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Most recent 11 results returned for keyword: richard lugar (Search this on MAP) Rob Cypher : As Jonathan Chait notes, only five Republican senators voted to confirm Justice Elena Kagan to the Supreme...
As Jonathan Chait notes, only five Republican senators voted to confirm Justice Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, and three of those senators — Judd Gregg, Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe — are no longer in the Senate. If Republicans take the Senate this November, there is a very real possibility that no one President Obama nominates to a Supreme Court vacancy, no matter what their record or qualifications, could be confirmed to the Court.

We made a similar point in 2012, when Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock defeated Lugar in a Republican Senate primary after he attacked Lugar for his support of Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. As we wrote then, “[i]n light of this incident, it is unlikely that any of the few remaining Republicans who backed an Obama Supreme Court appointee will be willing to risk their careers by doing the same again.”
Indeed, under the Senate’s current rules, Republicans could block a Supreme Court appointment right now, if they chose to, even though Democrats effectively control 55 percent of the Senate. Last November, when Senate Democrats voted to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” and end the GOP’s ability to require a supermajority to vote to confirm most nominees, they left in place the 60 supermajority requirement for Supreme Court confirmations. As a result, unless at least five Republicans oppose a GOP filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee, the current rules allow the GOP to keep that nominee from being confirmed.

Of course, if the vacancy were to arise right now, when Democrats control a solid majority of the Senate’s seats, it would be a simple matter to invoke the “nuclear option” again — a procedure that allows the Senate’s rules to be changed by a simple majority vote. But that assumes that a majority of the Senate is willing to support such a rules change.

Although Republicans have not, to say the least, been particularly cooperative when it comes to confirming President Obama’s judges, the truth is that there are some GOP senators who have been less obstructionist than others. Earlier this month, for example, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted with Democrats on Michelle Friedland’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Friedland, by virtue of the fact that she once clerked on the Supreme Court and that she is a relatively young 41 years-old, is a plausible Supreme Court nominee in a Democratic administration.

The nightmare scenario for Democrats under the current Senate rules arises if Republicans take over the Senate but Collins and Murkowski break with their party to support President Obama’s future Supreme Court nominee. This November, Democrats must defend their gains from the 2008 wave election year where they won seats in states like Alaska and Arkansas where Democrats typically do not fare particularly well. It is easy to imagine Republicans emerging with a slight majority — maybe 51 seats — once all the votes are counted.
Under that scenario, an Obama nominee is still likely to be supported by all 49 of the remaining members of the Democratic caucus, and that nominee could be supported by a handful of Republicans as well.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any Republican would vote at that particular moment to change the Senate’s rules in order to allow a Supreme Court nominee to clear the Senate by a simple majority vote. To do so would likely be political suicide.

The Senate Democrats’ decision to cut Supreme Court nominees out of the nuclear option last November, in other words, could prove deadly for any nomination President Obama sends to the Senate. If Republicans take the Senate this November, we may need to get used to seeing an empty seat on the Supreme Court for a very long time.
There’s A Hidden Timebomb In The Senate Rules That Will Go Off If A Supreme Court Justice Retires
The Senate Democrats' decision to cut Supreme Court nominees out of the nuclear option could prove deadly for any Supreme Court nomination Obama sends to the Senate.
3 days ago - Via Google+ - View - Thomas Yoing : This column reminds me of how the Tea Party (and its precursors) have utterly destroyed the moral and...
This column reminds me of how the Tea Party (and its precursors) have utterly destroyed the moral and intellectual fiber (to the extent that it existed) of the Republican Party. When I (PPKFP) was growing up there were lots of moderate Republicans. They are all gone. I remember when Richard Lugar was first elected from Indiana, he was considered a right-wing hawk. In 2012 he was forced to retire or else get demolished by the Tea Party loon who confidently proclaimed that if a rape happens, then Gawd must have wanted it to happen. 

As a result we have a party led by total ignoramuses (Rand Paul), liars (Paul Ryan) or lyin ignoramuses (Ted Cruz).

As Professor Krugman mentions in his article below, this has led to a complete denial of the facts on the ground regarding ObamaRomneyCare:

"Something like this is going on with Obamacare. Not a day goes by without some prominent Republican politician or pundit insisting that the enrollment numbers are phony, that more people are losing insurance than gaining it, etc.. I know that’s what the base believes, because it’s what they hear from Rush and Fox. But you would think that important people would have someone around who has a clue, who knows that enrollment data and multiple surveys are all telling the same story of unexpected success."

Why has Obamacare been successful? Because it sucks to be uninsured (

The party of Lyin Ryan, Cruz, Paul and Cantor can continue to ignore reality and stick their head in the ground like they do with respect to Global Warming, Evolution, Healthcare, Diversity, and the Economy. The World will move forward without them.
Obamacare Versus The Wusses
What ever happened to being tough-minded?
5 days ago - Via Reshared Post - View - Castalia Homes, LLC : "Castalia Homes doesn’t just participate in the green construction movement — we spearhead it...Former...
"Castalia Homes doesn’t just participate in the green construction movement — we spearhead it...Former Sen. Richard Lugar even recognized our green initiatives by giving us the Energy Patriot Award..."
Building Green
At Castalia Homes, LLC, we believe in green building. When you choose us to be your Indiana home builder, you’ll reap the rewards by saving money, living healthier, and upgrading your home’s value. Our holistic, innovative approach to building allows your beautiful, custom home to be an asset to
1 month ago - Via Google+ - View - Platts McGraw-Hill : As the crisis in Ukraine heats up, one former US senator's longstanding warnings about reliance on Russia...
As the crisis in Ukraine heats up, one former US senator's longstanding warnings about reliance on Russia for energy supplies are gaining ground. European ambassadors recently met in Washington with Richard Lugar, one of America's foremost experts on Russia and Eastern Europe, to hear his insights on the region's current predicament.

Watch the video:
03.16.14 Senator Lugar on Ukraine, Russia and Energy Security
Richard Lugar, one of America's foremost experts on Russia and Eastern Europe, discusses his insights on the region's current predicament.
1 month ago - Via via Spredfast - View - Coyote Lane : MIND CONTROLLED: "Losing the Media War" =                 The Washington Post , for example, made no...
MIND CONTROLLED: "Losing the Media War"
              =                 The Washington Post ,
for example, made no attempt in its reporting to analyze what Clinton
and the US senators were discussing. For instance, when Senator Richard
Lugar, a known war hawk and military expansionist, said th...
MIND CONTROLLED: "Losing the Media War"

1 month ago - Via Blogger - View - Tara Harding : You can't “Impeach” someone, because he's Black!! No one is going to Impeach no one...since an hour...
You can't “Impeach” someone, because he's Black!!

