500th Column: Of Thee I Sing 1776

Hard to believe, even for me.

My first essay in this 500-long series of articles was titled “A Stimulus That Would Work.” It was published twelve years ago on July 21st, 2009, as the nation struggled to regain its footing following the near melt-down of many of its leading financial institutions.

I had asked my friend and brilliant attorney, the late Stephen Porter, to review a draft of the column. He liked what he read and floated the idea of writing an ongoing series of essays, and Of Thee I Sing 1776 was born. In the early years, Steve and I alternated writing the column each week. And, later, when he was no longer able to write because of illness, I made it a point to send him each week’s draft so that he could comment and continue to feel a part of the project. “Stop splitting your infinitives,” he would delight in telling me.

As I write today’s essay my wife, Diane, and I are on our way to Washington, D.C. (Thursday, July 8th) to say goodbye to Steve’s wife, Susan, who passed away just 24 hours ago. Susan and Diane were first cousins and, of greater note, lifetime closest of friends. It is a sad time for us.

I profess no great expertise regarding any of the subjects about which I write. The best self-endorsement I can offer to my readers is that I consistently work at staying informed, mostly because I enjoy the process. I try hard to corroborate the efficacy of any information that captures my interest. I have learned, time and time again, that “information” is often just supercharged noise intentionally crafted or carelessly repeated, as news. To an alarming degree, faux news is just fraud noise regardless of how “news-like” it is formatted and served to the public.

During the dozen years this column has been published, it has, or more forthrightly, I have drawn the ire of both sides of the political spectrum. In the early years, many readers voiced surprise and disappointment that I was “so right-wing” because I was pretty critical of how Obamacare was sold to the public and even more critical of the partisan manner in which it was legislated into law.

Barack Obama became a strong candidate for the Presidency of the United States in 2008 primarily because of a great keynote speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic Convention. He really had no impressive accomplishments that commended him to the Presidency before that event, nor had he been considered a particularly effective legislator while serving in the Illinois legislature. He had excellent oratory skills and a great team of political advisors. As it turned out, however, he rose to the occasion remarkably well. While I did not vote for him, I told many people that I considered his election to the Presidency of the United States to be one of the greatest American moments of my lifetime.

Nonetheless, these columns were rather consistently, and often harshly, critical of the Obama Presidency, although there were, of course, exceptions. For example, I applauded the signing of the NEW START TREATY by Presidents Obama and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev and was highly critical of Republican partisan bickering. I wrote, at the time, “There are many battles worth waging between Republicans and Democrats. This doesn’t seem to be one of them.” 

The treaty had been endorsed by virtually all of the Pentagon high command, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and each of the service chiefs, as well as Republican Senator Richard Lugar, and many Republican foreign policy experts, including former Secretaries of State James Baker, George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, national security advisor to President George H. W. Bush, General Brent Scowcroft, and Colin Powell. It was clear that the Senate Republicans were unwilling to see Obama get credit for anything positive. 

Now, I frequently draw critical fire from the right because I have so often lamented the divisiveness of the Trump presidency and the depths to which I believe he has dragged (and is dragging) down the state of discourse in our country. The Trump presidency will, I believe, in the years ahead often rank alongside the James Buchanan Presidency. While James Buchanan, unlike Donald Trump, probably had the best resume of anyone who ever aspired to the Office of President, he was, nonetheless, the incredibly wrong man for the time. James Buchanan ineptly presided over a presidency that all but assured war between the confederacy and the union.

Donald Trump was, in my opinion, also the wrong man for the time and for the office. His self-aggrandizement coupled with his poor judgment led him to send a mob to the United States Capitol to “fight like hell” to convince Vice President Mike Pence not to perform his ceremonial constitutional duty to announce the count of the electors’ ballots that had been certified by every American Governor, both Democrat, and Republican. Trump’s insurrection was, to him, necessary because, under our remarkable constitution, the President cannot fire the Vice President. Thank you James Madison.

I do not write these columns with the hope or expectation that people will embrace my point of view, but only that readers will consider the relevance of the perspective I try to present each week. That is all any opinion writer has the right to expect.

These 500 columns, to a great extent, have captured my evolving perspective on public policy and politics in America. If there is a conclusion to be drawn, it is, perhaps, that we as a nation travel far from the collaborative center, either to the left or the right, at our national peril.   

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All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the essay’s subject or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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15 thoughts on “500th Column: Of Thee I Sing 1776”

  1. When it’s 9:00 am on Sunday, I look for your essay.
    You give us context regarding Steve and his wife. You take the opportunity to review your political positions with others.
    Your passion for history is undeniable.
    My day gets better after your essay is read.

  2. It is with great admiration that I thank you for the effort and
    knowledge and extraordinary skill that has resulted in 500 weekly columns. While I didn’t agree with your perspective on all of them, without exception they have all been worth reading and what ever the topic well reported. The world has changed greatly since 2009 and in my view sadly, particularly in the United States, far more in peril.
    I look forward to edition 501 and many more thereafter.

  3. Hal,
    It is admirable that you devote so much of your time to present all of us with such a wonderful perspective of the world.
    Thank you.

  4. congratulations on the milestone of so many essays. They are thoughtful and provocative. I look forward to reading them each time . I am not always in agreement with your outlook on some things but that stimulates my thinking and prospective.
    Sherry Schor

  5. Great article Hal. I love your definition of “ information” and the different perspectives you share. Congratulations on completing 500 articles. That is truly a labor of love.
    Thank you also for mentioning the passing of our dear Susan. May her memory always be a blessing.

  6. Sometimes we need to know when not to get into the sandbox with those you don’t approve but look for the positives.

  7. Hal, Our sincere condolence on the loss our your/our Susan, loved by all that knew her. Our hearts and prayers go out to you, Diane and family, she truly was one of a kind. I loved her ….

  8. Dear Hal and Diane, I am so very sorry for your double loss of Steve, and now Susan. May there memories be for a blessing, Amidst all the debate, there is nothing like good friends to remind us of what’s really important. I am grateful to know you both and call you friends. I am grateful to have discovered Of Thee I Sing 1776, though I came late to the party. Thank you for your statement about the necessity of the collaborative center. “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford

  9. Barbara and I look forward to Sunday treat. Keep up the great work. Shelly Weisberg

  10. I never miss your well written perspective on the weeks events. Here’s to the next five hundred (HALEVAI)! Irv

  11. Your creative writings have been very impressive and thought-provoking. Cheers to your next 500.

  12. You deserve a great deal of positive credit for writing 500 very well done essays that have brought a lot of thought to many readers—include me in that group. I haven’t agreed with certain points of view on issues and people but that makes your work more interesting to me.

  13. You add much to my life and I so appreciate you and your
    knowledge and you sense of fairness. Thank you for
    all that you teach us.

    Lolly

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