November 24, 2012

American Experience

Public Broadcasting Service

Douglas Brinkley (1960) [Historian]:
It was in stark contrast to kind of the so called greed decade of the 80s to see somebody not looking to make big speaking fees, not looking to sit on corporate boards.
[There's] just something about an ex-president … in blue jeans, with a hammer, sleeping in cots and building houses for the poor.
It's an image seared on our imaginations.
(Adriana Bosch, Jimmy Carter, 2002)

(Mohammed Naqvi & Hemal Trivedi, Among the Believers, 2015)

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004):
You are not alone, Freedom Fighters.
America will support you with moral and material assistance, your right, not just to fight and die for freedom, but to fight and win freedom.
(David Fanning & Linda Hirsch, Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia, PBS Frontline, 2018)

Dreaming of Star Wars

In October 1986 Reagan met Gorbachev [at a summit in] Reykjavik, Iceland [and was offered a chance to] realize his dream of reducing the nuclear threat.

Gorbachev offered Reagan everything he had wanted: they would both destroy half their long range bombers and missiles.
Eliminate all the missiles threatening Europe.
And he made a major concession on human rights.
[In return, he asked that SDI research be confined] to the laboratory. …
Alexander Bessmertnykh (1933) [Foreign Ministry, USSR]:
Reagan responded with the idea of having the complete elimination of strategic ballistic missiles.
And Gorbachev said,
How about eliminating all the nuclear weapons instead of just going part by part?
They … actually moved each other to the direction of the discussion of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. …

Richard Perle (1941) [Assistant Secretary of Defense]:
When asked, I expressed the categorical view that there was no way you could see the program through to a successful conclusion if we accepted the constraints that Gorbachev had in mind.
Upon hearing that, he turned to Don Regan and said,
If we agree to this, won't we be doing that simply so we can leave here with an agreement?
And it was a rhetorical question, of course, and you knew the moment he put it that he'd made his decision.
And within seconds, it was over.
Presidents grasp at treaties because they convey an image of Presidents as statesmen and peacemakers, and they're sometimes not bothered about the details.
It took tremendous discipline for Ronald Reagan to leave that little room without an agreement. …

Donald T Regan [Chief of Staff]:
[Reagan] said,
Don we were that close …
[Holding up his left hand, just finger and thumb.]
We were that close to getting rid of all missiles …
[But Gorbachev] kept insisting that we had to do away with SDI and I couldn't do that. …
I promised the American people I would not give in on that.
I cannot do it. …
(Adriana Bosch & Austin Hoyt, Reagan, 1998)

Earth Days

Rachel Carson (1907 – 64):
[We,] in this generation, must come to terms with Nature.
[We're] challenged — as Mankind has never been challenged before — to prove our maturity and our mastery.
Not of nature — but of ourselves.

Jimmy Carter (1924):
The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us.
But it will — if we do not act quickly.
It's a problem that we will not be able to solve in the next few years.
And is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.
We must not be selfish or timid, if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grand-children.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources.
By acting now, we can control our future, rather than letting the future control us.

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004):
They tell us we must learn to live with less.
And teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been.
That the America of the coming years, will be a place — because of our past excesses — it will be impossible to dream and make those dreams come true.
I don't believe that. …

I cannot, and will not, stand by and see this great country destroy itself.
Our leaders attempt to blame their failures on circumstances beyond their control.
On false estimates by unknown, unidentifiable experts who re-write modern history in an attempt to convince us our standard of living — a result of thrift and hard work — is somehow selfish extravagance which we must renounce as we join in sharing scarcity. …

We must and will be sensitive to the delicate balance of our ecosystems, the preservation of endangered species, and the protection of our wilderness lands. …

Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.

(Robert Stone, Earth Days, 2010)

John Adams (1735 – 1826)

Robert Bartlett:
You men of "learning", you lawyers will take control of this federal government.
Ordinary people with good sense will never be able to get elected.
And after you grab all the power and the money, you'll swallow up all us little folk.
This will be a government run by and for a tyrannical aristocracy.

Alexander Hamilton (c1756 – 1804):
And whom would you have representing us in government?
Not the rich, not the wise, not the learned?
Would you go to some ditch by the highway and pick up the thieves, the poor, and the lame to lead us?
Yes, we need an aristocracy to be running our government — an aristocracy of intelligence, integrity and experience.
(Muffie Meyer, Alexander Hamilton, 2007)

John Adams (1735 – 1826):
The decree is gone forth, and cannot be recalled, that a more equal liberty, than has prevailed in other parts of the earth must be established in America. …
May heaven prosper the newborn republic and make it more glorious than any former republic has been.

