By Paul NewmanEDITOR'S NOTE: Paul Newman, one of the greatest actors of his generation and an ardent advocate for peace and progressive causes, died Friday at 83. A great friend and supporter of The Nation, Newman also was an occasional contributor to the magazine. In this piece, written in August 2000, he cast the nuclear arms race in characteristically sardonic and deeply personal terms. We will miss him.
My grandson, Pete, is simultaneously perusing the New York Times and playing chess with our next-door neighbor, who chortles and takes Pete's rook.
Pete is four and a half and is about to overtake Leonardo da Vinci, both in art and science. The neighbor is 43, an ex-intelligence officer and a spokesperson for the Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. He outweighs Pete by 191 pounds but, as noted, is no match for the kid upstairs, if you get my meaning.
The big guy captures Pete's rook. "You are weak on defense, kiddo," he chortles.
Pete slithers his queen across the board. "Checkmate," says the kid. "You are weak on defense, here and at work." He points to the headline:
Key Missile Parts Are Left Untested as Booster Fails
"His team just flunked yet another of many missile tests, Gramps. A leaky defense umbrella, if ever I saw one."
"We only flunked the first, most proven, reliable stage of the test, kiddo," says the big guy. "The most sophisticated, complicated, experimental, unsuccessful, least likely elements of the test never got a chance to fail, so how do you know they wouldn't succeed? As Defense Secretary Cohen said, 'The test was a disappointment, but it was one of those failures that was at least expected.'".............