On Cal Thomas’s column page at the Jewish World Review, he’s listed as the author of a book entitled Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That Is Destroying America. So clearly heâ€™s an individual committed to restoring a civil tone to our political discourse, forging a more respectful debate in which everyone remembers that whatever our differences, we have the good of the nation at heart. So letâ€™s hear what heâ€™s got to say about the ill-timed but well-intentioned Armenian genocide resolution that recently came up in the House. Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s gracious, polite, and even-keeled, a shining example of the bipartisan comity he so cherishes.
Are Democrats so cynical that they would stir an already boiling pot in hopes that it would negate whatever success America may finally be having in quelling terrorist acts in Iraq? One would hope that is not the case, but given their leadership’s rhetoric about the war already being lost and their refusal to acknowledge even the slightest progress in Iraq as positive lest it reflect well on the Bush administration, cynicism about their cynical actions might be justified.
Hmm. That wasnâ€™t so much polite and bipartisan as it was an accusation that the Speaker of the House is so eager to make the President look bad that she was willing to start a war between Turkey and the Kurds, with our troops in the middle. Maybe heâ€™s being funny. Yes, that must be it. By â€œopiningâ€ that the Democrats are â€œtraitors,â€ heâ€™s making an incisive commentary on our political discourse. Letâ€™s see the clever way he defies our expectations and ends with a knowing wink.
Apparently there are limits beyond which even Democrats are not willing to go in their pursuit of political gain. There are some issues that ought to transcend partisanship and this is one of them.
Ah. That wasnâ€™t so much a knowing wink as a backhanded compliment (and by â€œcompliment,â€ I mean â€œslap across the faceâ€) to Democrats, who despite their all-consuming thirst for victory at any cost, do have some limits. That seems fair. The Democrats are well-known for their bareknuckle tactics and ruthless smear campaigns. Thank goodness the Republicans would never stoop so low as to exploit a war for political gain.
Anyway, the real reason I bring up this article is to comment on something Iâ€™ve been considering a lot lately: the resurgence of the dolchstosslegende. Translating roughly as â€œdagger-thrust legend,â€ the term became historically significant in the aftermath of the First World War, as Germans searched for an explanation for their defeat in a war in which their leaders had guaranteed victory. The conclusion reached by many was that they had been somehow betrayed, that malevolent forces within Germany had stabbed their brave fighting men in the back. This belief contributed greatly to the rise of the Nazis, who successfully turned the â€œbackstabâ€ accusation against the Communists, the Social Democrats, and other political adversaries, and ultimately against the Jews.
Kevin Baker wrote a fascinating article for Harper’s last year about the use of similar rhetoric (of the “we were betrayed” sort, not the “let’s kill all non-Aryans and conquer the world” sort) by the American right over the last half-century. The article’s well worth the read, and required reading for anyone interested in understanding modern politics. The idea that America’s problems are due to internal subversion rather than dumb policy has gotten the Republicans a lot of points over the years, they seem unlikely to abandon it anytime soon. Unfortunately, the day we finally decide to leave Iraq may well just be the beginning of the fight over whose fault it was that we left.