Tag Archives: Soviet Union

Imagine JFK calling Khruschev ‘Rocket Man’

It’s The Donald vs. Rocket Man.

Two heads of state — Donald John Trump and Kim Jong Un — are locked now in a standoff. The president of the United States and the dictator of North Korea are trying to out-insult each other.

What continues to amaze me, though, is that Trump decided to elevate his Rocket Man poke at Kim in a highly unusual venue. He took his insult to the floor of the United (bleeping) Nations, man!

He said if Rocket Man continues to threaten the United States, this country would “totally destroy” North Korea. That’s the way you promote peace, Mr. President … by threatening to annihilate another nation.

I’m trying to imagine an earlier president, John F. Kennedy, using that kind of language during the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. I actually have a memory of that time, when the Soviet Union began building launch pads from which it could launch missiles at the United States or our Western Hemisphere allies. It scared the bejabbers out of me — and millions of other Americans, too!

Kennedy didn’t resort to name-calling, or attaching silly school-kid epithets to his references to Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader. He actually left much of the bluster to our U.N. ambassador at the time, Adlai Stevenson.

The president’s use of a Rocket Man insult won’t get Kim to do what we want, which is to stand down in his attempt to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting us and our allies.

An earlier president, faced with an even graver threat, arguably, than the one confronting the current president, stared it down with steely resolve, which — according to commentary at the time — forced the other guy to blink.

President Kennedy didn’t need to insult his adversary.

Media attacks = dictatorship?

I have been reluctant to equate Donald John Trump Sr.’s constant attacks on the media with the behavior of tinhorn dictators — and truly evil despots.

That is until now.

The president tore into the media again Tuesday night at that campaign rally in Phoenix, Ariz. He called them “fake” and “dishonest.”

Trump echoed much of what he has said ad nauseam ever since he launched his presidential campaign.

For seemingly forever, the media let him get away with it. They would report on his rants, letting his words speak for themselves. Trump obliged. He courted the media.

Then something happened. The media began calling the president out on the lies he kept repeating. The media started to reveal falsehoods. Trump didn’t like that. Then the attacks got really hot.

There’s a pattern developing, according to media watchdogs and political pundits. It’s disturbing in the extreme. The pattern follows a familiar course: political leaders seek to delegitimize the media, to reduce their standing among citizens. These leaders have sought to turn the people they want to lead against the media.

Hitler did it in Germany. Stalin did it in the Soviet Union. There have been assorted Third World dictators who have done the very same thing: Pol Pot in Cambodia, Idi Amin in Uganda, Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania.

I cannot pretend to know what is motivating Donald J. Trump’s incessant attacks on theĀ  media. Nor can I pretend to understand anything as it regards the president’s thinking.

I just know that presidents for as long as I’ve been alive have sought to understand the media’s role in a free society. They’ve all reached a form of bipartisan understanding. None of them has liked reading or hearing critical news stories about their presidencies.

However, as former President George W. Bush said recently, the media are “necessary to keep public officials accountable.”

And, no, the media are not — as Donald Trump has said — the “enemy of the American people.”

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 4

The United States of America has followed a nuclear policy that, so far, has worked pretty well.

Call it a policy of “containment and deterrence.”

Thus, is it possible for the United States to get North Korea to toss its budding nuclear stockpile into the crapper? Hardly.

Which brings me to one of Kim Jong Un’s demands: He wants to keep his nuclear arsenal. USA Today’s list of five demands contains this one, which might be central to the current tensions that have escalated between the United States and North Korea.

Check it out here.

You’ve heard of “mutually assured destruction,” aka MAD. It kept the United States and the Soviet Union from nuking each other during the Cold War. The world is full of trouble spots occupied by nuclear-powered nations: India and Pakistan; Israel has them, too; South Africa has been thought to possess nuclear weapons.

Yes, we negotiated an agreement designed to rid Iran of its nuclear weapon capability and the jury is still out on whether that will work ultimately.

North Korea presents a tremendously different situation for us. Donald Trump is blustering, bellowing and bloviating about what he intends to do if Kim’s regime keeps making “overt threats” against the United States and our allies. A “threat” doesn’t constitute military action, so the president is treading on some highly dangerous ground if he intends to hit the North Korean’s first.

