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Eisenhower and Race

[ 26 ] November 12, 2007 |

Matt says he’s reading this book defending Eisenhower’s record on race. I haven’t read it, so maybe it makes the case. But I would be skeptical on several fronts that the book would need to be overcome:

  • I think there is, in fact, good reason to believe that Eisenhower’s appointment of Warren was not a result of a steadfast commitment to civil rights. Eisenhower, after all, promised Governor Warren an appointment after he agreed to deliver California’s delegates to him at the convention, and the fact that he was made Chief was just a fluke created by Fred Vinson’s sudden death (the first indication Felix Frankfurter ever had that there is a God); I think the patronage factor was more important. And while Warren was certainly a liberal Republican, I’m not sure that there was a strong basis for believing in 1952 that a prime author of the internment of Japanese citizens was especially progressive on race in particular. The appointment of Brennan, similarly, was almost certainly about appealing to the Catholic vote. To see these appointments as being about Eisenhower’s commitment to civil rights is to project the currents ways in which presidents select Supreme Court justices onto a previous era.
  • Although I accept the limitations of rhetoric in re: a comparison with JFK’s all-hat-no-cattle approach to civil rights, Eisenhower hanging the Supreme Court out to dry after Brown actually matters. Rhetoric is, after all, part of a president’s job. Nor, as far as I can tell, was his lukewarm-at-best reaction to desegregation inconsistent with his privately expressed thoughts on the matter. The fact that he informed Warren that southerners were not bad people, just concerned lest their “sweet little girls be seated alongside some big black bucks” also makes me question his staunch commitment to civil rights, and Nichols seems to concede that he wasn’t especially progressive in his personal views. (The “black bucks” phrasing is also relevant to Reagan’s rhetoric on the subject.)
  • The favorable comparison with Truman seems especially strange. Given that Truman actually desegregated the armed forces while Eisenhower testified against integration in Congress, to primarily credit the latter strikes me as bizarre. Under Truman, the federal government also started aggressively favoring civil rights in the federal courts by filing amicus briefs.
  • It is true, as Nichols repeated in his NYT op-ed, that LBJ watered down civil rights legislation in 1957 (and given that it was that or nothing, he was right to do so.) On the other hand, as Robert Caro points out (pp.918-9) Ike was himself unfamiliar with key provisions of his own bill, and in private correspondence said that some of its provisions were “too broad” (while reiterating his skepticism about Brown and his lack of objections to the glacial pace of desegregation.) In fairness, I am willing to believe that, like a lot of moderates, Eisenhower became more sympathetic to civil rights after Little Rock.
  • In the description, it says that Nichols “attributes Lyndon Johnson’s actions to his presidential ambitions.” This may be true, but it is also entirely irrelevant to anything. If were evaluating presidents on their records — as Nichols would like — LBJ’s is so vastly better than Ike’s that the comparison is ridiculous. Whatever motivated him — and it’s clearly silly to reduce it to any one factor — LBJ did more for civil rights than every other president of the century combined while Ike’s record was highly unimpressive.

None of this is to say that Eisenhower was especially bad for a public official of his era; he was more of a squish than an active opponent of civil rights. But it’s also true that on the crucial question of Brown, Ike hid under the covers and whimpered until violent resistance forced his hand. And while I might agree that he and JFK differed more on rhetoric than results — although I think the rhetoric is more important than he allows — to favorably compare Eisenhower with Johnson on civil rights borders on the obscene.

The Impossible Dream

[ 3 ] November 12, 2007 |

Billionaires for Bush mounts a search for the mythical family farmer affected by the estate tax. If you can find one — and a pony — you’ll get a free gift bag, so you lucky duckies should hop to it.

I’m also glad that they reminded us about Giuliani canceling a press conference because the family wasn’t wealthy enough to be a Potemkin front for the upper-upper class tax cut he was advocating…

I Guess Noon’s State Has Something Going For It

[ 0 ] November 12, 2007 |

Alaska court throws out law requiring parental consent — not notification, which is useless enough, but consent — to obtain an abortion. [Via Ann.]

Department of Huh?

[ 10 ] November 12, 2007 |

Since when did wingnuts begin ripping-off Belle Waring’s famous pony-asking thing?

Here. Have a look-see:

It’s difficult to tell what Newsbusters wants from CBS. Impartiality? The same attack on Clinton that they’ll make on Giuliani? I want a pony . . .

What’s certain is that Newsbusters wants their Republican readers to be outraged. I’ll tell you what will really outrage me: I’m never going to get a pony.

I don’t think the gag makes as much sense coming from a blogger at Ace O’ Spades, much like Lenny Bruce monologues would fall flat in the hands of Andrew “Dice” Clay.

Powerline Hits McCain’s Casting Couch

[ 1 ] November 12, 2007 |

A couple of days ago, Paul Mirengoff announced that he was going to be doing some “good, old-fashioned hard reporting” from New Hampshire. Whenever conservative bloggers start yodeling about the incompetence of “the MSM” while cheering on the blogosphere for cutting through the bullshit, I’m just going to remind them of Mirengoff’s first offering, which is an apparent non-parody of campaign journalism.

The Straight Talk Express is divided into two segments. The first consists of eight comfortable chairs. This is where the campaign staff works. The second, separated from the first by a curtain, consists of a round semi-circular sofa. It’s there, with journalists squeezed onto the sofa with him, that McCain holds court, taking question after question and not ducking any of them.

The “campaign” is essentially absent at “court.” Occasionally a staffer will stand by the curtain and listen in, but they don’t impinge on the proceedings. I recall McCain interacting with the campaign on the bus only three times yesterday. Once he asked a staffer to remind him to call the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. Once a staffer brought a blackberry and showed McCain a message. He said he’d deal with it later. Once, as we were boarding the bus after a stop, the Senator and his top confidante Mark Salter went to the back for a meeting. It lasted maybe a minute. The rest of the time it was just McCain and us.

After a leg or two, we run out of questions, so “court” becomes a conversation about politics and public policy. By the final leg, the conversation has drifted into away from politics and public policy, and into history and sports. McCain sprinkles the conversation with anecdotes – some about his travels; some about famous people he’s known. He also asks a trivia question or two.

Sweet bleeding Jesus. Really, it’s enough to make the reporting of Elisabeth Bumiller seem like a black-site interrogation. I’m almost embarrassed for these guys. I mean, did Mirengoff save the juice box McCain offered him? Did he get the trivia questions right? Who was the most famousest person McCain’s ever met? Is he ever going to be able to wash his right hand again?

Mirengoff concludes the piece with an incoherent meditation on why McCain’s chummy relationship with bloggers and reporters somehow makes him more capably presidential. Nowhere does he surrender any specifics about the questions that McCain bravely refuses to duck, none of which I suspect pertained to the dead kid whose mother he was supposed to console. But hey, the furniture was comfy and the trivia was flowing like grape Hi-C, so why spoil a pleasant bus ride?

Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: Brooke Dynasty

[ 0 ] November 12, 2007 |

In 1841, a previously unsuccessful British adventurer named James Brooke arrived in Brunei. Having served in the army twenty years before, Brooke had decided to purchase a schooner with his inheritance and make his career as a trader. At this he was less than fully successful, but his arrival in Brunei would open the door to a new career. The Sultan of Brunei was in the midst of difficulties with interior tribesmen, and Brooke found himself in a position to assist. The grateful Sultan, after some intimidation, named Brooke the Rajah of Sarawak, the territory of which made up most of the north and west of the Sultan’s domain. Brooke would steadily annex more territory from Brunei, eventually rendering his kingdom much larger than its mother country.

When Brooke died in 1868, he was succeeded by his nephew Charles Anthony Brooke. The Brookes made some administrative reforms and assisted in the fight to quell piracy, but their authority lay lightly over native institutions. In 1888, Charles Anthony Brooks accepted a British protectorate over Sarawak, formally incorporating the state in Britain’s Far East security scheme. Some infrastructure investment made possible the discovery and exploitation of oil, and the establishment of a parliament.

