Tag Archives: Winston Churchill

Clumsiness in full view

Winston Churchill’s opinion of democracy is playing out in full view of the world at this moment.

The great British statesman said — and I will paraphrase it broadly — that “democracy is the worst form of government except all others that have been tried”

So we are now watching members of our Congress haggle, quarrel, cajole each other over how to avoid a debt-default crisis while at the same time haggling over how to improve our nation’s infrastructure.

My trick knee is telling me that somehow, some way and in some fashion the Democrats who run Congress are going to find their way out of the thicket. They have a key ally in the White House: President Joseph R. Biden, who spent 36 years as a senator. The president knows how to legislate.

Congressional Republicans, of course, are sitting on the sidelines. They aren’t part of this haggling, which is boiling down to a dispute between Democratic liberals and moderates.

It’s messy. It’s cumbersome. It’s the kind of governance that the 20th century’s greatest statesman — Winston Churchill — said would occur.

Excuse the cliche, but this really is a great country.


Listen to The Bulldog

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The 20th century’s greatest statesman was so wise on so many fronts, levels and issues.

His view that a nation must remember its past reminds me of something I saw while my wife and I were visiting friends in Germany in 2016.

Our friend took me to what they call in Nuremberg the “The Documentation Center.” What, you might ask, is the Documentation Center?

It is an exhibit that walks visitors through the Nuremberg war crimes trials that commenced shortly after World War II. Axis Powers officials were put on trial for their crimes against humanity. You know, The Holocaust … for example!

Our friend Martin told me straight up that Germany does not hide its past. The descendants of that terrible Nazi regime confront the ugliness of that era head on, he said. “We aren’t proud of it,” he told me. However, they put it all on full display for the world to see.

I came away from the exhibit moved and shaken at many levels by what I read and saw.

Five years later, the debate in this country centers on “critical race theory.” It speaks to the enslavement of human beings by other human beings. It poses fundamentally sound questions about the United States today remains a racist country.

These are not specious questions. They are legitimate. They deserve to be studied and discussed in our classrooms, in our dining rooms, in our living rooms.

Democracy at its messiest best

The great British statesman Winston Churchill had it right when he described representative democracy as an inefficient, clumsy and messy form government, but better than any other form that had devised.

We’re witnessing it in its messiest form right now.

Congress and the president are locking horns over spending for a wall along our southern border. Donald Trump wants money to pay for the wall, although he initially promised he would make Mexico pay for it. That won’t happen.

Failure to pay for the wall would result in a partial shutdown of the government at midnight Friday. Merry Christmas, to thousands of federal employees who will not be paid for the time they are being forced to take away from work.

I am just one of those Americans who doesn’t quite understand why we reach this precipice every few months. Why in the world must we subject ourselves to this kind of melodrama? Why do Congress and the White House fail continually to provide long-term budgets that allow them to avoid this kind of brinksmanship?

The president has his constituency. Each member of Congress — 435 House members and 100 senators — answers to his or her own constituencies. They fight. They wrangle. They haggle. They argue. They threaten each other. They toss insults. And all the while the government that is supposed to serve all Americans is being kicked around like some kind of cow chip.

We don’t need to build a wall to secure our southern border. The president doesn’t seem to get that. He wants the wall because he made some idiotic campaign promise. Congressional Democrats want to secure the border through other means.

At last report, the White House indicates that Trump is backing away from the wall. The impasse remains.

Churchill was right about representative democracy. So help me, though, it doesn’t need to be this messy.

POTUS couldn’t attend ceremony honoring WWI fallen?

Let me understand this fully.

The president of the United States, Donald Trump, flies to France to honor the fallen soldiers while commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Then the rain fell. The president then decided that he couldn’t attend the ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial near Paris because of “inclement weather.” He sent White House chief of staff John Kelly and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford to represent the United States.

Oh, then there’s this. France’s president attended the ceremony honoring the American soldiers who fell. So did the German chancellor and the prime minister of Canada. Other heads of state and government attended as well.

But … not the president of the United States. He couldn’t attend a solemn ceremony at the American cemetery where our nation’s fighting men are buried after enduring far worse than most of us can even fathom. How might they think of a president unwilling or unable to endure some rainfall at their gravesites to pray for their souls and to thank them for their sacrifice?

Critics cut loose on POTUS

I’ll conclude with this remark offered by the grandson of the legendary British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Nicholas Soames, a member of the British Parliament: “They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate Donald Trump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen.”

Enough said.

Yep, the founders got it (mostly) right

Two hundred forty-one years later, it’s good to look back on what the nation’s founding fathers signed.

They stated in that document of independence declaration that “all men are created equal.” They put their names on the Declaration of Independence, many of them picked up their muskets and then went to war against the British Empire.

