Thursday, January 10, 2019

Both Sides Now and Then

Editors' Note:  Consistently unreadable New York Times columnist David Brooks is known for his penchant for blaming both sides to a political conflict whilst pinning his hopes on a non-existent Third Way of wise white men who agree with him about everything.  He was at it again this week, looking to Senate Republicans for help in reopening the United States Government closed due to a corrupt bigot's temper tantrum.  He claimed both sides were at fault because Nancy Pelosi once supported a comprehensive border security bill including money to build a wall where it made sense, like next to big-city border crossings.  Of course, Senate Republicans are a bunch of spineless weasels who are either in complete agreement with Pres U Bum's hatred and bigotry, or so scared of being primaried that they retreat into their shells and pretend nothing is happening, like Elaine Chao's love muffin, Mitch McConnell.  The whole lame-o both sides trope sounded familiar so we sent our interns into the archives to see if they could find any earlier instantiations (back in the day when we ran his column for reasons now lost to history).  Sure enough, they found any number of prior examples demonstrating that whatever his weaknesses as a thinker and intellectual are, inconstancy isn't one of them.

April 14, 1861

It is time for responsible moderates in the Senate to step into to resolve this crisis which threatens to engulf the nation in a civil war that no one wants or needs.

While the intransigence of the Southern Secessionists is to be regretted, the opposition of President Lincoln to the reasonable requests for Southern dignity and sovereignty is inane. He has on numerous occasions stated that he had no quarrel with slavery where it is existed.  Why not reach out to the South by guaranteeing the continuation of slavery nationwide, including in the sparsely populated expanses of California, an uninhabitable wasteland that could well benefit from efficient Southern-style plantations?  The distinguished Virginia general, Robert E. Lee, could be a great source of national unity.

The President's obsession with slavery is obscuring the real issues facing this nation, including how to respond to the challenges posed by new technologies such as the telegraph and the railroad and how best to foster national unity to meet these challenges and export America's manifest destiny to a waiting primitive world.

November 27, 1917

The increasing violence of the suffragette movement has threatened to undo the very real progress that has been made in recent decades to improve the status of the lovely ladies of this great nation.  Some states have already voluntarily agreed to give the gals a vote, and they have shown that they are generally ready to assume such a responsibility.

But wartime is no time to embarrass the Government of the United States by protesting outside the White House and hurling shrill epithets at President Wilson. He is to be commended for dispatching these harridans to the workhouse, where they have persisted in their obstruction.  It was therefore understandable that the authorities had no choice but to forcibly feed and restrain these wartime resisters.  These radicals had never before expressed opposition to the normal conduct of prisons.  Doing so now is inane.

Further, while a gradual increase in the franchise to responsible non-hysterical females is on the whole a good idea, it does nothing to address the real issues confronting this country, including the unresolved war in Germany and the challenges posed by dangerous new technologies such as poison gas and mechanized weapons.

The gradualist state-by-state approach offers the best path forward for ladies who want to show that they are truly worthy of the franchise.  The Senate must make clear that the Federal Government will not reward disobedience with a one-size-fits-all federally mandated solution.

December 12, 1941

So Franklin Roosevelt has finally gotten the World War he so desperately desired.  While of course one must deplore the losses of men and ships caused by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one must also recognize President Roosevelt's responsibility for the debacle.  Had he responded more sympathetically to Japan's entirely justified requests for the resumption of oil purchases and for neutrality as it tries to the restructure the chaos that is China, it is likely that the Japanese Empire would have turned its attention elsewhere, like Indo-China or the Dutch East Indies.

Similarly, Herr Hitler's declaration of war, while rash and only likely to increase tensions in Europe, was provoked by Roosevelt's increasingly reckless policy of sending U.S. warships to confront Germany on the high seas as they conveyed increasingly powerful weaponry to Germany's adversary, Britain.

These policies, given Roosevelt's stated opposition to involving the United States in foreign wars, can only be described as inane.

It is time for responsible Senators of both parties to seek a negotiated peace with both Japan and Germany that would end the specter of a long and bloody war.  For example, ceding the Philippines and cutting off arms to Britain would go a long way toward a compromise solution that would allow America to confront its real challenges, such as rebuilding nationality unity after a fractious war-or-peace debate and confronting the promise of new technologies, such as radio-telegraphy and even so-called “television.”

May 4, 1963

After years of sanctioning lawbreaking and mass coercion, Martin Luther King, Jr. finally got the confrontation he so thirsted for in Birmingham, Alabama.  While of course siccing police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses on Negro demonstrators is unpleasant to watch, the responsibility for the breakdown in law and order in Birmingham as in so many other unfortunate Southern cities belongs to both sides.  King, known for his penchant for confrontation and his condemnation of moderate leaders, refused to abandon his campaign of lawlessness despite repeated court orders.  The Birmingham authorities had no choice but to restore law and order.  It is inane to preach the importance of the rule of law while violating it whenever one chooses simply to attract national attention.

The time has come for moderate Senators like John Stennis, Richard Russell, and Strom Thurmond to make it clear to Bobby Kennedy and other civil rights radicals that lawlessness will not be rewarded.  There can be no progress on a so-called Civil Rights Act while angry Negroes violate trespass laws with impunity at lunch counters across the South.

In any event, while there is no doubt merit to some of the grievances of Southern Negroes and the silly policy of segregation of lunch counters and buses is difficult to defend, those seeking to upend a way of life in the name of some abstract principle of “justice” are losing sight of the real issues facing our nation, including the need to restore national unity and purpose in a fast-paced world confronting massive technological change.  Some are saying that within the next decade we will see instantaneous satellite communications and picturephones in our own homes.  Isn't this more important that who sits where on a bus?

[That's enough.  We get the point.  – Ed.]

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