No one is going to Impeach no one...since an hour after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, the Republican Party has been trying to find a way to impeach the President.
Why?? He's a Communist!!, he's a Socialist!!, he's a Fascist!!, he's a Muslim!!, he's a Terrorist!!, He's a first born male, recruited at birth by Al-Qaeda 50 years ago, to become President of the United States, and undermine our way of life, destroy our Democracy, and turn this country into a Muslim State!!
Well?? since that ain't going to work, how about...Benghazi?? aahhh nope!! Oh yea!! how about; he's got the NSA spying on everyone in this Country!!...but so has every President...and J. Edgar Hoover...since November 4, 1952; the founding of the NSA...Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton...and Bush II, all knew...and most likely used them. But keep hitting on those “civil liberties lost” sound bytes, the GOP 'loves' them!!
Impeach him for the Economy?? nope!! It's doing pretty well!!...just ask their friends in Wall St. Unemployment?? 6.6 %, lowest in 5 yrs. Obamacare??...impeach a man for improving man's quality of life?? It's not really going to sell,'s a done deal!!
We all know, this is all Political Grandstanding...specially during this, 2014 campaign season...correlating the “Impeachment” sound bytes, with reminders to their Fox audience base, about Hillary, Bill, and Monica. And they're coming out of the woodwork's!! Clowns like Steven Seagal and Ted Nugent, running around...spewing all their infinite their awe-struck audiences responds; “Oh!! my God!! they look old as shit!!”
If the Republicans, really want to be serious and do some impeaching...impeach the Tea Party from the Republican ranks!! Get rid of all the “batshit” politics, and bring back some sanity into American Conservatism.
An overwhelming amount of Republicans in this country, don't care much for the movement's philosophy, at all...they know, the eminent demise of the GOP, if something is not done...but, the party's top stars don't have the cojones to tell them: “go certify yourself” as a political party, get out of our house, and don't let the door hit ya on your way out”!! How does it feel, to be told, that your party doesn't want you, anymore?? Ask Richard Lugar, Bob Bennett, and Lisa Murkowsky...they just weren't Republican enough, for today's Grand New Party.
Actor Steven Seagal Believes Obama Should be Impeached | World Truth.TV
Actor Steven Seagal appeared at the Western Conservative Conference in Phoenix on February 22, 2014, where he lamented on the leadership in our country. If the truth came out, he said, Obama would be impeached. // Western Journalism reported and posted a video showing Actor Steven Seagal calling for President Obama’s impeachment due to the number of scandals that is plaguing the administration, including the Benghazi terrorist attack. The actor...
1 month ago - Via Reshared Post - View - Jordan Peacock : H/t +Council on Foreign Relations and +Foreign Affairs  "This past fall was not kind to U.S. President...
H/t +Council on Foreign Relations and +Foreign Affairs 

"This past fall was not kind to U.S. President Barack Obama's foreign policy. It became increasingly clear that Afghan security forces were not going to be ready for the 2014 transition. The New York Times highlighted the administration's failure to persuade the Iraqi government to allow a residual U.S. force to stay in the country, leaving Baghdad ever more at the mercy of Tehran. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fought publicly over how to respond to Iran's advancing nuclear program. The administration's much-touted "pivot" to the Pacific seemed like more talk than action, as the United States passively watched tensions rise between China and Japan. And then, the administration tripped over itself repeatedly in trying to explain the fiasco in Benghazi, Libya.

Yet despite all this, Obama not only won the election in November but was more trusted by the public than Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, on foreign policy and national security issues. The Pew Research Center's last preelection poll, for example, found that more voters trusted Obama than Romney on foreign affairs, by 50 percent to 42 percent, and CBS/New York Times and NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys showed similar figures. Tracking polls suggested that the foreign policy debate helped halt whatever momentum Romney had.

This was all a big change from the past. Republicans had previously possessed a decades-long advantage on foreign policy. Exit polls have shown that voters consistently trusted Republican presidential candidates over Democratic ones on foreign policy from the Vietnam era until 2012. So Obama's edge cannot be chalked up simply to incumbency. And if this exception becomes a trend, it will pose a serious problem for the Republican Party, significantly altering the political landscape. Foreign policy is rarely the decisive issue in presidential campaigns, but it does matter: even voters who profess not to care about the rest of the world need to feel comfortable that their candidate can be the next commander in chief. A candidate's command of foreign policy acts as a proxy for assessing broader leadership abilities. As of right now, far too many Republicans flunk that test.

Since 9/11, Republicans have known only one big thing -- the "global war on terror" -- and have remained stubbornly committed to a narrow militarized approach.

So how did the party of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan get itself into this mess? Simply put, GOP leaders stopped being smart foxes and devolved into stupid hedgehogs. During the Cold War, the party of Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Reagan was strongly anticommunist, but these presidents took foreign policy seriously and executed their grand strategies with a healthy degree of tactical flexibility. Since 9/11, however, Republicans have known only one big thing -- the "global war on terror" -- and have remained stubbornly committed to a narrow militarized approach. Since the fall of Baghdad, moreover, this approach has produced at least as much failure as success, leading the American public to be increasingly skeptical of the bellicosity that now defines the party's foreign policy.

Republicans need to start taking international relations more seriously, addressing the true complexities and requirements of the issues rather than allowing the subject to be a plaything for right-wing interest groups. And if they don't act quickly, they might cede this ground to the Democrats for the next generation.


Republican presidents from the 1950s through the early 1990s had variegated records, but they had one thing in common: they left behind favorable legacies on foreign policy. Eisenhower stabilized the rivalry with the Soviet Union, preventing it from escalating into a violent conflagration. He dramatically improved the U.S. foreign-policy-making process, strengthened domestic infrastructure, extricated the United States from the Korean War, and limited U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Nixon improved relations with the Soviet Union, opened relations with China, and extricated the United States from Vietnam. Reagan spoke truth to power by railing against the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," but when faced with a genuine negotiating partner in Mikhail Gorbachev, he did not hesitate to sign numerous treaties, reduce Cold War tensions, and cut nuclear stockpiles. George H. W. Bush adroitly seized the opportunities afforded by the end of the Cold War to expand the West's liberal order to the world at large, as well as overseeing German reunification, rebuffing Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and locking in Mexico's path toward economic liberalization.

Each president built his reputation as a foreign policy hawk, and none was afraid to talk tough or act forcefully when dealing with adversaries. But the key to their success was the ability to combine principled beliefs at the strategic level with prudence and flexibility at the tactical level. Eisenhower took great care to prevent small crises from distracting the United States from its main goal of containing the Soviet Union. Nixon built his political career on anticommunism but recognized the strategic advantage of opening relations with Maoist China. Reagan talked tough on terrorism, but after 241 U.S. marines were killed in a suicide attack in Beirut, he did not hesitate to draw down U.S. forces from a peripheral conflict in Lebanon. And rather than do a sack dance at the end of the Cold War, Bush 41 took care to respond tactfully and nimbly, pocketing and building on an extraordinary strategic windfall.

To be sure, they all had their foreign policy blemishes, too. But their strengths outweighed their weaknesses, especially when compared with Democratic counterparts such as Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter. Republican presidents during the Cold War skillfully combined the idealpolitik of American exceptionalism with the realpolitik necessary to navigate a world of bipolarity, nuclear deterrence, and Third World nationalism. They relied on a string of steady-handed professionals, such as John Foster Dulles, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, and Brent Scowcroft, to help manage their administrations. Indeed, so great was the legacy this era bequeathed that in 2000, exit polls showed that the public viewed the neophyte George W. Bush as stronger on foreign policy than Al Gore, the sitting vice president. Gore's considerable experience was neutralized by public trust in the Republican foreign policy "Vulcans" advising his opponent.


For a brief time, it looked as though Bush 43 would be able to carry on the legacy. In the wake of 9/11, the neoconservatives in his administration supplied a clear and coherent grand strategy of using unilateral military action to destroy terrorist bases and remake the Middle East, and after quickly toppling hostile regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, it seemed to be working.

Over the next several years, however, the Bush administration's strategic miscalculations became apparent. The administration focused on a mythical "axis of evil," lumping disparate actors into a single anti-American threat. It displayed little tactical flexibility and no ability to plan for the consequences of its actions. The initial swift success in Afghanistan was marred by a failure to capture or kill al Qaeda's senior leadership, and when the administration pivoted almost immediately to Iraq, it took its eye off the ball in South Asia and allowed a short-term victory to deteriorate into a long-term quagmire.

Iraq, meanwhile, turned into nothing short of a disaster. There, too, the invasion went well, but the postwar planning was so slapdash that it sabotaged any chance of a stable occupation. A growing insurgency crippled Washington's ability to project power in the region and consumed an appalling amount of American and Iraqi blood and treasure. And the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction -- the existence of which had been the central rationale for the war -- undermined the United States' reputation for both competence and honesty. Late in Bush's second term, a well-executed course correction helped stabilize the situation and ultimately permit a U.S. withdrawal with some measure of dignity. But the chief beneficiary of the whole affair turned out to be Iran -- the United States' main adversary in the region.

Freed from the burden of executive-branch responsibility after the 2008 defeat, Republicans began to lose touch with the real world of foreign policy.

The failures in Afghanistan and Iraq compounded other errors that the administration committed. The Bush team pushed for free and fair elections across the Middle East but seems never to have thought about what would happen if the elections were won by radical Islamists -- as was the case with Hamas in Gaza in 2006. And an obsession with the "war on terror" alienated allies in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Rim, allowing a rising China to gain increasing influence.

The administration did have some successes -- getting Libya to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, developing a warm relationship with India, and providing generous support for AIDS relief in Africa. But by the end of the Bush years, global attitudes toward the United States had reached an all-time low, and the American public noticed. A 2008 survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs showed that 83 percent of Americans polled placed the highest priority on "improving America's standing in the world" -- a higher figure than for the traditional top priority of protecting American jobs.

John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, had neither the desire nor the ability to distance himself much from Bush's unpopular foreign policy record and was overwhelmed by the outbreak of the financial crisis during the final stages of the campaign. And after the GOP was evicted from the White House, the party's foreign policy approach grew even more problematic, with McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, heralding the future.

It is always difficult for a party out of power to craft a coherent worldview, in part because of the lack of a dominant figure able to impose order on the discussion, and this time was no exception. Freed from the burden of executive-branch responsibility after the 2008 defeat, Republicans began to lose touch with the real world of foreign policy. Some libertarians advocated a radical and impractical reduction of the United States' overseas presence. Most others moved in the opposite direction, toward jingoism and xenophobia.

Unbowed by Iraq, prominent neoconservatives called for aggressive military action against Iran. Popular party figures strongly opposed the construction of a mosque in Manhattan. Major Republican politicians held congressional hearings about whether American Muslims could be trusted. Right-wing columnists demanded that the Obama administration resuscitate the use of torture. Leading Senate Republicans opposed any new international treaty as a matter of principle, resisting the relatively uncontroversial New START treaty with Russia and flatly opposing the Law of the Sea Treaty, despite endorsements from every living former Republican secretary of state, big business, and the U.S. Navy. A few, such as Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, placed country over party and tried to find some common ground with Obama. The reward for his troubles was a primary challenge by a Tea Party favorite, who managed to defeat Lugar before self-destructing during the general election.


The 2012 presidential campaign devalued Republican foreign policy thinking even further. Most of the GOP candidates displayed a noxious mix of belligerent posturing and stunning ignorance. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota mistakenly praised China's regulatory framework and warned against Hezbollah's role in Cuba. Representative Ron Paul of Texas insisted that the global economy could be fixed by a return to the gold standard. Former Representative Newt Gingrich of Georgia became obsessed with the minute chances of an electromagnetic pulse targeting the United States, even as he disputed the actual threats posed by climate change. The business executive Herman Cain repeatedly flubbed questions on China, Israel, and Libya and proudly defended his ignorance in interviews, explaining that it was irrelevant whether or not a candidate knew who the "president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan" was.

Compared with this crew during the primaries, Romney sounded reasonable. After securing the nomination, however, his musings lost focus. Romney's primary foreign policy criticism of Obama dealt not with any actual policy dispute but with a vague tonal issue, represented by the president's alleged "apology tour" around the world. Romney claimed that Russia was the number one geopolitical threat to the United States, a statement 25 years out of date. And at various points during the campaign, Romney insulted the Japanese, the Italians, the Spanish, the British, and the Palestinians. His own campaign advisers repeatedly complained that he never engaged deeply on international affairs. The few times that he did talk about foreign policy -- in reference to the case of the Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng; during his July overseas trip to the United Kingdom, Israel, and Poland; and in the aftermath of the attacks on U.S. installations in Cairo and Benghazi -- Romney used rhetoric that was ham-handed and politicized. And in picking Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to be his running mate, Romney guaranteed that his ticket would have the least foreign policy gravitas of any GOP presidential campaign in 60 years.

The 2012 election was the nadir of the GOP's decadelong descent. By the time Romney was selected as the nominee, Republicans had come to talk about foreign policy almost entirely as an offshoot of domestic politics or ideology. What passed for discussion consisted of a series of tactical gestures designed to appease various constituencies in the party rather than responses to actual issues in U.S. relations with the world. The resulting excess of unchecked pablum and misinformation depressed not only outside observers but also many of the more seasoned members of the Republican foreign policy community who took the subject seriously. This palpable disdain of old GOP foreign policy hands helped further tarnish the Republican brand.

Increasingly, moreover, the Republican rhetoric clashed with the instincts of the public at large. Most Americans have always been reluctant to use force except in the service of vital interests, and a decade of war and recession had reinforced such feelings. A 2009 Pew survey showed that isolationist sentiments had reached an all-time high in the United States, and a 2012 PIPA (Program on International Policy Attitudes) poll found that Americans would strongly prefer to cut defense spending rather than Medicare or Social Security. A 2012 Pew survey noted that "defending against terrorism and strengthening the military are given less priority today than over the course of the past decade," and the 2012 Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey showed "a strong desire to move on from a decade of war, scale back spending, and avoid major new military entanglements." The Chicago survey also showed that independents had drifted toward Democrats and away from Republicans on most major foreign policy issues. As the GOP's rhetoric was tacking hawkish, in other words, a war-weary public was moving in the opposite direction.

The key to moving forward is for Republicans to stop acting like hedgehogs and start thinking like foxes again.

The Obama administration exploited this divergence and pushed its foreign policy advantage throughout the 2012 campaign. In response to the malapropisms of the GOP primary, Vice President Joseph Biden started taunting Republican challengers, noting, "There's a minimum threshold any man or woman has to cross on national security and foreign policy for the American people to think you're remotely eligible to be president. And these guys have a long way to go." At the Democratic National Convention, speaker after speaker gleefully mocked the GOP's ignorance and hyperbole about the rest of the world. The administration could weather its own shortcomings because it knew how the American people would judge the two parties relative to each other: the Republicans were responsible for getting the United States stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq; the Democrats were responsible for moving to close out both wars and killing Osama bin Laden.


It is conceivable that major screwups during Obama's second term could hand the advantage on foreign policy back to the Republicans without any effort of their own, but the reverse is more likely. Every additional year the party is locked out of the executive branch, the experience and skills of GOP foreign-policy makers will atrophy, while those of their Democratic counterparts will grow. It took the Democratic Party a generation to heal politically from the foreign policy scars of Vietnam and several years in office during the Clinton administration to develop new cadres of competent midcareer professionals. And public inattention to the subject doesn't help, offering few major opportunities for rebranding. So the GOP has its work cut out for it.

The key to moving forward is for Republicans to stop acting like hedgehogs and start thinking like foxes again, moving beyond crude single-minded objectives and relearning flexibility and nuance. They need to quit overhyping threats and demanding military solutions. After 9/11, the political logic for threat inflation was clear: politicians would be punished far more for downplaying a real security threat than for exaggerating a false one. But the GOP has taken this calculation too far and twisted it to serve other party interests.

Republicans continually attempt to justify extremely high levels of defense spending, for example, on the grounds that the United States supposedly faces greater threats now than during the Cold War. Romney claimed during the campaign that the world was more "dangerous, destructive, chaotic" than ever before. And Republican hawks warn that Armageddon will ensue if defense expenditures fall below four percent of GDP, even though they are vague about the connection between such an abstract figure and actual defense policy challenges.

A reality check is necessary. Precisely because Republican presidents during the Cold War took the Soviet threat seriously, they were careful not to escalate tensions needlessly. Today's threats may be more numerous and varied, but even combined, they are significantly smaller and less grave. As Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen have argued in these pages, long-term trends suggest that the world has become more, not less, safe for the United States over the past decade. U.S. deaths from terrorism are declining, and even with the global financial crisis, the world has not become more conflictual.

This is not to say that the United States should let its guard down. For Republicans, however, the political costs of overhyping threats now exceed the benefits. To echo Montesquieu, useless warnings weaken necessary warnings. Since the knee-jerk Republican response has been to call for military action anywhere and everywhere trouble breaks out, the American people have tuned out the GOP's alarmist rhetoric. It will be hard for any leader to mobilize a war-weary public into taking even necessary military action in the near future, and the GOP's constant crying of wolf will make this task much harder. A good grand strategy prioritizes threats and interests, and that is a habit the Republicans need to relearn.

The GOP must also develop a better appreciation for the full spectrum of foreign policy tools and stop talking only about military action. Indeed, George W. Bush's greatest foreign policy accomplishments came not in the military realm but in rethinking economic statecraft.He signed more free-trade agreements than any other president. Through the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Bush administration devised innovative ways of advancing U.S. interests and values abroad. In developing the architecture for improved financial coercion, the administration paved the way for the sanctions that are now crippling Iran's economy. Force can be an essential tool of statecraft, but it should rarely be the first tool used, and sometimes it can be most effective if never used at all. Republicans understand the power of the free market at home; they need to revive their enthusiasm for the power of the market abroad, as well.

Finally, Republicans need to avoid the problem of rhetorical blowback -- being ensnared in unwanted commitments as the result of the use of absolutistic foreign policy language. Being out of power, the GOP is judged by its words rather than by its actions. And black-and-white statements on issues such as immigration, antiterrorism, and multilateralism only delegitimize the party. The best foreign policy presidents were able to combine the appealing rhetorical vision of an American world order with the realistic recognition that international relations is messier in practice than in theory.

George H. W. Bush was able to build a broad multilateral coalition, including the United Nations, to fight Iraq because he both took diplomacy seriously and could deploy the implicit threat of acting outside un auspices. Too many of his successors in the party, however, have embraced a "my way or the highway" approach to friends and allies. Their logic is that the rest of the world is attracted to strength, clarity, and resolve, and so if the United States projects those qualities, all will be well. But this bandwagoning logic has little basis in reality, and if anything, in recent years the rest of the world has seemed to be balancing against the GOP. A BBC poll of the populations of ten close U.S. allies during the campaign revealed that respondents preferred Obama to Romney by an average of 45 percentage points. Strength, clarity, and resolve are important foreign policy virtues, obviously, but so are an appreciation of complexity and the ability to compromise and play well with others, qualities that have been in short supply on the Republican side of the aisle recently.


The Republican Party has a long and distinguished foreign policy lineage that currently lies in tatters. The ghosts of Iraq haunt the GOP's foreign policy mandarins, and the antics of right-wing pundits and politicians have further delegitimized the party. As a result, the GOP has frittered away a partisan advantage in foreign policy and national security that took half a century to accumulate.

