Question: Mr. Tanenbaum, in your new book, ECHOES OF MY SOUL, your dedication reads as follows: “ECHOES is dedicated to D.A. Frank Hogan and John Keenan—courageous souls who ran a Ministry of Justice reflecting the moral and spiritual essence of American exceptionalism.”
Tell us what you mean by American exceptionalism?
RKT: “It is a moral and spiritual philosophy. People came here across a vast ocean, fleeing oppression, including my own grandfather. (Thank God.)
“The nature of American exceptionalism can be seen in our founding documents. They’re unique in world history — that’s where the exceptionalism part comes in. It’s not because we’re some great people. What our founders gave us were documents that maximized individual freedoms and were counterbalanced by states rights. Our national government is limited with strict powers.
“Some Americans today argue for elasticity. They say our Constitution is a living thing. That it is a contract, but it is stretchy. To them I say, it is not stretchy. It is consistent. The fact that we limited our government, and from the beginning, is part of our American exceptionalism.
“We know, or once did, exactly what we stood for. Look at Guadalcanal… When Japan’s Imperial Army was bent on taking over half of the planet, our young soldiers did not back down. Instead they whispered, ‘Come a little closer, will you?’ That is our value system. (It is not going all over the world to fight, and sending young men — our future, and what a waste! — into wars.) It is about protecting our homes and our value system. Our ethics.
“American exceptionalism is not about Nationalism. It’s a unique happening, and the core of our ethics makes us the most generous people on planet earth. We’re a nation of immigrants. It’s tough.
“In ECHOES OF MY SOUL you’ll see that Frank Hogan, Glass, and Keenan — my mentors — were prepared to take personal responsibility. You don’t see that very much any more. The new name of the game is to stay in power, or climb your way into power.
“The case cited in ECHOES, is, in my mind, the single most important legal case in our lifetimes. That’s because it is a perfect example of how the Ministry of Justice is supposed to operate. It is about personal responsiblity. It is about how one person CAN make a difference.
“Hogan was a legend before this case happened. Hogan was totally apolitical, and he was willing to give up his reputation for justice.
“If you want to know how to behave in the govt. you look at these men, and you follow their example. You enhance the dignity of the office. We want to be open, candid, frank, problem-solvers. Doing that is an affirmation of triumph.”
Next up with Robert K. Tanenbaum: Question — We have slipped from our origins, from our dignity, and from the notion of American exceptionalism. How do we get that back?
Stay tuned for the answer by Robert Tanenbaum, and please feel free to add your own ideas.