web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘FDR’

We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Ever since FDR made it his campaign song in 1932 while running for office during the Great Depression, the unofficial anthem of the Democratic Party has been that Tin Pan Alley classic, “Happy Days are Here Again.” But no matter how often the old Victor spun, it would not be until well after Roosevelt’s death that happy days would be here again.

Like Hope and Change, Happy Days are Here Again was a blandly optimistic and non-specific promise that good times were coming. Someday the happy days would arrive, an appropriate enough sentiment for a song whose pivotal moment came in the movie “Chasing Rainbows” where it was sung to reassure a cuckolded husband who is threatening to kill himself. And in an even more appropriate bit of symbolism, the actual movie footage of that moment is as lost as the happy times.

No matter how often the Democratic Party cheats on the American people, it can always break out a new rendition of “Happy Days are Here Again” to win them back. And even if the happy days never seem to actually arrive, the promise of “So long sad times” and “Howdy gay times” where “your troubles and cares are gone” is always a winner.

While the American Democratic Party may not have an official anthem, the British Labour Party does and its anthem, “The Red Flag” would be entirely appropriate for the new Democratic Party that no longer has anything in common with Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson.

It might be awkward to imagine Harry Reid or Joe Manchin trying to make it through verses like, “The people’s flag is deepest red” and the sonorous chorus, “Then raise the scarlet standard high /Within its shade we live and die/Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer/We’ll keep the red flag flying here.”

They would probably look almost as awkward singing it as Labour Party leader Ed Milliband does, but you could easily imagine Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett belting it out. And that would be only right because while The Red Flag never gets around to mentioning Manchester, despite its popularity there, it does namecheck two cities. “In Moscow’s vaults its hymns were sung/Chicago swells the surging throng.”

These days red flag songs, once mandatory, are confined to all sorts of vaults in Moscow. The new Russian anthem is Putin’s redress of the old Soviet one, with lyrics by the same composer. And the Soviet National Anthem, that secular hymn, has a familiar pedigree going back to the Anthem of the Bolshevik Party in 1938, which took its melody from “Life is better, Life is fun.”

You might be forgiven for thinking that the Bolshevik Party had borrowed its melody from some Moscow musical, but that wasn’t the case. “Life is better, Life is fun” was based on a statement by Stalin: “Life has become better, comrades. Life has become more fun.” The year was 1935 and while it is impossible to know whether Comrade Stalin had decided to crib from the Democratic campaign of 1932, the theme was the same. So long sad times. Happy days were here again.

And just to remind everyone that happy days really were here again, Stalin began another round of brutal purges. A year earlier, Uncle Joe, as the Fireside Chatter liked to refer to one of the world’s bloodiest mass murderers, had arranged for the murder of Sergei Kirov, who was everything that Stalin wasn’t, and used the murder to begin a purge of anyone more popular than him, with the support of red flag wavers in Chicago, New York, London and Los Angeles.

Unlike Franklin, Stalin’s idea of a campaign involved a lot of firing squads to properly soak the red flag in the deepest red, while the band played, “Life is better, Life is fun.” After the purges were wrapped up, Stalin signed a pact with another red flag waver from Berlin. The Nazis and Communists might have disagreed on any number of things, but both of them had inherited the Jacobin fetish for painting a flag red with blood and then waving it while calling for more death.

While Moscow might have turned in its red card, Chicago’s “surging throng” is still swelling the polls, and even though their shirts are purple, their fingers are red from the strain of repeat voting. If there is anywhere in the United States that the red flag has gone on flying, outside of Marin County, it’s Chicago. In its shade, generations have lived and died, and now generations have begun living and dying in its shade across the country as the red flag keeps flying for another four years over D.C.

The red flags of the post-modern, post-American, post-British, post-everything revolutionaries aren’t usually as obvious as a gang of wealthy politicians staggering to a microphone once a year and belting out, “We’ll keep the red flag flying here”. It usually sounds more like the parody of that anthem, known somewhat sarcastically as  the “Battle Hymn of the New Socialist Party,”

“White collar workers stand and cheer/The Labour government is here/We’ll change the country bit by bit/So nobody will notice it.” A policy of changing the country bit by bit so none of the workers who want their benefits notices that everything else they value is being dragged away to the rubbish heap while they sleep may be sneered at by the real reds, but it’s worked quite effectively.

Tony Blair did a masterful job of changing Britain, leaving behind Neil Kinnock’s threats to take the workers into the streets if the election did not go his way. (It did not. He did not.) Kinnock proved good enough for Joe Biden to plagiarize his biography from, but the future rested with a sensible left. A New Labour that would talk like technocrats while importing unprecedented number of immigrants to change the electoral balance of the country, so that the red flag would go on flying here, even if it was green and had a crescent and a pair of crossed swords in the middle.

Instead of the flying red flag, Tony Blair’s New Labour used D:ream’s “Things can only get better” as its election anthem, which despite a title that made it sound like another, “Happy Days are Here” or “Life is better, Life is fun” was more of a love song to a Labour messiah promising to cure “prejudice and greed”.

“Walk my path/Wear my shoes/Talk like me/I’ll be an angel,” New Labour voters were promised and they fell for it. The age of the Me Generation PM was here and the new egotism resounded in lyrics like “Things can only get better/Can only get better/Now I’ve found you/(That means me)” that took both self-help and self-involvement to a whole new level. But British voters probably should have paid more attention to warning lyrics like, “I sometimes lose myself in me”.

Bill Clinton was America’s Tony Blair, but with enough Good Old Boy charm to leaven the false earnestness that led so many to hate Blair. If Blair was a liar pretending to be an honest man, Clinton was a liar pretending to be an honest man pretending to be a liar, a rotten sandwich of a paradox that you have to be a politician or an observer of them to properly appreciate. Like Blair, Clinton worked to change the country bit by bit, appealing to white collar workers and leaving the red flag in the trunk next to the road flares and the dynamite.

It’s Chicago time now and the red flag is back. Talk of changing the country bit by bit is done. Now the country is being changed aggressively, every change a finger poke in the eye of the people who don’t notice right what is in front of their faces. The cuckolding is no longer subtle. It’s more out in the open than ever and the country is being bankrupted and the middle class is being wiped out to a rousing chorus of “Happy Days are Here Again”, when an entire generation has come of age never knowing a time when happy days prevailed.

Whatever faults Kinnock and old Labour had, losing himself in himself wasn’t one of them. But the Baby Boomer and Generation X leaders had the narcissistic habit of doing just that. Clinton and Blair both lost themselves in themselves and since then never appear to have found themselves again. And Barack Obama never lost himself in himself because he never stepped out of himself to begin with.

Obama marries the red flag radicalism of the old left with generational egotism to show us the spoiled brat as leader, the tyke born with a set of silver spoons in his mouth who not only waves the red flag, but who mistakes his shamelessness for political genius. Where Clinton limited his shamelessness to his personal life, for his Democratic successor, in the tradition of both the hard left and the fellowship of mirror gazers, the personal has always been political. To the Hope and Changer, the man is the office, the state is the man, and the whim is the national agenda.

Stalin famously told his mother that he was the new Czar, transmuting collectivist revolution into the egotistical authoritarianism of one man. Obama has managed the same trick, merging revolutionary politics with his own brand until there is no longer a difference between the man and his revolution. FDR only promised happy days, but Obama has become the actual incarnation of hope, which may explain why there is no longer any hope to go around.

There is a flag flying over Washington and it’s no longer the stars and stripes, but the same red flag that flies over Chicago. It’s the red flag under whose shade misery and tyranny spreads while the band strikes up the same anthem over and over again. “Happy days are here again.” Life is better, life is fun.” “Things can only get better” and of course Obama’s victory speech promise; “The best is yet to come.”

It might have been more honest if he had instead admitted, “We’ll keep the red flag flying here.”

FDR’s Jewish Problem – And Its Japanese Link

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

It was an uneventful day at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, in the autumn of 1996. Greg Robinson, a graduate student at New York University, was researching racial issues during the Roosevelt era. While skimming an index to the former president’s papers, Robinson’s eye chanced upon an entry for FDR’s “pre-presidential writings.” Out of curiosity, Robinson ordered the file on his next visit to the library. What he found would change his entire professional life.

It turned out that when Roosevelt was spending time in Georgia in the mid-1920s, he wrote a number of articles about the hot-button topic of the day, Japanese immigration. Robinson was shocked to read these words of FDR in a 1925 column for the Macon Daily Telegraph:

“Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.”

The future president warned that “Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population.”

Not that FDR opposed all immigration; he favored the admission of some Europeans, so long as they had what he called “blood of the right sort.” In his articles, Roosevelt emphasized the need to disperse European immigrants around the country in order to speed up their assimilation – something he had proposed in a 1920 interview with the Brooklyn Eagle: “If we had the greater part of the foreign population of the City of New York distributed to different localities upstate we should have a far better condition.”

FDR’s pre-presidential writings about Japanese immigrants became the centerpiece of Robinson’s critically acclaimed 2001 book, By Order of the President. Historians have hailed Robinson, today a professor of American history at the University of Quebec at Montreal, for showing the connection between Roosevelt’s views about Asians and his otherwise inexplicable decision to intern thousands of Japanese-Americans in detention camps during World War II, even though none of them had been engaged in espionage.

But the significance of the 1920s articles does not end there. It turns out that Roosevelt’s attitude toward Asians also helps explain another inexplicable policy of his: keeping the level of Jewish immigration far below the legal limits.

Why a Ketubah Was Not Enough

The U.S. immigration system severely limited the number of German Jews admitted during the Nazi years to about 26,000 annually – but even that quota was less than 25 percent filled during most of the Hitler era, because the Roosevelt administration piled on so many extra requirements for would-be immigrants.

For example, there were instances in which an applicant showed the U.S. Consulate in Berlin a copy of his Jewish marriage certificate (ketubah) but was unable to secure his civil marriage certificate from an uncooperative Nazi bureaucrat. The Consulate refused to recognize the validity of the Jewish certificate and therefore considered the applicant’s children to be illegitimate. Having illegitimate children disqualified the applicant on the grounds of “moral character.”

Another example: as of 1941, merely having a close relative in Europe was enough to disqualify an applicant. That was because Roosevelt administration officials concocted a theory that the Nazis could threaten the relative and thereby force the immigrant to become a spy for Hitler.

Why did the administration actively seek to discourage and disqualify Jewish refugees from coming to the United States? Why didn’t the president quietly tell his State Department (which administered the immigration system) to fill the quotas for Germany and Axis-occupied countries to the legal limit?

Some 190,000 quota places from Germany and its Axis partners were left unused during the Hitler years. That means merely permitting the existing quotas to be filled would have saved an additional 190,000 lives. It would not have required a fight with Congress or the anti-immigration forces; it would have involved minimal political risk to the president. Yet the president did not do so. Why?

‘Too Many Jews’ at Harvard

Every president’s policy decisions are shaped by a variety of factors – some political, some personal. In Roosevelt’s case, a pattern of private remarks about Jews, some of which I recently discovered at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem and other sources, are revealing – and they paint a very different picture from the one presented in the new book FDR and the Jews, by Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman, recently reviewed by Gregory Wallance in The Jewish Press (front-page essay, April 12).

In 1923, for example, as a member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers, Roosevelt became concerned that, as he put it, “a third of the entering class at Harvard were Jews.” He helped institute a quota to limit the number of Jews admitted to 15 percent of each class. Even many years later, FDR was still proud of doing that – and said so to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. in 1941.

In 1938, FDR privately suggested to Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the era’s most prominent American Jewish leader, that Jews in Poland were dominating the economy and were to blame for provoking anti-Semitism there.

