Tag Archives: USSR

How about returning to the moon? How about going farther?

President Kennedy already had initiated the race to the moon. The United States was a distant second to the Soviet Union when he declared his intention to ensure that we “send a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s.

Then the president implored us on. “We don’t do these things because they are easy,” he said. “We do them because they are hard.”

Well, Americans got to the moon first. It was 49 years ago today that the late Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder onto the moon’s dusty surface and pronounced, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

He thrilled the folks back home. Not just in our country, but everywhere. Perhaps even in the Soviet Union.

Mission accomplished.

We sent several more missions to the moon. Astronauts planted flags, dug up lunar dirt and brought it back, they drove around on “lunar dune buggies,” and one of them — the first American in space, the late Alan Shepard — even hit a chip shot that went for “miles and miles.”

Then we stopped going to the moon. It became too expensive. The public lost interest. We won the race. The act of launching three people into space aboard a flaming rocket carrying many thousands of pounds of flammable fuel no longer fascinated the American public.

I am one American who lived through that exciting time. I want them to return.

Subsequent presidents have given somewhat tepid support for the initiative of returning to deep space. The end of the Cold War in 1991 removed the Soviet Union from the world landscape. The Soviet descendants, though, have continued to send explorers into space. They now carry passengers with them. Some of them are Americans.

I am acutely aware of the expense of such exploration. However, it was what we were put on this Earth to do, to reach beyond our planetary comfort and to learn more about the world beyond.

Donald J. Trump has continued the presidential push — such as it’s been — to return one day to space. I want NASA to redevelop its own manned program. It’s what we do — and we do it well.

My sense is that enough time has passed since the last moon mission that we’ll get quite excited when the next rocket blasts off into the heavens with crews that will take the next “giant leap for mankind.”

Once upon a time, Republicans mistrusted the Russians

There once was a time, not that long ago, when Republican Party politicians bristled at the notion of cozying up to Russia, the direct descendants of what President Reagan once called The Evil Empire.

They would rant and roar at the prospect of Democrats talking nice to the Russians. They would argue that the Russians weren’t to be trusted as far as we could throw them.

The 2012 GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, called Russia the world’s greatest geopolitical adversary of this nation. Democrats laughed at Mitt. I admit to being one of the critics who dismissed Mitt’s view; I regret what I said then.

These days the one-time Party of Reagan has been captured and co-opted by Donald J. Trump. The current president is unlike any human being who’s ever been elected to the high office.

He talks nice to the Russians. Get this: He now disparages and disrespects our allies. He scolds our North Atlantic Treaty Organization friends for failing to pay enough to defend themselves. The president’s NATO diatribe plays directly into the hands of Russia.

I’m trying to imagine what the Republican Party hierarchy would do if, say, Barack H. Obama had done any of the things that his immediate successor has done. They would collapse into spasms of apoplexy. They would call for the president’s head on a platter. They would impeach him in a New York nano-second.

This is a strange new world, dear reader. It’s making me nervous.

The president of the United States is supposed to be a source of wisdom, stability and dignity. Instead, we have someone at the top of our governmental chain of command who has turned everything on its head.

What’s more, the political party with which he is affiliated is buying into it. The Russians are the good guys now? We are scolding our allies and giving comfort to our No. 1 adversary?

Wow!

NATO remains our most important alliance

On one hand, Donald Trump is right to insist that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member nations pay more for their defense.

The president, though, is talking way past the sale with his relentless attacks on our nation’s alliance in Europe, the one created after World War II as a defense against potential aggression by the Soviet Union.

He is insulting the heads of state and government of virtually all those nations. He suggests Russia controls Germany because it sells the Germans oil and natural gas. Holy crap, man! Does the president have any clue as to what Europeans are thinking and saying out loud about his own relationships with the Russia and the former chief KGB spook who runs that country?

NATO remains as credible, viable and important today as it was at its founding. For the president of the United States to undermine an alliance full of nations that came to our defense after 9/11 plays directly into the hands of Vladimir Putin, whose mission as Russian president has been to, um, undermine NATO.

