John McCain Calls Hearing Protesters ‘Low-Life Scum’

John McCain is not a fan of Code Pink.

Code Pink Scum interrupt Henry Kissinger

John McCain is not a fan of Code Pink.

CNN (“McCain boots ‘low-life scum’ from hearing“):

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain had harsh words for protesters who shouted criticism at 91-year-old Henry Kissinger at a hearing Thursday.

“Get out of here, you low-life scum,” the Arizona Republican told the protesters.

Kissinger, the diplomat who was secretary of state under President Richard Nixon, as well as President Ronald Reagan secretary of state George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, were on hand for a hearing on global security challenges.

As the hearing started, several protesters approached the table where Kissinger was seated, holding signs and shouting at him.

“I’ve been a member of this committee for many years and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place,” McCain said.

“You know, you’re going to have to shut up or I’m going have you arrested,” he said, summoning Capitol Hill police.

 And then, to a smattering of applause, McCain added: “Get out of here you low-life scum.”

Later in the hearing, Kissinger was interrupted by two female protesters who held signs and had painted their palms red. They stood up and shouted that Kissinger “oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, which led to the deaths of millions of people.”

The two were escorted from the room, too. And Shultz drew applause when he stood and said, “I salute Dr. Henry Kissinger.”

McCain stood by his comments on Thursday night when asked by Fox News’ Neil Cavuto if he had any regrets about the incident.

“No, because they are that,” McCain said of calling the protesters “scum.”

“Anybody who would do that kind of behavior is guilty of it. It was terribly upsetting to me,” he said.

The right to protest government leaders is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. And, certainly, Henry Kissinger remains a figure of considerable controversy even nearly four decades removed from office.But I’m with McCain on the tactics of Code Pink and their ilk.

Kissinger has enjoyed a life of wealth and fame because of his public service and should fully expect some of the downsides that come with that. These include protesters at various public appearances. Presumably, he’s accustomed to that. Indeed, having encountered him a various public speeches over the years, I suspect he rather enjoys the attention and greets is with good humor.

But Code Pink is something altogether different. For years, they’ve come to various public fora in Washington either in small groups or individually with the intention of disrupting them. At some point in the event, the protesters will start hollering or chanting, continuing until such time as they’re escorted from the premises. It’s shameful conduct, drawing attention to themselves at the expense of the civil discussion that the other assembled guests have come to enjoy. “Low-life scum” is about right.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Congress, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jack says:

    Code Pink = Left Wing of Democrat Party

  2. Heisenberg says:

    Kissinger: lies to the nation & helps perpetuate war crimes, so he gets wealth and fame.

    Code Pink: Calls attention to Kissinger’s crimes, so they’re low-life scum.

    America.

  3. Facebones says:

    So the lesson here is if you want the media to take your protest seriously, don’t get some silly girls in pink to shout slogans.

    What you need are some jowly men in breeches and tri-corner hats with misspelled signs.

  4. Ben says:

    Ironic that McCain is defending Kissinger, the man who did his damnedest to prolong the time that McCain spent being tortured in that hellhole.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    @Jack:

    Code Pink = Left Wing of Democrat Party

    a very very marginal presence in the Democratic Party at that, and probably constitutes 5% of Democratic Party constituents. Contrast that with 50% of Republicans who subscribe to Birther claims that Obama is not a legitimate president, and consistent polling that shows over 25% of the GOP believes the Earth is 7,000 years old and so forth.

    That said, I have no problem with John McCain’s words – he’s free to express his opinion about Code Pink, just as Code Pink is free to slam Kissinger.

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    You know who McCain has never called low-life scum?

    His fellow Republicans who set up, supported and enabled an illegal years-long program to kidnap, imprison, torture, rape and humiliate untold numbers of defenseless prisoners.

    Rather shows what he really thinks is important, doesn’t it?

  7. LaMont says:

    Irrespective of how you feel about Code Pink, they were successful – that got you to blog about it!! The next logical step is for one to wonder and research why Kissinger was a target and what Code Pink stands for. This is the intended purpose of protests that inconveniences people. If there is no merit behind it the movement would eventually die out.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @LaMont: They almost never get coverage for their stunts. McCain is getting coverage for calling them “;low-life scum.”

  9. humanoid.panda says:

    @al-Ameda:

    a very very marginal presence in the Democratic Party at that, and probably constitutes 5% of Democratic Party constituent

    That’s a wild over-estimation of the power of Code Pink (who despise Obama just as much as they despise Bush btw).

  10. LaMont says:

    @James Joyner:

    In this case they are. And they only need one set of circumstances to get them there. Does it really make a difference how they get the exposure?

  11. Will Taylor says:
  12. dmichael says:

    “It’s shameful conduct, drawing attention to themselves at the expense of the civil discussion that the other assembled guests have come to enjoy. “Low-life scum” is about right.” So your response to a disruptive protest concerning the public appearance of someone who committed war crimes is to disparage the protestors as “low-life scum” to further the civil discussion that they interrupted. Please. Google “Kissinger and war crimes” and learn something about this man’s life and what it says about this country when he is allowed not only to go free but is also sought out for his “wisdom” (of course, unless he travels to countries like Chile and Spain where he would be arrested.

  13. Jc says:

    What did John say when one of his own yells out during the SOTU address? Was scum used? I think we are confusing scum with tacky, bur really is not a big deal, but is nowadays in today’s “news” environment.

  14. CrustyDem says:

    What do you think of Kissinger’s legacy, James? That’s much more interesting than what you think of Code Pink…

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @CrustyDem:

    What do you think of Kissinger’s legacy, James? That’s much more interesting than what you think of Code Pink…

    I can tell you what James thinks: as long as war crimes, torture, kidnapping and terrorism was committed by a Republican, what he thinks is a big shrug of his shoulders and an “eh, whatta ya gonna do?”

    It’s certainly not as if he thinks anyone from his party should ever be held accountable for such crimes, after all.

  16. KM says:

    **Sigh** Damnit, y’all are making me come to Code Pink’s defense. I feel like I’ll need a shower after this…..

    As much as I despise Code Pink’ choice of tactics (I prefer civility in my protests and disruptive actions do more harm then good), I don’t like that McCain feels comfortable calling them “scum”. They are no different then “You Lie” Wilson, anti-abortion protesters chanting endlessly, Tea Partiers, or any other group that uses shock and unseemly behavior to disrupt the process solely for their own agenda. Hell, this isn’t even a right or left issue, it’s a fringe issue – nuts begging for attention they can’t get otherwise and trying to disturb you enough to listen to them. They aren’t worth the time for a rejoinder. Escort them out, arrest them if need be but don’t even bother giving them the time of day. Certainly don’t engage them to the point they piss you off enough to call people names – you’re just giving them points.

    The tactics are “scummy” and are widely used by those on the fringes to force their voice to be heard. But he shouldn’t be calling them that unless he’s prepared to call all protesters who do so (even on his own side) “Scum”.

  17. CrustyDem says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    You may be right, I’d like to hear it from James, it certainly would be better than the mealy “some people think, others think” pablum in the post. Code Pink is “low-life scum” for protesting Kissinger at the Senate, but what is Kissinger for his actions in Laos, Chile, East Timor and Central America? Nothing screams “inside the Beltway” like berating protesters for improper behavior in attacking a/an (accused) war criminal…

  18. anjin-san says:

    You step out of line, the man come and take you away

    Some things never change…

  19. JKB says:

    @KM: They are no different then “You Lie” Wilson, anti-abortion protesters chanting endlessly, Tea Partiers, or any other group that uses shock and unseemly behavior to disrupt the process solely for their own agenda.

    Perhaps you can elaborate about when the “Tea Partiers” used “shock and unseemly behavior”. Admittedly, they did shock DC and the professional protester class when they seemly marched by the thousands to the National Mall for some seemly speeches before leaving the place cleaner than when they arrived. During that protest, no one took a dump on a police car, attacked police or took over public spaces for weeks creating an unsanitary condition. Perhaps you consider it unseemly to protest in a manner that shows how poor behaved other protesters have been?

