Another Poor Historical Analogy

Today’s editorial by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post analyzes Condoleezza Rice’s recent reference to the Civil Rights Struggle as an appropriate analogy to the war on terror and the Iraq War.  The comment was made on 60 Minutes in an interview with Katie Couric.  I only hope that 60 Minutes never allows her to play reporter on one of their future segments. 

"Nobody can go back and reinvent the past," Condoleezza Rice told Katie Couric on "60 Minutes" Sunday night. But this nugget of truth came amid a flood of retrospective reinvention in which Rice equated the war in Iraq with the civil rights struggle of the 1960s — and left me wondering whether I was hearing polished sophistry or a case of total denial.

I’m not sure how many more analogies I can handle from this administration – from the Nazis to postwar Europe and now to the Civil Rights Movement. When will it end.

Rice equates the racists who bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, killing four young girls — including Denise McNair, a childhood playmate — with modern-day suicide bombers who kill in the name of jihad. "Some people say, ‘Well, they do it to prove a political point,’ " she said. "Then why go after little girls? Or innocent people standing at a bus stop in Britain or in Madrid?"

The problem as Robinison points out is that it throws all "evil-doers" in the same basket and asks that we conceptualize without drawing any distinctions.

In her interview with Couric, Rice went on to argue that critics of the administration’s Middle East policies are like the racists who contended that black Americans were not ready to participate in democracy because they were "kind of childlike" and couldn’t handle the vote. But that’s a bizarre analogy. The last stand by white racists against integration and voting rights for African Americans wasn’t about patronizing attitudes some whites might have held — it was about power. It was about the knowledge that blacks were not just ready but also determined to exercise the right to vote.

How convenient.  The first problem is that Couric is such a poor interviewer that she failed to force Rice to talk about the problems that plague our policy in Iraq apart from the safety of her manufactured moral high ground as outlined in her flimsy analogy.  If ever there was a time for tough interviewing (in the best sense of the word) it is now.  Robinson rightly points out that Rice’s analogy "makes it sound as if those who disagree with the administration are standing in the schoolhouse door."  Our public leaders should be held to a higher standard when it comes to having to account for their decisions.  Why we allow them to hide in the past is beyond me.

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