What did Sorkin say that was wrong? Absolutely nothing…

Zakaria Sorkin

Been meaning to say something about this since it came to my attention a week or so ago.

And like so many things I want to say something about, I don’t get to it, day after day, because there’s too much I want to say about it, and I don’t think I’ll have time, so I never get started. Well, let me take a very quick shot at it.

Basically, the short version is that Aaron Sorkin said some stuff that made sense, and the Democratic Party’s Peanut Gallery got mad at him about it — which illustrated a lot of what’s wrong with the Democratic Party. Which matters because somebody’s got to be the alternative to Trumpism in America, and if the Dems aren’t up to it, I don’t know who that’s going to be. (Probably not the Starbucks guy, if that’s what you’re thinking.)

Here’s the short version of what he said, in a Tweet from one who didn’t like it:

And the short version of the apoplectic reaction is, We don’t wanna grow up!

Far as I’m concerned, if Aaron Sorkin wants to run for something, he’s got an excellent shot at the Grownup Party nomination.

Here’s a clip that’s slightly longer than the one above:

That monologue is a lot like what Will McAvoy said in that opening episode of “The Newsroom.” Rougher, less eloquent, of course, since Sorkin was speaking aloud instead of writing. But it’s largely the same message — we need to get back to being the “Thank God the Americans are here” country.

Someone’s going to have to be what Sorkin calls “the non-stupid party,” since the Republicans — by their embrace of Trump — has so fervently embraced the opposite role.

If the Democrats aren’t smart enough or mature enough to take that on, someone else will have to.

This has a lot of aspects worth discussing — I’m sure there’s more I’ll want to say — but I’d thought I’d at least get it started…

52 thoughts on “What did Sorkin say that was wrong? Absolutely nothing…

  1. Doug Ross

    The huge vacuum that was created when Hillary assumed she’d win and then didn’t work hard enough to do that has created the new Democratic Party. More Trump-like in its snark, outrage, ridicule, and demeanor. They are all just still butthurt that Trump won. And because the Democratic Party is a collection of smaller identity groups, there is no one capable of formulating a set of core values that all the candidates will wrap their heads around. Each faction needs its own personal feelings validated, appreciated, honored, and treasured for their awesome uniqueness. I mean, the person doing the Democratic response to Trumps SOTU (Stacey Abrams) is someone who LOST her election three months ago (and like many Democrats, never met a debt she didn’t embrace). SHE’S THE FACE OF THE PARTY???

    Democrats went crazy over a kid wearing a MAGA hat and smiling while a Native American banged a drum in his face. The outrage was palpable. And then we found out that it probably wasn’t all that it was presented to be… The Native American wasn’t a Vietnam Vet… he approached the kid first.. And now a MAGA hat is the Confederate Flag (minus any slavery) of 2019.

    A year ago Beto and AOC didn’t exist on anyone’s radar. The old guard hates them but can’t shut them down. The clown car of candidates won’t be able to get any traction. Each new candidate gets hammered by the others. It’s a glorious mess that couldn’t happen to a better group of people.

    And the media is no less complicit in the degradation of the process. Secretly they LOVE Trump being in the Oval Office. Ratings for MSNBC have never been higher. Remember when Fox News having a large audience was what was wrong with the country? What’s different when Democrats have the same stage and spout their own biased dreck? Oh, NOW it’s important! I’ve also become very aware thru Twitter that most of the media doesn’t even bother trying to appear objective any more. Those days are gone….

    To Democrats, I would suggest backing issues and not candidates and ignoring Trump for the next year. Get your own house in order or you will be seeing The Donald in office for another term.

  2. bud

    The Democratic Party is a big, welcoming tent. Sure there are going to be clashes but that’s certainly better than the stodgy Cold War version of the party from a generation ago. Time to move forward on common sense reforms like Medicare for all, a wealth tax, a much smaller military footprint, an aggressive green energy and free college for all. Of course we need to be smart about it. But let’s not be beholden to the thinking of the 90s.

    1. Doug Ross

      Please define what a wealth tax is. I want to know how you calculate wealth. Consider that the estimates of Trumps wealth ranged from hundreds of millions to 3-4 billion. Which number is right? How would it even be possible to determine an accurate value of all the holdings a billionaire has? It’s not like they have a savings account with a balance of $3,500,000,000.78 Real estate, trusts, offshore holdings, complicated financial transactions that are happening on a daily basis… It would take a small army of IRS agents to calculate the wealth of a single billionaire. How many would be needed to calculate Bezos’ wealth on a particular day?

      This is why Elizabeth Warren is an economic moron. She comes up with these hare brained ideas that are not even possible to implement. She’s gone off the reservation on this one.

      1. Bob Amundson

        Doug asks, “Please define what a wealth tax is.” How about a one-time levy that would reduce the national debt and therefore reduce interest service payments. That reduction in payments would be an enduring win for the middle class, while rich people would just pay the tax once and then forget it. Let’s have a fairly hefty rate — 14.5 percent — even though that would require a lot of rapid-fire liquidation of business assets. Let’s set the threshold at $15 million.

        This is not my idea, and I believe there are potential problems with wealth taxes; Elizabeth Warren has a different proposal. “My” proposal is actually some paraphrase, some direct quotes, from a Vox article “That time Donald Trump proposed a 14.5 percent wealth tax
        (1999 was a different world).”

        1. Doug Ross

          I’m asking you to describe how you will calculate wealth. You can’t just pick a day and say your wealth equals X. How would the government determine the number? Take Trump for example.. How would you value all of his properties and how would you determine all the loans he has? It’s an impossible task and a stupid idea that only someone like Warren with her limited understanding could push. Let’s see her try to convince John Kerry and Oprah that this is a good idea.

          If this was even attempted the extremely wealthy would have no trouble hiding assets offshore or in trusts. Then what?

          The level of stupidity in this “plan” is epic.

          1. Bob Amundson

            Did you carefully read this? This is a proposal Trump made in 1999. “The level of stupidity in this ‘plan’ is epic.” I agree!

          2. Doug Ross

            So she is as dumb as Trump. Is that your take? A stupid idea is a stupid idea. It’s impossible to implement.

            I bet Trump is praying she is the nominee. Which states would she take back from Trump for sure?

    2. Doug Ross

      Here’s some information on why a wealth tax is not a good idea — aside from the basic fact that wealth cannot be calculated.

      From Reason:

      “More likely, the rich would find ways to avoid those assessments entirely. Sweden’s wealth tax, for example, was frequently blamed for capital flight and a depressed rate of national entrepreneurship. Relative to other European nations, Swedes were less likely to own their own business, and those who did often took their money elsewhere rather than reinvest it at home. The founder of Ikea, for example, moved much of his wealth into offshore foundations that shielded the money from the tax.

      I say it was blamed because a little more than a decade ago, Sweden eliminated its wealth tax. The move was easy to make, because the government lost essentially no revenue. As The Financial Times reported, the elimination of the tax had “virtually no effect of government finances.” So much for making the rich pay their share.

      Nor is Sweden an outlier in its decision to nix a tax on wealth. European countries that have imposed wealth taxes have largely given up on them; of the dozen OECD nations that had wealth taxes in 1990, just four still have the tax on the books. Warren wants the U.S. to adopt an idea that has been tried and discarded.”

      Then there’s this on whether a wealth tax is even constitutional:

      Her proposal is unlikely make it through Congress and past the president’s desk. But even if it does, we might not ever find out what sort of revenue it would raise, because it would be quickly challenged in court as unconstitutional.

      Aside from the income tax, which required a constitutional amendment before it could be implemented, the Constitution prohibits the federal government from levying “direct taxes”—taxes that aren’t spread out amongst the states according to population. Some proponents of the estate tax have argued that it could pass constitutional muster, but opinions are split, and there’s probably more reason than not to believe that it would be struck down. When estate taxes were challenged, for example, they were upheld as taxes on the transfer of wealth rather than on its existence. That wouldn’t be true in this case. Warren’s wealth tax would target fortunes simply for existing.”

  3. Phillip

    Sorkin is wrong when he says the reason people around the world don’t say “Thank God the Americans are here” is because of Donald Trump. People stopped saying it because of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and yes, to some extent Barack Obama too. Also, it’s a nice memory, the way villagers in Europe welcomed the Americans in WWII, but puhleeze, it’s that very fantasy of going back to that time and place that has warped the minds of every neocon pro-interventionist in American politics and government for the last 70 years.

    You can blame Trump for a lot of things but that disease (the “yay, here come the Americans” fantasy) existed long before him, and the sad results are not his doing. (Though of course he’s doing things in many other ways to degrade any respect or admiration the US may still have in the world).

    Now if he listens to the likes of Bolton and really does send troops to Venezuela, then he becomes a full-fledged card-carrying member of the fantasists.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think you’re being entirely unfair to Sorkin, and it’s based in a fallacy that I see a lot from my antiwar friends.*

      You assume that we’re talking military action, and you react viscerally against it. I think in this case it’s largely Sorkin’s own fault, for using the WWII example.

      But to me the “Thank God the Americans are here” covers the full range of American action in the world since 1945. In the context of Trump, we’re talking about the liberal order in the West that has been largely set up and led by the United States — something that Trump is throwing away as fast as he can with both hands. And yep, military leadership is a part of it, but we’re talking about economic and diplomatic arrangements as well.

      It’s a sense of America’s role that was until recently embraced by consensus across the parties.

      It’s a full-fledged engagement with the world that “America First” negates. Under Trump, we’ve gone from being a nation whose leaders believe we should help the rest of the world because we CAN, as the strongest and wealthiest nation in the world, to being a transactional nation that asks, “What’s in it for us?” Actually, with Trump, it’s more “what’s in it for me?” but you get my point.

      * Phillip has objected to my using the “antiwar” label before, and I apologize if it’s inaccurate. It’s just a word I use for a strain of American thought that seems to me to carry overtones of “Hey, Hey, LBJ…” It’s a strain of thought that, for instance, Doug and Bud embrace completely. It’s a rejection of that same consensus I mentioned (and yes, it runs from Truman through Ike through JFK through LBJ through Nixon through Ford through Carter (yep, Carter too) through Reagan through Bush through (sort of) Clinton through Bush to Obama. (When Obama came for his endorsement interview, my first question to him was about this, as it was to all presidential candidates, and his answer was quite satisfactory.)

      It’s a strain of thought one sees on both the right and the left, and is one of the reasons why I’m a “centrist.” Like Amerigo Bonasera, “I believe in America.” Not as a perfect country — there never has been a perfect country, and never will be — but as a country that on the whole has been more of a positive influence on the world than a negative one, throughout my lifetime. It’s why, for instance, if there is to be a hegemon, I’d far rather it be the United States than, say China or Putin’s Russia. Why? Because I trust this country’s underlying principles more.

      I see the warts, guys. But I see the rest of the picture as well. Sometimes it seems some of my friends see warts and dismiss the rest of the picture…

      1. Doug Ross

        I’m not anti-war. I’m anti-undeclared war. Our use of military action around the world in my lifetime has done more harm than good both “over there” and in the U.S. We’ve spent money we don’t have on military actions that did not yield positive results. We’ve weakened our own country as a result economically. As Phillip said, this didn’t start on January 26, 2017.

        America is the proverbial “girl with a curl”.

        “When she was good
        She was very, very good, 5
        And when she was bad she was horrid.”

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, “antiwar” isn’t the right word, so Phillip is justified in protesting it in the past.

          I’m describing a certain sensibility, a certain objection to the post-1945 consensus, that first found wide expression in the movement against the war in Vietnam. So I call it “antiwar.” I suppose I could as easily call it “America-skeptic,” although that’s not quite it, either.

          It’s a point of view that tends to dominate among both very liberal and VERY conservative people, from today’s “progressive” Democrats to Pat Buchanan paleoconservatism. And of course, among libertarians.

          It’s where unlikely people agree (but disagree with me, and with the consensus of postwar leaders from Truman through Obama).

          I’ve probably told this before, but I’ll tell it again…

          Back before the ’72 election, my wife had a sociology professor who was a very ardent lefty, with his antiwar views being predominant. He decided to support George Wallace for president. Why? Well, he was being very clever, by his lights. He of course abhorred Wallace’s racism and domestic agenda, but he believed Congress would hold him in check on those (you have to remember that at this point in our nation’s history, it seemed like Democrats would ALWAYS control Congress). In international affairs, he was convinced Wallace would never involve us in foreign wars, and that was what was most important to him.

          That was a rather extreme expression of what I think of as the antiwar sensibility…

          Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it wasn’t. His simple faith that Wallace would have no chance of implementing his views domestically showed an almost childlike faith in the goodness of America. So… maybe not a good example…

      2. bud

        It’s a strain of thought that really needs to end. It doesn’t fit in with the post Cold War era and leads inevitably to military incursions. Bolton is but the latest example of the neocon mentality. Let’s make him the last.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      And Phillip, Bolton is not a member of the consensus. None of those other presidents you name, or their key advisers, would under these circumstances seriously consider invading Venezuela. At least, I don’t see why they would. Perhaps you can offer me a convincing scenario in which they would, but I don’t think they would in THIS scenario…

      Bolton is an outlier. Marco Rubio is less so, but Bolton is an outlier…

      1. bud

        Your argument amounts to this: We’ve always done it this way so we must continue. It really is a pretty lazy argument.

        I suggest we reduce our military footprint dramatically but keep engaged in non-military coalitions to deal with international crises like climate change, extreme poverty and pandemics along with non critical issues like scientific exploration and sports.

  4. Mr. Smith

    Sounds like another “shining city on the hill” moment. Not the first, of course, and it won’t be the last. The only problem with that well-worn image is: John Winthrop meant it in an aspirational sense, as a model, an ideal to work toward (even if never fully achieved). By contrast, many Americans wrongly interpret the image as descriptive, as what we are, rather than something we should strive to be. According to this view, we’re already a model country and all the rest are in some way less.

    How does this operate on the individual level? Well, a few years ago a neighbor went to see the Dinesh D’Souza production, “America, What Would the World Be Without Her?” What conclusion did he draw from it? One he probably held before seeing it – but which the film reinforced, namely that America shouldn’t spend so much time and effort looking at its own past misdeeds, things like slavery, wars, exploitation, discrimination, economic and social injustice, or any of that. Because, hey, the rest of the world has done much worse stuff. In short, we’re better than all the rest and really have nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of.

    But to me, those who are honest and open about the collective past do more to strive toward Winthrop’s goal than those who shun all that. From the clip, it sounds like Sorkin is more for striving than describing. But that involves taking all our war(t)s into consideration. And that’s where references to WW2 can mislead: by making us feel more virtuous than we are. WW2 was 3 years of our national existence — and lies over 70 years in the past.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Y’all, we seem to have gone down a bit of a rathole, and I take responsibility. I started us off by citing the “Thank God the Americans are here” thing. I thought that since I linked from this to the full Will McAvoy speech (which is a fuller explanation of what Sorkin means), that would communicate more fully the way I understand what he’s saying.

    For convenience, I’ll reproduce the McAvoy speech — which I believe is as Sorkin as Sorkin gets — here.

    It began with his negative reaction to being asked what made the U.S. the greatest country in the world:

    And yeah, you… sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there’s some things you should know. One of them is: there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies. Now, none of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are, without a doubt, a member of the worst period generation period ever period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Yosemite?!

    That’s half the thought. Here’s the other half, which to me redeems the first half:

    It sure used to be… We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reason. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reason. We waged wars on poverty, not on poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great, big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed… by great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

    Being an INTP, all I had to hear was that one little thing from the Zakaria interview, and I immediately extrapolate to the full McAvoy speech. I automatically give him credit for what he’s written before, and see what he’s saying now in that context.

    I realize not everyone does that — and that a lot of people find those of us who DO rather irritating. So, I apologize for that…

    1. Doug Ross

      That speech is hogwash. I could take it apart line by line but won’t waste my time. It’s a combination of fantasy, selective memory, nostalgia, and blind patriotism. Trying to make it sound like some time period decades ago was SO much better than today… There has never been a moment in u.s. history where there are more opportunities for everyone than today. 2019 is the best time in American history to be a woman, black, gay, you name it.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        You just changed the subject.

        There is NOTHING in that speech that is untrue — in terms of good things said about the past or bad things said about the present.

        And it’s ridiculous to pretend that because you can cite this or that way in which the present is good, it negates the overall point about overall decline.

        If I’m determined to look at the present with rose-colored glasses, I can do so. I can cherry-pick good news, and ignore the rest.

        I can say we have the most advanced health care in the history of the world, and that millions of people are alive today who in the past would have been dead from this or that medical condition… and ignore the problem of how many Americans can’t afford that care. More ominously, I’d also have to ignore the fact that we are currently in the midst of the worst decline in life expectancy in a century….

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’m just shaking my head here. 2019 is the best time in American history to be a woman, or black… really?

          How did the nation react to racial injustices in the 1960s? We took HUGE steps toward fixing it — in fact, most of the progress you might celebrate today RESULTS from actions taken 40 and 50 years ago.

          How does the nation respond to racial tension today? The white people get together and elect a guy like Trump. We had guys like Trump in the old days, but they couldn’t summon a majority and get elected. They didn’t have a prayer of getting a major-party nomination to begin with.

          You know why? Because for all the problems we had in those days, we were a better country than we are now. We ADDRESSED problems, REAL problems, for the benefit of all, rather than wrapping ourselves in self-pity because the poor white man is just SO mistreated…

          I could go on and on and on, but I’ve got to get back to work. And I just don’t know what to do when we look at the same thing and don’t SEE the same thing.

          That speech was one of the best things I’ve ever heard on television. It rang with truth like almost nothing else I can think of. Right on the money on point after point after point. That you can dismiss it as “hogwash” is a pretty strong indicator that we’re not going to have a meeting of the minds here….

          1. bud

            We had guys like Trump in the old days, but they couldn’t summon a majority and get elected.

            Really Brad? What horse crap! Trump didn’t even command a plurality of the vote let alone a majority.

            When this discussion comes up you usually provide some gratuitous acknowledgment that problems, Jim Crow for example, did exist in the past. But then turn around and cavalierly dismiss those problems. Not very persuasive. I get it you don’t like Trump. Neither do I. But is he really THAT much worse than Richard Nixon? And he DID win a majority. (At least in 1972)

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “But is he really THAT much worse than Richard Nixon?” Yes. Absolutely. Not quantitatively, qualitatively. As different as on and off, 1 and 0.

              Richard Nixon, his character problems notwithstanding, was an intelligent man with a firm grasp of complex policy issues. Donald Trump most assuredly is not.

              Ones and zeroes. On and off. Binary.

              1. Doug Ross

                “Richard Nixon, his character problems notwithstanding, was an intelligent man with a firm grasp of complex policy issues. ”

                Adolph Hitler, despite that whole Jew thing, was a captivating speaker able to inspire people to follow him. Plus he made the trains run on time.

                Richard Nixon would not have survived the Internet age.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Hitler? Really? You’re going there?

                  How come I never get away with doing that?

                  I doubt any of us will survive the Internet age… In fact, I’m almost sure we won’t. I expect it will go on for quite some time…

          2. bud

            That speech was one of the best things I’ve ever heard on television.

            Just got through watching it. Let’s just say we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. What a condescending piece of crap.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author


              I’m going to make another statement: The sun came up this morning.

              I’m now bracing myself for Doug’s and bud’s vehement insistence that it did not.

              Or that it doesn’t matter that it did. Or that the sun is stupid. Or that I’m stupid for thinking that was the sun. I suppose there are a number of ways that a committed contrarian could approach my statement.

              Of course, none of them add any light to the world…

              1. bud

                Go back and read the text of the second part of Jeff Daniels speech. There are zero quantifiable facts. This is absolutely not about something like the sunrise. It’s a discussion about quality of life. Doug offers actual facts. We are quantifiable better off today than we were 50 years ago. And clearly things continue to get better. Women can now attend the Citadel. In many states people can consume marijuana without fear of prosecution. Even more states allow medicinal marijuana for ailments scientifically proven to work. Two men or 2 women can now marry, clearly a positive social advance. Smoking is pretty much eliminated in public places, something people with breathing issues should appreciate. Traffic safety has advanced significantly as DUI has become socially unacceptable. Bullying is now a social taboo. The Metoo movement has brought sexual assault into the public discussion. The current Congress is more diverse than at any time in history.

                So I have to strongly object to the premise that in 2019 we are no longer advancing as a nation. Actual facts, not unsubstantiated memes, suggest otherwise.

          3. Doug Ross

            Let’s see.. We have a black senator, had a female governor, have a woman who two women on the ballot for lieutenant governor this year.. We’ve got a host of blacks, women, gays already declaring to run for president. We’ve got an openly bisexual senator just elected. Unemployment for blacks and Hispanics is lowest level in decades. How many of them would like to step back to the good old days of 1969?

            You made my point for me with your healthcare comment. Were there not poor people 50 years ago who didn’t have access to healthcare? Just because a small percentage of people don’t have “free” healthcare doesn’t mean the rest of the advances in that area aren’t phenomenal. The problem is politics and politicians… many of whom have been in office since those glorious days you yearn for. Blame Pelosi and McConnell and Clyburn and nd all the other geezers at every level of government. These relics of the Greatest Generation built the system.

            1. bud

              Doug, I agree. Time for new blood in congress and the White House. That’s why the Dems need to look at (somewhat) younger folks like Beto O’rourke (46), Julian Castro (44), Tulsi Gabbard(37) and Corey Booker (49) for POTUS.

        2. bud

          Nice article about life expectancy. It’s due primarily to a sharp increase in drug overdose deaths and suicides. Both huge problems. But it’s worth noting that life expectancy is still far longer than 50 years ago. In absolute numbers we are better off today than at any other time in history except for a handful of years in the immediate past.

  6. Doug Ross

    So here’s a culled list of notable events in American history from 50 years ago, 1969… I added a few international events that I thought were interesting historically.

    Were things REALLY “better” then? You decide. Me? I’ll take living in 2019.

    January 20 – Richard Nixon is sworn in as the 37th President of the United States.

    January 30 – The Beatles give their last public performance, of several tracks on the roof of Apple Records, London (featured in Let It Be (1970 film)).

    February 4 – In Cairo, Yasser Arafat is elected Palestine Liberation Organization leader at the Palestinian National Congress.

    February 24
    The Mariner 6 Mars probe is launched from the United States.

    March 3
    Apollo program: NASA launches Apollo 9 (James McDivitt, David Scott, Rusty Schweickart) to test the lunar module.

    In a Los Angeles court, Sirhan Sirhan admits that he killed presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.

    March 10
    In Memphis, Tennessee, James Earl Ray pleads guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. (he later retracts his guilty plea).

    March 18 – Operation Breakfast, the covert bombing of Cambodia by U.S. planes, begins.

    April 4 – Dr. Denton Cooley implants the first temporary artificial heart.

    April 9
    The Harvard University Administration Building is seized by close to 300 students,
    mostly members of the Students for a Democratic Society. Before the takeover ends,
    45 will be injured and 184 arrested.

    May 10

    The Battle of Dong Ap Bia, also known as Hamburger Hill, begins during the Vietnam War.

    May 18 – Apollo program: Apollo 10 (Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan, John Young) is launched as a full rehearsal for the Moon landing, but stops 15 kilometers short of actually reaching the lunar surface.

    May 25 – Midnight Cowboy, an X-rated, Oscar-winning John Schlesinger film, is released.

    June 8 – U.S. President Richard Nixon and South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu meet at Midway Island. Nixon announces that 25,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn by September.

    June 22
    The Cuyahoga River fire helps spur an avalanche of water pollution control activities resulting in the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

    June 23 – Warren E. Burger is sworn in as Chief Justice of the United States by retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren.

    June 28 – The Stonewall riots in New York City mark the start of the modern gay rights movement in the U.S
    July 8 – Vietnam War: The very first U.S. troop withdrawals are made.

    July 18 – Chappaquiddick incident – Edward M. Kennedy drives off a bridge on his way home from a party on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign aide to his brother, dies in the early morning hours of July 19 in the submerged car.

    July 20 – Apollo program: The lunar module Eagle/Apollo 11 lands on the lunar surface. An estimated 500 million people worldwide watch in awe as Neil Armstrong takes his historic first steps on the Moon

    July 25 – Vietnam War: U.S. President Richard Nixon declares the Nixon Doctrine, stating that the United States now expects its Asian allies to take care of their own military defense. This starts the “Vietnamization” of the war.

    August 4 – Vietnam War: At the apartment of French intermediary Jean Sainteny in Paris, U.S. representative Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese representative Xuan Thuy begin secret peace negotiations. They eventually fail since both sides cannot agree to any terms.

    August 9
    Members of the Manson Family invade the home of actress Sharon Tate and her husband Roman Polanski in Los Angeles. The followers kill Tate (who was 8 months pregnant), and her friends

    August 15–18 – The Woodstock Festival is held near White Lake, New York, featuring some of the top rock musicians of the era.

    August 17 – Category 5 Hurricane Camille, the most powerful tropical cyclonic system at landfall in history, hits the Mississippi coast, killing 248 people and causing US$1.5 billion in damage (1969 dollars – 10.6 billion in 2019).

    September 1 – 1969 Libyan coup d’état: A bloodless coup in Libya ousts King Idris, and brings Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to power.

    September 2
    The first automatic teller machine in the United States is installed in Rockville Centre, New York.

    September 5 – Lieutenant William Calley is charged with six counts of premeditated murder, for the 1968 My Lai Massacre deaths of 109 Vietnamese civilians in My Lai, Vietnam.

    October 9–12 – Days of Rage: In Chicago, the Illinois National Guard is called in to control demonstrations involving the radical Weathermen, in connection with the “Chicago Eight” Trial.

    October 17
    Fourteen black athletes are kicked off the University of Wyoming football team for wearing black armbands into their coach’s office.

    October 31
    Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

    November 3
    Vietnam War: U.S. President Richard Nixon addresses the nation on television and radio, asking the “silent majority” to join him in solidarity with the Vietnam War effort, and to support his policies.

    November 9 – A group of American Indians, led by Richard Oakes, seizes Alcatraz Island as a symbolic gesture, offering to buy the property for $24 from the U.S. government. A longer occupation begins 11 days later. The act inspires a wave of renewed Indian pride and government reform.

    November 10 – Sesame Street airs its first episode on the NET network.

    November 12 – Vietnam War – My Lai Massacre: Independent investigative journalist Seymour Hersh breaks the My Lai story.

    November 14
    Apollo program: NASA launches Apollo 12 (Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon, Alan Bean), the second manned mission to the Moon.

    Vietnam War: In Washington, D.C., 250,000–500,000 protesters stage a peaceful demonstration against the war, including a symbolic “March Against Death”.

    Dave Thomas opens his first restaurant in a former steakhouse in downtown Columbus, Ohio. He names the chain Wendy’s after his 8-year-old daughter, Melinda Lou (nicknamed “Wendy” by her siblings).

    November 21
    U.S. President Richard Nixon and Japanese Premier Eisaku Satō agree in Washington, D.C. to the return of Okinawa to Japanese control in 1972. Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. retains rights to military bases on the island, but they must be nuclear-free.

    The United States Senate votes down the Supreme Court nomination of Clement Haynsworth, the first such rejection since 1930.

    December 1 – Vietnam War: The first draft lottery in the United States since World War II is held. September 14 is the first of the 366 days of the year selected, meaning that those persons who were born on September 14 in the years from 1944 to 1951 would be the first to be summoned.

    December 4 – Black Panther Party members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark are shot dead in their sleep during a raid by 14 Chicago police officers.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That’s right. The Beatles were all still alive and playing music. That fall, “Abbey Road” came out.

      I rest my case.

      At this point I would drop the mic, but we didn’t do that back then. Microphones were expensive, and used at the Abbey Road studio for making Beatle records…

      1. Doug Ross

        Yeah, the Beatles were a great example of American exceptionalism.

        Anyway, it’s interesting with all the current talk of wealth taxes and 70% marginal rates to see what the Fab Four did when faced with the same situation. They hid their assets in a new corporation called Apple Records. As long as there are CPA’s there will be loopholes and income hiding no matter what laws are put in place. That’s why we need a flat consumption tax. Tax what is spent… spend more, pay more. With some type of rebate for lower incomes at the end of the year.

        According to the Beatles’ accountant, George was demonstrating a view of the government that would make any libertarian proud:

        “They were never happy with that – that’s why George wrote Taxman. They’d been poor boys, who’d worked hard and made money, and now someone was trying to take it away.”


      2. Mr. Smith

        This debate reminds me of a review I read recently about some books on the so-called “new optimism,” including one by Steven Pinker, which propose that by most measurable metrics the state of the world and the condition of humanity has grown increasingly better over the past 100-200 years. That may be true, but it’s pretty banal to point out that that doesn’t mean there is nothing left to be done. What’s more, by focusing too exclusively on all the progress made it can be easy to take the smug and complacent view that we are already living in “the best of all possible worlds” and that all the nattering nabobs of negativism should just shut up. As the review says in conclusion:

        “Who does the most to make people richer, healthier, happier, and less likely to be killed by lightning? Is it those who accentuate the positive or those who accentuate the negative? Rosling notes that progress in human rights, women’s education, catastrophe relief, and many other matters is often largely thanks to activists who believe things are getting worse, though he speculates that they might achieve even more if they were readier to recognize improvements. Bill Gates, in his call to optimism, acknowledges that to improve the world, ‘you need something to be mad about.’ Focusing on bad cases is indeed no mere cognitive malfunction. Voltaire would hardly have waged his campaign against clerical abuses of power if he had been struck by the fact that, statistically speaking, most priests were perfectly decent chaps.

        When he coined ‘the new optimism,’ George Patrick argued that dissatisfaction with the state of the world was not a defect. It was instead ‘the voice of progress proclaiming its discontent with the present and demanding improvement.’”

        1. Bob Amundson

          Great post Mr. Smith. I believe balance is the key to so many issues. Around the time of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, I remember a teacher telling our class nuclear war was imminent. This at a time when we had school drills teaching us how to react if our country was indeed attacked with nuclear weapons. I remember 1968, a year when we were in Vietnam, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, and cities were actually burning. But during that same period, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act became law. As always, with the good comes the bad.

          I am not going to try to judge if now is worse than the 60’s or vice-versa, but I do believe there is so much more to be done. We all should work every day to improve “the system” in our family, our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world, our universe. It seems most everyone on this blog is trying to do this, even though we don’t always agree.

          Vive la différence!

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            It seems that all my contemporaries experience the “duck and cover” drills, and were made to think they were living on the eve of destruction.

            I never did. Which I suppose makes me lucky. I have no memory of being worried about the bomb…

            1. Bob Amundson

              Perhaps the reason is being raised in a military family, on or near military bases. However, it seems there would have been more concern because military installations were more likely to be a target of an attack.

              As often is the case, Brad is an enigma (in a good way, IMHO!).

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Mr. Smith describes the problem journalists have always faced, as the original nabobs of negativism.

          What use is a free press if it doesn’t alert the citizenry to the things that are wrong?

          Yet, if you ONLY tell them what’s wrong, you risk creating a nation of angry cynics. Which I fear is what we have done.

          We should have told them more, to use the Voltaire example, about the priests who were decent chaps.

          We actually started trying to do that in the early 90s with the public journalism movement — started trying to help people see what was right as well as what was wrong. But that came at a bad time, as our budgets were about to start contracting dramatically.

          When an editor has fewer reporters, he’s doesn’t have enough people to cover all the bad stuff he must cover. He’s got to cover the train wrecks, and lacks the resources for think pieces on all the trains that arrive at their destinations safely. Perspective goes out the window.

          Which is where we are today. One example of this is that the only paper left in SC with an editorial department is the Post and Courier…

          1. Bob Amundson

            It seems attacks on “the main stream media” have succeeded, and I, too, am concerned about the current state of journalism. I have the time and resources to “find the truth” that many do not. This is an adjustment; I miss trusting, appreciating the more traditional journalism Brad advocates, even epitomizes.

          2. Mr. Smith

            “We should have told them more, to use the Voltaire example, about the priests who were decent chaps.”

            Maybe. But it seems like that sort of thing tends to quickly turn into feel-good journalism, human interest stories about individuals doing nice things – which has little or no bearing on larger issues and impacts. Little kids selling lemonade and donating the proceeds to a favorite charity, for example.

            At the risk of overworking Voltaire’s priest example, dealing with the recent sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church would not have been served by “balancing” that reporting with pieces on the good works done by the majority of priests.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, I do find it necessary sometimes to remind people what a small part of what the church is about the abuse cases represent.

              That doesn’t excuse anything; it just provides a fuller picture. (The “good” news is that statistically, Catholic priests are no more likely to be predatory pedophiles than men in general. The HORRIBLE news is that they’re just as likely to be predatory pedophiles as men in general.)

              In any case, the Public Journalism thing was doomed to fail. There was no way to truly present full perspective to balance out the bad. It would have meant making 99 percent of newspapers about stuff that was boring and, frankly, not news. And journalists weren’t going to ignore real news — which tends to be “bad” stuff — in order to do the “normal life” stuff.

              But the movement WAS based in a legitimate concern.

              The thing is, readers should understand that the crooked politician, the train that wrecked, the bridge that failed were exceptions to the rule — and that’s what made them news. But in the post-Watergate era, the sense I’ve gotten is that far too many readers/viewers/voters don’t get that. And that’s a problem…

              1. Doug Ross

                It’s not so much about the percentage of Catholic priests who are pedophiles, it’s about the lengths The Church has gone to cover up the crimes. That’s the scandal. It points to a systemic fault in the entire church.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Oh, absolutely it was the failure to deal with the horror. I don’t think the term is necessarily “cover up,” like Watergate or something. I think the thing that happened is a problem unique to the church. The church’s problem is that it was prepared to forgive, and give the offenders another chance. Which was, if you’ll excuse me, unforgivable.

                  The church did that because that’s what the church was designed to do. It’s a huge forgiveness machine. That’s kind of a core mission. And when I say forgive, I mean forgive anything — even something this horrific. And that is the “systemic fault” to which you refer.

                  A lot of people have a backwards impression of the church — that it’s this huge, oppressive “thou shalt not” institution. Well, it may pass on the old Mosaic proscriptions, but it also forgives violations. There’s an old joke about the church that you see over and over in comedy TV shows and movies that is MUCH closer to the truth. I saw it used yet again in an old “30 Rock” episode recently. Tracy Jordan is seeking a religion, and he asks Jack (or someone) what he is, and he says “Irish Catholic.” And then he explains that you can do ANYTHING, absolutely ANYTHING, and go to confession and be forgiven (I can’t remember whether he mentioned that you have to recognize it as a sin, and truly repent — probably not, because that’s kind of a joke killer). So Tracy immediately announces, “I’m Irish Catholic!”

                  Funny, in that context. But not at all funny in light of the sex abuse scandal.

                  What should have happened was some variant on the Reagan “trust, but verify” formula. Forgive, from a religious standpoint, but make absolutely sure that it never happens again — starting with turning the offender over to civil authorities…

                2. Mr. Smith

                  It’s never the church’s place to offer forgiveness here – especially when that forgiveness equates to tolerance and even concealment of illegal acts.

                  Only true victims can offer forgiveness.
                  The church is not a victim.

                  Only women and children are.

                3. Doug Ross

                  Correct, Mr. Smith…

                  Crimes were committed and, yes, “covered up”. Forgiveness from the Church should come AFTER the criminals have been prosecuted and ASK for forgiveness from the victims. The Church as an entity should ask for forgiveness from the victims for their role in the whole sordid affair.

  7. Brad Warthen

    I see Cory Booker chose to sound like a Sorkin character in at least part of his kickoff speech:

    “We used to be a people who could look at the sky, point at the moon and change it from a dream to a destiny,” Booker said. “There’s no Democratic or Republican way to get there. You definitely don’t get there by fighting each other, tearing each other down or dividing people against each other.”

  8. Doug Ross

    Yeah, ask him about his fictitious friend, T Bone. Booker has a real problem with making up stories that cast him as the hero. He likes the spotlight even more than Lindsay Graham.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *