Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Mr. President

Commemorating the end of World War II in the Latvian capital of Riga, President Bush engaged in a favorite conservative past-time. Golf? Undermining the Constitution? Paying journalists to support their policies? Filing their taxes? Survey says: talking smack about FDR:

As we mark a victory of six decades ago, we are mindful of a paradox. For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V-E day marked the end of fascism, but it did not end the oppression. The agreement in Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. … The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs in history.

That’s right. According to President Bush, President Roosevelt is not dissimilar from the tyrannical dictators of the 20th Century, because politically and militarily, he and Churchill could only realistically liberate most of Europe at the time, but not all of it. And if you close your eyes and hum, the Bush administration has, by contrast, transformed every nation in the Middle East into a constitutional democracy and will never barter away the freedom of any nation.

Someone should tell President Bush that the freedom of people without a nation was “expendable” to his own father when his administration doubled commodity credits to Hussein the year after we learned of the Kurdish genocide. And that President Reagan ceded the freedom of South Africans living under apartheid when he vetoed the Comprehensive Anti-Aparheid Act in 1986 and continued to appease that oppressive regime. And how could President Bush possibly not realize that he has committed the same “crime” he accuses FDR of in ceding the freedom of Pakistan, the freedom of Uzbekistan, the freedom of Saudi Arabia and other nations in his wildly misguided prosecution of the war on terrorism. This kind of posturing from the right deserves ridicule, because after all they are on their first couple of dates with “freedom” and madly in love. But this is a false love that will never make a commitment to fully realized democracy, ignores the large and lasting omelette FDR and Churchill made by breaking a few eggs, and does in the final analysis, favor the appeasement of authoritarian regimes over risking our lives and resources for the political liberty of developing societies and peoples without nations of their own.

– Jon Sherman