Saturday, July 28, 2012


I missed the big Churchill dust-up yesterday. As I understand it, Charles Krauthammer accused President Obama of insulting the British by contemptuously returning a bust of Winston Churchill that had been in the Oval Office for most of the Bush years; the White House botched the fact-check, first saying that the bust had never been returned, then acknowledging that there were two Churchill busts in the White House, one still on display, the other returned, as per custom, at the end of George W. Bush's term.

This has been an obsession of the right throughout the Obama years -- and for the life of me I can't figure out why it's coming up in an election year (Mitt Romney pointedly says he wants the other bust back). I mean, I know it's meant to make Obama look bad -- but to whom? Who cares about this except people who are already certain to vote for Romney anyway?

Imagine you're a low-information swing voter and a moderate. Here's the pitch: Barack Obama is a bad American because he returned the bust of ... a foreign guy. A guy who was prime minister of another country. A guy who was prime minister of another country long before you were born. (In fact, if you're 46 or younger, he died before you were born.) And Obama replaced Churchill in the Oval Office with (depending on the story) either Abraham Lincoln -- one of America's great presidents! -- or Martin Luther King -- a national hero! (Remember, we're talking about moderate swing voters, not racists or neo-Confederates. The latter groups are in Romney's camp already. The former really do tend to admire Lincoln and King.)

Oh, and there were two Churchill busts and Obama still has one.

Where's the insult? Obama's not a patriot because he replaced a non-American with an American? Hunh?

The Americans who still revere Churchill are, apart from Fox viewers who've successfully undergone the usual Pavlovian conditioning, octogenarians who lived through (or fought in) World War II. But Obama's already struggling with older voters, and he never had the ones most inclined to see him as foreign and "other," even in 2008. How many people does this tip into the GOP camp?

The bizarre thing about this is that it all dates back to the right's period of Tony Blair hero-worship because Blair backed Bush to the hilt in the Iraq War -- a conflict that most Americans now regard as a dreadful mistake.

Back in 1999, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll presented a list of eighteen famous people from the twentieth century and asked U.S. respondents to chose the greatest figure of the century from among them. Churchill finished tenth out of eighteen, well behind Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, JFK, Einstein, Helen Keller, FDR, and others. (Funny -- FDR was Churchill's stalwart ally in World War II, and denigrating him is never regarded as unpatriotic.)

This poll was conducted thirteen years ago. Do non-Fox viewers in America admire Churchill more now, with the passage of time? I doubt it.


Victor said...

I don't get it either.

Conservatives get some of the strangest fixations in the last few decades.

From obsessing that one Democratic President and his First Lady were drug-dealing, narco-terrorists who built secret airports and flew into them, and assassinated everyone who ever knew them - but were also hick's from the sticks; to making their Republican President, the greatest simpleton to every occupy the WH, into some "Churhillian" figure of genius, and protecting his image while the entire world's economy hung at the edge of a cliff; to making another Democratic President into a scheming Kenyan Communist Muslim Black Panther Fascist, hell-bent on destroying the American way of life by having his Whitey-hating wife grow vegetables for the Sheeple, and is going to redistribute the white people's money to his black friends so they can finally have their 40 acres and a mule.

I lay it the fact that I think they've completely jumped the logic shark, and the only thing keeping them going is a grim and hateful determination to oust that Commie N*gger out of office, even if the country collapses, and the planet bakes to a crisp!

Unknown said...

Don't forget why the Churchill bust was there in the first place...Because GWB fancied himself as another Churchill. Well sometimes it was Truman, but he couldn't have a Democrat's bust there the way Obama has the Republican Lincoln now could he.

Philo Vaihinger said...

In the eyes of movement conservatism as far back as Goldwater and Buckley, Churchill has always been everything they wanted to praise and get Americans to admire.

He was an enemy of appeasement politics, for example, from whom they and many Democrats have wanted us to learn the Cold War lesson that it is always best to go to war long before it is really necessary, though of course otherwise it may never actually become necessary.

He was an undisputed hero of the indisputably Good War that, though – or rather because – it led straight to the Cold War, legitimated a huge leap forward of American power onto the world stage.

And of course he was so big an Anglo-Saxonist he wrote a multi-volume history of the Anglo-Saxon – oops, that's English-speaking – peoples, including us Americans, that legitimated both 18th Century colonialism and 19th Century imperialism, lingering right into the mid-20th Century.

Buchanan, an outsider in a party dominated by globalist neoliberals, says Churchill was a failure who dragged FDR, far too willingly, into his futile war to save Poland from foreign domination (failure) and keep the British Empire going for the rest of the 20th Century (also failure).

On the other hand, it seems that FDR succeeded in his major war aims for WW2 in Europe, destroying Nazi Germany and most vestiges of Fascism on the continent and saving the Soviet Union from Hitler.

If one of his aims was to save the European Jews that one met with only limited success because he could not get the US to enter the war in Europe sooner.

Buchanan wrote a book about Churchill and the war, arguing that the Brits should have stayed out of it, for which he has been denounced as an anti-Semite by nearly everyone and a pro-Nazi by some.

No doubt much of the conservative hostility he met was quite sincere, but the truth is the neocons still need him to be a hero so they can sell more wars with the claim that not to do so would be to betray his glorious example.

After all, though they don’t talk about it much, any more, they still claim we are in a global war on terror comparable in importance and scale only with the two world wars and also the Cold War.

I am not aware Buchanan has ever written a war focusing on FDR and the American role in the war, arguing we should have stayed out of it even though the Brits chose not to, though I suspect that is his view.

One can only image the likely response.

As for me, I think sometimes “consider the source” leads to the wrong conclusions.

Hitler originated the autobahn and the Volkswagen, but limited access highways and cars within the reach of ordinary people are both good ideas.

Though massive use of fossil fuels is not working out well.

Philo Vaihinger said...

I meant:

"No doubt much of the conservative hostility he (Buchanan) met was quite sincere, but the truth is the neocons still need him (Churchill) to be a hero so they can sell more wars with the claim that not to do so would be to betray his glorious example."

Sorry about that.

Philo Vaihinger said...

I meant:

"I am not aware Buchanan has ever written a BOOK focusing on FDR and the American role in the war, arguing we should have stayed out of it even though the Brits chose not to, though I suspect that is his view."

Not my day.

brashieel said...

Don't have much to say about the right's obsession with Churchill, but I figured I'd just throw out that "History of the English Speaking Peoples" is a actually a pretty good read.