In 1941, Roosevelt remarked at a cabinet meeting that there were too many Jews among federal employees in Oregon.

In May 1943, President Roosevelt met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the White House to discuss the war effort and plans for the postwar era. At one point in the discussion, FDR offered what he called “the best way to settle the Jewish question.”

Vice President Henry Wallace, who recorded portions of the conversation in his diary, said Roosevelt spoke approvingly of a plan “to spread the Jews thin all over the world.”

Wallace added: “The president said he had tried this out in [Meriwether] County, Georgia [where Roosevelt lived in the 1920s] and at Hyde Park on the basis of adding four or five Jewish families at each place. He claimed that the local population would have no objection if there were no more than that.”

Limiting the Jews

The most detailed of FDR’s statements about Jews was made during his meeting on January 17, 1943, in Casablanca, with leaders of the new local regime in Allied-liberated North Africa. U.S. ambassador Robert Murphy remarked that the 330,000 Jews in North Africa were “very much disappointed that ‘the war for liberation’ had not immediately resulted in their being given their complete freedom.”

(Before the war, when the Jews lived under the colonial French regime, they enjoyed rights similar to French citizens. But when the pro-Nazi Vichy French took over the French colonies in 1940, they stripped Jews of those rights. In 1943, upon the defeat of the Vichyites, the Jews had expected their rights would be restored.)

According to the official record of the conversation (later published by the U.S. government in its “Foreign Relations of the United States” series), the president replied that “the number of Jews should be definitely limited to the percentage that the Jewish population in North Africa bears to the whole of the North African population,” which “would not permit them to overcrowd the professions.”

FDR explained that his plan “would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany, namely, that while they represented a small part of the population, over fifty percent of the lawyers, doctors, school teachers, college professors, etc, in Germany, were Jews.” (It is not clear where FDR obtained those wildly inflated statistics.)

There is evidence of other troubling private remarks by FDR. He dismissed pleas for Jewish refugees as “Jewish wailing” and “sob stuff.” He expressed (to a U.S. senator) his pride that “there is no Jewish blood in our veins.” He characterized a tax maneuver by the publisher of The New York Times as “a dirty Jewish trick.”

But the most common theme in Roosevelt’s private statements about Jews has to do with his perception that they were “overcrowding” many professions, exercising undue influence, and needed to be “spread out thin” so as to keep them in check.

FDR regarded Asians as having innate racial characteristics that made them untrustworthy. Likewise, he apparently viewed with disdain what he saw as the innate characteristics of Jews. Admitting significant numbers of “non-assimilable” Jewish or Asian immigrants did not fit comfortably in FDR’s vision of America.

FDR’s Other Motives

President Roosevelt’s unflattering private opinions about Jews do not explain everything about his response to the Holocaust. Certainly some of his decisions were motivated by other factors:

• Angering the Arabs – FDR refused to pressure the British to open Palestine to refugees because he was concerned about angering the Arab world. He told his cabinet in 1944 that he opposed a pro-Zionist resolution in Congress because it might provoke Arab terrorist attacks on Allied positions in the Mideast, leading to “the death of a hundred thousand men.” (The resolution eventually passed; it did not provoke any attacks.)

In fact, FDR was so averse to being seen as pro-Zionist that he rejected even a request to permit the Palestine [Jewish] Symphony Orchestra to name one of its theaters the “Roosevelt Amphitheatre.” No wonder Rabbi Wise privately believed FDR was “hopelessly and completely under the domination of the English Foreign Office [and] the Colonial Office.”

• Election-Year Politics: Although President Roosevelt quickly approved a 1943 proposal to create a government agency to rescue medieval art and architecture in war-torn Europe, he fought tooth and nail against creating a refugee rescue agency. Presumably the main reason was fear that helping refugees would be unpopular. In the end, though, pressure from Congress, Jewish activists, and the Treasury Department was about to explode into an election-year scandal over his administration’s sabotage of rescue opportunities. FDR pre-empted his critics by establishing the War Refugee Board in early 1944.

• Indifference: The Roosevelt administration’s rejection of requests to bomb Auschwitz seems to have stemmed primarily from a mindset that not even minimal resources should be expended on helping the Jews.

That said, the revelations about FDR’s personal prejudices do help explain key questions such as why he suppressed immigration far below its legal limits; why he turned away the refugee ship St. Louis; and why he created only one token haven, for just 982 refugees (in Oswego, NY) when there was plenty of room where refugees could have stayed temporarily until the end of the war.

Of course Roosevelt is not the only American president to have been revealed to have made unfriendly remarks about Jews. A diary kept by Harry Truman included statements such as “The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish.” Richard Nixon’s denunciations of Jews as “very aggressive and obnoxious, “ among other anti-Jewish statements, were belatedly revealed in tapes of Oval Office conversations.

But the revelation of Franklin Roosevelt’s sentiments will shock some people. After all, he led America in the war against Hitler. Moreover, FDR’s entire public persona was anchored in his image as a liberal humanitarian, his claim to care about “the forgotten man,” the downtrodden, the mistreated. All of which compounds the tragic irony of his woefully inadequate response to the Holocaust.

At Any Price

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Over the past few days I’ve seen numerous articles, effectively open letters to Obama, suggesting courses of action while here in Israel. I believe it much more important, not to advise the President, rather to speak to Israeli leaders, those now holding the reins of power in our country.

Most groups that I guide here in Hebron visit, among other places, the museum in Beit Hadassah. This site allows people to receive, over a few minutes, a comprehensive education about the history of Jewish Hebron, over hundreds of years.

One of the most emotional places in the museum is the memorial room, dedicated to the memory of 67 Jews slaughtered in Hebron during the riots in August, 1929. In words and photos, people can understand, in a relatively short period of time, the background to the atrocities committed by their next door neighbors, and the subsequent consequences.

A day prior to the beginning of the massacre, Thursday, August 22, a group of Jews belonging to the Hagana, the Jewish defense organization, visited Hebron and met with the Jewish community leaders. They offered them weapons, saying that Mufti Haj Amin El Husseini was inciting and trouble was about to erupt. Hebron’s Jews refused to take the weapons, explaining that this would only act as a provocation, that they’d already met with the city’s Arab leadership, who promised to protect them. As a result, when, the next day, the rioting commenced, they had no means of protection. The results are history.

Upon conclusion of this explanation, I express two thoughts to my audience: First, in 1967, during the Six Day War, Israel did not conquer and occupy a foreign city when arriving in Hebron. Rather, they had come home. And second: We must be able to protect ourselves. Not only on an individual basis; rather on a national level. When Israel puts its security in the hands of others, the only thing we receive in return are dead Jews. Oslo left Israeli security with Arafat. The result: some 2,000 people killed by Arab terror. Israel abandoned Gaza to the Arabs and have paid a price of some 13,000 rockets and missiles shot into Israel from the land we gave them.

These are the same two thoughts which Israeli leaders must recite to themselves, as well as to their guests, in the coming days. Israel is our homeland. Hebron is the heart of Israel. Beit El is the path via which the Patriarch Abraham toured our land, and was literally a stairway to Heaven. Shilo was home to our most sacred sanctuary for hundreds of years. And of course, Jerusalem is our eternal capital.

Israel is facing a seemingly lethal threat from Iran. Syrian weapons of mass destruction may fall into the hands of Hizballah and Hamas. We cannot and must not allow responsibility for our security to be in the hands of anyone else but ourselves. Not at any time.

While speaking of ‘settlements’ in Judea and Samaria, while discussing Jerusalem and the other holy cities in our Land, our leaders can pose simple questions to Obama and Kerry: ‘Would you, in return for a peace accord with Al-Qaeda, give them Boston or Philadelphia?” “Would you grant them total autonomy or sovereignty in a section of Washington D.C.?”

And while discussing Syria’s chemical weapons, and Iran’s nuclear weapons program, “would you allow Canada to decide if and when the United States should attack and destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons’ facilities?

Rafael Medoff, in an op-ed piece titled, Obama, FDR and Zionism in today’s Jerusalem Post, basically expresses the bottom line: 

By 1942, FDR was so averse to being seen as pro- Zionist that he rejected even a request to permit the Palestine (Jewish) Symphony Orchestra to name one of its theaters the “Roosevelt Amphitheatre… [We] asked the President about refugees, the White Paper, etc. What he proposed to do about these things. [We] made a number of suggestions to him as to what [we] thought he ought to do and the answer to all of these suggestions was ‘No’… David Niles, a close adviser to FDR, once remarked that if Roosevelt had lived (and thus Harry Truman remained vice president), he probably would not have supported the creation of Israel, and as a result the Jewish state might never have been established.

This was the ‘almighty FDR,’ who, in 1933 said:

The German authorities are treating the Jews shamefully and the Jews in this country are greatly excited. But this is also not a governmental affair. We can do nothing except for American citizens who happen to be made victims.

And what about the ‘almighty BHO’. How will he be quoted fifty or sixty years from now? “I really was very sorry, but there wasn’t anything we could do, it was too late…”

A Holocaust Pageant that Was too ‘Political’ for FDR

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Seventy years ago this week, 40,000 New Yorkers watched as Jewish activists and Hollywood celebrities joined hands to bring news of the Holocaust to the vaunted stage of Madison Square Garden. But a requested message of greeting from President Franklin D. Roosevelt never arrived, because the White House decided the mass murder of the Jews was too “political” to touch.

In January 1943, a Gallup poll asked Americans, “It is said that two million Jews have been killed in Europe since the war began. Do you think this is true or just a rumor?” Although the Allied leadership had publicly confirmed that two million Jews had been murdered, the poll found only 47 percent believed it was true, while 29 percent dismissed it as a rumor; the remaining 24 percent had no opinion.

The failure of the news media to treat the Nazi genocide as a serious issue contributed to the public’s skepticism. To some extent, editors were following the lead of the Roosevelt administration, which, after issuing a condemnation of the mass murder, made no effort to publicize the tragedy or aid Jewish refugees.

Ben Hecht, the newspaper columnist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter, responded in the way he knew best: he picked up his pen and began to write.

With his outsized dramatic sense in high gear, Hecht authored a full-scale pageant called “We Will Never Die.” On a stage featuring forty-foot-high tablets of the Ten Commandments, it would survey Jewish contributions to civilization throughout history, describe the Nazi slaughter of the Jews, and culminate in an emotional recitation of Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead, by a group of elderly rabbis.

“Will it save the four million [Jews still alive in Europe]?” Hecht wrote on the eve of the opening. “I don’t know. Maybe we can awaken some of the vacationing hearts in our government.”

Hecht was involved with a small group of Jewish activists led by Hillel Kook, a Zionist emissary from Palestine who operated under the pseudonym Peter Bergson. The Bergson Group booked Madison Square Garden for the evening of March 9 and set about trying to convince the established Jewish organizations to cosponsor “We Will Never Die.”

Bergson’s well-meaning attempt at Jewish unity flopped. A meeting of representatives of several dozen Jewish groups, hosted by Hecht, deteriorated into shouting matches. It was an example of what the historian Henry Feingold has described as the sad tendency of some Jewish organizations to “allow themselves the luxury of fiddling while Jews burned.”

Hecht succeeded, however, in persuading some of Hollywood’s most prominent Jews to volunteer their services. Actors Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, Sylvia Sydney and Stella Adler assumed the lead roles; Kurt Weill composed an original score; Moss Hart agreed to serve as director, and famed impresario Billy Rose signed on as producer.