  20. Stan says:

    During the 60’s I attended as many anti-war rallies as I could. It was heart warming. The crowds at the rallies were big, and we all cheered our hearts out. Then the side we were cheering for won, and Vietnamese started streaming out of their country in their rickety little boats. Many of them died at sea, and those that didn’t wound up as penniless refugees. But they were well off compared to the Cambodians. Now the rallies called for help for the Vietnamese refugees and for Pol Pot’s victims. The attendance at these rallies was small, twenty or thirty people at most, reflecting the indifference of America’s liberal intellectuals to left-wing tyranny. George McGovern, still a hero of mine, one of the most decent men ever to play a role in American politics, did his best to call attention to what was happening, and so did Joan Baez. Otherwise the left was silent or, like Noam Chomsky writing in The Nation, complicit in Pol Pot’s crimes. So when I look at Code Pink and Henry Kissinger, I can’t decide who I dislike more. Kissinger was and is a cold-hearted bastard, and Code Pink, as far as I can see, displays the usual leftwing selective opposition to tyranny and war. A pox on both their houses.

  21. James Joyner says:

    @CrustyDem:

    What do you think of Kissinger’s legacy, James? That’s much more interesting than what you think of Code Pink…

    My view of what the National Security Advisor was doing when I was four is more interesting than what I think of something that happened yesterday? That’s a rather nonstandard blogging model.

  22. KM says:

    JKB:

    Perhaps you can elaborate about when the “Tea Partiers” used “shock and unseemly behavior”.

    Dressing up in colonial clothes to appropriate their identity for their own agenda, wearing hats covered in tea bags (granted, that died off after someone informed them of what ‘tea bag’ meant), and screaming and being disruptive at town meetings come to mind. You are using one protest as a example of good behavior when a simple google search turns up dozens of example of less-then-stellar behavior. You are also confusing “shock” and “disgusting” (I find Code Pink to be disgusting personally). Shock tactics are look-at-me!!! things designed to pull your attention to them – what man in his right mind wanders around in a colonial gear at a protest unless he has a point to make and is pushing the visual to do it?

    Come now, JKB, I was honest enough to point out and condemn this lefty group’s nutty behavior. Sure you can do the same and admit that your side’s not always roses and sunshine? I did say this wasn’t a partisan thing – it’s a nut thing.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    Kissinger has enjoyed a life of wealth and fame because of his public service…

    James, if you don’t wish to discuss your view of Kissinger’s legacy or explain why you feel there’s “controversy” over whether or not he is a lying sack of shite; could you, as a professional writer on such topics at least come up with some better phrase than “public service” for what he’s done? Any “controversy” aside, how does making himself a multimillionaire as a private consultant qualify as “public service”?

  24. CrustyDem says:

    Yeah, those Tea Party protesters really stay above the fray. Why, they’re the epitome of class. I mean, they have a great message and they manage to avoid controversy by putting forth a positive image. Ahem.

  25. Pinky says:

    What did McCain say about Joe Wilson?

    “totally disrespectful…no place for it in that setting or any other, and he should apologize immediately”

  26. Pinky says:

    Given James’s professional background, I doubt if he can be completely candid about his feelings on this issue.

  27. KM says:

    @Pinky:

    What did McCain say about Joe Wilson?

    “totally disrespectful…no place for it in that setting or any other, and he should apologize immediately”

    As he should – Wilson was being disrespectful and disruptive. Bravo to McCain there for enforcing basic manners.

    But unless he called Wilson “scum” or something similar to his face, it’s still not quiet the same level of censure. I find it unsettling that he had no problem calling a disruptive civilian a name he wasn’t comfortable calling a co-worker acting up as well. Perhaps it might be that he’s willing to give a fellow Congress Critter a pass but I can’t help but feel there’s an essential difference here that needs to be addressed.

