Category Archives: Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: “True Compass” by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, reviewed by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) in 1965 (NY TIMES).

I just finished reading Ted Kennedy’s memoir, “True Compass.” A conservative does benefit from some of Kennedy’s observations, and this is especially true when he discusses how the Senate changed from 1963 to 2009. The late Senator was proud of his close friendships with conservatives Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), and said cross party friendships used to be essential to passing legislation.
He noted that rarely happens today and the atmosphere is far more partisan. One reason is that few lawmakers remain in the nation’s capital over weekends where they could develop bonds with their colleagues. The bipartisan dinner groups are long gone. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: “Nothing for the Nation: Who Got What Out of Iraq” (2008) by former Congressman John Hostettler (R-IN)

Many Republican candidates are attacking President Obama this year, but John Hostettler is the only one to criticize Obama for abandoning the anti-war lobby. According to the Evansville newspaper, he "accused Obama of abandoning his anti-Iraq War views. 'The one person, the one person who can get us out, who has unilateral authority to get us out, doesn't want to,' he said."


Book Review by Gregory Hilton
Former Congressman John Hostettler (IN) is now running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. He is in a primary with former Senator Dan Coats and State Senator Marlin Stutzman. The incumbent Democrat Evan Bayh surprised everyone by announcing his retirement on the day before the filing deadline. The GOP now has an excellent chance to capture this open seat. Continue reading

The Trophy Kids and the New Face of America by Gregory Hilton

The trophy kids are changing America’s workplace and its college campuses, and many recent books and studies have described some disturbing trends. It is difficult to stereotype an entire generation, but several best selling authors have used in-depth research to place the self centered label on today’s young people. The accusation is not new.
The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and Generation X (1961-1980) were often thought to be egotistical. Michael Douglas’ character in “Wall Street” became a mantra for the 1980s when he said “Greed is good.” Whitney Houston’s No. 1 hit song in 1986 declared “The Greatest Love of All” was loving yourself. There have been vain and narcissistic people throughout history. Donald Trump is not a youngster but he names everything he owns after himself.
Nevertheless, some striking generational changes are apparent and scientific studies are telling us a considerable amount about the lifestyles of our children. The trophy kids are often referred to as Millennials or Generation Y. The good news is that illegal drug use has declined, they have not been rebellious, and members of the current 18 to 30 year old age group have a far closer relationship with their parents than Baby Boomers. Peer pressure to drink alcohol, smoke and have premarital sex has also declined.
They entered the world as the most wanted generation of children in American history. Generation Y is composed of latch-key kids and others who grew up in a structured, busy and over planned world. These children were always told they were special, and the data says they have an abundance of ego.
Programs such as Blue’s Clues told them they could do anything they wanted, and they believe it. Many of them describe their parents as best friends, and 33% name one or both parents as heroes. They are staying at home far longer than previous generations. Without jobs and facing a large student loan burden, a significant number of them are not able to leave the nest until age 30.
These young people are starting their adult lives with tremendous challenges. Youth unemployment is a staggering 53%, a rate which has not been seen since the Great Depression. Only 41% of them have full time jobs, and today’s BA degree is roughly equivalent to 1960’s GED. The insurance plan I had in my early twenties was inexpensive, but that option is no longer available, and half of young Americans are going without health insurance.
My generation is giving them a huge national debt, and they will have to pay off our spending spree. They will also have to provide for our social security, health care and prescription drug benefits.
I am impressed with many young students, but I continue to be surprised by their self absorption and personal sense of entitlement. They have amazingly high self confidence.
Many of them have a hard time understanding that you have to pay your dues to earn a prestigious position or a luxury possession. Ron Alsop in “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace” says:

A lot of older managers view them as spoiled brats. Unlike previous generations, Millennials, as a group, need almost constant direction in the workplace. They don’t excel at leadership or independent problem solving. They’re savvy about using technology, but kind of clueless when it comes to communicating face-to-face. The lackluster job market will invoke change. I hope and think this will make Millennials more resilient and less demanding. Your parents can’t do everything for you.

Listed below are various observations regarding the trophy kids. I looked at their self esteem, expectations, assertiveness and self-promotion, political involvement, family life, mental and physical health, as well as the impact they have had on campus and in the work place. My primary sources were the Roper Youth Report, the Pew Research Center, “Generation Me,” “Generation Myspace,” “The Trophy Kids Grow Up” and “Tuned Out: Why Americans under 40 Don’t Follow the News.”

SELF ESTEEM

Many young people have been raised with the idea of self-esteem being more important than achievement, and some observers believe this has caused them to place the self above all else. Today’s young parents are especially lenient with their children and reluctant to discipline them, suggesting that perhaps the next generation will be even worse off.

“Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable” (2006) by Dr. Jean Twenge is the most authoritative study on the trophy kids. The author is a psychology professor at San Diego State University and says it is time to “ditch the self-esteem movement.” Dr. Twenge believes it “is harming America’s youth vastly more than it helps. High self-esteem is not correlated with achievement in school or at work. It is correlated with criminality, narcissism, and bad relationships, though.”

Dr. Twenge states, “Narcissism is one of of the few personality traits that psychologists agree is almost completely negative. Narcissists are overly focused on themselves and lack empathy for others, which means they cannot see another person’s perspective. They also feel entitled to special privileges and believe they are superior to other people.”

In her study of surveys going back 70 years, Dr. Twenge made some startling discoveries. “In the early 1950’s, only 12% of teens aged 14 to 16 agreed with the statement ‘I am an important person.’ By the late 1980’s, an incredible 80% – almost seven times as many – claims they were important.” Over and over tests have shown that narcissistic behavior is growing in younger people.

A study released last year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press dubbed Americans age 18 to 25 as the “Look at Me” generation and reported that this group said that their top goals were fortune and fame.

ASSERTIVENESS AND SELF PROMOTION

Questionnaires were completed by 81,384 high school and college students on personality traits involving assertiveness, dominance, independence, and self-promotion. The average 1990s college student had a assertiveness score 75% higher than students from the 1970s. Students today answered in the affirmative when they were asked questions such as, “I am going to be a great person.”

The Pew Center report also recorded incidents of bad behavior in the classroom. After being told to surrender a toy, one kintergardener screamed, knocked over her desk, and threw books at the other children. Another 6-year-old told his teacher to “Shut up, bitch”. In a survey of 39 school districts, 93% agreed that kintergardeners have “more emotional and behavioral problems” today than even five years ago.

NEW EDUCATION POLICIES
Teachers have always told students with poor grades to socialize less and hit the books more. Now students and parents want the requirements to be relaxed. The students believe poor grades are not their fault, and parents do not hesitate to raise objections. They will frequently call in complaints about “excessive homework” and other ordinary assignments.
Older faculty members say this rarely happened in the past, and they can not be completely frank with parents because of university rules. The truth is that many students are average, they skip classes, do not turn in all of their work, but they enlist parents in the fight for a better grade.

The vast majority of young people are not in college full time. Only an estimated 25% of 18-24-year-olds attend a four-year college full time.

For the first time in history more girls attend college than boys, and as of 2006, 44% of college students were male.

Teachers try to help students develop a greater sense of responsibility, but because of excessive parental pressure, academic standards have changed. Harvard’s grade inflation is so rampant that now 85% of students are graduating cum laude, while at Georgetown University the curve is A-.

Because of the fear of parental complaints, on the elementary and high school level it has become nearly impossible to fail or hold back a student. Some of these “helicopter parents” have done a poor job in setting limits. The Baby Boomers knew reasonable self-denial, but Generation Y does not want to wait for gratification.

There are many differences between young people today and what the Baby Boomers experienced. This is clearly demonstrated in any organized sport activity. In past generations trophies went to the winners, but today all participants receive an award. These students received praise just for participating and not necessarily for excelling in sports or academics. They were rewarded whether or not they made the grade or the home run to avoid damaging their self-esteem.

The extensive use of text messaging and other electronic forms of communication has contributed to inferior writing skills. Both professors and corporate managers complain about Millennials’ grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. There has also been a steep decline in analytical skills, critical thinking and academic engagement in general.

I am not surprised Asian youngsters are doing so well in American universities, laboratories and post-doctoral research centers. They come from cultures where rewards are not taken for granted and only come after considerable hard work. Parents today are plagued by the fear that their children’s lives will be emotionally and financially worse than their own. Unfortunately, many statistics back this up. Nevertheless, it would be better if parents let their children fail, because then these students would be better prepared for the real world.

MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH

According to three separate studies, young people’s narcissism is at an all-time high. Over 1 in 10 Americans in their 20s are now afflicted with a narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissism is defined as “inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.”

Only 1% to 2% of Americans born before 1915 experienced a major depressive episode during their lifetime, even though they lived through the Great Depression and two world wars. According to a 1990s study, 21% of teens aged 15 to 17 had already experienced major depression. Other studies have also noted the huge change. Young people start dating earlier and they have delayed marriage longer than their parents. Survey data from “Generation Me” indicates they have more than doubled the amount of time in which to experience romantic failure and heartbreak. This is a major cause of depression.

In 2004, the American Pediatric Association found 20% of young women and 12% of young men reported high to very high levels of psychological distress. The same survey revealed that mental and behavioral problems were reported by one in five Americans aged 15-19 in 2004-2005. Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people, second only to fatalities from motor vehicle accidents. Rates among 15-24 year old males have tripled between 1960 and 1990.

Compared with five years ago, 81% of college mental health service directors reported an increase in students with serious psychological problems. Pressure to succeed is one reason identified by some counselors.

The American Pediatric Association reports that around one in four 15-19 year olds are either overweight or obese, and notes a significant increase in these rates since 1995. America is among the top countries with the highest rates of type 1 diabetes among children.

POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT

Young people have never known a world that put duty before self. When the United States liberated Afghanistan, military enlistments went down, not up. What a contrast to the Greatest Generation which flocked to recruitment centers after Pearl Harbor. The lack of a military draft or required national service has now insulated two generations which no little of our armed forces and the sacrifices they make for our freedom.” – Candice Kelsey in Generation Myspace

Generation Y supported Barack Obama over John McCain by a 66% to 32% margin, but now their enthusiasm is waning. In the recent elections in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey, their turn out rates were 15%, 17% and 19% respectively. By the beginning of 2010, a significant shift was seen and only 54% of Millennials said they leaned Democratic, while 40% identified with the Republicans. Their interest in social causes is far below the deeply felt activism demonstrated by their parents.

In 1966, 60% of college freshmen said that ‘Keeping up to date with political affairs’ was an important life goal. By 2000, only 28% agreed with that statement.

“Anything we do that’s political always falls flat,” Ricky Van Veen, 27, told The New York Times. He is editor in chief of CollegeHumor.com, a popular and successful Web site. ‘It doesn’t seem like young people now are into politics as much, especially compared to their parents’ generation. I think that could lend itself to the argument that there is more narcissism and they’re more concerned about themselves, not things going on around them.’”

David Mindich, author of “Tuned Out: Why Americans under 40 Don’t Follow the News”, interviewed 18-to-24-year-olds in 2002. He found that 60% could not name a single Supreme Court justice, 48% did not know what Roe vs Wade was, and 62% could not name any of the three countries Bush had identified as the ‘Axis of Evil'”.

EXPECTATIONS

“Seventy percent of late-1990s high school students expected to work in professional jobs, compared to 42% in the 1960s. In 1999, teens predicted they would be earning, on average, $75,000 by the age of thirty. The average income of a thirty-year-old that year was $27,000.”

Joan Chiaramonte, head of the Roper Youth Report, says “The gap between what young people have and what they want has never been greater. Their expectations are highly optimistic: they expect to go to college, to make lots of money, and perhaps even to be famous.
“Yet this generation enters a world in which college admissions are increasingly competitive, good jobs are hard to find and harder to keep, and basic necessities such as housing and health care have skyrocketed in price. This is a time of soaring expectations and crushing realities. More than any other generation in history, the children of Baby Boomers are disappointed by what they find when they arrive at adulthood.”

According to the Pew Center, 30 percent of college students agree with the statement: “If I show up to every class, I deserve at least a B.”

THE WORKPLACE

“While Millennials bring skills in multitasking, technology and working in teams, they tend to demonstrate less ability in oral and written communications and interpersonal interaction. They also have been socialized since childhood to get constant feedback and are going to look for it in the workplace too. As a result, some employers consider them high maintenance.” – Daphne Atkinson, vice president for industry relations at the Graduate Management Admission Council.

FAMILY LIFE

In a 2002 survey, 82% of 18-to-22-year-olds said their mothers worked outside the home at least some of the time when they were growing up, compared with 34% of the mothers of the World War II generation.

In 1924, a group of sociologists did a famous extensive study of the citizens of a place they called “Middletown.” It was later revealed to be Muncie, Indiana. When mothers were asked which traits they wanted their children to have, they named strict obedience, loyalty to church and good manners. In 1988, few mothers named those traits, and instead they chose independence and tolerance.

CONCLUSION

Books such as “Generation Me,” “Generation Myspace,” “The Trophy Kids Grow Up” and “Tuned Out: Why Americans under 40 Don’t Follow the News,” have similar conclusions. Once again, many of their observations are based on scientific research.
The most authoritative book is “Generation Me.” It presents, for the first time, the results of twelve studies on generational differences, based on data from 1.3 million young Americans. The author concludes that when you were born has more influence on your personality than the family who raised you. Or, in the words of a prescient Arab proverb, “Men resemble the times more than they resemble their fathers.”

