Let’s Look at a Few Examples
All candidates like to be elected, and the presidency of the United States is the ultimate election. They work long and hard at it and sometimes play dirty. And that unfair play can end in the deaths of innocent bystanders, as we shall see.
There’s only one rung on the American election ladder that’s higher than being elected president. That is being re-elected, and all but a few American presidents have made it their top priority while in office. For many of them it has been a permanent fixation and they have gone to extreme lengths to achieve it. And we’re not just talking about the mentally and morally deficient like President Trump. It’s pretty much all of them. One wonders, what are the causes of this deadly–for others–White House infirmity?
If you ask them they will, of course, all allege the same thing: “I need four more years to complete the project I promised the American people when I was elected.” Well, yes, but what else? Power hunger? There’s always a dash of that in the mix. It comes with the territory, and the higher you rise on the totem pole the more acute it becomes. Economic motives? Has there ever been an American president who left the White House poorer than when he went in?
The additional four more years of a second term give him time to distribute more favors among influential people–or better yet, corporations– and prepare himself a nice featherbed for when he leaves office. He can be more effective at this during his second term. First-term presidents must walk on eggshells to some extent, lest they garner powerful enemies, back failing initiatives, misjudge a war, or get reputations as self-interested, do-nothing chief executives.
Since re-election is constitutionally prohibited after their second term, they are free to move fast and loose in pursuit of whatever their hearts desire: some plump defense contracts for the military-industrial-technological-congressional complex, some pardons for their convicted cronies, some lucrative seats on boards of directors, a nice fund for a presidential library… The possibilities are endless, but they require time. Four more years.
“All of that may be true,” you say, “but from there to getting people killed in order to be re-elected is a far cry.”
Not That Far, Here’s Richard Nixon
Perhaps the 20th century’s most egregious instance of –What shall we call it?–“cognizant active or passive homicide for electoral purposes”– was the decision cooked up by candidate Richard Nixon & friends, regarding Nixon’s strategy for sabotaging President Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 election strategy.
Nixon’s Presidental campaign needed the war to continue, since he was running on a platform that opposed the war. According to the BBC:
Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign. In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.
Henry Kissinger, who was working on the Johnson camapaign at the time, alerted Nixon to the Democrats’ imminent peace initiative and Nixon commissioned one of his aids, Anna Chennault, to propose a deal to the South Vietnamese embassy: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.” The Atlantic Wire.
This nifty bit of treason permitted Nixon to win the 1968 presidential election by just 1 percent of the popular vote. “Once in office he escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia, with the loss of an additional 22,000 American (and a million Vietnamese) lives, before finally settling in 1973 for a peace agreement that had been within grasp in 1968.” (Source: Smithsonianmag.com, 2013)
John F. Kennedy
Six days into the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, President Kennedy’s first public announcement included this: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States…” Seymour Hersh comments in his 1997 book, The Dark Side of Camelot, “Kennedy’s audience, of course, was not only Moscow but his political critics in the Republican Party. ‘Who lost Cuba?’ would not be a theme of the 1962 congressional elections.”
As president, John Kennedy was not above dialing party politics into an international crisis. This became more evident in his handling of the early stages of the Vietnam War. Hersh, in the same book, cites Kennedy’s lifelong friend, Charles Bartlett, quoting Kennedy as saying, “Charlie, I can’t let Vietnam go to the Communists and then go and ask these people–the voters of America–to re-elect me. Somehow we’ve got to hold that territory through the 1964 election. We’ve already given up Laos to the communists, and if I give up Vietnam I won’t really be able to go to the people.” Unfortunately Kennedy never got the opportunity to “go to the people.”
In a footnote Hersh describes Bartlett as “distressed,” at Kennedy’s linking the war in South Vietnam to his political fortunes. Kennedy’s old friend adds, “This made me a champion of the single six-year presidential term.”
Donald J. Trump
Sometimes it’s amusing to have a buffoon at the helm, but more often not. The Trump presidency thus far has given us a bit of everything. Now, smitten with classic re-election fever, President Trump is trying to activate his electorate, degrade his opponent, sidestep his court cases and, while he’s at it, defuse America’s greatest-ever passive election homicide: nearly 200,000 Covid-19 deaths. He might have gotten away with it by employing his usual look-in-your-eyes, lie-and-shrug routine, but Bob Woodward’s revelation–in his new book, Rage, has probably cooked Trump’s election goose. According to Woodward’s account, the President admitted to being fully aware of the grave dangers posed by the epidemic on February 7, 2020, yet Donald Trump neither said nor did anything about it for months. He alleged that he played down the risks of Covid-19 in order not to cause panic across the country. Perhaps he also thought that an admission of that nature would be detrimental to his election hopes.
At this stage in the game President Trump has few mysteries left to unravel, but the most recent one has Trumpologists around the world losing sleep. (And there’s a bit of amateur Trumpologist in most all of us who can read.) Why on earth did Donald Trump willingly submit himself to a series of 18 recorded interview sessions with Bob Woodward, a reporter with well-earned fame for his part in bringing down one unworthy United States president already?
by Mike Booth
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