  28. Code Pink may be a bunch of troublemakers, but they’re still ultimately John McCain’s boss. The problem with his outburst is that it’s more evidence of a politician who sees himself as a public master rather than a public servant.

  29. Pinky says:

    @KM: I don’t know what McCain said to him, or when. Should he have shouted “scum” at him during the State of the Union address?

  30. KM says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    ultimately John McCain’s boss.

    This!! This is what’s been bugging me about this whole thing. I was put off by his choice of words but couldn’t really explain why. It does feel like he’s talking about something slimy under his bootheels, doesn’t it? I don’t care if that’s what most of us feel about them; a politician shouldn’t talk about constituents that way, let alone to their face. It feels…. elitist. Arrogantly aristocratic. Perhaps a poor choice of words on his part (the man was angry) but it just rubs wrong.

  31. KM says:

    @Pinky:

    Should he have shouted “scum” at him during the State of the Union address?

    If Wilson felt comfortable enough to cause trouble in class scream out during the State of the Union, he should feel just as comfortable with someone rebuking him out loud immediately afterwards or being put in the naughty corner pulled aside immediately to be talked to. They were certainly quick enough to remove the protesters; why did Joe get to keep his seat?

  32. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08:

    James, if you don’t wish to discuss your view of Kissinger’s legacy or explain why you feel there’s “controversy” over whether or not he is a lying sack of shite; could you, as a professional writer on such topics at least come up with some better phrase than “public service” for what he’s done? Any “controversy” aside, how does making himself a multimillionaire as a private consultant qualify as “public service”

    Kissinger is a venerated figure whose counsel is still sought out by presidents, secretaries of state, and others of both parties. He’s pretty clearly a public servant.

    He was the key foreign policy advisor to Nixon during the Vietnam War and some of our policies there quite probably violated the laws of armed conflict. So, too, did some of our policies during the Johnson administration’s conduct of the war. Not to mention our conduct of WWII. Ditto the various black ops, including foreign leader assassinations, that took place under Nixon. That was US policy for decades. I’m not sure why Kissinger should be held in especial contempt for them.

  33. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    My view of what the National Security Advisor was doing when I was four is more interesting than what I think of something that happened yesterday?

    Oh, if only there were some way that a man who holds a PhD in political science could find out about and develop opinions on issues in American politics that happened when he was four years old!

  34. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    My view of what the National Security Advisor was doing when I was four is more interesting than what I think of something that happened yesterday? That’s a rather nonstandard blogging model.

    Noted that you engage in a rathe silly and transparent deflection instead of having the heart to answer honestly. Almost as if you know you can’t actually answer honestly….

  35. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: I”ve read a lot about the Nixon administration and the Vietnam War in general. Generally speaking, stuff that happened half a century ago isn’t fodder for current events blogs.

  36. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: He’s chairman of a committee, presiding over a hearing, and responding to miscreants illegally disrupting the public’s business. I don’t think he owes them any deference.

  37. Tony W says:

    Wait, let me get this straight. The same McCain who foisted Ms. Palin on us is now calling others “low life scum?” Has he never been to a Palin-family drunken brawl?

  38. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: Well, he’s venerated by some people…

    My own opinion is that Henry Kissinger skated too close to being a war criminal for me to feel comfortable with the man or his (supposed) fantastic advice.

  39. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    responding to miscreants illegally disrupting the public’s business. I don’t think he owes them any deference.

    Deference, no. You are absolutely correct on that. Code Pink was wrong here; McCain was right to have the disruption removed.

    Basic manners, yes. He’s a elected representative of the People of the United States of America. I expect him to have more manners and decorum then a 3 year old. Screaming insults at someone is a public venue is crass, no matter who does it or who’s being called what. Politeness exists because there are people in this world we don’t like and we still have to deal with them. Manners are for everyone, not just people we like James. Society would fall apart otherwise. The “scum” was a step too far.

  40. @James Joyner:

    And it is perfectly possible to end the disruption without the “low life scum” remark.