My advice to the president — which he won’t ever see, let alone heed — would be to dial back the fiery and furious rhetoric and possibly accept the notion that North Koreans are going to do what they intend to do, no matter how many threats we level against them.

However, the commander in chief can make it known — through back channels — what Kim knows already: Don’t even think about using those nukes.

Jared Kushner is no RFK

I keep hearing chatter that compares Jared Kushner’s lack of experience to Robert F. Kennedy.

I must now take up the cudgel for my first political hero … and it’s not Jared Kushner.

Kushner is under investigation by the FBI and Congress for something related to his father-in-law’s 2016 presidential campaign. He allegedly had some contact with Russian government officials that might be improper, it not illegal.

One of the arguments being offered is that Kushner doesn’t have any experience with government or public policy. They note that his father-in-law, the president, got around federal anti-nepotism laws when he appointed Kushner to be a senior policy adviser in the West Wing of the White House.

It’s the RFK thing all over again, some of them insist.

Hold the phone!

President-elect John F. Kennedy picked his brother to be attorney general shortly after winning the 1960 election. JFK joked at the time that a government job would give his brother some valuable experience when he decided to go into law.

I want to make a couple of points about Robert Kennedy.

One is that he had government experience. He had served as legal counsel to a Senate committee chaired by the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy. He also served as a legal staffer working with his brother, Sen. JFK, onĀ  a Senate committee that looked deeply into organized crime within the labor movement.

After that, Bobby Kennedy then managed his brother’s presidential campaign. Sen. Kennedy won the presidency by a narrow popular vote and Electoral College margin over Vice President Richard Nixon.

Compared to the absence of any government exposure as it regards Kushner, RFK brought much more experience to his job as U.S. attorney general.

And, indeed, he used his Justice Department office as a bully pulpit against organized crime and in the fight to enact civil rights legislation. Oh, and he also played a significant role in heading off nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

With that, I shall now cease listening to any further comparison between Jared Kushner and Robert F. Kennedy.

There is no comparison to be made, except to point out how utterly unfit Kushner is to perform the duties to which he’s been assigned.

NATO never has been ‘obsolete,’ Mr. President

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization once was “obsolete.”

Now it’s relevant.

That’s the former and current view of the president of the United States. What changed? What did NATO do to regain its status as a dependable and valuable defense treaty?

Donald John Trump met today with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The two men had a cordial and constructive meeting at the White House.

So here we are. The president who campaigned for office in 2016 while griping repeatedly about NATO’s obsolescence now says the organization is a partner in the fight against terrorism.

Will we learn from the president what changed his mind on this matter? Hardly. My guess is that even he doesn’t know, except that the secretary general told him that NATO matters.

Well, it does. It matters a lot.

The NATO alliance sits just west of its big and fearsome neighbor. I refer to Russia, which is governed by Vladimir Putin who — until just recently — seemed to be bound at the hip to Donald Trump. The bromance is fading quickly as the Trump administration starts turning the screws on Russia over its complicity inĀ the Syrian civil war; oh, and Congress is starting to fire up the jets under Putin over his government’s role in seeking toĀ “rig” the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

NATO matters

Yes, NATO came into being after World War IIĀ to deter potentialĀ aggression by the former Soviet Union. But in 1991, the Evil EmpireĀ disappeared, only to be replaced by another sinister governmental being. Russia has shown its aggressive self already, threatening Ukraine, retaking Crimea and blustering about re-conquering the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

NATO now comprises 28 nations. Its relevance is quite vital to the stability of Europe, which remains crucial to the national security interests of the United States of America.

If only we could get the president to stop yammering about how NATO must pay its “fair share” or else. It’s the “or else” that some of us find most troubling.

My curiosity persists, though. What did NATO do to regain its status as a partner in the struggle to maintain international equilibrium?

Political leanings turned upside-down

I am listening to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters rail, rant and ramble about a dastardly human being, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The California Democrat — so help me — is sounding like a 1950s Republican! She is not alone among congressional Democrats who are calling Putin a war criminal, a monster and no friend of the United States of America.

Meanwhile, we have the nation’s leading Republican — the president-elect — continuing to bite his tongue as it regards Putin. Donald J. Trump just won’t — or cannot — bring himself to say what Democrats are saying. Which is that Putin is a seriously bad guy.

What’s going on here?