The fighting stopped in 1781. Then the founders went to work crafting a governing document we now know as the U.S. Constitution.

Did they get it 100 percent right when they signed off on that framework? Not really. I can think of two egregious errors of omission in that document.

The founders did not grant “all men” equal rights. Black men were enslaved. They were considered to be three-fifths of a human being. All men were created equal? No. The Emancipation Proclamation would set the slaves free in 1863, but it would take the nation two more years to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that abolished slavery once and for all.

Nor did the founders grant women full rights of citizenship, although they likely thought they were doing so at the time. Women couldn’t vote. They were mere spectators. It took the government a good bit longer to correct that error. In August 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting suffrage to women.

Thirty or 40 years ago, I might be inclined to dwell on those negative elements of our nation’s history. Today, I choose to concentrate on what the founders did right.

Their forebears came to this new land to escape religious persecution. Thus, the founders created a secular Constitution. They granted every citizen religious freedom, which also means they were free to not worship if they chose.

The founders separated the government into three co-equal branches, granting equal power to each of them. The president proposes laws; Congress disposes of them; the courts ensure their constitutionality.

The great Winston Churchill famously declared that representative democracy is the worst form of government ever created, but is superior to anything else. The founders, of course, didn’t anticipate such wisdom coming from the British Bulldog.

I also am quite certain they would agree with him.

Therefore, I choose to salute the founders’ success today. Their government is being tested yet again. I remain confident it will continue to function as those great men intended.

‘Democratic socialist’ sounding more, um, socialist


The  more I hear from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the more convinced I become that it’s time to end the qualifier when describing his economic philosophy.

The presidential candidate calls himself a “democratic socialist.”

I believe I understand the message he’s trying to convey, which is that his brand of socialism isn’t dependent entirely on the government taking care of every American’s needs.

Sanders has been using the democratic socialist label — again, in my view — to take some of the sting out of the s-word that conservatives are fond of using to describe policies such as, oh, the Affordable Care Act.

Then on Thursday night, near the end of the Democratic presidential candidate debate with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sanders launched into a lengthy riff about the two political leaders he most admired.

He ended with Winston Churchill, but only after he described Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s tenure as president.

He told us how FDR took office in 1933 while 25 percent of Americans were out of work. We were in the throes of the Great Depression.

How did FDR get us moving again? By energizing government to create jobs. The WPA and CCC were government-financed employment programs. The money to pay for them didn’t just materialize. Americans paid for them with taxes.

Social Security became law in 1935.

Gradually, the nation began to work its way out of the Great Depression.

Then came Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Everything changed after that.

But as I listened Thursday night to Sen. Sanders go on and on about FDR’s leadership, I was struck by the belief that he was talking about socialism. Not just a form of it, but the unvarnished version of it.

I happen to share Sanders’ view that 80-plus years ago, President Roosevelt faced a terrible, miserable set of circumstances when he took his seat behind the big desk in the Oval Office. He felt he had to do something dramatic to get the country going.

Sanders also said something else at the end of the debate that I found a bit curious. He seems to believe the nation is ready for another “revolution,” that the income inequality gap of today sets up a need to create some kind of massive government infusion of money to bolster working families who are suffering while the “top 1 percent of Americans” are doing fabulously.

He wants free college education. Sanders vows to bring universal health care to every American. He intends to push for a dramatic increase in the federal minimum wage.

How does he intend to pay for it? He wants to raise taxes on all Americans.

How, then, is he going to do that with Republicans retaining control of the House of Representatives, where all tax legislation must originate?

He sounds like a socialist.

Not a democratic socialist.

He sounds like the real thing.

I believe I heard someone who is overreaching as he pulls the lever on the economic alarm bell.

FDR faced a grave economic crisis the likes of which will not confront the next president.


Diplomacy ought to trump war every time

Barack Obama could have invoked the late, great Winston Churchill at his press conference today.

Churchill once said it is better to “jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war.”

So it is with President Obama’s defense of the deal struck with Iran that seeks to end Iran’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons.


I remain more or less undecided on the merits of the deal, but the president has posed a fascinating challenge to his critics.

Is it better to take military action to remove Iran’s nuclear capability, or is it better to use diplomacy to rid them of their nuclear ambitions?

Critics, Obama said, haven’t offered a credible alternative to the deal that struck by Secretary of State John Kerry and his team of international partners. They blast the 159-page deal with words like “appeasement,” “disaster,” and “historic mistake.”

So, what do they suggest? Do we send in squadrons of fighter-bombers to blast the nuclear plants into oblivion? Let the Israelis do it? Do we risk all-out war?

The great Winston Churchill had it right: It’s better to talk than to drop bombs.


It's getting even messier on Capitol Hill

Winston Churchill had it exactly right when he sought to describe a democratic form of government.

He lamented its messiness and inefficiency when he said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

I wish he was here today to see what’s transpiring on Capitol Hill. Republicans are fighting among themselves in a TEA party vs. establishment conflict. Now the Democrats have begun cannibalizing each other in a progressive vs. centrist fight.

At the center of it all is a $1.1 trillion spending bill that extremists in either party don’t like, for differing reasons, obviously.


Just as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has become the face of the TEA party insurgency within the Republican Party, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has assumed the Democratic mantle of gadfly in chief.

They both have at least one thing in common. They’re freshmen legislators. Neither of them has much Capitol Hill seasoning under the belts. Cruz is more of a loudmouth. Warren doesn’t bellow her dislike of Democratic comprises, but she’s becoming a tiger in the Senate.

Warren has become the liberals’ latest best hope for a possible challenge to prohibitive Democratic presidential favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton. They see Warren as a spokeswoman for the common man and woman who distrusts the power brokers who are lining up behind Clinton’s still-unannounced presidential candidacy.

Cruz, meanwhile, has become the darling of the conservative movement within his own party. Will he challenge, say, Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination?

Let’s think about this for a moment: Cruz and Warren both catch fire enough to snatch their parties’ nomination from the favorites. Clinton lost in 2008 to a young senator with zero name ID nationally. Barack Obama went on to win the presidency in a near-landslide and then score a decisive re-election victory four years later. Will history repeat itself? I doubt it — for now.

As for Cruz, the GOP establishment will fight him tooth and nail if he keeps roiling the waters, demanding government shutdowns and insisting on outcomes that won’t occur.

Our form of representative democracy, Sir Winston, is about to get a whole lot messier.


Deal struck in Ukraine?

Winston Churchill once said it was better to “jaw, jaw than to war, war.”

The great British statesman was right then, and he would be right now. Ukraine and Russian diplomats today announced a potential breakthrough in the standoff between the countries that well could have led to open warfare in eastern Europe.


The Hill reports, “Secretary of State John Kerry said the framework hashed out by foreign ministers meeting in Geneva would disarm separatist militants in eastern Ukraine and have them vacate the government buildings, streets and squares they have occupied. In return, the Ukrainian government has offered amnesty to all pro-Russian militants who lay down their arms, with the exception of those who committed capital crimes.”

The agreement comes after diplomats from the European Union, NATO, the United States, Russia and Ukraine haggled over a way out of the standoff that seemed to bring Russia and Ukraine to the brink of war.

Will it be implemented? Will the deal hold? Will both sides back off? Will there be an end to what’s been called the worst crisis since the end of the Cold War?

This is a potentially huge deal that strikes a blow for the power of diplomacy.

It remains to be determined what impact the economic sanctions may have played in bringing the Russians to the bargaining table.

The United States doesn’t want war. The Russians don’t want it. All that’s left is to talk to each other … and to keep talking until you get a deal done.

One degree of separation from Churchill

Winston Churchill was without question one of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen/warriors.

He led Great Britain through its “darkest hour,” the Blitzkrieg launched by the Nazi air force during the Battle of Britain. PBS, as it does so well, is chronicling Churchill’s life in a three-part series shown on KACV-TV, Amarillo’s public television station. The second installment airs Sunday at 7.

It tells of the Battle of Britain and how Churchill rallied the Brits to ultimate victory over the Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler.


But I want to digress a bit and declare with this post that I have one degree of separation from the great British leader, which is to say a member of my family actually had a close encounter with him. I think that means I’m one degree separated from Churchill.

What the heck, if it doesn’t mean such a thing, well, it should.

My late father, Pete Kanelis, served in the Navy during World War II. Most of his combat duty occurred in the Mediterranean Sea, during the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. When he wasn’t manning an anti-aircraft gun on the deck of the ship to which he was assigned, Dad performed a number of boatswain’s mate duties.

One of them was to stand guard, along with a British marine, outside a conference room where Churchill was meeting with the Allied commander of naval forces in the Med. Dad’s guard duty was captured in a photograph published in the London Daily Mail. The picture was interesting in this regard: The Brit stood about 6-foot-4 inches tall, while Dad topped out at about 5-foot-9.

As Dad told the story, the two of them snapped to attention as the meeting broke up. Churchill came out of the conference room, chatted up the British marine, then turned to Dad, patted him on the head and said, “Well done, Yank.”

I’ve looked for many years for film footage of that event, thinking that some newsreel photographer had a camera rolling. Alas, it’s not to be.

My father, though, had a brush with one of the world’s most heroic leaders — and for that I am so very proud.