  41. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: I still remember hearing the news on the radio, must have been October ’72, that Kissinger had announced we were on the verge of agreement in the Paris Peace Talks. Turned out to be not true. Sure helped Nixon get reelected though. Those would be the same Paris peace talks that it appears Kissinger had a hand in sabotaging four years earlier.

    But I’m sure both sides do it. (Actually, to some extent they do, but is that a reason to excuse individuals you know have done great harm to the country by being self serving asshats.)

    I think one of the defining differences between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives feel people in high places are due respect because of their position, while liberals feel people in those positions should behave respectably.

  42. CrustyDem says:

    @James Joyner:

    To me, definitely, given that what you think of Code Pink is A) completely predictable and B) moot, given their complete lack of power and control. Obviously, what you choose to focus on is your call, but I find the morality (or lack thereof) and effectiveness (or failure) of Kissinger much more interesting than what McCain said or Code Pink did. Comments would suggest that I may have a point…

  43. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think he owes them any deference.

    You really don’t see the difference between not owing someone deference and calling them lowlife scum?

  44. anjin-san says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    And it is perfectly possible to end the disruption without the “low life scum” remark.

    A simple “everyone appearing before this body will be treated with respect, and disruptions of our business here will not be tolerated” would have done the trick nicely

  45. Rafer Janders says:

    The Code Pink protestors committed the gravest sin to any conservative: they didn’t respec’ his authoriteh.

  46. John425 says:

    @al-Ameda: …a very very marginal presence in the Democratic Party at that, and probably constitutes 5% of Democratic Party constituents. Contrast that with 50% of Republicans who subscribe to Birther claims that Obama is not a legitimate president, and consistent polling that shows over 25% of the GOP believes the Earth is 7,000 years old and so forth.

    That’s crap and you know it.

    BTW: McCain rejects the Code Pink troglodytes and so does the rest of America.

  47. Tyrell says:

    @Heisenberg: I am not a big supporter of McCain, but. This time he hit it right concerning the actions of “Code Pink” radical group that is dispicable. That being said, I support their right to peaceful protest. It just needs to be kept outside, like in an abandoned lot, or the city dump.
    I regard Dr. Kissinger as a great statesman who worked tirelessly for freedom and peace with honor. He will stand tall in the history books, along with Haig, Rusk, Schultz, Webster, Calhoun, Seward, Hay, Marshall, Acheson, and Dulles.

  48. Tyrell says:

    @LaMont: It is a radical group that does not stand or support America. While they have a right to protest, it is unwise for the media to cover their actions and give them one second of publicity. If their actions cross the line into insurgency and terrorism, then they should be arrested.

  49. Tyrell says:

    @Will Taylor: I have seen that before. I think that he captured the feelings of a lot of law abiding Americans concerning a lot of lawlessness and criminal elements.

  50. Jeremy R says:

    I don’t care for Code Pink as their tactics are generally irritating and counterproductive, but this episode with McCain doesn’t sit well well me. As chairman of the committee he certainly has the power to direct capital police to eject unruly attendants, but it’s crossing a line to be in the middle of exercising that authority and at the same time calling protesters you disagree with scum. I imagine the Right would be in a total meltdown if Carl Levin had ever used his mantle of authority against Tea Party protesters while at the same time sneering & spewing invective at them.

    I get why people are saying McCain removing Code Pink was the right thing to do, but the praise for his unprofessional outburst baffles me.

  51. Will Taylor says:

    @Tyrell:

    I’m not a fan of Kissinger but there’s a time and place for these things. it kind of reminds me of these Lyndon Larouche clowns i occasionally see in NYC.. Sometimes when I used to smoke, I’d engage a few of them just for laughs. Those people are some crazy %@%@ They hate everyone, Bush, Cheney, Obama, Hillary, Kerry, etc… They’re like a cult

  52. Gustopher says:

    I think war criminals and those who consort with them are deserving of public condemnation and disruption, even 40 years after the fact.

    Besides, it’s not like the Senate actually does anything anyway.

  53. Tyrell says:

    @Rafer Janders: Let’s go back and look at the record. Congress gave President Johnson full authority to go after the Communists in Vietnam. US involvement was favored by a huge majority of the American people, as well as Eisenhower and Kennedy. Johnson’s big mistake was trying a limited approach instead of driving the communists back to China where they belonged. Even after Johnson left support for the war remained high. The feeling was if the communists were allowed to take over in SE Asia, then they would eventually be over here. It was the domino theory, and most Americans believed it, supported by past events. The people did not support “bugging” out and leaving the South Vietnamese hanging on a limb.
    And this thing of calling Dr. Kissinger a “war criminal” is bizarre and absurd. How far back are you going to go ? Rusk, Acheson, Dulles, MacNamara, Nixon, Ford, Haig, Curtis LeMay ?
    So don’t try to pull the “war criminal” thing.

  54. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Perhaps you can elaborate about when the “Tea Partiers” used “shock and unseemly behavior

    LOL, you have to ask?

  55. LaMont says:

    @Tyrell:

    Yet, I have become more aware of who Kissinger is and what he has done during the time he served this country. I have instantly become more compelled to research and read more information regarding Kissinger. I was born in 1980 so maybe you can understand how I did not know who Kissinger is. My interest was sparked by James blog and the content in the comments section makes me want to learn more. In effect, I am the example of how Code Pink’s tactics, though silly, got through.

  56. Tyrell says:

    Two excellent accounts are “White House Years” and “On China” by Dr. Kissinger. These are fair accounts .

  57. dmichael says:

    @LaMont: Tyrell’s suggestion that the two books written by Kissinger would be “fair accounts” of his actions is ridiculous on its face. Try this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bFOhAAYfqk.

  58. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “Johnson’s big mistake was trying a limited approach instead of driving the communists back to China where they belonged. ”

    The “communists” were Viet Namese citizens. But because they disagreed with the United States on the course their country should take, they should have been banished to a foreign country that doesn’t even speak the same language — or killed?

    Hmm, what would you think if another culture decided we shouldn’t be a republic anymore and invaded to enforce their own vision on us?

  59. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “So don’t try to pull the “war criminal” thing.”

    You might want to google the illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia that led directly to the fall of their government and the rise of the murderous (and Communist!) Khmer Rouge.

    Don’t read about it in Kissinger’s memoirs, though.

  60. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Heh. 😉 But a hell of a lot more pertinent.

  61. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh and just to point out the obvious, how else does one get people to pay attention to what you have to say without saying “LOOK AT ME!!!”?

    Apparently, all you all have been way too comfortable for way too long.

  62. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner: “They almost never get coverage for their stunts. McCain is gettingthem coverage for by calling them “;low-life scum.”

    FTFY.

  63. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner: In this case, honesty would serve you better than evasiveness. You’re a foreign policy expert, so you know that in the absence of members of the winning side to charge you with them, war crimes, as such do not exist. You should be willing to say so.

    On a metaphysical level, of course, they still exist, but like the tree in the forest of philosophical analogy, where there’s no one to hear it, it doesn’t matter whether it makes a sound when it falls,

  64. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner: This was a better answer! See how honesty works, now?

  65. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Is it also, then, unwise for a ranking GOP Senator to respond to then in a manner that offers publicity to their agenda, or is that just putting those “low-life scum” in their place?

  66. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: Code Pink and others who have adopted those tactics have earned a certain enmity in DC policy circles. They’re just so pervasive and tiresome, so I get McCain’s frustration here. I agree that it would have been more professional to have reacted as you describe. I sympathize with his outburst, though.

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: It’s more complicated than that. It’s not so much victor’s justice, although that’s inevitable, but the weakness of international law as a construct. We lost Vietnam, after all. And we tried numerous people for various violations of the LOAC in that war.

    But there has been no serious movement to try Nixon and his top advisors for the conduct of the war. The great powers, who essentially run the international criminal system, simply view the actions of Westerners in prosecuting a war differently than they do the genocidal campaigns of African warlords or even ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Given that all the Western powers committed atrocities similar to those Kissinger is accused of during World War II, there’s little to no outrage over them.

    Like it or not, Kissinger is a venerated figure in foreign policy circles. He’s an elder statesman in a way that almost no one else (maybe Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell come close) are. There are those, particularly those under 40, who see him as a villain. But even Democratic figures like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, John Kerry, etc. cozy up to him on a regular basis.

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: As a general rule, I don’t want to divert discussions off topic. The topic here was McCain’s outburst at the disruptive antics of Code Pink. There’s nothing dishonest about saying that this doesn’t require a discussion about things that happened forty-odd years ago.

  67. Zachriel says:

    Nixon and Kissinger had already determined the Vietnam War wasn’t winnable, but continued the war for political purposes.

    Nixon: because I look at the tide of history out there, South Vietnam probably can never even survive anyway…

    Nixon: It’s terribly important this year, but can we have a viable foreign policy if a year from now or two years from now, North Vietnam gobbles up South Vietnam? That’s the real question.

    Kissinger: If a year or two years from now North Vietnam gobbles up South Vietnam, we can have a viable foreign policy if it looks as if it’s the result of South Vietnamese incompetence. If we now sell out in such a way that, say, within a three- to four-month period, we have pushed [unclear] [South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van] Thieu over the brink– we ourselves– I think, there is going to be– even the Chinese won’t like that. I mean, they’ll pay verbal– verbally, they’ll like it–

    Nixon: But it’ll worry them.

    Kissinger: But it will worry everybody. And domestically in the long run it won’t help us all that much because our opponents will say we should’ve done it three years ago.

    Nixon: I know.

  68. James Joyner says:

    @Zachriel: We’re able to see the sausage making in the Nixon White House because of the tapes. Do you really think things were different in the Clinton and Obama White House? Everything I’ve read shows both were/are immensely concerned about the domestic reaction to any and all foreign policy decisions. The Afghan Surge, in particular, was absolutely about domestic politics.

  69. @James Joyner:

    Code Pink and others who have adopted those tactics have earned a certain enmity in DC policy circles. They’re just so pervasive and tiresome, so I get McCain’s frustration here.

    Each year, McCain gets paid almost $200,000, almost a million dollars in office expenses, and an extremely generous compensation package. The poor baby can deal with occasional frustrations from the public.

  70. CrustyDem says:

    Do you really think things were different in the Clinton and Obama White House?

    Yes. Of course it is. Are you so cynical that you view Nixon as “typical”, even for democrats? Did candidate Obama sabotage peace in Iraq or Afghanistan?

    And no, I am not so naive to expect political considerations to be set aside, no one here is, but to act as though Kissinger’s actions were normal and acceptable just demonstrates why so many here hesitate to condemn Code Pink.

  71. Tyrell says:

    There is another issue here and that is the increasing occurrence of groups coming in and disrupting a peaceful assembly. People who pay admission or if it is free should expect to attend and enjoy the event without it being disrupted. And it doesn’t matter what group: Tea Party, , Minutemen, Communist Society, Plumbers Union, or the local Ladies Crochet Club. People should not be allowed in if they are going to disrupt. I am in favor of free speech. A solution would be to set aside some area such as a parking lot or vacant building and let them use it. Maybe a school gym or auditorium. This type of thing seems to be increasing. Maybe it is because of the general lack of respect that is prevalent today.

  72. James Joyner says:

    @CrustyDem: Perhaps I view the Nixon administration’s foreign less harshly than some others simply because I was a kid when it transpired so view it with pretty much pure analytic dispatch, whereas I had pretty strong personal feelings about the Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama presidencies.

    I think the Johnson and Nixon administrations, back-to-back, were rather clearly among the darker chapters of our modern history. Both did some really good things for really good reasons—LBJ on civil rights and poverty, Nixon in foreign affairs (notably China) and workplace safety, environmental protection, etc.—but they were both paranoid, cynical, despicable men in a variety of ways. Both were exceedingly cynical in their Vietnam policies, sending thousands to their deaths despite very little chance of success.

    Clinton was at least exceedingly risk averse, perhaps to a fault. His Bosnia and Kosovo policies, in particular, led to a lot of innocent deaths in order to avoid American casualties in wars in which we nonetheless intervened.

    Obama’s is quite possibly the least corrupt presidential administration in my adult lifetime. Still, we have lots of insights from credible figures—notably moderate Dem Leon Panetta and moderate Republican Bob Gates—that show us a pretty cynical approach to foreign affairs. In particular, I find the Afghan Surge next to unforgivable.

  73. Joel says:

    @Stan:
    Otherwise the left was silent or, like Noam Chomsky writing in The Nation, complicit in Pol Pot’s crimes. So when I look at Code Pink and Henry Kissinger, I can’t decide who I dislike more. Kissinger was and is a cold-hearted bastard, and Code Pink, as far as I can see, displays the usual leftwing selective opposition to tyranny and war. A pox on both their houses.

    Yes, I agree. Leftist critiques of US foreign policy are often serious and deserve a hearing. All too often, though, people like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn discredit themselves by ignoring or shrugging their shoulders at horrible non-western regimes (or they may just say everything bad in the world is really western imperialism’s fault). We can condemn the Vietnam war as wrong while also taking the horrors of communist regimes seriously.

    I don’t know anything about Code Pink in particular though, but I would guess they’re in the same camp.

  74. gVOR08 says:

    @Zachriel: @James Joyner: Nixonland shows that Nixon knew the war was unwinnable in ’66. It appears to be true that Kissinger, who was on Johnson’s Paris negotiaing team, passed information to Nixon, who passed word to the South Vietnamese that they’d get a better deal from Nixon if they held out. After Nixon’s reelection, and hundreds of thousands of dead later, they got a worse deal.
    It may be true that both sides do it. Although I do think there’s a difference in degree. Perhaps they keep doing it because so many people give them a pass on it. Even condemn the few people who raise the issue.

  75. Robin Cohen says:

    John McCain-bitter old man.

  76. R.Dave says:

    I’m surprised this thread has focused so much on Kissinger’s Vietnam-era actions. I’ve always thought his real sins were in crafting US policy in Latin America during the 70s, encouraging coups, backing dictators when other options were available, giving cover to death squads and disappearances, helping establish the School of the Americas, etc. That’s the stuff I find so inexcusable.

  77. R.Dave says:

    Whoops – meant to say “oversee” not “establish” the School of the Americas.

  78. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    In particular, I find the Afghan Surge next to unforgivable.

    Note once again that James has never used the word “unforgivable” to describe the Iraq War itself, Bush’s virtual abandonment of the war in Afghanistan in order to divert resources to Iraq, or the Bush regime’s criminal gulag of kidnap, torture and rape camps.

  79. Rafer Janders says:

    @R.Dave:

    I’ve always thought his real sins were in crafting US policy in Latin America during the 70s, encouraging coups, backing dictators when other options were available, giving cover to death squads and disappearances, helping establish the School of the Americas, etc. That’s the stuff I find so inexcusable.

    Absolutely. Kissinger was, quite simply, aiding and abetting terrorism, both terrorism against legitimate and democratically-elected governments (as in Allende’s Chile), and then state-sponsored terrorism by the fascists who overthrew those democracies (Chile again, Argentina, etc.)

  80. HankP says:

    @James Joyner: I think what the national security adviser did – which is in fact multiple war crimes – is far more important than what a handful of protestors did yesterday. You avoidance of the issue is weak, weak, weak. If there was any justice in the world Kissinger would be prison cell.

  81. wr says:

    @Rafer Janders: ” Kissinger was, quite simply, aiding and abetting terrorism,”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    It’s terrorism if they do it.

    If we do it, it’s Freedom!

  82. Tyrell says:

    @HankP: “Kissinger would be in a prison cell” Bizarre.
    How far do you go with these “Nuremburg” scenarios and fantasies ? Acheson, LeMay, Rusk, MacNamara, Johnson, Clifford, McBundy, Ford, Humphrey? How about some of the generals ?