Illinois’ Gift(s?) to the World

Odious comparisons by the left have been so pervasive, I long ago stopped caring. And all of us can be impulsive or vulgar or, well, over the top.

Of course, Durbin’s speech was offensive. The comparison of Gitmo’s methods with the Gulags and the Holocaust might have been expected. As Mark Steyn noted dryly,

But give Durbin credit. Every third-rate hack on every European newspaper can do the Americans-are-Nazis schtick. Amnesty International has already declared Guantanamo the “gulag of our times.” But I do believe the senator is the first to compare the U.S. armed forces with the blood-drenched thugs of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.

The appropriate response would seem censure, but time will censure in its own way (perhaps). So today, he apologized. McCain praised the apology; certainly such praise comes from a man who understands courage and surely other senators understand better than I what it is like to humble yourself (and metrosexually cry) on the Senate floor. But that apology prompts this post, because it reinforced the sense that Durbin was, well, not exactly on “our” side. (Indeed, that Steyn was right.)

He addressed the affronted families of Holocaust survivors, not we might note survivors of the Gulags or the Khmer Rouge, soldiers at Gitmo or their friends & families; indeed, not anyone with some sense who found this inappropriate from the mouth of a senator. Nor does he seem to understand that to whomever he apologizes, it is not the “words” but the ideas that are offensive. (I’ve about had it with this trope of “misunderstood words.”) He says he has met our brave soldiers. Well, that’s nice. But we are appalled that he could actually read that description (ugly as it seemed) and in any way compare Gitmo, where prisoners gain 13 pounds, with societies in which a third of the inhabitants were slaughtered. What’s wrong isn’t words.

Lincoln was beleagured. Is that Durbin’s perspective on himself? (I guess we can be thankful he didn’t imply he was crucified. And yes, certain members of the other party are also embarrassing. Everyone’s a victim.) An apology that ends with this allusion is not an apology – to anyone. Lincoln’s speech, with more context:

“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.” The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House by Francis B. Carpenter (University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1995), pp. 258-259.

(The passage he quoted is in bold.)

Perhaps Durbin feels, as the Blogfather contends, that the current successes in the Middle East have many fathers but any failures have only one – Bush (and our soldiers). Clearly some in the opposition see news about these soldiers as means to an end – an end that has little to do with democracy in the Middle East or security for America. Reynolds notes

Like too many people, these folks see the war as less important than their own immediate political objectives. Better to be President after losing a war than to suffer as a Senator in a nation that’s winning, apparently.

Well, that’s politics. We had the same thing from the Copperheads in the Civil War.

And with that remark we are reminded of how Europe viewed the “savage” Mr. Lincoln (read Henry Adams on those years with his father in London). Time gives heroes their due. And this will be true of soldiers who handle the Koran with gloves or a president who starts the dominoes falling.

A. Chris Muir has been running with the Durbin theme – beginning the 17th.

B. Thoughtfully giving Durbin’s words a broader context, Gelernter speaks of the importance of historical awareness. He’s right – we are in danger of losing our history and therefore our identity. Of course, history is still used even when not understood. Today’s apology & its allusion to Lincoln indicates Durbin (& how many others) sees history as a series of intensifiers–others may use “very”, he uses, what, “Pol Pot”? And, of course, cliches. Vietnam, for instance, is never the Vietnam of the boat people or the economy that was destroyed by yet another experiment by those “engineers of human souls.” Instead, it is the Vietnam of the New York Times and Frances Fitzgerald, of Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter. Not to diminish any of these, in the hands of modern politicians (and modern journalists) these have become allusions without context or seriousness.

C. I really don’t understand this (as AP reports:

His voice quaking and tears welling in his eyes, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate also apologized to any soldiers who felt insulted by his remarks.

“They’re the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them,” he said.

(Thanks to California Conservative).

To argue that that wasn’t his intention requires a rather tortured (say post-modern) reading of the text:

“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings,” the senator said June 14.

Now I have no doubt that Bush was his imagined target, but his “words” do not really bear that interpretation. We know what was in his heart, but apologies are for what is actually said. And, frankly, there is a problem when a man in a leadership position among the Democrats believes that the best way to attack the administration is to attack the troops. Not that we haven’t suspected this ever since, well, Afghanistan.

D. Finding a source for the Lincoln quote, I noticed another remark of his:

“Property is the fruit of labor…property is desirable…is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Reply to New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association” (March 21, 1864), pp. 259-260.

(After a yesterday with the Snopes & today with The Grapes of Wrath, this resonated.)

E. Perhaps the appropriate gut response was Ann Althouse’s:

I saw this on TV and found it … icky. What are you really crying about, Dick? Your own miserable little career?

(Added later Wed night.)

12 thoughts on “Illinois’ Gift(s?) to the World”

  1. Non-apologies like Durbin’s signal a desire to have your cake and eat it, too. For the left, he’s said the magic words about the US military (Nazi’s, Gulag, and even Pol Pot). And then he faux-apologizes that you stupidly took offense when his ‘true feelings’ were elsewhere. The words get to stay, not disavowed, just topped with a Post-It note that says “this is not meant to offend”. Harry G. