Tag Archives: Evil Empire

World has flipped

What in the name of political sanity has happened to this old world of ours? I mean, we have Republicans and conservative media voices speaking fondly of a Russian dictator while Democrats and more progressive media voices are yelling loudly to get tough with the strongman.

There once was a time when the roles were reversed. No longer, folks.

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has positioned his forces to invade Ukraine. A former GOP president has declared Putin to be a “genius” for the way he is preparing for the bloodbath. The current Democratic president is vowing punishing sanctions on Russia if Putin goes through with what the whole world believes he will do.

I remember the age of the Evil Empire that became the target of scorn and anger from Republicans in Congress and the president of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan. Democrats were seen as being squishy on the communists.

Now it’s the Democrats who are staking out tough-guy positions against the Soviet descendants and Republicans are questioning why the president is all fired up about seeking to stop the Russian advance on Ukraine.

What the … ?

I can’t figure this out, other than linking all of this to the arrival of The Donald on our political scene. He cozied up to the strongman and actually denigrated our intelligence network’s assertion that Russia interfered in our 2016 election.

Hmm. Therein might be Donald’s enduring legacy. He has helped flip the political calculus totally on its ear. Frankly, I prefer the side that remains angry with Putin and the Russians.


How would The Gipper fare in today’s GOP?

A social media post commemorating the election 39 years ago today of Ronald Reagan as our nation’s 40th president prompted me to wonder: How would President Reagan fare in what passes today as the Republican Party?

My hunch? Not well.

I will stipulate that I did not vote for Reagan in 1980 or in 1984. He won both elections in historic landslide proportions.

However, I acknowledge readily that Ronald Reagan was authentic. He adhered to what I believe are traditional GOP principles and policies. He sought to reduce government spending. He sought to reduce taxes. He believed in a strong national defense.

Most of all, though, he detested communism and the governments that promote what he considered to be an “evil” philosophy.

That brings me to the point of this blog: President Reagan would be aghast and appalled at Donald Trump’s flirtation with the direct descendants of the Evil Empire, aka the Soviet Union.

I get that Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and forged a partnership of sorts with him. However, the president never took his eye off the threat that the USSR posed to us militarily.

I also am trying to picture a moment where Ronald Reagan would declare in public that he trusted the word of a Soviet leader over the word of our nation’s intelligence experts. Suppose the CIA had determined that the Soviets had attacked our election in an effort to influence its outcome … and that the intelligence network had blamed the Soviets for its all-out attack on our electoral system. Who do you think Reagan would believe, our spooks or the commies?

You know the answer. Thus, for Donald Trump to pretend to be a Republican who endorses traditional Republican policies regarding our nation’s adversaries is, well, laughable on its face.

Except that no one should be laughing.

Today’s Republican Party bears no resemblance to The Gipper’s GOP. It has been hijacked by a flim-flam artist, a charlatan and a fraud. To that extent, Donald Trump makes me actually miss President Reagan.

Imagine that. I know. It’s weird.

When did GOP surrender its anti-Russia standing?

Those of us who are old enough to remember such things must be wondering: What has become of the Republican Party’s historic animosity toward Russia?

The party of Ike, Nixon and Reagan has become squishier than the Democrats were during those earlier eras. Russia — which once was known as the Soviet Union — attacked our electoral system in 2016. They did with malicious intent to disrupt our process and sow discontent among Americans about the integrity of our voting system.

They have succeeded.

Democrats now are incensed. Republicans? They are silent.

Democrats are pushing for measures in Congress that would strengthen electoral integrity and security. Republican leaders are blocking it.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller III told the nation that Russians not only attacked our 2016 electoral system in “sweeping” and “systematic” fashion, but are in the process of attacking our system at this moment.

The GOP leadership in Congress — and in the White House — are acting as if, “Hey, no big deal!”

History reminds us that in the days of Dwight Eisenhower, we shored up our military to counter the Soviet Union’s aspirations to become he world’s greatest power. Then came Richard Nixon, the noted communist-hater who made no apologies for his hatred and mistrust of the Soviet leadership. After that, the nation heard Ronald Reagan refer to the USSR as the “evil empire” and once joked into an open mic that he had just “outlawed Russia; bombing begins in five minutes.”

These days the equation has been flipped on its ear. Republicans give Russians a pass on the attack they have launched on our electoral system. Democrats have become the hardliners.

I believe this is a manifestation of the Donald Trump Era of national politics. What once was “normal” no longer is normal. Conduct we used to abhor has become part of what we believe is a “new normal.”

Russian attacks on our political system that used to become fodder for Republican politicians’ ire have become reasons for them to zip their lips. They say nothing. Meanwhile, the Democrats have become the hardliners.

What gives?

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?


