Bill's Democrat Heroes
Four Reasons I WAS A Democrat
Truman Pickle King Kennedy
I was raised by two of the finest Democrats America has ever seen. Indeed W.H. and Camilla Davis lived their American values and taught those concepts to their sons and grandsons. I have often been asked why I changed parties. Why indeed would a guy raised as a loyal Democrat change positions when he grew older?
I have both a tongue in cheek humorous answer and a serious evaluation of the reason this former Democrat is now proud to be a Republican. Hard as it is to believe of a man of my caliber but I have a tendency to be a smart a** on occasion. I am prone when asked about my party shift to relate the story about the new born puppy named Democrat that had to change his name to Republican when he was a couple of days old and his eyes opened.
A more honest and serious answer to the question is that in my view I never changed position. Based on several on my American mentors I once stood on what was considered the left side of the political road. I woke up one day and the road had moved so far to the left I was standing on the right side. Admittedly I stand today on what most accurately call the right shoulder and not in extreme right field. Nonetheless, my views are decidedly conservative and are tending to become more and more right wing as the road continues to drift to the left.
As a journalist I have a reputation for picking a fight with both sides of the aisle. I must admit that this reputation is certainly not without merit. I see no reason to vary from that practice with this article. Much to the chagrin of my fellow GOP faithful I have a great deal of respect for many fine Democrats past and present. I have a problem with labeling the character of an American based on his intelligent and honest political philosophy. While I will and do take issue with many of the results and dangers found in the liberal agenda I respect the true motives of the honest liberal. Yes there are honest liberals, folks. This is not a contradiction in terms. Likewise my Democrat friends have taken issue with the fact that along with my grandparents the founders of my personal conservative views to a great extent were founded by four extraordinary Democrats. I stand today as a solid Republican based on the words and deeds of Presidents John Kennedy, Harry Truman, Congressman Jake Pickle and the American Gandhi Dr. Martin Luther King. It is my heart felt belief that these fine men represented the principles now championed by the GOP.
One of the most disturbing problems in America today is our tendency to feel we must be in total lock step with our political party of choice. We tend to feel that if an individual disagrees with the party he professes to support he is disloyal to that party. We are prone to assume that if an American professes an affiliation to a political party he must concur with literally every position attributed to that party and every politician’s actions who wears that party’s label. This concept that one must be in total agreement with any other American or group reminds me of an assertion my Grandpa was fond of making, “Show me two men who agree on everything and I’ll show you at least one idiot”. It never ceases to amaze me how long after his death as I grow older how much smarter my Grandpa seems to get. If one listens to the acclaimed Ivy League scholars in the upper echelons of our political scene, Grandpa becomes an absolute genius. Unlike the political potentates today this old oil field hand turned cotton farmer had a unique way of using his common since wit to cut straight through political double talk.
I recently had a dear friend of mine challenge the accepted Republican position of being pro capital punishment. Less knew that I was anti capital punishment and the purpose of my buddy’s challenge was basically an “I got ya!” tactic. How can you support (Congressman) John Carter and the Republican Party when they are for capital punishment and you are not?" He asked. “Simple Less, I think they’re wrong and don’t mind saying so. However, we must not lend our support or withhold our support of an elected official or a party based on a single issue. It is certainly not necessary to support any individual or party on every issue. We must judge our statesmen and our party on the majority of issues. It is just as important if not more important that we challenge those who we support on issues we differ on.” Indeed true and honest support of any political party must include honestly voicing our decent with that party. I once relieved my Executive Officer and reassigned him to a Platoon Leadership position. He was a fine young officer and of course asked me why I was relieving him from his post as my chief staff officer. My response was, “Art you are a fine officer and will do well as a Platoon Leader but you are not worth a damn as a staff officer. Your problem is that you agree with everything I say. Frankly son, I can agree with everything I say on my own. I need a staff officer who will diligently search for all perceived errors in my battle plan or policy. Loyalty to a commander is admirable. Blind loyalty is just that. It’s blind and leaves your commander blind.” Indeed those who concur with everything their party professes are loyal but of little use to the progression of policy or ideas of the party they champion. In the way of a disclaimer, it must be noted in this article that while I personally disagree with Congressman Carter on several social issues that view does not reflect the management of the house. My bride of 46 years considers disagreeing with four men in this world absolute proof that you are in error. Her husband is not in that elite group. I can absolutely assure you that to challenge the actions of words of Congressman John Carter, son-in-law Peter Landoll, President George W. Bush or Glenn Beck will meet with total distain from the Boss Lady.
It is unfortunate that in our partisan political world today we are guided by the party label faster than we are truth. If a man is labeled a Democrat we as Republicans are prone to feel forced to discount his actions and words based on a knee jerk reaction that is based on political cowardice. We are simply afraid that any honest evaluation of the man’s worth may give the folks across the aisle credit. It must be said that this is not a partisan fallacy. Both sides are equally guilty of adjusting history for political purposes. To an honest historian, history has no spin. However, in researching history politicians are prone to be politically slanted. There is no objectivity to the view of a politician or political party when judging the value of a prominent figure from the other side of the aisle past or present.
I would like to do the unthinkable and refer to my four great Democrat American heroes with factual statements that have no Republican partisan spin. Let us look objectively at what was at one time the view of the Democrat Party and their standard bearers.
I shall start if I might with President Harry S. Truman. I consider Mr. Truman the absolute hallmark of American leadership. Not as well credited as his predecessor President Truman was nonetheless a leader who showed the courage to stand solidly on the Constitution principle that it is the people not the military that commands the actions of our armed forces. This constitutional authority established by the Constitution of the United States is absolutely imperative in any free society. Might does not make right in America. The people who hold the guns and wear the uniform serve at the pleasure of the President elected by the little lady who checks out our groceries in the supermarket. The title of Commander-in-Chief is absolute. There is an old military proverb regarding the word commander that goes, “You can’t command by committee.” Indeed regardless of the advice any good commander will take on any command decision when the smoke clears the awesome responsibility for all command decisions will fall squarely on the shoulders of the man in command. Four words spoken by President Truman will always define his clear understanding of the true magnitude of the extraordinary task placed on the Commander-in-Chief. Harry’s explanation of his job was not presented in an intellectually charged speech showing his detailed political expertise. Like my Grandpa Harry Truman was a plain spoken country boy. Nothing more had to be said from the man from Missouri other than simply, “The buck stops here”. I am a great fan of General Douglas MacArthur. That said, there can be no conflict between a serving officer and the President of the United States. It matters not which of the two is better versed in the art of war. To allow a military commander to be usurped authority from the people’s elected Commander-in-Chief can not be tolerated in America. There is little or no question that MacArthur was more popular at the time of his open conflict with President Truman than was his Commander-in-Chief. There was no question that the politically correct course for President Truman to take was to acquiesce to the great American military hero. President Truman chose American principle over politics and defended the Constitutional authority of the office the people elected him to hold. Defending the principles of our Constitution is a professed mainstay of the Republican Party today.
Speaking of Democrats who defended the principles of basic Americanism I submit that the late Texas Congressman Jake Pickle was such an American. Known for his clear liberal voting record it might shock a great deal of my Republican allies to know that Jake’s personal political views often differed from his voting record. Indeed while by on means could Jake Pickle be described as a conservative he was not the super left winger he is given credit for being. It should be noted here that Congressman Pickle holds a special place in my heart. He was a dear friend of the family. As a young man I had the honor of many a cup of coffee with Congressman Jake. I recall sitting across the table in the old Night Hawk Restaurant on Congress Avenue in Austin when Jake told me how he perceived the job of a Congressman. “The name of a Congressman’s work place is the House of Representatives. That’s your job. Contrary to popular opinion you are not there to vote for what you think is right. You are there to express the will of those who sent you. It must be their voice and their views you represent. On many occasions I have personally disagreed with the clear will of my constituents. However, I am their representative and they sent me to Washington to do just that. We must remember that the real bosses in this country are the people. The boss might not always be right but he’s always the boss. Your Grandpa is always saying ‘we politicians ain’t nothin but hired hands’ and he’s right. I’m not the first employee who occasionally disagrees with the boss and I wouldn’t be the first to get fired for not doing what the boss tells me to do. The jof of any good Congressman is to determine what the folks who elected him want and do his darnest to deliver. On occasion I have argued with the bosses who elected me but I have never failed in my attempt to obey their wishes. That’s what the guarantee given the people in the Constitution says. They are constitutionally guaranteed a right to a representative form of government. Those of us honored to be elected as their representatives can disagree with their will but we dare not fail to abide by it. Sure the people as the authority in our government will make their share of mistakes. All bosses do. When they do they’ll have to live with the consequences. Along with the right to run your own government is the responsibility that comes with living with your decisions.” Again I submit that Jake Pickle’s concept of strict adherence to the people’s right to run their own government rather than be controlled by what politicians think is a solid Republican stance today and flies in the face of the Democrat’s socialistic Tammany Hall brand of politics.
I take a great deal of pride in the fact that the first blood I shed for my country was long before I wore a uniform. I was a freedom rider in the 60’s and marched for civil equality as a disciple of the one of the finest Americans who ever lived. Indeed my personal admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King knows no bounds. Late in his career Dr. King was the victim of some seriously poor and misguided advice regarding the war in Vietnam. I do indeed take issue with my hero’s take on the war. That said, his personal courage and leadership for the cause of civil equality in America absolutely secures his revered place in American history and the hearts of every freedom loving American. You may note that I used the term civil equality and not civil rights. I was sitting on the grass in front of the Lincoln Monument when Dr. King stirred the soul of my country with his “I have a dream” speech. Dr. King was not about the rights of a black American but rather the equality of all Americans. There is a serious difference. He truly believed the founding fathers when they declared that “All men are created equal”. He believed that we should all be judged equally by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. That would be any color. He never suggested that there could be room a lack of strict adherence to equality based on some conceived politically correct choice of color. Indeed there could be no color of preference under his view of Constitution. I have no question that the man I loved and followed would have been appalled at the concept of passing laws that favored black Americans under the “Affirmative Action” programs of our liberal payback agenda today. I have no question that this man who preached equality meant just that. Dr. King’s death was a great disaster for the cause of Americanism and our constitutionally guaranteed civil justice. Had this courageous American not been the victim of an assassin’s bullet he would have stood as firmly against the racists Affirmative Action laws today as he stood against the racist Jim Crow Laws of the 60’s. There is no way that on the subject he so gallantly championed would the man from Alabama be slightly aligned with what we call liberals today. I stand proudly today as a conservative Republican on the principles taught me by Dr. Martin Luther King.
