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John Sununu and the Hijacking of America

Reagan, the Left, and the GOP establishment.

By 10.15.13

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Call it the “hijacking of America”.

A century long progressive project to, as President Obama is fond of saying, “transform America.”

But it can’t be done without help. From Republicans. Establishment Republicans to be more specific — and their Republican consultant class to be even more specific.

Here’s the bulletin from the Associated Press.

Establishment GOPers assail tea party on shutdown

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- From county chairmen to national party luminaries, veteran Republicans across the country are accusing tea party lawmakers of staining the GOP with their refusal to bend in the budget impasse in Washington. 

The Republican establishment also is signaling a willingness to strike back at the tea party in next fall's elections.

"It's time for someone to act like a grown-up in this process," former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu argues, faulting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and tea party Republicans in the House as much as President Barack Obama for taking an uncompromising stance. 

John Sununu. Ahhhh, John Sununu.

Governor Sununu is a delightful man. 

The former Governor of New Hampshire, however, has an interesting record. The former Bush 41 White House Chief of Staff, Mr. Sununu was Present at the Restoration of the Establishment GOP after the Reagan presidency, among other things bequeathing the nation Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Not to mention this, as noted here in a December, 2011 story about the imminent 2012 primary battle for the GOP presidential nomination between Establishment favorite Mitt Romney and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Wrote the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, bold print added for emphasis:

To a remarkable degree, Sununu's critique of Gingrich is rooted in events of 21 years ago, when the first President Bush abandoned his famous "read my lips" promise never to raise taxes. What is striking is that Sununu supported -- actually engineered -- the Bush retreat, while Gingrich opposed it.

Souter, of course, was the supposed conservative who, once appointed at the urging of fellow New Hampshirite Sununu, turned on a dime to become a key member of the liberal bloc on the Court. Which is to say, Sununu bequeathed the nation both a solidly liberal Supreme Court justice plus being the “engineer” of the fabled Bush tax increase.

Four years into that Establishment Restoration, President Bush 41 was defeated for re-election by Bill Clinton, winning 37% of the vote. Say again, 37% of the vote. Undeterred, Governor Sununu spent 2012 as a leading booster and surrogate for the latest Establishment effort, the Romney campaign. How’s that Romney presidency working out?

And the GOP Establishment thinks conservatives are the “stain” on the party?

The real stain comes with the question of just why is it exactly that the Establishment GOP turns out to be all thumbs all of the time?

Appointing liberals to the Supreme Court as did Gerald Ford (John Paul Stevens), Richard Nixon (Roe v. Wade’s Harry Blackmun), Dwight Eisenhower (Earl Warren and William Brennan). Or voting for them in the U.S. Senate -- as Lindsey Graham used his GOP Senate vote from South Carolina to support left-wingers Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. This when not busy losing presidential elections or just supinely managing the country leftward in the name of being, in Mr. Sununu’s words, “adults.”

So a question. If America is being hijacked — or “transformed” — why are Establishment Republicans helping the hijackers? Or, forgive me movie fans, the “transformers”?

The other day at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Mark Levin was cheered when he said this: 

When you watch the Senate floor and you see a handful of conservatives defending this nation against ObamaCare and they are under brutal assault in their own party— something is wrong. When Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and Rand Paul are the exception, something is wrong in that party.

So another question? Or two or three.

What was the key difference between Ronald Reagan and the GOP Establishment ? A difference that has surfaced again and again in the divide between the Reagan/Ted Cruz/Mike Lee/Rand Paul/Tea Party wing and the Establishment, as the Associated Press noted the other day. An Establishment represented in the AP article by, yes, none other than John Sununu?

Ronald Reagan understood what the American Left was all about. And there was a reason.

Let’s hop in Michael J. Fox’s old time traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future and zip back in time to the late 1940’s of post-World War II America. Specifically to what was not yet known as la-la land: Hollywood, California. Hollywood, the town of post-war movie magic and glamour, when, to borrow the old amusing line, men were men, women were women, and movie stars were movie stars.

There was, alas, trouble in Tinseltown. Trouble that appeared in the form of what at first seemed to be plain vanilla labor disputes. For the duration of World War II, Hollywood’s unions had been part of a nationwide pledge by the AFL not to strike. There was a war on — a big one. America’s sons (and in those days overwhelmingly it was sons) were fighting in Europe and the Pacific. There was no time or inclination for anything other than victory.

But the war was over in 1945. Understandably all over America the joy that greeted first the Nazi defeat and eventually the Japanese surrender was quickly replaced by a longing for a return to normal life. In Hollywood, that included labor strikes — mostly jurisdictional battles among different unions — in what was then already a five billion a year business. By the end of 1945 a half-dozen strikes had popped up in the movie capital. 

The issues were glitzed up because of the glamorous nature of the movie business itself. The subjects ranged from theater ownership to stagehands to building and painting scenery, the unionization of projectionists, writers, carpenters, painters — and eventually, of course, the most famous people in town: the actors.

Simultaneous to all of this was the dawn of the Cold War between the Communist Soviet Union — America’s wartime ally — and the Western World. With America in 1945 emerging as the undisputed leader of that Western World. By 1947, with all of Eastern Europe behind the brand new Iron Curtain, Washington was awash with allegations of Communist influence in the government, the Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers furor suddenly bursting onto the nation’s front pages.

In Hollywood, this translated into a charge that there was a Communist plot to infiltrate and control American entertainment’s pride and joy — the movie business. Why the movies? In the words of one already prominent actor:

The Communist plan for Hollywood was remarkably simple. It was merely to take over the motion picture business. Not only for its profit...but also for a grand world-wide propaganda base. In those days before television and massive foreign film production, American films dominated 95 percent of the world's movie screens. We had a weekly audience of 500,000,000 souls. Takeover of this enormous plant and its gradual transformation into a Communist gristmill was a grandiose idea. It would have been a magnificent coup for our enemies.

If, went the idea, Communists could somehow take control of the most powerful communications tool in all of America the Communist world movement would have scored the coup of coups. Hollywood films had a weekly audience of half a billion people around the world. A Communist takeover of Hollywood and its filmmaking capacity would be second only to taking over the U.S. government itself.

In the middle of this fight was the 34-year-old actor who made that bold statement about the intent of Communists toward Hollywood: Ronald Reagan, a self-professed bleeding heart liberal. Before the war, actor Reagan had found himself elected to the board of the Screen Actors Guild- SAG, the Hollywood actors union. He resigned when the war came to serve in the army, but he “kept in touch.” As 1945 arrived and the war ended, Reagan would be re-appointed to the SAG board. He would say later that he believed in SAG “with all my heart.” His friends and SAG colleagues were his fellow actors, some of the most famous movie names in America that included Cary Grant, Harpo Marx, James Cagney, Walter Pidgeon and Eddie Cantor.

Said Reagan later of this period of his life:

I was not sharp about Communism.… In that era, the American Communists were high on the Hollywood hog, but only by reason of deception. Most of us called them liberals and, being liberals ourselves, bedded down with them with no thought for the safety of our wallets.

Already Reagan was popular on what he liked to call the “rubber chicken” or “mashed potato” circuit — which is to say the American ritual of the after-dinner speech. His topic was “saving the world from neo-Fascism.” In the aftermath of Hitler and Mussolini and the Japanese, Reagan was determined to raise his voice to do his part to see that their likes should never rise again.

On one occasion, an audience member approached him after his talk and suggested that since he was busy denouncing Fascism, “it would be fair to speak out equally strongly against the tyranny of Communism.” Reagan agreed.

His very next speech found him substituting for the son of the late Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Roosevelt. For forty minutes Reagan was greeted with repeated applause from his liberal Hollywood audience as he tore into fascism around the world.

And then… and then.

For the first time in his nascent speaking career, young Ronald Reagan denounced Communism. He wrote of the moment -- and the audience reaction:

The silence was ghastly. I stumbled off the stage into the clasp of a friend whose face reflected my own amazement. “Did you hear that?” he whispered.

“I didn’t hear anything,” I muttered.

“That’s what I heard,” he said.

Two days later, I received a letter from a woman who had attended the meeting. “I’m sure you were aware of the reaction to your last paragraph,” she wrote. “I hope you recognize what it means.”

At the moment, Reagan would confess, he decidedly didn’t recognize what that “ghastly” silence meant. But he would. He made it a point to understand -- and, as he later said -- to stop deceiving himself about the nature of liberalism.

As history now records this launched Reagan into the very heart of Hollywood’s fight with Communism -- and eventually the global version of the same fight.

Becoming president of SAG, Reagan was stunned to find his now staunch anti-Communism brought a threat of an acid attack on his face, the obvious threat being to ruin his actor’s stock-in-trade, his good looks. Returning to the Warner Brother’s studio one day for work on a film, the Los Angeles police were waiting for him. The studio was concerned for his safety, the FBI had come forward with news from an undercover agent of a proposed attempt on Reagan’s life — and so the police were there to present him with a license to carry a gun. Over his initial objection, Reagan was promptly fitted out with a shoulder holster and a loaded .32 Smith and Wesson.

Now.

What does all of this “old” history have to do with the Tea Party? With today’s GOP Establishment? With John Sununu, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee and talk radio and Fox and Barack Obama and the government shutdown and the issue of the $17 trillion debt and $90 trillion in unfunded liabilities?

The difference between Ronald Reagan and the Republican Establishment is that Reagan’s formative experience with the American Left was an up-close, personally life-threatening straight-into-the-eyes look at what lay at the intellectual heart of the American Left. It was, he realized, all about control. Raw power over the lives of others. In Hollywood it was about control of the movie industry — its unions, its actors, its films and the message of those films. Beyond Hollywood, as Reagan would later say in his 1964 A Time for Choosing speech that launched his political career, the Left was about “controlling people. And…when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.”

In fact, it was another episode of left-wing extremism -- the turmoil on the campuses of the California university system -- that would later propel Reagan into the California governor’s office. Where he would do battle with young leftists who were intent on the same old leftist formula — using force and coercion. Two years into his first term as governor, in 1969, radical leftists took control of a piece of property that belonged to UC Berkeley. Declaring it as “People’s Park” they refused to relinquish control.

Just as Reagan correctly saw the leftist move on Hollywood as a bid to control the film industry, he clearly saw the “People’s Park” episode as a leftist attempt to control the university’s property rights. Steeled by his experience in Hollywood, Reagan sent in the National Guard as the protesting crowd swelled to thousands. One student died. It was tragic — but Reagan was firm. Property rights were to be protected from the threat of force — force designed to control and take away the rights of American citizens.

Reagan after Hollywood was clear-eyed about the objectives of the American Left. It was all about “controlling people.” 

Can you say “Obamacare”?

Note: Just last week Rush Limbaugh reported on the 21st century version of liberalism and Hollywood. It seems a creation of Blue Cross of California, the California Endowment by name, to quote Rush, “announced a half a million dollar grant for Obamacare education to a group called Hollywood Health & Society.” And what is that? And what is the money being used for? Rush, again:

Well, do you know what it is? It is a program at USC, at the Annenberg Norman Lear Center. Norman Lear, of All in the Family, a huge leftist, has endowed a division or a wing or whatever the hell, of a school at USC, and you know what it does? It provides TV show producers and writers and movie producers and writers with, quote, accurate and timely information for storylines on health and climate change in television shows and movies.

So to rephrase this. The California Endowment has given $500,000 that will be used to train people who write and produce television shows and movies the correct quote/unquote, the proper quote/unquote, information for storylines that they will include about Obamacare and global warming. So the left is essentially, in this instance, buying and purchasing propaganda, except it's not thought to be propaganda. The recipients of the money, these eager beaver writers and producers show up and they are told what they think is the truth about Obamacare and global warming so that when they write about it or produce TV shows or movies, they have the Democrat Party spin. But it is presented to them in the form of formal education via a grant from the Norman Lear Center at USC.

In other words? Who needs to throw acid in somebody’s face these days when you can just buy the Hollywood folks to do the deed with a grant from a rich leftist?

Unlike his later fellow Republican political peers, whose careers were built in the world of American corporate capitalism or academia (Sununu an engineer with a Ph.D. from MIT) or in the safety of a white-shoe law firm or even a prosecutor’s office where the foe was your basic criminal -- in the vernacular “country club Republicans” -- Reagan’s visceral understanding of the Left was forged in the hands-on, life-threatening crucible that was the fight against Communism in Hollywood.

So let’s return to present day America. The America where John Sununu and the GOP Establishment are out there targeting Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, the Tea Party and more. Take a look again at that AP story on the GOP Establishment.

What is the central difference between the GOP Establishment and those (and others) named above? 

The difference — the central and critical difference — is that after decades of left-wing devotion to the hijacking of America, to the idea of transforming it, there are still Republicans and even some conservatives who don’t understand the nature of either their opponents or their opponents’ objectives.

In Reagan’s Hollywood days it was about control of the movie business. In his gubernatorial days the issue was about seizing control of private property at an educational institution. Today it’s about the control of your health care — and one sixth of the American economy. With accompanying violence as SEIU thugs beat up a black man selling Tea Party paraphernalia outside an Obamacare town hall meeting, or Occupy Wall Street rioters running rampant in Oakland — updating the old leftist song for today’s social media sites. 

Even now Republican Establishmenteers don’t grasp the meaning. Note that Rush Limbaugh story involved money from the “Annenberg Norman Lear Center”? The “Annenberg” in question is the late Walter Annenberg. A longtime friend of Ronald Reagan, one-time Ambassador to Great Britain whose wife Lee served as the Reagan State Department Chief-of-Protocol and at whose home President and Mrs. Reagan would usually spend New Year’s Eve. Now? With Ambassador Annenberg long gone, the Annenberg money is allied with leftist Norman Lear to use Hollywood to propagandize Americans on Obamacare.

Simply put: Today’s Establishment Republicans don’t get it. Or worse — they simply don’t care.

Thus — and we single out Governor Sununu here not because he is alone in his record and recently expressed sentiments but precisely because he isn’t — the idea of Republicans carelessly appointing liberals to the Supreme Court or raising taxes or, to move into today’s world, voting to fund Obamacare is just business-as-usual Establishment politics.

“But we don’t have the votes” comes the timid bleat from honorable men like Wisconsin’s GOP Senator Ron Johnson and so many others. Again, we will point to President Reagan’s veto of a multi-billion “Clean Water” bill in 1987 — vetoing the bill knowing full well that he “didn’t have the votes” to prevent a congressional override of his veto. Reagan was fearless in drawing a line in the sand — whether a loss loomed or not. For a reason.

Exactly because of his Hollywood experience — not to mention his experience with Berkeley leftists — learning up close and personal what the goals of the Left were, Reagan was able to understand that even something as innocuous as a lard-loaded “environment” bill was just one more small paving step on the road to the hijacking or transforming of America. He believed the answer was, as he said on another occasion, for the GOP — the party which he led — to show their “bold colors” even when losing. The lack of votes be damned.

But this isn’t just about the Washington/legislative end of things. The Establishment GOP and its consultant complex makes much of the idea that only if one presents candidates intent on moving the right to the center can the GOP win “independents” — and presidential elections in places like John Sununu’s New Hampshire.

Let’s take a look at some election results, shall we? In New Hampshire. 

When Bush 41 ran as the heir to Reagan in 1988 he carried New Hampshire with 62.49% of the vote. In fact, that was down over 6 points from Reagan’s 68.66% New Hampshire win in 1984, but still a solid win. But after four years of the GOP Establishment Restoration in the Bush White House? Managed by Mr. Sununu himself ? Bush 41 received a mere 37.69% of the New Hampshire vote.

Never again from that day in 1992 to this would a GOP presidential nominee ever reach 50% of the vote in New Hampshire again. One after another the Establishment GOP put forth their candidates, insisting on their Establishment credibility as winners. The results? Dole in 1996? 39.37%. Bush 43 in 2000 and 2004? 48.07% and 48.87%. McCain in 2008? 44.52%. And Romney? He who was not only the governor of neighboring Massachusetts but had a vacation home in New Hampshire? And had John Sununu out there energetically speaking for him? Romney received a mere 46.40% of the vote.

Which is to say, absent the conservative message that Reagan so viscerally understood, Republican presidential nominees have performed dismally in New Hampshire — John Sununu’s own back yard.

Why?

What this whole imbroglio with the Tea Party/Cruz/Lee fight against the GOP Establishment comes down to is an understanding — and instinctive understanding — by millions of Americans of what Ronald Reagan was communicating to them. That, in Reagan’s words as he formulated them in 1964, the Left was about “…controlling people. And…when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.” 

Now Americans are finding out that every last bit of their private information is to be vacuumed up by the federal government in the name of Obamacare. All of it. From their Social Security information to their bank accounts to their sex lives. They are losing their doctors, their premiums are skyrocketing — while being told to trust the same bureaucracy that runs the IRS, the NSA, and more.

The perception is that just as Republicans like John Sununu aided and abetted the Left’s agenda with tax increases and a Supreme Court appointment back there in the first Bush Administration, so now are there Establishment Republicans all-too asleep-at-the switch and ready to timidly do the same thing. 

Worse?

Many see people like John Sununu and John McCain and Lindsey Graham and others as deliberately — say again deliberately — misleading Americans about their willingness to fight the encroaching Leftist agenda that is slowly but surely closing its fingers around every single aspect of American life even as it bankrupts the nation.

They are tired of excuses.

Tired of behind-the-scenes aiding and abetting of Democrat senators and congressmen whom they see as left-wing extremists. Left-wing extremists every bit as dedicated to controlling their fellow Americans as were those Hollywood Communist union thugs threatening both Ronald Reagan personally and the movie business itself all those years ago. And, no small thing, bankrupting the country along the way.

The problem — amply demonstrated over the years — is that the John Sununus of the GOP, the “Establishment” — simply don’t get it. Or worse — they do. And choose to go along to get along.

The bold colors that Ronald Reagan called for so long ago are once again on the march, bold colors snapping in the breeze.

Is this easy? No.

Can it be done? Yes.

The hijacking of America can in fact be stopped in its tracks. As long as Americans understand — as Ronald Reagan understood — that what’s at stake is not simply a handful of votes.

It’s the country.

Photo: UPI

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.