The conservative blogosphere is abuzz today with the revelation that US Senator and Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama compared the United States in the late 1950s to Nazi Germany. This happens in the same 2001 radio interview in which he said the Supreme Court under Earl Warren was not radical enough and that we needed to move beyond the constraints placed on the Constitution by the Founders. The comments in question occur at about 15:30 into the interview:
“…just to take a, sort of a realist perspective…there’s a lot of change going on outside of the Court, um, that, that judges essentially have to take judicial notice of. I mean you’ve got World War II, you’ve got uh, uh, uh, the doctrines of Nazism, that, that we are fighting against, that start looking uncomfortably similar to what we have going on, back here at home.”
Okay, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I think I understand what Obama was getting at, even though he botches the comparison horribly.
At the time of Brown vs. Board of Education, a large swath of the United States comprising, but not limited to, the old Confederacy were under Jim Crow laws. These laws enforced ethnic segregation, mostly against Blacks, to the point of separate schools, bathrooms, eating counters, and drinking fountains. In the hard-core areas, Blacks had their voting rights violated and were terrorized with the threat of murder by lynching. The Jim Crow statutes and the terrorist threat of extra-judicial killing combined to create a repressive regime, especially in the Old South, that can be fairly compared to the apartheid regime of South Africa.
(For a good book on the Democratic Party’s role in creating and defending Jim Crow, see Bartlett’s Wrong on Race.)
But not to Nazi Germany, Senator Obama. There’s are whole orders of magnitude of difference here. I don’t recall it being national government policy to exclude Blacks from public life, to gather them in concentration camps, to exterminate them. Pray, tell me when the US equivalent of the Wannsee conference was held? At what point did the Federal government propose a final solution to the "Black question?" In fact, the history of race relations in the United States often shows the Federal government trying to defend Blacks from the depredations of racists in and out of state government: indeed, soon after Brown, President Eisenhower sent the Army into Little Rock to enforce school desegregation.
How Nazi-like of him. One can almost see Ike raising him arm in salute to Der Fuehrer.
I’m not one of those who’d going to scream in outrage at the comparison. However, I do think it is damn stupid: it shows a stunning ignorance of what was really going on in both the US and in Germany, and it demonstrates a mind too willing to draw easy analogies that do nothing to enlighten. Just like Obama’s ignorance of how the Berlin crisis of 1948-49 ended (hint: it was not through the "world standing as one"), it shows a lazy, superficial, and naive understanding not only of History in general, but of his own country. And it’s yet another illustration of why he should not become President.
By the way, is there something in the water in Illinois? Obama isn’t the only senator from the Land of Lincoln to compare the US to the Nazis and other genocidal maniacs…
(hat tip: LGF)
LINKS: AJ Strata, Ace of Spades.