Charlie Sheen and Lawrence O'Donnell.
What do the actor and MSNBC host have in common?
And what role does addiction play?
Hang on. First, one of Jack Kemp's favorite stories. The former congressman, HUD Secretary and vice-presidential nominee loved telling this story, always told it to effect -- and to a point certain.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism," Kemp would say, quoting Douglas MacArthur quoting his own father, General Arthur MacArthur, on the eve of the invasion of Inchon in the Korean War. The senior MacArthur, overshadowed in later history by his son, was no slouch at military strategy himself -- he had begun his own distinguished military career by winning the Congressional Medal of Honor as an 18-year old in the Civil War.
Kemp would use the Inchon story repeatedly to inspire his audiences, whether a handful of staff or thousands of cheering Republicans. The one-time quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, who had the broken finger on his throwing hand molded permanently to fit a football -- a move which helped him not only continue a career others insisted was at an end but helped him quarterback the Bills to two back-to-back AFL championships -- knew a thing or two about throwing the long ball, about getting tackled, getting up and running the ball again. And again and again and again and again. Until the goal line (the Kemp-Roth tax cuts that produced some 21 million jobs and launched the Reagan Revolution) was crossed.
Jack Kemp and his favorite Inchon story come to mind as the news of the House GOP's acceptance of a budget deal with President Obama and the forces of the American Left in Congress were announced. It comes to mind as the fight to raise the debt ceiling looms as the next big fiscal fight, along with the next chapter in the budget fight. It comes to mind as President Obama prepares, reportedly, to ask for -- shocker -- higher taxes. The MacArthur story in Kemp's (historically accurate) telling went roughly as follows:
It is the summer of 1950. North Korea has successfully, out of the blue, invaded South Korea, quickly capturing the capital of Seoul as the Communists relentlessly sweep over the border and through the South Korean countryside. President Harry Truman had determined this would not stand, and MacArthur, summoned from his post-World War II post in Japan, was given command. MacArthur surveyed the situation and had an idea. It was bold, startling in its creativity. What Douglas MacArthur was planning was a surprise amphibious landing at Inchon, a coastal South Korean city on the Yellow Sea. His goal was to land well behind the Communist forces that had taken Seoul, execute a great turning movement… surprise the enemy… and defeat him. Retake the South Korean capital and begin to drive the North Koreans back over the 38th parallel.
The Pentagon, alarmed, balked. Generals were adamantly opposed. Admirals said not only no but hell no. Every conceivable reason was given as to why invading Inchon was a bad, very bad idea. No beaches, impossibly high tides or low tide mud flats. Strong currents. Shoals, rocks, small bay, narrow channel, high seawalls. Whatever Inchon was, it was not the flat beaches of France on D-Day. It was absolutely not the place to try and land 75,000 troops and maneuver over 250 ships.
On and on went the list of objections. And in the end, hearing his father's wisdom, MacArthur, possessed of clarity of vision and the courage to act on that vision, stood and said (Kemp's husky voice growing hushed here): "I can almost hear the ticking hand of destiny. We must act now or we will die… Inchon will succeed."
And so it did. Spectacularly, taking the North Koreans completely by surprise. In took a mere four days to take and secure the city, putting an abrupt halt to a series of North Korean victories and led to the re-capture of Seoul. MacArthur's bold vision -- and the steel nerve to carry it out -- was vindicated.
Kemp's point was understood exactly by his friend Ronald Reagan. This was precisely what Reagan meant when he gave his famous 1975 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference:
I don't know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, 'We must broaden the base of our party' -- when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents.
Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?
Let us show that we stand for fiscal integrity and sound money and above all for an end to deficit spending, with ultimate retirement of the national debt.