Saturday, June 24, 2006

Andrew Young

There was a silent auction going on at the DMI benefit. One of the prizes was you get to be editor of the Nation for a day. Kos opened his speech by saying that if he won the first thing he was going to do was fire Alexander Cockburn.

I didn't get the joke. But most everybody else laughed. Maybe it was just a "Hey the famous guy just made what he thinks is a witty remark" laugh. Probably, though, there's some history between Kos and Cockburn I'm not in on. I'm usually not in on these things.

At any rate, maybe Kos' poke at Cockburn explains why Andrew Young began his introduction of Wynton Marsalis talking about Jimmy Carter.

Young, Carter's ambassador to the UN, is the chair of DMI's board of directors. He knows Marsalis from way back. Knows him from when he was a kid. Knows him because he was friends with Marsalis' father, jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis. Ellis and Young went to the same high school. Young was ahead of Ellis and he told Wynton that he likes to kid Ellis about how he failed to take care of the school. "I left your daddy in charge of the place, and a year later they closed it." I suspect this was where Young had planned to begin his speech.

But before he got there he talked about Jimmy Carter because of Kos' shot at Cockburn. It reminded Young he didn't much care for Cockburn either.

Way back, in 1975, Cockburn wrote an article in which he accused Carter of being a racist. That made Young mad.

"Jimmy Carter was a lot of things," Young said, "But he was not a racist."

Young wrote something defending Carter on that score. Short time after it appeared somebody from Jimmy Carter's campaign called Young and asked him if he'd like to help out. Young was skeptical. No way in hell an obscure ex-governor of Georgia gets himself elected President of the United States, Young told the Carter aide. The aide said, come down and talk to the Governor anyway, see what you think after that.

Next thing I know, Young more or less told us, I'm the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

Young is still proud of his service, still proud to have worked for Jimmy Carter, still proud to call Carter a friend.

"We achieved all our foreign policy objectives, we didn't start any wars, and we did it without killing anybody or getting anybody killed," he said. This is mostly true. I don't think it's right not to count the soldiers who got killed in the botched attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran. But in the main it's true.

That's why we all cheered.

Young went on, "I don't know why that's all considered weak, but it is to some people."

Some people would rather the United States failed on all fronts, just as long as they could feel good that we'd killed a lot of our enemies while we failed.

Failure is strength, success is weakness, war is peace.


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