Homework is Due at the Beginning of Class
- MOVIE REVIEW: “Star 80” (1983) and “Death of a Centerfold” (1981) by Gregory Hilton
- Jacqueline Kennedy Left us 15 Years Ago Today by Gregory Hilton
- BOOK REVIEW: “Get Out Of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl To The Mall?: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager”
- In Rep. Patrick Kennedy's (D-RI) Footsteps: Is Kara Russo "Cute and Crazy"? by Gregory Hilton
- When America Finally Turned Against Slavery - The Wilmot Proviso by Gregory Hilton
- Remembering Gary Condit by Gregory Hilton
- 2010 Election
- 2012 Election
- 2012 Presidential Election
- Abraham Lincoln
- Andrew Jackson
- Andrew Johnson
- Arctic Sea Ice
- Auto Industry
- Barack Obama
- Bill Clinton
- Book Reviews
- Calvin Coolidge
- Cap and Trade
- Civil Rights
- Conspiracy Theories
- Deficit Reduction
- Domestic Issues
- Dwight Eisenhower
- Economic Policy
- Education Policy
- Energy Security
- Enhanced Interrogation
- Environmental Security
- Foreign Policy
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
- Franklin Pierce
- Gay Marriage
- George H. W. Bush
- George W. Bush
- George Washington
- Global Warming
- Harry Truman
- Health Policy
- Herbert Hoover
- James K. Polk
- James Madison
- James Monroe
- Jimmy Carter
- John Adams
- John F. Kennedy
- John Quincy Adams
- John Tyler
- Libertarian and Constitution Parties
- Lyndon Johnson
- Maritime Industry
- Martin Van Buren
- Mike Huckabee
- Missile and Bomber Gap
- Mitt Romney
- Movie Reviews
- National Security
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Notable People
- Nuclear Power
- Patriot Act
- Popular Culture
- Republican RINO's
- Rhode Island
- Richard Nixon
- Ron Paul
- Ronald Reagan
- Rutherford B. Hayes
- Sarah Palin
- Social Issues
- Social Security
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- State Politics
- Tea Party
- Thomas Jefferson
- Trivia Questions
- U.S. Politics
- U.S. Presidents
- United Nations
- Urban Problems
- Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Welfare Reform
- West Virginia
- William Howard Taft
- Woodrow Wilson
- World War II
- Zachary Taylor
- 331,833 hits
Monthly Archives: February 2009
On the other hand, I was impressed with Michelle Malkin’s presentation which was factual rather than an anti-Obama harangue. She really had my attention in talking about the impact of the new tax plan on non-profits. It would raise an estimated $318 billion over 10 years by, among other things, reducing the value of charitable contributions for people in the highest tax brackets. All of my charitable activities are geared toward major donors, and I believe this will be a direct threat to many major institutions. I was pleased to see the same concerns expressed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
I was not the only person turned off by Rush Limbaugh’s angry tone, and his opposition to bipartisanship. This morning Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House GOP Whip, was on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. Cantor was asked: “So the Rush Limbaugh approach of hoping the president fails is not your approach?”
“Absolutely not, I don’t think anyone wants failure right now. We have such challenges. What we need to do is put forth solutions to the problems real families are facing today. . . There is no question the Republican Party has to return to be one of inclusion, not exclusion. We are a party with many ideas, and a commitment to promoting positive alternatives, if we don’t agree with this administration,” Cantor said.
“Let’s come up with solutions that actually produce results for a change, instead of making matters worse, which Washington is famous for.”
The Washington Ballet (TWB) is well known among the world’s leading professional ballet companies for its high standards and artistic integrity. TWB includes classical ballet dancers performing a repertory of new work. They present the very best in ballet and international members of the professional troupe include Brianne Bland of Canada, Runqiao Du of China, Sona Kharatian of Armenia, Marcelo Martinez of Paraguay, Maki Onuki of Japan, Alvaro Palau of Colombia, Luis Torres of Puerto Rico, and Laura Urgelles of Cuba.
Mary Day established the Washington School for Ballet in 1944. In 1976 she founded The Washington Ballet as an outlet for the fine dancers turned out by her school. She knew only a small percentage of the hopefuls who came through her school would have the rare combination of gifts which would enable them to dance professionally.
According to an article by Virginia Johnson, a former prima ballerina with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, “Day insisted on decorum. After the formal bow that ended each class, the students lined up to say thank you to her as well.” Mary Day died at the age of 96 in July of 2006.
The ballet’s most recent international tours have included Russia, China, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. TWB was an instrumental part of “Ballet Across America” which brought together nine of the nation’s top ballet companies for six days of ballet at The Kennedy Center. In 2000, TWB became the first American company to perform in Cuba in more than 40 years. The troupe took Cuba’s “Premio Villanueva” award for best foreign production and was later featured in a documentary, “Dance Cuba: Dreams of Flight.” The 105-minute film captured touching moments of Webre’s experiences in Cuba.
AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Many first families have been associated with the Washington Ballet. This is especially true of Chelsea Clinton and Caroline Kennedy who are among the alumni of the Washington School of Ballet. Chelsea continued her ballet study until she graduated from high school. She often attended performances of TWB and her father would attend her recitals at GWU’s Lisner Auditorium.
PEOPLE magazine on 12/30/96 reported: “When we presented the President with a freshly printed copy of the Dec. 23 PEOPLE featuring photos of his daughter dancing in the Washington Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, he paused over the pictures and was rendered momentarily speechless as his eyes misted over. Says Clifford: ‘It was as if he were confronted with the evidence that the little girl who had come to the White House in bobby socks and braces was all grown up, transformed into a lovely swan.'”
The ballet world is well represented in the Obama White House. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel trained as a ballet dancer and he must have been very talented. The former Congressman was offered a full scholarship by the world famous Joffrey School of Ballet in New York City.I do not mean to exclude the Republicans because Ronald Reagan, Jr., the son of the late President, danced professionally with the second company of the Joffrey Ballet.
President George W. Bush joined local school children in the East Room of the White House in December of 2005 for a performance of The Washington Ballet. In his remarks, the President praised THEARC program in Anacostia. This 110,000-square-foot complex was opened in 2005 housing a state-of-the-art theater, dance and music studios. It serves the most disadvantaged population in Washington, D.C.
TWB is an integral part of THEARC. The ballet already had an outreach effort, DanceDC, in public elementary schools. DanceDC began in 1999 and it now has an annual budget of $679,000 a year. The ballet offers full scholarships for handpicked youngsters to continue training in a program where they are bused, at the ballet’s expense, to after school classes at THEARC. THEARC offers 30 classes for more than 275 students duplicating The Washington School of Ballet’s curriculum at its main academy.
TWB is now celebrating Artistic Director Septime Webre’s 10th anniversary with a range of work from the contemporary to the classical. Highlights include Webre’s patriotic take on The Nutcracker which pitted George Washington (The Nutcracker) against King George III (The Rat King). The Company is also presenting renowned works by Bournonville, Balanchine, Tharp, Morris, Wheeldon and many others
TWB’s version of Elton John’s Rocketman will have its world premiere on May 12th at the Harman Center. It will be followed by a dinner at the Reynolds Center for Art and Portraiture. This program also features a premiere by Edward Liang and George Balanchine’s riveting Rubies.
SOME PAST PERFORMANCES
“Genius” and “Genius2” were described as ballets for smart people. They featured works by renowned choreographers at the vanguard of contemporary dance. TWB artists last year performed one of Twyla Tharp’s wittiest pieces, the jazz-based “Baker ‘s Dozen.” They then went from classical to the innovative in Mark Morris’ tour de force, “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes”, and Christopher Wheeldon ‘s critically hailed “Morphoses.” Nacho Duato’s hypnotic pas de deux “Cor Perdut” came at the end of this engaging program.
The idea behind 7 x 7 was simple, seven works by seven choreographers, each seven-minutes-long. 7×7 focused on the universal theme of love and its myriad intricacies. As well all know, anything can happen when emotions take hold in the complicated, fickle and sometimes challenging world of relationships.
TWB in February of 2009 had an admirable production of the romantic warhorse, “La Sylphide,” at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. The staging by the Royal Danish Ballet’s Sorella Englund and Thomas Lund captured the essence of this ballet with a light touch. The cast featured petite and playful Elizabeth Gaither as the Sylph and deeply emotional David Hallberg. They acquitted themselves nicely. Guesting for the second time this season, Hallberg offered a richly textured performance as James, who is part cad, part romantic hero in his search for unattainable love.
“Washingtonian” magazine described the performance of “The Four Temperments” this way: “American Ballet Theatre principal David Hallberg joined the troupe for ‘The Four Temperaments,’ Balanchine’s stringent dissection of the medieval principal that the body contains four distinct humors or temperaments. A former student of recently hired school director Kee-Juan Han, Hallberg, with his golden-boy good looks and refined technique, danced a well-modulated Phlegmatic variation, blending naturally into this chamber-sized company with a fiercely democratic streak: there are no soloists or principals in the group, just a troupe of excellent dancers who shift and share roles for the most part equally.”
For three weeks in December TWB featured Tchaikovsky’s cherished Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. Many of us have school memories of the young dance students playing the awkward angels, the gawky snowflakes, and the bumbling clowns who all aspire to the grown-up grace of the Sugar Plum Fairy or the adventurous imagination of Clara or Marie.
The ballet takes us both backward — often to our own first ballet experiences and also to our own fond family holiday season recollections. “The Nutcracker” has become a milestone in the lives of so many. While it’s a remembrance of things past, it is also a ode to the future.
This staple of the ballet world opened to dismal reviews in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1892. “‘Nutcracker’ can in no event be called a ballet,” one critic opined. “It does not comply with even one of the demands made of a ballet.” Another wrote: ‘The production of such ‘spectacles’ . . . is an insult . . . and may soon easily lead to the ruin of the ballet.'” I always think of those comments when I read reviews today.
Among many other things, tax deductible contributions to TWB have made it possible for over 5,000 DC area students to participate in ballet activities. Some elements of the major donor campaign have included:
The “Beatles Ball” which featured excerpts from the ballet, “Always, No Sometimes”, choreographed by Trey McIntyre and set to a medley of Beatles’ tunes. Over 500 guests attended and $500,000 plus was raised. The sponsor was the Fannie Mae Foundation, but this event was held prior to the government bailout.
Last year the Spring Gala was able to recruit 75 sponsors at $35,000 and two dozen donors of $25,000 and $10,000.
The Washington Ballet’s Jete Society supportS the ballet’s signature education program, DanceDC. All of the cast members from the ballet attend these parties, and it is a fabulous networking opportunity for young people.
“Washingtonian” magazine described the most recent Jete Society event at the French Embassy by saying, “Guests were encouraged not only to dress to impress but also to leave conservative Washington rules behind; the event invitation encouraged them: “Be Wild. Be Sassy. Be Unexpected. Or Stay Home.” Septime Webre introduced the evening’s entertainment by warning, “This is not the ballet!” before a dozen or so scantily clad dancers from the Aaron Jackson Troupe performed an energetic number to Jimmy Jackson’s ‘Fashionista.'”
Amanda McKerrow is the most prestigious alumnus of the Washington School of Ballet. She started with dance lessons in the cafeteria of her elementary school in Rockville, Maryland, became a student of the legendary Mary Day, and retired in 2005 after a 23-year career with the American Ballet Theatre. It was a career which was set ablaze when she made jaws drop throughout the ballet world by winning the gold medal at the Moscow International Ballet Competition in 1981, when she was 17.
UPCOMING STARS — JONATHAN JORDAN
A review of Jonathan Jordan in “Washingtonian” magazine says “It takes more than a perfect quintuple pirouette to make a great ballet dancer. And while Septime Webre lauds 27-year-old Jonathan Jordan’s technique, his intensity as a dramatic artist is what keeps Webre intrigued: ‘I’m very excited to see Jon tackling the part of James, one of the great male romantic roles of the 19th century, in our new production of La Sylphide.’ Jordan, a Silver Spring resident and Phoenix native, credits his teacher Roudolf Kharatian with shaping him as a dancer by introducing him to both martial arts and the great Western philosophers. ‘When he first came to me,’ says Kharatian, a former instructor at the Washington Ballet, ‘I saw this young, energetic man who could not control his energy or his emotion.’ In the studio, they exchange few words, but Jordan—now in his eighth year as a Washington Ballet member—has absorbed Kharatian’s physical and emotional intensity. Two years ago, the relationship deepened when Jordan married Kharatian’s daughter, fellow Washington Ballet dancer Sona Kharatian.
“The Washington Ballet is intimate enough to offer Jordan many opportunities to dance and much variety: ‘I find the joy in anything I get to do, but I definitely feel very close to classical ballet. I think I am a romantic at heart.’ Aside from playing James in La Sylphide, this season Jordan reprises his role—the one originated by Mikhail Baryshnikov—in Mark Morris’s ‘Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.'”
A TRAGIC LOSS
Mary Saludares of the Washington Ballet Studio Company died on February 20, 2009. She was 20 years old and was struck by a car at 10:07 pm while crossing the street immediately after a performance. Along with other dancers she was on the way to dinner. Mary received the highest Royal Academy of Dance Award, the Solo Seal, in 2006. A native of the Philippines, she at first attended the School of American Ballet in New York. Mary received a full scholarship 18 months ago to the Washington School of Ballet. Because of her obvious talent she was also given a position in TWB’s Studio Company. Mary’s considerable skill and technique at such a young age was recognized in January when she became the first Filipino entry in the Adeline Genee International Ballet Competition. TWB has established a Mary Saludares Memorial Fund.
The Facebook group “We All Love You Mary!!!!” was created by Andy McDandy. It contains 139 photos of the late Mary Saludares with the introduction: “Mary was such a beautiful person, both inside and out. She was so endearing, and full of sunshine and happiness. Mary touched everyone and I cannot think of anything negative to say about her. She was such a sweet person, and a kind soul. May she rest in peace, and in our hearts.”
Many people continue to believe that Iraq had no connection to weapons of mass destruction. We now know the Senate Intelligence Committee received the same briefings as President Bush in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq. All of the Democratic lawmakers on this panel reached the same conclusion as the President. Every intelligence agency believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and the post-invasion UN Duelfer report concluded that he maintained the capability to produce them on short notice.
Saddam had destroyed most, but not all of his WMD stockpile. On June 14, 2003 the U.S. Army discovered over 550 metric tons of uranium yellowcake at a facility in Tuwaitha , 12 miles south of Baghdad. Once refined, this quantity would make 142 nuclear weapons. At the same location the Army uncovered four devices for controlled radiation exposure. Over 500 chemical weapons (mustard and sarin gas) were also found.
In July of 2008 the last of the yellowcake was shipped to Canada where it is now being processed into nuclear fuel. Most of the uranium was acquired prior to 1991, but Saddam still had it in 2003. He was holding onto it in order to wait out the U.N. sanctions when he could restart his WMD program.
This one discovery should put to rest the canard peddled by Joe Wilson who made a career out of claiming “Bush lied” about Iraq seeking yellowcake from the African country of Niger. After numerous investigations it appears the person who lied was Wilson, not Bush. The Senate Intelligence Committee and the British parliament both concluded that Wilson was lying about many things. Iraq was seeking additional yellowcake in Niger, and Wilson accurately reported this at the time, before changing his story.
Bush’s “16 words” in his 2003 State of the Union Address were accurate. Wilson lied about the documents he had seen, and he also lied when he claimed his CIA officer wife was not instrumental in sending him to Niger,
According to Wilson’s own testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki of Niger said an Iraqi delegation was seeking to acquire additional yellowcake in 1999, but they let the matter drop because Iraq was under international sanctions.
Wilson’s wife, former CIA employee Valerie Plame wrote the book, “Fair Game: My Life As A Spy, My Betrayal By The White House.” You don’t even have to get to the first page of Plame’s book to find something misleading, because it’s right in the title, in the ‘My Betrayal By The White House’ part. It wasn’t the White House who first told Robert Novak that Plame worked for the CIA, it was Richard Armitage, a State department Iraq war critic, hardly a Bushie. Novak was the one who outed Plame by saying she worked at the CIA in one of his columns. You would think it was Cheney who announced it in a press conference if you listened to the propaganda. After prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s endless investigation of the White House, nobody was ever charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) for outing Valerie Plame, though Scooter Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, was convicted of making false statements to the FBI during the investigation for not remembering who told him Plame’s name first several months after the fact. Libby would not have been in any trouble if he had just said “I do not recall.” Hillary Clinton used that phrase over 250 times when she was under oath.
Valerie Plame was never deep under cover. The CIA confirmed her employment over the phone when they were called by Bob Novak.
The 2001 disappearance of intern Chandra Levy will apparently soon be solved. This case dominated the news 8 years ago when the 24 year old was tragically murdered and her body was not discovered for a year. The reason for all of the attention was because of Chandra’s relationship with then Congressman Condit. Many people falsely believed he was responsible for her death.
He lost his Congressional seat, and left California because of the bad publicity. His Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in Arizona was not successful, and for the past two years he has been writing a book. I was sad to see the photos of him scooping ice cream because it was such a waste of his obvious talent. Condit apparently cheated on his wife with Chandra and several other women who came forward after they were paid by the “National Enquirer.”
Condit… Read More’s personal life is not our business and Mrs. Condit has apparently forgiven him. There were thousands of Condit stories years ago but none of them mentioned his outstanding legislative record.
Condit served in House for 14 years and I knew him as a senior member on the House Intelligence Committee. He spoke out forcefully to stop the genocide and “ethnic cleansing” in the former Yugoslavia. He was also obviously impacted by the genocide in Rwanda, and it was an issue he continued to raise. Furthermore, Condit was the founder of the Blue Dog Coalition, which is the alliance of moderate Democrats. He was one of the few lawmakers who was respected on both sides of aisle and was able to unite the two parties. When Democrats failed to appoint him to a Conference Committee, the Republicans gave him the slot. That rarely happens.
Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” The United States has 4% of earth’s population but produces one-quarter of the world’s wealth every year. America is the only superpower. We have aircraft carrier battle groups in every ocean, troops in 27 different countries, 16 intelligence agencies, and no one else comes close to our power projection capabilities. If we cut back militarily, our national wealth will decline.
America is truly a great nation, and we will not continue to enjoy the benefits of freedom without our national security role. As a great nation we have global responsibilities, and that is why we are in Iraq. The conflict is not over, but 27 million people are living in freedom and I believe history will prove our cause just.
Britain was the superpower of the 19th century. Unlike the United States, they were a colonial power and believed in imperialism. That will never be America’s policy but there is a similarity. The UK was never known for its large army but they nevertheless controlled India with very few soldiers. How did they do that?
There were internal tensions and conflicts in India, and at that time the nation included Pakistan and Bangladesh. They wanted Britain’s role, and for a time it stopped their internal conflicts. The United States is a power for peace, and our role in NATO, the Korea DMZ and the Persian Gulf is wanted.
Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor to former President Clinton, spoke a few years ago about America’s role in the world. “We cannot be everywhere and do everything. But we also cannot afford to do nothing, and be nowhere,” Berger said. Without American leadership the job will not get done. Iraq is an example of where the US had to lead in order to maintain security and maintain prosperity. We cannot hunker down if we want our children to live safely and thrive. Many people say we must be engaged in the world — but they never want us to do so when our engagement is needed.
The UN inspectors were asked to leave Iraq before President Clinton’s Operation Desert Fox in 1998. They did not return until President Bush insisted. Every intelligence agency in the world told us WMD was still present. Saddam’s high command did not realize he had destroyed the stockpiles, because it was a state secret. If President Bush lied about Iraq, then so did President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair, President Chirac and Chancellor Schroder.
Saddam Hussein did not live up to the 1991 cease fire agreement by meeting HIS burden of proof to disclose the whereabouts of the WMD. Saddam Hussein did not plan the 9/11 attack, and this was never claimed. He was a significant threat to both the United States and the Middle East peace process. The CIA did produce faulty intelligence but there were still numerous reasons to topple Saddam.
It is disappointing the news media rarely reports the direct connections between Saddam’s Iraq and numerous terrorist organizations. This was addressed in a March 2008 Pentagon-sponsored study entitled “Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents.” It was based on a review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents captured after the 2003 US invasion. The study noted “Saddam supported groups either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or generally shared al Qaeda’s stated goals and objectives.” According to the Pentagon study, there were many terrorist and jihadist groups that Iraq’s former dictator funded, trained, equipped, and armed.
Saddam was willing to use operatives affiliated with al Qaeda, and this “created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a ‘de facto’ link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust.” The report says Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against United States.
The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda Iraq was responsible for a number of deadly attacks. He and his men trained and fought with al-Qaeda for years. Zarqawi’s network helped establish and operate an explosives and poisons facility in northeast Iraq. Zarqawi and nearly two-dozen al-Qaeda associates were in Baghdad before the fall of Saddam’s regime.
Reporting from a trading floor in Chicago, CNBC reporter Rick Santelli heatedly blasted President Barack Obama on February 19th over his plan to ease the housing crisis. “The government is promoting bad behavior. . . This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? President Obama, are you listening?”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had an angry response today and says Santelli should read the President’s plan. He used Santelli’s name five times, and the CNBC reporter is being portrayed as the next Joe the Plumber. This is ironic in light of the recent debate on the Stimulus Bill.
Santelli published a long post on CNBC’s website defending himself and denying any connection to the “tea party movements that have popped up” since the rant aired, such as those orchestrated by FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit group that put Santelli’s image on its home page soon after the rant aired, along with the words “Are you with Rick? We are.” Santelli says his goal is to spark a debate. “I want the new administration to win this one,” he said. “It’s a question whether spending our children’s money is going to make us win or not, or is it going to take its own time to heal, like a cold going away?”
Santelli noted that numerous Members of Congress said they were forced to vote on a $750 billion bill without reading it. The promise to post it on-line for 48 hours prior to the vote was broken. When it did go on-line the search function was disabled.
Many of my friends are in real estate and some of them have to wait for 7 months before financing is approved. That has to change, and perhaps it is not so bad for the market to find a natural low which determines a true fair price. A 20% down payment on a house sounds like a realistic requirement to me.
Back to the Cold War: Did the U.S. Push Castro and Ortega into the arms of the Soviet Union by Gregory Hilton
Back to the Cold War: Did the U.S. Push Castro and Ortega into the arms of the Soviet Union by Gregory Hilton–A myth continues to circulate in leftist circles that the United States pushed both Cuba and Nicaragua into the arms of the Soviet Union. Sandinista supporters claim this happened because of embargoes and the cut off of medical, humanitarian and food aid.
The problem with the myth is that it conflicts with public statements of Castro and the Sandinista leaders. The FSLN was founded in 1961 by Carlos Fonseca, who always described himself as a Communist. In discussing the origins of the FSLN, Fonseca said it was “a successor to the Bolshevik Revolution. . . the ideals of Lenin are the guiding star in the struggle in which the revolutionaries in Nicaragua are waging.”
Human rights was the focal point of President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, and he made no secret of his opposition to the Somoza government. He clearly wanted the Nicaraguan opposition to be successful, and Carter imposed a ban on arms sales to Nicaragua during his first week in office. This was later over turned by the U.S. Congress, but President Carter was able to accomplish it through an executive order. In the FY 1979 budget submitted by the Carter Administration, Nicaragua would be listed as the only nation denied the right to purchase military equipment.
The U.S. government also vetoed funding for Nicaragua from the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank. Nicaragua was entitled to a $20 million line of credit at the IMF, but American opposition stopped it. The biggest blow was denying Somoza money from coffee and beef exports. The United States was able to work with the OAS to stop all cargo ships from entering Nicaraguan waters.
If the promises made by the FSLN during the civil war had been implemented it would have been a clear victory for Carter’s human rights campaign. Carter needed a success for his 1980 re-election where he was vulnerable on foreign policy issues after the seizure of hostages in Iran, the failure of SALT II and the setbacks to detente because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The U.S. embargo on Cuba is still in effect, but few nations have adhered to our action, and today America is the only country to maintain the embargo. Cuba can trade with everyone else. Fidel Castro has never said we pushed him away. He maintains that he was a communist going back to 1954. The USSR and Chairman Mao are gone, eastern Europe is no longer behind the Iron Curtain, Vietnam has adopted a free market, but Castro has not changed his ideology.
The situation in Nicaragua is equally clear and the FSLN was supported by the USSR well before they achieved power. The United States provided funding during the Somoza era to opposition labor unions and newspapers. America was also an active participant in the Nicaraguan power transfer process, including negotiations with the FSLN government in exile when they were based in neighboring Costa Rica.
America did stop arms shipments to Somoza, but the U.S. did not stop arms shipments to the FSLN from Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama or Venezuela. Venezuela was providing the funding, Soviet bloc equipment was sent through Cuba and transshipped on flights to Panama and later to the FSLN bases in Costa Rica.
The civil war began in September of 1978 but by the summer of 1979 the Somoza ammunition stockpile was almost depleted. The major reason Somoza’s National Guard stopped fighting was because they ran out of ammunition. An Israeli ship filled with 50 caliber ammunition and mortars was close to the coast of Nicaragua in June when the Carter Administration was able to cancel the order and the ship turned around. Somoza later wrote “This one ship could have easily turned the tide of the war.”
Nicaragua had not made a significant purchase of modern military equipment since 1957, and the arms used by the FSLN were far superior to Somoza’s National Guard. The Somoza government had a very small air force and navy, and their army lacked anti-tank and anti-personnnel grenades.
The four Somoza tanks were out dated and knocked out immediately by Chinese made RPG rockets. The same rockets caused havoc at National Guard installations. The sentries stationed at check points throughout Managua held automatic weapons but they were without ammunition. The FSLN also made effective use of French bazookas, Belgian mortars and hand grenades.
The Organization of American States passed a resolution on June 23, 1979 which demanded Somoza’s resignation. After that, any arms sale was impossible, and it would not have mattered because the government no longer had significant dollar reserves. No one would accept the Nicaraguan currency and payment had to be made in dollars.
With the advance approval of the FSLN, the US allowed General Somoza and members of his government to seek exile in Miami. On the afternoon of his arrival in Miami, Somoza was told by Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher that he would have to leave the U.S. because his supporters in Managua were not cooperating. Somoza left after two days and was assassinated in Paraguay the next year.
The Carter Administration immediately recognized the new FSLN government and provided them with $10.5 million in aid which originally had been intended for Somoza before it was frozen. This was followed by emergency assistance of $8.8 million, $75 million in foreign aid and 100,000 tons of food in the first two years. Daniel Ortega was invited to the White House, and America had the power to block World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank assistance to the FSLN, but this did not happen.
These actions were taken despite the fact that the FSLN repeatedly lied to American negotiators. The only condition requested by the Carter Administration was a pledge from the FSLN to stop arms transfers to the FMLN in El Salvador. This did not happen and when the arms shipments increased many Democrats in the U.S. Congress urged a cut off in further aid to the Sandinista government.
President Carter took this step 12 days before he left office, and President Ronald Reagan froze all aid to Nicaragua two days after his Inauguration. Reagan’s action was reported in the news media as a continuation of Carter’s policy.
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has said “True to its revolutionary beliefs, the Sandinista leadership was more interested in promoting revolution in Central America than in cultivating better relations with the United States. . . With close ties to Fidel Castro, the Sandinista leaders went about the task of setting up a regime modeled on that of their mentor. They invoked press censorship, established a powerful secret police, mounted systematic attacks on the church, and built up a large military force.
“In a little over a year in power the Sandinista popular army was the largest in Central America, having grown from 5,000 to at least 24,000 men. All this, it should be noted, came about prior to the Contra insurgency. In fact it was these policies that contributed to the rise of an armed resistance movement, soon to be known as the Contras. ”
In May 1983, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence confirmed this point. It noted that: “A major portion of the arms and other material sent by Cuba and other Communist countries to the Salvadoran insurgents transits Nicaragua with the permission and assistance of the Sandinistas. . . . The Salvadoran insurgents rely on the use of sites in Nicaragua, some of which are located in Managua itself, for communications, command-and-control, and for the logistics to conduct their financial, material, and propaganda activities.”
In August of 1981, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders went to Managua to meet with the Junta. He promised a very generous aid package and no support for any opposition groups in return for one promise — a complete halt in arms shipments to the FMLN which was actively making progress in its effort to overthrow El Salvador’s government.
The American offer was rejected. Sergio Ramirez of the Junta told Enders: “Today we have revolutionary Nicaragua and revolutionary Cuba. Tomorrow we will have revolutionary Salvador.” Four months later the first $20 million in funding was approved for the Contras. Their first assignment was to stop arms shipments into El Salvador, and this was not a covert program.
In announcing it Reagan said: “Our purpose is to prevent the flow of arms [from Nicaragua] to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica.”
The U.S. Congress passed the Boland Amendment in May of 1985 which barred funding to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. The legislation was overturned in July of 1986 when Congress approved. $100 million in lethal and nonlethal assistance for the Nicaraguan resistance. Military success on the ground for the Contras was undermined by political scandal in Washington. In November 1986 the Iran-Contra affair broke. All efforts by the administration to build public support for its policy toward Nicaragua came to a halt. The momentum for continued military assistance to the resistance fighters was lost. This was confirmed in early February 1988 when by a vote of 219-211 the House of Representatives voted against further military assistance to the Nicaraguan resistance.
If the military pressure of the Nicaraguan resistance helped force the ruling Sandinista regime to agree to hold elections, equally significant was the economic embargo the United States placed upon Nicaragua in May 1985. Those sanctions on top of earlier Sandinista mismanagement of the economy took a heavy toll. By 1989, Nicaragua had been brought to economic disaster with widespread poverty, widespread shortages of consumer goods, an unemployment rate of more than 25 percent, and an inflation rate of 36,000 percent, a world record.
It was obvious the Sandinista revolution had never benefited the poor. In fact, the opposite is true–the revolution benefited the ruling elite at the expense of everyone else in the country. The experience of Nicaraguans replicated the experience of the peoples of Eastern Europe who suffered under 40 years of Communist misrule. The people of Nicaragua knew who had made them poor by wasting resources on unproductive state enterprises in addition to the mansions and luxury automobiles for the commandantes.
A Return to Nicaragua and the 1980s ‘Triumph of the People’: Is This Latin America’s Future? by Gregory Hilton
A Return to Nicaragua and the 1980s ‘Triumph of the People’: Is This Latin America’s Future? by Gregory Hilton–The foreign policy debate of the 1980’s was often dominated by dramatic events in Nicaragua. This small Central American nation is now rarely in the global spot light, and the problems confronting it are no longer unique. Step by step Nicaragua now appears to be headed for a left wing dictatorship, and it continues to reject free market solutions.
The difference is that Nicaragua is no longer alone. In various forms capitalism is also under attack in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. They are all pursuing a mixture of socialism combined with a free market, and their recessions are deepening as export opportunities evaporate. The economic future of these Latin American nations, similar to the rest of the world, is very uncertain.
Nicaragua is an excellent example of what could happen to all of them, but July 19th of this year could well go unnoticed. The date marks the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. It was then that the flag of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was raised for the first time in Managua, where it would remain for next 11 years.
THE 1979 SANDINISTA REVOLUTION
The Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution on June 23rd asking General Anastasio Somoza, Jr., to leave office. He complied with the resolution on July 17th, and along with high ranking officers in his National Guard, he fled to Miami. Over 50,000 people celebrated in the streets of Managua two days later as Nicaraguan Revolution Day was declared on July 19th. The “New York Times” compared the scene to January 1, 1959 in Havana when Fidel Castro came to power.
The Somoza era had finally come to an end, but no one was quite sure what was beginning. Three members of the Somoza family had ruled Nicaragua for almost 40 years prior to their 1979 downfall. The Somoza’s were firm allies of the United States, and their governments consistently voted with America in the United Nations.
Two days after the Pearl Harbor attack which resulted in America’s entry into World War II, Nicaragua declared war on Germany, Japan and Italy, and broke its diplomatic relations with Vichy France. Nicaragua was the first country to ratify the Charter of the United Nations. In addition, the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba set off from Nicaragua in the presence of the clan’s last leader, General Somoza. As Franklin Roosevelt said of his father, “He’s an SOB, but he’s our SOB!”
