Different generations, different political beliefs, different backgrounds. Shared humanity and belief in public service.
Thanks for sharing the memories with your readership!
Memoirs reflect the times of the age: the 1960's to the Carter period deserves another really good memoir, perhaps from you.
Speechwriters are like the poets of politics: see President Eisenhower's departure speech below from the National Archives
President Carter offered us hope after the turbulent time of the 1970's, the belief that foreign policy based on human rights was the best tool that we have in our American toolbox. We stood first in the world in human rights because of Jimmy and Rosalyn (also their speechwriter!).
The 1960's laid the groundwork for all youthful rebellion and rebellious culture for the next 50 years. The Beatles epitomized rebellion at the time, with their long hair and music. Thank heaven it is still happening today, as we see the next generation of wonderfully talented young people take over.
I still see tie dye and hear the music of the 60's in American streets. The new kids coming up may not know who Paul McCartney is, but they know the counterculture when they see it.
Back in the 60's, we tried to stop war, save the planet, and create progressive politics.
But the mighty forces of money usually won out. Thank you to you and the Carter admin for trying to stay the course, to fight for human rights. Most Americans do not realize the scope of our military activity worldwide, often creating human rights disasters in the poorest countries. Tigray, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia - Americans have no idea of the human suffering that worldwide wars cause to millions of innocents in the global death wish. As the superpowers carve up the Earth for money.
"In a speech of less than 10 minutes, on January 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his political farewell to the American people on national television from the Oval Office of the White House. Those who expected the military leader and hero of World War II to depart his Presidency with a nostalgic, "old soldier" speech like Gen. Douglas MacArthur's, were surprised at his strong warnings about the dangers of the "military-industrial complex."
"As President of the United States for two terms, Eisenhower had slowed the push for increased defense spending despite pressure to build more military equipment during the Cold War’s arms race. Nonetheless, the American military services and the defense industry had expanded a great deal in the 1950s. Eisenhower thought this growth was needed to counter the Soviet Union, but it confounded him. Though he did not say so explicitly, his standing as a military leader helped give him the credibility to stand up to the pressures of this new, powerful interest group. He eventually described it as a necessary evil."
President Eisenhower: "A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. . . . American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. . . . This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. . . .Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. . . . In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
I think that would be nice. I watched a movie last night about another writer, "Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song". I think you might like it.
While speechwriters may not "make" policies, with their eloquence they absolutely enable policies. Gerson's term "Axis of evil" made the Iraq war more palatable to Americans, as did the speeches he wrote conveying the message that Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction." (This was not Gerson's phrase, the term goes back to a description in a London newspaper of the German army in 1937.) At best there was no evidence for WMDs and at worst Bush, Cheney, Gerson et al knew there were no WMDs. Nearly 1 million people died in the Iraq War and countless innocents and combatants were maimed and tortured.
Gerson also advanced the policies of an administration that cozied up to oil companies and denied climate change, policies that will have horrific ramifications for decades, perhaps centuries. Even if Gerson apologized, and more recently condemned Trump, and had many other fine qualities, I find it hard to eulogize him after the wreckage he and the administration he served left in their wake.
I do feel sorry for his wife and sons and wish them and the rest of his family and community solace and healing.
I respect Mr. Fallows’ experience with an extensive group of diverse people and his generous assessment of their good sides and their faults. But Michael Gerson enabled some of the worst policies our country has ever pursued. On occasion I was surprised by some of Mr. Gerson’s columns, particularly his assessment of Dr. Fauci. But “axis of evil” did irreparable damage to our diplomacy. And his apology for torture will not be forgotten.
I wish more people could read these splendid, heartfelt eulogies. It might convince them that it wasn't that long ago when genuine friendships and respect could cross party lines frequently and with ease - and that such things are not that difficult, if we all could make just a bit more of an effort to see beyond our own carefully hewed vision of How Things Are. It could also encourage the rest of us to venture once in a while beyond our collective comfort zone to at least consider views that we've been conditioned to view as abhorrent, and of course most of all to seek to understand the source of these views and the integrity of those who possess them - as you did with Mr. Gerson.
I think it's safe to say that journalism is 50% communication, 25% politics, 25% integrity, 25% empathy - and of course 25% mathematics. Seriously, any journalist who is not overly endowed with all of the above attributes and skills in generous proportion is certainly part of the problem in our current national dialogue.
Thank you. Your notes are a gift to us all. I wish you had time to write more.
I didn't share Michael Gerson's politics, either, but what I admire him for is that he ultimately realized, as Stuart Stevens did in a different way, that he had been wrong, and said it. Not all of them admit it. To his memory.
Thank you for this insightful eulogy of Pertschuk, Jim. So many of the names we know from 1970s politics are those who abetted the Watergate coverup so it's uplifting to hear about someone who did so much good, and to remember how much good occurred in that decade. Fascinating to hear about Pertschuk's early life too.
I knew -- and loved --- Mike Pertschuk more than 50 years ago. He was, as you wrote, one of the sweetest and kindest men I ever knew. For so many of us younger Senate staffers he was a mentor who never let committee jurisdiction rivalries and jealousies stand in the way of getting good things done.
Marvelous remembrances of two Michaels—different in their accomplishments, but quite similar in their character. I find it invaluable to savor Jim’s reflections on those with whom he had contact and admired.