Reading through Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s minutely sourced and annotated book, The Untold History of the United States, I was struck by the language and thought-structures enunciated by our leaders concerning issues impinging on them.
Truman, for instance, on civil rights: “I think one man is as good as another so long as he’s honest and decent and not a nigger or a Chinaman.” (He regularly referred to Jews as kikes, to Mexicans as greasers.)
When Oppenheimer expressed to Truman his misgivings about having developed the atomic bombs, the president told his chief of staff, “I don’t want to see that son of a bitch in this office ever again.” He later called Oppenheimer a “crybaby scientist”.
When Elliot Roosevelt, FDR’s son, once spoke out against one of his policies, Truman characterized him as the “product of a piss-erection”, and chided the “damned fool congressmen crying like a bunch of women” over “nothing but a bunch of bullshit.”
This was the man whose finger did press the button.
JFK. the Hahvad aristocrat with his royal wife? When he found that Khrushchev had declared he would resume nuclear testing JFK erupted, “Fucked again!” His advisors urged him to hold off responding in kind so that they could score a propaganda victory, but Kennedy brushed them off, exclaiming “What are you? Peaceniks? They just kicked me in the nuts. I’m supposed to say that’s okay?”
When the President invited the Chiefs of Staff in to thank them for their support during the Cuban missile crisis, there was (McNamara reporting) “one hell of a scene.” Curtis LeMay came out saying, “We lost. We ought to just go in there today and knock them off!” But Kennedy viewed the outcome differently. He privately boasted that he had cut Khrushchev’s balls off.”
LBJ? Well we know about him. Still, some of his locutions are worth meditating on. Concerning the Communists: “If you let a bully come in your front yard, be on your porch the next day and the day after that he’ll rape your wife in your own bed.”
Concerning his own intelligence operatives: “Let me tell you about these intelligence guys. When I was growing up in Texas, we had a cow named Bessie. I get her in the stanchion, seat myself and squeeze out a pail of fresh milk. One day I’d worked hard and gotten at full pail of milk, but I wasn’t paying attention and old Bessie swung her shit-smeared tail through that bucket of milk. Now, you know, that’s what these intelligence guys do. You work hard and get a good program policy going, and they swing a shit-smeared tail through it.”
When the Joint Chiefs recommended mining Hai Fong harbor, Johnson started screaming, “You goddamn fucking assholes. You’re trying to get me to start World War III with your idiotic bullshit – your ‘military wisdom.’” He insulted each of them individually. “You dumb shit. Do you expect me to believe that kind of crap? I’ve got the weight of the free world on my shoulders and you want me to start World War III?” He called them shitheads and pompous assholes and use the F-word more freely than a Marine in boot camp he really degraded them and cursed at them. So reported a military man in attendance.
When Sen. George McGovern warned that the bombing might provoke strong responses by both the Chinese and the North Vietnamese, Johnson responded, “I’m watching that very closely. I’m going up for leg an inch at a time…I’ll get to the snatch before they know what’s happening.”
Johnson would not stand insubordination. “I don’t want loyalty. I want LOYALTY!,” he said of one aide. “I want him to kiss my ass in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses. I want his pecker in my pocket.”
Good one. Onward in statecraft:
Nixon and Kissinger decided to bypass the “impossible fags” in the State Department and run foreign policy out of the White House. He advised Kissinger to disregard Africa. “Henry,” he said, “let’s leave the niggers to Bill Rogers and will take care of the rest of the world.” He assured Chilean Ambassador Edward Korry that he was going to “smash that son of a bitch Allende.”
And of course the Yalie in the cohort, George W, who popped unexpectedly into a meeting between Condoleeza Rice and a bipartisan group of senators and exclaimed, “Fuck Saddam. We’re taking him out.” He told press secretary Ari Fleischer, “I’m going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the mid-East.”
I guess he did.
As one might expect, Obama’s potty-mouth is more Harvard educated, but equally spewing of shit:
Announcing the “end” of the Iraq war in 2011, he declared, “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people,” he told the troops at Ft. Bragg, praising their “extraordinary achievement.” The “most important lesson,” he declared was “about our national character… that there’s nothing we Americans can’t do when we stick together….And that’s why the United States military is the most respected institution in our land.” He commanded their willingness to sacrifice “so much for a people that you had never met,” which, he insisted, was “part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right. There can be no fuller expression of America’s support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people. That says something about who we are.”
Surely that speech does.
And we freak out at presidential primary talk about the size of Donald Trump’s hands, or the fictive throwing of a chair. Trump wants to kill Syrians. Bernie wants the Saudis to do it.
In 1946, Lewis Mumford wrote:
“Soberly, day after day, the madmen continue to go through the undeviating motions of madness: motions so stereotyped, so commonplace, that they seem the normal motions of normal men, not the mass compulsions of people bent on total death. Without a public mandate of any kind, the madmen have taken it upon themselves to lead us by gradual stages to that final act of madness which will corrupt the face of the earth and blot out the nations of men, possibly put an end to all life on the planet itself. ….
“Why do we let the madmen go on with their game without raising our voices? Why do we keep our glassy calm in the face of this danger? There is a reason: we are madmen too. We view the madness of our leaders as if it expressed a traditional wisdom and common sense: we view them placidly, as a doped policeman might view with a blank tolerant leer the robbery of a bank or the barehanded killing of a child or the setting of an infernal machine in a railroad station. Our failure to act is the measure of our madness. We look at the madmen and pass by.”