Charles Vyner Brooke succeeded his father in 1917, and continued to rule as his predecessors. The expansion of rubber production in Sarawak further benefited the local economy, but the presence of both oil and rubber would make Sarawak a tempting target. In December 1941 Japan invaded, and Brooke fled to Australia with his family. Small numbers of Sarawakan and Indian troops were quickly overrun, and the Japanese administered Sarawak until 1945. The merchant marine of Sarawak was incorporated into the British war effort, however, including the royal yacht, SS Vyner Brooke. SS Vyner Brooke picked up a contingent of injured soldiers and Australian nurses from Singapore just before the city fell. Unfortunately, Japanese artillery shelled and sank the ship, killing many of the nurses and soldiers. A large group of survivors escaped the wreck and arrived on Banka Island, which was also controlled by the Japanese. While a contingent from the ship left to try to surrender to the authorities, a squad of Japanese soldiers encountered the main encampment. They proceeded to shoot or bayonet all of the wounded soldiers, then machine gunned the 23 remaining nurses. One nurse survived, was eventually captured, and gave war crimes testimony against the Japanese in 1947.

After the war, Charles Vyner Brooke returned to Sarawak and briefly reassumed the throne. The war had wrought serious political changes in Southeast Asia, however, and in 1946 Brooke decided to cede his claim on Sarawak to the British government. In return, he and his three daughters received a substantial pension. Prospects for a restoration to the throne are virtually nil. Anthony Brooke, the current heir, has renounced all claims on the throne. Also, Sarawak has ceased to exist as an independent state, having been incorporated into Malaysia. While some dissent against British (eventually Malaysian) rule existed in the past, a return to independence is unlikely, and independence under the Brooke family almost unthinkable.

Trivia: The two primary pretenders to which throne are respectively the manager of a corporate home shopping branch, and a history professor?

Armistice Day

[ 27 ] November 11, 2007 |

The Great War ended 89 years ago today; I continue to prefer concrete remembrance of that war to the abstraction that is Veterans Day. Depending on how you count, there are currently between 22 and 31 surviving veterans of the First World War, up to nine of whom live in the United States. Five are British, including Henry Allingham, the only living survivor of the Battle of Jutland.

Death and Taxes

[ 0 ] November 11, 2007 |

By this guy’s logic, I should not have paid federal taxes for the last 7 years, since I don’t support just about anything the federal government has done since 2001.

More Relevant Than Ever

[ 0 ] November 11, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Warm Personality of Bill Belichick, The Mad Skillz of Norv Turner

In light of the failure of even scheduling two service academies to put a mild veneer of respectability on this marvelous Notre Dame season, I would strongly recommend picking up this highly prescient book, which I saw advertised on ESPN and I’m sure is just as persuasive as when it was published. I’m disappointed that Amazon isn’t packaging it with Bush Country, however…


[ 0 ] November 11, 2007 |

I was looking forward to taunting Ohio State fans in Cincinnati as the Ducks pulled 30 points ahead in the national championship game, then getting savagely beaten by said fans. Now, I may just have to head down to New Orleans and watch the game live…

Though Arguably the "Soul Patch" is Worse

[ 11 ] November 10, 2007 |

Rich Cohen grows a Toothbrush, otherwise known as the Hitler Mustache:

I went out. In the street, some people looked at me, but most looked away. A few people said things after I passed. One man gave me a kind of Heil, but it was lackadaisical, and I am fairly certain he was being ironic. (People can be so mean!) Even friends said nothing until I asked, or else acted embarrassed for me. A woman said, “I think you were more handsome without the mustache.” I had been worried someone might try to hurt me. I imagined toughs from the Jewish Defense League attacking with throwing stars—Jewish throwing stars! But it turns out, when you shave like Hitler, you follow the same rule you follow with bees: They’re more scared of you than you are of them. Because either you really are Hitler, or you’re a nut. So people do with little Hitlers what people always do with lunatics in New York, the harmless or dangerous—they ignore, they avert, they move away. If you want to fly coach without being hassled, grow a Toothbrush mustache.

The whole piece — which is mostly a social and political history of the Toothbrush ‘stache — is really interesting. Evidently, Americans first introduced it to Germany in the late 19th century, when the ferocious and ornate kaiserbart dominated the nation’s upper lip. As Cohen points out, the blowback from that innovation was quite profound.