A final point is that self-absorbed people have little skill or capacity to consider others. Will they be successful in their marriages or in raising children? Both require a tremendous amount of time thinking about others.

BOOK REVIEW: Happy Times by Princess Lee Bouvier Radziwill (168 pages) by Gregory Hilton

The author is the younger sister of the late First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and she witnessed many key events during JFK’s presidency and his rise to power. The Bouvier sisters were the epitome of taste, style and elegance in the 1960s and ’70s. Despite reports of a rivalry, they were each others most trusted confidants.
They were beautiful, smart, superbly dressed, and lived privileged lives in beautiful places. They also encountered tragic and unbelievably sad events, but you will not read about them in this book. It is a brief and pleasant memoir and is primarily about the 1960s.
“Happy Times” is a coffee table scrapbook which reveals a limited amount about her life story. The author acknowledges this is not a definitive biography and many important chapters in her life have been omitted. The Princess focuses on good times and vacations, and does not mention the assassination of her famous brother-in-law, the untimely death of her son, the strained relationship with her mother, or the divorce of her parents.
She first wed at the age of 20 and the marriage lasted for six years before being annulled. Her second marriage to Prince Stanisław Radziwiłł lasted 15 years. He was from a Polish noble family, and his mother died in a Soviet labor camp during WW II.
In 1979, Radziwill became engaged to Newton Cope, the owner of the Huntington Hotel on San Francisco’s Nob Hill. The marriage was called off five minutes before the wedding ceremony was to begin. The groom would not sign a prenuptial agreement which stipulated a $15,000/month payment to the bride. Her third marriage to director Herbert Ross in 1988 ended in divorce shortly before he died in 2001.
In the summer of 1999, her nephew John F. Kennedy, Jr, 38, was killed in a plane crash and three weeks later, her son Tony, 40, died of testicular cancer. The story of that painful summer is best told by her daughter in law, Carole Radziwill, in the New York Times best seller, “What Remains.”
The tragedies are known to all, but she reveals the love and compassion behind the scenes. Radziwill has a remarkable ability to be positive in the face of adversity. Her message is to focus on the good, not the sad. She believes it is best to move on and keep going.
There are no political statements or negative feelings in this book. Her ex-husbands and famous boyfriends would all approve of the text. A typical example is when she describes a fun filled friendship with author Truman Capote. They attended dozens of parties as a couple, but she omits their major falling out in his final years.
This is an easy read, and it is full of pictures of smiling celebrities from her remarkable life. They include Diana Vreeland, Rudolf Nureyev, Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Leslie Caron, Peter Beard, Richard Meier and Aristotle Onassis. The photos from her private collection alone are worth the book’s price. You will understand why the sisters were regarded as American royalty, and you note many of the people in their circle were taken prematurely.
Both sisters were incredibly thin, and to curb her appetite, Jackie was a secret chain smoker. She died at the age of 64 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which was probably related to smoking. The sisters were especially close to Jean Kennedy Smith and her husband Stephen Smith. She was JFK’s youngest sister, and he was a longtime smoker who died after a brief battle with lung cancer at the age of 62. Prince Radziwiłł also died of lung cancer at the age of 62.
“Happy Times” is the complete opposite of the many derogatory comments found in Diana Dubois’ “In Her Sister’s Shadow: An Intimate Biography of Lee Radziwill.” If you like Lee Radziwill, then this book will be enjoyable. If you want to read about extramarital affairs that happened 50 years ago and harsh criticism of her, than the Dubois book is for you.

Remembering Charlie Wilson by Gregory Hilton

Today’s passing of former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-TX) brings back many wonderful memories. He was a charming rogue whose determination was instrumental in toppling the Soviet empire. The Congressman helped lead the secret effort to fund the Afghan resistance throughout the 1980’s, and all of his obituaries are mentioning George Crile’s book and 2008 movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War” which brought him to national attention.
The defeat of the USSR in 1988 was truly a turning point in Cold War history. Without his tremendous efforts it is highly doubtful the Afghans would have received the shoulder fired Stinger missiles which allowed them to bring down Soviet attack helicopters.
I had the pleasure of working closely with him during the years he served as a Co-Chairman of the National Security Caucus in the U.S. Congress, and I was Executive Director of the American Security Council. Wilson was also a Co-Chairman of the Committee for a Free Afghanistan (CFA), which was a project of the American Security Council. CFA successfully advocated United States funding for the resistance, and Wilson’s efforts on the powerful Defense Appropriations Subcommittee were instrumental.
The opening scene in “Charlie Wilson’s War” shows him in a hot tub with two Las Vegas showgirls, and this was done at the Congressman’s recommendation. All of us who knew him have countless Wilson stories. He was a wonderful friend who had a ready supply of jokes, and everyone knew he was a character.
Wilson was Capitol Hill’s answer to Hugh Hefner. While she was First Lady, Barbara Bush told the Washington Post, “Nice girls do not go out with Charlie Wilson.” Most lawmakers would have been embarrassed but Charlie made sure everyone knew her comment.
His Congressional staff was filled with spectacular women, and several times I met the former Miss World who was his girlfriend. She was also 30 years younger than Wilson. One film critic accurately noted, “Wilson comes across as a womanizing party animal, yes, but also a man of decency, idealism and consummate plain-talk swagger.”
He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and it was a real loss for the national security community when he left Capitol Hill in 1996. The projects we worked on are too numerous to mention, but one of the most valuable was CFA’s sponsorship of a film crew which spent months at a time inside Afghanistan.
They recorded footage which clearly demonstrated Soviet atrocities and helped to galvanize American public opinion against the USSR. Many of these film clips from the war zone were repeatedly used on commercial and cable TV stations.
CFA was often accused of being a CIA front group, but there was never any truth to the accusation. We would have greatly benefited from government funding, but that never happened. The Soviet news agency TASS on 6/20/86 said CFA is “widely known as cover for the CIA.”
I frequently accompanied the late Army Brig. Gen. Theodore Mataxis to his meetings with Wilson. Mataxis was on active duty for 32 years and when he retired he was responsible for coordinating aid shipments in Pakistan. Because of Charlie Wilson’s assistance he made seven trips to Peshawar. This was the staging point on the Pakistani side of the border, and each trip lasted for three months. Mataxis was an expert in guerrilla warfare, and fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
After the USSR pulled out of Afghanistan, Wilson asked Metaxis to conduct a briefing for the members of the House Appropriations Committee on lessons of the war. The General began his testimony by saying, “Guerrilla war does not fit into the popular image of a high-tech future war, but it may well be the war an advanced nation may find itself fighting. The Soviet Army, a modern, mechanized high-tech force, fought a guerrilla war for over nine years in Afghanistan.
“Despite their best efforts, the application of overwhelming air power, and the expenditure of national treasure and young lives, the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving the field to the defiant Mujahideen guerrillas. A wise army prepares for future war by examining the lessons of the past. This does not mean that armies should prepare to fight as the last war was fought. Rather, they should draw lessons from the past that will guide the future.”
Wilson was 6′ 4″ tall in stature, and taller in real life. He was also a giant in his love for America and especially for those who have served in our armed forces.

BOOK REVIEW: “Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb; Reviewed by Gregory Hilton

BOOK REVIEW: “Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb (Penguin, $39.95). Reviewed by Gregory Hilton
This book was published on February 4th and was written after the tremendous reader response the author received because of her March 2008 article “Marry Him” in “The Atlantic,” as well as her June 2008 “Marie Claire” article “Should You Settle For Mr Good Enough?” If you have not heard about these articles or the book, you soon will. Tobey Maguire of the Spider-Man series has already purchased the movie rights for Warner Brothers.
Marriage is obviously a serious decision and no one should rush into it with the wrong person. It is a partnership and hopefully you will feel sparks, but my experience in both the DC and NYC social scene convinces me many single people are way too picky.
The book is written for women in their late twenties and thirties, but the message also applies to men and it is valuable for other age groups. This lighthearted and amusing book will be my Valentine’s Day present for several desirable but dateless singles, because it expresses sentiments they really need to hear.
In the words of the cartoon character Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” Forbes magazine puts it this way, “In business, ‘good enough’ is often ‘very good’. So why should we expect-and demand-perfection in dating and marriage?”
Many of you are not aware of my highly successful sideline. I am not paid, but for over two decades I have been a volunteer matchmaker. How did this happen? I serve on finance committees for several prominent non-profits and the boards are dominated by incredible women. They appear perfect to me and it was surprising to hear their numerous problems in the single scene.
I do know great guys and the bottomline is that I am now responsible for two marriages and numerous meaningful relationships. Many of my matches did not work out and of course it is difficult to predict chemistry. Queen Victoria did the same thing in the 19th century. She thought of potentially compatible young royals and introduced them. Her track record was better than mine.
I can not speak for Her Majesty, but I quickly learned some middle aged singles can be extremely difficult and a major factor is that their expectations are not realistic. They have so many prerequisites for a partner which sabotages their own happiness. The book downgrades the importance of getting your own way which is a difficult lesson for many singles.
For example, my divorced 50 year old friend who is a partner in a white shoe law firm rejected a fantastic guy because of his 15 year old son. The teenager was well behaved, but she wants someone without children which is not easy to find in her age range.
A DC bachelor who is an investment banking colleague told me he insisted on women who were “a perfect 10.” He does have money but aside from that he is a perfect 3! We were at a party where he complained because no desirable women were present. I thought the event was packed with beautiful and intelligent women.
Lori Gottlieb, the 42 year old author, feels left behind because most of her female friends are now married. Their husbands are not GQ models, but they made great partners and fathers. One past boyfriend made the author feel “like I was the most wonderful woman in the world. So, then I started thinking, ‘If I’m so wonderful, maybe I should be with someone better.’”
It took years to realize but finally concluded that she was looking for the wrong man. Her Mr Right could have been in front of her all along. She now advises us to “Look for reasons to say yes.” It could change your life.
One reviewer took on the feminist notion “A woman needs a man like fish needs a bicycle,” and concluded “Maybe fish do need bicycles.” The author says, “My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.”
The part my female friends will not want to hear is this: “Not only do many women have unrealistic expectations, but they also don’t see themselves clearly. They have an inflated view of themselves. This whole culture of ‘empowerment,’ ‘girl power’ and ‘I’m so fabulous’ has gotten to the point where women are ego-ing themselves out of relationship after relationship. In reality, most of us are pretty ordinary – and a lot of women have trouble seeing that.”
The reaction of Ross Douthat of “The New York Times” is, “American women are wealthier, healthier and better educated than they were 30 years ago. They’re more likely to work outside the home, and more likely to earn salaries comparable to men’s when they do. They can leave abusive marriages and sue sexist employers.
“They enjoy unprecedented control over their own fertility. On some fronts — graduation rates, life expectancy and even job security — men look increasingly like the second sex. But all the achievements of the feminist era may have delivered women to greater unhappiness.”
The claim is documented in last year’s “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” a study published in the American Economic Journal by Betsey Stevenson of the Wharton School of Commerce and Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, http://bpp.wharton.upenn.edu/betseys/papers/Paradox%20of%20declining%20female%20happiness.pdf.
Dr. Helen Fisher, the author of “Why Him? Why Her?” says in the long run, “good enough” might be better than great.

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”

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,” by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D., Published by Farrar, 240 pages. Reviewed by Gregory Hilton

