The Director’s Corner

Charles E. Parton

October 1, 1994

Hosting the Annual Ashbrook Center Memorial Dinner is far more complicated than one might suspect. First, we must select a speaker whose presence will be most in command–six months in advance. Then we must orchestrate an international crisis that will mount in severity until approximately five minutes before that guest is to appear before our audience.

Our plan was to locate a target-nation with a military that had fewer than 10 operational anti-aircraft guns, a single airplane, a helicopter, and a motorboat. Since we would have to rely on the total cooperation of said target-nation, we needed to find one that had no enemies of America on its soil. With Jean-Bertrand Aristide living in the United States, the qualifying target-nation became Haiti.

The most difficult task was to convince President Clinton to ignore the lessons of the past, ignore the Congress and ignore American public sentiment. We thank Peter Schramm for his convincing argument that the President’s powers are derived from UN resolutions.

And there were problems. Because we were probably a little slow in bringing President Carter into the picture, he and President Clinton appeared to disagree on whether the premature military departure from Fort Bragg was a help or a hindrance in the peacemaking process, or on whether General Raoul Cedras was a scoundrel or a national hero. The result was that President Carter’s perception seemed to undermine President Clinton’s arguments for our presence in Haiti, but that was probably Rush Limbaugh’s fault.

The real coup was that Tom Roepke was able to convince a Clinton staffer to include our guest on the negotiating team. “Never mind that he is competent…that he can be trusted…or that he understands the nature of honor,” argued Roepke. “Take him anyway, but wait until he is finished with his speech at the Ashbrook Center.”

We hope that you are planning on attending our Memorial Dinner next year as we have some unfinished business to do in North Korea, Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia. Thank you for your support, and God bless America.