Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

The President today at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri:

[headings are mine]


Ultimately, the United States prevailed in World War II, and we have fought two more land wars in Asia. And many in this hall were veterans of those campaigns. Yet even the most optimistic among you probably would not have foreseen that the Japanese would transform themselves into one of America's strongest and most steadfast allies, or that the South Koreans would recover from enemy invasion to raise up one of the world's most powerful economies, or that Asia would pull itself out of poverty and hopelessness as it embraced markets and freedom.

. . .

Experts: Democracy in Japan Never Gonna Happen

In the aftermath of Japan's surrender, many thought it naive to help the Japanese transform themselves into a democracy. Then as now, the critics argued that some people were simply not fit for freedom.

Some said Japanese culture was inherently incompatible with democracy. Joseph Grew, a former United States ambassador to Japan who served as Harry Truman's Under Secretary of State, told the President flatly that -- and I quote -- "democracy in Japan would never work." He wasn't alone in that belief. A lot of Americans believed that -- and so did the Japanese -- a lot of Japanese believed the same thing: democracy simply wouldn't work.

Others critics said that Americans were imposing their ideals on the Japanese. For example, Japan's Vice Prime Minister asserted that allowing Japanese women to vote would "retard the progress of Japanese politics."

It's interesting what General MacArthur wrote in his memoirs. He wrote, "There was much criticism of my support for the enfranchisement of women. Many Americans, as well as many other so-called experts, expressed the view that Japanese women were too steeped in the tradition of subservience to their husbands to act with any degree of political independence." That's what General MacArthur observed. In the end, Japanese women were given the vote; 39 women won parliamentary seats in Japan's first free election. Today, Japan's minister of defense is a woman, and just last month, a record number of women were elected to Japan's Upper House. Other critics argued that democracy -- (applause.)

There are other critics, believe it or not, that argue that democracy could not succeed in Japan because the national religion -- Shinto -- was too fanatical and rooted in the Emperor. Senator Richard Russell denounced the Japanese faith, and said that if we did not put the Emperor on trial, "any steps we may take to create democracy are doomed to failure." The State Department's man in Tokyo put it bluntly: "The Emperor system must disappear if Japan is ever really to be democratic."

Those who said Shinto was incompatible with democracy were mistaken, and fortunately, Americans and Japanese leaders recognized it at the time, because instead of suppressing the Shinto faith, American authorities worked with the Japanese to institute religious freedom for all faiths. Instead of abolishing the imperial throne, Americans and Japanese worked together to find a place for the Emperor in the democratic political system.

And the result of all these steps was that every Japanese citizen gained freedom of religion, and the Emperor remained on his throne and Japanese democracy grew stronger because it embraced a cherished part of Japanese culture. And today, in defiance of the critics and the doubters and the skeptics, Japan retains its religions and cultural traditions, and stands as one of the world's great free societies. (Applause.)

You know, the experts sometimes get it wrong. An interesting observation, one historian put it -- he said, "Had these erstwhile experts" -- he was talking about people criticizing the efforts to help Japan realize the blessings of a free society -- he said, "Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage."

. . .

Truman Critics: Korean War Futile and Full of Errors

Critics also complained when America intervened to save South Korea from communist invasion. Then as now, the critics argued that the war was futile, that we should never have sent our troops in, or they argued that America's intervention was divisive here at home.

After the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel in 1950, President Harry Truman came to the defense of the South -- and found himself attacked from all sides. From the left, I.F. Stone wrote a book suggesting that the South Koreans were the real aggressors and that we had entered the war on a false pretext. From the right, Republicans vacillated. Initially, the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate endorsed Harry Truman's action, saying, "I welcome the indication of a more definite policy" -- he went on to say, "I strongly hope that having adopted it, the President may maintain it intact," then later said "it was a mistake originally to go into Korea because it meant a land war."

Throughout the war, the Republicans really never had a clear position. They never could decide whether they wanted the United States to withdraw from the war in Korea, or expand the war to the Chinese mainland. Others complained that our troops weren't getting the support from the government. One Republican senator said, the effort was just "bluff and bluster." He rejected calls to come together in a time of war, on the grounds that "we will not allow the cloak of national unity to be wrapped around horrible blunders."

Many in the press agreed. One columnist in The Washington Post said, "The fact is that the conduct of the Korean War has been shot through with errors great and small." A colleague wrote that "Korea is an open wound. It's bleeding and there's no cure for it in sight." He said that the American people could not understand "why Americans are doing about 95 percent of the fighting in Korea."

Many of these criticisms were offered as reasons for abandoning our commitments in Korea. And while it's true the Korean War had its share of challenges, the United States never broke its word.

Today, we see the result of a sacrifice of people in this room in the stark contrast of life on the Korean Peninsula. Without Americans' intervention during the war and our willingness to stick with the South Koreans after the war, millions of South Koreans would now be living under a brutal and repressive regime. The Soviets and Chinese communists would have learned the lesson that aggression pays. The world would be facing a more dangerous situation. The world would be less peaceful.

Instead, South Korea is a strong, democratic ally of the United States of America. South Korean troops are serving side-by-side with American forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And America can count on the free people of South Korea to be lasting partners in the ideological struggle we're facing in the beginning of the 21st century.

. . .

Legacy of Leaving Viet Nam: Khymer Rouge, Boat People, Re-Education Camps, “Killing Fields”

In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: "What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?" A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: "Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life."

The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.

Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."

. . .

Real Consequences in Victory or Defeat

Recently, two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon's foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration's policies. Together they wrote that the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be disastrous.

Here's what they said: "Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences." I believe these men are right.

In Iraq, our moral obligations and our strategic interests are one. So we pursue the extremists wherever we find them and we stand with the Iraqis at this difficult hour -- because the shadow of terror will never be lifted from our world and the American people will never be safe until the people of the Middle East know the freedom that our Creator meant for all. (Applause.)

I recognize that history cannot predict the future with absolute certainty. I understand that. But history does remind us that there are lessons applicable to our time. And we can learn something from history. In Asia, we saw freedom triumph over violent ideologies after the sacrifice of tens of thousands of American lives -- and that freedom has yielded peace for generations.

The American military graveyards across Europe attest to the terrible human cost in the fight against Nazism. They also attest to the triumph of a continent that today is whole, free, and at peace. The advance of freedom in these lands should give us confidence that the hard work we are doing in the Middle East can have the same results we've seen in Asia and elsewhere -- if we show the same perseverance and the same sense of purpose.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cleaning Up the Mess

From today's New York Times editorial on Karl Rove:

Today, despite Mr. Rove’s claims of invincibility, both houses of Congress are back in Democratic hands, Mr. Bush’s approval ratings are around 30 percent and many Republican presidential candidates are running as fast as they can away from the Bush legacy.

Mr. Rove can now contemplate that legacy from his home in Texas. But he should not get too settled in. Congress needs to use all its power to bring Mr. Rove back to Washington to testify — in public and under oath — about how he used his office to put politics above the interests of the American people.

[emphasis mine]

Ya think the Times knows that the Presidency's 25% approval rating is almost twice Congress' 14% approval rating?

Newspapers, like The New York Times, come in lower in approval (22%) than the Presidency--though better than Congress, whose last place is easy to beat.

Maybe the Times should pin its hopes on an institution other than Congress—say the military (69% approval), small business (59% approval), the police (54% approval), or organized religion (46% approval)--to clean up the mess in Washington, D.C.

They might even be able to give needed advice to news desks and editorial offices around the country about how to gain respect.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Good news for Multnomah County (and Oregon)

Oregonian reporter Esmeralda Burmudez reports this week on the surge in Latino residents in Multnomah County. The article State's face is changing – fast has the subtitle: Oregon sees a surge in Latinos, who account for nearly all new Multnomah County residents since 2000.

What does this mean for Multnomah County? Among other things it means a growing population of people who have traditional Christian values and favor larger, close knit families.

Ramiro Mendoza moved his wife and four children to Multnomah County 21/2 years ago from Reno to start a business. Trying their luck, they heard Oregon was a good place to live.
. . .
As seen for years, the growth of Latinos continues to overshadow that of other groups because of high birth rates, said George Hough, director of Portland State University's Population Research Center.

This population is pro-life.

Latino residents look at Multnomah County and see how poorly its government has done in providing basic government services—like protection.

Jovina Rosario moved to Gresham's Rockwood neighborhood six months ago from Beaverton. The single mother of two is out of work, and her neighborhood is heavy with crime and gangs.

On the west side, she worked odd jobs at Pizza Hut and Subway, but she no longer could afford to pay rent.

"I didn't move to Multnomah County by choice," she said. "Crazy stuff happens here, like gangs. I got kids, and it's not safe for them. If I could, I would move back to Beaverton."

I know a couple who tend toward the left side of the political spectrum. When the Multnomah County/City of Portland neighborhood they had lived in for decades started getting violent, they did just what Jovina Rosario wants to do but can't. They moved to a safer West side neighborhood. They could afford it. Voting for more and better policing is not on their priority list. But, it is on Jovina Rosario's list and others like her.

Bermudez doesn't note the difference in values these Latinos bring, but one big difference with the old guard in Multnomah County is strong Catholic values. Not only pro-life, but pro-religion as a central part of family and community life.

The surge in Mendozas and Rosarios give hope for a better Multnomah County--and a better Oregon.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Guilty until proven innocent

It's one thing for an individual to express an opinion on Barry Bonds' new place as all time home run leader. But, there's something disquieting about the editorial board of a major newspaper condemning someone who has not even been charged either in the legal system or in MLB procedures, let alone convicted. The Oregonian did just that in a little editorial today A record* made to be broken.

People usually want to see history made, share in it, revel in it, tell the grandkids about it. Not this time. This was history most baseball fans didn't care to see.
. . .
Of course, history still may tape a big fat asterisk to Bonds' feat. A criminal investigation is under way; Bonds' personal trainer is in prison, held in contempt for refusing to testify; baseball is probing players' alleged steroid use, too.
. . .
[Bonds] holds the record, but not the hearts of many fans. Some day another slugger will break Bonds' record. That will be baseball history worth watching -- and worth celebrating.

The Oregonian editors already know that Bonds' achievement is not worth celebrating. They don't need hard evidence. Gut feeling, that old backbone of vigilante justice, is enough.

There was begrudging respect for his abilities, but they couldn't help but insert their condemnation for Bonds' lack of charm.

Yet by the numbers, Barry Bonds is now the greatest home run hitter in baseball history. Give him his due: He is not just a puffed-up, stuck-up man, but a marvelous hitter of baseballs.

People said the same thing about Ty Cobb--and worse. What Cobb accomplished ranks him among the greatest in baseball—not how well he was liked by the press or fans. Anyone who loves baseball would be crazy not to have wanted to see Cobb play.

This issue is a little deeper. It's about the need for proof before condemnation. The next time the Oregonian editors lecture someone about assuming guilt before it's proved or about vigilante justice maybe they'll remember this little editorial and be ashamed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I don't usually comment on sports, but with all the "asterisk" talk and some sports news columnists sniping about whether this is a significant achievement, I thought I'd weigh in.

Oregonian columnist Brian Meehan writes in today's column:

Barry Bonds broke perhaps the greatest record in sports, but outside the Bay Area, does anybody really care?

Do you?


So did all the people who filled up baseball stadiums where he played, even outside San Francisco. ESPN showed all the recent games. My guess is not because 95% of the country was yawning.

My dad and I, who watched his last 5 or 6 games, cared. We like baseball, but usually only watch games when they are convenient. We made time for these.

My dad points out that if you want to put asterisks behind names, try them on all modern players breaking records. In the good old days they traveled by bus and train. Ever do a 72 hour Greyhound East Coast to West Coast trip? Ain't fun and doesn't leave you in tiptop physical shape.

How about modern medicine, pain relievers, surgery, training facilities, vitamins and health regimens? How much of a handicap for modern players is that worth?

Steroids or no steroids, Bonds is one of the great baseball players. And as Meehan grudgingly admits: "Barry Bonds broke perhaps the greatest record in sports . . . ."

For those who didn't care, my condolences. I'm glad I was around to see it.