As regular readers of this blog may know, I tend to take the news a little personally. So steam was pretty much coming out of my ears this past week, although I took great pleasure in the fact that the news cycle raising my blood pressure was a news cycle that might end up making trouble for the McCain campaign. And it just wouldn’t die.
First, let me say this, in addition to the abject horrors we all feel when we hear about massive body counts in the wake of natural disasters in Myanmar (Burma) and China, there’s a chance for us to de-trench, ideologically. I know that many, many people felt the immediate need of the situation and have responded with donations and in whatever ways they can—and I’d like to say that taking to heart the idea that even nations with whom we have bad relations are nations full of people is a good way. We can recognize enemies without painting the world into good guys and bad guys with the broadest of all possible brushes, right?
But back to the latest unforgivable offense by the only president we’ve got: speaking last week from the floor of the Knesset on a much-touted trip to Israel, President Bush warned against appeasing terrorists. Over the strenuous and incoherent objections of the White House, those who speak politics out here in the real world assure us that this was a shot at Barack Obama, who has said he would speak with the heads of states like Iran. The talking point memo was written up and distributed, and what did every conservative pundit and player talk about and reference? Neville Chamberlain.
Now, if you are sitting at home, scratching your head, wondering if obliquely referencing the Munich Agreement, in which Hitler was given a solid hunk of Czechoslovakia by the heads of Western Europe, is perhaps a cheap hit for the President of the United States to take from the Israeli parliamentary floor, especially if he’s still leading the country in a war on a global terrorist organization that, hey, we helped fund and train in the first place, well, all I can say is that I was with you, big time.
After initially supporting the President, and later realizing that it was, actually, a pretty bad thing to have said (not only because it reduces much of World War II and the Holocaust to an analogy about talking with a leader we don’t like, instead of training people to overthrow him, a la Salvador Allende or Mohammed Massadegh), John McCain chose the easiest route: obfuscation of his record, covering up his initial support.
Perhaps the insult to the memories of those who lived and died because of Chamberlin’s weak politics would have been sufficient, but follow the unraveling talking points and discover this absolute gem: Chris Matthews, far from my favorite media personality, nails a right-wing suit who, while chewing the scenery over Chamberlinesque appeasment, apparently has no idea who Neville Chamberlin was. Um…excuse me? I don’t think so. You don’t get to treat history with that kind of contempt—you must at least know what it is you’re accusing. This is not only because I say so–although politics could be a lot more exciting if we always used that as the litmus test–but because we have to take a stand and demand that media be used to educate the people. That’s what media’s supposed to do.
There was a lot going this past week in Jewish and feminist news both, but I can’t watch people mess around with media and history–the two life-support systems of an open society–without saying something. So I’m appealing to these two groups, Jews and feminists, both of whom are pretty split on whose Democratic candidate will be better for them, to not get too caught up in this fight: look at the bigger picture. It’s terrifying.
The heat hasn’t completely come off of this (I know this from reading blogs, not newspapers, so somebody write me if your local newspapers does a particularly great or terrible job of coverage), which I hope works a little bit toward humbling the arrogance of those who, while on foreign soil, make vague and massively inappropriate historical allusions to trash their political enemies back on the home front. If nothing else, maybe this will inspire partisan hacks everywhere to crack open a high school social studies textbook before their next appearance in tv. Perhaps not too much to ask.