Last February, after John McCain rescued President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense I wrote:
As it stands, Republicans lack the zeal necessary to carry out the function of a loyal opposition. If Republicans had a caucus full of Ted Cruzs that might not be the case.
So it is with this sentiment in mind that I looked forward to Senator Cruz’s filibuster (or, depending on your point of view, really long speech) on defunding Obamacare. Unlike Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster six months ago on the phony issue of the U.S. government dropping drones on its citizens, Obamacare is very real and its impact is already being felt. So even if Cruz’s efforts to defund Obamacare weren’t successful, it is certainly a worthy matter on which to filibuster (or give a really long speech).
But then Cruz had to bring Nazi Germany into the discussion:
If you go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany. Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, ‘Accept the Nazis. Yes, they’ll dominate the continent of Europe but that’s not our problem. Let’s appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We can’t possibly stand against them.
And in America there were voices that listened to that. I suspect those same pundits who say it can’t be done, if it had been in the 1940s we would have been listening to them. Then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond their carrier pigeons and beyond letters and they would have been on TV and they would have been on TV saying, “You cannot defeat the Germans.”
It is worth noting that Senator Paul invoked Hitler during his filibuster. I cannot help but wonder if Paul took Cruz aside before beginning this filibuster/really long speech and said to him, “Whatever you do, you have to make at least one reference to the Third Reich. Go get ’em, Ted. We’re counting on you.”
As much I dislike President Obama’s policies and his personal disposition, he isn’t Hitler nor is Mitch McConnell a modern day Neville Chamberlain. The Obama Administration isn’t going to invade Texas and commit genocide against its residents. Suffice it to say, Cruz’s invocation of the Nazis in the context of the defunding Obamacare trivializes the cold, calculated evil that resulted in the deaths of millions of people, including six million Jews.
Cruz is also guilty of engaging in historical revisionism. Neville Chamberlain never told Britain that Hitler would dominate Europe. On the contrary, Chamberlain said:
We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German naval agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.
He would add the Munich Agreement represented “peace in our time”. Appeasement, by its very definition, is “to bring to a state of peace and quiet.” As such, Chamberlain and the political class in Britain and much of Europe believed that the annexation of much of Czechoslovakia’s borders would satiate Hitler’s appetite. It was widely believed that the Munich Agreement would bring about peace and quiet and Hitler would not conquer Europe.
Of course, these beliefs were unfounded. Hitler’s appetite could not be satiated and conquer the European continent he did. There was little peace and quiet to be found during WWII. It is Winston Churchill’s recognition of Hitler’s nature that makes him one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th Century.
Cruz engages in more historical revisionism when he suggests Americans believed Hitler would conqueor Europe and thus opposed entering WWII. It is a curious argument given Cruz’s brand of neo-isolationism. Charles Lindbergh opposed this country’s involvement in WWII not because he didn’t think the Nazis could be beaten, but because he wanted the United States to remain neutral and not be entangled in what he considered European affairs. Just as Lindbergh argued in 1941 that America should not enter the Second World War at the behest of “war agitators” (i.e. the British, the Jews and the FDR Administration), Cruz argued we shouldn’t be “al Qaeda’s Air Force”. Not only does Cruz get the history wrong, he is disingenuous about his own neo-isolationist tendencies.
If that weren’t enough, Cruz pulls a Joe Biden and argues that those Americans opposing entry into WWII “would have been on TV saying, “You cannot defeat the Germans.” OK, by the time Hitler had invaded Poland some Americans had a chance to see televisions at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. But most Americans would have seen Lindbergh’s speech if they watched the Movietone Newsreels at the local theater or more likely heard it on the radio. Televisions weren’t widely available in this country until the early 1950s. One would think that would be common knowledge, but perhaps not.
Having said all of this, I realize that Ted Cruz’s stature will most likely continue grow and would be shocked if he didn’t seek the GOP nomination for the White House in 2016. Cruz certainly understands the value of political theater and I wish more Republicans utilized it to their advantage. But as with Rand Paul, I am troubled by how Cruz utilized political theater. All the more so because Cruz picked an issue worthy of national scrutiny.
So Ted Cruz had me. But then he lost me once he invoked the Nazis. In my formative years, I came to know people who had survived the Holocaust and in some instances were the only ones left standing in their families. There is a tendency to invoke the horrors of Nazism far too casually. I thought Ted Cruz knew better.
I agree with Cruz that every effort should be made to stop Obamacare. But I don’t agree with likening Republicans who oppose Cruz’s tactics to Neville Chamberlain and others who signed the Munich Agreement. There’s simply no need to go there.
But if Cruz insists on talking about the origins of WWII then the very least he can do is to get his facts straight. I don’t know if Cruz’s revisionist account of WWII was borne of ignorance or intent. While the former is disturbing, it is something that can be corrected through due diligence. But if it is the latter then that means Ted Cruz is like too many other politicians who are willing to say anything, no matter how untrue, to get their point across, their agenda implemented or to be elected to whatever office they seek.
It saddens me to say that my admiration of Ted Cruz has diminished considerably over the last 24 hours or so.