Author archives: Robert Morrison

Wedding Belle Blues

by Robert Morrison

July 17, 2014

My wife and I were invited to a nice wedding. The reception for this event in the South was a most elegant affair. I enjoyed sampling the new and different foods and drink. Moving around the historic outdoor location on the water, I enjoyed exchanging pleasantries with the genial crowd of well-wishers.

Until, that is, I was accosted. A beautiful lady whom we and our friends knew socially from our town made a beeline for me. She had asked others if I still worked for that group. I hadn’t seen “Petra” in the years since she moved away, but I greeted her warmly.

You’re losing, you know,” she said, referring to Family Research Council’s fight to preserve true marriage. Realizing that others may be watching and not wanting to create a scene, I simply smiled and said, “Well, Washington, Lincoln, and Churchill were all losing for a while.”

Petra was not amused. Unsmiling, she said, “It’s all about Marriage Equality.” Warming to the topic, I replied: “So you are okay with twin brothers who are gay marrying? Is that your idea of marriage equality, too?”

Why would they want to?” she said, not taking the bait.

But if they do want to, you would not have a legal objection to their marrying. They truly love each other and have had a continuing relationship since before they were born. So that’s good?”

Clearly, she thought I was playing the fool. She didn’t want to continue down the clear path to what would be my next point: If twin brothers may marry, why not a twin brother and sister? And how about three spouses?

Fanciful? Not really. Prof. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law Center has already pressed openly for polygamy. He rushed into federal court in Utah to have that state’s anti-polygamy law struck down—as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Windsor that the federal definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

I knew that the marriagenders don’t just want to expand or re-define marriage; they want to abolish it. In fact, they’ve said so in their manifesto, “Beyond Marriage.” You can read their plan to destroy marriage here.

Petra changed topics. “I suppose you think fetuses have property rights?” She wanted to drag me into the debate on personhood of the unborn. I replied: “The unborn child’s inheritance rights have been recognized in law for centuries.”

Then, I got inspired, especially considering these lovely surroundings and this glittering company:

Petra, you remember the scene in Downton Abbey where Lady Grantham is getting out of her tub?” (All liberals watch the great English soap opera, shown in the US on PBS.)

I continued: “Her maid, O’Brien, puts a bar of soap on the floor and the pregnant Lady Grantham falls. Her fall causes her to suffer a miscarriage. She might have been carrying the heir to the Downton Abbey estate. We are all meant to see this as a wrong and O’Brien as an evil woman for causing this death.”

Petra is not happy with this turn of the conversation as it heats up. She is beginning to get angry I can see—very angry.

Then it dawned on me: In her social set, she probably never had anyone disagree with her politically correct notions before. Thus, the fury.

They don’t need reasons; they only need rage.

Then, the ladies of our group—like an intrepid bomb disposal unit—intervene to take Petra away. They want to show her the fresh waffle cone making for the homemade ice cream.

Petra’s husband “Walt” takes me by the arm in a brotherly way. He is a fundraiser for a major college. His manner is of a practiced and soothing smoothness.

With hearty goodwill, he waves his arm and airily pronounces: “You know, this whole thing could be solved if we just got rid of marriage in the law and adopted civil unions. That’s the reasonable solution,” Walt pronounces.

I’m actually enjoying this back-and-forth. Agreeably as I can, I rejoin: “Except that the California Supreme Court used that state’s civil unions law as their pretext for overturning the marriage law that the people had voted on. They ruled that, since California gives all the same privileges and immunities to same-sex couples through civil unions, there is no rational basis to deny them marriage.”

Walt seems unfazed by this inconvenient truth. So what do I think about the view? And the weather? Both are superlative, I assure him. We drift apart.

An hour later, as my wife and I were preparing to go, I mentioned to our small knot of friends that I’d like to say goodbye to Petra and Walt and pay them my respects.

Someone in our group says Bob wants to “apologize.” I try not to be disagreeable or contentious in this amicable social setting. But, still smiling, I assure our friends I want to apologize for nothing. I will never apologize for standing for marriage.

And neither should anyone else.

United Germany’s World Cup: This is Bush 41’s Victory, Too!

by Robert Morrison

July 15, 2014

I finally found something about which I can agree with the liberal editors of Slate. They ran a story yesterday about the televised hug between Germans victorious goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, and that nation’s diminutive Chancellor, Angela Merkel. It’s a most appealing picture to see the young giant lean over, almost fall over, in a spontaneous gesture of affection for his country’s leader.

I was happy for Germany. This is a Germany we can cheer. And it is fine to remember that without the visionary leadership of George H.W. Bush, there would not have been an Angela Merkel in this photo. She was raised in East Germany. (So, for that matter was Germany’s current president, Joachim Gauck.) Chancellor Merkel and President Gauck are but two of the tens of millions of free Germans whose unification was staunchly supported by President Bush.

I distinctly remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989. And I was, I will admit, plainly irked that my president put out the word: “I will not dance on the Berlin Wall.” Why not, I thought then. Isn’t this a day to celebrate the triumph of freedom over oppression?

The senior Bush was forever being lampooned on Saturday Night Live for his commitment to “prudence.” But is prudence a bad thing?

Actually, it is the best thing for a statesman. When I studied American history in the years of the early republic—1797-1801—I could not understand how the Founders whom I so admired—Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Madison—all seem to have gone a bit crazy. Why were they clashing with one another like drivers in a Demolition Derby?

Well, the retirement of George Washington might explain it. He was the personification of prudence. And why did the United States survive the Civil War but find itself adrift before and afterward? Might it be that Presidents Buchanan and Johnson lacked that most notable quality of Abraham Lincoln: Prudence, with a capital P?

George H.W. Bush was almost alone among world leaders to want Germany reunited. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl certainly hoped for German Reunification. His Socialist opponents certainly did not. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was hardly enthusiastic for the creation of a continental political and economic powerhouse. French President Francois Mitterrand, no doubt recalling Germany’s three invasions of his homeland in less than one hundred years, was decidedly cool to the idea of East and West Germany coming together. Lech Walesa of Poland was not beating the drums for a Germany reunited.

As for the USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev, then riding a whirlwind in the Kremlin, he was the one who had decided not to send in the tanks. He would not order Communist border guards to shoot down spontaneous surge of East Germans toward the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin. For not shooting his hostages, Gorbachev was being hailed by the Western media as a prince of peace.

If Gorbachev was really the wonderful reformer that Western journalists said he was, it was curious that all those vast crowds of West Germans did not flood through the suddenly opened Brandenburg Gate and throw themselves into his arms. There are no pictures of young West Germans hugging Mikhail Sergeivich, however, the way Manuel Neuer hugged Chancellor Merkel. A point worth noting on this festive occasion?

George H.W. Bush deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his honorable, visionary, and yes, prudent statecraft at the time of German Reunification. He stood tall for America. This quiet and modest man said simply that America must keep her word to the German people.

For forty-five years, U.S. Presidents—Democrats and Republicans alike—has said America supports German Reunification. We would be unfaithful to our word if we did not back our steadfast NATO ally in the hour of need.

The fact that President Bush was able to skilfully chart his careful course, to support a peaceful Reunification of Germany, to bring that new and democratic Germany firmly under the NATO umbrella, and to achieve all this with the Soviets’ acquiescence (if not with their enthusiasm) is a tribute to statesmanship of the highest order. If anyone had said in 1988 that he would accomplish this all without firing a shot (or costing the U.S. taxpayers a dime) it would have been thought a delusion.

So this is President Bush’s victory, too. Now, Madam Chancellor, may I respectfully speak to you about not persecuting homeschoolers?

Revolution Then and Now

by Robert Morrison

July 14, 2014

The French Revolution began this day two hundred twenty-five years ago, July 14, 1789. Then, a mob in Paris stormed the grim royal fortress of the Bastille. When one of King Louis XVI’s counselors came to him at Versailles with the news of the bloody attack on this prison, the king asked: “Is it a revolt?” His aide answered: “No, Sire, it is a revolution.”

I had occasion to reflect on the French Revolution and on our own during a walking tour with three French students in my hometown of Annapolis this past weekend. We had started at the Alumni House of the Naval Academy Alumni Association. It turned out that this particular building had hosted a reception in 1824 for General Lafayette. The aged Marquis was on an extensive tour of the U.S. then, one where he was met with wild enthusiasm in all the 26 states he visited. This French nobleman was a hero of our American Revolution. In 1824, he was the last surviving general of our Continental Army (it helps when you get your commission at age 21!) We then proceeded to the grounds of St. John’s College, there we visited the Monument to the French Soldiers and Sailors buried there. They died fighting for our freedom.

There are many French connections to Annapolis. When Congress met in Annapolis in 1783-84, the Treaty of Paris was presented to our elected representatives for ratification. This treaty officially recognized American Independence and concluded our own Revolution. It was from the Old State House that Congress in 1784 dispatched Thomas Jefferson as our second minister to France. Upon arrival there, young Jefferson was asked if he had come to replace Benjamin Franklin. “I am Dr. Franklin’s successor,” Mr. Jefferson replied with becoming modesty, “no one can replace him.” Jefferson remained in Paris until 1789, leaving shortly after the Storming of the Bastille. He would long defend the French Revolution and his pro-French tilt would affect the destiny of our own republic. It would be Jefferson who, as president in 1803, would double the size of the U.S by his Louisiana Purchase—from France.

Taking my friends around the Naval Academy, they instantly recognized the French architecture. Ernest Flagg had been educated at France’s Beaux Arts school, and the USNA Chapel is a replica of France’s famous Hotel des Invalides. Below the Chapel is the Crypt of John Paul Jones. My guests also saw the obvious link to the Tomb of Napoleon, beneath the Invalides.

The Continental Navy’s Captain Jones, our first naval hero, sailed the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard into battle against Britain’s HMS Serapis. As his ship’s name (“Poor Richard”) indicates, Jones’s warship was a gift of the French. John Paul Jones died in France in 1792 and his body lay in a Paris cemetery for a century before being exhumed and returned to the U.S. for burial here. As a tribute, the entire French navy escorted John Paul Jones’s remains across the Atlantic in 1904.

Don’t forget the bone ships! [You can see a video here at minute 2:14.] The bone ships are an amazing collection at the USNA Museum. There, in subdued lighting, you can see highly detailed models of British and American fighting ships, all fashioned from beef bones, mutton bones, and even an occasional human bone. These precious works of art are two hundred years old and were crafted by French prisoners of war. They had been captured by the British during the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, taken prisoner over a period between 1793 and 1815. These ship models almost seem to have been crafted of ivory they are so beautiful. And they speak volumes to us today about the souls of these tough French sailors who wanted to leave a legacy. We don’t know their names but we see the work of their hands and it tells us about their hearts.

As I guided my French friends around my town, pointing out the French connections to them, they were teaching me about the latest developments in France. They spoke of their immigration issues, their clashes on church and state matters, and, of course, of their fight to defend true marriage.

The French have been turning out hundreds of thousands of protesters in the Manif pour Tous (The Manifestation—we would say demonstration—for all.) The Manif grassroots supporters have come to Paris repeatedly, but they have even greater strength in the provinces. That great part of France, that enduring part of France, outside of Paris, is sometimes called la France profonde, the deeper France. Here, the resistance to the Socialist schemes of President Francois Hollande is rising.

One of my student visitors tells of the Vendee, his home region. During the French Revolution, that portion of Northwestern France rebelled against the bloody excesses of the Jacobins and their supporters in the Paris mobs. From 1793-1799 the revolutionary republican government put down their peasants’ revolt with extreme violence, with an estimated 200,000 victims. Documented stories of mass guillotining and drownings—even of children—shock us to this day.

