The Hoover Institution Fall Retreat, October 24–26, 2004, again captured the times with speakers addressing current public policy and events that affect our lives.

Discussions of the Presidential Election, Iraq War, Conservatives, and the Constitution Dominate Retreat

"We have won the intellectual battle for ideas that affect a free society, but the transition from proposed solutions to actual policy implementation involves the political process that is Congress. All too often Congress follows the Yogi Berra dictum 'When you come to a fork in the road, take it.'"

These were part of the welcoming remarks made by Kurt Hauser, Hoover Board of Overseers chairman, at the Sunday, October 24, dinner of the Hoover Institution's Fall Retreat 2004. Hauser began his remarks by describing the Hoover Institution as a public policy research center devoted to the advanced study of politics, economics, and political economy—both domestic and foreign—as well as international affairs.

Hoover fellows, Hauser said, address public policy issues by generating ideas to address those issues. These ideas include replacing the Social Security system with private accounts, providing school vouchers to allow students to choose the school they attend, and replacing the current tax code with a flat tax.

Before introducing the main speaker, Hoover director John Raisian welcomed participants the 15th year of the retreats. Each year, since the retreats began in 1989, Raisian said, has led to greater participation.

Jon Meacham, the speaker at Sunday's dinner, began by saying that "war elections are always ferocious affairs." In his talk, ""Ballots and Bullets: The Politics of War from FDR and Churchill to Bush and Kerry," Meacham, a Newsweek editor and author of Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, examined the tactics used by opponents in presidential campaigns during wartime elections. He explained the intensity of the campaigns by paraphrasing a quote by Henry Kissinger—"politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low"—saying instead that "the reason wartime elections are so vicious is because the stakes are so high."

In his remarks at the dinner Monday, October 25, Tucker Carlson, cohost of CNN's Crossfire said he felt the most pressing question about the campaign was why John Kerry wasn't further ahead in the polls. Carlson cited challenges faced by the George W. Bush presidency that might dampen support and warned that Bush's time in office would be defined by Iraq.

He noted that the campaign this year was marked by the use of messages and images rather than platforms.

"We need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates," Carlson said. "But we are defeated by the immense emotional nature of the campaign."

In the first morning session on October 25, the Washington correspondent for the Economist, Adrian Wooldridge, discussed the conservative movement in the United States in his presentation "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America."

"Very few people called themselves conservatives fifty years ago," said Wooldridge. That number has risen to 41 percent today, with just 19 percent identifying themselves as liberals. In his recent book The Right Nation, which he coauthored with John Micklethwait, they examine the conservative movement in the United States. Noting that conservatism explains why the United Stated is different from other developed countries, Wooldridge said, even if the war in Iraq is resolved and John Kerry is elected, the United States will remain different and an exception. "The reason for this is simple," he went on to say, "American attitudes are very much to the right of European attitudes."

Richard Epstein, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at Hoover, and the Honorable Stephen Williams, U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, discussed property rights.

In "When Does the Government Take Property for 'Public Use'?" Epstein discussed the difficulties in interpreting and applying the clause from the Fifth Amendment that states "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." The two aspects of just compensation and public use, he said, raise questions about what each means. His recommendation is "to try not to solve the public use problem head-on but rather to change the compensation figures so the willingness of government to take will be diminished now that it has to pay full value."

On the subject of land development, Epstein ended his presentation by saying that "it's the coordination of two phenomena that have created this incredible land-use crunch in many communities; first, there's too much restriction on private development through zoning ordinances and too much coercion through the state. You can moderate both of these sides and eliminate the problem without having to go to the position that there is simply no role for the government to play on the zoning side or public use."

The United States has a set of property laws developed over a period of time, Williams said in his presentation "Property Rights: The Pitfalls of Creation from Above." By contrast, in Russia in 1906 they did not have a fully developed set of property laws. "They were reformed from above," Williams said, "trying to establish something like what we have."

In "Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies," Bill Gertz, reporter for the Washington Times and an analyst for the FOX News Channel, discussed the proliferation of arms, which he considers one of the greatest threats to the United States, drawing on material from his book by the same name. "In the case of Iraq, the military, once major combat was over, began finding large amounts of foreign weaponry. They found foreign arms from 24 different countries," he said, "and the amounts were staggering." A report by the Pentagon found that the big three suppliers were Russia, China, and France and that the weapons they provided were outside international sanctions. In addition, the report says these arms are continuing to be used by insurgents against U.S. soldiers.

Gertz believes these countries are arming U.S. enemies not just for greed but as part of an anti-American strategy. "A lot of the nations of Europe and China believe in this liberal concept of multipolarity," he said. "They don't like the idea that the United States is the sole superpower. That translates into a policy that often leads to undermining the United States strategically around the world and that translates into arming America's enemies or at least looking the other way."

Following the morning plenary speakers, Hoover fellows presented retreat guests at the afternoon sessions with the following array of conversations:

  • The U.S. tax system
  • War and the Iraq invasion
  • Civil rights legislation
  • Conservatives and progressives
  • Iran's nuclear program
  • North Korea's nuclear program
  • Imperialism
  • Media coverage of war

On October 26, Elena Danielson, Hoover associate director, began the morning sessions by discussing the acquisitions, exhibits, and conferences coordinated by the library and archives. Most recently, the library acquired a collection of diaries by Pierre Gamburg. Gamburg, a French lieutenant and a Jew, wrote them while he was being held in German prison camps between 1940 and 1945.

An upcoming exhibit on Herbert Hoover opening in Warsaw will bring back memories of Hoover's significant role in rebuilding that country after World War I that was obliterated during 50 years of communist rule, Danielson said. The exhibit, The Story of a Friendship—Herbert Hoover and Poland, will open in the Royal Library on November 12.

Recently, a conference on the impact of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) during the cold war was held in conjunction with the current exhibit, Voices of Hope: The Story of Radio Free Europe. One speaker, Danielson said, spoke of how difficult it was to set up the broadcasts, how they learned through trial and error but eventually got it right, and how the broadcasts became incredibly influential. "He [the speaker] has lessons for us to learn about how to set up this kind of program and reach populations that are cut off from the mainstream of information," she said. These lessons, Danielson said, need to be brought to the policymakers, as they are relevant to reaching the Muslim world today.

"We are engaged in a war against terrorism that is deeply and intensely ideological, like communism, fascism, or nazism, in that it presents a vision in which the terrorists are prepared to die" said Richard Perle. "We need effective strategies to combat it." In his presentation "The Future of Europe: Two Models," Perle, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that "the difference between Europe and the United States is that the United States is seized with the importance of not waiting until it's too late." He warned that the United Nations was neither created for nor capable of fighting terrorism.

Perle concluded his talk by describing two models that the United States and Europe can choose. The first is an Atlantic model, where historical alliances such as NATO are the foundation for security on both sides of the Atlantic. The second approach is the Continental model, where the United States is marginalized by and even at odds with European countries. A strategy to insist that European countries face this choice is needed, Perle said. He went on to say that if the Europeans had to make the choice today, they would probably choose the Atlantic model but that in five years this may not be the case.

The power of the gadfly was described by Irshad Manji, activist and author of The Trouble with Muslims: A Muslim's Call for Reform. "The gadfly is an annoying little insect," she said, "that picks at cows disrupting the herd mentality." She believes that Muslims do not know how to have discussions and calls on them to rediscover their lost tradition of independent thinking. Later, she asked for all people, Muslim and non-Muslim, to be gadflies and create an environment where discussions can take place.

In the last session of the morning, the Honorable Andrew Napolitano, former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey and now a senior judicial analyst with FOX News Channel, discussed the erosion of civil rights over the last 30 years. He discussed his concerns that the Fourth Amendment, which reads, in part, "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated," is in danger. He noted that acts passed in the 1970s, 1980s, and most recently in December 2003 have expanded the reach of law enforcement to come into private homes without demonstrating cause or without proper oversight. "We need to fight a war to protect freedom here at home as well as abroad," Napolitano said.

The final session of the retreat was the "Countdown to the 2004 Election" in which Hoover fellows Morris Fiorina and Pete Wilson discussed polling and the upcoming election. Fiorina discussed the changes in polling, from the golden age when it began in the 1930s to today. "In the last 10 years it has become more difficult to interview," he said, acknowledging that interpreting polls now is extremely difficult. Wilson, former governor of California, said that he has a practical interest in polling and that it was very hard to read. Wilson discussed a variety of issues that affect elections, such as the profound effect that television has on campaigns and elections, the vote of 18- year- olds being manipulated by the threat of a draft, and how we are busier now than ever. Due, in part, to the demands on our time, Wilson said, "it's difficult to inform ourselves about the issues, ironically, given the glut of information." He concluded by saying that he is usually against single- issue voting, but said he shares the sentiments of liberal former New York City mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat who said he has no confidence in his party to handle the issue of security. The electoral votes this year, Wilson noted, appear to be very close, which could result in a tie in the Electoral College.

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