The AP has an interesting story this morning, “Late Senator Figures in 2008 Presidential Furor” (see here).
As most of you know, Bush recently mentioned a U.S. Senator during World War II who thought everything would be all right if he could just talk to Hitler. And Bush was associating that appeasement with people today who want to talk to Iran (hint, hint, Barack Obama).
Well, the Senator’s name was William Borah of Idaho, a maverick Republican who had an isolationist stance to world affairs, opposed Herbert Hoover for President, and supported some of FDR’s big government social programs.
What struck me was that some historians questioned Bush’s right to draw analogies from history. One Idaho historian, Adam Sowards, states: “Trying to draw analogies from the past is something used a lot by political candidates…There’s a common saying, ‘History always repeats itself…Historians don’t like that saying, because the context is always changing. It’s never the exact same situation.”
And, in its characteristically neutral, detached, “just the facts, maam” manner, the AP says: “[M]aking Borah and his 1939 comments the poster child for foolhardy Nazi appeasement, then connecting the dots to the current presidential race, is a dicey intellectual proposition.”
You know, I rarely hear those sorts of things said when the Democrats appeal to history. “We can’t have a complete laissez faire economy, because Harding and Coolidge and Hoover did that, and it got us into the Great Depression.” Or “The Iraq War is just like Vietnam.” Those are just accepted as facts. But when Bush draws a historical analogy, we’re supposed to see it as an intellectual blunder.
Not that I don’t see Sowards‘ point. We can’t just appeal to the past. We have to point to current evidence that Iran is a danger. And NPR has a good story on that President of Iran, whose name I can’t remember or spell (see Writer Kasra Naji on Ahmadinejad’s ‘Secret History’). He’s not a guy we want to have nuclear weapons! And he makes some of his own judgments on Nazi Germany.