The Christian Science Monitor, May 25, 1988:

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         Travis Charbeneau  3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221
      Phone: 804 358 0417

                       Liberals and anti-communism
                          Travis Charbeneau
                           slug "softcomm"
                              747 words
    Gosh, those Democrats are doing it again: another hopelessly
liberal ticket. Or is it? Hopeless, that is. Polls show Dukakis
beating Bush despite the governor's liberal background and the
inevitable leftward input Jesse Jackson will have in directing the
party platform and appointments.
    But those of us on the left who consider ourselves more
progressive with a small "p" than upper-case Democrat may wish to keep
the White House Republican.
    Without claiming an airtight analogy, consider what happened after
Ike. A young, "liberal" president squeaked into office seemingly
intent on proving just one thing: that he was not soft on communism
abroad (or socialism at home, for that matter.) Lacking sufficient
courage to sign off on a right-wing plan to overthrow Castro, Kennedy
gave us the Bay of Pigs, followed by the much scarier Cuban Missile
Crisis. Proven soft on communism despite himself, Kennedy sought
other venues to prove his hardness and stuck our nose so far into
Vietnam that we eventually had to leave without it.
    Likewise, leftward domestic legislation on civil rights and
poverty were just too explosive for Kennedy to touch and had to wait
for LBJ (who duly compensated for socialism at home by stepping up the
slaughter of socialists abroad.) Johnson made certain that, whatever
else historians had to say about him, it would not -- by God -- be
that he was soft on communism. Just count the bodies.
    Soft-on-communism is a specter which has haunted American
liberalism with a particular vengeance since WW II. It is the nominal
left's special manifestation of the national pathology about communism
which has driven American post-war foreign policy. This phobia has
resulted in nothing less than a sustained national psychotic episode,
bringing us the restoration of the Shah of Iran, the coup against the
Arbenz reform government in Guatemala, attempts to spike Castro`s
cigars with LSD, the rogue CIA of the '70s, the rogue CIA of the '80s,
Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam and other sorrows too numerous to list, much
less describe, in a single article.
    The first to take Republicans to task for this compulsive
behavior, Democrats have proven crazily vulnerable to it whenever
returned to office. It should not surprise us to learn that only the
Reagan administration has come close to launching the number of covert
operations that Kennedy undertook.
    Indeed, the "soft-on-communism" charge has proven such an
effective hobble in foreign affairs that, should the unlikely notion
strike him at all, only a rightist president can move policy forward.
Only Ike could negotiate the Test Ban Treaty. Only Nixon could go to
China. Jimmy Carter couldn't get SALT II approved to save the farm,
but Ronald Reagan will get INF and perhaps more. It is now gospel
that only Republican presidents can deal with the commies.
    Given that, and the absolute necessity of dealing or dying in the
far advanced nuclear era, we have reason to be wary of another
"liberal" Democratic president.
    Baby boomers who got burned on Vietnam and now constitute a large
percentage of voters may on the whole have a more rational attitude
about communism. (That Gorby does kind of remind us of Andy Divine.)
However, progressive types should not be lulled into thinking our
national phobia is somehow a thing of the past. There are still
plenty of Americans whose political sensibilities atrophied with VE
Day; for whom every commie is a Hitler in disguise, a boogieman poised
under the bed and lusting to eat Texas the very minute Americans show
an ounce of human feeling or an inkling of intelligence.
    The rabid right, convinced now that the commies finally even got
to Ronald Reagan, will be cultivating their computer mailing lists,
watching and waiting. Chances are still very good that any future
Democratic president, even given a Democratic congress, will be
falling all over himself (and anyone else unlucky enough to get in his
way)to prove his anti-communist credentials. "Protesting too much,"
he could, like his predecessors, spend a great deal of time and
treasure proving that his particular shade of pink isn't Red. The
costs for indulging this juvenile obsession would, as in the past, be
painful, perhaps even fatal to behold.
    Until we grow up, it might be better to have a Republican in the
harness of a hostile legislature than some phony liberal out to prove
he's a channel for the ghost of John Foster Dulles.