Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Reagan debating Robert Kennedy

Ronald Reagan debated Robert F. Kennedy in 1967 (on CBS TV and radio). This is the whole transcript from the Kennedy Library. Get a cup of coffee, read it, and decide whether or not Reagan was a lightweight, as his detractors continue to claim. (Thanks to Realclearpolitics  

Discussions - 11 Comments

Something which Peter does not mention, yet is amply illustrated in this transcript, is the amount of hostility coming from the young people--mostly European--who are doing the questioning. They would have come from a generation with little or no memory of World War II. And, of course, this is the same generation that dominates the media, politics, etc., of Europe today.

Get serious. What does someone’s memory of WW2 have to do with the validity of their questions about the Vietnam war? I will say this, however: at least the majority of young people back then were asking hard questions as opposed to the young people today who are nothing more than happy contented sheep as long as they’ve got a cell phone and a cd player!
The topics of all these recent posts about Reagan are a good indicator of how desparate neocons are for anything resembling "good" news. Now about those recent polls...

"The 1960s generation was asking hard questions." I’m not sure of the truth of this. I might concede that this is superficially true. On the other hand, we should investigate what kind of questions they were asking. It seems to me that they were involved mostly in tearing down institutions including the military, government, organized religion, traditional family, media, etc., in their orgiastic celebration of nihilism. They sought to overthrow these institutions in society, often by violence, and replace them with "consciousness-raising," "participatory democracy," "love for humanity," and other such idealistic nonsense, which they had absolutely no knowledge or experience (since they were 19 or 20 years old) on how to establish. Also, going to your enemy’s capital, cheering the enemy on, and burning draft cards and American flags, while spending the other half of demonstrations smoking dope, trying to get laid, and listening to a free concert is hardly what I would consider asking the right questions. Let us not forget also that this was a small, radical group interested in the "radical chic," and that most students in the 1960s were patriotic, went to class, and did not throw rocks at police. Our leftist historical profession and media would like us to forget that fact. See the work of Kenneth Heineman for excellent examinations of the student movement by an historian at Ohio U.

What "recent polls" are you talking about? I haven’t heard any results in weeks. The last ones I heard about came in the midst of the Abu Ghraib scandal, before the formation of the new Iraqi government, before the UN vote, and before the impressive employment figures came out for May.

What "recent polls" are you talking about? I haven’t heard any results in weeks.

What? Have you been living in a cave or something? Take this one for instance:

Poll: Voters Say Iraq Didn’t Merit War.

Starbuck -that’s a typical response(feigning ingnorance) when the news isn’t to their liking. Most media outlets(CBS, NYT, etc) have updated their polls since John went into his cave. You can bet your ass though, that if Bush surges ahead in a forthcoming NYT poll, it’ll get covered here!
As far as Tony’s response is concerned, it sounds like he either wasn’t old enough to remember, or possibly not even alive back then.

Yeah, that’s me, living in my cave with the other troglodytes.

Frank Gordon’s initial response did arouse my curiosity, though, so I did some searching. I found this site, which includes a lot of polling data from a number of different sources. The consensus in the past week or so seems to be that the race is back to a virtual dead heat, which is pretty much where it was before Abu Ghraib. In other words, the Kerry spike was an epiphenomenon. That’s not to say that a Bush victory is a foregone conclusion, of course, but I’ve never claimed that.

Actually, I was born in 1970. I do have a master’s degree in modern American history, read a lot of books, and stand by my comments until you offer anything to contradict them, rather than just claiming I’m wrong. I’ve also spoken to a lot of people who weren’t smoking dope and bad-mouthing their country during the 1960s and their anecdoctal evidence indicates that the people of the New Left cannot just be simplistically praised for supposedly "asking hard questions." Chanting "Ho-Ho-Ho Chi Minh, NLF is going to win" and "Two, four, six, eight, organize and smash the state" are hardly worth more to this country than drinking lattes at Starbucks. By the way, the young people I teach are interested in education, professions, and public service, and asking hard questions, even, if you can believe this, the conservative ones.

To John Moser: The goal of the vast majority of opinion polls is to sample the US population and then construct what’s called a confidence interval in statistics. This can be very misleading since US presidential elections aren’t based on popular vote. A more sensible polling strategy would be to sample individual states and then to report electoral votes based on the polling results. This has been done. After doing some searching, I found DC’s political polls. He tracks all states and reports on the polls in each of the states. So, he has 6 categories which a state can fall into: candidate X outside margin of error, candidate X inside margin of error, too close to call, no data available, and analogously for candidate Y. He updates his site 2-3 times/wk. The bad news is that he has now started charging money(15.00/mo) to view the polling results for individual states. The last time I looked, Kerry had a lead of about 50 electoral votes.

Tony -what I have to contradict your comments and knowledge from books is my own experience. I remember very well what was going on in the 60’s, whereas you don’t. You’re obviously a neocon who parrots a certain point of view, which you’ve gained from right wing books and periodicals. But that’s okay.

That’s funny, I’ve never had that label before. Actually, I am a scholar who has read history on the 1960s ranging from Maurice Isserman and James Miller (Democracy is in the Streets) to Kenneth Heineman and William O’Neill and have used my brain to draw conclusions about them. And, based upon all of that reading, thinking, and teaching, I’ve drawn my own conclusions based upon the evidence. And, my conclusion is that, while some New Left members were intellectual and "asked hard questions" (mostly based upon their reading of Marxist or Neo-Marxist authors like William Appleman Williams),
most radicals were more interested in tearing down "the system" without any appreciable understanding of the American system.

You weren’t alive during the Civil War or American Revolution, but do you have a judgment about those events? Or, can only the people who lived at the time have an opinion?

To me, the debates most insightful comment was offered by "Mr. Bradley".
Thoughtful discussion and analysis were put aside by the youthful participants.
An American watching this would’ve learned nothing about how the young people developed their opinions about the topics brought up. Nor did any bring up how their repective nations histories might compare to that of the U.S. at certain points. I believe if the group had been able to see the errors their countries had made, there would have been a far less polemic tone to the discussion.
The groups failure to pursue the question of what a stable Asia would look like mirrored the same failure among policy makers prior to placing combat troops in Vietnam in 1965. According to David Halbertstams "The Best and the Brightest", policymakers asked tactical rather than strategic questions.
Rather than discuss why the South Vietnam was unable to stand against the insurgents, despite U. S. investments in training and materiel, discussion focused on simply putting the troops in. What exactly they were supposed to accomplish was and when was never clearly defined.
Neither Kennedy nor Reagan addressed this problem, prefering to speak in vague platitudes about freedom,
self determination, progress made, and preventing further aggression.
Not having a clear definition of what constitutes victory made the going for our troops in Vietnam impossible.
It may prove the same in Iraq.
As a taxpayer, and neighbor to some of the wonderful people whose job it is to implement the foriegn policy of our nation, I do hope Bush can do better.

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