of mankind without God. Alright now, God is Spirit, and that Spirit is life. In Him is love, wisdom, compassion, longsuffering, and all the attributes that we have ever heard attributed to God. He knows all things, and He is unlimited in ability. When God made man: the very spirit life that we are, came from Him. He did not go out somewhere with a bucket and stir up a bunch of chemicals to make the spirit of man. No! He took of Himself, for He is life, and made man, but the process by which you and I came into the world causes us, in our physical makeup, to be a sinner. Therefore because we bear the trait of sin in our makeup, unless we find our place in God’s redemptive process, and allow Him to place His seal of eternal life upon us, we are destined to partake of the lake of fire burning with brimstone, in our last state of being. Our rejection of God’s way is what brings about the necessity for our destruction. Anyone who refuses to be joined to God, must be everlastingly separated from God for His redemption process to be complete. Now I will illustrate something for you. Suppose I take a glass and fill it full of water: I can hold it up and say, Here is water, but in that state, that is all I have in that glass. If it is pure water; it is aroma-less, practically tasteless, and without color; it’s clear. I am using this as a comparison to spirit, for I want to show you something. Water is the very essence of life to all vegetative life. If you cut off its source of water, you know what happens; it dies; it ceases to exist. Now, let us suppose that I decide to take that water and make some kind of drink out of it. I put a spoonful of cherry Kool-Aid in and stir it up, and I have not only added color; I have also added flavor. The color can be seen, the flavor can be tasted. Now I will add some sugar, and that sugar contains carbohydrates. That means I have added nutrients. In this I have added certain chemicals that have a certain amount of carbon of the earth in it; water itself has no carbon. Now I have taken water, added certain substances to it, and made a tasty drink, but basically, it is water. On the other side of this illustration is man. The life of that man is spirit, and basically, that spirit life, is life that came from God. That is why, from the standpoint of creation, we can call God, our heavenly Father. God took of Himself, (SPIRIT) and to that life He added the five senses, SEE, HEAR, TASTE, SMELL AND TOUCH. This is not in your flesh; it is in your spirit. Next He added INTELLECT, WISDOM, KNOWLEDGE, the ability to think, make decisions, and determinations. This is the sense in which we are like Him, for God is all of that. Then He added affections. Our likes, dislikes, and so forth, come from that, and this furnishes our motivation. All of this makes up the soul, the intellect of that spirit that we are. That is why from time to time we hear people say, What you see is not the real me, for the real me, is inside of this shell of flesh. The real me is what was made in the image of God, and in His likeness. Alright now, when the body dies: what has actually happened? The spirit has left it, and the soul has left it also, for the spirit and soul are inseparable. When the spirit leaves; the soul is in it. That is why, before Calvary, every soul that departed from the body had to go to hell; there had not been a way made before then to blot out the taint of sin, so that the spirit could go back to God from whence it came. Therefore it was held in a place of confinement until the sin debt was paid, and from that time until the end, when a righteous person dies; his spirit returns to God, and his body goes into the grave. David somehow knew this, and it caused him to say, Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell. We come back to the glass of cherry Kool-Aid now. I am using this just for an illustration. If that cherry drink is ever going to have an eternal existence, somehow, I am going to have to come up with a chemical that I can add to it to seal what I have. Once that is done it will remain the same throughout time and eternity, regardless of where it is. But let us see what will happen if I purpose to destroy it, since it does not have the seal to preserve and keep it. Suppose I just pour it out on the ground. You know what will happen; the earth will absorb the water, but there will be a colored spot left on the ground. The water that was the main carrier of all the added substance, will separate from all the molecules, and fiber, and substance, and will eventually be filtering through the earth, and be completely free from all the added chemicals, and it will return to the main stream from whence it came. After a period of time that water will be free from every trace of anything that was added to it, and also, those additives will eventually break up, and go right back into creation; like I have said before; an atom is never destroyed; it just changes its cycle and function in creation. When God destroys those bodies, and the souls of all the unredeemed that have ever lived by casting them into the lake of fire, even all those wicked spirits of demons, it will be for the purpose of destroying every trace of individuality that has ever been attributed to them. Conscience, intellect, the five senses, and everything that God added to make up the individuals, will be eventually destroyed in the process of their punishment. When each one has finally suffered the punishment that was allotted to them, and they reach the end of their destruction, then the spirit that was the life of that individual, that spirit that came from God, being indestructible and being completely free from all traces of what it was the life of, will return to God. That spirit came from God, for God is the only source of life that there is; therefore, in the end, it will return to God. I will close this message by saying this: The lake of fire is God’s incinerator where He burns up everything that is not redeemed back to Him. Therefore, in the eternal age there will be no more graveyards, no more dead carcasses, and nothing that is impure; all will be dwelling in eternal life. This old planet will be completely redeemed, and Satan, with all of his evil, will be remembered no more. AMEN

