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Viral Videos Of The Week: Appeasement At Munich Edition

Yesterday, conservative LA radio host Kevin James appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews ostensibly to discuss George Bush and John McCain's decision to test whether repealing Godwin's Law is a winning issue. James came on the air screaming — literally … Read More

By / May 16, 2008

Yesterday, conservative LA radio host Kevin James appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews ostensibly to discuss George Bush and John McCain's decision to test whether repealing Godwin's Law is a winning issue.

James came on the air screaming — literally — that if George Bush wasn't, as Dana Perino assured us he was not, comparing the Democratic presidential nominee to Neville Chamberlain, "HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN" [that seems like the most faithful orthography -- ed]. After several minutes passed without James' wall of sound subsiding or giving any hint that it would soon, Matthews' bullshit meter went off.

So he asked James, "What did Chamberlain do wrong?" The result: A moment of television both entertaining and edifying. The fun starts at 4:10.

Before finally giving up and admitting he has no idea why it's unflattering to compare someone to Chamberlain, James let loose with several paroxysms that by all rights ought to have been co-scripted by George Orwell and Trey Parker:

"It all goes back to appeasement…It's the key term"; "His actions enabled, energized, legitimized …It's the exact same thing" [presumably the subject is Chamberlain and the object Hitler, but that's far from clear -- ed.]; "'38, '39, what year do you want?…It's the exact same thing that happened"; "He's talking about appeasement!";

Best of all, in response to the specific question of what Chamberlain had done that James didn't like: "Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser."

That, of course, is the essence of Bush loyalism at this late stage (and what makes the clip so edifying): Parroting key phrases like an opera singer cantillating in a language she doesn't understand, and using language not as a medium of communication, but simply as a cudgel with which to beat political opposition.

Which highlights precisely what is so crazy not just about this latest display of classlessness from the president, but about the media-enabled codification of the idea that steadfastly holding to the principle of conducting diplomacy like a petulant kindergartner makes a politician "strong" on national security. Chris Matthews may have fun embarrassing a buffoon like James, but it's thanks to him and his colleagues that we consider someone like Joe Lieberman — who has yet to encounter a foreign policy problem he wouldn't solve by getting other people killed, and has yet to encounter a domestic freedom he wouldn't consider restricting — a moderate. Lieberman's reputation for moderation is diagnostic proof of a pathology in our political culture. The fact that a man can be comfortable going on national television to excoriate appeasement without having the slightest clue what 'appeasement' means is only a minor symptom.

But sane people who know words like 'appeasement' and what happened at Munich just don't sign off on this codicil of the Bush doctrine, or much of the rest of it for that matter.

Hence, back in the land of agitprop-free reality, there is virtually no one outside a faction within a faction of neoconservatives — the clan that warned of Reagan selling us out to Gorbachev and presciently predicted a massive Soviet revival by the late 80s — dumb or paranoid enough to confuse talking with appeasing. Not even John McCain, who as Jamie Rubin notes, favored negotiations with Hamas as recently as 2006. To be sure, Rubin has honesty issues of his own, but the Huffington Post found the video evidence to prove McCain was for negotiating with Hamas — along with an admirably perspicuous explanation of what got Hamas elected (hint: it's not Palestinians' intractable hatred for Israel).

And why would McCain have taken that position? Because it's simply flipping nuts not to, that's why. Here we have a basic tool of diplomacy that comes with a negligible opportunity costs, a literally zero potential downside cost, and an enormous potential upside; and rather than use it, some people would rather impugn the fitness of others for leadership.

That's how you know they're full of shit. If their ancestors had faced such a decision and opted to throw a tantrum rather than use the low-cost, high-profit tool, they would have been culled by natural selection long before passing on their genetic material to our current crop of ostriches who think they're hawks.

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