Not Backward, Please

Eisenhower_and_KennedyI have been thinking, I know dangerous up there my brain wheels grinding and all.  Nevertheless, I have been thinking.  Thinking about how the world has changed in fifty years, especially the United States.  How we as a nation and a people have changed so very much in this short half-century of time that has passed since the assassination of JFK in Dallas.  Do you wonder how we have changed?  Do you think it is for the better or like me, do you think we are worse as a nation and pettier, smaller as a people.

Dwight Eisenhower warned us of some of what was to come if we allowed certain elements of our society to gain control.  In his farewell speech he said much, though one quote is often referenced it is also taken out of context, leaving off much of what President Eisenhower said and intended regarding the military-industrial complex, I recommend reading his speech.1

From this same speech comes an even more profound statement, one that looked into the future and saw the potential of our smallness.

“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history, yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.”  1

What does this mean?  As the oldest President handed the reins of power to the youngest, he warned the nation of our potential for terrible acts.  He thanked Congress for working with him in a bipartisan manner.  He thanked the nation for allowing him to serve.

What this doesn’t tell us, we were already sending soldiers to Vietnam.  We had been doing for years though the term then was ‘advisors’.  Three weeks before the assassination of JFK, Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara upped the ante, increasing both military and economic support.  We were at war again, though undeclared.  This would lead to the first draft of unwilling soldiers since 1942, on December 1, 1969.

The world was in upheaval.  Young people taking to the streets, demanding they not be sent to die on foreign shores.  Demanding accountability for the billions spent, the lives destroyed and lost, the flag draped coffins shown on television every night reminded us, young and old, this was not a war of our choosing.

President Johnson decided not to seek reelection because of the outrage against Vietnam, thus handing the reins of power to Richard M. Nixon.  The nation was once again sent spinning, though he eventually ended the war, he also taught us a terrible lesson about the abuse of power.

Do we think about this, track this abuse of power in those we elect to high office?  Personally, I don’t think we do.  I think instead we shrug it off, in some cases even expect it and so continue to elect the miscreants.  One thing I know for certain.  No matter who actually commits the acts, whether criminal or simply scandalous we lay the blame at the feet of the President holding office at that time.  With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at the High Crimes and Misdemeanors of the past several administrations:

Crimes=Convictions  :  Scandals=Bad Acts made public

scandals

I will admit it was difficult to come up with these numbers, nearly every site listing numbers gives a slightly different view and I did not include Sex Scandals in the numbers of which we have had many over the years.  Soooo, while these numbers are close to accurate, they may be off by one or two in each administration.  What I found fascinating in looking through the lens of history?

the big ones_scandals

Look at that would you, all those big ones.  What does that say to us?  The redder we get the more corrupt.  That no matter which side of the aisle congress falls on, whoever is in the White House sets the tone.  Is this why today we have a bunch of obstructionist clowns, criminals and hypocrites trying their damnedest to manufacture scandals to lay at the feet of this President and this administration? Thus far though we have many named scandals, not a single one have stuck except in the minds of those who would smear, those who would destroy a legacy, those who are so filled with hostility toward this President, they would do anything including destroy democracy and us, the American People in their crusade to destroy this administration.

Don’t mistake me, I can find fault with President Obama.  I wish he would lead us further down the progressive path, further to the left rather than sticking so closely to the middle.  I understand though, he is leading the entire nation, not just the part I belong too.  I wish he would end Afghanistan, bring our soldiers home for good.  I wish he would rein in the NSA, shutter the programs of his predecessor.  I wish he would stop the Drone attacks and the killing of civilians.  I wish, frankly he would stop negotiating with his haters and stand up for his base, lead the party and the nation with strong words and actions that call out the naysayers by name. But I understand, sometimes you have to act in the best interest of others to gain the best interest of an entire nation.

I thought though these little factoids were interesting, fifty years of High Crimes, Scandals and What the Hell in the face of a changing nation.  No, our President isn’t King, Dictator or any of the other names laid at his feet.  He also clearly isn’t leading the most corrupt administration in the past century.  The election and ultimately assassination of John F. Kennedy opened the door for so many things, including the opportunity for Barack Obama to become President someday.  Strange what fifty years will do to a nation.

I have to ask all those Conservatives, those Tea Party Republicans, those whatever on the Right you call yourself; what is it you want to take us back to anyway?  From where I sit back doesn’t look all that grand.

1http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/ike.htm

http://usmilitary.about.com/od/deploymentsconflicts/l/bldrafthistory.htm

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