HISTORY: GEORGE WILL: War Is Hell On The Home Front Too — World War I Unleashed Deadly Nationalism, Xenophobia, & Racism In America, All In The Guise Of False “Patriotism” — Set The Stage For Even Worse Things To Follow!


“Woodrow Wilson imposed and incited extraordinary repressions: “There are citizens of the United States . . . born under other flags . . . who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life. . . . Such creatures of passion, disloyalty and anarchy must be crushed out. . . . They are infinitely malignant, and the hand of our power should close over them.”

His Committee on Public Information churned out domestic propaganda instructing the public how to detect pro-German sympathies. A 22-year-old Justice Department official named J. Edgar Hoover administered a program that photographed, fingerprinted and interrogated 500,000 suspects. Local newspapers published the names of people who were not buying war bonds or otherwise supporting the war. People were fired or ostracized for insufficient enthusiasm. The Espionage Act of 1917 made it a crime to “collect, record, publish or communicate” information useful to the enemy.
In Illinois, Robert Prager, a German American coal miner suspected of spying, was stripped, marched through the streets and hanged. The Post deplored such “excesses” but applauded the “healthful and wholesome awakening in the interior part of the country.”

Josef Hofer and his two brothers were South Dakota Hutterites whose faith forbade any involvement in war, including wearing a military uniform. They were arrested in March 1918, and a week after the armistice they were sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Arriving at the military prison around midnight, they stood naked for hours in a 17-degree November night. Then they were suspended naked from the bars of their cells, their feet barely touching the ground, refusing to wear the uniforms left in their cells. Fed only bread and water, after two weeks David Hofer was allowed to telegraph Josef’s wife, telling her that her husband was dying. He died the morning after she arrived. Prison guards mocked his corpse by dressing it in a uniform.”


I have to admit that the experience of the Trump Administration is making me look at George Will, whom I had previously related to on few topics than baseball, in a new, more appreciative, light.

I continue to be amazed at how many folks seem to delight in the idea of their country going to war. Of course, the overwhelming number of celebrants are those who don’t actually fight the wars.

But, it’s still going on! Donald Trump has been bumbling through the first hundred days of his Presidency. But, finally, in contradiction to his recent statements, his campaign promises, and his cutting America’s already inadequate humanitarian response to vulnerable Syrian refugees, he lobs some missiles at a Syrian airbase.

The result, of course, was militarily insignificant, particularly since we warned the Russians (who presumably warned their  Syrian clients) in advance. Syrian (or Russian) bombers took off from the same airbase the next day to hit the same Syrian cities, only this time being careful to kill civilians with “conventional” weapons rather than gas. Are civilians hit with conventional bombs really less dead than those killed in gas attacks?

Trump couldn’t begin to tell you what his strategy is or what he sees as the “endgame” in Syria. Yet, the next morning, many (not all) of his critics were congratulating him for finally doing something “Presidential.” I guess it doesn’t get much more “Presidential” than ordering a missile attack.

Back to World War I. It started for no apparent reason, and there were no discernible principles or values at stake. It was a product of weak leaders, irrational nationalism, a gullible public, and imbecilic generals on all sides. In the end, it not only killed and maimed millions, but set the stage for Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, large scale genocide, and the absolute horror of World War II.

Although the U.S. has fought some smaller wars since World War II, we haven’t really “won” any of them (except for fairly insignificant skirmishes like Grenada and Kuwait). But, that hasn’t stopped folks from thinking that the next one will be the “best war ever,” and Presidents from believing that dropping bombs and sending missiles will make them look like brave, courageous, and wise leaders — in other words, “Presidential.”





Uniting America, Trump Style — I Never Found Much Common Ground With George Will (Except, Sometimes, On Baseball) — But, I Woke Up The Morning After To Find We Were “Brothers!”


George Will writes in the op-ed page of today’s Washington Post:

“A most dreadful inaugural address
Trump’s inaugural address in three minutes

Play Video2:59

On Jan. 20, 2017, President Trump took the oath of office, pledging in his inaugural address to embark on a strategy of “America first.” Here are key moments from that speech. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Twenty minutes into his presidency, Donald Trump, who is always claiming to have made, or to be about to make, astonishing history, had done so. Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor, had promised that the speech would be “elegant.” This is not the adjective that came to mind as he described “American carnage.” That was a phrase the likes of which has never hitherto been spoken at an inauguration.

Oblivious to the moment and the setting, the always remarkable Trump proved that something dystopian can be strangely exhilarating: In what should have been a civic liturgy serving national unity and confidence, he vindicated his severest critics by serving up reheated campaign rhetoric about “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape” and an education system producing students “deprived of all knowledge.” Yes, all.
But cheer up, because the carnage will vanish if we “follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.” “Simple” is the right word.

Because in 1981 the inauguration ceremony for a cheerful man from the American West was moved from the Capitol’s East Portico to its West Front, Trump stood facing west, down the Mall with its stately monuments celebrating some of those who made America great — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. Looking out toward where the fields of the republic roll on, Trump, a Gatsby-for-our-time, said: “What truly matters is not which party controls our government but whether our government is controlled by the people.” Well.

“A dependence on the people,” James Madison wrote, “is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” He meant the checks and balances of our constitutional architecture. They are necessary because, as Madison anticipated and as the nation was reminded on Friday, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”


Right on, George, you “nailed” it this time!

And, he was by no means the only one. Perhaps predictably, the “headliner” on the lead Washington Post Editorial was: “In his inaugural address, Trump leaves America’s better angels behind.” Wow, how “presidential” does it get?


Even the Wall Street Journal, by no means a shill for progressive liberalism, had to remark on President Trump’s complete failure to acknowledge the Constitutional limits on his power or to recognize that he will need to work with another Constitutional Branch of Government, the U.S. Congress (and, probably not just the Republicans there) to get things accomplished.  And, in the spirit of the “new unity,” I acknowledge that the Wall Street Journal has always had a very clear understanding of the essential contributions of immigrants, regardless of status upon arrival, to America’s economic, social, and political success.  Although I often disagree with its stances, I find that the Journal’s overall optimism about America and our future stands in stark contrast to the dark, sinister caricature of America set forth by President Trump yesterday.

Here is the link to the WSJ editorial:


Remarkably, President Trump appears to view himself as not just the representative of the American people (which, as President, he is) but also the very embodiment of the American people. That’s a very odd assertion for a leader who came into power while losing the popular vote by 2.8 million. Such appeals to narrow, totally self-interested nationalism are not new for world leaders past and present; however, they are seldom heard from leaders of true republican democracies. Does President Trump really understand how unbridled nationalism caused two disastrous world wars along with genocides and mass political exterminations during the past century?

Even more disturbing, President Trump’s definition of the “American people” seems inappropriately narrow: it excludes not only the majority of American voters who favored his opponent, but also doesn’t appear to fully acknowledge the existence of many Americans who can’t vote, such as children and, in particular, immigrants, regardless of status, whose interests, according  to the U.S. Supreme Court, are entitled, along with those of other non-voters, to fair representation by our elected officials all the way up to our President. That’s why the Supreme Court upheld apportionment by total population, not just the population of U.S. citizens or registered voters. For example, the large number of electoral votes that President Trump picked up in Texas owes, in no small measure, to the large number of immigrants, legal and undocumented, who have fueled Texas’s overall population surge at the expense of other states in the East and Midwest with dwindling populations.

I try to remain optimistic. I approach the news each day with the hope, however slim, that I will discover some evidence that our President understands the real America out there and his responsibilities to represent and inspire all Americans, not just the minority who happen to agree with him.  (I also heard and read enough “anecdotal” interviews with Trump voters after the election to know that some of them don’t necessarily share his dark and exclusive vision of America; they just want some change and hope that as a successful businessman President Trump will bring them and their communities at least some of the same material success that he has accumulated over a lifetime.)

But, as one of my “around 70” friends said to me recently, “Schmidt, at our ages we are what we are; what you see is pretty much what you get.”  And, President Trump has been around even longer than we have.  That’s something that might not bode well for the real America out there.  We’ll just have to hope for the best, for all Americans.

Celebrate the really great America, every day!

Due process forever!