Republicans traditionally have hated the Russians, especially when they were governed by the communists who created the Soviet Union. Indeed, Putin is a creature of the monstrous Soviet era, the KGB, the notorious and ruthless spy agency he once ran.

These days, though, we’re mired in debate over what role the Russians played in influencing our 2016 presidential election. Democrats are enraged. Republicans, well, are not … generally.

Sure, some GOP senators have spoken out against the Russians. Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio are three harsh critics of Putin and they all have openly challenged Trump’s relationship with him and the rest of the Russian government.

The president-elect? He’s keeping quiet.

Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, the traditional enemy of Russia. Democrats used to be accused of being squishy-soft on the Russians.

Talk about a reversal of roles.

Tables have been turned upside down

Imagine this scenario, say, around 1972.

The Democratic nominee for president, George McGovern, wants Americans troops pulled out of Vietnam immediately. The North Vietnamese’s major benefactor, the Soviet Union, starts deploying spooks to influence the presidential election that year.

KGB agents infiltrate U.S. voting stations, tinker with ballots, perform all kinds of skullduggery to get McGovern elected. They fail. President Nixon wins anyway … in a landslide.

Then the word goes out about the Soviets’ meddling. What do you suppose would be the Republicans’ response? They’d be outraged. They would call for heads to roll. They would insist that the president slap sanctions on the Soviets.

Today, though, is a different era.

Democrats are yammering at possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Republicans led by the president-elect are dismissing intelligence experts’ opinion that the Russians — under orders from Vladimir Putin –tried to get Donald J. Trump elected. They cheered when Trump actually was elected.

Why aren’t GOP leaders as incensed now as they historically would have been?

Is it because their guy won? Is it because they don’t want to rile the president-elect, who’s been dismissing and disparaging our intelligence community that Republicans historically have trusted implicitly as behaving honorably?


Trump got an earful today when he met with CIA, DIA, NSA and Homeland Security officials. They told him the same thing: The Russians tried to influence our election through cyberattacks. Trump’s response has been, well, tepid at best.

If the president-elect is truly interested in protecting the integrity of our electoral process, he needs to stop making excuses for “smart man” Putin and get on board with what his intelligence experts are telling him.

As president, it’s a sure bet that he’ll need their expertise when the time comes.

Good riddance, El Comandante

FILE - In this July 11, 2014 file photo, Cuba's Fidel Castro speaks during a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, in Havana, Cuba. Social media around the world have been flooded with rumors of Castro's death, but there was no sign Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, that the reports were true, even if the 88-year-old former Cuban leader has not been seen in public for months. (AP Photo/Alex Castro, File)

It’s been said of prominent world leaders that single acts result in what would be written about them in their obituary.

For Fidel Castro, such an act that no doubt will appear in obits around the world must read, “…Ā who took the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.”

The Cuban dictator is dead at the age of 90. He outlasted 10 American presidents in one of the more peculiar political standoffs of the past century.

But it was a two-week span in October 1962 that remains the lynchpin of Castro’s reign of the island nation that sits just off the tip of Florida. He allowed Soviet engineers to build missile launch platforms in Cuba capable of sending nuclear-armed missiles against the United States or anyone else in the hemisphere. U.S. spy planes spotted the installations; President Kennedy got wind of them.Ā The presidentĀ then went nose-to-nose with Castro and his Soviet benefactors.

The Cuban missile crisis ended when the other side “blinked” after Kennedy ordered a complete naval blockade of the island and he did that after advising the nation in a televised address that any strike from Cuba against any nation in the hemisphere would be met by the full force of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Castro led a “revolution” in 1959 that overthrew a hideous dictator. Cubans thought they were being liberated from repression. They were mistaken. Castro’s repression was every bit as severe. His fellow Cubans suffered economic deprivation, loss of human rights and dignity, imprisonment, loss of liberty across the board.

Despite all that, the continued economic sanctions imposed by the United States stopped making sense a long time ago, especially after the Soviet Union evaporated in 1991. The Cubans themselves never did pose much of an economic or military threat to this nation.

President Obama finally moved to end the embargo and restored a semblance of normal relations Cuba.

Still, Fidel Castro’s legacy will not be a glowing one.

Obama’s remarks in response to Castro’s death were appropriately neutral. As the Washington Post reported: “We know that this moment fills Cubans ā€” in Cuba and in the United States ā€” with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” Obama said in a statement. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

Enormous impact? Powerful emotions? Singular figure? Yes to all of that. Indeed, in the Little Havana area of Miami, they’re celebrating Castro’s death. I certainly would call that a “powerful emotion.”