The bright-eyed revolutionary days were in the summer and fall of 1979. Sandinista leaders were then viewed as young, romantic and idealistic. Allies from around the world soon joined them. Numerous participants from the Paris student uprisings and strikes of 1968 arrived in Managua, along with leaders of “progressive” political parties. They promised to perfect the socialist model which Stalin and Mao had betrayed.
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s the news media often portrayed Sandinista members as crusading heroes for the common good. The euphoria of that distant summer came after thousands were killed in a civil war, and the nation had endured four decades of corruption and abuses.
A popular book was “Triumph of the People: The Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua,” and there was a widespread belief that all of Central America would soon be transformed. The U.S. debate over Nicaragua would continue for almost a decade and partisanship on both sides was intense.
Many of the Sandinista enthusiasts obviously had good intentions. They had tears of joy at the outset, and a number of them certainly meant well in traveling to Managua for development work. Their outlook was similar to those who cheered the downfall of the Shah of Iran earlier that year, or the Battista regime in the Cuba of 1958.
They wanted to make a difference, and never dreamed the alternative could be much worse. They may have been naïve but today a number of them are among the most effective critics of the Sandinista regime (see below). The supporters of the FSLN, Fidel Castro and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, all believed the claims of their heroes. They were blatantly misled, but that is not their fault.
On the other hand, numerous supporters of General Somoza, the Shah or Fulgencio Battista often overlooked valid accusations of corruption and human rights abuses. They were interested in those nations only when they entered the American political fray.
Many vehement backers of the Nicaraguan Contra’s in the 1980s completely abandoned that nation when their candidate, the anti-communist Violeta Chamorro, won the 1990 election. U.S. conservatives were primarily interested in a Sandinista defeat, and when it was secured at the ballot box, the plight of the Nicaraguans was soon forgotten.
In some respects the Nicaragua debate on Capitol Hill was not unusual. In many ideological battles there is a triumph of passion over reason, and I have often found both sides to be intolerant of dissent. Now that 30 years has elapsed, it is easier to view the Nicaraguan revolution in perspective.
Without General Somoza the Sandinista movement would never have achieved prominence. Anastasio Somoza, Jr., served as President from 1967 until 1972, and was re-elected to a second term in 1974. He was a West Point graduate and practically all of his education had been in the United States. His father, General Anastasio Somoza, Sr., was assassinated while serving as President in 1956.
His brother Luis also served as President from 1956 until 1963. Somoza, Jr., had to step down in 1972 because of a Constitutional requirement which only allowed one term. This did not stop him because he still was running things behind the scenes as head of the National Guard.
No one can deny the corruption following the 1972 earthquake which killed over 10,000 people in Managua and left 250,000 homeless. Over 90% of the homes in Managua were destroyed. Foreign aid flooded into Nicaragua but a significant amount never reached the intended recipients. It was diverted by Somoza and members of his National Guard.
Leaders of Somoza’s own Liberal Party did not want him to run for re-election in 1974 because they knew of past mistakes and the continuation of his family’s rule would not be popular. He defied them and was able to strong arm his way back into power.
Somoza and his cronies lived in luxurious mansions and many of his friends received lucrative contracts. In a devastating interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes,” Dan Rather pointed out that virtually every government contract in Nicaragua was with a vendor owned by Somoza. An accounting of Somoza’s property after the revolution included 168 factories, which represented 25% of the nation’s industrial plant capacity with a value in excess of $200 million.
The General’s second term was controversial from the start. He had to declare martial law in the first year and opposition newspapers were censored. The greatest sin of all was the 1978 assassination of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, editor of the opposition daily “La Prensa.” The newspaper was censored at times but it was still full of anti-Somoza articles on a daily basis. Critics of General Somoza were also free to travel at home and abroad, and the Catholic Jesuits and Maryknoll priests and nuns became a focal point for anti-Somoza activity.
According to the vehemently anti-Somoza Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the highest number of “human rights violations” during the Somaza era was 350 in 1997. No abuse can be excused, but the number of cases does seem small to what would occur in the 1980s. The 1978 U.S. State Department “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” said “The number of reported abuses and their severity have decreased markedly over the past year,” in Nicaragua. The report also noted that a number of people reported by WOLA as having “disappeared” were actually alive.
Despite the corruption there were also positive aspects to the Somoza era. The General made money, but so did the people. Nicaragua experienced consistent economic growth prior to the imposition of marital law in 1975. The growth rate was especially high during the 1960s and early 1970s, largely as a result of industrialization.
The nation became the most developed in Central America despite its political instability. This economic success story was the envy of its neighbors. Due to its stable and high growth economy, foreign investments grew, primarily from U.S. companies such as Citigroup, Sears, Westinghouse and Coca Cola.
THE ORIGINAL JUNTA
Upon assuming power the Sandinista pledge to restore democracy was forgotten, and a five member Junta was created. Similar pledges regarding a free market, free speech and free association were also thrown out the window.
The most visible Junta member was 35 year old Daniel Ortega, the dashing young revolutionary who electrified leftists around the world. Ortega had been jailed by Somoza and was freed in 1974 after the FSLN held members of the Somoza family hostage at a Christmas Party. The original members also included Pedro Chamorro’s widow, Violeta, and businessman Alfonso Robelo. They both resigned after the first year.
Robelo feared for his safety and went into exile. Two years later he would meet with President Ronald Reagan and urge him to provide funding to remove the FSLN. Mrs. Chamorro said she was manipulated by the Junta, and claimed to be shocked by its “secret socialist agenda.” In fairness to the FSLN, it was not a well kept secret. She returned to the “La Prensa” newspaper which at times had been censored by Somoza. The FSLN went a step further, they simply closed it down in 1986. For a number of years freedom of the press vanished.
Sergio Ramirez was a Junta member who served as Vice President under Ortega from 1985 to 1990. When Ortega was defeated, Ramirez became head of the Sandinista bloc in the National Assembly. Ramirez later split with the Sandinista Party and expressed regret over some of his actions in the 1980s. He founded a new political party in 1995, the Sandinista Renovation Movement, but the FSLN will not it to appear on the ballot.
One of the most high profile Sandinista leaders was Eden Pastora. His father was assassinated by the Somoza regime, and he became the legendary “Comandante Zero” who masterminded the capture of the Nicaraguan Congress in 1975. He later led the Southern Front during the final offensive in 1979. Pastora left the FSLN when they moved into the same mansions which had previously been owned by Somoza and his cronies.
