There are three things for today. First, today is the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers. You can read a recent interview with Daniel Ellsberg here.
In this interview, Ellsberg says, "Richard Nixon, if he were alive today, would feel vindicated that all the crimes he committed against me–which forced his resignation facing impeachment–are now legal. " (Thanks to the Patriot Act and other laws passed in recent years.) And he says all presidents since Nixon have violated the constitution, most recently President Obama, with the bombing of Libya.
You can watch an internet stream of PBS POV documentary about Ellsberg here.
If you've never read the book, or if you're too young to remember what was going on in 1971, check it out. You might be interested in the parallels to Afghanistan, or in the ramifications of the Patriot Act...but what might catch your eye is how different things looked in 1971. There was no internet, no fax machine, barely overnight delivery. Mimeograph machines in lieu of ubiquitous copiers. Information was disseminated in a time lag. People were more serious (not all people, but in 1971 we did NOT live in the United States of Entertainment.) I could write for pages and pages on what 1971 was like: it was so long ago, and yet only a memory away.
Compare that to the two other stories of the day: will Weiner resign? Should he? All carried live. A scandal like his could not have happened in 1971: no Twitter, no instant cameras (sure, we had Polaroids, but you still had to mail the picture, yes, US Mule), no Facebook, no IMs, no 24 news cycles. And then there's the mental midget debate this evening. Let's compare: first off, no one announced until January of 1972. There was no actual presidential campaign, much less a debate, in 1971. Shirley Chisolm was the first African-American to run for president, of either gender, in either party. Also of note, Patsy Mink ran as the first Asian-American candidate. There are similarities of the Democratic Party of 1971 and the Republican Party of 2011 - both were in disarray, the Republicans because of the Tea Party, and the Democrats because of 1968. As an aside, Abbe Hoffman's Steal this Book was also published in 1971. If you want some good backdrop to the year, and to the Ellsberg saga, read it.
Also operational in 1971 on the Republican side was CREEP - Nixon's
slush fund fundraising operation - "Committee to Re-Elect the President". Related organization? The Plumbers who broke into Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office in July of 1971, practice for the DNC/Watergate break-in in 1972.
Let's put this all together. 40 years ago, the Vietnam War was on, and unpopular. Women were entering the workforce in great numbers, and NOT because their husbands were off fighting WW2 and the factories needed to be staffed. As a country, we were moving towards being less racist, the 1960's Civil Rights movement having been reasonably successful, although some would contend some work is never done. The Roe v Wade SCOTUS decision was still 7 months in the future. The 26th amendment lowering the voting age to 18 ("old enough to die in Vietnam, old to enough to vote against it") was a few weeks from full ratification. (That's not the last one, and yes, you should know how many there are.) It was also the golden age of sex: after the advent of the Pill, and before the scourges of herpes and AIDS. A time of great flux.
Today, we've got war, and terrorism, and more knowledge then we ever could have imagined we'd know...technology, medical advances, media, obscene divisions between rich and poor. Politicians who can't take time off from campaigning long enough to govern: a virtual non-stop election cycle. A Congress that is basically non-functional. The worst economy since the 1930's. A redistricting map that runs the gamut from California, which will have its first map drawn by non-policos ever, to Pennsylvania that will likely end up in court since they can't even get the committee to redistrict together. We're fighting civil rights again: not back of the bus and school integration this time, but immigration and freedom of speech. We're fighting Roe v Wade again. No one has a job at the factory anymore: at least not one with benefits, a strong union, and actual long-term benefits.
So on this auspicious anniversary, Anthony Weiner will be in Tiger Woods sex rehab mode, and six men and one woman will get up on a stage at St. Anselm's College in Manchester, NH to see who can be the most anti-Obama of the pack, all agreeing on most everything of substance, but mostly throwing barbs. It won't be a serious debate. And none of them will have a serious idea about how to solve our country's problems.