Monday, December 24, 2012

Crapo Arrested for DUI

The following statement was released by the Idaho Democratic Party in response to the Sunday morning arrest of Idaho's senior United States senator:

Senator Mike Crapo was arrested early Sunday morning by Alexandria police in the D.C. area after he ran a stoplight and was suspected of driving under the influence. The breathalyzer test he received measure his blood alcohol content at .111.

The news that Senator Mike Crapo had been arrested came as a shock to many Idahoans who might have considered Crapo to be the least likely of Idaho's delegation to be in a mess such as this. And as the chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party notes, whether the Idaho Republican Party wants to admit it or not, they have the appearance of an organization bent on embarrassing the state they represent.

This is the second time in less than six years that Idaho has been in the news for a U.S. senator's arrest. Larry Craig, of course, was arrested in 2007 for lewd conduct in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hitchcock: If Not Now, When?

Editor's Note: The following piece was submitted to the Idaho State Journal by Leonard Hitchcock and appears here with his generous permission.


According to the New York Times, on the day that a young man in Connecticut shot twenty children at an elementary school with a gun, a man in China assaulted twenty-two children at an elementary school with a knife.  All twenty of the Connecticut victims died; none of the Chinese children did.  These incidents underline both the efficiency of firearms, and one reason why they constitute a substantially greater danger to the public than knives.

Once could elaborate on this lesson.  In a violent confrontation between two people, the chances of death resulting for one or both of the parties is, in part, a function of the instruments of violence in use.  A gun is a more effective inflictor of damage than a knife, which is, in turn, is more effective than fists.  A gun can also be utilized more quickly, and at a distance. 

If what prompts the use of a weapon is sudden rage, a gun is therefore more likely to cause serious harm than implements that are either less effective or that can only be brought into use more slowly and at close range.  It is well known that rage ebbs sooner or later, and that the continuation of violence, for humans and many other animals, is inhibited by one of the combatants showing signs of injury and/or an unwillingness to prolong the fight.  Hence, “fighting to the death” in cases of conflicts between animals of the same species (as opposed to predator/prey interactions) is usually avoided.  But if one of the combatants is able, when at the height of anger (or fear), to quickly employ a lethal weapon that is very efficient in inflicting mortal wounds, and to do so before the other is able to exhibit submissive behavior (or an abatement of anger), the chances of death are greatly increased. 

And what if both combatants have guns?  I have not found data pertinent to this situation, but my guess would be that under those circumstances the probability of death increases, especially if one takes into consideration the law’s propensity (as in, e.g., Florida) to regard preemptive strikes as justifiable when there is a perceived threat of serious bodily harm.

(There are those who hold the seemingly-paradoxical belief that if we were all armed with guns, fewer of us would be killed by them.  This reasoning would suggest, by extension, that the world would be a safer place if all nations, including Iran, possessed deployable nuclear weapons.)

Of course the conflict scenario considered above – something on the order of a bar fight -- is only one of many circumstances in which lethal violence can occur.  If causing death is someone’s conscious plan, for example, then, while it is still the case that using a firearm to achieve that aim is a more efficient means than most others, the assailant is less likely to be inhibited by submissive behavior on the part of the victim.

Yet it seems obvious that, no matter what the circumstances, public safety would be enhanced by reducing the frequency with which violent confrontations involve the use of guns.  That would mean, among other things, reducing the likelihood that people prone to engage in such confrontations, i.e. those particularly subject to sudden rage or those who suffer from mental conditions which foster the desire to kill others, would possess firearms.

It will be objected, no doubt, that citizens have a Constitutionally-protected right to possess such firearms.  To which the obvious response is that no Constitutional right is absolute.  Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater or inciting a mob to burn down a building are impermissible exercises of the right of free speech.  Generally speaking, when the public’s welfare and wellbeing are seriously endangered by actions formally classifiable as protected rights, then it is justifiable to deprive those actions of protection.   There is no reason at all that gun ownership, whatever the Second Amendment might be taken to mean, should not be subject to the same rule. 

An incident such as the Connecticut killings provides a further incentive – if one was needed – to extend controls on gun ownership and use.  Guns designed for military use, such as the Bushmaster used by the killer in Newtown, should not be available to civilians.  Neither should large ammunition magazines or clips.  Guns of any kind should not be sold to persons with criminal records or records suggesting a predilection for violence, or to persons suffering from personality disorders likely to entail violence.  Background checks should be required for all gun sales, not just those involving commercial dealers, and information for such background checks should be collected from all relevant sources.

Eli Wiesel, holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner wrote in the New York Daily News on Dec. 17th, “If this tragedy does not produce universal gun control, what can and what will?  What else do we need for preventing further horrors such as this?”

If not now, when?

Dale Murphy's Final Hall of Fame Ballot

Editor's Note: This piece was published at on December 18th.

This January when the Hall of Fame voters submit their ballots for this summer’s induction ceremony, Dale Murphy will be appearing on the ballot for his fifteenth and final time. Murph, as we fans of the former Atlanta Brave refer to him, peaked his second year on the ballot with 23.2% of the vote. Unlike so many inducted into the Hall, Murph didn’t continue to rise in voting percentage. The reality of this is, for the most part, a travesty for the game of baseball.
Dale Murphy played the entirety of his career for teams that simply couldn’t compete despite his best effort on the field. Where his numbers fall short, one should consider how much better he could have been had he been surrounded by winning teams. Had he played during Atlanta’s dynasty years in the 90s, there would be no question about his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Of the nine numbers retired by the Atlanta Braves, four of those players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame (Spahn, Mathews, Aaron, Neikro). Without question four of those players will be inducted into the Hall in the next three years (Cox, Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine). There is no question that Chipper Jones will be inducted into the Hall and his number will be retired by the Braves next summer. That leaves only Dale Murphy. Murph’s number was retired in 1994 by Atlanta.
Recently, Joe Posnanski wrote that beyond what Dale Murphy did on the field, “Murphy was a class act, someone who took being a role model seriously, and in many ways he was the first baseball hero that the American South could call its own.” This is the crux of the matter. Not the numbers, though no one will argue with back-t0-back MVP awards for a team that was terrible, two home run titles and four remarkable seasons of not missing a single game. The Dale Murphy case for the Hall of Fame is bigger than the ubiquitous baseball statistics.
Here is where I make my pitch as a fan of the game, not just the beat writer for BravesWire.
Little-known fact: This beat writer covering the premiere Southern team, the Atlanta Braves, writes this column from her home in Idaho. Out West, guys like Dale Murphy are revered for one particular reason–faith. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as Mormon, Dale Murphy is one of the higher profile members of the Church. Growing up in a Mormon community, the most followed sports stars were Danny Ainge, Thurl Bailey, Shawn Bradley, Danny White, Merril Hoge, Steve Young and Dale Murphy. People didn’t follow these stars just because they were Mormon, they followed them because they were notoriously good guys. Perhaps it is their Mormon faith that instilled in them a certain type of character, a type of character that required them to not drink alcohol or use drugs, but I believe it is far more than that.
Dale Murphy has given as much of himself off the field as he did as a player on the field. He has been an advocate for a number of charities, he has worked tirelessly for and given generously to his church, and he started his own organization promotion integrity among little league baseball players. As a teammate, he was known for his work ethic and leadership. He set an example for each of his teammates, not only for his teetotaling lifestyle, but also for the way he treated the fans. Imagine a 2-time MVP today who would never turn away a fan who wanted an autograph and who would not allow female fans to hang all over him in pictures. Both are unheard of today. As a MLB alum, he continues to be known for his leadership and continued devotion to the game. Dale Murphy is a familiar face at charity events and anything promoting the Braves franchise.
Does off-the-field behavior matter? It should. Do good guys finish last? Unfortunately, this is too often true. But it shouldn’t be the case.
As the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise for a decade, as a credit to the game of baseball and as one of the most liked players to ever wear the uniform, Dale Murphy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Senator Kerry and the Disabilities Treaty

Editor's Note: As a precursor to what I hope to write about tomorrow, please find fifteen minutes to watch then incredibly moving speech by Senator John Kerry on the floor of the Senate yesterday urging the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The treaty, requiring two-thirds of the United States Senate in favor, failed 61-38.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Retirement of Chipper Jones

When Chipper Jones came on the scene in 1993, the Atlanta Braves were beginning one of the best runs in the history of Major League Baseball. The Braves had won the past 2 division titles, the first 2 of a storied run of 14-straight division titles. Chipper Jones was part of 12 of them. With the likes of Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, McGriff, and Justice, Chipper joined a roster of some of the greatest Atlanta Braves as a baby-faced Septmeber call-up in 1993. As the first pick of the 1990 amateur draft, the expectations for Chipper were high. And in his 19-year career with the Atlanta Braves, he exceeded expectations and became not only the face of the franchise, but one of the most beloved players to ever wear an Atlanta uniform.

It's hard to imagine a time when Chipper Jones wasn't the player to watch, mostly because all eyes always seemed to be on him. Whether it was as a rookie recovering from a devastating knee injury after his lost 1994 season, as a guy in his prime contending for and winning the 1999 MVP, or in his final year as he was greeted in cities all across this country by fans who have appreciated his baseball career, Chipper was never under the radar. Like Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones was not only the face of his team, he became an ambassador for the game of baseball.

As Braves fans, we have had the pleasure of watching Chipper take the field each season. There were some who said he should have retired several years ago. There were some who tired of his many injuries. There were some who said his value as trade bait was far greater than his value on the actual roster. But then there were the rest of us. We waited out his injuries. We cheered for his batting title in 2008 and didn't give up on him the following year when he hit .264. We cringed in 2010 when Chipper came down on his leg after a spectacular defensive play and tore his ACL. As he was helped off the field, we worried that we would be left with that final image of Chipper Jones and would not see him on a big league field again. In the last several years as his power numbers and home runs dropped off, we delighted in his clutch hits and his many walks. And finally, as "Crazy Train" played on PA speakers in stadiums around the country during the 2012 season and Chipper stepped to the plate, we all took that moment to marvel at the third baseman's career and accept that those plate appearances were quickly running out.

Though Chipper's career came to an end on a strange night at Turner Field, a night that saw controversy and unprecedented fan reaction to a bad call, the beauty of a storied career is that even a bad night is just a blip on the timeline of greatness. Sure, Atlanta fans will be sore for some time over the infield fly call that ended a rally in a bizarre Wild Card playoff (or play-in) game, but their anger will soon fade and all they will remember is that was the night they saw the face of the franchise take the field one final time. Hopefully the fans that were at Turner Field participating in the melee will one day regret that they didn't give Chipper Jones the send off following the game that they gave long-time manager Bobby Cox after his final game. 

With Chipper Jones' retirement comes something else that he and Braves fans can be proud of: He never cheated the game or himself. Chipper Jones will enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot as an Atlanta Brave (perhaps one of the last single-team stars) and as a man who played in an era tainted by substances that he chose not to put in his body despite the possibility of them advancing his career. With time and as new generations of fans discover the game, the taint of the steroid era will no longer hang like a cloud over players of Chipper's generation and new generations of fans will appreciate the integrity of men like Chipper Jones.

When Hall of Fame voters look at Chipper's numbers, they will note that Jones is in elite company. Only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray have more switch-hit home runs in baseball history than Chipper. He trails only Murray in RBIs by a switch-hitter. And when career batting average, home runs, doubles, walks and on-base percentage and slugging percentage are compared to other players throughout baseball history, Chipper finds himself in the company of Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig. Elite company is an understatement.

Where do the Braves go in a post-Chipper era? There will be much discussion about who fills the hole at third base and who can hit in the third spot in the lineup, a spot Chipper has more or less occupied his entire big league career. There will be much discussion about veteran leadership in the clubhouse and who the new face of the franchise is. Can Martin Prado play everyday at third base? Of course. There are few things Prado can't do and maybe all the position shuffling has simply been a tryout for him to take the position in Chipper's absence. Can Brian McCann step up in the clubhouse and lead the young club, including the pitching staff, to the kind of greatness Chipper saw with the teams of the 90s? He can once he returns from shoulder surgery and as long as he stays in Atlanta after becoming a free agent.

In all the post-Chipper discussion, what will become immediately apparent is there will never be another Chipper Jones for the Atlanta Braves. The shoes he has left to fill are simply never going to be filled by one man.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Smorgasbord Saturday





Afternoon tunes today include Jon McLaughlin's Promising Promises; Liam Titcomb's "Landslide" (featured on this week's Bones episode, "The Bod in the Pod"); both Miranda Lambert's original "Over You" as well as the version performed by Cassadee Pope on The Voice; and, "Try" by Pink.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

TDIH: Kennedy and the Two Thanksgivings

A year prior to his assassination in Dallas, President Kennedy stood before a large audience in the State Department auditorium to discuss the continued draw down of offensive weapons on the island of Cuba by the Soviet Union.

In that speech, Kennedy spoke of the steps being taken by Chairman Khrushchev to meet the missile removal agreement. He also spoke of the lessons of the crisis and offered this:

"In this week of Thanksgiving, there is much for which we can be grateful as we look back to where we stood only four weeks ago--the unity of this Hemisphere, the support of our allies, and the calm determination of the American people. These qualities may be tested many more times in this decade, but we have increased reason to be confident that those qualities will continue to serve the cause of freedom with distinction in the years to come."
Following a crisis that brought the world the closest it has ever been to nuclear war, the country had much to be thankful for. Not resting on his laurels, the vibrant Kennedy also announced an executive order requiring all federal agencies to take all action necessary, including legal action, to prevent housing discrimination in housing owned by, for sale or lease by or insured by federally guaranteed loans.

Thanksgiving of 1962 brought the country much for which to be grateful. Just a year later, they would be collectively grieving for their young president.

On this day, just a year after the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy was struck down in Dallas by a sniper who would be killed himself just two days later. 

Two Thanksgivings, the stark contrast as evident as day and night.

Friday, November 16, 2012

TGIF Tunes

"Feather on the Clyde" by Passenger, as featured on last night's Elementary. In case you haven't noticed, I'm really digging this guy lately.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Middle of the Week Mélange

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bad Candidates and Bad Messages

When we think of the notoriously bad candidates of the 2012 election cycle, a list would certainly include Todd Akin of Missouri, Mark Clayton of Tennessee and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. Akin, of "legitimate rape" comment fame, was arrested a minimum of eight times while protesting at abortion clinics during the 80s. In a race against an unpopular Democrat, Akin blew his chance at winning the seat and the Republicans having a shot at control of the Senate. Clayton, a floor installer by day and conspiracy theorist at night, believes he doesn't have to campaign for the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat because Jesus didn't have a campaign staff. He raised $500 against Senator Corker and that $500 may only buy him his own vote. Mourdock fell into the same message disaster as Akin, commenting that rape is something God intended. Mourdock unseated Dick Lugar in the primary and will now hand over the seat to the Democrats on election day.

What each bad candidate in the 2012 election cycle has in common is that they fell into the bad message trap. If they had stayed on message and avoided the damaging messages altogether, they would certainly be in better shape.

Idaho is no stranger to this bad candidate/bad message pitfall. Remember Cynthia Clinkingbeard who came out of nowhere to challenge Jimmy Farris in the Democratic primary for the second congressional district seat? Clearly being arrested in Staples for pulling a gun and then pleading guilty to the offense were not on message. To be honest, it's hard to say with Clinkingbeard if there ever was a message. On a lesser scale, there are a few candidates that seem to be damaging their chances with the messages they've chosen throughout the campaign and, in some cases, earlier in their careers.

Let's start with Brent Crane. Brent Crane is running for re-election to the Idaho House in district 13. Crane, who had little visibility on the ground in Nampa, may have suddenly felt some pressure when his opponent personally knocked on hundreds of doors and had signs going up all over the district. Surely thinking his family name would be enough, that and his hard-right credentials gained from sponsoring the ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Let's remember that Crane is the very man who said that God has the "ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.” Meaning the act of rape or incest that results in a pregnancy. Nobody seems to be talking about his. Voters have a short memory.

But is Brent Crane making abortion his message this election? Of course not. What are the issues Crane wants voters to know about? Taxes, gay marriage, gun rights and union membership. Yes, that scary issue of gay marriage that the Idaho voters decided on in 2006. On his hastily prepared mailer, perhaps sent suddenly (obvious by the lack of editing and design) due to the confident campaign of his opponent, Crane notes that his opponent, Clayton Trehal, "will not vote to lower taxes." How can that be true? Has he had the chance to vote on any tax measures? Nope. Has he said he will not lower taxes ever? Nope. Crane says that Trehal refused to answer where he stands on gun rights, but that the NRA has given Crane an 'A' rating. This matters how? Has there been a sudden push in the Idaho Legislature to control guns. Of course not. The final issue Crane raises is that of union membership. Crane points out that he has never been a member of a labor union and his opponent has. Trehal is an educator. Is it really a surprise that he has been a member of a union? When did being a member of a union become a scarlet letter? Does Trehal's union membership hurt the district? There were former union members in the legislature when the Luna Laws passed and it didn't make a bit of difference. Crane is attempting to tie his opponent to those scary, thuggish unions that are against the Luna laws and his message falls flat. Crane says that "Nampa does not need a 'moderate' democrat representing them in Boise." Neither do they need a representative who can't properly capitalize anything on his mailer.

Greg Romriell is running for the Idaho Senate is district 29, the seat previously held by Diane Bilyeu. Romriell has centered his campaign on the message of integrity. An interesting message for a candidate to plaster on his campaign literature and an effective one for most candidates who are running against a candidate with integrity issues. However, Romriell's opponent, Rep. Roy Lacey is as honest as they come. The candidate in this race with questionable integrity is Romriell himself. 

Think back to the gubernatorial race of 2006. In the GOP primary, one of Butch Otter's opponents was a man named Dan Adamson. Adamson made a name for himself in the campaign by promising a taco to any Idahoan who took a picture of their ballot as they were presumably marking it for Adamson. Turns out this promise in itself wasn't illegal. Adamson then spent nearly his entire campaign warchest on billboards throughout the state that stayed up long after the election. Who funded these billboards? None other than Greg Romriell and his brother Dwight. They put their money and their southern Idaho clout behind Adamson. The Romriell family is one of the influential players in the Pocatello area and had their friends, family and fellow Mormons throwing their support behind Adamson. 

Why does a failed gubernatorial race matter? It matters because of the relationship between Romriell and Adamson. These two men don't portray integrity. Dating back to at least 2002, Romriell, his brother Dwight and Adamson were involved in various business dealings. Dwight Romriell and Adamson purchased property in a Chubbuck subdivision and planned to convert it into an assisted living facility. Adamson acquired or started a number of such facilities in the early 2000s. When the homeowner's association refused the request of Adamson and Romriell to convert a single family home for this purpose, the two men went ahead with the plan and began renovation. When the homeowner's association took the two men to court, instead of admitting they were in the wrong, the two men then filed countersuits naming each member of the association. Adamson and Romriell were in the wrong and lost the case. This wasn't the first time that Adamson had gone to court and lost.

Had they gone ahead with the project, chances are good that, like Adamson's other facilities, the home would have been repeatedly cited by the state for poor practices. What Greg Romriell's relationship was with Adamson's company, Northwest Bec-Corp, is unknown, but what is known is what happened to Adamson. In 2009, Adamson was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for tax evasion. Adamson deducted federal income taxes from his employees wages, but never handed over those funds to the IRS. At least six of Adamson's Idaho assisted living facilities were knowingly delinquent on their property taxes. In addition to his prison term and probation, Adamson was disbarred in Idaho. Here is a man that Romriell had been friends with for decades. Dwight and Greg Romriell, two pillars of the Pocatello community, had gone to church with Dan Adamson, had done business with him and trusted him enough to put their money and name behind him in a run for governor. What does it say about Greg Romriell's judgement of character and his own personal integrity that he would be so deeply entrenched in the dishonest dealings of Dan Adamson?

While Romriell has made the message of his campaign one of integrity, Roy Lacey has proven that he is a man of integrity and the best candidate for the job.

The residents of Canyon County have been inundated by Robert Muse signs. But what many of them don't realize as they see the Robert Muse for Constitutional Sheriff van driving 20 mph up and down the Nampa-Caldwell boulevard is that Robert Muse is not running as a Constitutional candidate in the sense that he is a member of the Constitutional Party, he is not. He is running as an "independent conservative" for the seat of constitutional sheriff.

What is a constitutional sheriff? Tenthers, people who believe that the actions of the federal government are unconstitutional according to the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and others on the right-wing fringe including Posse Comitatus, have caused a rise in constitutional sheriff candidates around the country. These folks believe that the sheriff is the highest constitutional authority in the county and has the authority to prevent federal agents from entering the county to conduct business of a criminal justice nature or otherwise. In other words, they believe that the sheriff is the supreme law of the land and should any federal official enter the county, they immediately come under the jurisdiction of the sheriff.

To be clear, there is no portion of the United States Constitution that gives a county sheriff such power. And the Constitution certainly doesn't give the county sheriff the power to "stop hostile union take over" and "stop urban renewal tax and spend" as Mr. Muse claims he will. The message Muse is employing is one of catch phrases. By talking about unions, political machines, urban renewal, and even to an extent arming the American citizenry, Muse may appeal to the conservative voters of Canyon County.

It is disconcerting to note the number of Muse signs that are popping up. While the Canyon County Sheriff's Office has had some controversy in the past, nothing they have done warrants the kind of support Muse is receiving. To their credit, the Idaho Press-Tribune endorsed Muse's opponent, Kieren Donahue, not once mentioning Muse in doing so. However, they did give Muse an outlet for his ramblings (and very large photo of himself with Sheriff Joe Arpaio).

Muse is not the only candidate for sheriff in Idaho running under the guise of protecting the Constitution and limiting the power of the federal government. Ted Dunlap of Ada County is running under the same banner. Dunlap, if you remember, is the man behind the informed jury flyers that got perennial candidate Rex Rammell arrested for jury tampering.

If you look beyond the hot button topics and really delve into what these men mean by constitutional sheriff, you'll find their message is both suspicious and scary.

Friday, November 2, 2012

TGIF Tunes

Passenger performing "Let Her Go."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis: Day Thirteen

Sunday morning, October 28th, Americans awoke on the thirteenth day of the crisis to news that Chairman Khrushchev had announced the Soviet Union would remove their missiles from Cuba.

To ensure the United States receive his response to the letter President Kennedy wrote him the day before and the ultimatum given to Ambassador Dobrynin by Robert Kennedy, Khrushchev not only sent his message via telegram to the State Department, he broadcast his message on Soviet radio (he knew the United States would be monitoring this). 

"In order to eliminate as rapidly as possible the conflict which endangers the cause of peace, to give an assurance to all people who crave peace, and to reassure the American people, who, I am certain, also want peace, as do the people of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Government, in addition to earlier instructions on the discontinuation of further work on weapons construction sites, has given a new order to dismantle the arms which you described as offensive, and to crate and return them to the Soviet Union.
"I regard with respect and trust the statement you made in your message of October 27, 1962, that there would be no attack, no invasion of Cuba, and not only on the part of the United States, but also on the part of other nations of the Western Hemisphere, as you said in your same message. Then the motives which induced us to render assistance of such a kind to Cuba disappear.
"It is for this reason that we instructed our officers—these means as I had already informed you earlier are in the hands of the Soviet officers—to take appropriate measures to discontinue construction of the aforementioned facilities, to dismantle them, and to return them to the Soviet Union. As I had informed you in the letter of October 27, we are prepared to reach agreement to enable United Nations Representatives to verify the dismantling of these means.
"Thus in view of the assurance you have given and our instructions on dismantling, there is every condition for eliminating the present conflict."
In addition to informing the United States of his decision to dismantle the weapons in Cuba, Khrushchev opened the door for future negotiations with the United States about nuclear weapons. He wrote:
"We should like to continue the exchange of views on the prohibition of atomic and thermonuclear weapons, general disarmament, and other problems relating to the relaxation of international tension."

By opening this door, Khrushchev led the Soviet Union into a negotiations the following year with the United States culminating in the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

In addition to reaching out to President Kennedy, Chairman Khrushchev informed Prime Minister Castro that the missiles would be removed from his country and asked him to not provoke the American pilots that would continue reconnaissance flights until the missiles were removed. Few Americans would disagree that these tense days in October of 1962 represented the best diplomatic moments of both Khrushchev and Kennedy's political careers.

After assembling the members of Ex-Comm (audio of that meeting available here), President Kennedy responded to Chairman Khrushchev's radio message as the telegram had not yet arrived. Accepting the terms of the withdrawal of the missiles and thanking Khrushchev for his devotion to peace, Kennedy, too, mentioned the potential for future disarmament:
"Mr. Chairman, both of our countries have great unfinished tasks and I know that your people as well as those of the United States can ask for nothing better than to pursue them free from the fear of war. Modern science and technology have given us the possibility of making labor fruitful beyond anything that could have been dreamed of a few decades ago.
"I agree with you that we must devote urgent attention to the problem of disarmament, as it relates to the whole world and also to critical areas. Perhaps now, as we step back from danger, we can together make real progress in this vital field. I think we should give priority to questions relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, on earth and in outer space, and to the great effort for a nuclear test ban. But we should also work hard to see if wider measures of disarmament can be agreed and put into operation at an early date. The United States Government will be prepared to discuss these questions urgently, and in a constructive spirit, at Geneva or elsewhere."
While the day's biggest victory came in Khrushchev's promise to remove the missiles in Cuba, the importance of the discussion about disarmament cannot be overlooked or underestimated.

Secretary General U Thant
The proposal agreed upon by the United States and Soviet Union was welcomed by United Nations Secretary General U Thant. The UN would be responsible for supervising the removal of the missiles in Cuba. A large responsibility that fell to U Thant was negotiating with Castro who felt the Soviets were being weak in their removal of the missiles. Castro invited U Thant to Cuba and U Thant felt the opportunity would allow him to discuss with Castro how the process and supervision of the missile removal would occur.

Castro, as he had throughout the crisis, remained a wild card. In response to news that Khrushchev had acquiesed, Castro sent letters to both Khrushchev and U Thant outlining his many objections to the agreement. Castro wrote to Khrushchev that the Cubans "are opposed, by principle, to inspections on our territory." This appeared, along with the issue of American's violating the Cuban airspace, a major concern of Castro.

Secretary Rusk delivered the message of Khrushchev and the agreement between the two super powers to the Organization of American States. It was essential that the Latin American countries understand that the quarantine would remain in place until the United Nations could confirm that the missiles had been dismantled and removed from Cuba.

Though victory had been secured, President Kennedy warned the members of Ex-Comm to refrain from celebration. After meeting with Ex-Comm Sunday morning and early afternoon, Kennedy did not take time away from the oval office. He sat down and wrote a letter to Mrs. Anderson, the wife of the U-2 pilot shot down over Cuba.
Khrushchev's entire letter is available from the State Department's Office of the Historian. The Office of the Historian at State offers a treasure trove of resources related to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy foreign policy.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis: Day Twelve

October 27, 1962, is the closest the world has ever been to nuclear war. 

The United States had before it two conflicting messages from Chairman Khrushchev, each proposing different ends. Yet, despite the conflicting messages, the moment of greatest danger came when the United States learned that a U-2 pilot had been shot down while on a reconnaissance mission over Cuba.

Khrushchev's second letter, received Saturday morning, did not mention his previous letter and instead referenced the United States' missiles in Turkey. Khrushchev's proposal in the second letter was an exchange of sorts--U.S. missiles in Turkey removed in exchange for the dismantling of missiles in Cuba. This proposal, like that in the first, asked the United States to promise not to attack or invade Cuba. However, unlike the first letter, the second said the Soviet Union would also promise not to invade or attack the U.S. missile sites in Turkey.

A portion of the letter received by Kennedy from Khrushchev:
"I therefore make this proposal: We are willing to remove from Cuba the means which you regard as offensive. We are willing to carry this out and to make this pledge in the United Nations. Your representatives will make a declaration to the effect that the United States, for its part, considering the uneasiness and anxiety of the Soviet State, will remove its analogous means from Turkey. Let us reach agreement as to the period of time needed by you and by us to bring this about. And, after that, persons entrusted by the United Nations Security Council could inspect on the spot the fulfillment of the pledges made. Of course, the permission of the Governments of Cuba and of Turkey is necessary for the entry into those countries of these representatives and for the inspection of the fulfillment of the pledge made by each side. Of course it would be best if these representatives enjoyed the confidence of the Security Council, as well as yours and mine--both the United States and the Soviet Union--and also that of Turkey and Cuba. I do not think it would be difficult to select people who would enjoy the trust and respect of all parties concerned.
"We, in making this pledge, in order to give satisfaction and hope of the peoples of Cuba and Turkey and to strengthen their confidence in their security, will make a statement within the framework of the Security Council to the effect that the Soviet Government gives a solemn promise to respect the inviolability of the borders and sovereignty of Turkey, not to interfere in its internal affairs, not to invade Turkey, not to make available our territory as a bridgehead for such an invasion, and that it would also restrain those who contemplate committing aggression against Turkey, either from the territory of the Soviet Union or from the territory of Turkey's other neighboring states.
"The United States Government will make a similar statement within the framework of the Security Council regarding Cuba. It will declare that the United States will respect the inviolability of Cuba's borders and its sovereignty, will pledge not to interfere in its internal affairs, not to invade Cuba itself or make its territory available as a bridgehead for such an invasion, and will also restrain those who might contemplate committing aggression against Cuba, either from the territory of the United States or from the territory of Cuba's other neighboring states."
President Kennedy and the members of Ex-Comm were understandably baffled by the change of tone in the second letter and the divergence from the proposal presented in the first letter.

Major Rudolph Anderson, Jr., USAF
As the members of Ex-Comm were considering the possibilities of the second letter, word came that Major Rudolph Anderson had been shot down over Cuba by one of the missile sites while conducting what was now a routine surveillance flight over the sites.

It was then, in the words of Castro, "that the moment of maximum tension occurred."

The United States was now faced with two very real possibilities: First, the United States would have to respond to the downed American pilot, and second, any action on their part might result in a Soviet invasion of Turkey. Both the shooting down of the pilot and Khrushchev's second letter were now dangerously intertwined.

At one point during the lengthy Ex-Comm meeting on the 27th, President Kennedy left the room and Secretary of Defense McNamara presented four propositions to the members of the committee:
Robert McNamara: Let me state my propositions over again. First, we must be in a position to attack quickly. We've been fired on today. We are going to send surveillance aircraft tomorrow. Those are going to be fired on without question. We're going to respond. You can't do this very long. We're going to lose airplanes, and we'll be shooting up Cuba quite a bit, but we're going to lose airplanes every day. So you can't just maintain this position very long. So we must be prepared to attack Cuba--quickly. That's the first proposition. Now the second proposition. When we attack Cuba we're going to have to attack with an all-out attack.... I personally believe that this is almost certain to lead to an invasion. I won't say certain to, but almost certain to lead to an invasion-
Douglas Dillon: Unless you get a cease-fire around the world-
Robert McNamara: That's the second proposition.
McGeorge Bundy: Or a general [nuclear] war.
Robert McNamara: The third proposition is that we do this, and leave those missiles in Turkey, the Soviet Union may, and I think probably will, attack the Turkish missiles. Now the fourth proposition is, if the Soviet Union attacks the Turkish missiles, we must respond. We cannot allow a military response by NATO.
Since the discovery of the missile sites in Cuba, President Kennedy was well aware of the threat to American pilots who would be conducting reconnaissance flights. This was, without question, the worst case scenario and the timing came at the worst possible moment of the crisis. Kennedy, to his credit, did not have a knee-jerk reaction to the news. He insisted that no response occur until the Air Force could determine that there was not a mechanical failure or pilot error that caused the death of Major Anderson. This reaction, rather than listening to the immediacy voiced by his Joint Chiefs, gave the United States the added hours needed to secure a deal with Chairman Khrushchev. Had Kennedy reacted differently, the course of human history might have been radically different.

As the meeting of Ex-Comm wore on, the State Department submitted a draft of a letter responding to Chairman Khrushchev's second letter. It was met with heavy objection. Bobby Kennedy then suggested, and President Kennedy agreed, that they could go forward ignoring the second letter and responding to the first. Bobby Kennedy and Ted Sorensen went to work drafting the response. 

After making a few changes, President Kennedy approved the following letter:
Letter from President Kennedy to Chairman Khrushchev
October 27, 1962,
I have read your letter of October 26th with great care and welcome the statement of your desire to seek a prompt solution to the problem. The first things that needs to be done, however, is for work to cease on offensive missile bases in Cuba and for all weapons systems in Cuba capable of offensive use to be rendered inoperable, under effective United Nations arrangements.
Assuming this is done promptly, I have given my representatives in New York instructions that will permit them to work out this weekend--in cooperation with the Acting Secretary General and your representative--an arrangement for a permanent solution to the Cuban problem along the lines suggested in your letter of October 26th. As I read your letter, the key elements of your proposals--which seem generally acceptable as I understand them--are as follows:
  1. You would agree to remove these weapons systems from Cuba under appropriate United Nations observation and supervision; and undertake, with suitable safeguards, to halt the further introduction of such weapons systems in to Cuba.
  2. We on our part, would agree--upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments--(a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against an invasion of Cuba. I am confident that other nations of the Western Hemisphere would be prepared to do likewise.
If you give your representatives similar instructions, there is no reason why we should not be able to complete these arrangements and announce them to the world within a couple of days. The effect of such a settlement on easing world tensions would enable us to work toward a more general arrangement regarding "other armaments," as proposed in your second letter which you made public. I would like to say again that the United States is very much interested in reducing tensions and halting the arms race; and if your letter signifies that you are prepared to discuss a detente affecting NATO and the Warsaw Pact, we are quite prepared to consider with our allies any useful proposals.
But the first ingredient, let me emphasize, is the cessation of work on missile sites in Cuba and measures to render such weapons inoperable, under effective international guarantees. The continuation of this threat, or a prolonging of this discussion concerning Cuba by linking these problems to the broader questions of European and world security, would surely lead to an intensified situation on the Cuban crisis and a grave risk to the peace of the world. For this reason I hope we can quickly agree along the lines outlined in this letter and in your letter of October 26th.
John F. Kennedy
While the crisis, even the fate of the world, hinged on Nikita Khrushchev's response, Bobby Kennedy met with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin to express his concern that the threat was worsening and that they had arrived at the final chance for diplomacy.

President Kennedy and the members of Ex-Comm went to bed on night of the 27th not knowing what the world would look like the next day.
Khrushchev's second letter is available in its entirety from Mt. Holyoke.
Castro's quotation and a further discussion of the killing of Major Anderson can be found in Castro: My Life (page 277).
Excerpt of Ex-Comm conversation is taken from Wilson's Ghost (page 78).

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis: Day Eleven

October 26, 1962, the eleventh day of the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the United States face-to-face with the real possibility of invading Cuba. While the quarantine was holding, there was a suspicion that the Soviets would test the line. Diplomatic measures were at a stand still.

Friday morning, the United States received a lengthy, disjointed and emotionally charged letter from Chairman Khrushchev. The letter, delivered to the U.S. embassy in Moscow and then sent via telegram to the U.S. State Department, offered a proposal to dismantle the missiles in Cuba in exchange for a promise from the United States that neither it nor its allies would invade Cuba.

Khrushchev wrote that the ships being intercepted on the quarantine line were not carrying weapons as the weapons were already in Cuba:
"You have now proclaimed piratical measures, which were employed in the Middle Ages, when ships proceeding in international waters were attacked, and you have called this "a quarantine" around Cuba. Our vessels, apparently, will soon enter the zone which your Navy is patrolling. I assure you that these vessels, now bound for Cuba, are carrying the most innocent peaceful cargoes. Do you really think that we only occupy ourselves with the carriage of so-called offensive weapons, atomic and hydrogen bombs? Although perhaps your military people imagine that these (cargoes) are some sort of special type of weapon, I assure you that they are the most ordinary peaceful products.
"Consequently, Mr. President, let us show good sense. I assure you that on those ships, which are bound for Cuba, there are no weapons at all. The weapons which were necessary for the defense of Cuba are already there. I do not want to say that there were not any shipments of weapons at all. No, there were such shipments. But now Cuba has already received the necessary means of defense."
Khrushchev would then offer 2 proposals, the first being that the United States agree to, like the Soviets, the proposal from Secretary General U Thant. That proposal is described as follows by Chairman Khrushchev:
"Let us normalize relations. We have received an appeal from the Acting Secretary General of the UN, U Thant, with his proposals. I have already answered him. His proposals come to this, that our side should not transport armaments of any kind to Cuba during a certain period of time, while negotiations are being conducted--and we are ready to enter such negotiations--and the other side should not undertake any sort of piratical actions against vessels engaged in navigation on the high seas. I consider these proposals reasonable."
The second of the two proposals involved the potential of a U.S. invasion of Cuba:
"If assurances were given by the President and the Government of the United States that the USA itself would not participate in an attack on Cuba and would restrain others from actions of this sort, if you would recall your fleet, this would immediately change everything."
This, of course, was the position of Khrushchev and the Soviet government, not the position of Castro and the Cuban government.

Prime Minister Fidel Castro and Chairman Nikita Khrushchev
On the eleventh day of the crisis, Fidel Castro weighed in on how he felt the Soviets should respond to the potential American threats against Cuba: 
Letter from Prime Minister Castro to Chairman Khrushchev

October 26, 1962

Dear Comrade Khrushchev:

Given the analysis of the situation and the reports which have reached us, [I] consider an attack to be almost imminent -- within the next 24 to 72 hours. There are two possible variants: the first and most probable one is an air attack against certain objectives with the limited aim of destroying them; the second, and though less probable, still possible, is a full invasion. This would require a large force and is the most repugnant form of aggression, which might restrain them.

You can be sure that we will resist with determination, whatever the case. The Cuban people's morale is extremely high and the people will confront aggression heroically.

I would like to briefly express my own personal opinion.

If the second variant takes place and the imperialists invade Cuba with the aim of occupying it, the dangers of their aggressive policy are so great that after such an invasion the Soviet Union must never allow circumstances in which the imperialists could carry out a nuclear first strike against it.

I tell you this because I believe that the imperialists' aggressiveness makes them extremely dangerous, and that if they manage to carry out an invasion of Cuba -- a brutal act in violation of universal and moral law -- then that would be the moment to eliminate this danger forever, in an act of the most legitimate self-defense. However harsh and terrible the solution, there would be no other.

This opinion is shaped by observing the development of their aggressive policy. The imperialists, without regard for world opinion and against laws and principles, have blockaded the seas, violated our air-space, and are preparing to invade, while at the same time blocking any possibility of negotiation, even though they understand the gravity of the problem.

You have been, and are, a tireless defender of peace, and I understand that these moments, when the results of your superhuman efforts are so seriously threatened, must be bitter for you. We will maintain our hopes for saving the peace until the last moment, and we are ready to contribute to this in any way we can. But, at the same time, we are serene and ready to confront a situation which we see as very real and imminent.

I convey to you the infinite gratitude and recognition of the Cuban people to the Soviet people, who have been so generous and fraternal, along with our profound gratitude and admiration to you personally. We wish you success with the enormous task and great responsibilities which are in your hands.


Fidel Castro 
Castro and Khrushchev disagreed on how to proceed. Khrushchev was, to the lament of Castro, in the driver's seat. However, it was clear to the Soviets and the United States that if the U.S. did invade Cuba, Cuba would respond and that response would be both unpredictable and deadly. Cuba would prove to be the wild card.

The eleventh day of the crisis would be one of diplomacy. While Ex-Comm worked to have Khrushchev's letter translated and then a response mapped out, the Secretary General reached out to Castro. Meanwhile, President Kennedy remained the leader of the free world and had to attend to other world issues including an ongoing dispute between India and China.
Audio from the 26th's Ex-Comm meeting is available from the Miller Center. The recording begins with Kennedy's meeting with Indian Ambassador Nehru and concludes with the Ex-Comm meeting. It is as reflective of the tension at this point in the crisis as any piece of audio available to historians today.