Another key member of the revolution was Father Ernesto Cardenal, who did much to spread the Sandinista mystique around the globe. He was one of the world’s most famous liberation theologians. From 1979 to 1987 he served as Nicaragua’s first Minister of Culture.
Cardenal left the FSLN in 1994, protesting the authoritarian direction of the party. He is now 83 years old but is being prosecuted by the current Sandinista government because he had the temerity to call President Daniel Ortega a “thief” who runs “a monarchy made up of a few families in alliance with the old Somoza interests.”
Fernando Aguero, M.D., was the opposition candidate to Somoza in 1967, and his body guard at the time was Eden Pastora. He received international attention with his documentation of Somoza’s corruption, and was later a leader in the broad opposition front who gave money to the FSLN. It did not help him. All of his property was confiscated after the revolution.
RED STAR OVER NICARAGUA
Upon assuming power in 1979, the Sandinista Party did an excellent job of bringing the economy to a grinding halt. The Sandinista platform called for “the equalization of wealth.” They began almost immediately by nationalizing 52% of the land, and this one action alone gave great impetus to the formation of the opposition Contra’s. There had been over 200,000 private property owners in Nicaragua and the vast majority lost their property.
Under Somoza farm land was free to any peasant who would clear it. The FSLN also nationalized sugar, agricultural cooperatives, and many businesses. All banks were nationalized and they refused to recognize or repay any debt from the Somoza era.
Foreign investors fled along with the upper middle class. The money which had been transferred out of the country by the middle class when the war began did not return.
By 1981, the state accounted for more than 30% of the industry of Nicaragua. The government also took control with so-called ‘wildcat nationalizations.’ This action provided the FSLN with control of 20% of the cotton industry, 50% of the tobacco industry, and 60% of the ‘staple cereal’ industry.
They had promised international nonalignment but quickly became a Soviet client state. Even before coming to power the Sandinista movement received substantial funding from the Soviet Union as well as military equipment which was passed through Cuba. The self described Marxist/Leninist FMLN which was trying to overthrow the elected government in neighboring El Salvador benefited greatly from the Sandinista victory.
The best legacy of the FSLN in this era was the campaign to raise literacy rates. The goal was admirable, but it was unfortunately marred because so much of the effort was devoted to propaganda and attempting to win over rural areas. They also deserve praise for finally agreeing to free elections in 1990. This controversial decision occurred for several reasons.
First, the collapse of the Soviet Union left Nicaragua without adequate outside funding. International pressure was mounting, and many countries were imposing heavy economic sanctions on Nicaragua. Second, the contra war, going on for more than a decade, was getting unbearable to Nicaraguans, who wanted nothing but peace, and a chance to succeed in global markets.
Ortega lost but deserves credit for accepting the result with out violence. The victor was Violeta Chamorro of the National Union of Opposition (UNO) who had previously been part of the Junta. Just before leaving office in 1990, Ortega and his colleagues carried out a land grab in which the FSLN looted the government and the private sector before handing over power. The FSLN expropriated private property worth tens of millions of dollars on the slimmest of pretexts, including more than 100,000 businesses, homes, and farms. They stole far more than Somoza had acquired.
Mrs. Chamorro’s government initially received over $500 million in aid from the United States, but the assistance did not last long. Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), who had championed the Contra’s during the 1980’s, was successful in cutting off aid to Mrs. Chamorro in 1992.
The nation had experienced 12 years of economic free-fall under the Sandinista regime and during the civil war. When the FSLN left in 1990, three successive Liberal Party administrations focused on free market reform as the path to recovery. During this 16-year period, characterized by steady GDP growth, the government made dramatic economic progress. It privatized more than 350 state enterprises, reduced inflation from 33,500 percent in 1988 to 9.45 percent in 2006, and cut the foreign debt by more than half. In 2006, the economy expanded by 3.7 percent as GDP reached $5.3 billion.
Ortega was defeated in two comeback attempts in 1996 and 2001. He patiently finagled his return by scheming with President Arnoldo Alemán, who had defeated him in 1996. Alemán was sentenced to a 20-year prison term in 2003 for embezzling over $100 million while in office from 1997 to 2002.
He and Ortega negotiated the infamous “El Pacto,” in which the two former enemies shared power by changing the constitution to give the Sandinista Party almost an equal number of seats on the Supreme Court, the Comptroller’s Office and in the Federal Electoral Council. Consequently, when Alemán was sentenced to prison, Ortega used his influence over the country’s courts to have the obese and ailing Alemán released from prison to serve his sentence at home.
After 16 years in political exile Ortega regained the presidency in 2006. Many believe Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez supplied the Sandinista movement with as much as $50 million during the campaign.
Ortega said he was no longer a Marxist, and supported the CAFTA Treaty with the United States. He also pledged to respect private banking laws and land ownership, and dramatically changed his relationship with the Catholic Church. For the first time he opposed abortion and at the beginning of the campaign he married his wife of 30 years in a Catholic ceremony.
Ortega received 38% of the vote in a five candidate field in 2006 but this was sufficient because of “El Pacto.” The 1999 Ortega-Alemán deal changed the constitution and lowered the minimum level of popular support a candidate needed to win presidential elections from 40 percent of the vote to 35 percent. The two conservative candidates received a combined 54% of the vote, but their split ensured Ortega’s triumph.
In addition to having a strong alliance with Venezuela and Cuba, Ortega also pursued closer ties with Iran, even honoring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with two of Nicaragua’s most prestigious awards, the Liberty Medal and the Rubén Darío Medal. He continues to openly court Russia, in part to show loyalty to a former political patron—Nicaragua is the only country besides Russia to recognize the rebellious provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as “sister republics.”
The abuses of the Somoza regime can never be excused but the situation today is ironically worse. In 2008, Ortega again reverted to the tactics of a bygone era by trying to impose his will on a political system that in 1990 rejected his autocratic tendencies. Two significant parties were arbitrarily denied the right to participate in the most recent election.
By eliminating his challengers, leaving only the FSLN and the Liberal Party to compete, Ortega has laid the foundation for his continued electoral victory and a greater chance to change the constitution to allow for reelection. This move further consolidates his power to deepen his control over other institutions, including the army, the police, and the judiciary.
Ortega has also been promoting “Citizens Power” as a solution to Nicaragua’s endemic poverty. These Citizens Power Councils are neighborhood committees. They are controlled by the Sandinista party, and they were established despite a vote against the plan by the National Assembly.
Some of the president’s opponents charge that the Citizens Power Councils are nothing more than patronage mills, channeling government largess to supporters of the party. Opposition leaders complain the councils smack of similar party-controlled organs in totalitarian governments like Cuba’s, where local committees of party loyalists not only influence who gets government benefits but also spy on political opponents.
