Reporter's Note: This president, and others before him, have talked about the changing nature of war. Which, as I note in today’s letter, also means a change in society.
Dear Mr. President,
I noticed in the news today that the last veteran from World War I has died. She was a 110 year old woman in Britain who enlisted when she was just 17 and served as a waitress for the British Royal Air Force. Her name was Florence Green.
I won’t say her passing is a shame, because life come and goes for us all, and living to 110 is taking a much bigger bite of life than most of us will ever enjoy. But it is a shame that so few of us today have even the slightest idea what it means to share in sacrifice the way her generation and the folks in World War II did.
Unlike conflicts that have followed, those wars truly involved almost everyone. It was a rare family that had neither a family member, a friend, or neighbor in the fight. That was the nature of those wars; they were simply so massive that the population as a whole had to be involved to sustain the effort. Wars today, dominated by technology and increasingly by robots, involve a smaller and smaller percentage of people in our still growing nation. That is good, but I suspect the loss of common purpose is bad.
Wars, for all the death and destruction they bring, are terrible of course; but in the sense that they urge people to rise above smaller disputes and petty politics, they can be magnificent. Shared goals, fears, austerity, and hopes all swirling around a big center, have a way of making people push aside their smaller, individual complaints. I’ve heard it argued that perhaps it's the only thing that might actually unite the nations of the world.
Other big issues ought to produce that effect, but they don’t. You keep saying, for example, that we all need to pull together and share the burden of helping our economy improve. But then you, your fellow Democrats, and Republicans start talking more and it becomes clear that no one really wants an equal burden on all; what all of you want is a burden that hits your political friends less and your political foes more.
Anyway, I never met Florence Green, and while I don’t spend my days pining for the past, I do envy some of the times she knew, when citizens united around a serious effort to do important work, and succeeded. We all owe them a great debt.
E ven if you just tuned in long enough Tuesday night to see his victory speech in a half-empty Denver ballroom, you could tell Mitt Romney had a bad night. If you started watching just a bit earlier, you saw him lose Minnesota, a state he won in 2008. You saw him trailing in every county in Missouri on his way to a bruising loss there. And a few minutes later, you saw him lose in Colorado - a state he dominated in 2008, when his 60% of the vote was more than three times the share of runner-up John McCain.
Based on his 2008 results, Republicans were feeling good about taking back the state this fall, with Romney at the top of the ticket. And heading into Tuesday, Romney could afford to think about pivoting to more of a general election-orientation. No more.
Romney’s loss in Missouri wasn’t unexpected; it’s a state he didn’t win four years ago, with a major evangelical bloc - the ideal audience for Rick Santorum’s pitch – and its accidental “beauty contest” primary this year made it an easy write-off. (Gingrich didn’t even bother getting on the ballot.) Minnesota’s a quirky contest; Romney won it four years ago, but it was seen as anyone’s game.
Colorado was different – which is why the Romney campaign had downplayed the other votes, telling reporters to focus on the state. And that’s what made a Romney loss there all the more damaging. The big question now: how much of Romney’s win four years ago was due to his status as the top alternative to the frontrunner – the role played last night by Santorum. This morning, Romney’s campaign, which had come out swinging against Santorum over the past day or two, focused its fire on Newt Gingrich instead. Maintaining Gingrich’s status as a top conservative contender – keeping the anti-Romney vote as divided as possible – just got a whole lot more important for the former Massachusetts governor.
Anderson Cooper looks at the best of the candidates speeches, following the Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado contests.
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