Absent an Obama foreign policy fiasco -- a real one that commands the country's attention, not the sort of trumped-up ones that resonate only on Fox News and in the fever swamps of the Republican base -- the only way to repair the damage will be for the GOP to take foreign policy seriously again, in Congress and in the 2016 election. This does not mean railing against the isolationists in the party; in truth, their numbers are small. Nor does it mean purging the neoconservatives or any other ideological faction; no group has a lock on sense or wisdom, and there will and should be vigorous policy debate within both parties.

Rather, it means rejecting the ideological absolutism that has consumed the GOP's foreign policy rhetoric in recent years. It means recognizing that foreign policy has nonmilitary dimensions as well as military ones. And it means focusing on the threats and priorities that matter, rather than hyping every picayune concern. Most of all, it means that Republican politicians need to start caring about foreign policy because it is important, not because it is a cheap way to rally their supporters. The GOP has a venerated tradition of foreign policy competence; it is long past time to discover that tradition anew."
Rebooting Republican Foreign Policy
Republicans need to start taking foreign policy more seriously, thinking hard about the thorny task of managing a superpower and not leaving it as a plaything for right-wing interest groups. Failure to do so quickly could be catastrophic, ceding this ground to Democrats for the a generation at least.
1 month ago - Via Reshared Post - View - FOX 2 St. Louis : United or divided. Where do you stand? Life-long Hoosier and former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar showed...
United or divided. Where do you stand? Life-long Hoosier and former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar showed up. He was...
St. Louis University hosts symposium on City & County merger
ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – St. Louis University hosted a symposium on Friday focused on a possible City-County merger. The day long event was billed as an effort to gather and present information about...
1 month ago - Via Buffer - View - WISH-TV : Lugar says weapons threat still a big concern - INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former senators Richard Lugar of...
Lugar says weapons threat still a big concern - INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former senators Richard Lugar of Indiana and Sam Nunn of Georgia say they're pleased that efforts to disarm Ukraine of its ... More
Lugar says weapons threat still a big concern
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former senators Richard Lugar of Indiana and Sam Nunn of Georgia say they're pleased that efforts to disarm Ukraine of its nuclear weapons worked two decades ago, but they caution that the threat from weapons of mass destruction around the world is still high. The former senators spoke Tuesday at the University…
1 month ago - Via HootSuite - View - Anna Friend : After Years of Being MIA Former Senator Richard Lugar Wants to Tell Indiana Republicans Who to Vote ...
After Years of Being MIA Former Senator Richard Lugar Wants to Tell Indiana Republicans Who to Vote for in State Treasurer Convention Contest
By Paul Ogden As a guest for The Lafayette Citizen Originally posted at Ogden on Politics During the primary contest between Senator Richard Lugar and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, I met with a formerly-high ranking Republican state official.  He had be...
After Years of Being MIA Former Senator Richard Lugar Wants to Tell Indiana Republicans Who to Vote for in State Treasurer Convention Contest
By Paul Ogden As a guest for The Lafayette Citizen Originally posted at Ogden on Politics During the primary contest between Senator Richard Lugar and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, I met with a formerly-high ranking Repub...
2 months ago - Via Blogger - View - Ron Shtigliz : As support for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday grew, one new sponsor marked the tectonic shifts of...
As support for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday grew, one new sponsor marked the tectonic shifts of symbolic alignments in the era. John Danforth was a new Republican senator from Missouri, a millionaire who had unseated the old liberal Democrat Stuart Symington in 1976. Danforth urged his fellow Republicans to join him in honoring King. Armed with a divinity degree, Danforth was helping to refashion the GOP as a crucible for the mixing of church and state—just as Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson were using public displays of religion to challenge the Democratic establishment. Danforth believed he was following Martin Luther King’s example.

Danforth later revealed that he had gotten to know King and King’s father when he served as a board member of King’s alma mater, Morehouse College. He did not want champions of the welfare state to have a monopoly on public claims of morality and decency. To Danforth, King’s determination in the fight for equality symbolized ―the spirit of American freedom and self-determination.” Was Danforth’s view of King’s legacy in step with the growing body of social conservatives, who were campaigning vigorously to take over the GOP and the country? That question still appeared to be open, what with much of the pro-life movement claiming King as an inspiration and model, and with at least two Republican presidential candidates (John Connally and John Anderson) making a great show of repudiating their former opposition to King and civil rights. Danforth signaled a new possibility for conservative Republicans: They could claim some affinity, even allegiance, to King’s mantle. They may not have wanted to convince many black voters, and they did not need to. White conservatives in particular recognized in King a model to emulate—notably his use of religious enthusiasm and will-to-sacrifice. Nobody better illustrated Coretta Scott King’s point that King had spoken “to us all.”

* * *

Other conservatives got in Danforth’s way, however, with tough ideological attacks on King’s legacy. When Senator Strom Thurmond reconvened the joint hearing, opponents of the King holiday were given the most room they ever had in the record. First was Alan Stang, author of an anticommunist tract, “It’s Very Simple: The True Story of Civil Rights” (1965). Stang enumerated King’s alleged communist associations more clearly than any holiday opponent had done on the record before. He also did a better job than anyone had in spelling out the claim that King provoked violence. To people who wondered why “violence was so often a hallmark of King’s so-called nonviolent movement,” Stang answered that “violence was exactly what he wanted,” citing King’s own article in the April 3, 1964, Saturday Review. There King laid out his strategy: Nonviolent demonstrators went into the streets to exercise their rights, and racists resisted by unleashing violence against them, which led “Americans of conscience” to demand federal intervention and legislation. “So,” Stang concluded, “the violence he [King] got was not a surprise” and King “did not dislike it. He wanted it in order to pressure the Congress to enact still more totalitarian legislation.”

Thurmond called a real live communist next: Julia Brown, a self-identified “loyal American Negro,” who worked as a communist organizer beginning in 1947. At first, Brown had thought she was “joining a legitimate civil rights organization[.] Finding that I was a true member of the Communist Party[,] which advocated the overthrow of the United States Government, I decided to leave the organization, but I had to bide my time to avoid suspicion.” Soon she went to the FBI to report what she had witnessed. “In 1951, I was asked by the FBI to go back into the Communist Party as an undercover agent to report on their subversive activities.” She claimed that only party members attended the meetings she attended. She “frequently heard Martin Luther King discussed.” The communist cells she was in were “continually being asked to raise money for Martin Luther King’s activities and to support his civil rights movement by writing letters to the press and influencing local clergymen, and especially Negro clergymen that he was a good person, unselfishly working for the American Negro, and in no way connected with the Communist Party.”

Brown proposed an ingenious way to counter all that communist influence: “[A] great many Negroes, such as George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington,” provide American youth with a positive example. King, by contrast, provided an example of “agitation and manipulation for goals dictated by hatred and envy.” If the committee recommended a King holiday, “The memory of Carver and Washington would be dishonored.” If the holiday bill passed, “we may as well take down the Stars and Stripes that fly over this building and replace it with a Red flag.” Similar testimony came from Karl Prussion, a former undercover FBI agent.

Larry McDonald then stepped up and brought affirmative action, which had been upheld in the Supreme Court’s 1978 Bakke decision, into the discussion. He questioned whether King “really found racism repugnant in light of his support of discrimination in jobs and housing so long as the discrimination was in favor of blacks.” King’s forming a “common front” with the “virulently racist Nation of Islam” in Chicago raised the same question. McDonald qualified his points: “While Rev. King did not advocate race hatred, he did not bar alliances with racists and he did not keep them from his personal staff.” McDonald gave a single quotation to back up the second claim: King’s staff member James Bevel said in 1966 in Chicago that “we need an army . . . to fight the white man this summer.” King’s civil disobedience dangerously taught young people “contempt for the law.” A King holiday would teach the same lesson.

John Ashbrook did not show up for the hearing, but he joined McDonald in submitting a written statement. “It is not popular and certainly not politically advantageous to speak in opposition to a man who has been canonized by the news media and by many . . . who profess to advocate civil rights,” Ashbrook acknowledged. But “Rev. King’s motives are misrepresented. He sought not to work through the law but around it, with contempt and violence. How soon we forget. When will politicians learn to accept history as it really happened instead of history as told by the Washington Post?” The issue was whether Congress would “support the fictional assessment of Dr. King” by adopting a holiday that would “take the taxpayers for a ride to the tune of millions and millions of dollars” and whether America’s children would “be misled into believing” that King was a great man and learn to speak of him “with the same reverence” they now reserve for Washington and Lincoln.

A Statue in Lieu of a Holiday?

Lack of coordination among conservatives became more evident when King was next discussed on the floor of Congress at the end of July. The provocation was a resolution dating back several years to erect a statue of King somewhere on the Capitol grounds. It actually passed both houses in the 94th Congress (1975–76), but since the Senate version passed only at the very end of term, the House did not have time to consider the Senate amendments. In the 95th Congress (1977–78), the House passed it, but not the Senate. It would cost $25,000, out of contingent funds already appropriated. It would be the first work of art displayed in the Capitol that memorialized a black American. (There were then 681 that did not memorialize black Americans.) Its author, Democrat Jonathan Bingham of New York, said it had passed before with “little or no dissent.”

Ashbrook put an end to that. He was “sad” that no black leader was memorialized in the Capitol, but this particular leader would soon be revealed as an “inappropriate choice.” Time and history would “show that there could have been much better choices.” History had a way of reappraising once-popular leaders—he repeated Thurmond’s example of John Kennedy, and added Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover. Ashbrook was the difference be-ween little and no dissent in the past. He was the only one to speak against the King statue now.

Rising to speak against Ashbrook was none other than freshman congressman Newt Gingrich. “As a representative of Georgia,” Gingrich said that a King statue would be “an important symbol. It is very clear in the black community that this is the overwhelming choice of that community.” Gingrich occupied the district adjacent to Larry McDonald’s in the booming suburbs of Atlanta. The statue passed overwhelmingly—supported by many who opposed the holiday—408 to 11.

Enactment of the statue statute appeared to be a rehearsal for the holiday vote to come. The vote here easily topped the two-thirds majority necessary to pass on a “suspension of rules,” that is to say, quickly, and without the elaborate rigmarole the House insists upon for controversial legislation.

Ashbrook weighed in again on September 27, 1979, before the House committee took final action that year on the holiday bill. Ashbrook attacked the King Center by citing a news story that contained a wealth of damning circumstantial evidence about its finances, particularly suggesting a quid pro quo from the Carter administration, which had greatly increased the center’s public funding. The story quoted the artlessly evasive nondenials of a King Center spokesman. Ashbrook seemed to be testing whether any dirt could stick to the great Teflon icon of civil rights, whether his attack on the fundamental basis of the King holiday—as opposed to its price tag—could draw support anywhere but the outer fringes he and Larry McDonald hovered around.

The Holiday Nearly Passes

He had his answer soon. The House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service finally reported the holiday bill to the floor, favorably, on October 23, 1979. Its minority report—signed by only five of the committee’s nine Republicans—conspicuously left out any negative statements or insinuations about King or his associations. It included only two objections to the holiday. Most important was a concise—and persuasive—objection to the majority’s fuzzy math on its cost. An ancillary concern was whether Congress should single out King—whom the minority praised—for an honor it denied to Jefferson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt. These objections were confirmed as the respectable bases of opposition to the holiday. Fiscal discipline and an unwillingness to put King on a pedestal above long-hallowed national heroes constituted the broadest argument that could plausibly attract a majority.

Opponents of the holiday could have said: Congress already honored King with substantive action, in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. To point to the superfluity of an additional tribute would have bolstered the most effective point that holiday opponents made, though they never emphasized or belabored it: A Martin Luther King holiday would be an odd, cult-of-personality-like gesture, the sort of thing that King had always opposed. To point to Congress’s substantive tribute to King from 1968 would also have given holiday opponents the cover of respectability that they clearly sought. It would have backed up their claim that they really respected King; they just did not think a holiday was the most apt way to honor him.

On November 13, 1979, an overwhelming majority of House members—252 to 133—voted to enact a federal holiday in honor of King on his birthday, January 15, every year. But that was not quite the two-thirds majority needed to speed the bill through Congress on the “suspension of rules” that holiday sponsors had somewhat overconfidently attempted. Holiday supporters were able to get the bill on the docket one more time days before the end of the session, on December 5, 1979. This time it could be carried by a simple majority, but congressional rules would allow opponents to delay action on the bill, or to attach weakening amendments to it.

A pro-holiday substitute amendment, offered by Republican Robert McClory of suburban Chicago, appeared to meet the cost argument halfway by changing the date of the King holiday from January 15 every year to the third Monday every January: a three-day weekend would not be as costly as the midweek interruptions that would occur almost half the time January 15 came up.

Holiday opponents tended to support a different substitute, to divert holiday feeling into a proclamation of commemoration of King’s birthday on the third Sunday of every January. The sponsor of the Sunday switch was the conservative Republican Robin Beard, whose district included several white precincts of Memphis and ran east to the outskirts of Nashville. Holiday supporters objected that a Sunday commemoration would eliminate all the honor that the holiday campaign had intended—and that the House had just voted overwhelmingly for on November 13. Cardiss Collins of Chicago’s West Side, speaking for the whole Black Caucus, said Beard’s version of King Day would be “a holiday in name only. We all know that many commemorative days and weeks have little meaning to the public.” She wondered aloud how many present celebrated National Safe Boating Week, National Poison Prevention Week, or Pan-American Aviation Day, Stephen Foster Day, and Leif Ericson Day.