The French are teaching us that abolishing marriage is only a part of the Left’s agenda. They speak of Le theorie du genre (Gender Theory) that will be incorporated into all school curricula.

We Americans should especially heed this danger. If we think counterfeit marriages can be limited to adults, limited to the few who would claim those privileges, we should think again.

Radicals are demanding the end of marriage. They say so on their website [www.beyondmarriage.org.] We know from past experience they will soon be demanding the right to teach all children they can marry persons of the same sex. After this will come, inevitably, the indoctrination of children into the false idea they can change their sex.

One reason the radicals want Common Core and are so intent on nationalizing all school curricula is so they can conscript all pre-school children into what President Obama calls “universal pre-K.” This is so he can bring about that “fundamental transformation of this country” that he promised in his 2008 campaign.

The French Revolution began this day in 1789 with great hopes:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was very heaven.” So wrote the English

poet William Wordsworth. Soon, however, as the radicals leading the French Revolution began to crush religious freedom, to stamp out local governments, and sever the connections between generations, many Frenchmen, Englishmen, and even Americans had second thoughts. It was then that people said the Revolution was consuming its young. It’s time for us to remember the famous words of John Paul Jones: “I have not yet begun to fight!”

Common Core: “A Little Rebellion Now and Then”

by Robert Morrison

June 18, 2014

One of the factors that led to Congressman Eric Cantor’s recent defeat was his failure to recognize the threat posed by Common Core State Standards. His victorious opponent, David Brat, trumpeted his opposition to Common Core. And Brat struck a responsive chord among the voters of Virginia’s Seventh District. We could certainly call the first defeat in over a century of either party’s House Majority Leader “a little rebellion.”

It’s fitting that this little rebellion would get traction in the Old Dominion. It was Virginia’s own Thomas Jefferson who took a fairly relaxed view of Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts in 1786. Jefferson was then serving as our minister to France, but almost alone among the Founding Fathers, Mr. Jefferson did not take alarm at the uprising. “I hold that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. The tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

The entire episode of the grassroots rebellion against Common Core is an example of that spark that Thomas Jefferson never wanted to see quenched in us. “It is in the manners and spirit of the people,” he would write, “that a republic is preserved in vigor.” We don’t have to agree with Jefferson’s dismissive attitude toward Shays’s Rebellion. I don’t. And neither did George Washington or James Madison. Madison would become Jefferson’s most faithful ally and advocate.

We can look at Common Core as the ultimate expression of elite opinion about American education. Americans in this view need to be led, fed, directed, managed, cajoled, cosseted, and coerced—all for their own good. Instead of education reform welling up from the grassroots, it would be better, in the view of Common Core adherents, for the necessary changes to come from the top down. Grasstops will tell the grassroots what they need to know.

The Washington Post recently let the Common Core cat out of the elitist bag by publishing a front-page expose headlined “How Bill Gates Pulled Off the Common Core Revolution.” The story is red meat for the opponents of Common Core. It is replete with insider deals and hurry-up, get on board, this train is leaving the station hustle. The Common Core “revolution” so called has never been field tested, never been submitted to public debate, never fully explained, never honestly presented. It’s been a shell game from Day One.

And Common Core resisters have kicked up a fuss from Day Two. I want here to salute these Sons and Daughters (mostly Daughters, frankly) of Liberty. These are the grassroots activists who know what is going on in their local school districts. They know the Constitution and the laws. And they care about their children and, in many cases, their grandchildren. It was easy for sophisticated liberals to dismiss such folks generations ago as “little old ladies in tennis shoes.” Well, now those little old ladies are wearing combat boots.

First to feel the heat (if they didn’t entirely see the light) was the Republican National Committee. Despite the fact that some leading GOP Governors had fallen for the Common Core siren song, the RNC pulled back and passed an anti-Common Core resolution. That helped to legitimize opposition to Common Core.

Here, one is reminded of the French popular leader who sits happily smoking his Gauloise at a Paris sidewalk café. Seeing a massive demonstration headed for the National Assembly, he jumps up. “Those are my people, he says, I have to find out where they are going so I can lead them!”

For whatever reasons, the Republican Party will almost certainly see resolutions offered at its next Platform-writing session to condemn Common Core—and particularly to condemn the stealthy and dishonest way that it has been “pulled off.” States are perfectly free to reject Common Core, we are endlessly told. But if they do, they have no escape from that other terrible idea: No Child Left Behind. The Obama administration has cleverly contrived to let your state get off the rack of NCLB only by signing up for the Iron Maiden of Common Core. Then, the federal bureaucrats will generously let your state spend its own money.

When I served in the Reagan administration, I was given two weeks of “orientation” by Dr. Ed at the federal education department.  Dr. Ed had his Ed.D from Harvard and was a most intelligent, learned, and devoted public servant. He was also thoroughly liberal. Dr. Ed took me to each of the ten assistant secretaryships. Each day for those two weeks, Dr. Ed would assure me that the federal department spends “only 7% of the total education budget.” Just 7%, he repeated like a mantra. Dr. Ed was too diplomatic to say that surely I now understood that what Mrs. Schlafly and all those little old ladies in tennis shoes were saying about our beneficent federal department could not possibly be true.

I reflected on Dr. Ed’s wise counsel. But I recalled my dad’s wartime visits to India. He taught me how the mahouts train elephants there. It takes the mahout about two weeks to break the elephant to the master’s will. Up, down, backward and forward, left and right, the elephant in those two weeks is put through his paces. The mahout only weighs 7% of what the elephant weighs. But the mahout has a stick that he jams behind the elephant’s ear. And the elephant soon learns to do the master’s bidding.

That, Dr. Ed, is how the federal education department works.

