Win Some, Luce Some

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This column in the American Spectator by Jeffrey Lord is pretty interesting, revisiting a race that no one much discusses anymore—the 1942 midterm elections. Lord is right that the GOP flourished—as it had stayed afloat in FDR's third win of 1940—by sticking with FDR on the war and differentiating itself on domestic policy. And then Lord banks left and takes the Rumsfeld Expressway into False Equivalence City.

So in circumstances like this, how does a political opposition approach the upcoming election?

Savage FDR? Run on a campaign of "Roosevelt lied and people died"? Should they go out and tell the American people just how dangerously incompetent the man was, that the best thing to do was make peace with Hitler and Japan's Hirohito, then elect Republicans who would simply force FDR to bring home the boys and let the rest of the world cope with chaos? After all, a few years earlier FDR himself had turned back an ocean liner filled with 937 Jews escaping the looming Holocaust. The idea of not making Hitler, Hirohito or Mussolini any angrier than they were was certainly one approach.

This is cute, and it would be relevent if the 2006 Democratic Party was running on a platform of making peace with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, appeasing Iran, and ending the U.S. military presence in the Middle East. It's not, obviously. They don't really have plans for dealing with al Qaeda and Iran, which is part of their problem, but the general Democratic stance on those issues is expressed here by Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown:

Despite the sacrifice and bravery of our troops, the foreign policy of Republicans in Congress and the White House has failed to secure our interests at home and abroad:

– Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and Afghanistan has reemerged as a haven for terrorists and opium producers.

– While we have been distracted by the insurgency in Iraq, Iran and North Korea have gained ground in their effort to posses weapons of mass destruction.

Will voters appreciate that Democrats have decoupled the war in Iraq and the war on terror—that they want to pull out of the former and more aggressively (they say) pursue victory in the latter? I think so. And so do some Republicans.

NEXT: Smile, When You Say That

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  1. if the 2006 Democratic Party was running on a platform of making piece with Osama bin Laden

    David, brotha, hook a pedant up, man!

  2. “And then Lord banks left and takes the Rumsfeld Expressway into False Equivilence City.”

    I love this metaphor in the same manner that people love Snakes on a Plane — it’s so bad it’s good.

  3. False Equivilence City

    *Sigh* It’s like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon.

  4. WWII represented a rare equanimity in American politics during wartime. Perl Harbor, Hitler’s subsequent declaration of war (driven by FDR’s secret provocations) and Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union created a historically unprecedented consensus across the American political spectrum. If events had unfolded just a little bit differently or with different timing we would remember the politics of WWII as now remember the politics of Vietnam

    Had the Japanese adopted a more subtle approach, such as an incremental occupation of Dutch-Indonesia that provided no dramatic causa belli for America, it is likely that we may have never entered the war or would have done so bitterly divided. Had Hitler delayed the invasion of the Soviet Union, the far-Left would have continued to vociferously oppose America’s entry into the European war. Had Hitler never declared war, Republicans of the era would have never supported American intervention.

    The bitter acrimony of the pre-Perl Harbor political debate more closely follows the historic pattern both before and after WWII.The politics of the War on Terror look more like the politics up to Dec 6th 1941 than they do of May 7, 1945. A lot of the same ideas make a reappearance although often under different names. Even charges of war profiteering and undue Jewish influence have resurfaced. One could do a search and replace of names, places and dates in many pre-WWII editorials and drop them into current debate without anyone really noticing.

  5. “Perl Harbor”

    Where thousands of UNIX programmers gave their lives to a nobler cause….

  6. Shannon Love proposes some interesting counter-factuals:
    “Had the Japanese adopted a more subtle approach…” The Japanese attack on China in the 1930’s, predating their move into other parts of Asia, had already created a popular sentiment against Japan in the USA. The US had a closer connection to China in that period than many of us realize…

    “Had Hitler delayed the invasion of the Soviet Union, the far left would have continued to vociferously oppose America’s entry into the European war.” Good point, except that the CPUSA reaction to the Hitler-Stalin Pact led many to quit the party, and many fellow-travelers to reconsider their connection to the Reds. Even many who remained loyal to Popular Front groups also continued to oppose Hitler.

    I only point these issues out for academic reasons, not really to argue.

  7. Shannon Love proposes some interesting counter-factuals:
    “Had the Japanese adopted a more subtle approach…” The Japanese attack on China in the 1930’s, predating their move into other parts of Asia, had already created a popular sentiment against Japan in the USA. The US had a closer connection to China in that period than many of us realize…

    “Had Hitler delayed the invasion of the Soviet Union, the far left would have continued to vociferously oppose America’s entry into the European war.” Good point, except that the CPUSA reaction to the Hitler-Stalin Pact led many to quit the party, and many fellow-travelers to reconsider their connection to the Reds. Even many who remained loyal to Popular Front groups also continued to oppose Hitler.

    I only point these issues out for academic reasons, not really to argue.

  8. Here’s another interesting counter-factual –

    It was by no means certain that the US would go to war against Nazi Germany, even after Pearl Harbor. Hitler had been very careful not to react to FDR’s increasingly blatant actions in the North Atlantic (the destroyers-for-bases deal with the UK, use of US Navy vessels on convoy duty, etc.) and public anger was directed at Japan, not Germany on December 7. It’s entirely conceivable that Roosevelt would have found a declaration of war against both Japan and Germany tough sledding.

    Instead, Hitler lost his cool, declared war on the US, and made FDR’s job a lot easier.

    BTW – I’m getting extremely tired of these WWII analogies. The present-day situation has absolutely no resemblance to the late 1930’s or early 1940’s, and the poor, tattered old Munich strawman should be taken out behind the barn and decently burned.

  9. it would be relevent if the 2006 Democratic Party was running on a platform of making peace with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, appeasing Iran, and ending the U.S. military presence in the Middle East.

    Of course, what the Democratic platform really is on these issues is . . . well, what is it, anyway?

    I know plenty of activists are all about ending our presence in the Mideast, which pretty well means the other two points follow along.

    But frankly, the Dems have been so careful to NOT have a plan for this conflict, they can safely disavow any position and every position.

  10. Well, there are parallels besides the war profiteering.
    For instance, various & sundry US based corporate enterprises profited handsomly by dealing with both Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. These various leaders of industry, using thier media ownership and clout and thier pet politicians managed to establish a climate of ridicule against those who thought trading with murderous barbarians a very bad idea. Im sure “isolationist” and “niaeve anti capitalists opposed to free trade” found thier way in there. In the case of, say, General Motors, whose President was awarded the Riechs highest civilian award in, um, 1938, I believe not only wasnt said President “frog marched” after war was declared, Congress reimbursed GM for damage sustained to thier factories in Germany during the bombing campaign. Mid 60’s, that was- some 45 million, back when that was real money.
    With Iraq, we had Hussien the third largest recipient of US aid (after Israel & Egypt) in the 80’s, and prominent politicians & captians of industry claimed critics of this arrangement “isolationists” & “nieve critics of free trade”. Even after the mass murder by gas of the Kurds, names very familiar today moved heaven & eartrh to block any US action, political or economic, against Iraq.
    Like the pre WWII collaborators with Germany & Japan,
    these thugs & profiteers were never “frog marched” anywhere. In fact, one such prominent character is now vice (I would say de facto) President, the other SecDef.

    So there are paralells, just not any people care to think about.

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