Abigail Adams (1744 – 1818):
[In] the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors have been.
Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.
Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.
(Peter Jones, John and Abigail Adams, 2006)

Peter Jones

The power Adams feared most was that of an American aristocracy.
John Ferling [Historian]:
[In the constitution of Massachusetts, he] was attempting to devise a structure of government that would prevent the wealthiest, the most elite in American society, from gaining control. …

Thomas Jefferson, the vice president of the United States, had concealed from Adams the fact that his own cabinet had repeatedly betrayed him, dangerously weakening his presidency. …
David McCullough [Historian]:
Jefferson was paying a professional scandal monger named Callender to attack Adams. …

[In 1798] John had sent a peace mission to France but urged building up the military as a precaution. He was attacked from all sides.
Many in his own Federalist party wanted a declaration of war and called Adams a traitor. …
The French had coldly rebuffed his offer of peace, and the pressure to go to war was relentless.
On February 18 1799, John Adams … dispatched a courier with a message for the Senate announcing he would send a second peace mission to France.
Joseph Ellis [Historian]:
Adams is essentially and self-consciously committing political suicide. …
The newspapers boiled with venomous attacks. …
Had he declared war on France, his popularity would likely have skyrocketed; his election to a second term would have been all but assured. …

John had confidential reports that the new talks in France were going well, but he felt he could say nothing until a treaty was signed.
If official word of peace came in time, his critics would be silenced.

News from Paris took months to reach America.
A treaty had been signed weeks before, but no one on the other side of the Atlantic knew it.

In the most venomous election in American history, the winner was Thomas Jefferson.
Voters had gone to the polls unaware that Adams had succeeded in his bold quest for peace.
Joanne Freeman [Historian]:
He was the person who stood up under enormous pressure to go to war, and said no, and it cost him a second term.

(John & Abigail Adams, 2006)

Drug Wars

Richard Nixon (1913-1994):
Homosexuality, dope, immorality in general — these are the enemies of strong societies.
That's why the communists and the left wingers are pushing this stuff.
They're trying to destroy us.
Every one of the bastards that're out there for legalizing marihuana is Jewish.
What the Christ is the matter with the Jews? …
What is the matter with them?

Nancy Reagan (1921 – 2016):
For the sake of our children, I implore each of you to be unyielding and inflexible in your opposition to drugs.
Say "yes" to your life.
When it comes to drugs, just say "no".
(White House Special Address, 1986)

Harry Anslinger (1892 – 1975) [Drug Czar]:
There are 100,000 marijuana smokers in the US.
Most are negroes, hispanics, filipinos and entertainers.
Their satanic music (jazz and swing) result from marihuana use.
It causes white women to seek sexual relations with negroes, entertainers and others.

Carlton Turners [Drug Czar, Reagan Administration]:
Marihuana leads to homosexuality and therefore to AIDS.
(Matthew Cooke, How To Make Money Selling Drugs, 2012)

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004):
[The Contras] are the moral equal of our founding fathers.

Peter Watt

Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, University of Sheffield

When Ronald Reagan becomes President of the United States he announces this accelerated drug war.
The drug war is already in place by that time and has been imposed by President Nixon and the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration, but Reagan takes it to a whole new level. …
[He] starts this crack-down in Florida and in the Caribbean against Colombian traffickers.
And so the Colombian traffickers realise that they need to move their routes westward, and of course the obvious place via which to traffic their goods is through Mexico. …

In 1979 … there is a revolution in Nicaragua, and the regime of Somoza is overthrown by the Sandinista revolution.
Nicaragua becomes the new enemy of the United States, and [this] provides the pretext for a proxy war in Nicaragua.
And so the US government funds the Contra army.

But when the US Congress finds out what the Contras are actually doing in Nicaragua there's quite a scandal because of the human rights abuses that the Contras have been committing.
So the US Congress reduces the funds.
[To circumvent these restrictions, the executive used] Mexican drug cartels to ship arms and funds to the Contras, who are mostly based in Honduras …

In return for those services, the CIA and the US government essentially tell cartels, like the Guadalajara cartel …
[We] won't bother you when you ship crack cocaine into cities in the US south-west, so long as you do your part of the bargain.
All of that has the effect of [transforming] what were, in the 1970s … incipient organisations into … the biggest trafficking organisations in Latin America.

(Mexico — failed state, narco-state or merely a weak state?, Rear Vision, ABN Radio National, 7 December 2014)


Brothers in Arms

Drug Wars

Free at Last

Victory in the Pacific

My Lai

The Presidents
God in America

PBS American Experience: The Presidents

Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911 – 2004)

40th President of the United States (1981-9).

  • Reagan, 1998.
    Adriana Bosch & Austin Hoyt.
    Richard Norton Smith [Former Director, Reagan Library]:
    Reagan believed the evil empire was evil [and] that the United States was put here by God to combat the evil empire and to prevail. …

    Richard Allen [National Security Adviser]:
    [Everyone] knew that the Soviets had this fundamental sense of insecurity, so we shouldn't exacerbate that sense of insecurity.
    That's exactly what Reagan wanted to do, was to exacerbate the feeling of insecurity.
    It was very simple. …

    Sergei Tarasenko [Foreign Ministry USSR]:
    First Deputy Foreign Minister Kornienko … showed me a Politburo paper informing us that the United States [had plans] in place for first strike against the Soviet Union with first priority to destroying all command center and structures of the country. …
    When Reagan read intelligence reports indicating the Soviets had feared a first strike, he turned to his National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane and said,
    Do you suppose they really believe that?
    I don't see how they would believe that. …
    Later that day he worried about Armageddon. …
    Peter Kuznick:
    [Vice President Henry Wallace was] the leading spokesperson [in the late 1940s] for understanding how the world looks to the Soviet Union …
    Most leaders are incapable of understanding how their actions look to their adversaries.
    … Wallace had that unique ability …
    [But his position was] defeated by the right wingers in the [Truman] administration. …
    (Untold history of the United States, Late Night Live, ABC Radio National, 1 July 2013)

    In early 1987, the White House grappled with how to extricate Reagan from the worst crisis of his presidency. …
    Nancy's astrologer feared:
    [The] malevolent movements of Uranus and Saturn.
    The alignment of the planets, it seemed, raised the danger of impeachment and assassination. …
    Joan Quigley [Astrologer]:
    Nancy was very concerned with the President's safety after the assassination attempt.
    … I am a very modern scientific astrologer.
    … I have at my command all the technical resources of the space age really in computers that I use.
    … I do very technical work.

James Earl Carter (1924)

39th President of the United States (1977-1981).

  • Carter, 2002.
    Adriana Bosch.

    Roger Wilkins [Journalist]:
    Reagan was the very formidable fellow.
    The combination of his beliefs, [while] not numerous … were clear, and his acting skills … made people sit up and say
    [This] guy means and believes what he's saying.
    Walter Mondale [Vice-President]:
    He wanted to get these hostages home on his watch. …
    … Khomeini released them the minute after Reagan was president. …

    Chip Carter [Son]:
    Dad had a woodworking shop and spent quite a lot of hours out there, working with a piece of lumber.
    He can make a piece of lumber sing.
    And a lot of it's just because of the meticulous care that he puts into everything he's done. …

    Andrew Young [UN Ambassador]:
    Jimmy Carter was told that it would be impossible for him to get into the Naval Academy.
    He was told that it would be impossible for him to get elected governor.
    And when he announced for the presidency, even the Atlanta Constitution had a headline saying,
    Jimmy is running for what?
    So all of his life, he had done the impossible.
    [The Carter Center] was just another challenge. …

    Ronald Reagan:
    So it is when we dedicate this center, Mr President, we dedicate an institution that testifies as does your life itself to the goodness of God and to the blessings he bestows upon those who do their best to walk with him. …
    His prestige restored, he returned to the role that had given meaning to his presidency: Peacemaker. …
    In his travels throughout the world, Carter has championed the cause of the poor and disenfranchised. …
    Bert Lance [Former Advisor]:
    He never lied to the American people.
    He kept the peace.
    He brought the hostages home without loss of life.
    All the things he said he was going to do. …

    Douglas Brinkley:
    What was Carter? …
    He had no interest in either the new deal tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, or the New Frontier tradition of John Kennedy, or the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson.
    He never crystallized a great agenda of what he wanted to do.
    He simply tackled issues as they confronted him one by one by one.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)

34th President of the United States (1953-61).

  • Eisenhower, 1993.
    Adriana Bosch.

    The war in France ended when the Allies encircled the Nazis at Falaise, capturing 40,000, killing 10,000.
    Dwight Eisenhower [Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force]:
    Falaise was one of the greatest killing grounds of the war.
    Roads, highways and fields were so choked with dead men and animals that passage through the area was extremely difficult.
    I encountered scenes that could be described only by Dante.
    It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh. …

    Dwight Eisenhower [Republican Presidential Candidate]:
    Today staggering federal expenditures for civil and military purposes have soared to totals beyond the comprehension of ordinary individuals.
    In a world threatened by war, a great portion of these is inescapable, but because necessary expenditures are so great, our entire arms program must be under constant scrutiny that not one dollar be spent without full value received.
    Armament, of its nature, is sterile.
    Heedless expense is investment in bankruptcy. …
    Among McCarthy's 'traitors' was Eisenhower's mentor, General George C Marshall.
    As Army chief of staff when the war began, Marshall had vaulted Eisenhower to prominence.
    In 1946, Marshall had tried to mediate a civil war in China, which Mao's Communists won.
    For this, McCarthy charged him with
    [A] conspiracy so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.
    General George Catlett Marshall — there was no man whom Eisenhower owed more or respected more, and McCarthy had called him a traitor. …

    {After one of McCarthy's aides, David Schine, was drafted, McCarthy tried to use his influence to get Schein cushy assignments.
    The Army kept records of these attempts for preferential treatment and Eisenhower's staff gave them to all members of McCarthy's committee. …
    McCarthy fought back, probing for details of the meeting where Eisenhower aides decided to investigate him.
    Herbert Brownell [Attorney General]:
    The President then issued an executive order which instructed everyone in the executive branch not to answer McCarthy's subpoenas.
    He cut off the fodder … for the day-to-day examination by McCarthy of employees in the executive branch …
    [It] was very effective in bringing the McCarthy era to an end. …
    With the exposure of the hearings, televised for eight weeks to 20 million Americans, McCarthy's credibility plummeted. …
    After the hearings ended, McCarthy was censored by his Senate colleagues. …}

    Republican hard-liners hoped he would roll back Communism in Korea and all over the world.
    Instead, Eisenhower settled for [Truman's policy of containment. …]
    But containing aggression with ground forces was costly in men and treasure.
    Early in his term, Eisenhower spoke with eloquence of the cost of war.
    Dwight Eisenhower [President, United States of America]:
    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies … a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those [who] are cold and are not clothed.
    The cost of one modern heavy bomber is … a modern brick school in [each of] more than 30 cities. …
    The cost of one modern destroyer is [five] fully-equipped hospitals …
    In six months, he ended the war in Korea and brought the troops home. …
    Eisenhower kept the defense budget down by relying on nuclear weapons.
    They were cheap.
    He would contain Communist expansion by threatening massive nuclear retaliation.
    Covert action was also cheap.
    It had served Eisenhower well in the war against Hitler. …
    To protect [British oil interests in Iran] from Soviet meddling, the CIA [helped return] the Shah to [power. …]
    … US President Dwight D Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax.
    [The democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad] Mosaddegh was arrested on 19 August 1953.
    The coup was the first time the US had openly overthrown an elected, civilian government of another sovereign state.
    (21 February 2013)
    He avoided another war in Asia when he refused to send [nuclear armed bombers] to help France fight the Communists in Vietnam.
    His commitment to a non-Communist South Vietnam seemed harmless enough at the time. …

    Eisenhower wanted the world to believe that the US could fight and survive a nuclear war.
    In private, he had no such hopes. …

    [He] was the first American president to meet with other world leaders in peacetime to try to avoid war.
    Dwight Eisenhower:
    The only way to save the world is through diplomacy. …
    (Geneva, 1955)
    [He proposed to the Soviets that] each country [allow] the other to conduct aerial photography of its military installations.
    This would lessen the fear of a surprise attack …
    [This] proposal became known as 'Open Skies.'
    [Khrushchev declined. …]
    Dwight Eisenhower:
    If you tell a commander [he'll get] an extra star if he cuts his budget, there'll be such a rush to cut costs, you'll have to get out of the way.
    God help the nation when it has a president who doesn't know as much about the military as I do.
    Four months after Sputnik, the US launched its first satellite.
    Five months after the Soviets launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, the US launched its first ICBM.
    Eisenhower never feared a missile gap; he feared a missile race that threatened what he called 'an age of terror'.
    But [he came] under political attack and the military, chafing under his tight budgets, saw its chance for more.
    These officers were part of what Eisenhower later warned against: a military-industrial complex.
    They fed the perception that Americans could no longer trust the old general to defend them. …

    For Eisenhower, the promise of Paris was the promise of peace.
    The [1960] summit would cap the career of a soldier who knew the cost of war, of a president who saw the mission of eight years as waging peace. …

    Democratic hopefuls began attacking him on the missile gap. …

    Eisenhower did not believe the Soviets were ahead in missile development, but he could negotiate with more confidence in Paris if he knew for certain. …
    With Eisenhower's approval, a U-2 took off on April 9th and headed for rocket installations in the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. …
    It [initially] failed to photograph a site in the Arctic town of Plesetsk that the CIA thought was crucial. …
    The CIA pleaded for another chance.
    Eisenhower weighed the diplomatic risk of a provocative act so close to the summit.
    Reluctantly he approved one more flight …
    On May 1st … a U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers took off from Peshawar, Pakistan. …

    Had the U-2 flight been a success, Eisenhower might have returned from Paris with peace talks under way, secure in the knowledge that there was no missile gap.
    The ill-fated flight would have revealed only four Soviet ICBM's and only at Psetsk.
    The US had six. …

    [Eisenhower] had wanted to end the arms race, to prevent an age of terror and thought he had failed.
    Dwight Eisenhower:
    As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war, as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years, I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight. …
    [Nevertheless, for] eight dangerous years, he avoided war and fostered prosperity.
    It was a rare presidential achievement.

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