And Thomas Jefferson’s great lieutenant, the “magnificent little Madison,” put the dangers in perspective when he wrote:

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

As a veteran of the federal education department and a recovering bureaucrat, I am proud of America’s little rebellion against Common Core. Bill Gates almost pulled it off. But the Washington Post let everyone know how corrupting the influence of this powerful man has been. If you bribe the Governor of Virginia, you can get indicted. And the governor can get indicted. You are considered corrupt. But if you lavish money on all the governors to entice them to do your will, you are counted a philanthropist.

What the little rebellion over Common Core proves is that here, the people still rule. And it is heartening to see America rising.

President Obama’s Revolt Against American Liberalism

by Robert Morrison

June 13, 2014

What is not generally appreciated today is how far President Obama has taken the country from the roots of classic American Liberalism. It is one thing for conservatives and partisan Republicans to decry Mr. Obama’s rule by Executive Order, his governing by mandate. Such opposition, when principled, is what our system is designed to foster. “The business of the opposition is to oppose,” is the phrase that best describes a vibrant two-party democracy. The idea behind that is that it is in the give-and-take of open debate that the best policies for the whole country will be determined.

We know Mr. Obama actively dislikes open debate. He has declared broad areas of American public life off limits to debate. The climate change issue is “settled.” He and most fellow graduates of Ivy League law schools consider Roe v. Wade “settled law.” The late Sen. Arlen Specter (R-D-Penn.) went so far as to call that most unsettling ruling a “super precedent.”

Marriage is another issue the president considers now settled. No matter that the position upon which he was elected in 2008, and the position held by virtually all his Democratic opponents cleaved to in that contest is the position they have now abandoned. They’ve evolved, they tell us, and now that’s “settled.”

To understand how radically President Obama has departed from American Liberalism, we need only to compare his record with that of the U.S.’ most sustained, arguably most successful, example of liberal government.

Just as conservatives regularly invoke Ronald Reagan’s electoral triumphs, liberals look to the four election victories of Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR is their model for a genuinely popular activist government committed to liberal change.

But an important recent article in The New Republic by Robert Kagan brings us a startling quote from Roosevelt in 1941 that shows the stark differences between FDR’s American Liberalism and President Obama’s essentially European leftism.

The “institutions of democracy” would be placed at risk even if America’s security was not, because America would have to become an armed camp to defend itself. Roosevelt urged Americans to look beyond their immediate physical security. “There comes a time in the affairs of men,” he said, “when they must prepare to defend, not their homes alone, but the tenets of faith and humanity on which their churches, their governments, and their very civilization are founded. The defense of religion, of democracy, and of good faith among nations is all the same fight. To save one we must now make up our minds to save all.”

President Roosevelt was trying in the speech quoted above to prepare Americans for what he saw as an urgent necessity to defend democracy by fighting against Hitler and the Nazi menace.

The speech, however, stands out almost as a statue in a great museum illuminated by a sudden flash of lightning from a threatening storm outside: Notice what Franklin Roosevelt places on a par with men defending their own homes: “the tenets of faith and humanity.” And these are shown as foundational for “their churches, their governments, and their very civilization.”

Roosevelt was a religious man. His faith had deepened in his early bout with paralyzing polio. He doubtless saw his own rise to the pinnacle of American politics as a result of divine Providence.

In August, 1941, four months before the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt sailed aboard the USS Augusta to a secret rendezvous with Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The liberal Roosevelt braved death to meet with the conservative Churchill. Those chilly waters of the North Atlantic were infested with German U-boats. Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s warships would have been prime targets for sinking.

When FDR’s son Elliott went to see Churchill in his plush stateroom, aboard HMS Prince of Wales, anchored in the cold, black waters of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, he told the wartime Prime Minister “father thinks you are the greatest man in the world.” Elliott added “my father is a very religious man.”

Churchill already knew that. That’s why he chose the hymns that would be sung by thousands of British and American sailors in a joint worship service on board the Royal Navy battleship. Prince of Wales still bore scars from the recent pursuit and sinking of the great German warship, Bismarck.

The Prime Minister sang lustily if off key, joining his new American friend in “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Roosevelt was deeply moved and it shows in the old newsreels. He knew that Nazism was anti-Christian even as it was murderously anti-Semitic.

President Obama’s leftism derives none of its strength from these Christian sources. During the entire twelve years of FDR’s popular administration, there was never anything remotely like the ObamaCare Mandates that so menace religious freedom in America.

When he greeted the first Soviet ambassador to the U.S., Maxim Litvinov, FDR sternly lectured that atheist Communist about the need for greater religious freedom in the USSR. He thought, doubtless naively, that the grandson of a rabbi would understand how essential religion is to a healthy state.

Today, as we await the U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict in the Hobby Lobby case, we are concerned that the four liberal justices — Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan — will line up against the ideals of religious freedom that FDR and liberals of his era would have instinctively understood and respected.

Nor is it Christians alone whose freedoms are threatened under the Obama administration. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America shares our concerns with the HHS Mandate.

The [Obama] Administration’s ruling makes the price of…an outward approach [to our fellow Americans] the violations of an organization’s religious principles. This is deeply disappointing.

To our Jewish fellow citizens, whose religious freedom is also threatened by the Obama administration, we can only say: Amen!

Let us pray for a liberty-affirming result from the Supreme Court.

Leslie Morrison: World traveler. Life saver. Hero.

by Robert Morrison

June 12, 2014

I can still remember when Pop woke me up before dawn. Big news in the world: Stalin had died. I was just seven years old, but my dad interpreted the world for me. He had spent 17 years in the Merchant Marine; he sailed to every continent, visiting 47 countries in all. Whenever there was a story about a rare rhino in Africa or an unusual Boa in Brazil, or a shakeup in Russia, Pop could explain it all. He had been there.

Like most World War II vets, he never bragged about what he had done in the war. Only much later did I learn that he had made several dangerous crossings of the U-boat infested North Atlantic. There, if your ship went down, the other ships in the convoy had strict orders not to stop. Pop told us about the time his ship was sunk by a U-boat sixty miles due east of Durban, South Africa. With the ship sinking, Pop ran back to get his camera and took the only pictures of the lifeboats. Only a decade after he was gone did I learn from a surviving shipmate that Pop had run around the deck of the stricken freighter unlatching the pelican hooks that griped down the rubber boats. Had he not done that, his shipmate told me, most of the crew would have died. They could not have survived 18 hours in those frigid waters. Instead of talking about his role as a lifesaver, Pop always told us how nice it was to be put up in a five-star hotel for six weeks and to be able to play tennis daily with the South African women’s champion!

From the day Pop returned from the sea in 1952 until the day he died in 1998, we knew where he was every night of his life. He was the one we turned to when neighborhood bullies threatened. He taught me to defend myself and only call on him if my tormentor brought a gang or a knife to the fight. But if I had to call on Pop, the whole neighborhood knew to watch out.

My father taught me what it meant to be a man. Today, 48% of first-borns in America are born out-of-wedlock. Who will teach those dear children what it means to be a man?

And if the D-Day Landings had Failed?

by Robert Morrison

June 6, 2014

General Eisenhower had borne the burden of command for years. He smoked then. Some four packs a day. He had to deal with military prima donnas like Gen. George Patton and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Critics in the press reminded readers that Ike had never commanded troops in battle before. He had to stroke the forever suspicious Soviets. And then, there were the Germans. Fully 85% of all the U.S. war effort was going into fighting the most formidable military force in history.

Ike prepared a short statement for use in case the D-Day landings had failed. It’s instructive in our time to look back at how this Supreme Commander planned to meet defeat. This statement was never used:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

Where might Eisenhower have learned such a lesson in leadership? He was a serious student of history, especially military history. He had been stationed near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania as a young training officer during World War I. (He was considered so talented at training others that he could not be spared to go to the trenches himself.)

Clearly, Ike knew the record of the great Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. He knew how Gen. Robert E. Lee reacted to the disaster of Pickett’s Charge. Lee met the shattered remnants of Pickett’s division as they straggled back from their failed assault on entrenched Union troops at the Copse of Trees. Forever after, that bloody battlefield would be known as “The High Water Mark of the Confederacy.” His hat off, General Lee sadly met his beaten troops.

It’s all my fault,” their Marse Robert told his men on that sweltering July afternoon in 1863. He repeated the sentiment to a British observer, Col. Arthur Fremantle, and offered his resignation to the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis.

Ike knew that history. Happily, Gen. Eisenhower never had to issue a statement claiming responsibility for a military disaster. Once ashore on that bloody June 6, 1944, the Allied forces moved haltingly inland. The hedgerow country of Normandy proved to be a far greater obstacle than pre-invasion planners had reckoned. And the Germans stubbornly resisted.

The bocages were a series of barriers to tank and truck movements. These barriers were the result of a thousand years of farming and tillage by Norman peasants. In that decisive summer, they enabled the retreating Germans to make every kilometer count.

In the end, however, the gritty courage of American and Allied troops wore down German resistance. And the Americans brought to bear their almost limitless resources.

President Roosevelt had called America “the Arsenal of Democracy.” The results of wartime production show why that phrase so aptly captured America’s economic muscle.

British-born author Alistair Cooke in The American Home Front: 1941-42 related these stunning facts:

Britain trebled its wartime output between 1940 and 1945, a ratio surpassing both Germany and Russia, who doubled theirs, though Japan excelled with a fourfold increase.

And America? America stepped up its war output a staggering twenty-five times.

D-Day contains innumerable lessons in leadership and responsibility, in devotion to duty and in sacrificing for freedom. We certainly know that all of those men who left those landing craft under heavy fire that day did their duty.

In 1975, as Saigon fell to the Communists and Americans watched as their ambassador to South Vietnam was lifted by helicopter from the roof of our embassy, the U.S. flag tucked under his arm, President Ford said “this is not a day for recriminations.” Ronald Reagan countered, asking: “What better day?”

There are questions we can apply to our leadership today. For example, where was the Commander-in-Chief on the night of September 11, 2012, when our people were killed in Benghazi? We still do not know.

On a more prosaic level, we do not know who has been held accountable for the failure of the ObamaCare rollout. Or for that matter, who has claimed responsibility for the Election Day crash of Mitt Romney’s vaunted computer program, ORCA. That system had been touted as the answer to the Obama voter turnout machine.

As avoidance of responsibility and blame shifting become characteristics of our nation’s political and corporate life, more defeats and disasters become unavoidable. That’s why there is merit in studying the past.

Rare D-Day “Colour” Footage

by Robert Morrison

June 6, 2014

London’s Daily Telegraph provides us a link to this rare “colour” footage of D-Day. The Allied attack on the heavily-fortified coast of Nazi-occupied France was the largest seaborne invasion in history. With this clip, we can see what the uniforms looked like, what color is meant by the German word feldgrau (field gray).

In the White House, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast to the nation over all radio networks. The Commander-in-Chief was unembarrassed about his faith. He asked his fellow Americans to join him in this prayer. He told the people the D-Day invasion was a struggle to preserve “our republic, our religion, and our civilization.”

For thousands of those young warriors in the invasion force, June 6, 1944 would be their last day on earth. Many of them would carry among their battle gear small New Testaments. These good books, including the Psalms, had been issued to our troops. They bore an inscription by President Roosevelt encouraging the soldiers, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen to read and attend to the message they contained.

D-Day has always had a special significance in our family. My father and my wife’s father were both veterans of World War II, and though neither man took part in the Normandy invasion, all Americans of their day felt that those troops who stormed ashore that cold June morning carried our hearts with them.

My wife and I went to Normandy for our twenty-fifth anniversary. We wanted to see the place where so many American, British, Canadian, Polish, and Free French forces had fought. It is an unforgettable sight.

The French have preserved the landing beaches largely as they were then. They are still designated with their D-Day code names — Utah and Omaha (American), Gold (U.K.) Juno (Can.), and Sword (U.K.).

Standing on those forbidding cliffs, high above the beach, we looked down on the approaches from the perspective of the German soldiers who were part of Festung Europa (Fortress Europe). Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had spent a year and millions of man-hours pressing Norman farmers as slave laborers. He made them build up the ugly concrete bunkers and steel obstacles that were supposed to stop the Allied invaders on the beaches. Rommel knew if the Allies gained a foothold in France, he would not be able to stop them pushing all the way to Germany.

We especially wanted to stand at Pointe du Hoc. That’s the spot where President Ronald Reagan stood in 1984 to commemorate the Fortieth Anniversary of D-Day. President Reagan saluted “the boys of Point[e] du Hoc.” He lauded those U.S. Army Rangers as “men who left the vivid air signed with their honor.”

Historian Douglas Brinkley wrote a book on The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. Brinkley believes that Ronald Reagan understood that we cannot focus on the massive number of troops; we cannot appreciate the enterprise of the largest invasion force by a listing of all those tens of thousands of many nations and many units that took part. So, Reagan chose to honor those Rangers who scaled those cliffs and placed their daggers in the land they would soon liberate. In so doing, Brinkley writes, Ronald Reagan sparked a resurgence of patriotism in America.

We stood at Pointe du Hoc, just a few months before President Reagan died in 2004. He had summoned up the best of our nation’s past in the service of his great quest to free that half of Europe still held captive. It was Ronald Reagan’s great achievement. Best of all, he helped to free hundreds of millions from Communism without war.

We wanted to have some remembrance of this signal moment in our lives. My wife, a thirty-year veteran of the Navy, was made even prouder of her service by standing at that spot. As a veteran of the Coast Guard, I was thrilled to see the place recorded for history in this photo taken by Coastie manning a landing craft. He had delivered those dauntless warriors “into the jaws of death.”

The French allow no commercialization of those beaches. They are pristine. No souvenir stands are allowed. The closest museum is in Caen. There’s no place there to buy even a post card.

So she spied a discarded ice cream container neatly deposited in a receptacle. “Let’s take sand,” she said. So I scooped up a gallon of that sand for which our fathers’ great generation bled and died.

Returning home, Capt. Kathleen Morrison filled small plastic containers with those sands of Normandy. For years, she gave these vials to Navy and Marine Corps friends upon their retirement from honorable service to our country. Often, these retirees would tear up when they received these gifts. Today is a time to remember the gift those Invaders of June 6, 1944 gave us: freedom itself. 

Riding with “W”

by Robert Morrison

May 15, 2014

I’ve just completed three weeks of commuting with George W. Bush. I’ve been listening to his memoirs, Decision Points, on audio disc. It’s been an amazing journey. Ron McLarty reads the former president’s book. And he’s so good at capturing “W’s” accent and intonation that you soon think the Texan is riding shotgun through Washington, D.C. traffic with you.

I had not expected such a frank and funny book. Most presidential memoirs, to be candid, are rather like marble doorstops. They’re intended to be the author’s dignified and not-too-defensive statement of his case for history. And some of them are deadly dull.

Not so these memoirs. George W. Bush is amazingly honest about his drinking problem. He never says he was an alcoholic, for he may not have been. But he drank too much, too often. And it affected his relationships. It got him into some ugly scenes. His loving, faithful wife stood by him all the while and gently nudged him onto the right path. His parents showed him the meaning of unconditional love. For those of us who have loved someone with a drinking problem, this part of the book is worth the whole volume.

George on his fortieth birthday doesn’t go in for a twelve-step program. It’s more of a one-step program. He takes seriously what Billy Graham has been saying about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He invites Jesus into his heart. And Jesus comes in.

Of great interest to us who deal with policy analysis in Washington are the parts of the book — the greater part — in which the former president deals with various issues. He teases them out and handles them thematically. Stem cell research. Iran. North Korea. Education (No Child Left Behind). Tax cuts. Hurricane Katrina. The Harriet Miers Surpeme Court nomination. And above all, 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

By handling each topic separately, we get a sense of the complexity and considerations that go into presidential decision-making. But it also occasions some confusion as we jump around from the economic meltdown of late 2008 back to “A Day of Fire” on 9/11, early in the first term. The reality of the presidency, of course, is that issues come rushing at you from Day One. That’s why Harry Truman put a sign on his White House desk: The Buck Stops Here.

George W. Bush is most like Truman in his crisp, decisive manner. He once said: “I’m the decider.” It was seen as Texas bragging. And it didn’t play well in the too often hostile press. But that is what Harry’s sign meant. That’s why we elect presidents — to decide.

Like Harry Truman, George W. Bush was derided by many in the Eastern Establishment.

(“To err is Truman,” they jibed.) Truman was the last president not to go to college. But he had a keen mind and reportedly had read every history book in the Independence, Missouri Public Library. Harry was well prepared. And Harry identified with the American people. If Franklin Roosevelt was for the people, commentators said in those days, Harry Truman is the people.

George Walker Bush was not only the son of a president, and the distant relation of another (his mother traces her lineage to Franklin Pierce), he was also the first MBA to sit in the White House. His Yale and Harvard degrees made him one of the best-educated presidents in our lifetime.

Even so, “W” never lacked the common touch. And these memoirs prove it. Once asked what made him different from his much-loved Dad, W. answered without hesitation: Midland.

Those differences become clear in reading this self-deprecating and honest memoir. I had not expected to be moved to tears. But no one can read his heart-rending story of the death of little sister Robin from leukemia and not want to embrace this sensitive and decent man.

Despite my deeper admiration for this good and honorable man, I find myself flinching when he describes his thoughts on bringing democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq. Our own State Department insisted, I have learned, on putting so-called Repugnancy Clauses in the constitutions of both of these “liberated” countries. Those Repugnancy Clauses say, in effect, notwithstanding anything else in this constitution, nothing shall be done by this government that is repugnant to Islam.

Who decides what is repugnant to Islam? The mullahs do! What if the mullahs disagree? Then the mullahs with more firepower win the argument. The mullahs agree with Napoleons’ dictum: God favors the side with the heavier artillery.

Because of these fatal flaws, democracy never had a chance in Iraq or Afghanistan. George W. Bush sincerely believes that everyone desires freedom. That may be true. But unless you desire that your neighbor who worships differently will also have freedom, you are unlikely ever to know freedom yourself.

It is good for Afghan women to join Afghan men in voting for a new government. But if they elect politicians who want to murder Abdul Rahman for converting to Christianity, you have no democracy. And virtually every elected official in Afghanistan did call for Abdul Rahman’s blood in 2006.

Enduring Freedom? Abdul Rahman had to be spirited out of that homicidal country under cover of darkness to save his neck. And even that might not have happened had not Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, and many other Evangelical leaders raised a loud cry to spare his life.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been driven out of Iraq since the U.S. commenced “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The regime of Nouri al-Maliki is in league with the mullahs of Tehran, whom we have designated as the leading terrorists in the world.

When Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai met with Iran’s mullahs for a “future of the region” summit, President Obama’s late envoy Richard Holbrooke thought that was entirely appropriate. Really? Then what are we fighting the Taliban for?

Karzai is on record admitting to taking bags of gold from Tehran. And from us. Afghanistan has cost American taxpayers one trillion dollars.

President Bush acknowledges that he campaigned against U.S. attempts at “nation-building” in the 2000 campaign. He argues, though, that 9/11 changed all that. His Bush Doctrine said: 1. We will carry the fight to the terrorists. 2. We will regard those who harbor terrorists as equally guilty and go after them, too. 3. We will establish governments that respect the rights of their own people and do not threaten their neighbors.

It’s Point Three that is most vexing. You cannot plant democracy with bayonets. Facile comparisons to our post-WWII occupations of Germany and Japan obviously fail. We took the unconditional surrender of both countries. We forced Germany to de-Nazify and Japan to give up Emperor Worship.

Even Point Two of the Bush Doctrine is problematic. If Pakistan was not harboring Osama bin Laden for a decade, how was he allowed to build a top-secret ziggurat under the very noses of Pakistan’s military brass? If Saudi Arabia is really our ally in the War on Terror, why did that desert despot Abdullah refuse us access to Madani al Tayyib, the al Qaeda finance chief (see p. 122. of the official 9/11 Commission Report)?

Americans increasingly believe we are being played for suckers by treacherous allies. When I traveled by bus around America in 2012, I would make a point of saluting veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and asking them their level of trust for the national forces in both countries. The answer from our own brave warriors was always the same: Zero.

This substantial portion of the Bush memoirs must be read as tragedy. A good Christian man with a fine mind and a great heart pursues a flawed policy, with grave consequences. It costs thousands of brave young Americans their lives. He built his freedom house on sand. Too bad.

His discussion of stem cell research shows him honorably struggling to find a middle path. He is a nuanced thinker, a man with a heightened ethical sense. In the end, he crafts a policy that unfortunately provides federal funding to the killers of embryonic humans even as it denies funding for killing these nascent humans.

In these pages, the president never answers the obvious question: By funding experimentation on only a limited number of stem cell lines — on those embryonic humans whose lives have already been condemned — what if some treatment or cure should be found? How then would he or any future president resist the deafening cries in the media for experimentation-on-demand?

It’s worth noting here that no such treatment or cure has been found in the thirteen years since President Bush announced his restricted funding policy. (Nor, even more significantly, in the five years since President Obama cast aside all ethical restraints.

President Bush was hailed by pro-lifers, including this one, for signing such important legislation as the Infant Born-Alive Protection Act (which state Sen. Barack Obama managed to kill in the Illinois legislature), the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA — that President Obama’s administration declined to apply against Fort Hood killer Nidal Hasan), and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Bill Clinton had vetoed that legislation twice in the 1990s. One of the leading pro-abortion lobbyists later admitted “I lied through my teeth about [the numbers and instances of partial-birth abortions] and felt sick to my stomach about it.” Bill Clinton was never so distressed about lying on this or other topics.

President Bush appointed many strong constitutionalists to the courts and many pro-lifers to mid-level administration positions. This is something for which we should always be grateful. Nonetheless, in these memoirs, it becomes clear that George W. Bush is the only pro-life person in his White House circle of advisors. The only one. And this matters.

Thus it was that billions of federal dollars continued to flow uninterrupted for eight years into the coffers of Planned Barrenhood (Parenthood). They are the world’s largest trafficker in abortion. This outfit last year admitted killing 374,000 unborn children. As with his stem cell policy, President Bush never funded the killing of the unborn, only those who do the killing.

One of the least convincing portions in this book is his discussion of the nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. Columnist George Will spoke for all of us when he said that you could poll the one hundred top conservative constitutional thinkers in America (are there that many?) and ask each one to provide a list of one hundred names, with no duplicates. On the resultant list of ten thousand names you would not find Harriet Miers.

FRC’s Tony Perkins worked this issue with the greatest of care. Always respectful of the president and his nominee, Tony nonetheless publicized Miss Miers speeches. Lacking a “paper trail” of serious judicial wrestling with weighty constitutional matters, we had to go with what we had.

Her speeches were simply deplorable. How could she possibly think the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Greater Houston would react well to her quoting with approval the radical feminist Gloria Steinem?

Those strong Texas women were achievers, not whiners. Did Miss Miers share Steinem’s man-hating views? (A Steinem sampler: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” “We have become the men we wanted to marry.”) If she did, we certainly didn’t want her to have a lifetime appointment to the High Court.

Or worse, did she simply think she would ingratiate herself with her audience? If so, is there a worse place in the entire U.S. government for such toadying than the U.S. Supreme Court?

For millions of Americans, George Bush’s handling, or mishandling, of the Hurricane Katrina crisis was the occasion of their disenchantment with his leadership, but for the conservative movement, surely the abortive nomination of the manifestly unqualified Harriet Miers broke the bonds of trust.

His chapter on education, and his ill-fated No Child Left Behind program, deserves attention. George W. Bush and his father were always sincere supporters of civil rights. The false, defamatory and contemptible charges of racism lodged against both men wounded them deeply.

But it was just as wrong to craft a policy based on racial disparities in academic achievement. As David Armor, one of our best academic researchers of education has noted, the test score disparities of black, white, Hispanic, and Asian students do not entirely equal out when family structure is accounted for, but they are greatly diminished.

The best thing George W. Bush could have done if he sought to address the lower academic performance of black and Hispanic students, as well as that of lower middle class whites, would have been to address the marriage crisis. As the work of Charles Murray has since shown, it is the collapse of marriage and the loss of church attendance among working class whites that has led to impoverishment. The collapse of marriage has as well harmed minorities. And the classic study of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) titled “Who Escapes?” showed that for the black community, students who regularly attended church had far better outcomes for school and work.

How are church and synagogue attendance related to the marriage crisis, if at all? AEI Scholar Mary Eberstadt’s compelling new book, How the West Really Lost God, argues that family breakdown has led to loss of religious practice. If she is right, the old 1950s Ad Council slogan is true, after all: “The family that prays together, stays together.”

It is painful for me to realize the errors of my much-admired George W. Bush. My wife and I watched his 2001 inauguration in our own family room. She was then a high-ranking naval officer. When those Hundred and One guns of the Presidential Salute Battery rent the air with their booming to signal the peaceful transfer of power, we both wept with joy. We were relieved for we believed our country had been saved.

I would go on to campaign for George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. I was in Pittsburgh to hear him address a large, enthusiastic rally the day before the election. In front of me sat a big family of supporters. These home schoolers had gotten up before dawn to crowd into the stadium. The metal detectors we passed through reminded us of the changes we had seen in our country under this good man’s leadership. Johnny was a fifteen-year old member of this family.

When President Bush made has rousing speech, the whole crowd roared its approval. Johnny was standing on top of his folding chair, yelling loudest when the W. spoke of the right to life and the defense of marriage. Johnny has Down Syndrome.

The next day, George W. Bush was re-elected President of the United States. He carried the critical state of Ohio on the strength of the marriage referendum that had brought half a million more voters out than in 2000. And his percentage of the black vote in Ohio was his highest anywhere.

I never heard him speak in public about the right to life or the defense of marriage again.

Nor have I heard him speak of either vital question in the five years since he left office. We know where his family is on these questions.

George Bush is avoiding political issues, he says. He hikes and rides with Wounded Warriors, which is nothing less than noble of him.

But he could still do more. He is a young and fit retiree. He could begin giving speeches at fundraisers for Pregnancy Care Centers. Many of these volunteer-staffed, faith-based groups he recognized during his White House years.

He doesn’t have to criticize anyone or do anything other than lend them his presence — and his heart. Those who sincerely say they are pro-choice cannot object if George W. Bush were to help young women and their boyfriends choose life for their unborn children.

In 2006, I had lunch with a conservative talk show host in Bethesda, Maryland. We enjoyed a hearty meal and a good conversation. “What should I thank President Bush for,” my friend asked? It was a time of some deep disillusionment among conservatives with the Bush second term.

I answered: “We are having this lunch on a quiet Saturday. And when we go to our cars, they probably won’t blow up. We can thank George Bush for that. It’s no small achievement.” I still believe that. Thank you, Mr. President, for protecting us. And may God preserve you.

O Say Canada Can You See?

by Robert Morrison

May 6, 2014

My colleague Rob Schwarzwalder’s blog post on the important Supreme Court case of Town of Greece v. Galloway raises the central issue in this dispute. The town fathers went out of their way to welcome prayers by citizens of other religions than Christianity. They recognized their own obligation to cast their nets broadly. No one could reasonably say his religion was being disrespected. But that good faith effort, that exercise in civility, was not enough for Citizen Galloway. Instead, this person determined to take her complaint all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Forget civility. Forget good neighborliness. If I am offended, I have a constitutional right to shut down my fellow citizens’ freedom of speech and free exercise. Or so this claimant thought. And whenever any atheizer is unhappy that his neighbor believes that this is one nation under God, there will be wealthy and powerful pressure groups racing in to court, ready to help extinguish the lamp of religious liberty.

Rob Schwarzwalder asks where is the civility, where is the maturity in that? He’s right. Not every crank has a cause of action.

I’ve always been impressed by the baseball fans at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. Whenever the Orioles play Toronto Blue Jays, the fans all stand for “The Star Spangled Banner.” (And they shout out the “O’s” in “O Say.”) Those fans should be especially proud to belt out our National Anthem this season, since it’s the Bicentennial of Francis Scott Key’s powerful poem that has become our stirring song.

After our National Anthem, everyone stands respectfully for our Northern neighbor’s National Anthem, the beautiful and evocative “O Canada.”

No one petulantly refuses to honor the other country’s anthem. That’s a tribute to true civility. But we should not forget that two hundred years ago, Britain ruled Canada and used it as a base to make war on us. Those “rockets’ red glare” and ” bombs bursting in air” were British rockets and British bombs. And Canada remained loyal to the British in their attempt to destroy our young republic.

As for the Canadians, their anthem contains the verse “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”

On guard against whom? It’s not against the Moose or the Polar Bear. They stand on guard against the Yankees — US!

Both National Anthems are written (in effect) against the other. And yet we are today the best of friends.

Different systems, different perspectives. Very different national goals and ethos, but we are more than civil, and more than good friends. Canada and the U.S. enjoy the longest undefended border in the world.

The key is to honor your neighbor and respect his traditions.

We can certainly learn a lesson in cordiality at Camden Yards. Instead of having to sue one another, maybe we should say “Take me out to the ball game!”

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