If I ever feel like receiving a teenager-quality eyeroll, all I have to do is remind my kids that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – or some variation of the Santayana quote – as I talk about the necessity of learning from our mistakes.

With the release of the new Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam last week, I can show, not just tell, the brutal truth of this well-worn phrase. A war entered into under false circumstances that then went on for years longer than its architects planned for. An unpopular president ginning up support for an unpopular war through bellicose rhetoric. Protests in the streets, on buildings and at ballot boxes. The government waging a war of disinformation and access on the free press. Game-changing leaks to that same press. An entire new generation finding its political voice – and using it. The metastasizing toll of government secrecy on America and Americans.

Those are just the examples that have come back to me since I learned of “The Vietnam War: An Intimate History.” I can’t wait to see what lessons my children take away from the documentary. And I am equal parts trepidacious and fascinated to see what new parallels between that fraught time and this one will be drawn.

 

WINNERS

Rick Santorum: The former junior US Senator from Pennsylvania and perennial candidate for the Republican presidential nomination was back in the news this week for being the unlikely catalyst behind the Senate’s back-from-the-dead last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare.

Bruce Beemer: As the current PA Inspector General, Beemer, a former AG, will be the first in the position to reap the benefits of having the IG’s office made into a permanent department, including being given the power to issue subpoenas and search warrants.

Marijuana advocates: What a difference 11 years makes. In 2006, a poll revealed that the number of Pennsylvanians in favor of legalizing marijuana was just 22 percent. This week, a poll by Franklin and Marshall’s G. Terry Madonna showed that a record 59 percent now want to see it made legal. Legislators fumbling in the self-imposed dark for revenue streams might want to consider dipping their toes into this one.

 

LOSERS

Taxpayers: We all knew this was coming, despite Gov. Tom Wolf’s platitudes to the contrary. The fait accomplis by Standard and Poor’s downgrading the state’s credit rating means that not only will financing be harder to arrange, but it will cost more to do so. So, congratulations, General Assembly: In your zeal to avoid using taxes to close the budget gap, you’ve actually created … a de facto tax.

President Donald Trump: While the president’s rock-solid base has evidenced no signs of erosion in the commonwealth, another new poll by Madonna and F&M shows only 53 percent of PA Republicans have a positive view of his job performance – down a sharp 14 percent since the same question was asked in May.

Timothy Dougherty: The Berks County Magisterial District Judge pleaded guilty to stealing money from his court office and from a fire department where he served as treasurer.