Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Here's a thought-provoking passage I found while surfing through the Time Magazine archives. It's from a March 1969 article describing Spiro Agnew's charm campaign to improve his image as a bumbling moron:
He told the Gridiron Club dinner that Nixon had urged him to get on TV interview shows, and had the White House staff schedule appearances. Said Agnew: "I'll be on Meet the Press, opposite the Army-Navy game; on Face the Nation opposite General de Gaulle's arrival at the White House; and on Issues and Answers opposite live coverage of Julie and David's surprise party for Ted Kennedy — at the ranch." But Nixon also promised him, he said, "that when he's ready to recognize Red China, he'll let me announce it." (Emphasis added.)
The self-deprecating gag being that in March of 1969, the idea that Richard Nixon might one day recognize Red China was so farfetched that he could safely promise the announcement to his incompetent veep. Of course, in hindsight, the irony is that reality is sometimes more optimistic than our assumptions about it.
I don't know why, but I've recently had a recurring vision of President Bush touching down in Tehran, firmly, proudly, courageously. Talk about stealing Ahmadinejad's propaganda thunder. I've also wondered what the history of the last four years might look like if he had flown into Baghdad to confront Saddam Hussein personally, instead of sending in a hail of cruise missiles to do it for him.
The argument goes that meeting with our enemies legitimizes them, and demonstrates weakness. But has anyone ever looked at the pictures of Nixon in China without marvelling at the sheer improbability of it all? Or seen the images of Sadat in Jerusalem without a chill running down their spine?
In this moment when the collective imagination seems to be preoccupied with rumors of another ill-conceived war, I'd like to think that reality still has the capacity to outstrip our lowered expectations. It's been said that President Bush is obsessed with leaving his mark on history. He'd do well to consider that while history certainly remembers the men who wage war, it cherishes the peacemakers.
A dream? Maybe. But as the man said, "If you don't have dreams, Bagel, you got nightmares." Here's hoping.