Another major problem is energy. Global fuel prices have been reduced considerable but Nicaragua continues to have a significant problem. It is a problem the nation never experienced before. Before the 1979 revolution, more than 70 percent of Nicaragua’s energy was hydroelectric. Today, thanks to a lack of state planning by the last four governments from the right, left, and center of the political spectrum, the trend is going the other way fast.
Today Nicaragua is Central America’s poorest country—and the second poorest in Latin America, behind only Haiti. The past 30 years has seen massive emigration rates and equally massive dependence on remittances and foreign aid. The income inequality is far worse than it was under Somoza.
In addition, 27% of the people are malnourished, which quadruples the rate during the Somoza era. The widespread poverty prevents children from attending primary school, and these youngsters swell the ranks of child workers – who now number more than 230,000.
The average lower-income family of six has to work more than twice as many hours each month to maintain its 1979 standard of living. Between 1981 and 1992, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita decreased by roughly half, dropping to a dismal $425.
President Obama’s first foreign trip takes place tomorrow, and in a very wise move he is now back tracking on his campaign promise to renegotiate or pull out of the NAFTA Treaty. Hillary Clinton made her “shame on you” speech in response to Obama’s ad which portrayed her as an avid NAFTA supporter prior to the Ohio and Pennsylvania Democratic primaries.
Obama threatened to force the Canadians to renegotiate provisions of the statute — even if that meant unilaterally pulling out of the agreement. All of that has now been forgotten. He told the “NY Times” yesterday, “There’s $1.5 billion worth of trade going back and forth every day between the two countries. . . .It is not in anybody’s interest to see that trade diminish.”
Advice on Valentine’s Day and Romance from Abigail Adams by Gregory Hilton–Valentine’s Day brings to mind several presidential couples who were able to maintain romance in their marriages over many decades. The Obama’s, the Reagan’s and the Truman’s come most readily to mind.
The pillow talk between Barack and Michelle Obama is not known, but we are well aware of the strong romantic ties between John and Abigail Adams because of their extensive correspondence and diaries. They were the first couple to occupy the White House, and a true partnership was established at the beginning of their marriage. Abigail was 19, and the 29 year old John immediately began to include her in all of his activities.
They openly adored one another and the passion continued when they were senior citizens. Every young couple shares intimacy, but how many can make it last 54 years? When he was 63, John wrote: “Miss Adorable, By the same Token that the Bearer hereof sat up with you last night, I hereby order you to give him as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O Clock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account.”
Thomas Jefferson served as Vice President during the Adams Administration, and learned it was best to first convince Abigail before approaching the President. Abigail made political mistakes, most notably the Alien and Sedition Acts which cost him re-election, but she was always her husbands top adviser.
John was of course in the limelight, but Abigail had enormous influence and a profound impact on public policy. Her major cause was advocating the education of women, and it was a goal fully supported by her husband. In the newspapers of that day she was referred to as “Mrs. President.”
Many presidents are long forgotten, but the Adams’ are now back in the news. This is due to a best selling book and the seven part HBO “John Adams” mini-series which won an unprecedented 13 Emmy awards in 2008. “The Adams Chronicles” is also an Emmy award-winner. This thirteen-episode PBS special was released as a DVD in May of 2008.
Abigail knew John Adams from her earliest childhood and their romance began when she was just 17. Her mother opposed the marriage because of the 10 year age difference, and handsome younger men were definitely interested in Abigail. Unusual for that era, Abigail was well educated but with little formal schooling. John was a Harvard educated attorney, but at the outset of their courtship he wondered if she was too intelligent to make a good wife.
Abigail’s mother recommended several suitors, but the daughter had no interest in marrying a farmer. In sharp contrast to herself, Abigail acknowledged that John was overweight and had little money. He was not exciting physically, but he was intellectually. The handsome farmers bored Abigail while she always found John fascinating.
The marriage led to her being present at so many of the historic events of the revolutionary era. From nearby Penn Hill, Abigail and her 10 year old son, John Quincy, watched the Battle of Bunker Hill and the burning of Charlestown. Over 1000 people were killed or wounded and on June 18, 1775 (the day after the battle) she wrote to her husband who was participating in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia: “The decisive day has come on which the fate of America depends. My bursting heart must find vent at my pen. I have just heard that our dear friend Dr. Warren is no more, but fell gloriously fighting for his Country. Great is our Loss.” She was referring to Joseph Warren, M.D., the 34 year old spokesman for the revolutionary cause.
Abigail’s opinion of Thomas Jefferson would fluctuate over the years, but she told her husband Jefferson was the best writer in the Continental Congress. The next day Adams asked Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence. Abigail was also present 13 years later at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
She expressed reservations to her husband about “the Virginians.” She meant George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. All of them supported slavery while she was an abolitionist firebrand. It was an issue she understood because her family had owned slaves. Her views were dismissed by the Virginians, but she had a substantial impact on her husband and son.
Her son would also become President of the United States and for 17 years he would lead the anti-slavery forces in the House of Representatives. The first chapter of John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” is devoted to John Quincy Adams.
If she were alive today, I would be interested in the former First Lady’s reaction to the book and movie “He’s Just Not That Into You.” It was topic she frequently addressed with her daughter Amelia, who had to endure two years with a striking but unfaithful fiancée, Tyler Royall.
Abigail said many otherwise highly desirable men are commitment phobic, and this was the reason why Tyler would never set a date for the wedding. He had a history of short relationships, and was unfaithful in all of them. Abigail said men such as Tyler could not be changed, and it really did not matter what Amelia did. After many provocations Amelia finally broke her engagement. Tyler later became Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, and Amelia married Colonel William Smith who served on General Washington’s staff for seven years and was later a Member of Congress.
Today’s relationship experts believe a couple should have many things in common, but that was not true of John and Abigail Adams. They had widely different interests. They did not try to change each other, they accepted those differences and learned from the experience. Both of them were flexible and understanding, and they were not self centered. This established the friendship which always remained between them.
Abigail died of tuberculosis at the age 73, while John reached the age of 90 and died on the same day as Thomas Jefferson — the 4th of July. If you would like to read more about the romance of John and Abigail Adams I would recommend:
“My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams,” Edited by Margaret Hogan; “John and Abigail Adams: An American Love Story” by Judith St. George; “The Adams Women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, Their Sisters and Daughters” by Paul Nagel; “Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution” by Natalie Bober; “John Adams” by David McCullough; and “The Adams Chronicles: Four Generations of Greatness” by Jack Shepard.