University of Alabama

America’s Fascist Demagogues In History: Huey P. Long, Joseph McCarthy, George C. Wallace, Patrick Buchanan!

The United States has had its Fascist demagogues in the past nearly hundred years of our history, but luckily, they “burned out” very quickly.

We had Democratic Governor and Senator Huey P. Long, who condemned the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the early 1930s era of the Great Depression.  He had a big following on radio; drew large public crowds; preached “Every Man A King” and “Share The Wealth” as he attacked Wall Street; had his own group of “storm troopers” to protect him;  and made clear that he hoped to come to power on a national level, having alienated his Senate colleagues and the President by his tactics and showmanship.

His potential threat disappeared, however, when he was assassinated in the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge in September 1935, a mystery that still exists today, as covered in Chapter 7 of my book, ASSASSINATIONS, THREATS, AND THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY: FROM ANDREW JACKSON TO BARACK OBAMA (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, August 2015).  He reminded many of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, both of whom had not yet become as aggressive and warlike as they would become in the mid to late 1930s and early 1940s.

Then we had evil personified in Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, who stirred fear and insecurity in America in the early 1950s, when he accused Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower and many government and other public figures of being Communists, or “soft on Communism”.

He ruined thousands of people’s lives, caused their deaths or complete destruction of their lives, but it was all a ploy backed by right wing conservatives, who continue to honor him, even after his political downfall in December 1954 when the US Senate condemned him, and his early death of alcoholism in May 1957.  This despicable man was a true Fascist demagogue with too many people ready to back him, but his cockiness and arrogance and false charges finally brought him down.

Then we had Democratic Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama, who sowed racism in America as he stood in the door of the University of Alabama in 1963 to attempt to block integration of the state university, and allowed police brutality in Birmingham and elsewhere, leading to the bombing of a black church and the death of young girls in the explosion.

A true Fascist demagogue of the worst kind, he actually gained five states and 46 electoral votes as a third party candidate for President in 1968.  Then, while running in 1972 again, he was shot and paralyzed for life by an assassin, a tragic event for sure, but brought on by his notoriety and demagogic nature.  Wallace’s story is well covered in Chapter 11 of my new book mentioned above.

And then we had Patrick Buchanan, an aide to President Richard Nixon and President Ronald Reagan, who promoted nativism and racism and antisemitism, including Holocaust denial,   as he campaigned against President George H. W. Bush in the 1992 primaries; against Bob Dole in the 1996 primaries;  and then ran as a third party candidate of the Reform Party in 2000.

Due to confusion in Palm Beach County, Florida, Buchanan gained 4,000 votes that were intended by voters for Al Gore, but mistakenly, these elderly, mostly Jewish voters punched the wrong hole on the “butterfly” ballots, and by doing so, caused the election of George W. Bush statewide, officially by a total of 537 votes, sadly denying Al Gore the Presidency, despite his national popular vote lead of 540,000!

Buchanan clearly was and is a Fascist demagogue, who, however, has become someone ignored, and no longer has a major media presence in his later years, as he once did on cable television as a political commentator on MSNBC and CNN, although he still is on Fox News Channel and PBS.

And now we have, at the least, two Fascist demagogues, now considered the front runners in the Republican race for President—Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz!  Again, the fight against right wing Fascism and its elements–racism, nativism, misogyny, antisemitism—remain a battle decent people must fight with every ounce of their energy!

Mike Huckabee The New Orval Faubus, Ross Barnett, And George Wallace!

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is rapidly becoming the new Orval Faubus, Ross Barnett, and George Wallace—a defiant Governor against the Supreme Court!

Faubus, Governor of Arkansas; Barnett, Governor Mississippi; and Wallace, Governor of Alabama—all vehemently opposed the Supreme Court decision on school integration of 1954 (Brown V. Board of Education), and refused to cooperate with integration, respectively, of the Little Rock, Arkansas high school; the University of Mississippi; and the University of Alabama—and mounted confrontations with the federal government, leading to Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy to send the National Guard into those states to enforce the edicts of the federal courts.

None of those three Governors look well in American history, rather are seen as law breakers and demagogues, for opposing the Supreme Court decision.

Now Mike Huckabee stands out as a religious fanatic, a man who does not understand separation of church and state, and as a bigot in his attitude toward gays and lesbians.

His idea that the Supreme Court in Obergefell V Hodges is acting in a lawless manner is totally preposterous, but notice he does not oppose the Court when it comes up with a decision that he agrees with, which demonstrates his total hypocrisy, and his own phoniness about the teachings of Jesus, who never referred to gays and marriage in the Old or New Testament.

Huckabee has become a right wing theocratic demagogue, who seems to think taking such a stand will advance his Republican Presidential candidacy, but even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was against the majority opinion on gay marriage, says that no county clerk, such as Kim Davis, can use religious views to avoid her responsibility to do her job, as working for government is a civil job.

So either Kim Davis does  her job without discrimination, or she needs to be forced out of office, or thrown in prison until she agrees to obey the federal courts, which DO have the final say on all constitutional matters.

Marriage is not something to be voted on, but rather a basic human right, and prejudice and bias and homophobia must not be allowed to interfere with the right of two adults to marry!

Alabama And Gay Marriage: The Shame Of Roy Moore, Clarence Thomas, And Antonin Scalia

So Alabama becomes the 37th state to see gay marriage in effect, and it is to the shame of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, that they will go down in history as hateful, divisive jurists who use Christianity to justify their hate and defile Jesus Christ at the same time.

Moore is the controversial top jurist in a state which still has the shame of being the center of civil rights controversies, including the bombing of a church in Birmingham which killed four young black girls; the use of police dogs, tear gas and high pressure water hoses against peaceful civil rights marchers in Birmingham; the spectacle of Governor George Wallace standing in the door of the Registrar’s Office at the University of Alabama to try to prevent two black students from registering for classes; and “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, when police attacked peaceful demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, shocking Americans who could not believe what was happening, over what was the push for voting rights.

Fifty years later, the spectacle of the leading jurist in the state of Alabama, ordering legal authorities in the state to refuse to grant same sex marriage licenses, is a mockery of the rule of law, and of obedience to federal courts and the Constitution. And to see Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia make a public denunciation of their colleagues on the Court, refusing to stop gay marriage until the Court decides in June on this matter, is a rearguard action by two Justices who are a disgrace to the Court, and has displayed constant conflict of interest in their dealings with the Koch Brothers and others who they should steer clear of. It is a clear indication of the incompetence and arrogance of these two right wing Justices, the most right wing members of the Court in the past hundred years, and a disgrace to the Court’s history with their narrow mindedness and intolerance!

And the idea that Christianity is brought into this by Moore, and indirectly by Thomas and Scalia, is a mockery of a religious doctrine, which distorts the true teachings of Jesus Christ, a man who promoted tolerance, open mindedness, and understanding!

50th Anniversary Commemoration Of Birmingham Baptist Church Bombing: A Time For Reflection

50 years ago today, in the most segregated city in America, led by the most divisive Governor in America at the time, hate and racism combined to lead to a horrific bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Governor George Wallace had already become the symbol of the worst in America, having stood in the door of the Registrar’s Office at the University of Alabama, trying to prevent two black college students from attending the state university based upon their race, but with President John F. Kennedy sending in the National Guard to insure their entrance and security.

Four young black girls were killed in the bombing, an incomprehensible event committed by the Ku Klux Klan, against a house of worship.

This event galvanized the civil rights movement, although it took decades to prosecute and convict the perpetrators of this slaughter.

C Span today is spending much of the day on American History TV commemorating this tragedy, and reflecting on how far we have come in fifty years, and how far we have progressed. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a direct result of this tragedy, helped along by the brilliance of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who overcame the Senate filibuster to accomplish what seemed like impossible odds to overcome opposition.

Congress awarded Congressional Gold Medals in honor of the four girls, in a recent ceremony, and bronze replicas are available for purchase through the US Mint, a great suggestion for a wonderful gift to remind the younger generation of the sacrifices of those involved in the civil rights movement.

John F. Kennedy’s Two Great Speeches In Two Days: Unmatched In American History!

John F. Kennedy was one of our most brilliant orators in the history of the American Presidency, but many may not have realized that he gave two speeches in two days, which rank among the greatest speeches ever delivered by an occupant of the White House!

As stated on my June 11 blog entry, Kennedy spoke up on the need for a Civil Rights law, immediately after the infamous George Wallace tried to prevent the integration of the University of Alabama earlier on that June 11, fifty years ago.

But the day before, June 10, at an American University commencement speech, only seven months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy called for peace between the superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, calling for an end to the Cold War.

Kennedy managed to accomplish, before his death that November, the accomplishment of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, with the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France, a treaty still being obeyed by the Russians today, an amazing development!

So as we near the 50th anniversary of JFK’s tragic death, we are coming to realize more than ever, even with his shortcomings and warts, just how great a leader JFK really was, on the premier issues of his time, Civil Rights and the Cold War!

A Republican President, Race, And Great Courage And Principle: Little Rock, Arkansas In 1957!

55 years ago today, we had a courageous, principled Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, do what was right–intervene with federal troops in Little Rock, Arkansas, to protect nine black students at Little Rock Central High School, who were being spat upon and threatened by racist men and women, who did not want to allow racial integration. This was a leading moment in the civil rights movement!

Eisenhower was berated in the South for what he did, and states rights advocates called him a Communist for his intervention, but he knew that racial discrimination was something that had to be dealt with by the federal government, and it was a very important step in Presidential leadership, and was utilized also by President John F. Kennedy at the University of Mississippi in 1962 and the University of Alabama in 1963.

Here we are more than a half century later, and we cannot count on the Republican Party of 2012 taking the same or equivalent stand, as now the Republicans’ strongest base of support is among southern working class whites, the children and grandchildren of the bigots of fifty five years ago.

It is hoped that the younger generations look at things differently, but the indications are clear that those who felt the way they did about race back then, now have been succeeded by descendants who choose to back the Republican Party, and are horrified that now we have an African American President, Barack Obama!

Presidential Courage And Human Rights: From John Quincy Adams To Barack Obama

One of the most important roles of a President is to be a moral leader, a person who sets the standard for what is moral and ethical in public affairs,

And nothing is more important than to have the courage to take leadership on human rights matters, whether in the United States or in other nations.

In that regard, Barack Obama will always stand out for what he did on Wednesday, speaking up for gay rights, including the right to marry.

Who else among our Presidents can be seen as a moral leader on human rights issues?

John Quincy Adams, as President and in his post Presidential career in the House of Representatives, campaigned against slavery and the slave trade, and was censured by the House of Representatives for fighting the gag rule (forbidding discussion of slavery in the House chamber) over and over again. He also represented the slaves aboard the slave ship Amistad, and won the court case for their freedom in 1841.

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a move many thought was unwise and might undermine the Union effort during the Civil War. But he believed that African Americans should be given freedom.

Harry Truman took the earliest steps in promoting civil rights for African Americans in the 1940s when segregation reigned in the South, and he went ahead anyway and promoted integration of the military and of the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

Dwight D. Eisenhower alienated the white South when he sent in National Guard troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce integration of a public high school.

John F. Kennedy followed Eisenhower’s lead, in promoting National Guard intervention at the University of Mississippi and the University of Alabama, to bring about integration, and also proposed a civil rights law that he had to know would be extremely difficult to accomplish.

Lyndon B. Johnson, despite his Southern heritage, became the great proponent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, knowing it would turn the white South over to the Republican Party, as it did.

Richard Nixon signed affirmative action into law, which became one of the great advancements in civil rights for women and minorities.

Jimmy Carter became the advocate of promoting human rights overseas, instead of accepting violations by so called “friendly” nations, as part of the business of diplomacy. He was bitterly criticized as naive, but his human rights beliefs remain one of his great legacies.

And now Barack Obama joins this group on Presidential courage in relation to the advancement of human rights! Kudos to him!

Nicholas Katzenbach Dead: Major Figure In 1960s Issues Under Presidents Kennedy And Johnson

Another veteran of the Kennedy-Johnson era, Nicholas Katzenbach, has died at the age of 90.

Not as well remembered as others, partly because he wished to avoid the spotlight, Katzenbach was actually an extremely important figure, as Under Secretary of State, Deputy Attorney General, and Attorney General.

The author has the memory of Katzenbach confronting Alabama Governor George Wallace in June 1963, at the University of Alabama, when Wallace tried to block the registration of two black students, and Katzenbach took a firm stand, and Wallace stepped aside. Few more dramatic moments have occurred in a public place, with no one sure what would happen!

But Katzenbach was also involved in the integration of the University of Mississippi by James Meredith in 1962; the defense of the Vietnam War before congressional committees; the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy; advice during the Cuban Missile Crisis; passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and struggles with J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, but supportive of Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General before him.

The 1960s era fades ever more in history with the death of Nicholas Katzenbach.