Appeasement and other Republican talking points

George Bush continues to be one of the most effective campaigners for Barack Obama. His speech Thursday to the Israeli parliament, with its veiled accusation that Obama was guilty of “appeasement,” is a gift to the Democrats that will keep on giving all the way to November.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Bush said. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

First of all, there is the obviously disgraceful interjection of partisan politics into a speech to an international audience celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli state and for whom the interjection of Nazi analogies was especially inappropriate.

Then there was McCain’s pathetic flip-flopping as he first echoed the President’s attacks and then, when James Rubin wrote an editorial with quotes of him advocating negotiations with Hamas, his transparent attempts to weasel out of the contradiction between his stance then and now.

What I find most troubling is the historical amnesia involved in this latest Republican talking point of “Obama the appeaser”. I can’t believe that Bush and McCain (or, more accurately, their speech writers) are ignorant of the historical facts, so the only conclusion I can come to is that they believe the American voters are that ignorant.

It is quite easy to debunk the pseudo history of Bush and McCain. For example, Peter Scoblic has a great editorial in the Los Angeles Times explaining why negotiating is not appeasement. He clearly demonstrates that Bush and McCain are wrong in their claims about negotiating with the “enemy.”

But if there is anything that has been discredited by history, it is the argument that every enemy is Hitler, that negotiations constitute appeasement, and that talking will automatically lead to a slaughter of Holocaust-like proportions. It is an argument that conservatives made throughout the Cold War, and, if the charge seemed overblown at the time, it seems positively ludicrous with the clarity of hindsight.

But, of course, the rightwing talk radio windbags don’t need to know anything about the historical context of appeasement. They are content to simply shout the accusation. Until someone calls them on it, at which point they crash and burn.

Rush Limbaugh, proud of the fact that he is a college dropout, illustrated the depth of research behind the right wing talking points. Yesterday, he went on a rant about Obama’s liberal university education leading him to misunderstand the real cause of the Great Depression. His evidence that liberal universities like Harvard promote Marxist lies about the Depression? He googled Great Depression and found an article that he proceeded to critique line-by-line. What he failed to realize was that a 10th grade high school student had written the article in 1996. The hilarious details are here.

All this proves… ah… let’s see, as Carlos Santana… err… George Santa Clara… hmm… someone like that once said, “Those who don’t repeat history…” er, no, “If you fail history, you are doomed to repeat the 10th grade”? No, that isn’t it. Oh, well, I don’t have time to google the quote, but you see my point.

There is one oddity to Bush’s speech that provides some evidence that neither he nor his speech writer know their history. As most Idahoans know, the American Senator that wanted to talk to Hitler was none other than Idaho Republican, William Borah.


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