A Pacifist Even in the Tax War

That today’s culture wars lack a convenient place to pigeonhole Tom Cornell, whose seven decades of activism in the Catholic Worker movement continued until his passing on August 1, shows their limitations rather than his.

In a 2002 profile, Andrew Blackman noted that Cornell "shares common beliefs with liberals and neo-conservatives, communists and cardinals, and he harshly criticizes all of them." Cornell was the sort of radical for social justice who told liberals that radicalism didn’t mean being "liberal but more so,” since his analysis of the ills of war and poverty traced them to fundamentally "different premises." He wasn’t any more accommodating to those who professed his anti-abortion position but who seemed to be only "concerned about people … until they’re born."

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(Mike) Gravel Can Still Make a Mountain

The passing of former United States Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK) on June 26 was largely overshadowed by that of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld three days later. The same need not be true of their political legacies.

Fifty years to the month before, while Rumsfeld was Counselor to President Richard Nixon, Gravel “didn’t really know what the legal consequences would be” of “resting on the speech and debate clause of the Constitution” to make public the top secret Pentagon Papers that turned popular opinion against the Vietnam War.

In 2008, Gravel was one of the few presidential candidates offering a break from Rumsfeld’s renewed militarism in the Middle East, as term limits prevented George W. Bush’s re-election but not the continuation of his wars. Those wars remained ongoing as Gravel ran again in 2020, by which time he would have entered the Oval Office as a nonagenarian.

Mike’s antiwar “Gravelanche” paralleled the scene in Jim Henson’s fantasy film Labyrinth where a motley group of underdogs use an ability to “call the rocks” to summon enough boulders to drive back an army. If Gravel’s message had far less impact on the engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq than in Vietnam, it may not be simply because Americans have, like Dana Carvey’s Saturday Night Live impersonation of George Bush (senior), failed to generalize the example of Vietnam beyond Vietnam.

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