Graham is correct, Trump is wrong on Russia

I am not inclined generally to speak well of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, but I want to say a good word or two now about the South Carolina Republican.

He says the president-elect is wrong about Russia and wants him to wake up and smell the coffee before too long about the nation formerly known as the Evil Empire.


Graham appeared this past Sunday on “Meet the Press” with his good buddy U.S. Sen. John McCain. He said this about his fellow GOP senators, according to The Hill: “Most Republicans are condemning what Russia did. And to those who are gleeful about it — you’re a political hack. You’re not a Republican. You’re not a patriot.”

Trump happens to be one of those Republicans who are “gleeful” about the Russians’ behavior during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump continues to question the CIA assessment that Russia sought to influence the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor. The CIA and other intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian spooks were acting on the director orders of Vladimir Putin; they cheered in the Kremlin when Trump was declared the winner of the election.

Graham is rightfully dismayed at the findings of the intelligence community, as is McCain. These two loyal Republicans have joined others within their party — not to mention Democrats — who want a thorough, bipartisan investigation in Congress to get at the root of what the Russians did and to seek solutions to prevent any foreign government from such overt interference in our electoral process.

If only the president-elect would listen to them.

Former hawk sees hope in Russia


Zbigniew Brzezinski has evolved.

He’s a former Cold War hawk who detested the Soviet Union. And with good reason. He fled his native Poland for a new life in the United States when Poland was controlled by the Evil Empire.

He became a national security expert and joined President Carter’s inner circle as national security adviser. He feuded with doves within the president’s Cabinet, most notably Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who then quit because he’d grown tired of the internal strife.

What is Brzezinski’s take on Russia these days? He’s less wary of the Russians and sees them a possible partners.

There once was time when Zbig would have counseled reprisal against Russia for encroaching on the airspace of a U.S. ally, such as Turkey. The Turks shot down a Russian warplane recently and the Russians have responded with some economic sanctions against the Turks.

Brzezinski doesn’t see that as a deal-breaker with the Russians.

Politico asked the former cold warrior about how worried he is about the shooting down of the plane.

He responded: “These tensions are serious but not fatal. In some ways, if good sense and intelligence prevail, they could even prove to be salutary, not only for dealing with a nasty regional problem but addressing the potentially more generally destructive consequences of a global system dominated by three superpowers. ”

Man, he sounds rational and reasonable.

There’s more. He was asked to define “salutary.” He said: “I don’t think anyone thinks that escalating this dispute is worth a major conflict with truly destructive consequences. In early October, in a piece I wrote for the Financial Times, I urged an effort to engage Russia in serious negotiations about the future of the region. I think perhaps we may now be doing what needs to be done [in talks in Vienna], given the common threat inherent in the delicacy of the relations between the nuclear powers.”

Advancing years — and profound change in the world alignment of power — does produce wisdom.

Vietnam, yes; Cuba, no?

Those on the right and the far right who keep yammering against efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba — citing Havana’s horrible human rights — ignore the conduct of another actual enemy with whom the United States actually fought a bloody war.

Vietnam’s human rights record is just as atrocious as Cuba’s. Yet we’ve had diplomatic relations with Vietnam for two decades. Moreover, the relationship has grown closer.


This is part of the argument against Cuba that doesn’t make any sense to me.

The Cubans once were part of the Soviet Union’s “evil empire.” So was Vietnam, for that matter.

Then the Soviet Union disappeared. Cuba continues to languish in poverty. Yes, it’s human rights record is abysmal. However, does Cuba pose a threat to the United States of America, the behemoth nation that sits less than 100 miles off the island’s coast? Uh, no.

Vietnam and the United States went to war in the 1960s. We sent millions of fighting men to that country to stop North Vietnam from taking over South Vietnam. The communists killed more than 50,000 Americans; we killed far more of them in the process.

The shooting stopped on April 30, 1975 when the communists rolled into Saigon, renamed the city after Ho Chi Minh and began sending South Vietnamese who were loyal to the Americans to what they called “re-education camps.”

Did that get in the way of the two former enemies becoming friends, establishing full relations? No.

Nor should it stop the United States from doing the same with Cuba.

The embassies are about to open in Washington and Havana.

Let’s stop the whining about the so-called “threat” that Cuba poses to the world’s greatest military and economic power. If we can make nice with Vietnam, then surely our extending a hand to Cuba is the right thing to do.


End of Cold War brought disarray

Joe Scarborough asks a compelling question about the state of U.S. foreign policy.

How did it get so messed up?

The one-time Republican congressman from Florida wonders how the world’s pre-eminent military and economic power can get in such a muddled mess.

I think I have a partial answer. Or perhaps just some food for thought: The end of the Cold War.


Geopolitical relationships have gotten incredibly complex since the days when the Soviet Union sought to control the world and the United States kept pushing back the Big Ol’ Bear.

Our adversary was a clearly defined nuclear power. It covered 8 million or so square miles of territory across two continents. They were fearsome. Then again, so were we.

Then the Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989. Two years later, the Evil Empire imploded.

Just like that, our Enemy No. 1 was gone.

In its place a lot of other enemies have arisen to rivet our attention. Scarborough thinks two American presidents — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have presided over this turmoil. Granted, the Soviet Union disappeared on George H.W. Bush’s watch and his successor, Bill Clinton, managed to keep the assortment of new enemies at bay.

Here’s part of what Scarborough writes: “Bush’s ideological foreign policy was tragically followed by Obama’s delusional belief that America could erase the sins of the Bush-Cheney era by simply abdicating the U.S.’s role as indispensable nation.”

I am not certain anyone quite yet is capable of juggling so many balls at the same time. President Bush took dead aim at al-Qaeda immediately after 9/11, but then expanded that effort into a war against Iraq. Then came Barack Obama — and the world has just kept on getting more unstable.

But we still haven’t yet figured out how to manage crises that keep cropping up throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. The result has been, as Scarborough notes, a vast explosion of crises involving ISIL, Syria, Turkey, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria … and even Venezuela in our own hemisphere. Let’s not forget North Korea and the immigration crisis emanating from Latin America.

We’ve got to keep our eyes on many balls all at once.


Paying tribute to Bush 41

Lanny Davis and I have something in common.

We’re both reading the same book, “41,” the biography of the 41st president of the United States written by his son, the 43rd president of the United States.


Davis is a much bigger hitter than I am. He once served as special White House counsel in the Clinton administration. However, he and I share the same respect for the 41st president, George H.W. Bush.

Davis perhaps has finished reading his copy of “41,” the volume written by former President George W. Bush. I’m still in the middle of it. I’m enjoying it immensely.

“W” makes no apologies about this book. He calls it a “love story” written to and about the man he admires most. Davis shares George W.’s affection for the elder Bush.

Davis writes in The Hill: “To me, the most important — and perhaps least generally recognized — is Bush 41’s role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.”

Indeed, President Bush didn’t spike the ball, so to speak, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, nor did he do a victory jig in the Oval Office when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. He chose to mark those dates quietly. Indeed, he barely said a thing when both events occurred.

Davis recounts how Bush 43 writes that congressional Democrats urged Bush 41 to go to Berlin when the wall came down.

Then the Evil Empire dissolved. When it did, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sent Bush 41 a “thank you” note. Davis writes: “Gorbachev had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall had fallen peacefully. Perhaps if the Nobel Peace Prize Committee had known at the time about Bush 41’s crucial but virtually invisible role helping Gorbachev reach this result with dignity, he would have shared that prize.”

Bush 41 is ailing these days. He isn’t quite so vibrant, even though he jumped out of an airplane on his 90th birthday.

His humility — one of his most endearing personal traits — shows through in the story written by his son.

Davis believes — as I do — that historians will rank Bush 41’s presidency as a consequential time in our history: “I believe that some day, history will judge this humble, self-effacing man as one of America’s most important presidents, if for no other reason than he helped achieve, as his son wrote, ‘one of the most stunning diplomatic achievements in history: a peaceful end to the Cold War.’”


Nation needs to be inspired again

John F. Kennedy wasn’t on the national stage all that long.

His presidency lasted about 1,000 days. He had served in the U.S. Senate a short time before that. He didn’t exactly inspire the nation with a lengthy legislative record. His time in the House was even less inspiring. Yes, he did serve heroically during World War II.

Even though his death — which the nation commemorated on Friday — took him from us much too soon, he did manage to leave behind quite a legacy of inspiration.

My favorite is attached here.


The president challenged a nation from within at a time when it was being challenged from beyond our borders. We were locked in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, which would become known during the Ronald Reagan years as the Evil Empire. The Soviets were our chief geopolitical adversary then, far more than they are now — no matter what one-time Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney might have said a year ago.

We sparred with the Soviets for supremacy on the world stage. We sought to beat them in a race into space. We won that race.

But the remarks JFK gave regarding that challenge — that we do these “not because they are easy, but because they are hard” — spoke far beyond a “mere” race to the moon. He sought to challenge his constituents to accept any challenge.

As we look back on JFK’s limited but still-inspiring legacy, it gives us pause to wonder whether we’re up to that challenge again.

I keep hoping that one day — I cannot predict when — we can set aside the deep partisan differences in government and set our sights on something grander.

It might be that we need a foe we can identify, someone or something with a face, a name, a clearly defined ideology.

Absent that, we need leadership that can take us above the bickering that has stalled the machinery of our government. John F. Kennedy knew how to tap into our innate spirit of challenge.

I believe it’s still there, waiting to tapped once again.