Jeffrey Lord: From Hanoi Jane to Imam Obama

Roundup: Media's Take

[Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author.]

It was the picture worth a thousand words.

The emblematic political ancestor of the connection between the Ground Zero Mosque and the economy that is now wreaking havoc in the 2010 campaign.

In the middle of the 1972 presidential campaign that featured President Richard Nixon versus the Democrats' Senator George McGovern, all of a sudden Americans were talking about something else.

A photograph.

Actress Jane Fonda, already well on her way to transforming her image from glamorous movie star to left-wing radical activist, was visiting Hanoi that July, only days after the very liberal, anti-war McGovern claimed the Democratic presidential nomination. That would be Hanoi, North Vietnam. The enemy capital. In wartime. When hundreds of thousands of American kids were fighting for their lives in the larger cause of freedom.

Befitting an actress, she had her picture taken. Sitting at a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery. Smiling, wearing a military helmet, Fonda happily posed as her Communist hosts grinned and laughed along with her at the image of the famous American leftist film star clapping with joy as if she were poised to shoot down their enemy -- American pilots. Later, Fonda took to Radio Hanoi to broadcast her views to the world. She accused the President of the United States of being a "war criminal" and insisted that returning American POW's who said the North Vietnamese had tortured them were "hypocrites and liars."

In a flash, Fonda won the nickname "Hanoi Jane." It was not meant with affection.

Her anti-war virulence poured forth as the summer progressed. She showed up in Miami Beach to protest at the Republican National Convention, sharing the platform with Black Panther activist Bobby Seale. A documentary film called F.T.A. was released, with Fonda and actor Donald Sutherland starring in real-life as the center of what the New York Times called a "political vaudeville troupe." The film featured Fonda's tour of the war zone (over official opposition) as a sort of anti-Bob Hope USO guerrilla theater. In a glowing review, the Times rhapsodized that the "pageant" that was "anti-American guerrilla theater…momentarily turns revolutionary passion into a romantic gesture of extraordinary beauty." It also was charmed by "the deep happiness in [the] eyes of Ms. Fonda."

Fonda's trip to Hanoi was her own, as was the film. They had nothing to do with the McGovern campaign. Yet it was so broadly cast as such a prominent part of the "anti-war" movement of which McGovern was in fact a decided leader that Fonda's actions became emblematic of all things "anti-war" and "liberal" or "left-wing" -- McGovern's campaign included.

Her antics were a cultural explosion in the middle of the American campaign season...

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