I wonder if Putin is going to thank Trump when they meet in Helsinki for doing his job for him.

Trump and Putin by themselves? What can go wrong?

Donald J. Trump and Vladimir Putin are going to meet later this month in Helsinki, Finland.

You know that already.

Here’s the kicker. The two men are going to spend some time by themselves, with only an interpreter present, in the same room.

There won’t be any senior aides. No secretary of state. No foreign minister. No national security aides.

Just the two of them.

Wow! What can go wrong with that?

Putin’s a battle-hardened veteran of summits with U.S. presidents. Trump is, um, not so experienced at this level of diplomacy — and I use the term “diplomacy” with extreme caution as it regards the president.

I’m jittery in the extreme about what Trump might give away to Putin in that one-on-one session with the former head of the KGB, the spy agency that used to dig up dirt for the Soviet Union.

Oh, and do you believe Trump is going to challenge Putin in any meaningful way about the Russian meddling in our 2016 election?

You can stop laughing any time now.

So, what about nuclear preparedness?

Hawaii residents were shaken to their core over the weekend when they thought for what seemed like forever that they were going to be blown to bits in a nuclear attack.

Their cell phones sounded an alarm and it took 38 minutes for them to learn the truth: It was a false alarm.

But, this incident begs many questions. Why did it take so long to call off the statewide panic? How did an employee “push the wrong button”?

And then there’s this: What kind of preparation are other communities throughout the United States making in case of a real nuclear attack?

I’ve been thinking about that for the past day or so. What would happen if some enemy nation launched missiles aimed at a Department of Energy facility just northeast of Amarillo, Texas? You know about which I am mentioning here: Pantex, the sprawling compound in Carson County where this nation stores nuclear warheads. Many of us here refer to it light-heartedly as “The Bomb Factory.”

But it’s no joke. They do serious work out there.

What has Amarillo done to prepare for such an event?

I have lived in the Texas Panhandle for 23 years. So help me, I never have heard about a community emergency response system. Whatever it is, I don’t know where to go.

I grew up, of course, in the duck-and-cover era when the United States faced off against the Soviet Union, the other nuclear superpower. It was just Uncle Sam vs. the Big Ol’ Bear. Us vs. Them. Good Guys vs. the Bad Guys.

Today’s world is different. The USSR morphed back into Russia, but they’ve still got plenty of nukes. So do several other nations: India, Pakistan, South Africa, China, the UK, France … maybe Israel.

Oh, and North Korea!

The SNAFU in Hawaii has alerted all of us — or at least it should alert us — that the nuclear threat remains dire, perhaps even more so than it was during the Cold War.

Are we prepared? If someone out there has a plan, let’s hear it.

I’m all ears.

No armchair diagnoses, please

You may count me as one who takes a dim view of those who think they can diagnose medical matters from a distance.

There’s a good bit of that going around these days as it relates to the behavior of the president of the United States, one Donald John Trump Sr.

Yes, he’s acting squirrely. And yes, he tweets messages that sound as if they come from a junior high schooler. He goads a dictator with nuclear bombs. He insults media representatives, politicians and a particular book author … not to mention at least one key former White House aide.

Does any of this mean the man is certifiably crazy? Is he nuts? Is he unfit mentally to be commander in chief?

I am not qualified to answer any of that. Neither are the “experts” who keep insisting the president needs to be kicked out of office on the basis of someone’s long-distance assessment of Trump’s mental fitness.

They don’t know of which they speak.

More than 50 years ago the nation had this same discussion about the late Republican U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who ran for president in 1964 against President Johnson. Goldwater was deemed to be nuttier than a fruitcake because he talked openly about going to war with the Soviet Union, the world’s other great nuclear power at the time.

Someone wrote a book about Sen. Goldwater and put in writing what many were saying out loud. Goldwater sued the author for libel and won. Then came something called the “Goldwater Rule,” which disallows people from issuing medical diagnoses without examining the person about whom they are talking.