So it is that this individual finally has departed the scene.

My feelings are a bit mixed. I am glad the United States has lifted its economic sanctions against Cuba. Still, the world is better off without Fidel Castro.

So long, El Comandante.

Here come those ‘damn e-mails’ again


I have been trying for weeks to grasp the significance of the e-mail controversy that keeps swirling around Hillary Rodham Clinton’s quest for the presidency.

Her one-time Democratic presidential primary opponent Bernie Sanders said he was tired of “hearing about your damn e-mails.” Me, too, senator.

But … here they come again, courtesy of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and — more than likely — the former head of the Soviet KGB spy agency and current president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

They’re leaking these e-mails near the end of a bitter and ugly presidential campaign between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

Their intent clearly and without equivocation is to embarrass and undermine Clinton’s bid to become president of the United States. They contain communication on a whole array of issues, from her speeches to well-heeled groups and backers, the LGBT response to Clinton’s reaction to the death of former first lady Nancy Reagan and her thoughts on how U.S. policy should deal with the crisis in Syria.


I get the intent, which is my clearest takeaway from it all. Indeed, Clinton hasn’t been very forthcoming on explaining many of these issues raised by the e-mails.

She and Trump are squaring off this week for the third and final (thank God in heaven) joint appearance. I’d bet real American money that moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News is going to ask her some tough questions about the e-mail dump and what it all means about the way she would govern as president.

I’m also willing to bet some serious greenbacks she’ll be ready to respond. Trump? Well, time tell us very soon how he intends to respond to her response.

Perhaps a follow-up question for Trump from Wallace might go something like this: Mr. Trump? You all but invited the Russian government to deliver us the content of those “missing” e-mails. Is this what you had in mind?

Oh, and another one could go this way: You’ve been critical of our intelligence operation and our military. Intelligence officials now seem to believe that President Putin — about whom you’ve spoken quite highly and who has returned the compliment — is responsible for the e-mail dump in these waning days of the campaign. Are they wrong, sir?

NATO remains our premier alliance


Here’s a quick pop quiz question for you …

Of all the alliances that included the United States, which of them was deemed the most crucial and which of them has lasted the longest?

Time’s up!

The answer is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed in 1949 as the Cold War was reaching a fever pitch. It was formed as a defense alliance against the military threat posed by the Soviet Union and its bloc of nations against Western Europe.

Its mission has changed a bit since 1991, when the Evil Empire collapsed. The Soviet Union no longer poses a threat, but Russia does.

So, what does the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, propose to do? He wants to establish financial conditions on whether the United States would honor its treaty obligations in case Russia were to attack, say, any or all of the Baltic States.

Trump told the New York Times that if he’s elected president that he would examine whether a threatened NATO nation had upheld its financial responsibilities as part of the defense pact. I mention the Baltic States because they once were Soviet provinces, but they became independent as the Soviet Union fell; Russia has been making some noise about re-annexing Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, all of which are now NATO members.

With that statement, Trump has proposed a fundamental rewriting of our oldest post-World War II military alliance.

According to the New York Times: “The United States created the 28-nation alliance, and Article 5 of the NATO treaty, signed by President Truman, requires any member to come to the aid of another that NATO declares was attacked. It has been invoked only once: NATO pledged to defend the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”


Yes, we’ve been a charter member of the United Nations, which was formed in 1945. I’m wondering if Trump — in stating his nationalist fervor — is going to propose we withdraw from the U.N. as a sop to the TEA Party faction with the GOP that has been supporting his presidential candidacy.

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 called Russia the nation’s No. 1 geopolitical threat. Given that hindsight provides such clarity, Romney’s view now appears to be quite prescient.

Trump now is going to put conditions on whether we rise to the defense of a NATO member nation. Are they paying their bills? Have they made good on maintaining their financial obligations to NATO? Are we going to let the citizens of a country under attack be subjected to the tyranny that Russian rule would bring to them because their government hasn’t paid their fair share of the cost associated with NATO membership?

How many more examples is the GOP presidential nominee going to provide that demonstrate his absolute ignorance of geopolitical alliances before it sinks in that he is unfit for the office he seeks?

Great nations do not go back on their word to protect their allies.