“A Republic If You Can Keep It.”

Prologue: “Mueller Inquiry Unveils Charges And A Russia Link” . Tuesday, October 3l.  Lead story in the New York Times includes charge of “Conspiracy against the United States “ against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates.  Even more explosive was the announcement  90 minutes later on Monday morning that George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy advisor to president Trump, had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and has been cooperating with investigators for months.  The president’s original twitter , “ There is NO COLLUSION” was blown apart by Papadopoulos’ contacts for months with Russian operatives.  The Times editorial on Tuesday : “Is The White House Scared Yet?”

In recent days, Trump has been trying to distract attention from the Russia investigation by charging Hillary Clinton with a false story about Uranium and other fake accusations.  As we follow the news on Cable TV and newspapers, it seemed appropriate to post “A Republic If You Can Keep It”  which ran on July 4, 2017.  It is vital that we understand the difference between a republic and a democracy.  And the dangers of ‘majority rule’ run amok.


During the long hot summer of 1787, the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were conducted in secrecy.  When the proceedings finally ended, anxious citizens waited outside the doors.  A famous interchange occurred when Benjamin Franklin emerged, and was asked by one of the women, Mrs. Powell, “Well, Doctor, what have we got?  A republic or a democracy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” He did not say,  “a democracy.”

What’s the difference between a republic and a democracy?  And why does this issue matter today —over two hundred years later? The difference between a republic and a democracy is fundamental, not just a matter of semantics. The word ‘republic’ comes from Latin, “res publica” – which means the ‘public things’ or ‘the laws’.  The word ‘democracy’ comes from two Greek words, ‘demos’ and ‘kratein’ translating into ‘the people rule’  or  ‘majority rule’.  James Madison, known as the father of The Constitution,  insisted in The Federalist, No. Ten,  that the new Constitution had established a republic  not a democracy.  He emphasized that “a Republican “ form of government protected the people from the dangers of the tyranny of the majority.

At the heart of a democracy is the concept of majority rule.  In a republic, the power of the majority is subordinated to the rule of law and the protection of minority rights. The founders set up a system of government with separation of powers, and checks and balances to prevent the majority from imposing its will without restraints. It is important to note that Article One is the Legislative branch.  It is the longest and most complete. Article Two is the executive branch.  And Article Three is the Judiciary.  They also approved the Bill of Rights in 1791 – the first Ten Amendments – to protect citizens against the powers of their government.  The freedoms of religion, speech, the press and the right to assemble to petition for grievance are all in the First Amendment.  They guarantee minorities and all the people against majority rule.

It is now July 4, 2017 and the American people are witnessing huge dramatic changes in our federal government.  The legislative and executive branches are controlled by the Republican Party.  Paul Ryan, The Speaker of the House of Representatives is a Republican.  Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is a Republican. President Donald J. Trump is a Republican.  The judicial branch of nine justices has a five/four split between Conservative and Liberal opinions with Justice Kennedy seen as the “swing vote”.

The level of bitter bi-partisanship reached its apex when Senator McConnell would not allow President Barack Obama’s nominee for the open seat on the Supreme Court to have the confirmation hearing and vote that was the right of the president under the Constitution.  Thus, Judge Merrick Garland, highly qualified and respected chief of the Second Circuit of Appeals never was given that opportunity. As informed citizens, we witnessed the “tyranny of the majority” in action.

Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote, “ Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.”  Alexander Hamilton warned at the Convention, “We are a Republican government. Real liberty is never found in  despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.” Finally, John Marshall, who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835, and created the principle of judicial review, wrote, “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.

Although we “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the republic for which it stands”, many people today think of country as a democracy rather than a republic. This 20th century emphasis on a democracy can be traced to Woodrow Wilson’s famous 1916 appeal to the nation on entering World War I that “we would make the world safe for democracy.” And Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 with his insistence that “ America must be the great arsenal of democracy” to rush aid to England during the Nazi Blitz of the British Isles in World War II.

Historians agree that Donald  J. Trump is very different from any previous president in American history.  He is the only man without any military or government experience or service.  He prides himself on being a very successful business man with a vast worldwide real estate empire.  His home was The Trump Tower in New York City before he  won the  November 2016 presidential election, passing 270 votes in the Electoral College.  His opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the popular tally with over 3.5 million more votes.  Trump has introduced Twitter as his means of communication with his base of millions and the world at large.  He is the first president to use the mass media and makes sure he is the cable TV story of the day from early a.m. hours.  Trump held a very negative opinion of reporters during the campaign that has worsened since his inauguration.  He calls the press, “the enemy of the American people. They give fake news every day.”

Since his inauguration on January 20, 2017,  there has been a growing resistance movement, starting with The Women’s March on January 21.  Millions of women, men and children gathered in cities and towns across the nation to protest Donald Trump’s election – the largest marches in the nation’s history.  Successive Saturdays have seen protest marches continue.  First, against Trump’s Travel Bans against Muslims from six countries with dominant Muslim populations.   Then, in fierce opposition to the Congress and  president’s plans to  repeal and replace Obamacare.  Crowds carry signs ACA (Affordable Care Act)  as they march in the streets and outside offices of representatives, senators and the White House.  Town meetings of members of Congress have resulted in large angry crowds shouting and  telling stories of how the ACA saved lives in their families.

Other forms of resistance to Donald Trump and his policies include the Sanctuary Cities across the country who have refused to cooperate with Federal agents of ICE who come to round up undocumented immigrants for deportation.  These cities found alternate funding to federal monies that would be denied to them. Other resisters are The Indivisibles, groups of people nationwide that oppose Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  They support  clean energy like wind and solar versus the E.P.A. policies under Secretary Pruitt  overturning Obama’s  regulations that promoted clean air, water and safe working conditions.  They go to Congressional home offices to protest and present their views.  They also travel to offices in D.C. where a  group in wheel chairs, carrying ACA posters were arrested in the hallways several weeks ago.

There is a struggle going on across the United States where people are asserting their belief in the words of  The Preamble to The Constitution,  “We the people of the United States….”  And the First Amendment giving them “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

What is happening today is proof that the United States is indeed a republic —based on laws protecting the people from the tyranny of the majority.  We have a president who is just learning that the executive can be checked in his powers by the Courts and the Congress.  The people are asserting their rights and opinions to the representatives they elected.  The free press is doing their job questioning and holding elected officials to their responsibilities under the law.  It is now up to our elected president, vice president, senators, representatives and cabinet members to be true to the oaths of office they each swore to uphold.

………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson






Discovering Other People’s Lives



Prologue: This essay appears in “The Critical Eye”, my latest book, Ex Libris, 2010, a collection of articles and Op Eds that appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and other national and regional publications. It features Adrian Mitchell, the British poet who wrote the famous anti-war poem, “To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies About Vietnam)” Today, the United States has military men and women stationed around the globe; DMA ( Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Niger and NATO.

The essay is as relevant today as it was when it was first published.



In the Obituaries of The New York Times and other leading papers, one can encounter fascinating people from all walks of life. Some of the names, of, course, are very familiar, but others are  new. That was what happened six years ago when I was intrigued by the poems of Adrian Mitchell, the British poet, playwright and novelist  who died  at age 76. I must admit that I knew neither his name nor his works. I learned that he was an important literary figure in Britain and among readers worldwide.

I was struck by the inclusion of the brief opening stanza of his most famous poem, “To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies About Vietnam)” The power and imagery of the first line , “ I was run over by the truth one day” had a stunning impact and kept repeating for hours through my head.  I wanted to read more and found the poem on Google. As well as the life story of Adrian Mitchell and his work.

Mitchell was described in the Times obituary as “a prolific British poet whose impassioned verse against social injustice, racism and violence was often declaimed at antiwar rallies and political demonstrations.”  I learned that, after completing his national service in the Royal Air Force (RAF), he said the experience “confirmed my natural pacifism.”  His first volume of poems were political, relying on simple straightforward language. Mitchell was widely quoted as saying, “Most people ignore poetry because most poetry ignores most people.”  He read “Tell me lies about Vietnam” for the first time to a crowd of thousands in Trafalgar Square in 1964, and updated the poem over the years to suit changing events.


Now, it is 2014 and a debate is taking place after President Barack Obama’s recent speech at West Point where he called for a United States world affairs policy that aimed at restraint and diplomacy rather than military force and deadly wars in dealing with crises in countries overseas. Obama is a Nobel Peace Laureate and it should have come as no surprise to his critics that he has viewed his role as Commander in Chief through a broad lens.  He  planned and ordered the pursuit and death of Osama bin Laden. Yet, he did not strike Assad in Syria with threatened missiles when negotiations with Russia accomplished the goal of monitored deportation of all poison gases from Syria, bound for destruction.

Here is Mitchell’s poem, “To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies About Vietnam”) Today, it would be appropriate to substitute Iraq for Vietnam. I think Adrian Mitchell would approve.

I was run over by the truth one day,

            Ever since the accident  I walk this way.

           So stick my legs in plaster

            Tell me lies about Vietnam.

             Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain

            Couldn’t find myself so I went back to sleep again

            So fill my ears with silver

            Stick my legs in plaster

            Tell me lies about Vietnam

             Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames.

            Made a marble phone book and I carved out all the names

            So coat my eyes with butter

            Fill my ears with silver

            Stick my legs in plaster

            Tell me lies about Vietnam.

             I smell something burning, hope it’s just my brains.

            They’re only dropping peppermints and daisy chains

            So stuff my nose with garlic

            Coat my eyes with butter

            Fill my ears with silver

            Stick my legs in plaster

            Tell me lies about Vietnam.

             Where were you at the time of the crime?

            Down by the cenotaph drinking slime

            So chain my tongue with whiskey

            Stuff my nose with garlic

            Coat my eyes with butter

            Fill  my ears with silver

            Stick my legs in plaster

            Tell me lies about Vietnam.

             The Cenotaph, Mitchell refers to, is in London in Whitehall. Like other cenotaphs around the world, it is a tomb erected in honor of a person or group whose remains are buried elsewhere. The word cenotaph comes from the Greek kenos  meaning empty and taphos, tomb.  The Cenotaph in London was built from Portland stone between 1919 and 1920. The only decorations are a wreath on each end and the words, “The Glorious Dead” chosen by Rudyard Kipling. The Cenotaph is the site of the annual remembrance held on 11:00 a.m. on Remembrance Sunday, the closest Sunday to November 11, World War I Armistice Day.

Some years ago, during a visit to London, my husband and I were part of the crowd gathered at Whitehall to witness the laying of wreaths at the base of the Cenotaph by Queen Elizabeth and officials from other members of the Commonwealth. This followed a parade of the remaining WWI veterans to the Cenotaph, most in wheel chairs, and veterans of WWII, all in full uniform. It was a very stirring and solemn ceremony. The British observe November 11 with reverence and respect.  Having witnessed the British ceremony that day at the Cenotaph, I can better understand the hatred of war that Adrian Mitchell felt when he wrote his famous poem.  It is as timely today in the 21st century as it was then.


………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson











Donald Trump versus Senator Corker and The Free Press


Prologue: On Sunday, October 8, a feud erupted between the president and Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  It began in the morning when Trump posted a tweet on his Twitter account accusing Corker of deciding not to run for re-election because “he didn’t have the guts.”  Corker shot back with his own tweet, “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.  Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” Trump replied on Twitter, “The senator had “begged” for his endorsement.”  “I said ‘No’ and he dropped out. ” He also wrote that Mr. Corker had asked to be secretary of state.  I said,   ‘NO THANKS’,”

The Feud continues:  On Sunday evening, Bob Corker gave an interview to the New York Times reporters Mark Landler and Jonathan Martin.   He said Trump is treating the presidency “like a reality show” and could be setting the nation “on the path to World War III.”   He had said earlier that “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson,  Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chief of Staff, John Kelly “help separate our county from chaos.” On Sunday, he spoke of the cause, “I  know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to control him.”  There was no doubt of the identity of “him”.

By Monday, the feud was front page news in The New York Times and the number one story on cable TV shows.  Panel members talked about whether other Republicans would come out to support Corker, who held a key position, heading the Foreign Relations Committee.  Trump was challenging the Iran deal and flipping it to Congress. Next to the Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Corker was the most powerful Republican senator.  With only a two vote margin, three votes (including Pence) could affect decisions on Tax Reform,  DACA, and other significant issues  on the docket.

Senator Corker spoke to reporters saying, “A lot of people think there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true.  He said that his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican. He added, “I don’t know why Mr. Trump tweets out things that are not true.  You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.”  Bob Corker, 65, is a former mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee who has built a reputation over two terms as a reliable, but not partisan Republican. He helped Barack Obama win Senate confirmation of the Iran Nuclear Deal despite strong Republican opposition. It was predictable that Trump continued to post negative tweets about him .  He wrote, “Bob Corker gave us the Iran deal and that’s about it. We need Health Care. We need TaxCuts/Reform. We need people who can get the job done.”

On Tuesday, the president mocked Corker’s 5 ft. 7” height when he tweeted,” The Failing  NYTimes set Liddle Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with.”  His tweet reminded insiders that Trump had considered Bob Corker for Secretary of State during the transition period.  He had told associates Corker was too short to be the country’s top diplomat.  When he chose Rex Tillerson, well over six feet, Trump was quoted as saying, “He looks like he’s from central casting.”

Thursday, October 12,  “Nuclear Arsenal Story Prompts Threat by Trump.  NBCNews posted a story online that during a July meeting with members of  his national security team, the president had said that he wanted a nearly tenfold increase in the nations’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.  Some of the Generals present had been stunned.  There was also a report that Trump said, “If we have them, why don’t we use them?”  By 9:55 a.m. the president was tweeting his response.  “With all the fake news coming out of NBC and the networks, at what point is it appropriate to review their license. Bad for country.”   He continued, “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake,  that licenses must be challenged and if appropriate, revoked. “ “Not fair to public.”  Later, at a photo op with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, Trump said, “It is frankly, disgusting that “the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”  This incident reminded the press and the American people of his attacks upon the press as “the enemy of the people” throughout his campaign.

Trump’s threat to target NBC drew an immediate critical firestorm that he was attacking the First Amendment to the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law, respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,  or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The free press was one of the four freedoms the founders placed first in The Bill of Rights. It separates our republic from authoritarian countries like Putin’s Russia,  Assad’s Syria and others where the state press reports the news to the people.  Our free press is independent of the government.

The NYTimes reporters Peter Baker and Cecila Kang wrote that the networks do not hold federal licenses, but the TV stations do.  They also quoted Tom Wheeler, the former chairman of the Federal Communitcations Commission, who said, “Broadcast licenses are a public trust. They’re not a political toy, which he is trying to do here.” He added, “This sounds like another dog whistle for folks to file against the license renewals.  Clearly, it would be a bridge too far for the Trump FCC to move on their own initiative.”

The Nuclear Arsenal story also raised the specter of the escalating war of words between Trump and the North Korean leader igniting “World War III” as Bob Corker warned. Times reporters, who visited North Korea in recent weeks, write that the leaders and people are convinced they would win a war despite the vast difference in their numbers and weapons.   The lead NYT editorial on October 12 was “One Finger on the Button Is Too Few.”   It poses the question,  “Does the president understand and can he responsibly manage the most destructive nuclear arsenal on earth?  He has threatened to’ totally destroy North Korea’. In recent Tweetstorms, his warnings of ‘fire and fury’ and quip about ‘ calm before the storm’ have caused serious concerns that he might launch a first strike without consultation with his national security team.”

Epilogue: Two bills have been introduced in Congress by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Ted Lieu of California, both Democrats, prohibiting the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Only one member in the house has signed on.  It should also be noted that only Senator Ben Sasse, Republican from Nebraska spoke out in support of Bob Corker.  There was congressional action in July with a strong bipartisan bill to stop Trump from lifting sanctions against Russia.  However, it must be noted that the president has not acted on it since then.

…………………………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson



Tillerson and Mattis Challenge Trump on North Korea and Iran


Prologue: On Tuesday September 19,  Donald Trump gave his first presidential address to the United Nations General Assembly.    He stressed “sovereignty”  and his “America First” policy.  “I will always put America first, just like you , as the leaders of your countries, would always and should always put their countries first.”  It was a combative speech, peppered with threats for countries he described as America’s enemies,  North Korea, Iran and Venezuela. There was silence throughout most of his speech, with a smattering of applause at certain points.

Trump singled out North Korea for its pursuit of nuclear weapons and mistreatment of its own people. “No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” he said. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.  Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.  No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea.”

When he spoke of Iran, Trump denounced the nuclear agreement negotiated by Barack Obama and signed by the United States and five other major powers – France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China.  It had been ratified by the  Security Council to stop Iran’s nuclear program for ten years in exchange for lifting international sanctions against Iran. Trump has until October 15 to certify that Iran is complying with United Nations scrutiny of their facilities. He has done this twice since he took office, but he has made clear he would prefer not to do it again.   He said, “The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States  has ever entered into.” He added, “Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis have split from Trump in their positions and statements about North Korea and Iran respectively. Three days after his United Nations address, Donald Trump ridiculed North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, again  as “Little Rocket Man”, drawing loud applause at a campaign rally in Alabama.  The next day, he tweeted his insults and threats. The verbal war accelerated when Kim Jong-un called Trump a “dotard”, translated into a ‘senile old man’.  Cable news commentators and newspaper analysts focused on the escalation of  tweets and reponses as risky and dangerous. A Washington  Post poll found that “37 percent trust Mr. Trump “a great deal” or “a good amount” to handle the situation with North Korea; “42 percent trust him “not at all.”  In contrast, 72 percent trust American military leaders who have largely avoided combative language while saying that a military option is possible.

There are three current and retired generals advising the president:  General John Kelly, his chief of staff; Lt. General H.R. McMaster, National Security adviser and James Mattis, retired four star Marine general who is Defense Secretary.  James Stavridis, former NATO commander, said, “All three of the generals fully realize the carnage that would result from a war on the Korean peninsula. I am certain they are counseling operational caution,  measured commentary and building a coalition approach to dealing with Kim Jong-un.  But controlling President Trump seems incredibly difficult. Let’s hope they are not engaged in mission Impossible because the stakes are so high.”

 Rex Tillerson has been at odds with the president for many months.  After Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence that ensued after White Supremacists, Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazis marched in Chalottesville, VA,  Tillerson said, “The president speaks for himself.”   When a dispute broke out between Qatar and its Arab neighbors, Tillerson felt uniquely qualified to mediate it based on his long relationship with all countries in the region. He publicly called for a “calm and thoughtful dialogue”. Within an hour, Trump sided with the United Arab Emirates and called Qatar a “financier of terrorism”.  Tillerson  complained later that Jared Kushner had influenced the president to do this.

Rex Tillerson traveled to China at the end of September.  He was in Beijing on October 1 when he told reporters traveling with him that he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the escalating verbal war with North Korea. “We are probing, so stay tuned”, he said. He revealed that the United States had two or three channels to North Korea asking, “Would you like to talk?”  Therefore, he added, “We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout.”  When Trump learned of this, he immediately contradicted Tillerson, writing on Twitter, “ I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy, Rex.  We’ll do what has to be done.” It was very clear that the president was focused solely on military options.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis  has steered clear of the White House with his office in The Pentagon.  When he testified before The Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, October 3 about the nuclear agreement with Iran, he openly split with the president.  He stressed under repeated questioning that keeping the Iran deal was key to national security.  Mattis has always taken the position that if he had to confront Iran, he would rather confront a non-nuclear Iran, and that the agreement was preventing the country from possessing or making enough bomb-grade material for a weapon.  He told the committee, “Absent indications to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with.” He added that he supports “the rigorous review that he has going on right now.” When that answer did not satisfy certain members of the committee,  Senator Angus King, Independent from Maine, asked whether the defense secretary thought holding onto the nuclear pact is in the interest of the national security of the United States.  Mattis, paused before replying, ‘Yes, senator, I do.”

Rex Tillerson, still in Beijing, joined Mattis in urging the president to certify the Congress once again that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear agreement. This was despite Trump’s declaration in  August that he would have declared Iran “noncompliant 180 days ago.”  At present, the issue is not resolved.

Epilogue: When the president was asked about rumors of Tillerson’s possible resignation, he brushed that aside with “Fake news. Totally phony story. I have total confidence in Rex.”  Senator Bob Corker,Republican and Chairman of the Foreign Relations C ommittee, said, he hoped Secretary Tillerson would not leave because he serves as a check on instability.  “I think Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much.”

……………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson