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Online Threats and Free Speech; Justice Kennedy's Time to Retire? Glenn Miller's Tragic Coda

Online Threats and Free Speech; Justice Kennedy's Time to Retire? Glenn Miller's Tragic Coda

By Carl M. Cannon - December 15, 2014

Good morning. It’s Monday, December 15, 2014. President Obama travels to a U.S. military installation in southern New Jersey today to thank uniformed and civilian Department of Defense employees for their service.

The base, once known simply as Fort Dix, was renamed Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst five years ago and is an amalgamation of the old U.S. Army facility, McGuire Air Force Base, and the former Naval Air Engineering Station at Lakehurst.

Whatever it’s called by locals, New Jersey residents will spot one of their own in the audience today: Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to accompany the president. Few will fault the Republican governor for that, but then, you never know: Christie took flak in conservative circles for buddying around with Obama after Hurricane Sandy in the waning days of the 2012 election campaign.

Ostensibly, the commander-in-chief’s visit to the joint base marks the end of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Yet, less than 20 miles from where Obama will speak, in the winter of 1776-1777, George Washington crossed and re-crossed the Delaware River. As bold attacks were followed by strategic retreats, Gen. Washington showed how successful wartime leaders must be flexible in their decision-making. Is this, perhaps, the historic lesson posed by 21st century U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria?

Speaking of Americans at war, 70 years ago today popular American band leader Glenn Miller boarded a small aircraft at a Royal Air Force field called Twinwood Farm on a foggy and freezing December morning. Miller was flying to Paris for a planned Christmas Eve show for the U.S. troops who had liberated France. His plane never made it across the English Channel.

I’ll have a further word on the great Glenn Miller in a moment. First, let me refer you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which offers an array of columns and analysis spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from RCP’s reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * * 

A Threatening Intersection of Technology and Free Speech. As part of our ongoing series on tech innovation, I consider a court case very much tethered to our Facebook/Twitter age.

The Case for Anthony Kennedy to Retire. Bill Scher writes that stepping aside after this court term is the swing-voting justice’s best opportunity to extend his legacy beyond his years. 

Spending Bill Battles, Alliances: A Preview of New Congress? Caitlin Huey-Burns examines the surprising twists and turns in the effort to reach a budget agreement.

Against the Wave: Three Winning House Democrats. David Byler analyzes how these red-state candidates found ways to reverse the midterms’ pronounced national trend.

New Regulations Would Rob the Internet of Its Dynamic Evolution. In RealClearMarkets, Wayne Brough takes a dim view of President Obama’s call to reclassify the Internet as a telecommunications service.

 * * *

As members of the “Greatest Generation” pass from the scene, fewer and fewer Americans are still around who remember hearing the Glenn Miller Orchestra on the radio while the bandleader was still alive. As popular in its day as Elvis Presley or the Beatles would be a generation later, the Glenn Miller Orchestra played its last concert under Miller’s direction on September 27, 1942, in Passaic, N.J.

At 38 years of age, and his country at war, Miller enlisted in the Army. Commissioned as an officer, he was tasked with conducting Army Air Force Bands, which he did stateside until after D-Day, when he went to Europe.

“Next to a letter from home, Captain Miller, your organization is the greatest morale builder in the European Theater of Operations,” Gen. James Doolittle told him in 1944.

Yet, as beloved as Glenn Miller was back home and among the troops, the Army didn’t announce right away that his plane was missing. Partly this was due to fog-of-war confusion: It wasn’t initially known by the brass that Miller had bummed a ride on that ill-fated UC-64 Norseman that took off from the RAF base in Bedfordshire. And by the time anyone realized what had happened, the Army -- and the public -- was preoccupied by the outbreak of the Battle of the Bulge.

Because no plane wreckage or body was ever found, Miller’s disappearance has long fueled speculation and conspiracy theories -- some plausible, some ridiculous: He and David Niven were spies and Miller was caught (flatly untrue); the plane was shot down by the Luftwaffe (nearly impossible); he was murdered by Nazis in a Paris brothel (absurd); RAF pilots jettisoning ordnance after an aborted mission accidently dropped a bomb on Miller’s plane (possible, but unlikely).

In the end, the most obvious answer to the mystery is the most probable: a small plane with an inexperienced pilot crashed in bad weather. “They never should have been flying that day,” said Wes Cowan, an anthropologist who worked on a Miller documentary. “They had no permission to fly.”

Yet that should not be the last word on the Glenn Miller Orchestra. As he left office 14 years ago, an American president, himself a musician, had this to say at a White House conference on culture and diplomacy.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Glenn Miller and other American jazz bands had a pivotal effect on the morale of our European Allies in World War II,” Bill Clinton said that day.

“I think it's probably not wrong to say,” the president added with a chuckle, “that Elvis Presley did more to win the Cold War when his music was smuggled into the former Soviet Union than he did as a GI serving in Germany.”

 

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau Chief
RealClearPolitics
@carlcannon (Twitter)
ccannon@realclearpolitics.com

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

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