Candide, ou l'Optimisme

Candide, ou l'Optimisme Pdf/ePub eBook Author: Voltaire
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Candide, ou l'Optimisme by Voltaire Summary

Le jeune Candide travaillait dans un château pour un baron, et avait pour maître Pangloss, qui professait une philosophie leibnizienne déformée et clamant qu’ils vivaient dans le meilleur des mondes possibles. Malheureusement pour le garçon, il est mis à la porte du château après un baiser volé et se retrouve sur la route, allant de mésaventure en mésaventure, mais s’accrochant néanmoins désespérément à cet optimisme appris. Ce célèbre conte philosophique et satirique de Voltaire fut publié en 1759 à Genève et est un court texte à la fois comique et génial dans son exploration de la philosophie, de la religion, des préjudices, et de la cruauté d’un optimisme aveugle. Il s’inscrit dans un siècle où les questions philosophiques sont au premier rang. Quand Voltaire écrit son "Candide", un débat sur le fatalisme et l’existence du Mal bat son plein, et l’optimisme leibnizien est beaucoup discuté. De plus, la guerre de Sept Ans vient de commencer et un tremblement de terre à ravagé Lisbonne, évènements qui ont tout deux beaucoup marqué Voltaire. De même, le philosophe français collaborait au projet de "L’Encyclopédie" de Diderot et d’Alembert, qui a été sanctionné par le Parlement de Paris. Tous ces éléments ont joué un rôle dans la production de conte. Voltaire (1694-1778), de son vrai nom François-Marie Arouet, était un philosophe, poète, historien et écrivain français du Siècle des Lumières. Parmi ses œuvres les plus connues, on peut compter : "Lettres philosophique" (1734), "Zadig ou la Destinée" (1748), "Candide ou l’Optimisme"» (1759), "Dictionnaire philosophique" (1764) et "L’Ingénue" (1767).

L'Évangile de la vie

L'Évangile de la vie Pdf/ePub eBook Author: Jean-Paul II
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L'Évangile de la vie by Jean-Paul II Summary

La onzième encyclique du pape Jean-Paul II. Dans cette encyclique sur la vie humaine, Jean-Paul II rappelle avec force la valeur et l’inviolabilité de la vie humaine, à tous les stades de son développement. Retrouvez les 14 encycliques de Jean-Paul II rassemblées dans un seul livre numérique : Encycliques.

L'apprentissage visible pour les enseignants

L'apprentissage visible pour les enseignants Pdf/ePub eBook Author: John Hattie
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L'apprentissage visible pour les enseignants by John Hattie Summary

L’ouvrage remarquable de John Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers, synthétise les résultats de plus de 15 années de recherche sur les apprentissages visibles et signifiants dans les écoles. Le livre valorise tant le point de vue de l’enseignant que celui de l’élève, et propose un accompagnement par étapes comprenant la préparation des leçons, l’interprétation de l’apprentissage, la rétroaction durant les cours ainsi que le suivi après les leçons. Il contient des listes de vérification, des exercices, des études de cas et des scénarios de pratiques exemplaires visant à améliorer le rendement des élèves. Il couvre plusieurs aspects de l’apprentissage, dont la motivation des élèves, les programmes d’études, les stratégies métacognitives, les comportements, les stratégies d’enseignement et la gestion de classe.

La Lettre écarlate

La Lettre écarlate Pdf/ePub eBook Author: Nathaniel Hawthrone
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La Lettre écarlate by Nathaniel Hawthrone Summary

À Boston, dans la Nouvelle-Angleterre puritaine du XVIIe siècle, Hester Prynne, jeune épouse d'un vieux savant anglais dont on est maintenant sans nouvelles, a commis le péché d'adultère et refuse de révéler le nom du père de son enfant. Elle est condamné à affronter la vindicte populaire sur le pilori, avec sa fille Pearl de trois mois, puis à porter, brodée sur sa poitrine, la lettre écarlate «A». Elle est bannie et condamnée à l'isolement. Le jour de son exhibition publique, son mari, un temps captif parmi les Indiens, la reconnait sur la place du Marché, s'introduit auprès d'elle en prison grâce à ses talents de médecin et lui fait promettre de ne pas révéler son retour. Il se jure de découvrir qui est le père afin de perdre l'âme de cet homme... Écrit en 1850, La Lettre écarlate est considéré comme le premier chef-d'oeuvre de la littérature américaine. Avec ce roman historique, Nathaniel Hawthorne a écrit un pamphlet contre le puritanisme, base de la société américaine de l'époque, à laquelle appartenaient ses ancêtres qui avaient participé à la chasse aux sorcières de 1692. Honteux de ce passé, Nathaniel Hathorne ira jusqu'à transformer l'orthographe de son nom en Hawthorne...