It was Rose who decided to approach Roosevelt. Through White House adviser David Niles, Rose asked the president for a “brief message” that could be read aloud at the pageant. Nothing bold or controversial, of course – something that would say “only that the Jews of Europe will be remembered when the time comes to make the peace.”

Rose assured the White House, “There is no political color to our Memorial Service.”

But apparently even the very mention of the Jews was “political” in the eyes of official Washington. White House aides warned the president that sending the requested message would be “a mistake.” Despite Rose’s assurance, “it is a fact that such a message would raise a political question,” Henry Pringle of the Office of War Information advised.

What Pringle meant was that publicizing the slaughter could raise the “political question” of how America was going to respond to the Nazi genocide. And since Roosevelt had decided the U.S. was not going to take any specific steps to aid the Jews, raising that question would be embarrassing. Hence Rose was informed that the “stress and pressure” of the president’s schedule made it impossible for FDR to provide the few words of comfort and consolation the Bergson Group sought.

None of this deterred the irrepressible Ben Hecht and his comrades from making sure the show would go on. More than 20,000 people jammed Madison Square Garden on the frigid evening of March 9. Since there were so many people gathered on the sidewalks outside who were unable to enter the packed hall, the cast decided to do a second performance immediately after the first. The second show, too, filled the Garden.

We’ll Keep the Red Flag Flying Here and Other Jingles

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Ever since FDR made it his campaign song in 1932 while running for office during the Great Depression, the unofficial anthem of the Democratic Party has been that Tin Pan Alley classic, “Happy Days are Here Again.” But no matter how often the old Victor spun, it would not be until well after Roosevelt’s death that happy days would be here again.

Like Hope and Change, Happy Days are Here Again was a blandly optimistic and non-specific promise that good times were coming. Someday the happy days would arrive, an appropriate enough sentiment for a song whose pivotal moment came in the movie “Chasing Rainbows” where it was sung to reassure a cuckolded husband who is threatening to kill himself. And in an even more appropriate bit of symbolism, the actual movie footage of that moment is as lost as the happy times.

No matter how often the Democratic Party cheats on the American people, it can always break out a new rendition of “Happy Days are Here Again” to win them back. And even if the happy days never seem to actually arrive, the promise of “So long sad times” and “Howdy gay times” where “your troubles and cares are gone” is always a winner.

While the American Democratic Party may not have an official anthem, the British Labour Party does and its anthem, “The Red Flag” would be entirely appropriate for the new Democratic Party that no longer has anything in common with Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson.

It might be awkward to imagine Harry Reid or Joe Manchin trying to make it through verses like, “The people’s flag is deepest red” and the sonorous chorus, “Then raise the scarlet standard high /Within its shade we live and die/Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer/We’ll keep the red flag flying here.”

They would probably look almost as awkward singing it as Labour Party leader Ed Milliband does, but you could easily imagine Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett belting it out. And that would be only right because while The Red Flag never gets around to mentioning Manchester, despite its popularity there, it does namecheck two cities. “In Moscow’s vaults its hymns were sung/Chicago swells the surging throng.”

These days red flag songs, once mandatory, are confined to all sorts of vaults in Moscow. The new Russian anthem is Putin’s redress of the old Soviet one, with lyrics by the same composer. And the Soviet National Anthem, that secular hymn, has a familiar pedigree going back to the Anthem of the Bolshevik Party in 1938, which took its melody from “Life is better, Life is fun.”

You might be forgiven for thinking that the Bolshevik Party had borrowed its melody from some Moscow musical, but that wasn’t the case. “Life is better, Life is fun” was based on a statement by Stalin: “Life has become better, comrades. Life has become more fun.” The year was 1935 and while it is impossible to know whether Comrade Stalin had decided to crib from the Democratic campaign of 1932, the theme was the same. So long sad times. Happy days were here again.

And just to remind everyone that happy days really were here again, Stalin began another round of brutal purges. A year earlier, Uncle Joe, as the Fireside Chatter liked to refer to one of the world’s bloodiest mass murderers, had arranged for the murder of Sergei Kirov, who was everything that Stalin wasn’t, and used the murder to begin a purge of anyone more popular than him, with the support of red flag wavers in Chicago, New York, London and Los Angeles.

Unlike Franklin, Stalin’s idea of a campaign involved a lot of firing squads to properly soak the red flag in the deepest red, while the band played, “Life is better, Life is fun.” After the purges were wrapped up, Stalin signed a pact with another red flag waver from Berlin. The Nazis and Communists might have disagreed on any number of things, but both of them had inherited the Jacobin fetish for painting a flag red with blood and then waving it while calling for more death.

While Moscow might have turned in its red card, Chicago’s “surging throng” is still swelling the polls, and even though their shirts are purple, their fingers are red from the strain of repeat voting. If there is anywhere in the United States that the red flag has gone on flying, outside of Marin County, it’s Chicago. In its shade, generations have lived and died, and now generations have begun living and dying in its shade across the country as the red flag keeps flying for another four years over D.C.

The red flags of the post-modern, post-American, post-British, post-everything revolutionaries aren’t usually as obvious as a gang of wealthy politicians staggering to a microphone once a year and belting out, “We’ll keep the red flag flying here.” It usually sounds more like the parody of that anthem, known somewhat sarcastically as  the “Battle Hymn of the New Socialist Party,”

“White collar workers stand and cheer/The Labour government is here/We’ll change the country bit by bit/So nobody will notice it.” A policy of changing the country bit by bit so none of the workers who want their benefits notices that everything else they value is being dragged away to the rubbish heap while they sleep may be sneered at by the real reds, but it’s worked quite effectively.

Tony Blair did a masterful job of changing Britain, leaving behind Neil Kinnock’s threats to take the workers into the streets if the election did not go his way. (It did not. He did not.) Kinnock proved good enough for Joe Biden to plagiarize his biography from, but the future rested with a sensible left. A New Labour that would talk like technocrats while importing unprecedented number of immigrants to change the electoral balance of the country, so that the red flag would go on flying here, even if it was green and had a crescent and a pair of crossed swords in the middle.

Instead of the flying red flag, Tony Blair’s New Labour used D:ream’s “Things can only get better” as its election anthem, which despite a title that made it sound like another, “Happy Days are Here” or “Life is better, Life is fun” was more of a love song to a Labour messiah promising to cure “prejudice and greed”.

“Walk my path/Wear my shoes/Talk like me/I’ll be an angel,” New Labour voters were promised and they fell for it. The age of the Me Generation PM was here and the new egotism resounded in lyrics like “Things can only get better/Can only get better/Now I’ve found you/(That means me)” that took both self-help and self-involvement to a whole new level. But British voters probably should have paid more attention to warning lyrics like, “I sometimes lose myself in me.”

Bill Clinton was America’s Tony Blair, but with enough Good Old Boy charm to leaven the false earnestness that led so many to hate Blair. If Blair was a liar pretending to be an honest man, Clinton was a liar pretending to be an honest man pretending to be a liar, a rotten sandwich of a paradox that you have to be a politician or an observer of them to properly appreciate. Like Blair, Clinton worked to change the country bit by bit, appealing to white collar workers and leaving the red flag in the trunk next to the road flares and the dynamite.

It’s Chicago time now and the red flag is back. Talk of changing the country bit by bit is done. Now the country is being changed aggressively, every change a finger poke in the eye of the people who don’t notice right what is in front of their faces. The cuckolding is no longer subtle. It’s more out in the open than ever and the country is being bankrupted and the middle class is being wiped out to a rousing chorus of “Happy Days are Here Again”, when an entire generation has come of age never knowing a time when happy days prevailed.

Whatever faults Kinnock and old Labour had, losing himself in himself wasn’t one of them. But the Baby Boomer and Generation X leaders had the narcissistic habit of doing just that. Clinton and Blair both lost themselves in themselves and since then never appear to have found themselves again. And Barack Obama never lost himself in himself because he never stepped out of himself to begin with.

Obama marries the red flag radicalism of the old left with generational egotism to show us the spoiled brat as leader, the tyke born with a set of silver spoons in his mouth who not only waves the red flag, but who mistakes his shamelessness for political genius. Where Clinton limited his shamelessness to his personal life, for his Democratic successor, in the tradition of both the hard left and the fellowship of mirror gazers, the personal has always been political. To the Hope and Changer, the man is the office, the state is the man, and the whim is the national agenda.

Stalin famously told his mother that he was the new Czar, transmuting collectivist revolution into the egotistical authoritarianism of one man. Obama has managed the same trick, merging revolutionary politics with his own brand until there is no longer a difference between the man and his revolution. FDR only promised happy days, but Obama has become the actual incarnation of hope, which may explain why there is no longer any hope to go around.

There is a flag flying over Washington and it’s no longer the stars and stripes, but the same red flag that flies over Chicago. It’s the red flag under whose shade misery and tyranny spreads while the band strikes up the same anthem over and over again. “Happy days are here again.” Life is better, life is fun.” “Things can only get better” and of course Obama’s victory speech promise; “The best is yet to come.”

It might have been more honest if he had instead admitted, “We’ll keep the red flag flying here.”

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Drinking for the State

Monday, January 7th, 2013

There was a time when the United States government ran on hooch. Hard up for cash, taxes on whiskey and beer funded the Civil War. With 40 percent of government revenues coming from liquor taxes, alcohol made the dramatic post-war expansion of government possible so that by the 20th Century, the Federal government would have been unrecognizable in scope and function to a man of the 1800s, but would have been all too familiar to us.

The Department of Education was created in 1867, the Department of Justice in 1870, the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903. Within that time, the Federal government had become concerned with every aspect of life throughout the country. After the Civil War, the same whiskey taxes that had paid for cannons, aerial balloons and widows’ pensions began paying for the transformation of the government into a booming engine of social change.

During the same period that the government was being unrecognizably reshaped, the major cities were being transformed by a tremendous immigration boom. Immigration had made it possible for the Union to win the war by providing an endless supply of fresh bodies to throw into the fight. German, Irish and Jewish immigrants came by the hundreds of thousands and made the Union victory possible.

Republican Progressives had looked forward to freeing the slaves, but were far less enthusiastic about filling the country with Catholics and Jews, who were not only bound for Democratic precincts, but did not share their faith. Germany had produced a liberal variant of Judaism that was rather close to Unitarianism and had prospered nicely among upper class Jews in the United States, but the Jewish immigrants who were arriving were members of a more traditional faith in Russia and Eastern Europe. But it was the Catholics who truly worried them.

The Draft Riots during the Civil War had to be put down with the military and the armories were a hulking reminder that the cities could go up in flame at any moment if the Democratic Party’s radicals chose to light a match. Those same Catholic immigrants had been invaluable to building the Union, but with the South defeated, and the expansion of the Union underway, they had become a problem.

Progressive reformers cast an uneasy eye on the slums and the Democratic political machines that ran them and pursued a grab bag of strategies for curing their ills, from birth control to temperance to socialism.

The progressive vision of a New America was being funded by liquor taxes, but a combination of bigotry and health-nuttery, which was another of the elements of the modern country taking off, brought quite a few reformers around to temperance. Associating Catholics with liquor, they went after liquor itself. But liquor could not be outlawed, without also outlawing big government.

For the practical politician the link between liquor and big government was a web that should not be touched. The drinking American was making big government possible and should be left to drink in peace. But progressive reformers are ever deaf to such logic and quick to cut Gordian knots. Faced with a liquor revenue problem, they contrived a solution in the form of the personal income tax.

The personal income tax was unconstitutional, but with the end of the post-Civil War era and the revival of the Democratic Party as a progressive political movement, the country had entered a period where the Constitution meant very little. During the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations, that document, then not very much more than a century old, had come to be regarded as an outmoded work with very little relevance to modern times.

The Anti-Saloon League, rising out of the mists of an uncertain time, had assembled a coalition encompassing Klansmen, Suffragists, Socialists and Preachers focused on a single-minded agenda, but pushing whatever laws it had to along the way to reach its goal. And the road to Prohibition lay through such policy territories as the personal income tax.

Prohibition today is remembered mainly for the quaint scenes of smugglers and lawmen chasing each other on dark roads, speakeasies where liquor made in massive illegal stills was served and the end of national integrity as an age of national hypocrisy was ushered in by wet politicians who voted dry. But Prohibition as a phenomenon matters little compared to the ways in which the campaign to achieve it and then hold on to it transformed the country.

December 31st, 1912

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

The next year  sweeps around the earth like the hand of a clock, from Australia to Europe and across the great stretch of the Atlantic it rides the darkness to America. And then around and around again, each passing day marking another sweep of the hours.

In Times Square crowds of tourists gather in clumps behind police barricades, clutching corporate swag beneath video billboards shifting and humming in the cool air. And the same scene repeats in other squares and other places even if it doesn’t feel like there is a great deal to celebrate.

While the year makes its first pass around the world, let us leave it behind, open a door in time and step back to another year, a century past.

December 31, 1912. The crowds are just as large, though the men wear hats. People use the word gay with no touch of irony. Liquor is harder to come by because the end of the year, one hundred years ago, has fallen on a Sunday.  There are more dances and fewer corporate brands. Horns are blown, and the occasional revolver fired into the air, a sight unimaginable in the controlled celebrations of today’s urban metropolis.

The Hotel Workers Union strike fizzled out on Broadway though a volley of bricks was hurled at the Hotel Astor during the celebrations. New York’s finest spent the evening outside the Rockefeller mansion waiting to subpoena the tycoon in the money trust investigation. And the Postmaster General inaugurated the new parcel service by shipping a silver loving cup from Washington to New York.

On Ellis Island, Castro, a bitter enemy of the United States, and the former president of Venezuela, had been arrested for trying to sneak into the country while the customs officers had their guard down. Gazing at the Statue of Liberty, Castro denied that he was a revolutionary and bitterly urged the American masses to rise up and tear down the statue in the name of freedom.

Times Square has far fewer billboards and no videos, but it does have the giant Horn and Hardart Automat which opened just that year, where food comes from banks of vending machines giving celebrating crowds a view of the amazing world of tomorrow for the world of 1912 is after all like our own. We can open a door into the past, but we cannot escape the present.

The Presidential election of 1912, like that of 2012, ended in disaster. Both Taft and Roosevelt lost and Woodrow Wilson won. In the White House, President Taft met with cabinet members and diplomats for a final reception.

Woodrow Wilson, who would lead America into a bloody and senseless war, subvert its Constitution, and begin the process of making global government and statism into the national religion of his party, was optimistic about the new year. “Thirteen is my lucky number,” he said. “It is curious how the number 13 has figured in my life and never with bad fortune.”

Americans of 2013 face the light bulb ban. Americans of 1913 were confronted with the matchstick ban as the Esch bill in Congress outlawed phosphorus “strike ‘em on your pants” matches by imposing a $1,000 tax on them. This was deemed to be Constitutional. In Indianapolis, the train carrying union leaders guilty of the dynamite plot was making its secret way to Federal prison even while the lawyers of the dynamiters vowed to appeal.

The passing year, a century past, had its distinct echoes in our own time. There had been, what the men of the time, thought of as wars, yet they could not even conceive of the wars shortly to come. There were the usual dry news items about the collapse of the government in Spain, a war and an economic crisis in distant parts of the world that did not concern them.

A recession was here, after several panics, and though there was plenty of cheer, there was also plenty of worry. The Federal Reserve Act would be signed at the end of 1913, partly in response to the economic crisis.

Socialism was on the march with the Socialist Party having doubled its votes in the national election.  All three major candidates, Wilson, Roosevelt and Taft, had warned that the country was drifting toward Socialism and that they were the only ones who could stop it. The influence of corporations was heatedly debated and the Catholic Church clashed with Socialists.

Obama’s Last Stand

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Democrats do not have a great track record in the White House. The number of Democratic presidents who have won second terms is small and becomes much smaller with the second half of the 20th Century. Unlike Congressional shifts which reflect regional politics more than a national referendum, the Presidency is a referendum on the usages of the nearly unlimited power of its holder.

The Democratic strategy has been to substitute iconography for competence and their iconic presidents have invariably been men of dubious character. FDR rode to power on the coattails of the Roosevelt name, after conducting a smear campaign against Teddy Roosevelt’s son who would have been the natural candidate.

Once in power, FDR assembled a grab-bag of bad ideas from European Socialists and Fascists and employed a small army of writers and artists as propagandists to lionize his programs. Marginally competent, Roosevelt the Second cultivated an aristocratic paternal air, surrounded himself with experts and programs to create public confidence.

FDR did not fix the economy, but he did lead the country through World War II while preemptively losing World War III, which was enough to give him the iconic status that had made his presidency possible.

The Roosevelt Administration, with an assist from Harry Truman, had largely created the Soviet Empire through its betrayal of Eastern Europe and the Republic of China. The Liberal camp had been thoroughly infiltrated by Communist agents and was full of sympathizers for the Soviet Union.
Before WW2 the USSR had been a regional backwater power with a network of international agents at its beck and call. After WW2, Communists were on the verge of swallowing up Western Europe and had taken China.

Truman’s disastrous China policy led to the Communist takeover of a potential world power and to the bloody Korean War. The aftermath of the FDR Administration was largely preoccupied with covering up the disastrous results of its Communist-friendly program. The campaigns against McArthur and McCarthy were necessary to cover up the consequences of Truman’s China policy and FDR’s USSR policy.

The Democrats lost the White House and the public turned to Eisenhower to clean up the strategic mess left behind by the progressive party. The great national crisis was Communism and the Democrats had not seen the crisis coming and had no credibility in deploying a policy to combat the Soviet Union.

To retake the White House the Democrats needed a new image and a candidate with credibility fighting Communism. That candidate was to be a Kennedy, a member of a family at odds with FDR due to its Nazi sympathies, whose patriarch had taken careful care to burnish the Anti-Communist credentials of his sons.

FDR had been the avuncular figure in the chair; JFK was to be the youth candidate. The new man, a creature of the old Joe Kennedy, with fresh new ideas written for him by ghostwriters. Like FDR, JFK was a manufactured figure. And like him, JFK was a man of ideas with no ideas who disguised that lack with an army of experts and the cultivated illusion of intellectualism.

JFK was not particularly Anti-Communist, but that was a necessary qualification for any candidate looking to carry on FDR’s work. The Democratic Party had adapted to the collapse of its old coalition of New York merchants and Southern plantation owners after the Civil War by embracing Republican Unionism with a vengeance and jettisoning the last of Jefferson to become the party of big government.

FDR had borrowed Lincoln’s ruthless unionism and blended it with Teddy Roosevelt’s anti-monopolism; mixing together the work of two Republican presidents and claiming it for his own. JFK similarly took up elements of a Republican civil rights program and blended it with their aggressive Anti-Communism to create a new Democratic identity.

The underlying program in both administrations had nothing to do with the depression or war; but of building up a national political machine using the same methods of urban political machines. The core ingredient was class warfare. FDR put a genteel patina over class warfare while JFK phrased it as an idealistic ambitious form of American Exceptionalism that made it seem American.
FDR and JFK both borrowed Lincoln’s martyrdom, FDR by acting as a long-serving wartime president, and JFK, posthumously through his assassination. Obama has taken on a crude form of that martyrdom by virtue of race.

JFK’s death left his upgrade of Eisenhower’s “Dime Store New Deal” unfinished. LBJ took up the baton as the consequences of Vietnam tore apart the coalition between Liberals and Leftists leading to a culture war.

FDR died before events would have forced him to block Communist ambitions in Europe and turned the intelligentsia against him, allowing him to retain the services of the progressive propaganda corps. But JFK’s façade of Anti-Communism had committed him to international policies that broke apart the coalition between Liberals and Leftists. As much as the left might have supported JFK’s domestic program, and even forgiven his domestic show of affiliation with the Anti-Communists, by the time he was replaced by LBJ, the stress fractures were just too big and they tore apart the Democratic Party.

After that the Democrats lost the ability to compete on national security. Their attempts at salvaging the white male vote led them to two southern governors. Carter imploded on National Security, but Clinton thrived through two terms in the Post-Soviet period when history no longer seemed to matter. But history did matter.

The Communism menace had risen on FDR’s watch. Muslim terrorism began its ascent under JFK and reached critical levels under Clinton. The Democratic failures on Communism made Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan possible. Their failures on Islamism made Bush possible.

Obama was the third Democratic bid at an iconographic presidency. Like FDR, he was confronted with an economic crisis, and like JFK he faced a global conflict. And like both men, he proved inept at handling both, relying on armies of experts and making unwise decisions. As with JFK’s first term, the consequences of his foreign policy have not still struck home with a decisive enough emphasis to turn the public against him, but unlike FDR, there is no war to distract from the economic situation.

Obama has been running on his iconography for a while now and like an old beat up car, he never noticed that it gave out on him a while back. The debate was a wakeup call, but it won’t be the last one. He has to run on something, but he can’t run on the economy or race and that just leaves national security. The Benghazi attack emphasized the disastrous consequences of his foreign policy, but they also did him a favor by shifting the debate to the foreign policy arena.

With FDR fading and the cult of JFK not as strong as it used to be in the twilight of the Boomers, the Democratic Party needed a third icon to further integrate its political machine into the infrastructure of the government.

The Democrats needed to win badly in 2008 because it put them in a position of exploiting a crisis to protect and expand their institutions, both private and public, that might have otherwise been targeted by a Republican on an austerity mission. Defeating McCain, who despite his own reputation for pork had a cost-cutting streak, was a major victory because it avoided the specter of having McCain do to them what Prime Minister Cameron, another non-conservative conservative, had done to the institutions of the liberal state in the UK. Defeating Romney, who is also running as a cost-cutter, is an even bigger priority for the same reason.

The ideological and emotional issues are secondary to this core bureaucratic mandate of protecting the political machine that the post-Civil War Democratic Party had built up. Unlike Bush, Romney is not running as a compassionate conservative looking to reconcile social spending with conservative politics. And Romney’s campaign is not focused on the international politics that might divert him from putting the domestic house in order.

Pushing Romney back into Bush territory, as Benghazi may have done, may neuter him even if he wins, and shifts the focus away from the economy. But the public does not appear prepared to follow that shift with polls still showing the economy as the primary focus. And that focus contains a dangerous trap.

Any shift to foreign policy risks a dangerous discussion about the Islamist rise to power that was aided and abetted by Obama, in the same way that FDR had aided and abetted the rise of Communism. The Democrats did not survive the debate when it broke out during the Truman Administration. Should an honest discussion begin about the defeat in Afghanistan and the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the Middle East under the guise of the Arab Spring, the result may be as great a blow to Obama’s prospects.

Obama’s last stand is also the Democratic Party’s last stand. A hundred years of foreign policy and economic failures at the hands of a corrupt mafia is about to come home to roost. The Democratic Party has marginalized itself, abandoning mainstream Americans while openly embracing a trillion dollar welfare state.

Iconography elevated Obama as it did FDR and JFK, but it cannot see him through a constellation of crises. And if he falls, then his party falls with him.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/obamas-last-stand/2012/10/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: