Contributor Post Created with Sketch. America, Where Is Your Churchill?

 

ChurchillWhat’s the one fact about the political situation in America that we do not emphasize enough — think through enough — try hard enough to confront? I’m sure you have your own views on that, likely better than mine, and I encourage you to publish them. My own view is that there is not one politician playing Churchill.

Do you know the phrase, America will do the right thing once it’s tried everything else? Well, America is trying lots of things and must come to the right thing, but who will do it? Who is the politician who will lead public opinion and possibly the government when necessity will be upon you?

Churchill said, upon assuming the commanding authority, that he finally felt at peace — the hour was late, but the man had come. He described not his unique competence, but his unique reputation: He had been out of power so long that no rumor or fear of partisanship could arise; he had been confirmed in so many dire predictions that no doubt as to his knowledge could arise. He was innocent of the misdeeds and could be thought to excel in facing up to events and facing down the terrible threat.

This reputation took a lot of work. He warned incessantly of the coming crisis, against the will of his party — against the Tory attitude to politics. That is how everyone knew to whom to look. They did not need to learn who would lead them, only to remember. America needs this as well — politicians who will speak about the threat facing the nation — publicly, expertly, confidently.

It is no longer obvious, but this was a desperate gamble on Churchill’s part. It was the end of his career — it would have been, had events not borne him out — had he not helped events by moving to the center of public discourse. So it would be a gamble today: The man who tries to tell America about foreign policy cannot become popular but he might win the respect of the warrior class. Churchill did. People told him things they thought the nation had to know, but which they could not trust the state or the parties to utter publicly.

The things one reads about in the news and the things one does not form a complete picture that the politician must communicate. The common defense is the central justification of the Union in the preamble to the Constitution. It requires a common understanding of threats. It requires a politician who will speak forcefully, repeatedly, tirelessly — until everyone tires of him and his speeches are met first with annoyance, then scorn, and finally hope.

The old phrase is, who wants peace should prepare for war. Well, who expects war has to prepare for war. The preparation is not only the acquired knowledge of intelligence communities or security experts or aides and advisers on matters foreign and domestic. Part of the preparation requires public speeches. Who understands this? Who is committing himself to this long, arduous, thankless task? Where is your Churchill, America?

There are 96 comments.

  1. carcat74 Member

    Would Gingrich fit this role, or too controversial, too close to the situation as it stands? Giuliani is probably too polarizing right now.

    • #1
    • May 19, 2015, at 6:49 AM PDT
    • Like
  2. Dave of Barsham Member

    I think that part of the problem is that we may not be able to recognize a Churchill like figure until he is proven right and emerges as politically viable. Until then they seem too out of step and/or too polarizing, over the top, crazy, etc…

    • #2
    • May 19, 2015, at 6:52 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    carcat74:Would Gingrich fit this role, or too controversial, too close to the situation as it stands?Giuliani is probably too polarizing right now.

    I’d say, the problem with Mr. Gingrich is that he has no experience nor no credibility on foreign affairs.

    As for Mr. Giuliani–the same is true. Had he made the effort in the years since 2000, he could have achieved much, given his mayoralty of NYC…

    I think it is too late for both now, being so old. But that is neither here nor there–I do not see them taking on the task.

    • #3
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:03 AM PDT
    • Like
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    lesserson:I think that part of the problem is that we may not be able to recognize a Churchill like figure until he is proven right and emerges as politically viable. Until then they seem too out of step and/or too polarizing, over the top, crazy, etc…

    There is a lot to that: That is precisely why I recommend looking not to leadership, which would be too late, but to reputation. Which politicians in the last couple of years–or since 9/11–have tried to make a reputation for themselves in foreign policy?

    • #4
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:07 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Remember, Churchill only became “Churchill” after the British government had completely screwed the pooch appeasing Hitler.

    Churchill was never elected Prime Minister. The King asked Churchill to form a war government. As soon as the war was over, the voters kicked Churchill out of office.

    Therefore, the conditions for a “Churchill” coming to power are arguably:

    • An existential crisis being fully in progress following a disaster.
    • A mechanism for taking the reins of power without the need for an election.

    Neither of these conditions exist in the United States.

    • #5
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:25 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. Dave of Barsham Member

    Titus Techera:

    lesserson:I think that part of the problem is that we may not be able to recognize a Churchill like figure until he is proven right and emerges as politically viable. Until then they seem too out of step and/or too polarizing, over the top, crazy, etc…

    There is a lot to that: That is precisely why I recommend looking not to leadership, which would be too late, but to reputation. Which politicians in the last couple of years–or since 9/11–have tried to make a reputation for themselves in foreign policy?

    On foreign policy, not many at all, at least not foreign policy as a whole. Rick Perry has some credibility on dealing with Mexico but as far as I know nothing outside North America. Ted Cruz has been outspoken in a shotgun kind of way (little here and a little there) on foreign affairs but is considered too polarizing (or crazy if one is on the left). There’s Rand Paul but his policy is more toward the “do less, retrench” side of things. No one, individually anyway, seems to stand out in the crowd that I can think of. Granted, every one of the people I just mentioned are presidential contenders. I really should look at other Conservatives that are serving that aren’t currently in the news because of their Presidential runs.

    • #6
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:30 AM PDT
    • Like
  7. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Misthiocracy:Remember, Churchill only became “Churchill” after the British government had completely screwed the pooch appeasing Hitler.

    Churchill was never elected Prime Minister. The King asked Churchill to form a war government. As soon as the war was over, the voters kicked Churchill out of office.

    Therefore, the conditions for a “Churchill” coming to power are arguably:

    • An existential crisis being fully in progress following a disaster.
    • A mechanism for taking the reins of power without the need for an election.

    Neither of these conditions exist in the United States.

    As to your first–there is an ongoing foreign crisis, but it is not clear to me why you think it needs to be existential. As a matter of fact, it was not clear in 1930 or 1933 that world war coming. But Churchill was Churchill. He made his reputation before he was authorized legally to wield power. That is precisely the point of my post!

    As to the other–sure, let the man fail in becoming President or SecDef or SecState. But do not you think a man like Churchill would try rather than think there is no way in America?

    • #7
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:38 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Tuck Inactive

    Guys like Churchill are also pretty rare, historically. Often there is no Churchill, and the country falls.

    • #8
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:42 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. John Walker Contributor

    Misthiocracy:Remember, Churchill only became “Churchill” after the British government had completely screwed the pooch appeasing Hitler.

    Also, in the mind of the public and many in government, Churchill was remembered as the key advocate of the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign in World War I, which had resulted in a humiliating defeat for the Allies and heavy casualties. After resigning in disgrace to take a command on the Western Front, Churchill was seen as a dangerous advocate of ill-conceived military adventures. This coloured the perception of his warnings against German rearmament and territorial ambitions in the 1930s.

    • #9
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:45 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    lesserson:On foreign policy, not many at all, at least not foreign policy as a whole. Rick Perry has some credibility on dealing with Mexico but as far as I know nothing outside North America.

    Agreed. It is a rather sad state of affairs.

    Ted Cruz has been outspoken in a shotgun kind of way (little here and a little there) on foreign affairs but is considered too polarizing (or crazy if one is on the left).

    Sen. Cruz is polarizing; that is not of itself bad. But he does not say much on foreign policy. But if you have any thematic statement in mind, please add it here. I think this is as good a chance as any to try to evaluate the contenders again!

    There’s Rand Paul but his policy is more toward the “do less, retrench” side of things.

    Had not your president won the anti-Churchill distinction, this man would snatch it in a heartbeat. This may be a luxury America can afford, but I do not believe he understand foreign affairs…

    No one, individually anyway, seems to stand out in the crowd that I can think of. Granted, every one of the people I just mentioned are presidential contenders.

    You focus rightly on prominent men: Churchill also wanted authority to run his country. Politicians are a kind of human being–they love honor. Maybe Sen. Rubio talks about foreign policy most–Senators usually do, it is their advantage. But his speeches do not satisfy.

    • #10
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Tuck:Guys like Churchill are also pretty rare, historically. Often there is no Churchill, and the country falls.

    True, but America has never lacked for spirited men who at least might think of themselves–& want to be thought of–as Churchillian. Americans may despise the word politician, but say statesman instead & the chests start puffing up rather competitively.

    Then, too, the reputation, the past, & the crisis at hand call for someone to do what he did then. With or without his ability–even without his example or fame–the political situation bears a certain similarity. Statesmen are typical of something–they show certain problems that simply inhere in free gov’t. In this case, it is that a man must first build a reputation & then ask to be authorized to wield power. This is very unusual to Americans, but it is by no means unheard of–at least when great difficulties arise.

    • #11
    • May 19, 2015, at 7:51 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. Tuck Inactive

    Titus Techera:

    Tuck:Guys like Churchill are also pretty rare, historically. Often there is no Churchill, and the country falls.

    True, but America has never lacked for spirited men who at least might think of themselves–& want to be thought of–as Churchillian. Americans may despise the word politician, but say statesman instead & the chests start puffing up rather competitively.

    I’d say Petraeus was the guy who best fit the bill.

    Boy, they fixed him, huh?

    • #12
    • May 19, 2015, at 8:05 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Kay of MT Member

    Titus Techera:

    carcat74:Would Gingrich fit this role, or too controversial, too close to the situation as it stands?Giuliani is probably too polarizing right now.

    I’d say, the problem with Mr. Gingrich is that he has no experience nor no credibility on foreign affairs.

    Mr. Gingrich will be 72 years old in June. However, he is still extremely, mentally alert. His political experience is extensive, and he is a Historian which gives him exceptional knowledge of world affairs. I think he is the only person we have with the backbone and conads to meet our adversaries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newt_Gingrich

    • #13
    • May 19, 2015, at 8:07 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. captainpower Inactive

    Churchill warned about Hitler and was ignored, then he finally had a chance to do something about it almost too late, then he was kicked out afterward (as someone above said).

    Reagan was our Churchill except we have term limits so he wasn’t exactly kicked out.

    But he was rejected for years until his foreign policy acumen made him look like the right man at the right time.

    In his speech for Barry Goldwater “A Time for Choosing” and for 20 years thereafter he espoused his foreign policy views. He was rejected until President Jimmy Carter caused the people to clamor for someone who knew what they were doing on foreign policy.

    quoting a prior comment from myself:

    https://ricochet.com/what-every-r-candidate-other-than-jeb-bush-should-say-about-the-iraq-war-decision/comment-page-1/#comment-2848900

    According to a recent interview with former Reagan-aide Gary Bauer by former Reagan-aide Bill Kristol, President Ronald Reagan laid out his foreign policy years in advance and it was quite unpopular when first presented in the 1960s, but he kept at it and was consistent, and eventually people realized he had been right all along and elected him.

    [edit] preface 1:12:28-1:13:45. main commentary 1:13:45-1:15:43

    via

    http://conversationswithbillkristol.org/video/gary-bauer/

    http://conversationswithbillkristol.org/transcript/gary-bauer-transcript/

    http://conversationswithbillkristol.org/podcast/gary-bauer-podcast/

    • #14
    • May 19, 2015, at 8:09 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    When Hitler and Stalin carved up Poland in September of 1939 it was assumed that that world would return to the horrors of chemical warfare seen during the Great War. It did not. Both sides prepared for unconventional war in Europe but chose not to go down that path again.

    This gave Churchill both the advantage having been proven right and the gift of time necessary to save his country. Whoever fills that role today will probably not have that luxury tomorrow.

    While Nazi and Islamic ideology share hatred of the Jews at their core there was still a “rational player” element among the Germans. Hitler thought in terms of an earthly Thousand Year Reich and a race of Supermen Aryans. The Islamicist thinks in terms of martyrdom and rewards that come from beyond. Given the opportunity he will not hesitate to embrace the unconventional, the weapon of mass destruction.

    By the time a new Churchill is proven right it may be too late.

    • #15
    • May 19, 2015, at 8:10 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    John Walker:

    Misthiocracy:Remember, Churchill only became “Churchill” after the British government had completely screwed the pooch appeasing Hitler.

    Also, in the mind of the public and many in government, Churchill was remembered as the key advocate of the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign in World War I, which had resulted in a humiliating defeat for the Allies and heavy casualties. After resigning in disgrace to take a command on the Western Front, Churchill was seen as a dangerous advocate of ill-conceived military adventures. This coloured the perception of his warnings against German rearmament and territorial ambitions in the 1930s.

    George W. Bush?

    • #16
    • May 19, 2015, at 8:17 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    EJHill:When Hitler & Stalin carved up Poland in September of 1939 it was assumed that that world would return to the horrors of chemical warfare seen during the Great War. It did not.

    This gave Churchill both the advantage having been proven right & the gift of time necessary to save his country. Whoever fills that role today will probably not have that luxury tomorrow.

    While Nazi & Islamic ideology share hatred of the Jews at their core there was still a “rational player” element among the Germans. Hitler thought in terms of an earthly Thousand Year Reich… The Islamicist thinks in terms of martyrdom and rewards that come from beyond.

    By the time a new Churchill is proven right it may be too late.

    You may be right; there were then no atomic bombs. Science has changed things & might make it impossible for politicians to do their work. Then again, science has bestowed on America incredible powers, which might allow her to deal with a terrible threat–after all, the situation is not now the terrifying situation of ’39…

    I find it remarkable that no GOP Senator has made a kind of Delenda est Carthago career of foreign policy in the way Churchill did in the 30’s. He’d be getting documents before the gov’t did, because men who loved their country trusted him to tell the truth to the people, their own fate be damned. That, I think, is a heroic quality almost never seen in a democracy…

    • #17
    • May 19, 2015, at 8:22 AM PDT
    • Like
  18. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Kay of MT:

    Titus Techera:

    carcat74:Would Gingrich fit this role, or too controversial, too close to the situation as it stands?Giuliani is probably too polarizing right now.

    I’d say, the problem with Mr. Gingrich is that he has no experience nor no credibility on foreign affairs.

    Mr. Gingrich will be 72 years old in June. However, he is still extremely, mentally alert. His political experience is extensive, and he is a Historian which gives him exceptional knowledge of world affairs. I think he is the only person we have with the backbone and conads to meet our adversaries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newt_Gingrich

    Ma’am, I say this with some regret, but I have doubts. For one, being a historian has precious little to do with understanding foreign affairs–& he has less experience of that than the current crop of Senators with presidential ambitions. For another, let me recommend this very funny article by Mr. Andrew Ferguson of Weekly Standard about his writings.

    I do not doubt Mr. Gingrich has a head on his shoulders which can be put to serious use. I doubt that he ever does it. I thought his conduct in the campaign of 2012 was unserious; I think he has had years to speak out had he wanted to do so. American politicians, current or former–retaining their titles in perpetuity, apparently–of any stature seem to think it is not worth their time or anybody’s; or they think it futile.

    • #18
    • May 19, 2015, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Tuck:

    Titus Techera:

    Tuck:Guys like Churchill are also pretty rare, historically. Often there is no Churchill, and the country falls.

    True, but America has never lacked for spirited men who at least might think of themselves–& want to be thought of–as Churchillian. Americans may despise the word politician, but say statesman instead & the chests start puffing up rather competitively.

    I’d say Petraeus was the guy who best fit the bill.

    Boy, they fixed him, huh?

    I hope that man can make some kind of turnaround & restore some of his fame. The country needs the advice of someone with his reputation.


    Miffed White Male
    :

    John Walker:

    Misthiocracy:Remember, Churchill only became “Churchill” after the British government had completely screwed the pooch appeasing Hitler.

    Also, in the mind of the public and many in government, Churchill was remembered as the key advocate of the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign in World War I, which had resulted in a humiliating defeat for the Allies and heavy casualties. After resigning in disgrace to take a command on the Western Front, Churchill was seen as a dangerous advocate of ill-conceived military adventures. This coloured the perception of his warnings against German rearmament and territorial ambitions in the 1930s.

    George W. Bush?

    That would be a wonderful turn of events–he could do his country a great service if he could persuade his people that, whatever his past mistakes, he has learned & has done better than anyone else faced with the challenge…

    • #19
    • May 19, 2015, at 8:29 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Tennessee Patriot Member
    Tennessee Patriot Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    lesserson: Ted Cruz has been outspoken in a shotgun kind of way (little here and a little there) on foreign affairs but is considered too polarizing (or crazy if one is on the left).

    Ahhh. “Polarizing” is exactly how Churchill was perceived in his many years before The Big One. He spoke his mind and went against the grain.

    I have recently started re-reading the Churchill biography by Randolph Churchill and Martin Gilbert, courtesy of Hillsdale College. The exact question which is the subject of this post has been running through my mind as I read. I do wonder if Cruz may indeed be the man. He says and does things that rub his betters the wrong way. Of course, they attribute his actions to grandstanding and his not wanting to be a team player, as they would, and Churchill was accused of the same. In fact, Churchill WAS grandstanding, but not for cynical political gain. He wanted to be the leader because he felt it was his destiny and no one could be better than him and no one saw the big picture better than he did. (Con’t)

    • #20
    • May 19, 2015, at 9:25 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Tennessee Patriot Member
    Tennessee Patriot Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    (con’t) Cruz really impressed me when he stood up in Iowa and told his audience he would NOT be supporting ethanol subsidies- the only candidate with the guts to do so. When he fillibustered the spending resolution he went against the weak-kneed Republican leadership whose actions in the past have contributed to our present inability to control spending. IF the entire Republican membership had stood resolutely behind his effort, they may have succeeded. But announcing that there will be no shutdown before the battle has even been engaged was doomed to failure. He just may be the man.

    • #21
    • May 19, 2015, at 9:25 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. Tennessee Patriot Member
    Tennessee Patriot Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    On the other hand, Petraeus, West or Bolton could be great war leaders. Or perhaps Cotton will be the man when the time comes.

    • #22
    • May 19, 2015, at 9:34 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. MarciN Member

    Titus Techera:

    carcat74:Would Gingrich fit this role, or too controversial, too close to the situation as it stands?Giuliani is probably too polarizing right now.

    I’d say, the problem with Mr. Gingrich is that he has no experience nor no credibility on foreign affairs.

    As for Mr. Giuliani–the same is true. Had he made the effort in the years since 2000, he could have achieved much, given his mayoralty of NYC…

    I think it is too late for both now, being so old. But that is neither here nor there–I do not see them taking on the task.

    I don’t know about Giuliani’s skills, but trust me, 70 is not too old to be a great statesman. In fact, I sometimes think it takes seventy years to figure things out. His age does more to explain Reagan’s humor than anything else about him. “Been there, done that.” :) I want someone who is old enough to laugh at the preposterous Democrats.

    • #23
    • May 19, 2015, at 10:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    MarciN:I don’t know about Giuliani’s skills, but 70 is not too old to be a statesman. I sometimes think it takes seventy years to figure things out. age does more to explain Reagan’s humor than anything else about him…I want someone old enough to laugh at the preposterous Democrats.

    True–but it is too late to start building a reputation on foreign policy. Americans do not usually think that national security really is a domesticated version of foreign policy. The Constitution to an extent indulges them in that inclination. But that is a reputation that takes a long time to build. The most shocking thing in the affairs of men is war; it is a rare occurrence, unpredictable, beyond rational control. The politicization of war is our basic attempt to order chaos. There the great politician is free from law insofar as understanding is involved, because he is faced with the extinction of all he loves. He must answer to necessity, not merely to justice. He must find some relation between order & law which is not obvious to most people most of the time…

    FDR is easily criticized–but who in that time would have done better? So with many others, especially Churchill, than whom no man was greater in his age or ours. For a man of that stature to be trusted, for his great independence of mind not to terrify, he needs a long time of proving to his countrymen his service.

    • #24
    • May 19, 2015, at 10:58 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    Tennessee Patriot:(con’t) Cruz really impressed me when he stood up in Iowa and told his audience he would NOT be supporting ethanol subsidies- the only candidate with the guts to do so. When he fillibustered the spending resolution he went against the weak-kneed Republican leadership whose actions in the past have contributed to our present inability to control spending. IF the entire Republican membership had stood resolutely behind his effort, they may have succeeded. But announcing that there will be no shutdown before the battle has even been engaged was doomed to failure. He just may be the man.

    Maybe, but he has not taken foreign policy seriously, to my knowledge. Have you heard of any big statements of his on the matter?

    • #25
    • May 19, 2015, at 11:00 AM PDT
    • Like
  26. Tuck Inactive

    Titus Techera:

    Maybe, but he has not taken foreign policy seriously, to my knowledge. Have you heard of any big statements of his on the matter?

    I think it’s a fallacy that a Presidential candidate must have thought deep thoughts on foreign policy to be successful in foreign policy.

    I detailed the reasons in this post:

    Governors and Foreign Policy

    “What matters in a President are principles, character, and judgment.”

    If you have those, you can learn the rest.

    • #26
    • May 19, 2015, at 11:30 AM PDT
    • Like
  27. EThompson Inactive

    That’s a good question Titus. The answer is that after Washington and Lincoln, we didn’t really need one but the times they are a changin’ and we will come to regret our blitheness.

    • #27
    • May 19, 2015, at 11:33 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    EThompson:That’s a good question Titus. The answer is that after Washington and Lincoln, we didn’t really need one but the times they are a changin’ and we will come to regret our blitheness.

    I think there is a kind of reasonable preference for quiet over greatness in democracies; & it is difficult to produce politicians who impress those know impressive politicians–because the people are so restless about private life–you know–& take so little leisure to concern themselves with nobility, which has always been the education of politics.

    But some part of the country is supposed to be concerned with those dangers that do not show until they are ready. Democrats think everyone’s a democracy–they are only difficultly apprised of the way their confidence & the beliefs of very moral people are abused & betrayed.

    TR was pretty sound on foreign affairs. Afterward, well, there have always been defects of prudence–it is not so hard to see them judging in the light cast by your great founders. But often it seems–the people will only allow so much prudence in their affairs. They can take revenge on politicians who speak the truth-

    • #28
    • May 19, 2015, at 11:53 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. EThompson Inactive

    But some part of the country is supposed to be concerned with those dangers that do not show until they are ready.

    Precisely. The “watchman waketh but in vain.”

    • #29
    • May 19, 2015, at 12:23 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera

    EThompson:

    But some part of the country is supposed to be concerned with those dangers that do not show until they are ready.

    Precisely. The “watchman waketh but in vain. ”

    Yeah, I guess you can call this market failure–but politics is not the market. I think you know not everyone is like you. There are even unlikelier types–men who excel at politics tend to consider great dangers destroying the things they love–they are able to examine the weaknesses in the things they love without thereby ceasing to love them…

    • #30
    • May 19, 2015, at 12:29 PM PDT
    • Like