Kerik’s Contribution

[ 3 ] November 10, 2007 |

Via Drum, John McCain:

“I don’t know Mr. Kerik. I do know that I went to Baghdad shortly after the initial victory and met in Baghdad with (Ambassador Paul) Bremer and (Lt. Gen. Ricardo) Sanchez. And Kerik was there. Kerik was supposed to be there to help train the police force. He stayed two months and one day left, just up and left,” McCain told reporters traveling on his campaign bus.

“That’s why I never would’ve supported him to be the head of homeland security because of his irresponsible act when he was over in Baghdad to try and help train the police. One of the reasons why we had so much trouble with the initial training of the police was because he came, didn’t do anything and then went out to the airport and left.”

But of course, as we ought to remember from our Imperial Life in th Emerald City, bailing out on the Iraqi police was probably the single greatest contribution that Bernie Kerik could have made to peace and security in Iraq. Rajiv Chadrasekaran neatly details how Kerik’s tenure with the Iraqi police force was disastrous even by CPA standards:

As they entered the Interior Ministry office in the palace, Gifford offered to brief Kerik. “It was during that period I realized he wasn’t with me,” Gifford recalled. “He didn’t listen to anything. He hadn’t read anything except his e-mails. I don’t think he read a single one of our proposals.”

Kerik wasn’t a details guy. He was content to let Gifford figure out how to train Iraqi officers to work in a democratic society. Kerik would take care of briefing the viceroy and the media. And he’d be going out for a few missions himself.

Kerik’s first order of business, less than a week after he arrived, was to give a slew of interviews saying the situation was improving. He told the Associated Press that security in Baghdad “is not as bad as I thought. Are bad things going on? Yes. But is it out of control? No. Is it getting better? Yes.” He went on NBC’s “Today” show to pronounce the situation “better than I expected.” To Time magazine, he said that “people are starting to feel more confident. They’re coming back out. Markets and shops that I saw closed one week ago have opened.”

When it came to his own safety, Kerik took no chances. He hired a team of South African bodyguards, and he packed a 9mm handgun under his safari vest.

The first months after liberation were a critical period for Iraq’s police. Officers needed to be called back to work and screened for Baath Party connections. They’d have to learn about due process, how to interrogate without torture, how to walk the beat. They required new weapons. New chiefs had to be selected. Tens of thousands more officers would have to be hired to put the genie of anarchy back in the bottle.

Kerik held only two staff meetings while in Iraq, one when he arrived and the other when he was being shadowed by a New York Times reporter, according to Gerald Burke, a former Massachusetts State Police commander who participated in the initial Justice Department assessment mission. Despite his White House connections, Kerik did not secure funding for the desperately needed police advisers. With no help on the way, the task of organizing and training Iraqi officers fell to U.S. military police soldiers, many of whom had no experience in civilian law enforcement.

“He was the wrong guy at the wrong time,” Burke said later. “Bernie didn’t have the skills. What we needed was a chief executive-level person. . . . Bernie came in with a street-cop mentality.”

Kerik authorized the formation of a hundred-man Iraqi police paramilitary unit to pursue criminal syndicates that had formed since the war, and he often joined the group on nighttime raids, departing the Green Zone at midnight and returning at dawn, in time to attend Bremer’s senior staff meeting, where he would crack a few jokes, describe the night’s adventures and read off the latest crime statistics prepared by an aide. The unit did bust a few kidnapping gangs and car-theft rings, generating a stream of positive news stories that Kerik basked in and Bremer applauded. But the all-nighters meant Kerik wasn’t around to supervise the Interior Ministry during the day. He was sleeping.

Several members of the CPA’s Interior Ministry team wanted to blow the whistle on Kerik, but they concluded any complaints would be brushed off. “Bremer’s staff thought he was the silver bullet,” a member of the Justice Department assessment mission said. “Nobody wanted to question the [man who was] police chief during 9/11.”

So don’t curse Bernie for “bailing out” on the Iraqis; if he had hung around longer, he probably would have done more damage.

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