Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Don't You Want Me as Your Friend?

Recently, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) delivered a speech where he analogized failure to confront the mounting national debt to failing to intervene in the Holocaust. The ADL took exception, and Huckabee responded with the empathy and sensitivity that makes him so beloved in the Jewish community (via):
Governor Mike Huckabee said today, that the demand of ADL (Anti Defamation League) Director Abraham Foxman to apologize for his comments regarding the Holocaust were uninformed and misguided and called upon Foxman to apologize to him and retract his totally inappropriate and reckless attack issued recently.

Huckabee said, "Foxman could have done even a tiny bit of fact-checking and discovered what most people in the Israel and American Jewish community know quite well, that Israel and the Jewish people have no stronger advocate than Mike Huckabee. And to confirm that, they could start by actually listening to what I said, which is a strong affirmation of the Jewish people

"I have traveled to Israel numerous times since 1973, have spoken at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, met with several Prime Ministers and Presidents of Israel over the years, testified in committee hearing at the Knesset and have taken numerous groups and hundreds of visitors to Israel. I have been steadfast in my support not only of the Jewish people, but of my solemn remembrance of the horrors inflicted upon the Jews during the Holocaust and the need for all people of the world to stand with Israel for the right to their indigenous homeland with secure borders and sovereign control," Huckabee said.

"Foxman's remarks are not only factually wrong, but they are hurtful to me personally in light of my unequalled friendship with members of the Jewish community, and I ask Foxman to retract his statement as publicly as he issued it, and apologize for his lack of accuracy in issuing it and for the harm done by attacking the very strongest advocates for the Jewish people and Israel.

"Israel and Jewish people need to make friends, not insult the ones they have" said Huckabee. "Fortunately, Foxman doesn't represent the vast majority of well-informed friends I have in the Jewish community," he added.

Unbelievably, the ADL -- apparently having exhausted its spine quotient for the week -- capitulated entirely to Huckabee's bullying.

So putting the ever-more useless ADL aside, let's just focus on Huckabee's response to what is, by all accounts, an incredibly insensitive analogy. He basically lectures Jews on how we need every "friend" we can get -- regardless of whether they listen to us, respect us, or respond to our legitimate concerns. "Friendship" means we just accept whatever Mike Huckabee does, because he's a "friend".

Yeah, remember that thing about how we get to decide who our friends are? This is why that's so important. Mike Huckabee's positions overlap with those of the broader American Jewish community approximately 0% of the time. His support of a one-state solution makes him more of an ally to Hamas than Israel, and his apparent support for expelling Palestinians from the West Bank is "pro-Israel" only in the sense that most supporters of Israel desire ethnic cleansing (hint: they don't). Domestically, of course, Huckabee wants to "reclaim America for Christ" and adopts positions abhorrent to the Jewish community's generally liberal bent. And then we have this.

What exactly is Mike Huckabee's "friendship" giving me that's so important such that I should be forced to accept this tongue-lashing lecture because we don't like him casually flinging the Holocaust out in his speeches? Precisely nothing, that's what.


Anonymous said...

Casually flinging the Holocaust out there in columns on unrelated issues, you say?

chingona said...

Fortunately, Foxman doesn't represent the vast majority of ... the Jewish community.

That's probably the only part of Huckabee's statement I agree with.

chingona said...

@ anonymous ... that's not even close to being equivalent. You can say it's not a good comparison, but at least he was talking about potential genocide, not debt.

Anonymous said...

Actually he made a really cheap joke to deflect from his personal responsibility as a journalist: "How did I get Iraq wrong? Well, for one thing, I trusted the Germans. Those who know me will find this statement somewhat ironic, but there it is."

And if you want to get really historically picky about it, Germany's unstable interwar economic situation may have had a little something to do with subsequent events too.

But I agree Huckabee is a jackass. My point is he is far from alone.

PG said...

Wait, what journalist are we talking about? I'm confused. I thought this was an opinion blog by a law student.

Germany's unstable interwar economic situation may have had a little something to do with subsequent events too.

Now we get excuses for genocide?

I think the quality of troll on this blog may have declined.

troll_dc2 said...

"Germany's unstable interwar economic situation may have had a little something to do with subsequent events too."

PG, that is simply an ironic way of pointing out that Hitler came to power in no small part due to Germany's bad economic state of affairs. How you can call the statement an "excuse[] for genocide" is beyond me. Is there any evidence that the Germans who gave Hitler a plurality of the vote in the last free election held before the war anticipated (and maybe even looked forward to) the Holocaust? Or were they simply attracted by a demagogue who promised better days ahead for them and Germany?

Anonymous said...

PG, an opinion blog by a law student who frequently cites and praises said journalist.

trolldc is correct, I was simply pointing out to chingona that simplistic arguments like "Iraq war good because... Hitler!" have a lot in common with simplistic arguments like "spending and debt reduction good because... Hitler!" Chingona appeared to (sort of) defend the former whereas I find both ridiculous, since chingona's reasoning could also be used (erroneously) to defend the latter.

chingona said...

The joke about not trusting Germans was so mild that I couldn't believe that was actually what you were objecting to, so I read all the way through to the end, and I simply don't think he was doing what Huckabee was doing.

I think "the Iraq War was justified on human rights grounds because even though we say 'never again,' too often we have allowed genocidal actions to go unchallenged" is a qualitatively different argument than "spending is bad, like the Holocaust was bad."

Ultimately, I disagree with Goldberg's argument, but it was actually about genocide, namely the attacks on Iraq's Kurdish population. Whereas government spending is not actually genocide.

chingona said...

Incidentally, Michelle Bachmann had a similar comment - people didn't speak out then - our grandkids will wonder why we didn't speak out about spending.

Is this the new talking point?

chingona said...

And for those following along at home, here are the offending passages:

My Atlantic colleague Andrew Sullivan and I have argued over the notion that travel can actually narrow the mind. I believe in reporting, but I also believe that I was somewhat blinded by my rage at the genocide Saddam perpetrated against Kurdistan. It is difficult to stay neutral on the question of intervention after visiting the survivors of Halabja, Goktapa, and other towns and villages that had been attacked with chemical weapons by Saddam's air force.

This is why I find it impossible to denounce a war that led to the removal of a genocidal dictator. To borrow from Samantha Power, the phrase "never again" has in recent years come to mean "Never again will we allow the Germans to kill the Jews in the 1940s." The Holocaust proved that the world is a brutal place for small peoples, and it defines for me the nonnegotiable requirements of a moral civilization: to be absolutely intolerant of dictators who have committed documented genocides. The tragedy of this war—one of its tragedies—is that its immorally incompetent execution has, for the foreseeable future, undermined this idea. I believe, for instance, that Darfur demands our armed intervention, but we are now paralyzed because of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq occupation.

Anonymous said...

In light of that passage, it's funny how critical the guy is of the current action against Gaddafi. Apparently he's pretty selective when it comes to which genocidal dictators we should oppose. And it hardly speaks to any positive qualities as a pundit, thinker, or journalist when he himself admits to being "blinded by rage" in his advocacy of military force.

Additionally, what you see as "mild" I see as a rather glib "joke" reference to past atrocities as a way of evading his very serious responsibility for helping to push a war that killed tens of thousands and displaced even more. Just putting that out there. But whatever, we don't have to agree on any of this.

chingona said...

Well, he was for intervention in Libya before he was against it, so he's somewhat internally consistent.

But really, this isn't about defending Jeffrey Goldberg's every utterance.

I agree that we don't have to agree about this (and probably won't), but if it was the joke at the beginning that bothered you, well, regardless of whether it's in good taste or not, making a joke about a Jew trusting a German is not, to me, the same as saying that excessive government spending is just like the Holocaust.

Anonymous said...

The end bit of the Slate piece is pretty bad too though, compared to people who are actually intellectually serious about humanitarian intervention, like Samantha Power who literally wrote the book on the subject. This is really a tangent to my point, though.

As long as we're digging up quotes, Huckabee said "And that’s why I say, ‘Let there never be a time in this country where some father has to look over his daughter’s shoulder and see her ask this haunting question: Why didn’t somebody do something?"

That is not actually saying debt is "just like" anything. Someone mounting the "just an offhand German joke" defense (because Germany is completely unchanged from six decades ago?) could just as easily claim Huckabee is only saying current generations have an obligation to confront bad stuff, broadly defined, that carries the potential to lead to even worse stuff. Is it an objectionable analogy in any case? Yes. It goes to the same basic objection on grounds of gratuitous tastelessness. I'm fine with shellacking Huckabee and Bachmann, but let's not pretend this kind of thing isn't depressingly common, and not just among fringe figures. I support busting them all for what they say rather than deciding if they're likable over all and then looking for something about them to bust. Or deciding they meet some ideological litmus test and then excusing them, which appears to be the ADL approach.

PG said...

I wonder if upset at someone's making a vague "don't trust the Germans" reference has something to do with lack of familiarity with/fondness for British comedy, which is about 50% jokes about the Germans (and the other 50% men dressed up as women). Like chingona, I found that so mild that I could hardly believe that it's what gave offense. Such humor may be in questionable taste -- any given form of humor generally isn't to *someone*'s taste -- but it's not emotionally manipulative nor does it thieve moral standing from the Holocaust.

Anonymous said...

Not sure comedians and "serious" punditry should mix. It turns the former un-funny and the latter into even more of a joke. Just look at Dennis Miller.

PG said...

I'm not sure it's successful humor, but punny titles for law review articles are so common (and allowed to be published) that they've become a cliche. I don't think wishing to be taken seriously overall precludes all gestures at comedy.