One of my favorite conservative mentors on the subjects of foreign policy and fiscal responsibility is President John F. Kennedy. On the subject of fiscal responsibility the Kennedy doctrine was clear. Tax cuts sponsored and supported by President Kennedy stimulated our economy after this American hero’s death. He understood that all Americans should be treated equally under the laws and principles set forth by our Constitution. This belief in equal treatment in America did not exclude the more successful Americans. Although suffering from the handicap of having not been born or raised in Texas John Kennedy had a pick up load of common since when it came to the economy of a free people’s free enterprise system. I once thought a good part of his belief in the necessity of a strong business community in America was the result of his Harvard education. However, given the inept views of our current administration my credit to Kennedy’s Harvard degree is obviously incorrect. Guess we have to stay with the common since explanation here.
As for foreign policy there is no President in our history who portrays the pride in our nation as the most powerful nation on Earth as did this Navy Cross recipient. While the current administration apparently believes we as a nation should apologize for the title of being the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth John Kennedy took great pride in his nation’s earned status in the international community. Sometimes I truly believe that the Obama administration and their liberal bedfellows believe America won the position of the greatest nation on Earth based on pure luck in some sort of lottery. John Kennedy and all true Americans understand that we are the wealthiest nation on Earth based on the courage and hard work of free men and women who have earned their fortunes in our free enterprise system. The Kennedy’s were indeed wealthy by the standard of their day. However, their wealth was not acquired from some perceived divine right of European monarch. These folks were poor Irish immigrants for the love of Pete. While certainly the colorful stories regarding the two fisted bootlegging efforts of his grandfather have some merit, nonetheless hard work and a high degree of entrepreneurial ability was involved in the building of the Kennedy family fortune. No President has ever stood on solid conservative American principle more than John Kennedy when he voiced the principles in his Inaugural Address. The right wing of our nation and dare I say our current Tea Party movement stands on the literal translation of JFK’s hallowed words, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
As for as foreign policy is concerned liberals and conservatives alike would do well to heed the red white and true blue words of the gallant young American hero when he said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Today the liberal agenda in Washington mandates that the greatest nation on Earth go hat and hand to lesser nations for permission to form a coalition before any commitment to Kennedy’s mandate is followed. It is now perceived that America must follow a course dictated by the opinion of others as to our actions. A coalition must be formed so that Heaven forbid it seems to others as if we are acting decisively and immediately based on nothing but our tradition of justice for all. What a terrible thing it would be if we if we did not get the approval of “nations who wish us ill” before “we assure the survival of liberty”. While I am being critical of our current lack of the courage and dedication to John Kennedy’s noble American doctrine let me not leave the nay saying conservatives out of my attack. Strictly for the sake of political correctness many of the conservative politicians and pundits totally disregard the courage of this absolutely courageous conservative view of American principles championed by Kennedy. I submit that the concept of “bearing any burden and meeting any hardship to support the survival and success of liberty” is the rock upon which our nation was founded. Today there is an attempt to quality our actions to “oppose any foe” and “support any friend” for the cause of liberty. How much will it cost? What is the risk? Who are these friend and do they agree with us? What’s in it for us? These are questions today from my side of the political fence that I deem shamefully embarrassing and are by no nature true to the conservative basics of American values. Our forefathers pledged their fortunes, lives and sacred honor to the principles that set the stage for Kennedy’s solid conservative speech. At what point did the cause of liberty cease to be worth the blood of American patriots. I shed mine for the liberty of others and would do so again.
We need to follow our hearts and minds as Americans free of political dogma. An issue can not be justly decided based on the political party affiliation. President Obama stood against raising the Federal Dept Ceiling as Senator Obama. The reason for his vote to deny America’s ability to increase their dept ceiling had nothing to do with the good of our nation. The absolute motivation for Senator Obama’s vote was based solely on the political party of the occupant of the White House at the time of his vote. Later of course when the party affiliation of the Oval Office changed so did Obama’s opinion. Let us as Americans not follow suit. The raising of the debt ceiling is a serious issue and can not be determined by anyone’s party label. Nor can our wiliness to conduct ourselves in the tradition of honorable patriotic Americans.