Yesterday I mentioned that Gary Hart has played a more consistently valuable role, over a longer span of years, on questions of national security and national values than the great majority of other public figures. Here are two items typical of the responses I've received. First, from Frank Van Haste:
From 1979 to 1981 I worked in a department called Business Development Planning for the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics. One of my tasks was to read SASC [Senate Armed Services Committee] hearing transcripts to glean anything that might bear on the submarine business. I quickly concluded that the committee was largely comprised of blithering idiots - except for Sen. Hart.
The deal was this: Any Senator could ask a good question - after all, they'd been fed them by bright young staffers. Gary Hart was the ONLY one who could ask a good follow-up question! It saddens me that his scintillating intellect has not had a greater influence on our body politic.
And from a former political supporter of Hart's:
Thanks for helping raise the profile of Hart again. I, too, was heavily involved in the 1972 McGovern campaign while in college and always respected Hart's understanding of diplomacy and the consequences of war. Hopefully, Obama, the current Congress, and the national media will give him a hearing to help develop a consistent and clearly communicated policy across a the complex range of national security challenges now in front of us.
Why bring this up now? Apart from giving Hart his retroactive due, we're again at a moment similar to the one that originally spawned his "defense reform" movement. As in the late 1970s we have: an obvious mismatch between the missions the American military has been assigned and the resources on which it can count in the long run; a level of political debate entirely unsuited to the complexities of this challenge; the pressures both good and bad of new technology, and the ever-shifting definitions of threats to national welfare. Plus now, more than 35 years into the volunteer army era, we have a much deeper separation between the professional military class and many other strata in American society. It would be good to have "another" Gary Hart to catalyze such discussions. But it's worth remember that we still have the original model on hand. (Photo from Yale Divinity School here.)