I believe we should keep that in mind as we discuss Donald Trump’s conduct of the high office he occupies.

There might be political reasons to remove this guy. They haven’t emerged; perhaps they never will emerge. Medical assessments are best left to those who get close enough to the subject to offer them.

The rest of us are just firing pot shots from the peanut gallery.

Senators concerned about POTUS and the nukes

More than 40 years ago, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked some tough questions about the president of the United States’ fitness to be in command of the nuclear launch codes.

President Richard Nixon was being swallowed up by the Watergate crisis. Questions arose about whether the president would do something foolish in a moment of intense political anguish.

Concerns arise once again

Flash forward. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee of today is now concerned, apparently, with the current president’s ability to handle this awesome responsibility. Senators didn’t come to any conclusions or seek any substantial change in the policy, but they got to air their concerns on the record about Donald John Trump.

As Politico reports: “We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that yielded few clear answers about checks on the commander in chief’s power. “Let’s just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment.”

Though Republicans were not as vocal about their concern, some did express worry that one person alone can make the decision to launch a nuclear war.

The president hasn’t yet demonstrated the complete understanding of command and control. He keeps popping off via Twitter, threatening North Korea with destruction.

And oh yes, the president has virtually sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. The policy was designed during the Cold War when the United States need a quick response in case the Soviet Union decided to launch missiles against us.

The Cold War is over, although the peril of a nuclear strike remains acute, given the enormous number of nuclear-armed nations around the world.

Which requires a U.S. president to be of sound temperament and judgment. The Senate panel today sought to explore those issues today as it relates to the current commander in chief.

Given the president’s behavior and the goofiness of his public pronouncements, senators have ample reason to wonder out loud about the commander in chief’s ability to keep us safe.

First thought on JFK murder? The Soviets did it!

I was a mere pup of nearly 14 years of age on Nov. 22, 1963.

I was home that day, nursing a bad cold. Mom and Dad had gone to work. My sisters were at school. I was watching TV when the news bulletin flashed on the screen: “Shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas, Texas; no word on whether the president was injured.”

The “word” came quickly. The president was rushed to a hospital. Doctors worked to save his life. They failed. Then came the announcement: “President Kennedy is dead.”

My first thought in the moment was clear and simple: The Soviet Union did it. Not only that, they were going to invade us immediately. The United States was without a president. We had no leadership.

Remember that I wasn’t yet 14. My mind ran wild.

I remember those initial thoughts today as Donald Trump has released many thousands of previously classified documents related to the Kennedy assassination. I’m hearing lots of talk that conspiracy theorists are going to run wild with this stuff. It’s going to substantiate their already-loony belief that someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was involved. It was the Mob, the Cubans, the CIA, the FBI, LBJ, men from Mars, the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I settled down over the years about what I truly believe happened that terrible day.

My 13-year-old concern about the Soviets was ill-founded, to state the obvious. I didn’t realize in the moment that Vice President Lyndon Johnson took the presidential oath of office in Dallas. He took command immediately. And the Big Bad Bear didn’t attack us.

I have grown up since then and have come to believe that Oswald did it. He acted alone. He snuck into the Book Depository Building. He waited for the president’s motorcade to pass under the sixth-floor window where he was perched. He squeezed off three rounds and fled. He got caught in the theater, shot the Dallas police officer and was arrested.

He wanted notoriety and, oh brother, he got it.

I also believe Jack Ruby wanted to be remembered, too, which fueled his desire to kill Oswald in the Dallas PD basement.

I’m glad the documents are out. I hope to read many of them over time. The myriad conspiracy theories they are likely to rekindle are the work of people with too damn much time on their hands.

They need to find work. They need to get and stay busy.

From major threat to potential ally?

putin_trump_and_i_are-a2fab9090657f98b004db89c40af5dfd

It seems like yesterday. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president of the United States, said Russia had emerged as the most dangerous “global geopolitical threat” to the United States.

Many of us scoffed at that notion. It seemed so, oh, Cold War-ish. I mean, c’mon, Mitt! We won the Cold War. The Soviet Union vanished in 1991. Democracy was returning, albeit in dribs and drabs, to a new Russia. Isn’t that what many of us said and/or thought?

Well, it turns out Mitt was right. His critics were wrong. Russia has sought to do a lot of harm to the world and, quite possibly, to the U.S. electoral process.

But wait! This new Republican Party is being led by someone with an entirely different view of the Big Bear. Donald J. Trump is about to become president. He is forming his government. He is building his Cabinet.

Who is the new president apparently about to select as the nation’s secretary of state, its top diplomat, its foreign policy vicar? It appears to be a fellow named Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil — and a close ally of the nation Mitt ID’d as America’s top threat.

Exxon Mobil has extensive business ties in Russia. Tillerson is said to be friends with Putin.

For that matter, let’s recall that Trump has said some flattering things about the man who once ran the Soviet Union’s spy agency, the hated KGB. He called him a “strong leader”; he accepted Putin’s praise with gratitude; he invited Russia to find some missing e-mails that Hillary Clinton had deleted from her personal server while she was working as secretary of state; he suggested that Russian forces should enter Syria and take on the Islamic State; he said “wouldn’t it be great?” if we got along better with Russia.

You’ve heard the term “identity politics,” yes? It’s meant to pigeonhole certain groups and political affiliations into categories. Democrats once were identified as the party that was “soft on communism” and, thus, soft on the Soviet Union. Republicans were identified as the opposite of that squishy label.

Communism officially has died in Russia. What has emerged in its place, though, appears to be its oppressive equal.

Democrats now are alarmed at the budding U.S.-Russia coziness. Republicans — with a few notable exceptions — seem somewhat OK with it.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee and one-time Vietnam War prisoner, has expressed “concern” about Tillerson’s relationship with Putin. You would expect McCain to raise those questions; he dislikes the president-elect and he damn sure detests the Russians, given what their former agents — the North Vietnamese — did to him for more than five years in that POW cell in Hanoi.

Frankly, I am beginning to long for the good old days that, in the grand scheme, were just a little while ago.

I also am thinking the reason Mitt likely won’t get the State job has less to do with what he said about Trump — the “fraud” and “phony” stuff — and more to do with what he said about the Russians.

Listen to this guy, Mr. President-elect

mccain

One might not expect Donald J. Trump to take much of what Sen. John McCain has to say all that seriously … even about things with which he is intimately familiar.

After all, Trump said McCain wasn’t “really a war hero” during the Vietnam War, adding that “I like people who weren’t captured, OK?”

McCain, though, offers a serious word of advice to the president-elect: Do not make nice with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/john-mccain-trump-no-putin-231423

According to Politico: “Vladimir Putin has rejoined Bashar Assad in his barbaric war against the Syrian people with the resumption of large-scale Russian air and missile strikes in Idlib and Homs,” the Arizona senator who was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, said in a statement. “Another brutal assault on the city of Aleppo could soon follow.”

“With the U.S. presidential transition underway, Vladimir Putin has said in recent days that he wants to improve relations with the United States,” McCain added. “We should place as much faith in such statements as any other made by a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America’s allies and attempted to undermine America’s elections.”

And Trump wants to try to get Putin on our side? He wants to link arms with the Russians in a fight to the death against the Islamic State?

McCain is correct to underscore Putin’s one-time role as the head of the Soviet spy agency, the KGB.

I’m no fan of McCain, although I certainly honor his service during the Vietnam War. He’s a war hero, no matter what Trump has said about him. McCain also understands the world stage in a way that Trump hasn’t even begun to grasp.

I almost can hear Trump now: “Who is this guy McCain telling me how to conduct foreign policy. I mean, I won a presidential election. He’s a loser.”

Sure, McCain lost the 2008 election. He knows his way around the world stage. The new president would do well to heed this man’s advice.