On January 18th, America lost a gifted corporate leader, generous philanthropist and great patriot, Terrence Elkes. I was one of many who also lost a beloved friend.
Terry’s passing marks something else – a further diminution of one of those most endangered of species: Democrats who are national security-minded and find themselves increasingly unrepresented by their party’s national leadership and would-be presidential candidates.
While Mr. Elkes climbed the highest peaks of the nation’s capitalist system, including a transformative stint as president and CEO of Viacom, he never forgot where he came from: the Bronx. Like virtually all Americans of modest backgrounds – whether native- or foreign-born – who have translated their intelligence, enterprising spirit and hard work into considerable success, Terry treasured his country as a land of truly unrivaled opportunity.
Consequently, this product of New York’s public City College and the University of Michigan law school was passionately committed to safeguarding the United States from enemies, foreign and domestic. He was a serious student of history who recognized that in our time, as in previous eras, America had to confront evolving threats from totalitarian foes around the world.
As was true (at least temporarily) for millions of his countrymen, the murderous attacks of September 11, 2001 were to Terry Elkes a particular epiphany. He recognized that the perpetrators were determined not simply to unleash death and destruction on this country’s financial sector – a community he knew well – but to destroy the very nation itself. He understood that the ideology that animated them, Islamofascism, was much like those of previous totalitarians: ruthless, messianic and utterly determined to impose its repressive political system on all others, unless prevented from doing so.
For Terry, 9/11 was more. It was a personal call-to-arms, a charge to act so that, as he was fond of saying, his children and grandchildren could also live the American dream. He sought out those, including the Center for Security Policy, who shared his commitment to advance robust and non-partisan approaches to providing for the national defense. He remained to his dying day a Democrat, but he was an American first.
How far Terry Elkes’ party has disenfranchised voters like him who long were the backbone of its membership – social liberals but hard-headed internationalists in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Henry “Scoop” Jackson – is evident at the moment in the fight underway in Congress over electronic intelligence collection.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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