February 24, 2003

That Was Then, This Is Now

Peggy Noonan on how times have changed.

In regards to the "Bay of Pigs" aftermath, she writes:

Do you remember or know how Kennedy's partisan and political foes responded to the crisis?

The Republican who'd lost the 1960 presidential election to Kennedy six months before and by less than a percentage point--and who had reason to believe that it may have been stolen--was invited to the White House. He didn't bring his resentments in his briefcase.

From Richard Reeves's "President Kennedy": " 'It was the worst experience of my life,' Kennedy said of the Cuban fiasco . . . to, of all people, Richard Nixon. . . . Kennedy wanted the symbolic presence and public support of both political friends and foes to show the nation and the world that Americans were rallying around the president, right or wrong."

Kennedy asked Nixon's advice. Nixon told him to do what he could to remove Castro and communism from Cuba. The meeting ended with Nixon telling JFK, "I will publicly support you to the hilt."

Kennedy and Nixon that day achieved something like "the kinship of competitors." Mr. Reeves writes. Nixon was good as his word, supporting the president and refusing to attack him.

And then she writes about what former Presidents do today:

But if they cannot offer unity, couldn't they offer discretion? Whatever their views, they should not put them forth in ways that undercut an administration that, right or wrong, is attempting to get a fair hearing from the world in order to take the steps it thinks necessary to make it safer from terror regimes.

Are we getting discretion from our former presidents? No. Mr. Carter is often most critical when outside our country. A few months ago he received the Nobel Peace Prize, and the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Gunnar Berge, announced that the honor "can also be interpreted as a criticism" of the Bush administration. Mr. Carter not only accepted the award under these circumstances; he used his speech to subtly cast doubt on the administration's actions and intentions regarding Iraq. Mr. Carter tours Europe giving help to those who oppose the American government's intentions; at his home in Georgia, he tells a British tabloid he admires its "Not in My Name" campaign to increase world opposition to the U.S. government.

Mr. Clinton, on the other hand, has taken to telling the world that "we should let Blix lead us to come together." Mr. Clinton calls Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, "a tough honest guy who is trying to find the truth." Does Mr. Clinton speak of the American president with such approbation? No. He treats President Bush with equal parts derision and faux sympathy.

He has taken to offering virtually minute-by-minute play-by-play on the administration's decisions, usually on cable. He seems to enjoy putting himself forward as the current president's obvious superior. He is more thoughtful, more experienced. He speaks from a great height.

There's a lot more, so go read the rest here.

Posted by Ithildin at February 24, 2003 7:50 AM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE