Washington Merry-Go-Round

History of the Column

Founded by Drew Pearson, “Washington Merry-Go-Round” began as a syndicated column in 1932. The provocative and often controversial column broke the story of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and the soldier he slapped in 1943. Pearson later brought about the downfall of Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal, an ideological foe, and he denounced the witch-hunt agenda of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc.

Jack Anderson joined the column in 1945 and took over following Pearson’s death in 1969, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. Douglas Cohn became his partner in 1999 and changed the column into commentary with historical perspective. He took over following Anderson’s death in 2005 and, along with Eleanor Clift, continues this longest-running syndicated column in America.

Cohn and Clift have brought a strong military, political, economic, and historical expertise to Washington Merry-Go-Round that led to significant insights such as the following excerpts from columns:

Czar Putin (3/26/14): “. . . he shares the same traits as the famous Russian czars of the past. He’s expansionist, xenophobic, and paranoid, attributes that unfortunately make him the ideal leader for the Russian people at this time in their history.”

Undermining the Military and the Nation (2/27/14): “The hypocrisy is blatant. Republican and Democratic politicians alike are effusive in their praise of the troops and wrap themselves in the flag when running for reelection. Yet, who among them believes the troops are overpaid or even sufficiently paid? Last year, 5,000 active duty families even qualified for food stamps. . . . In the end, if America continues to try to solve some of its budget problems on the backs of the people who are defending the nation, the nation will soon be at risk.”

Executive Order (1/30/14): “During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the internment of all Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast. He did so without congressional approval or consultation. His infamous Executive Order 9066 was more than wrong. It was a unilateral assertion of power that overrode our constitutional checks-and-balances system, yet instead of learning from that not-to-distant history, we, Congress, and the Supreme Court continue to stand aside as each president pushes the envelope a little farther. In the end, the executive order will prove to be a disease, not a cure – an executive order disorder.”

The Fair Tax (1/14/14): “We haven’t seen this level of income inequality since the days of the Robber Barons, early in the last century. The income tax, proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt and embraced by his successor, William Howard Taft, became legal with passage of the 16th Amendment in 1909. It was directed at this group of home grown oligarchs, and no one else. It was a tax on millionaires, and was not meant to be broad based. . . The need to fund wars and pay for government services in an industrialized country ushered in the broader system of tax collection that we see today. Somewhere along the way in that transformation, the rich now pay less than their fair share when balanced against the wealth they have gained.”

Heading for a Very Happy New Year (12/26/13):  “All the scare talk from the political right about the debt and deficit dragging us down and condemning our children and grandchildren to a future of gloom and doom is nonsense. History has repeatedly proven that massive government spending during a depression or recession is the cure, not the disease, even if it means a temporary ballooning of the deficit. Then, when the economy begins to take hold, the government can take its foot off the accelerator, which is what we’re seeing now. It should be a very happy New Year.”

Minimum Wage Fallacies (12/18/13): “Workers are not asking for a gift, just a fair wage. And, once again, a “gift” from government is nothing more than a business subsidy that encourages and allows employers to pay substandard wages.”

China’s Pawn-in-Chief (12/5/13): “Whether Chinese leaders approve of their surrogate’s bizarre behavior or not, the North Koreans provide a convenient distraction every now and then from whatever China is doing. Hence, the hostage-taking, occasional shelling, and maritime provocations. But such erratic behavior may have more method than madness to it – Chinese method.”

Fines for the Rich, Jail for the Poor (11/21/13): “JPMorgan Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, negotiated directly with associate attorney general Tony West, and the settlement that was achieved reflects the administration’s strategy to go after big fines as a way to show the American people there is accountability on Wall Street. It’s taken some four years to get to this point. Maybe a criminal case is the next shoe to drop; otherwise the lesson may once again be that if you’re rich and well connected, paying enough money can keep you out of jail.”

Zealots Are not Politicians (10/16/13): “A zealot is by nature not a politician, and while a zealot might get elected, his or her goals are very different from those of a politician. One is trying to make the government function; the other wants to remake the system, and if they have to destroy it first, that’s a form of zealotry. They would burn the house down to save it.”

Could the Fed Save America (10/11/13): “The Fed is an independent agency, and it could waive the government’s indebtedness. Just like past administrations have forgiven debt in Africa, when there’s a worthy country trying to get back on its feet and struggling under the weight of its debt, lifting some or all of that debt makes everybody feel good. It’s a win-win situation.”

The Undermining of Democracy (9/26/13): “Today there is heightened skepticism about government doing anything right, an attitude systematically hammered home by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, a wing that no longer believes in government. And such political Luddites might just convince enough Americans to believe likewise. Already, most voters have intense disdain for politicians in general, and it is only a short leap for them to give up on the system altogether.”

Isolationism Redux (9/5/13): “Paul may think he’s forging new thinking that will invigorate his party, but his ideological forbears include Taft, aviator Charles Lindbergh, who served as spokesman for the isolationist America First Committee, and Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, R- Mass., who led the fight to keep the U.S. out of the League of Nations, effectively crippling the nascent organization. . . . Isolationism is not a new argument. The extent of America’s involvement in the outside world has been debated since the country’s beginning. George Washington in his 1796 farewell address warned against foreign entanglements. Protected by two vast oceans, Americans for a long time felt protected, but that illusion has long since been shattered. What is at issue now is trust in government and our elected leaders. We were led into war in Vietnam with the dubious Gulf of Tonkin resolution, and in Iraq over non-existent weapons of mass destruction. McCain has the harder argument to make for military action in Syria given public distrust, but Paul’s followers shouldn’t be fooled into thinking he represents anything that hasn’t been tried before.”

The Two Enemy Solution (8/27/13): “Syria poses other problems, specifically the fact that the U.S. has two enemies there: the brutal Assad regime and al Qaeda rebels. . . . . Two enemies require a two-enemy solution. Following the Kurdistan example, the U.S. and its allies should carve out an area of Syria already under rebel control and establish it as a no-fly zone. . . . . The second stage of the two-enemy plan would include providing arms, food, housing, and medical care for the moderate rebels and their families. The more difficult, but essential, part of the plan would entail the expulsion of al Qaeda rebels from the no-fly sanctuary. Most recently, this concept was employed in rebel-held eastern Libya, which led to the toppling of another brutal dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

Unbridled Capitalism (8/13/13): The most optimistic scenario is a modern progressive era with a rise of the reformers like we witnessed early in the last century. It will take a movement and creative leaders who understand how taxation, fairness, the rise of the Robber Barons, the depressed minimum wage – how it all ties together. After all, unbridled capitalism is not capitalism at all. It’s a rigged playing field.”

Madison and the Vietnam Rapprochement (7/31/13): “His [Pres. Obama] ecumenicalism combines the concept of the enemy of my enemy is my friend with the ideas of the father of our Constitution, James Madison, who opined that the tyranny of the majority is as bad as the tyranny of a dictator, and that a functioning democracy must, therefore, first ensure the rights of the minority. He understood that an educated and economically viable electorate was essential to free and fair elections. This is quite distant from the Wilson-Bush ideas of pure self-determination, which is why Obama works with autocrats while simultaneously encouraging movements toward Madisonian democracies, often using capitalism, free trade, and mutual defense as the openings – hence, the Vietnam rapprochement.”

Send in the Spooks (6/28/13): “We won’t see bumper stickers that say, Send in the Spooks, but this is the kind of aid that can make a difference, and is no doubt already underway. If Assad stays in power, it would be a huge setback for the U.S., and Obama must do all he can short of direct military intervention to avoid that outcome. On the other hand he must somehow help wean the moderate rebels away from their immoderate al-Qaeda Jihadist allies.”

Protect Our Uniformed Women (6/5/13): “It was an astounding admission when Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., confessed that he had advised the mother of a young woman interested in joining the military that he couldn’t in all good faith tell her it was the right career path for her daughter. McCain wasn’t faulting the military for lack of opportunity, or for gender discrimination, but for something far more basic, the continued inability to protect service women, and men too, from sexual assault, and to give those who are the victims of assault or sexual harassment a fair hearing without fear of retribution.”

The Sin Tax Sin (4/13/13): “The sin tax sin is that it only works if people sin. Now, smoking, drinking, and gambling may not be sins in the biblical sense, but they fall under the sin tax umbrella. . . . Sin taxes tend to be highly regressive, with lower income people paying much more than the better educated and better off financially. . . . The same thing can be said for the lottery. People who buy lottery tickets tend to be those who can least afford them. . . . The idea of taxing something we don’t want people to do – and then relying on the money to fund something else, however worthy – is a bit of a shell game. . . . In the end, the sin tax concept is simply wrong. It makes the government look hypocritical when school children are told of the evils of cigarettes, alcohol, and gambling, and then the government appears to sanction these activities by benefitting from them through taxation. It is the sin of the sin tax.”

Same Sex Marriage and the GOP (3/2/13): “It’s hard to think of any other public policy where attitudes have moved as quickly and dramatically as they have on gay marriage or of its impact on GOP presidential politics. A majority of Americans are now in favor of same sex couples having the right to marry, and politicians in both major political parties are positioning themselves for the next election when opposition to gay marriage will cost votes, not the other way around.”

Too Much Tea for the GOP (2/7/13): “The last happy warrior who identified as a Republican was the late Jack Kemp, a star quarterback turned politician who championed immigration reform and opportunity for minorities and was both lauded and derided as a “bleeding-heart conservative.” Kemp served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the first Bush administration, and was Bob Dole’s running mate in 1996. . . . No one has claimed Kemp’s mantle of political ebullience and equality, and when the Tea Party emerged during the summer of 2010, the main emotion its adherents projected was anger – anger at big government symbolized by Obamacare. Railing at government is not new in American politics, but the Tea Party, egged on by Rep. Cantor and others, offered a new vehicle of expression. Fueled by an infusion of money made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the Tea Party moved the GOP so far to the right it cannot compete nationally.”

Drone Wars (1/13/13): “One thing is certain and beyond question, drones are at the core of Obama’s national security and counter-terrorism strategy. . . . The advantages are obvious. Thanks to armed drones, the top leadership of Al-Qaeda has been decimated and no Americans have lost their lives. Drones fly in, and they fly out, making it easier to engage militarily without leaving a heavy footprint and risking the lives of young men and women. Sending in troops is easy; withdrawing them is hard. A reliance on drones avoids that dilemma. . . . The disadvantages are less obvious but just as real. Drone attacks no matter how carefully targeted inevitably kill civilians, usually because terrorists are hiding among them. U.S. relations with Pakistan have significantly deteriorated because of drone attacks on Pakistani territory. Then there’s the question of what happens when America’s enemies develop drones, and figure out how to beat us at our own game. That challenge is for another day; for now, drones are popular as a tool of modern warfare because they’re so much better than the alternatives of either doing nothing or sending young men and women to war.”

Debt Ceiling Solution (1/7/13): “However, another constitutional path is more inviting, and it revolves around three other constitutional clauses: Article I, Section 8, Clause 2: “[The Congress shall have the Power] to borrow Money . . . Article I, Section 8, Clause 5: [The Congress shall have the Power] to coin Money . . . Article I, Section 9, Clause 7: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law . . .” Not all constitutional clauses are equal. In this instance, Clauses 2 and 5 are pointless without Clause 7 because there is no reason to borrow or print money other than to spend it. That is where Clause 7 comes in, and when employed alone, it clearly incorporates the obviously subordinate Clauses 2 and 5. . . .If an appropriations bill is subject to further borrowing or printing authorization, it must include such language in the bill. In the absence of such language, the Treasury has no choice but to comply with the law. It must fund as directed. As a result, an appropriations bill includes the tacit authorization for the Treasury to borrow and/or print money because it would have no other means of complying with the law if the Treasury is empty.”

Blame the Founding Fathers (12/26/13): “It’s popular to blame Congress for the fiscal cliff fiasco, but its members are operating within the system handed down by the Founding Fathers, and while it is a laudable system, it has flaws, and those flaws are on display. . . . Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution is the culprit: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings . . .” And both the House and Senate have taken full advantage of that freedom. . . . There is no mention of a filibuster in the Constitution, but the Senate has adopted the right of filibuster to the point where it is invoked so routinely that bills are filibustered just to annoy and slow down the majority. . . . In both bodies, committee chairmen assert near-dictatorial rule, bottling up bills they because the rules let them. In the current debate on gun safety and regulation, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has decreed there will be no gun control legislation. And unless he bends to public pressure, he can make good on that pledge. . . . The Founding fathers assumed all members would vote on all bills, that there would be compromise, and that reasonable people would come together. What we have today are solid blocs of ideological opposition, particularly in the House where the Tea Party has terrorized Republicans to do its bidding by threatening primary challenges from the right. . . . It is time to fix the rules or fix the Constitution.”

Pre-New Year’s Predictions (11/23/12): “Fiscal Cliff: This is a non-news story. It will not happen. Patch-work legislation will kick the issue over to next year. Stock Market: We expect it to take off, fueled by latent housing demand, an end to fiscal cliff speculation, falling unemployment, the best holiday retail season since the beginning of the Great Recession of 2008, and the continued benefits from federal stimulus spending. . . . . Society: Same-sex marriage will continue to be passed by increasing numbers of state legislatures.”

Hoover v. Keynes (5/12/12): “The just-released September unemployment rate of 7.8 percent – the lowest in four years – was anticipated a year and a half ago in our April 6, 2011 column.”