Friday, June 12, 2009

To An Emperor, History is What He Says It Is?

In the recent Cairo speech...almost every one of his references was either misleading or incomplete. He suggested that today’s Middle East tension was fed by the legacy of European colonialism and the Cold War that had reduced nations to proxies...But the great colonizers of the Middle East were the Ottoman Muslims, who for centuries ruled with an iron fist. The 20th-century movements of Baathism, Pan-Arabism, and Nasserism...did far more damage over the last half-century to the Middle East than did the legacy of European colonialism...Obama also claimed that “Islam . . . carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.” While medieval Islamic culture was impressive and ensured the survival of a few classical texts — often through the agency of Arabic-speaking Christians — it had little to do with the European rediscovery of classical Greek and Latin values. Europeans, Chinese, and Hindus, not Muslims, invented most of the breakthroughs Obama credited to Islamic innovation...Much of the Renaissance, in fact, was more predicated on the centuries-long flight of Greek-speaking Byzantine scholars from Constantinople to Western Europe to escape the aggression of Islamic Turks...Our Historically Challenged President, Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, 6/11/2009

While the writer shares Hanson's exasperations with the transparent political correctness of the current President's historical observations about Islam, the President did not set this precedent. One only has to recall Ronald Reagan's memory of participating in air raids over Germany (he never served in the military), or Jimmy Carter's remarkable adventures with a killer rabbit, or Hubert Humphrey's membership in every ethnic group in the United States. Twisting the facts to suit a political audience is, sad to say, almost a requirement for being a political leader. Crowds like to have their prejudices confirmed. Politicians who come right out with the truth, when its discussion might outrage a crowd, generally lose elections. A solution that's common for voters who prefer to think about candidates rather than respond to them emotionally is to assume that virtually every statement by a politician is gauged for effect. The politician probably doesn't believe a word of it, or knows that it's false, or falsely construed to suit a particular group. You can only assess politicians by what they do – same as the rest of us. The really scary part about about the current White House is that the master of the house apparently believes that words can break bones and change the world. The widely reported and proud posturing about affecting elections in Lebanon and Iran by an obviously sanitized political speech would be hilarious if it had come from, say, the poet laureate. From the Presidency, they suggest an office-holder who spends a lot of time practicing before a mirror.


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