Friday, October 05, 2007

Is the GOP Down for the Count?

Is the Republican Party really on the ropes? Is it about to be reduced to a marginalized, perhaps predominately Southern reactionary political party? Well if you believe the article "End of an Era" from the progressive site, TomPaine.Com, you can just about kiss the GOP goodbye (

While I don’t think anyone can realistically deny that the Grand Old Party is in serious trouble across the board, could this be a blessing in disguise? Even an opportunity to reshape the direction of the Republican Party or reinvent it? If the premise of article is correct, the traditional corporate base which set the economic agenda is abandoning the party, while at the same time the evangelicals, who have dominated the social issues within the GOP since the 1980s are also hitting the road. Even the conservative youth seems to be vanishing.

So, with the pillars of the party seem to be crumbling, who’s left to mind the store? Certainly not the moderates. The moderates, who once controlled the party for decades and took it to phenomenal political heights, have all but left the GOP, after having been targeted from the ultra conservative elements within their own party, or they’re sitting on the sidelines watching their once proud party implode against the backlash of an unpopular war, unstable economy, increasing governmental intrusion, and a social agenda now seen as extreme by many. Yet, I have to wonder if the time may have come again for a return to the GOP of old; an updated version of the ideals of the TR/Goldwater/Eisenhower/Nixon/Ford era of Republicanism?

This type of idealism focused less on the current central platforms of the GOP, such as gay marriage, prayer in school, abortion, and more on broader issues such as individual responsibility, civic participation, lower taxes, a smaller federal government, stronger states rights, and a sense of taking care of America first. I would dare say that they while none of these GOP icons would, for instance, approve of “gay rights” as such, they would no doubt support their right to live their lives as they saw fit. Barry Goldwater said,”Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism”. He also said, “I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.” I guess that aptly expressed his opinion about the Religious Right.

They would undoubtedly had promoted a greener approach to business (if you have any doubt, just look at Teddy Roosevelt’s Reclamation Act of 1902 which set aside money to create major dams, reserving 125 million acres for national forests, and 68 million acres of coal lands. He established 2500 water-powers sites and created the first wildlife refuge on Pelican Island, Florida. Richard Nixon was responsible for the creation of The Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, The Water Quality Improvement Act of 1970, the National Air Quality Standards Act of 1970, and The Resource Recovery Act of 1970 for example). A far cry from what you see happening in Washington by either party today isn’t it?

Most people like to give credit to President Johnson (and to a lesser extent, JFK) for the Civil Rights Movement, but it was Eisenhower who first intervened on behalf of black students attempting to enroll at the all white Central High School in 1957 when Ike dispatched federal troops to ensure their safety. In 1960, under the Eisenhower Administration, the Civil Rights Act was passed, and thus provided federal sanctions against anyone attempting to block the registration and voting rights of blacks ( it was, by the way, President Eisenhower, who had the words “under God” inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance). Oh yes, do I need to remind anyone of Lincoln’s role in area of “civil rights”?

What about business and Labor? TR used antitrust laws to breakup railroad, beef, oil, and tobacco combines. He strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission in its regulation of the then all powerful railroads. He earned the reputation as a friend of Labor by requiring the owners of the Anthracite Coal Mines in Pennsylvania to negotiate with striking miners who were attempting to organize. He also championed consumers with the Meat Inspection Act, Pure Food and Drug Act of 1903. Eisenhower signed into law the Interstate Highway Systems Act in 1956, modeled on the German Autobahn, and thus connecting America for the first time. Nixon signed in law in 1972 the Consumer Product Safety Act, which created the Consumer Product Safety Commission and charged it with setting product safety standards and banning unsafe products from the US marketplace.

Speaking of protecting consumers, let’s not forget ole Jerry Ford. In 1975, this moderate Republican signed into law four bills to help consumers make informed decisions and provide equality in the marketplace. What were they? The Fair Credit Billing Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. In 1974, Ford signed also signed into law Campaign Reform Act to help reduce campaign finance abuses, and the following year, he signed the Extension of Voting Rights Act which extended the Voting Rights Act of 1975.

This is by no means meant to an all inclusive list nor to imply that there wasn't negative issues (such as Watergate and Nixon's resignation) during their respective administrations. It is, however, meant to illustrate the type of Republican Party which once was, and whose time may yet come again given the current crisis within the GOP and the country. The 2007/2008 election cycle will no doubt decide the future the Grand Old Party.

Should Ex-Nazi Guard to be Deported?

World War II ended just over 62 years ago, in 1945, and yet in many ways the war continues, or at least its legacy. The Japanese Government recently apologized to the Koreans for the enslavement of Korean women (young girls really) who were forced into prostitution by and for the Imperial Japanese military (the so called “good time girls”). Germany has repeatedly apologized for Holocaust and has paid out tens of millions of dollars in retribution to survivors or their relatives. The hunt for stolen art and hidden assets continues; though many of their rightful owners either perished in the horrors of the concentration camps or have simply died of old age. Some may never be properly identified. Many of the war criminals have been captured and executed, or eluded the hangman’s noose and died in some safety of some benefactor far from the Fatherland. Perhaps only one or two of these men remain at large, though well into their 90’s and in too poor health to stand trial for their crimes. Recently declassified records have reveled how the US conspired to protect and use some Nazi war criminals and engineers (Operation Paperclip) as well as assorted banking and financial connections by major US companies before and during the war with the Nazi Government. There were obviously a lot of dirty hands. Time it seems has indeed marched on as the attention of the world has turned elsewhere and World War II falls more and more into the pages of history.

Now there is a story out of Lawrenceville Georgia, a small quaint mixed middle class community 30 miles outside Atlanta. According to the US Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigation and the Office of Homeland Security, 85 year old Paul Henss was a Nazi guard at the infamous Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps between 1942 and 1944. They claim that Henss trained attack dogs used in guarding prisoners and may have actually be a guard himself. Government officials also say the Henss had been a member of the Hitler Youth.

Paul Henss came to the United States, through New York, in 1955. He has lived a rather unremarkable life—the last 10 years of which in Georgia. Married, he retired many years ago and seemed according to the various media reports to be confused about the whole episode. Henss acknowledged that he did enlist in the Hitler Youth at 19, and later joined the elite SS where he was assigned to taking care of German Shepherds and Rottweilers—grooming, feeding, training of the dogs at both camps, but denies he had any other role. Henss has said that his tenure at Dachau and Buchenwald was brief, only a few months, and he spent most of his enlistment on the Eastern Front fighting the Russians. He added that he was never questioned about his past when he entered the US, and apparently didn’t volunteer any information either. Government documents allege Henss joined the Hitler Youth (not considered to be a criminal organization) in 1934 as a 12 or 13 year old boy and later joined the Nazi Party in 1940. In 1941, records show that he joined the Waffen SS (the armed SS, or non-political military units). A year later he was assigned to dog handling.

Neighbors interviewed seemed rather surprised at the allegations. Henss has repeatedly denied being a war criminal (and there are no former prisoners accusing him of war atrocities). Henss is said to be in poor health, with hearing and heart problems, and uses as walker. So, given this, and with so many years having passed, should he be deported? He has lived quietly in the United States for 52 years. He came legally into the United States. He was never charged as a war criminal by any tribunal, and let’s not forget that the current pope was also a member of the Hitler Youth (wonder if that means he would be denied entry into the United Stated?). Henss worked, raised a family, and retired. Basically, a model citizen. So what happens if he’s deported back to Germany? Will he be arrested? Serve jail time? Probably not. He’ll basically live there until he dies, and no doubt his body will be returned to his adopted home for burial.

Given all this, one has to wonder if the government simply singling him as an “easy target” rather than pursuing illegal immigrants, a much more serious threat than an old man who’ll have to answer for any crimes he may have committed soon enough. Perhaps the time has come to close this dark chapter of Man’s history.

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