Former Senator Gary Hart, who co-chaired the United States Commission on National Security, spoke last Friday at a luncheon of The Denver Forum.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, in introducing the senator, said, “Gary Hart is one of our wisest public servants.”
No thoughtful person would challenge that.
Gary Hart served the people of Colorado and America for 12 years in the United States Senate. He’s the author of 21 books, holds degrees from both Yale Law and Yale Divinity, and a Ph.D from Oxford in England.
The commission he co-chaired with Senator Warren Rudman, Republican of New Hampshire, arose from a lengthy memo Senator Hart wrote to President Clinton.
The Commission issued its report in 1999. The Commission warned of the likelihood of a major terrorist attack that would cost thousands of Americans their lives.
The warning by the Commission, composed of distinguished Americans, was ignored.
Ignored by our political leaders.
Ignored by We The People.
When Gary Hart came to speak about the Commission’s report, a speech before The City Club and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Jessie Knight, the Chamber’s president, took me aside after the luncheon and said, “This is scary stuff.”
And then 9/11 happened.
In his speech to The Forum, Senator Hart, thoughtful, dignified, ever gracious, spoke of his alarm over the state of American foreign policy, of career foreign service officers leaving the State Department in critical numbers, of his concern that the new secretary of state, lacking experience in the art of statecraft, is prevented by the Trump White House of choosing his own key aides, who might help the secretary through the labyrinth of foreign policy, of the harm the absence of experienced hands might portend for the future of America’s diplomatic missions.
He recalled the great work done by the United States coming out of WWII, of the leadership that George C. Marshall and Dean Acheson gave in saving Western Europe under President Truman – and the absence of such visionaries today.
Senator Hart worries about the rise of the right, of xenophobia and nationalism in Europe, especially in France, which is nearing a critical national election, one that might see the improbable happen – Marine Le Pen as President of the French Republic. There was a time when such a possibility of Madame Le Pen becoming president of our oldest ally, would have been unthinkable.
He frets, no less, over Britain’s exit from the EC, of the great damage that will accrue from the Brexit vote; that Northern Ireland and Scotland will be the most adversely affected; and, no small point, where Brexit was roundly rejected.
The senator spoke of the imperative of keeping strong ties to China; that the Chinese, holding more than one trillion dollars in U.S. debt, have the means of gravely affecting our financial markets.
He also said China is critical in holding North Korea in place, that the situation with Kim Jong-un may represent our greatest danger; that we ignore it at our peril and keeping open the door to China, if for no other reason than mitigating its client state, is in America’s best interest.
Of course he spoke of Putin, the Russian leader, and of the mystifying connections between Trump, his son-in-law, and campaign aides to Putin, the putative dictator and ex-KGB sergeant.
There was so much more, but I am doing this from memory, not from notes, but memory.
I think I got it right. But if not, Senator Hart, in his gentle way, will correct me.
Finally, it was wonderful seeing my old friend. I hold him in such high regard, and I am honored that he has on so many occasions in the past graced the platforms of The Denver Forum and The City Club, and never, ever, has he disappointed.
And he was true to form at The Forum on Friday.
Thank you, Gary Hart, for your continuing service to America.
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