Transcript: Thom Hartmann asks, On the 50th anniversary of JFK's inaugural speech, how are we doing as a nation? 20 Jan '11

Thom Hartmann: Greetings my friends, patriots, lovers of democracy, truth and justice, believers in peace, freedom and the American way. Thom Hartmann here with you. Our telephone number 866-987-THOM, our website Everything there from podcasts to the free chat room, free live chat room and message boards, you can create your own blogs, all kinds of cool stuff.

The president, yesterday, had this major hoop-de-doop, state dinner, with President Hu Jintao and interestingly, speaker Boehner had I don’t know, play golf, cocktail party, he had something he had to do. But this is, today, the day after that, is, there’s a whole series of historic moments right here that kind of come together in like one of these lines that you look down and you go, oh now I get it.

This is the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. It’s also the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. And by coincidence at the very moment that Ronald Reagan put his hand on the bible and raised his, put his left hand on the bible, raised his right hand to take the oath of office, the Iranian students released the hostages in Iran. Because as you will hear from a historian in our second hour, the Reagan campaign had cut a deal with the Iranians who were desperate to get spare parts for their weapons systems that had been sold to the, to Iran, when the Shah was running the joint, by us. We’re the weapon supplier of the world, right? And they, and Jimmy Carter had had this embargo going against weapons to the Iranians ever since the Shah was kicked out. And the Iranians were freaked out. Hey you know we can’t fly our planes anymore, we don’t have spare parts.

And isn’t it odd that the Reagan administration, one of the things that they got actually busted for, was selling spare parts and weapons to Iran. Now why would they do that? Because it was the fulfillment of the deal. That they would hold the hostages through the presidential election of 1980 which would devastate Jimmy Carter in the polls and get elected a right wing governor from California, that pretty much all of America, most Americans I would say, certainly a majority of Americans, thought was way too extreme to be president. They referred to him as Ronnie Ray-gun and who represented a faction of the Republican party that once it came to power has not left and that has torn this nation apart.

So it’s the 30th anniversary of that. And we’re going to, as I said, in our second hour we’re going to really dig into this at some length. And the 50th anniversary of JFK. And Hu Jintao yesterday at the White House. This big state dinner. And in fact we had, Louise and I had dinner last night with some friends of ours who had lunch with President Hu Jintao yesterday and made the comment, I don’t want to identify them because I don’t think that they said this to us from the public record, but made the comment, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, that you know just kind of looking at the overview of all this, that American presidents are thinking in terms of the next election cycle. And Chinese and by the way President Hu is referred to in China as Chairman Hu. So and, chairman, emperors, whatever you want to call them, they’re thinking in terms of dynasties. Their perspective is that China has this two, three thousand year history and there was this weird little accident in Chinese history of the last 200 years where the rise of Europe and the rise of the United States somehow, we’re not sure what happened, but things will come back into balance. And China will once again rule not only its own region, but the rest of the world.

And so yesterday after the initial meeting, the press conference clips here. President Obama and President Hu had a press conference together. And you know our media is all focused on the human rights thing and did he talk about the human rights thing, and how it was all blacked out in China, and it was, the Chinese press didn’t cover it. And you know there was a question and Chairman Hu said well yeah you know, we’ve got a ways to go on some of these issues. I don’t see that as the big deal. I mean it’s a big deal that a country that manufactures most of our goods has lousy human rights, I’ll give you that. But most of the countries in the world have lousy human rights. As concerned as I am about what’s going on in China I’m also concerned about what’s going on in Zimbabwe, I’m also concerned about what’s going on in the DRC, I’m also concerned about what’s going on in Sudan, I’m also concerned about what’s going on in Columbia. And on and on and on. I mean there’s lots of places in the world where you’ve got some really serious problems, shall we say.

The thing that concerns me about China is the fact that this year we’re going to buy, or last year, let’s just take the numbers from last year. We bought 300, about 360 billion dollars worth of stuff from them and we only sold them 100 million dollars worth of stuff. And the stuff that we sold them was mostly things like wood, coal, ores, and waste paper. We ship cardboard, used cardboard, to China which they recycle into boxes to send back to the United States, packing products so that the box can say you know made with recycled materials. They actually buy that from us.

And so while the 370, 60, 70 billions dollars worth of stuff that we buy from them every year, supports 10s of millions of jobs in that country, in China, because they’re good manufacturing jobs. And it has turned China into an industrial powerhouse of the world. The hundred million dollars worth of stuff that we ship to them only supports maybe a half a million jobs. I mean how many people does it take to cut down some trees and put them on a boat and send them to China? And here’s the president of the United States basically admitting this but trying to put a nice spin on it. Clip one, Jacob.

President Obama: “The positive, constructive, cooperative U.S. China relationship is good for the United States. We just had a very good meeting with the business leaders from both our countries. And they pointed out that China is one of the top markets for American exports. We’re not exporting more than 100 billion dollars a year in goods and services to China which supports more than half a million American jobs.”

Thom Hartmann: Gee, 500 thousand jobs? I mean we add 150 thousand people to our work force every month. Why do we have free trade with China? Now I know this whole most favored nation status goes back to arguably Richard Nixon, starting it. LBJ didn’t do much to stop it. But really it was Reagan who said hey let’s kick this door open. And even he was only marginally successful. I mean he laid the foundation for it in the late ‘80s. George Herbert Walker Bush picked up that torch and said we really need to make this into a big deal.

1985 was the first year that we actually had a trade deficit with China. Where we bought more from them than we sold to them. And it was a six million dollar trade deficit. Now it’s 250 billion dollars. That’s 250 thousand million. From six million to 250 thousand million. From 1985 to today. We need to do something about this. I also want to share with you some thoughts from President Kennedy on where we were then and frankly where we should be now. Stick around.


Thom Hartmann: There you go. Welcome back. And so Bernie Sanders apparently was walking through the museum, over at the Smithsonian. They’ve got these little museum shops where you can buy curios and things. Picks up a bust of George Washington and what does it say on the bottom, Made in China. Well what about the bust of Thomas Jefferson, made in China. The bust of Barack Obama, made in China. Bernie says it appears that a museum owned by the people of the United States celebrating the history of the United States cannot find companies in this country employing American workers who are able to manufacture statures of our founding fathers of even our current president. Right.

And this is a problem. And it’s a problem because the people who are making out are the billionaire fat cats and the transnational corporations. It just really boils down to that. They’re the people who put Ronald Reagan into power, they’re the people who fuel the Republican party and have since, well since the 1880s and they’re the people who have been defining our trade policy. Ross Perot had it right, I’m telling you. Ross Perot, you know the crazy old coot with the big ears and the funny charts and graphs and you know the giant sucking sound from the south. He was worried about NAFTA. NAFTA was nothing compared to the WTO and GATT which came, you know, just right after. And permanent normalized trade relations or permanent special trade relationship with China? PMTR. Permanent, whatever it is. I don’t know what it is but close enough.

So here’s, this is the anniversary of a whole bunch of things. I want to share with you the inauguration. John Kennedy, the comments that he had to make in his inauguration. This day, there’s going to be a whole bunch of events around the country celebrating the inauguration of John Kennedy today. There’s a big one tonight at the Kennedy Center, Kennedy family, over 100 members of the Kennedy family are going to be showing up. But anyhow, here’s what John Kennedy had to say 50 years ago, today.

John Kennedy: “We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans born in this century tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and of which we are committed today at home and around the world.”

Thom Hartmann: And in Kennedy’s mind those human rights were pretty clear. I mean he was absolutely of the mold of the New Deal. He was New Deal democrat. He was an FDR democrat. He thought social security was a fine thing and should be strengthened. I think there’s a very high probability that had he lived and had a second term as president he would have been pushing very hard for a national healthcare program. He certainly believed in the rights and equality of people in this country and worked toward that. His brother as attorney general, Bobby, was very aggressive in those areas. I mean there’s a lot that got done. And a lot that got started during, but you know unfortunately he was only with us for a couple of years as president. But he had to say for example, these five clips on peace, Jacob. If you can start in the third clip there. Here’s John Kennedy, just a few months before he was assassinated, speaking at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

John Kennedy: “I speak of peace therefore as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war and frequently the words of the pursuers fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.”

Thom Hartmann: Now can you imagine George W. Bush talking like that? No, no. George W. Bush was all about “We got to have a war, don’t you know, we got to have what we got to punish some evil-doers!” Jack Kennedy:

John Kennedy:”No government or social system is so evil that it’s people must be considered as lacking in virtue.”

Thom Hartmann: None. In other words, you know, war is as, to quite David Swanson, war is a lie. We can do things without war. And we have many, many, many times in the past. Here’s John Kennedy, the final one, in this series of clips:

John Kennedy: “Our military forces are committed to peace and disciplined in self-restraint. Our diplomats are instructed to avoid unnecessary irritants and purely rhetorical hostility. For we can seek a relaxion of tension without relaxing our guard and for our part we do not need to use threats, to prove we are resolute.”

Thom Hartmann: Now compare that with John Bolton running around, our ambassador to the United Nations saying, oh yeah let’s just blow the top ten floors off the UN and let’s invade Iran tomorrow and oh we’ve got to go into Iraq, and we’ve got to invade… war war war war war. The only presidency since Jack Kennedy where there was no hostility declared and committed on a foreign land was Jimmy Carter. And one of the points that George W. Bush made to Mickey Herskowitz who was the, who wrote the first draft of Bush’s autobiography, “A Charge to Keep,” back in 1999 when they were putting this thing together, was that if he could become a war president, unlike Carter he would be remembered as a fighter, as a noble man, that war presidents had more power and more political capital.


Thom Hartmann: And guess what you find there, you find stuff made in China. By the way, here’s, this is another amazing thing. Last October the Center for American Progress’ blog, Think Progress. Lee Fang has been doing just some amazing research and blogging on this. Published a memo from Koch Industries about a secret meeting they had in June of 2010 that was organized by the Koch brothers and it brought together people from Wall Street, the oil industry, other large companies, the US chamber of Commerce, Glenn Beck, Eric O’Keefe, who organized the tea party planning groups. And how they were going to take advantage of, the post at Think Progress focused on how they were planning to take advantage of Citizen’s United and that the featured speakers of previous Koch funded fundraisers were, supreme court justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony Scalia. Today, Common Cause, as a consequence of that reporting that was done by Think Progress and by the New York Times, Common Cause is saying enough. These guys should have recused themselves from the Citizen’s United case. Let’s invalidate their votes.

Now frankly I don’t think that that can be legally done to invalidate their votes, I would say impeach them. But this isn’t, in November, Think Progress interviewed Justice Alito as he entered the annual fundraising gala for the American Spectator. That was you know attended by Michael Steele and top republican donors. In 2009 while the supreme court was hearing arguments regarding Citizen’s United, Justice Thomas was featured at the annual fundraiser for the Heritage Foundation. Along with senator Jim Demint. In 2009 while the supreme court was hearing argumens regarding Citizen’s United, Justice Alito had lined a fundraiser for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, another right wing think tank. This is a front that funded the rising republican trickster, dirty trickster James O’Keefe. And the anti-masturbation activist, Christine O’Donnell. Alito helped them raise 70 thousand bucks. While he’s deciding a case about whether corporations should be people.

And last year Justice Thomas helped headline a fundraiser for the National Association of Broadcasters. This is News Corp, Cox Media and others. Raised thousands of dollars for their charity, from a host of corporate sponsors including the US Chamber, Pharma, CBS. I mean what is going on here. Well I can tell you what’s going on here. It’s what we used to call bribery and corruption. And it’s now called the way Washington DC works. And it is not anything close to any kind of idea that the founders of this country had. And it’s certainly not anything close to the idea that frankly I think most Americans have of how America should work.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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