Tuesday, September 18, 2012

the last book I ever read (Rachel Maddow's Drift, excerpt four)

from Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow:

The turnaround after North Carolina was dramatic: After going 0 for 6 at the start of the primary season, Reagan won four of the next six primaries, swept up every delegate in Texas, Alabama, and Georgia, and extended the race all the way to the convention that summer. He did grudgingly concede to Gerald Ford at the convention, but Ronald Reagan never again took his eyes off the White House. He had made himself a big pin on the political map and he understood exactly how he'd done it. When something worked for Reagan, he stuck with it. So while the new Democratic president who defeated Ford, Jimmy Carter, picked up the Ford policy and negotiated a strategically beneficial treaty with Panama, while mainstream Democrats and Republicans in the Senate joined together to work toward the two-thirds vote necessary for ratification, while right-wing archbishop William F. Buckley and America's beloved tough guy John Wayne (yes, that John Wayne) campaigned full-on for the ratification of Carter's treaty, Reagan demagogued with a vengeance. "The loss of the Panama Canal," Reagan said in one of his weekly radio addresses, "would contribute to the encirclement of the US by hostile naval forces, and thereby [threaten] our ability to survive."

Even after John Wayne sent Reagan a private and personal note offering to show him "point by goddamn point in the treaty where you are misinforming people," and offering fair warning that it was time for the Gipper to shut his piehole ("If you continue to make these erroneous remarks, someone will publicize your letter to prove that you are not as thorough in your reviewing of this treaty as you say or are damned obtuse when it comes to reading the English language"), Ronald Reagan doubled down. He cited a former "defense intelligence" expert, Gen. Daniel O. Graham (and put a pin in that name), who said rumors of Castro's Communist minions at work in the fields of Panama were based on "pretty solid evidence." He also cited a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs who "expressed the gravest concern about surrendering the canal to a leftist oriented government allied with Cuba, citing the danger of giving this advantage to a man who might permit Soviet power and influence to prevail by proxy over the canal. He said the 'economic lifeline of the entire Western hemisphere would be jeopardized.'"

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