Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been having a tough time with the current situation in Iran. He has been criticizing President Obama’s “hands off” approach and encouraging him to get more involved (despite expert opinion that says otherwise). But former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — a McCain supporter whom McCain recently called “the smartest man in the world” — said this week that he thinks Obama “has handled this well.”
Last night on Fox News, McCain and Sean Hannity joined in with the right wing’s Reagan-era hysteria, with Hannity arguing that Obama should offer “some moral support the way that Ronald Reagan offered moral support” to anti-communists. But in this instance, McCain got carried away, crediting Reagan for something that happened well before he became president:
McCAIN: You and I are both students of history and we’ve seen this movie before. When Ronald Reagan stood up for the workers in Gdansk in Poland, when he stood up for the people of Czechoslovakia, in Prague Spring, and America did. And some good Democrats did, too.
Perhaps McCain needs a new history lesson. The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia when Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek allowed greater speech and assembly freedoms when he came to power… in January 1968. Ronald Reagan had just completed his first year as California’s governor at that time. Soviet and other Warsaw Pact troops invaded eight months later to end the reform movement.
Since the uprising in Iran over its disputed elections, conservatives of all stripes have been quick to invoke their hero Ronald Reagan as a guidepost from which to criticize Obama’s response (as they often do with just about any issue). But as Matt Duss noted, referring to McCain, “Indeed, we’ve all seen this movie before”:
It’s the one where conservatives deploy a potted history of the Cold War — in which Reagan spoke and the walls came tumbling down — to cast international politics as a zero-sum contest between good and evil, and to cow progressives into a more aggressive rhetorical posture toward America’s adversary of the moment. It is usually hidden under the guise of “solidarity with captive peoples” and absent any genuine consideration of the practical effects on the peoples concerned.
If McCain and company are going to continue to rely on Reagan for guidance, they should at least try to maintain the correct historical time-line.