As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Don't Know Much About History

Chris Matthews' brutal takedown of some robotic wingnut yesterday was notable simply for how easy it was. Apparently asking a conservative to define the words coming out of their mouth is a question on par with the final round of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

Of course, what the wingnut is referring to above is the President's comments yesterday in Israel, trying to stick it to the Democrats by calling them Nazi-appeasers. He used the artful phrase "an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.’ in discussing the times in 1939, aware but unwilling to admit that he was alluding to Republican isolationist Senator William Borah of Idaho. What he appeared blissfully unaware of was the collaboration of his own grandfather, Prescott Bush, who reaped financial reward for him and his family (including his son Bush 41 and grandson Bush 43) through sitting on boards of companies who did business with the Nazis.

(By the way, this is the biggest gift George Bush could have given the Obama campaign, so much so that I almost believe it had to have been staged.)

But less remarked upon was this amazingly ignorant comment by John McCain in an interview with Matt Bai.

as we talked, I tried to draw out of him some template for knowing when military intervention made sense — an answer, essentially, to the question that has plagued policy makers confronting international crises for the last 20 years. McCain has said that the invasion of Iraq was justified, even absent the weapons of mass destruction he believed were there, because of Hussein’s affront to basic human values. Why then, I asked McCain, shouldn’t we go into Zimbabwe, where, according to that morning’s paper, allies of the despotic president, Robert Mugabe, were rounding up his political opponents and preparing to subvert the results of the country’s recent national election? How about sending soldiers into Myanmar, formerly Burma, where Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest by a military junta?

“I think in the case of Zimbabwe, it’s because of our history in Africa,” McCain said thoughtfully. “Not so much the United States but the Europeans, the colonialist history in Africa. The government of South Africa has obviously not been effective, to say the least, in trying to affect the situation in Zimbabwe, and one reason is that they don’t want to be tarred with the brush of modern colonialism. So that’s a problem I think we will continue to have on the continent of Africa. If you send in Western military forces, then you risk the backlash from the people, from the legacy that was left in Africa because of the era of colonialism.”

Of course, there is no history of colonialism in the Middle East. Except for Algeria. And Jordan. And Iran. And Saudi Arabia. And Yemen. And Bahrain. And Oman. And Qatar. And The United Arab Emirates. And Iraq, whose borders were almost randomly drawn on a British map, which has led us to the instability we see today.

(McCain, by the way, was for talking to Hamas before he was against it, another example of torching the past.)

The worst thing the conservative movement has foisted on the country is a collapse of historical memory. Our civic education here is not so robust, and our civic knowledge of history is worse. This has given wide latitude for conservatives to create their own reality, and jabber away with "facts" that consist of shibboleths and catch phrases, which by now have been ripped of all meaning outside the Manichean "good" and "bad." That's what we saw with that shameful appearance on Hardball. That's what we saw by the President yesterday. That's what we saw from McCain in that interview. And that, sadly, is a part of America. The Poor Man says it best:

It’s all like this. Everything is just like this. Some blank young person who has memorized a 5″x7″ index card of focus group-approved phrases, yelling, yelling, yelling over everyone. And you can say what you want, and be as right as you want, but he’s going to keep yelling, and yelling, and yelling until you get sick of it, and at the end of the day everybody knows that Barack Obama goes to secret Muslim church. Everything is like this. An election won’t fix it. This rules the world.

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