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Ben Carson Preps for 2016; What Obama Hears; Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Ben Carson Preps for 2016; What Obama Hears; Vietnam Veterans Memorial

By Carl M. Cannon - November 13, 2014

Good Morning. It's Thursday, November 13, 2014, two weeks from Thanksgiving Day. President Obama is still in Asia; today, he's attending the East Asia Summit in Burma. Here at home, members of Congress, new and old, arrived back on Capitol Hill where ascendant Republicans must cool their jets for a few more weeks while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid convenes a final session of the Democrat-controlled upper chamber.
On the agenda: a vote on the Keystone pipeline, lingering immigration legislation, and a slew of pending presidential appointments, including a new attorney general nominee.

Members of both parties are curious as to how the president will respond to the coming GOP domination of the legislative branch, both in the lame duck session and in the 114th Congress that convenes in January. "What the president does over the next two months is really going to set the tone for the next two years in Washington," said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican.

Perhaps this is right, but Congress also has a way of shining the spotlight on itself during lame duck sessions, and not always in a flattering way. In 1998, Republicans ignored public opinion and voted to impeach President Clinton. The first lame duck session I ever covered was in 1982, when the Democratic-controlled House voted its members a retroactive pay raise. "Frankly," remarked one skeptic, California Democratic Rep. Leon Panetta, "we all look like fools."
On a more uplifting note, that same year -- 32 years ago today, in fact -- the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was officially unveiled. Highly controversial at the time, it has proven itself a tour de force: Two days ago, on Veterans Day, Americans lined up 10-deep to file past the names on The Wall.

I'll have a brief word about that hallowed place in a moment. First, I'd steer you to RealClearPolitics' front page, which offers an array of polls, videos, and news stories, along with our daily aggregation of commentary spanning the political spectrum. We also have a complement of original material from RCP reporters and contributors, including the following:

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Ben Carson Making Case to Be Taken Seriously in 2016. Scott Conroy examines how the retired neurosurgeon and his supporters are laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign in Iowa and elsewhere.

Bringing Accountability to New Energy Regulation. Part 2 of my RCP Newsmaker interview with American University’s Daniel Fiorino.

Creating a Level Playing Field in Education. In RealClearEducation, a group of charter and traditional public school leaders call for collaboration on classroom policies, funding and other issues.

A President Who Is Hearing Things. Richard Benedetto parses Obama’s interpretation of last week’s midterm results.

Disconnect Between Government and Veterans. More from Pete Hegseth in this installment of “Changing Lanes.”

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In 1980, five years after the fall of Saigon, Congress set aside a three-acre site for a memorial for the veterans who'd participated in the Vietnam War. Nothing about that conflict was ever easy, so it was inevitable, and perhaps fitting, that the process of creating a proper tribute to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who'd fought there was itself fraught with bitter controversy. 

It's a long story -- books have been written about it -- but with three decades' perspective, the most salient fact is that the design competition was an open one. How very American of us. Egalitarian, too, which meant that the competition wasn't destined to be won by the great Frederick Hart (he finished third), but by a Yale University architecture student named Maya Lin.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Lin produced a design that was shocking in its simplicity, it's starkness, and it's emotional power.
The monument, in black marble, is essentially a timeline of American fatalities, with every name listed. It shocked many of the organizers and some of the memorial commission's key backers, including Ross Perot, who demanded changes, and James Webb, who called it "a nihilistic slab of stone."

In time, the critics were won over. It part this was done through compromise, Washington's lost art: a more traditional statue of three soldiers was added adjacent to the memorial. Hart was chosen to the cast them. But what really happened was that the public voted on Maya Lin's design. They just kept coming, and are coming still. Almost immediately, visitors began tracing the names of their loved ones on pieces of paper. Now, the National Park Service will help you do it. The pilgrims to the wall also leave flowers, letters, American flags, photographs, baseball caps, and other personal memorabilia. What they are really doing is leaving a little piece of their hearts.

 

 

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau Chief
RealClearPolitics
Twitter: @CarlCannon

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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