"Even 'nasty old' Vardaman could see through the politics of war"
by Joe Atkins
• Politics and war come from the same primordial soup, blood kin as natural as conjoined twins.
OXFORD - A prized possession of mine is a 1922 political poster used in
race-baiting former U.S. Sen. James K. Vardaman's final, unsuccessful
campaign for office.
Former President George Bush
seemed a sure-fire bet to win re-election in 1992 after leading the nation
in its first military encounter with Saddam Hussein. Bush lost, however,
and he's now remembered as the man who had a chance to take the Iraqi
leader out for good but didn't. Bush's top military commander, Gen. Colin
Powell, was a hero in that Persian Gulf War, but today he is barely
tolerated in some Republican circles.
Bush's good friend U.S. Rep. Sonny Montgomery, D-Miss., retiring after 30 years in Congress, built a career on his close association with the military.
Still, after Vietnam, Montgomery's long-time chairmanship of the House Veterans Affairs Committee - rather than the Armed Services Committee - tended to identify him as more a man of past than current wars.
Looking for politics in war-like situations may seem cynical, but let's face it: There's a lot of cynicism today in politics.
My gosh, folks have watched how a top political operative like Dick Morris can shift from conservative Republican Trent Lott's adviser to liberal Democrat Clinton's strategist, how Moms worked to make Clinton a "family values" candidate at the same time the strategist himself was paying a call girl for her services.
Maybe there wasn't as much cynicism back in 1916, when Vardaman, as quoted in William F. Holmes' book, The White Chief, risked everything by railing against Presi-
dent Woodrow Wilson and others for allowing "commercial pirates" and
"power hungry politicians" to lead the nation into war.
Write Joe Atkins at the University of Mississippi,
Department of Journalism, University MS