John Conyers and other longtime holiday supporters supported the McClory (Monday) amendment from the start. It passed overwhelmingly, 291–106, on December 5, 1979. That was well over the two-thirds majority that holiday supporters had needed back on November 13, though that was immaterial now. With a simple majority, it appeared that King’s supporters had at last gotten their holiday.

But Beard’s amendment came up ten minutes later and also carried, though narrowly: 207 in favor of the Sunday substitute, and 191 against. Holiday supporters, led by Conyers and Democratic congressman Robert Garcia of New York City, moved a petition to withdraw the whole bill in response. Thus, after building support for it all year, the Congressional Black Caucus and House liberals killed the proclamation of a national “Martin Luther King Day” just forty days before King’s fifty-first birthday. That was better than yielding to a phony “holiday” on a Sunday—which would have been hard to repeal down the road in favor of a real, weekday holiday. To block the Sunday substitute was the best they could do for now. They kept the possibility open that they could regroup and rally holiday support more effectively in a future Congress.

The Holiday Rises Again

How often does a second chance come? A big event came between the holiday bill’s sea-sickening swings and withdrawal in 1979 and the next round of debate and voting, in 1982–83. That event is often described as a revolution: Americans elected their most conservative president since 1928.

How quixotic it appeared—in the face of the man who resurrected the GOP from Watergate and decisively moved the voters away from their familiar ideological center—to revive the holiday bill in 1982. Not only was Ronald Reagan on the record as not supporting the King holiday, but the case against the holiday had certainly grown. The 1981–82 recession strengthened the argument that it was risky to shut the economy down for an additional three-day weekend every winter. Did CBC members actually expect enough Republicans to turn against Reagan and support the holiday? Or did they only wish to dramatize the CBC’s own victimization with an operatic auto-da-fé? Was the revival of the holiday bill a desperate existential thrust of American “progressives,” who appeared to have nothing now but memories?

At the 1982 hearings, Coretta King once again headed the roster of pro-holiday witnesses, speaking with much less restraint than in 1979. She focused on the “traveling right-wing circus” that specialized in “character assassination and infantile name-calling.” Her ire elevated the significance of the right-wing fringe and seemed to identify it with all opponents of the bill, including the Reagan administration.

Larry McDonald led the opposition’s side of the roster. He had one powerful new argument: Government secrecy was keeping America in the dark about King’s record. And for once, government secrecy was serving King and his allies. The SCLC and King’s assistant, Bernard Lee, had in fact obtained a court order in 1977 sealing the records of FBI surveillance of King till 2027. “If the FBI files had not proved King’s involvement with the Communists,” McDonald argued, “we can rest assured that they would have been released as part of the attack on the FBI during the 1970’s.” McDonald insisted the public had a right to see whether the nation’s top law enforcement agency had any reason to consider King a security risk.

McDonald piled on. He cited specific black people who had criticized King. He added that Harry Truman had called King a rabble-rouser. He thought it “racist” to reserve a holiday for black Americans: Why not an Indian American holiday? “I happen to be part Cherokee,” he said. “Why not a Chinese American? Why not an Hispanic? . . . [W]e are supposed to be e pluribus unum.” He returned again to his hope that, “in the spirit of openhandedness,” Congress would ―open up the surveillance records . . . so that we would . . . have an opportunity to see if there is something there that a future time would prove to be greatly embarrassing.”

In giving full hearing to the opposition, the committee had, perhaps unwittingly, done much to expose the ugliness of anti-King sentiment. This was a strange echo of King’s own maneuvers to bring the violence and hatred that he believed inhered in the segregation system to the surface—which McDonald and the other professional anticommunists said was the same as provoking violence.

Stevie Wonder—who had joined the holiday campaign and tried to promote it with one of the weakest songs he ever wrote, “Happy Birthday”—isolated the anticommunist attackers further. “Allow me to quote one American leader who seems to understand the value of remembering Dr. King,” Wonder said. “I quote”:

There are moments in history when the voice of one inspired man can echo the aspirations of millions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was such a man. To America he symbolized courage, sacrifice, and the tireless pursuit of justice. . . . To the world he will be remembered as a great leader and teacher, a man whose words awakened in us all the hope for a more just, more compassionate society. . . . His time among us was cut tragically short, but his message of tolerance, non-violence, and brotherhood lives on. . . . Let us all rededicate ourselves to making Martin Luther King’s inspiring dream come true for all Americans.

Wonder’s source? Ronald Reagan. Wonder had taken advantage of one of the president’s public statements praising King, which had separated Reagan from the extreme right views of McDonald, Ashbrook, and the like—and from Reagan’s own comment shortly after King’s murder in 1968 suggesting that King’s violent end had originated in the strategies he had promoted: The murder “was a great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”

The most interesting witness against the holiday was J. A. Parker, the black conservative who had established his reputation by publishing a biography of the black communist leader Angela Davis, in which he attacked Dr. King as a more pernicious influence. In his testimony, Parker summed up the case against the holiday more fully and equitably than anyone inside or outside Congress. It was “unrealistic‖ to rank King with Jesus and Washington, Parker said. Parker named Jefferson, Lincoln, Patrick Henry, Crispus Attucks, Booker T. Washington, General Daniel “Chappie” James, and Franklin Roosevelt as examples Congress would have to pass over to do that. He complained that holiday supporters were “unwilling to let history make its final judgment on the merits or demerits of Dr. King.” Parker could never forget King’s calling America “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” during Vietnam, or his likening the United States to Hitler’s Germany. Parker named five “influential” critics of King, without referring to their race (they were all black): Former U.S. senator from Massachusetts Edward Brooke; former NAACP director Roy Wilkins; former Urban League director Whitney Young; baseball hero Jackie Robinson; and nationally syndicated columnist Carl Rowan. To ignore King’s “divisive” role was “to ignore the past and rewrite history.” The holiday, widely perceived as a sop to black voters, would “further exacerbate the effects of a color-conscious society at the expense of the color-blind society, which should be our goal.”

* * *

Congress waited till late in the following year to act. Though President Reagan had not yet come out in support of the holiday, he made a strong public statement at the White House on King’s birthday in 1983 about “the man who tumbled the wall of racism in our country. Though Dr. King and I may not have exactly had identical political philosophies, we did share a deep belief in freedom and justice under God. Freedom is not something to be se- cured in any one moment of time. We must struggle to preserve it every day. And freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. History shows that Dr. King’s approach achieved great results in a comparatively short time, which was exactly what America needed. . . . What he accomplished—not just for black Americans, but for all Americans—he lifted a heavy burden from this country.”

* * *

Republican supporters of the holiday included two of the most effective Republicans on Capitol Hill: Majority Leader Howard Baker and Finance Committee chairman (and former vice presidential candidate) Bob Dole. More surprising were the conservative Republicans who followed John Danforth’s example. Senator Richard Lugar (then associated with the rising “New Right” in the party) of Indiana and Congressman Dan Lungren of California soon joined the list of supporters. Lungren’s change in particular signaled the shift that Republicans were making across their ideological spectrum to support the holiday.

The House committee reported the bill favorably to the floor on July 26. Although Reagan had expressed some disapproval of the bill, nobody was putting up much of a fight against this old initiative, which had been a Democratic project, indeed a CBC project, since 1968. For some, action on the holiday was futile: Reagan was probably going to veto the bill. It had to clear both houses before anybody would find out.

The House vote came in on August 2, 1983. The King holiday had won an overwhelming majority: 338 members—nearly three fourths—voted for it. Of the 338 yes votes, 249 were Democrats— more than enough to carry the bill in the 435-member House. Among the 89 House Republicans voting for the King holiday were Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Hamilton Fish, Henry Hyde, Dan Coats, Jack Kemp, Bob Michel, and Dan Lungren. Among the 77 Republicans who voted no (about 40 percent of the Republican members) were: both Cranes (Phil and Dan, of Illinois), Jim Jeffords, Delbert Latta, Trent Lott, John McCain, and Ron Paul.

* * *

The 1983 Senate debate was far more dramatic than the House one, because there was reason to doubt the holiday’s fate in the Senate. It now had a Republican majority, elected on Ronald Reagan’s coattails. The holiday’s initial Senate sponsors included eight Republican senators, however, some of them conservative. They had to fight back a series of hostile amendments designed to embarrass holiday supporters, or to turn civil libertarians, black nationalists, and “Hispanic” voters against them.

The chief amender has gone down in history as perhaps the chief offender against the King legacy: Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Helms’s anti-holiday speeches drew lavish attention from the media, though Helms had never shown much interest in the legislation before: He did not testify in the hearings held in 1975, 1979, 1982, or 1983. For most of the final Senate debate in 1983, however, Helms’s attacks and threats to filibuster were the only big news. Helms succeeded in imprinting the extreme anticommunist message on the national memory far more than those who had made the same attacks on King during his lifetime. Armed with the Senate’s unique filibuster-enabling Rule 22, Helms resurrected Ashbrook and McDonald’s rhetoric while turning their lost cause into publicity—and significant political leverage—that they could only dream of.

But, like Ashbrook and McDonald, Helms played into the hands of holiday supporters. His statement—and headline-making showdown with Ted Kennedy—came at the start of the Senate debate on October 3. Helms went on for some twenty-one pages in the Senate record. He detailed the alleged communist associations and called for the release of the FBI records on King, and for a full hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Helms pitted liberal martyrs against one another, saying that Ted Kennedy (Helms’s principal antagonist in the debate over King’s past) was picking on the wrong man. Kennedy’s quarrel was not with “the senator from North Carolina.” Kennedy’s quarrel was with “his dead brother who was president and his dead brother who was Attorney General”: Both had warned King about his communist associates, and both ordered the FBI to maintain its investigation of him.

Helms’s case, as detailed and energetically argued as it was, depended too much on tenuous links. For example, he said, “King associated with identified members of the communist party of the United States (CPUSA), with persons who were former members of or close to the CPUSA, and with CPUSA front organizations. In some important respects King’s civil rights activities and later his opposition to the Vietnam war were strongly influenced by and dependent on these associations.” Helms admitted, “There is no evidence that King himself was a member of the CPUSA or that he was a rigorous adherent of academic Marxist ideology or of the Communist Party line. Nevertheless, King was repeatedly warned about his associations with known Communists.” It was all too easily and voluminously refuted, not only by Ted Kennedy, but by Republican Judiciary Committee members Arlen Specter and Bob Dole. Dole said the FBI’s investigation was “tainted”: The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 1976 investigation found that the FBI categorized King as a communist even before it began its investigation. Dole granted “that various congressional investigations may not have uncovered every piece of information contained in the sealed files. However, there were comprehensive investigations, and I believe that if there was, in fact, anything of significance in the files, it would have been uncovered by now.”

The anticommunist rhetoric of J. Edgar Hoover and the Birch Society that Helms was channeling—and which several members of Congress freely applied to King back in 1968—had clearly moved outside the mainstream of respectable language by 1983. Thus Ashbrook, McDonald, and Helms probably helped the pro-holiday forces in 1979 and 1983 more than they hurt them. They made it difficult for Republicans to associate themselves with King opponents. Republicans in the Senate voted two to one in favor of the holiday. Of the six senators who had voted in committee against the holiday back in 1979, five switched to yes votes (all but Orrin Hatch) on the final floor vote in 1983.

Yet more strikingly, southerners—even Strom Thurmond—could no longer go along with the anti-King voices in any sustained public way, even if they wanted to. Black voters now were strong forces in their states in particular (large black populations had been the principal reason that Democrats in those states had resorted to disfranchisement in the first place, around the turn of the twentieth century). A direct assault on a symbol of black power and respect could be disastrous. With the exception of Democrat John Stennis of Mississippi, senators from the Deep South (Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana) all voted for the holiday. The regional base of opposition to the King holiday in the Senate was shifting away from the South and to the West and New Hampshire, where black populations were still among the lowest in the country. The only state Senate delegations to unite against the holiday besides Helms’s North Carolina were Idaho, Nebraska, Utah, South Dakota, Iowa, and New Hampshire.

In the last hour of the King holiday battle, Helms had an opportunity to get his name in the papers. Helms said at one point that he knew he had a “losing cause.” Yet he fought on, knowing he could not win. That posture of the lost cause is central to the Ashbrook-McDonald line, the extreme ideological anti-King legacy. It occurs almost as frequently as the conviction that King incited violence and consorted with subversives.

President Reagan soon let it be known “through aides” that he was leaning in favor of signing now. Reagan made that position public at a press conference two weeks later. Reagan’s motives for switching to support of the holiday remain a source of mystery in the minds of some scholars: Robert C. Smith tried to get all Reagan’s papers on the holiday decision released; twenty to twenty-six pages (out of 4,811 pages on the subject known to exist) remain secret. Smith, who believes the number is twenty-six, suggests that Reagan’s designated trustees are trying “to whitewash his record on race.” The bill was finally signed on November 2, 1983.
“Misled into believing” MLK was a great man: How some Republicans fought against the King holiday
These days, some conservatives embrace King. Let's revisit the fascinating battle within the GOP during the 1980s
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