This is one of Dr. Anthony Wolf’s five books on what calls the “New Teenagers.” For 25 years he has been a clinical psychologist working with adolescents. His previous titles include “Why Did You Have to Get a Divorce?: And When Can I Get a Hamster?”, “It’s Not Fair, Jeremy Spencer’s Parents Let Him Stay up All Night!,” “Why Can’t You Shut Up?: How We Ruin Relationships,” and “The Secret of Parenting: How to be in Charge of Today’s Kids.”
In this bestselling and revised book, Wolf says “In some form, the vast majority of adolescents develop an allergy to their parents with the need to separate and be independent.” The author says you can not change this and all parents should expect some unpleasantness.
Boys and girls definitely react differently during the alienation stage. “Teenage boys go to their room, close the door, turn on the stereo, and come out four years later,” Wolf says. During this stage they often physically vanish, and it is very common for them to distance themselves from their mothers. In all of the author’s survey research, teenage boys appear to have poor skills in verbal battles.
Adolescent girls are far better at verbalizing. “Girls solve the problem of living at home, and yet successfully combating their totally unacceptable feelings of love and dependence, by fighting everything,” Wolf writes. “Easily the number one mistake parents make is to get caught up in endless bickering,” he says. “Kids are not afraid of their parents anymore, so they’ll talk back. If parents pick up on it, the kids will just go deeper and deeper.”
I do not have a teenager nor do I remember talking back to my parents in a harsh manner. My father was the disciplinarian in our household, and was definitely part of the old school. He did not believe in “time out.”
Dad was an excellent parent who was always there for me, but he was an advocate of corporal punishment. It rarely happened but I always knew the consequences of bad behavior. All of the parenting experts today are adamant in saying it is wrong to strike a child. Once again, the author believes that talking back in a rude manner is far more common for today’s new teenagers than in past generations.
I went through an alienation stage but I tried to keep it a secret. I hate to admit this, but in my early teens I was embarrassed by my truly wonderful parents. The fathers of my friends Brian Morris and Bart Goldberg had cool sports cars and always appeared to be stylish. My Dad was frumpy and far from cool. I hoped kids would not see him when he came to school. I kept those thoughts to myself, but according to Dr. Wolf, teenagers today are not reluctant to express these sentiments.
He says this is not a bad development, “Contrary to popular belief, the main reason teenagers today talk back to their parents is not because of something parents did wrong, but because of something they are doing right. Over the past couple of generations, there has been a revolution in parenting practices and harsh forms of punishment are no longer considered acceptable.”
The elimination of harsh punishment means kids are not scared of their parents. The author says one of the best ways to respond to teenage back talk, is not to respond at all. . In “The Teenage Zone,” Wolf says rude behavior is typical of time when young people are trying to separate from parents and exercise control over their lives.
Teenagers may look like grownups, but the author says they aren’t completely rational. They think differently than we do and often feel they’re invulnerable. If they say they want to be left alone, Wolf’s advice is to back off, but don’t give up. As hard as it may seem, he advises trying to talk in a lower voice. “If you model screaming and shouting, that’s what you will get in return. Instead, when they are out of control, give them an ultimatum: either talk in a calm voice or this discussion is over.”|
He goes on to offer these tips:
• Disengage, don’t lecture. When the backtalk is just rude, or hurtful, simply disengage from your teen and do not respond. When you ignore harsh backtalk, kids will learn to tone it down and be more respectful if they want any sort of response from you.
• Water off a duck’s back. Don’t let your teen’s tone rattle you. Simply repeat your request in a calmer tone to teach your teen to respond in a more respectful manner.
• Show that you are flexible. Listen to your teen’s point of view, and on occasion change your mind about the ground rules.
• Put it in context: Differentiate between backtalk at home and backtalk in society. Remember that teenagers are developing their identities. When they back talk at home it’s about testing the boundaries of self-expression. If they back talk to teachers, your friends, or to other parents then it’s rude.
He concludes, “It may seem that your teen is out of hand by talking back and asserting their needs, but your teen is actually just developing the skills they need to be assertive and stand up for what they believe in later on. Your job is to make sure they can accomplish this and still be respectful to others, and to you.”

BOOK REVIEW: “Going Rogue: An American Life” by Sarah Palin, 432 pages, published by Harper Collins. Reviewed by Gregory Hilton

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has the highest negative rating of any potential GOP presidential candidate, but she certainly is popular with the Republican base. Palin has 1.2 million Facebook fans, and her book, “Going Rogue,” has been a huge publishing success. This $29 book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for the past 10 weeks, and for six weeks it was number one.
As of this month, sales have topped 2.8 million, and the book is now the 4th best selling political memoir of all time. The three authors above her are Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Palin is not far behind them. These four political memoirs are the only ones which have sold more than one million copies. Palin has far outsold the memoirs of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bill Frist, John Ashcroft, Mike Huckabee and Joe Biden.
The book has put Palin right back on the political radar, and Oprah Winfrey calls it “A fascinating read.” Rush Limbaugh says it is “One of the most substantive policy books I’ve read in a long time.”
“Going Rogue” is entertaining and the book talks about her gay college room mate, how she had to pay her way through school, the pregnancy of her 17 year old daughter, her baby that was born with Down’s syndrome, and the $150,000 wardrobe which was lent to her during the campaign by the Republican Party. Her populist streak is appealing and upon becoming Governor she sold the executive jet which was purchased by her predecessor and fired the chef in the Governor’s mansion. She deserves credit for acknowledging her poor performance in the CBS-TV interview with Katie Couric. Palin said she “let the team down” with that interview.
I especially enjoyed the inside stories of the 2008 campaign, but too many attacks were focused on McCain staffers rather than the Obama/Biden ticket. I would not describe this as a substantive work. It is more of a personal memoir rather a political account. Over half of the book is devoted to her life prior to the 2008 campaign. I really wish she had spent more time discussing political issues, and the book does not reveal much about her core political beliefs.
This 432 page book was largely assembled by Christian conservative ghost writer Lynn Vincent in less than four months. Palin kept her promise to those who had pre-ordered copies and it was ready before Christmas. Because of the former Governor’s emphasis on pre-orders, sales hit the one million mark after just two weeks.
The first chapter is the best and it appears to reflect Palin’s down-to-earth style. My guess is that the former Governor wrote the first chapter, but her involvement was only sporadic in the rest of the book.
The section on the origin of species was almost certainly written by Lynn Vincent. Some of the material on Palin’s gubernatorial years appears to have been copied form the State of Alaska website. Vincent is not allowed to discuss her role because of a confidentiality agreement.
Palin could have devoted a year or more to writing a truly substantive account of her life, but she probably made the right choice to enter the market place when her name was so visible. Her prominence was demonstrated when the AP assigned a team of 11 reporters to “fact-check” the book, and of course they found a number of errors.
Part of Palin’s appeal to a conservative audience is that the former Governor is often the number one target of liberal activists. On the day Palin’s book was released last November, the liberal magazine “The Nation” produced a counter publication called “Going Rouge: Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare.” It was a collection of anti-Palin essays with a similar cover.
Palin received an advance of $1.25 million from the Harper Collins publishing firm, and based on the current strong sales she will be able to expect an additional payout of at least $2.5 million and probably closer to $5 million.
Palin is now writing a second book and this will probably be a more substantive review of current issues. Palin will be visiting Arizona on March 26th to campaign for her former running mate. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) faces a difficult GOP primary with former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) and one of the reasons could be because of conservatives who were riled up over the treatment Palin received from top McCain staffers.
The Palin book is also not in the same category as Hillary Clinton’s “Living History,” John McCain’s “Faith of our Fathers,” or Dwight Eisenhower’s last memoir, “At Ease: Stories I Tell To Friends” which was a lively collection of colorful anecdotes which drew a great portrait of the late President. (Hillary Clinton’s 1996 best seller, “It Takes a Village,” was ghost written by Barbara Feinman Todd.)
In my opinion the best memoir from a politician was written by U.S. Grant. His book took the nation by storm, and he finished it just days before his death. It is loaded with thoughtful reflections concerning the Civil War years.
The former Governor’s accomplishments in Alaska were impressive. She appears to well versed on the energy policies which are so crucial to her state’s economy. If she had not resigned, the record she established could have been the basis for a national campaign. Perhaps the book I really want to see will be the one Palin is working on now.
She should review the Obama, Clinton and McCain memoirs for ideas. They all reflect the vision of potential future leaders. “Going Rouge” is Palin’s personal story, and we are still waiting for an explanation of her core beliefs as well as her outlook for America. If Palin is planning a presidential candidacy, the second book should be one of her top priorities. “Going Rouge” does not tell us about Palin’s political future, but as her father once noted, “She’s not retreating, she’s reloading!”

BOOK REVIEW by Gregory Hilton: “The Raven’s Bride – The Marriage of Sam Houston and Eliza Allen” by Elizabeth Crook, 379 pages.

This book is about the ten week marriage of Sam Houston and Eliza Allen. He was a hero of the War of 1812, a Member of Congress, Governor of both Tennessee and Texas, as well as the first President of the Republic of Texas. He was in command when Texas forces won their independence by defeating the Mexican dictator Santa Anna.
Houston became the first U.S. Senator from Texas when it joined the Union in 1845. He was also one of eight U.S. Senators to be portrayed in John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Profiles in Courage.” The city of Houston is named after him.
This novel would be an excellent movie, and any prominent actress could be cast in the role of Eliza Allen Houston because she burned all of her photos and paintings on her deathbed. We have no idea what she looked like. According to contemporary accounts she was a great beauty, but the accuracy of the one photo of her is disputed.
Houston was asked why his first marriage fell apart by one of his best friends 30 years after the couple had divorced. He startled his friend by not replying and just walked out of the room. He later said he did not want to discuss it, and his close associates always avoided the topic which was obviously still painful for him.
According to the book jacket, “Just eleven weeks after the wedding, Eliza suddenly and inexplicably left her new husband, creating a scandal that caused the Governor to resign his office in disgrace and embark on an exile that would ultimately deliver him to Texas, and a destiny even grander and more improbable than anyone could have imagined.
“In these pages, Sam Houston is presented as he must have been—a heroic figure (called the Raven by the Cherokee), vain, flamboyant, magnetic, his outsized personality fueled by a desperate need for love. And Eliza Allen is his match: a magnificent young woman, both drawn to and disturbed by her husband’s grand aspirations.”
There are numerous rumors about what happened in privacy between the couple, but most of the stories are speculation because neither Sam nor Eliza ever publicly talked about the marriage. They were wed on January 22, 1829 when Houston, 36, was the sitting Governor of Tennessee. Eliza was only nineteen, and she had met the Governor through her cousin, Robert Allen, who served with him in Congress. Houston was already prominent and the press mentioned him as a logical successor to President Andrew Jackson.
Eliza was part of a wealthy family which owned considerable property. She was known to be fond of a 20 year old boy from her county, but her parents believed Eliza was destined for a more suitable match. It seems clear she was pushed into the marriage by her ambitious father, Colonel John Allen.
Eliza did not appear to be happy at her wedding, and two days after the marriage she made a startling statement to her best friend, Martha Martin. Eliza said she wished the children who were having a snowball fight with Sam out in the yard “would kill him.” She was not smiling at the time.
“I was astonished to hear such a statement from a bride of not yet forty-eight hours,” Mrs. Martin said. Then Eliza repeated the comment, “I wish with all of my heart they would kill him.” This was her only recorded statement about the marriage during the time they were together.
Eliza had left a large plantation and in those days there was no Governor’s Mansion. Eliza had moved into Sam’s two rooms at the Nashville Inn. Upon returning from a campaign trip to Memphis, Houston discovered Eliza was gone. He never saw her again.
After Eliza left, the Governor wrote a letter to her father expressing his love for her, and his desire to save the relationship. He begged for Eliza to return, but also said he believed she was in love with someone else. Houston wrote “She was cold to me and I thought did not love me. . . I do love Eliza.” The letter was not answered, but Houston’s claim is supported by Mrs. Martin who says Eliza told Houston she never loved him, did not want to marry him and was in love with someone else.
The distraught Houston immediately went to see the Reverend Hume who had performed the marriage ceremony and asked for a baptism, but the request was refused because Houston’s reputation was tarnished. The Tennessee press was well represented at the Nashville Inn and the marital problems between the states first couple was the subject of considerable publicity. One paper claimed Houston abused Eliza.
Rep. Robert Allen (D-TN) told the Governor he was ruined politically, and Houston replied that he was also ruined personally and spiritually. Within a week Houston resigned the governorship and moved to Arkansas. For the next four years he had a significant problem with alcohol, but he was eventually able to turn his life around.
For many years Houston continued to wear Eliza’s engagement ring. He did not take it off until 1840 when at the age of 47 he married 21 year old Margaret Lea. They had 8 children including a future U.S. Senator from Texas. The couple was still together when he died at the age of 70. In his pants pocket a pouch was found containing Eliza’s ring.
“The Raven’s Bride” speculates that it was the condition of Sam’s body that repulsed Eliza. He was not overweight, but he has been seriously wounded in the 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend. He was struck by an arrow in the upper thigh and he was shot in the shoulder. Dr. Ashbel Smith said the wounds never completely healed and Houston had to dress them “nearly every day.”
Eliza remarried four years later, but for the rest of her life she avoided media attention. In February 1861, despite Houston’s valiant attempts to stop it, the Texas legislature voted to secede from the Union.
His refusal to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy led to his ouster as Governor in March 1861. He is the only person in U.S. history to have been the Governor of two different states. The State of Texas has placed a statue of Sam Houston inside the rotunda of the United States Capitol, and he is also the subject of the world’s largest statue (67 feet) of an American hero.

Answering the Conspiracy Theories: The Attack on Pearl Harbor by Gregory Hilton

BOOK REVIEWS: “Infamy: Pearl Harbor and its Aftermath” by John Toland (1982) and “The Truth About Pearl Harbor” by John T. Flynn (1944). New introduction by Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D., http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance189.html

I never would have voted for President Franklin Roosevelt, and many aspects of his liberal domestic agenda were misguided. The FDIC, SEC and Social Security were all necessary, but initiatives such as the NRA and AAA only prolonged and exacerbated the Great Depression. While I am not a Roosevelt fan, I believe it is outrageous to claim he betrayed his country by hiding evidence of the impeding attack on Pearl Harbor.
For over 60 years this false accusation has been made by isolationists, and their theory is that FDR did this in order to obtain a declaration of war on Japan. That is a major theme of numerous isolationist publications.
I do not recommend either of these books. If you want to know more about Pearl Harbor without the isolationist slant, two excellent suggestions are Gordon Prange’s authoritative “At Dawn We Slept,” or John Costello’s “The Pacific War.”
Despite the obvious flaws of the above books, it is important to revisit this topic because of the attention this debate continues to receive from prominent libertarians, paleoconservatives and radical liberals. What they have in common is isolationism, conspiracy theories and claims that America was tricked into entering World War II.
Practically all of the isolationist literature lists these two books among their original sources. “The Truth About Pearl Harbor” by John T. Flynn had an initial printing of 250,000 in 1944, and this booklet was reprinted by publications such as the Chicago Daily News. Additional ammunition for the isolationists came from the late John Toland’s 1982 best seller, “Infamy: Pearl Harbor and its Aftermath.”
Toland received the Pulitzer Prize for his book “The Rising Sun,” and both authors have superior research and writing skills. Unfortunately, the evidence they provide here is flimsy, but it certainly adds gasoline to the conspiracy theory fires.
The authors relay an abundance of circumstantial evidence, but the bottom line is that there still is no evidence proving Roosevelt knew Pearl Harbor was about to be hit. There is also no document indicating we knew the position of the Japanese fleet.
Toland was married to a Japanese woman and was always sympathetic to Tokyo’s viewpoint. He emphasizes Japan’s anti-communist nature but he really loses me in trying to say the war was not imperialistic.
The Pulitzer Prize winner says “It was a tragedy that men like Stimson, Hull, Knox, and Forrestal felt obliged to join in the cover-up to make scapegoats of two innocent men, Admiral Kimmel and General Short.” He is referring to Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and our first Secretary of Defense, James V. Forrestal. Kimmel and Short were the Navy and Army commanders at Pearl Harbor.
John T. Flynn, the other author, joined socialist Norman Thomas in forming the pacifist Keep America Out of War Committee in the late 1930s. He also was one of the founders of the isolationist America First Committee.
The American First organization did include many patriotic Americans, but often it was used as a transmission belt for Nazi propaganda. Flynn also worked for the Senate’s Nye Committee which called the American defense industry “merchants of death.” He was opposed to both Lend-Lease and the Selective Service Act.
Toland tries to prove Roosevelt knew Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked, but Flynn does not go that far. He does claim it was Roosevelt who decided to start a war with Japan. He says the President allegedly reached this conclusion 11 months before the Pearl Harbor attack. According to Flynn, “We must now face a very obvious and a very ugly fact. It is that the President made up his mind that NOW was the time for a showdown with Japan, and he led the country into that showdown incredibly unprepared.”
Flynn also says “It was Roosevelt who personally managed the whole crisis. It was Roosevelt who bottled up the fleet in Pearl Harbor. It was Roosevelt who stripped the base of its defenses. . . He did not order the fleet out of Pearl Harbor where it could defend itself, because he wanted to create the appearance of being completely at peace and surprised when the Japs started shooting. ” Flynn goes on to claim FDR was totally satisfied with the readiness of our armed forces which is obviously not true. The President had no “foolish sense of security.”
Flynn’s arguments against Roosevelt are similar to the 9/11 conspiracy claims against George W. Bush. The present anti-war crowd tried to blame America for the attack on the Twin Towers because of U.S. support for Israel.
In a similar manner, Toland and Flynn claim Japan was provoked into the attacking Pearl Harbor because America was sending aid to the United Kingdom, and we had placed sanctions on Japan in response to its invasion of China and French Indo-China. According to the authors, these sanctions forced Japan into its membership in the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis.
The best argument put forward by the conspiracy theory advocates is to claim Roosevelt had advance knowledge of the December 7, 1941 attack because America had broken Japan’s diplomatic and military codes. We had broken the codes and it was an intelligence coup. The result is that the commander of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor was notified on November 24th that negotiations with Japan were not going well, and to prepare for “surprise aggressive movement in any direction by the Japanese.” The Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff of the Army were both told on the same day to expect war.
On November 27th a war warning was issued to the Army commander in Hawaii. In the first week of December the United States decoded several messages which can also be categorized as war warnings. Some of these messages were ignored at low levels, others were misinterpreted and the most important message resulted in an immediate reaction.
At 9 pm on the evening of December 6th Roosevelt sent another message to Emperor Hirohito seeking peace. At 10 pm an ominous 14 part Japanese secret communication was decoded, but we still did not know when or where they might strike. Our military chiefs were immediately informed and they were asked to come to the White House at 10 am the next morning.
Everyone realized the situation was serious but there was no message which said, “Attack Pearl Harbor on December 7 at 6:30 am.” The senior echelon of the American government believed the Philippines were the obvious target. It was thought that with the existing torpedo technology no nation would be capable of sinking American ships due to the shallowness of Pearl Harbor. We did not know of Japan’s torpedo engineering break through.
President Roosevelt was a Navy man who well knew the importance of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and fully realized how long it would take to rebuild these ships. We are actually fortunate the fleet was not ordered out to sea because we were able to salvage many of the ships which sunk in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor.
FDR did not need the Pearl Harbor attack to justify America’s entry into World War II. He could have just released the intelligence we already had to the public. He could have pointed to the U.S. destroyers Greer, Kearny and Reuben James which were all sunk by Nazi Germany while on patrol duty. There was also no need for the attack to be a surprise. FDR could have alerted our commanders in Hawaii and still have received a declaration of war.
The attack would have been seen as a dastardly act of aggression even if we had been on full alert and waiting for the Japanese. It would only have been to America’s advantage to have inflicted heavy losses on the Empire of Japan.
On the other hand, if the attack had been more successful, America might have been knocked out of the war before it began. The original attack plan called for the destruction of the oil depot, the submarine pens, the ship repair yard as well as the aircraft carriers. The Japanese Zero fighter planes were outfitted to knock out all of those facilities, but for the most part they were untouched. The Japanese also considered invading and holding onto Hawaii. Losing Hawaii as a base of operations would have been a huge blow.
Then the Pacific campaign would have been conducted from distant California. The isolationists also ignore the fact that Roosevelt did not know Nazi Germany would enter the war against America. Germany was not obligated to fight any country which was at war with Japan. Nor was Japan obligated to declare war on countries Germany was fighting. The so-called Pact of Steel was a mutual assistance agreement.
Flynn’s explanation of the Tripartite Pact is misleading. It would have gone into effect if America attacked Japan, not the other way around. Numerous German generals were baffled by Hitler’s declaration of war on the U.S. Hitler had abandoned many pacts before, and this was perhaps the only time the Fuehrer felt an obligation to assist a treaty partner.
Roosevelt always felt the real danger to the world was Hitler, not Japan. If FDR wanted to enter the European war, why would he encourage an attack by Japan?
The above introduction to Flynn’s booklet is by isolationist Lawrence Vance, an adjunct instructor in accounting at Pensacola Junior College. He previously wrote “The Rotten Republicans” about the GOP victory in 1994. He calls Republicans “stupid and evil” and accuses John McCain of being a “war criminal.” He says no one should join the U.S. military, and denounces those who join our armed forces. He feels no war is justified, including World War II, and wrote a book attacking Abraham Lincoln.
America was definitely unprepared for war, but there was no secret conspiracy. Once again, the United States had decoded 13 of the 14 parts of a secret message the evening before the attack. This was the final transmission from Tokyo to its Washington embassy prior to the war.
It contained an ultimatum the Japanese Ambassador was instructed to deliver to Secretary of State Hull at 1 pm Washington time, which was 6:00 am in Hawaii, warning of a breach in relations. It also contained instructions for the Japanese delegation to destroy their code machines, a clear indication they intended to break relations with the U.S. The United States immediately assumed the decoded message were a declaration of war. Warnings were sent out by both the Army and the Navy to commands in Hawaii and the Pacific in general.
The Navy’s link to Pearl Harbor was via a one kilowatt radio transmitter but the message did not go through because of static in the ionosphere that evening. The Army had a ten kilowatt transmitter. Its messages went through but the Navy did not ask the Army to warn the Pacific Fleet.
They instead sent an encrypted message via Western Union. The bicycle courier arrived at Pacific Fleet headquarters 8 hours after the attack. General laxity of the Army and the Navy in Hawaii prior to Pearl Harbor contributed more to Japanese success than any other single factor. They did not keep the radar stations monitored full time, their patrols were inadequate, and when approaching planes were spotted on radar the Army mistakenly assumed they were U.S. aircraft.
Any criticism of the lack of U.S. war supplies is entirely justified. America was the 17th ranked military power at the time of Pearl Harbor and our soldiers had to train with wooden guns. General Hap Arnold in discussing the Army Air Corps said “Dec. 7 found the Army with plans but no planes.”
The Army commander in Hawaii did have 10 hours of warning but he was worried about sabotage rather than an aerial attack. He did not understand the warning.
The U.S. military thought the Imperial Japanese Navy was still anchored in their Inland Sea, and we had no idea four aircraft carriers were within 200 miles and a group of submarines were approaching Hawaii’s Diamond Head. Even by 1943 we still did not realize what Japan had accomplished.
Two years after the war began senior Navy officers were speculating that the attack had been made by only two aircraft carriers. Our Navy thought the carriers Akagi and Kaga were too old and slow for such an attack, and we had not realized the Shokado and Zuikaku were already in operational service.
The White House was obviously highly worried about an attack in the Pacific, but once again, no one in the American government was sure of the location. Our senior military leaders were assuming the Philippines would be Japan’s logical target. The discussion about Pearl Harbor was only speculation.
Among other arguments raised by the isolationists are the sanctions imposed on Japan by the United States in response to Tokyo’s continued aggressive policies. The isolationists claim World War II was America’s fault because of these sanctions.
Japan took over one-third of China (Manchuria) as a colony in 1931, and full scale war broke out between Japan and China on July 7, 1937. In 1939, the U.S. renounced the Treaty of Commerce which was signed by both nations in 1911. When Japanese troops entered northern French Indo-China (Vietnam) a partial embargo of aviation gasoline and scrap-metal was imposed in July 1940. This had no impact and Japan took over southern Indo-China in July, 1941. The U.S. then imposed a freeze on all Japanese assets as well as a complete oil embargo on August 1, 1941.
It would have sent a terrible message to Germany and Italy if Japan was allowed to completely get away with such naked aggression. The U.S. sanctions would have been relaxed if Japan had left southern Indo-China. We also wanted them to break the Tripartite Pact of Alliance with Germany and Italy, and to leave China.
The last two items were the subject of negotiation. The Pearl Harbor came fours years after the “Rape of Nanking” where over 300,000 people died and the American warship Panay was sunk by Japan. Secretary of State Cordell Hull and others believed that if the U.S. demonstrated strong opposition and took a firm attitude to Japan’s expansion in Indo-China, the Tokyo government would back off. Japan instead wanted to spread its “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.”
They thought the key to doing this was knocking out the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which would remove the main obstacle to Japan’s conquests. The isolationists also point to FDR’s promise one week before his 1940 re-election to avoid “foreign military wars.” What they do not explain is that when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor it was no longer a foreign war.
The Pearl Harbor attack was the subject of the bipartisan Roberts Commission investigation as well as in-depth hearings before the U.S. Senate in 1945. John T. Flynn was one of the attendees. The hearings were held in the large Caucus Room and were well publicized. It was the biggest Congressional investigation in 12 years, and the Roberts Commission and the Senators completely rejected the conspiracy theories.
Toland and Flynn are the best of the isolationist conspiracy theory believers. Most people who peddle these theories have no respectable sources. The fact that a claim has been made by anybody, anywhere, is enough for them to reproduce it and demand answers to these rumors.
They will never admit they are wrong but will instead compile an endless list of minute details that in no way prove their case. They always claim the official account is wrong and they take quotes of context to try to prove their point.
In hindsight we wish many things had happened differently in the weeks leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack. We wish messages had been decoded earlier, or that our military officers had realized the serious nature of what Japan was doing. We wish the instructions given to the Navy and Army commanders at Pearl Harbor had been clearer.
John T. Flynn died in 1964 but his writings continue to be actively promoted by the John Birch Society (JBS) and the Libertarian Party. He shared the JBS goals of removing the United States from the United Nations, and denouncing the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He wrote “We must rid America of the United Nations, which provides the communist conspiracy with a headquarters here on our own shores.”
Flynn also did not want America to have a bipartisan foreign policy and he attacked the CFR because both Dean Acheson and John Foster Dulles — secretaries of state from opposing parties — were members. Flynn was always against defense spending and overseas military action, even when the communists were the enemy. He joined the left wing in opposing the Korean War. President Harry Truman responded to those critics by calling them “Kremlin assets,” and the sort of miscreants who would shoot “our soldiers in the back in a hot war.” National Review made the right decision when it rejected Flynn and the JBS.
The bottom line is that Franklin Roosevelt did not know Japan would attack Pearl Harbor. What is obvious with nearly 70 years of hindsight was not obvious in 1941. Even if he thought Japan would try an aggressive move he never imagined a full frontal assault on American forces in a sneak attack on the Pacific Fleet. If the Japanese had been willing to consolidate their gains in north China the United States might have left them alone.
In most events like this it is easy to look back and find puzzle pieces that allow conspiracy theory advocates to jump to a conclusion. It is much harder, however, to do this in real time without the blessing of hindsight.
Many now say we should have known 9/11 was going to happen, but at the time it was unimaginable. After the fact we can see evidence indicating it was going to take place. The conspiracy theories continue to grow despite the massive evidence demonstrating that George Bush did not bring down the twin towers. LBJ and the CIA did not assassinate John F. Kennedy. Adolph Hitler did not escape to Argentina, and the British Royal family did not have Lady Diana killed.
There was no conspiracy at Pearl Harbor and the Japanese were not duped into war by the manipulative Americans.