2018年4月25日 星期三

RCP Morning Note, 04/25/2018: W.Va. Senate Race; Christians and Trump; Remaking NASA; the Littlest Envoy


Carl Cannon's Morning Note

W.Va. Senate Race; Christians and Trump; Remaking NASA; the Littlest Envoy

By Carl M. Cannon on Apr 25, 2018 08:48 am

Good morning, it's Wednesday, April 25, 2018. Thirty-five years ago today, the Kremlin released the contents of a letter that Russia's leader sent to a fifth-grader in Manchester, Maine, assuring the girl that his countrymen did not want war with the United States. Yuri Andropov's letter to Samantha Reed Smith was pure propaganda, and it's doubtful he even wrote it himself.

In that missive, Andropov upped the ante by inviting Samantha to visit the Soviet Union, so she could see for herself. He couldn't have known it then, but the 68-year-old Soviet premier was dealing with a 10-year-old American girl who possessed innate and impressive public relations chops of her own. Samantha accepted Andropov's offer -- and in the process produced a welcome respite in the Cold War. In a moment, I'll have more about this hopeful, and ultimately sad, story, which I've written about previously.

First, I'd first point you to RealClearPolitics' front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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Jenkins, Morrisey Lead Blankenship in W.Va. Primary Poll. James Arkin has the numbers as the GOP Senate candidates jockey for position ahead of the May 8 election.

Neil Gorsuch and the Return of Rule-of-Law Due Process. In RealClearPolicy, Nathan S. Chapman applauds the justice's originalist approach in the recent case Sessions v. Dimaya.

Why Do Christians Put Up With Trump? In RealClearReligion, W. David Montgomery explains why he sees no moral conflict between his Christian faith and his support for the president.

Reforming Arms Export Control: Better Late Than Never. In RealClearDefense, Rachel Zissimos hails the administration's new conventional arms transfer policy.

Remaking NASA Into a Leaner Spacefaring Machine. In RealClearScience, Ross Marchand urges Congress to ensure that the agency's new administrator, Jim Bridenstine, undertakes cost-conscious missions moving forward.

Storied Homes on the Real Estate Market. In RealClearLife, Diana Crandall spotlights 10 historic houses currently up for sale.

* * *

The November 22, 1982 cover of Time magazine was headlined "After Brezhnev" and featured both the deceased Soviet leader and his successor, Yuri Andropov. The accompanying biographical profile of the new Kremlin boss painted worrying picture for any discerning reader, even one who was 10 years old. Like Vladimir Putin, who was at the time a junior counter-intelligence officer, Andropov was a committed communist who'd risen through the ranks of the KGB, an agency he would eventually lead.

He'd been his country's ambassador to Hungary in 1956 when a revolution to overthrow the Soviet occupation was crushed by Russian tanks, had backed the forceful repression of the "Prague Spring" in 1968, and led the efforts to stamp out the dissident movement inside the Soviet Union itself.

Samantha asked her mother, Jane, to write to the Soviet leader and ask if he planned to start a nuclear war. "Why don't you write to him," Jane Smith said. This casual suggestion set in motion a series of events that provided a glimpse of hope to a frightened world, but not a happy ending for the Smith family.

"God made the world for us to live together in peace," Samantha told Andropov in her letter, "and not to fight."

A few months later, President Reagan warned Americans of the "the aggressive impulses of an evil empire." The "evil empire" speech was cheered by American conservatives, but widely denounced by liberals here and in much of the Western world. Soviet propagandists, seeing an opening, printed Samantha's letter in Pravda as a tacit contrast with the supposedly bellicose American president. The Pravda item included the dismissive aside that Samantha could be forgiven her misapprehensions about Russians because of her tender age.

But Samantha Reed Smith turned out to be a difficult person to patronize. She penned another letter, this one to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, inquiring whether Andropov planned to answer her directly. "I thought my questions were good ones," she added, "and it shouldn't matter if I was ten years old."

Andropov (or someone writing under his name) responded with an uncommonly warm letter comparing Samantha to Mark Twain's Becky Thatcher, while including some educational material designed to assure his young pen pal that Soviets viewed armed conflict as a last resort. He asserted that the Russians' grievous loss of life in World War II made them fearful of total war, and that the Soviet Union -- unlike the United States -- had pledged never to use weapons of mass destruction first.

It was in that letter that Andropov invited his young correspondent to visit his country. That summer, she and her parents took him up on the offer. They did not see Andropov, who by then was seriously ill, but Samantha met many Russians, gave speeches, attracted media attention, and became a pint-sized world ambassador for peace.

In a widely covered speech in Japan, she talked about visiting the "beautiful and awesome" Soviet Union, but made no pretense of being an expert or even worldly in a grown-up way. "Until last April, I had never traveled outside the eastern United States, I had never even heard of sushi!" she said. "And now I will try my wish in Japanese: Sekaiju ni heiwa ga kimasu yo mi (I wish for the world peace and understanding)."

Samantha told Japanese kids that she had been spending a lot of time imagining herself in the future -- in the year 2001 -- while wondering what the world might look like in the new millennium, and she in it.

"First of all, I don't want to have these freckles anymore, and I want this tooth straightened, and I hope I like the idea of being almost 30," she said. "Maybe it's because I've met so many wonderful people who look a little different from the way I look -- maybe their skin, or their eyes, or their language is not like mine -- but I can picture them becoming my best friends. Maybe it's because of these things that I think the year 2001 and the years that follow are going to be just great."

The year 2001, of course, featured a deadly attack from the sky on the United States. It didn't come from Russia and, thank God, it wasn't a nuclear bomb. But Samantha Reed Smith didn't live to see the 21st century. She died, along with her father and four other souls, in a small plane crash in Auburn, Maine, in the summer of 1985. She was 13.

Although her pen pal Yuri Andropov had passed away in early 1984, his place was taken by Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who understood that the Soviet system couldn't sustain its current path. In Ronald Reagan, Gorby found a willing partner for negotiations. Despite his critics' caricatures of him, Reagan had been talking about arms reductions since 1976. The two leaders ultimately agreed to make the world safer by vastly reducing their nations' lethal arsenals.

They were in agreement about something else, too.

At Samantha's funeral in Augusta, Maine, an emissary from the Soviet Embassy read a statement from Gorbachev. "Everyone in the Soviet Union who has known Samantha Smith," it said, "will forever remember the image of the American girl who, like millions of Soviet young men and women, dreamt about peace, and about friendship between the peoples of the United States and the Soviet Union."

Reagan penned a note of condolence to Jane Smith. "Perhaps you can take some measure of comfort in the knowledge that millions of Americans, indeed millions of people, share the burdens of your grief," he wrote. "They also will cherish and remember Samantha, her smile, her idealism and unaffected sweetness of spirit."

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

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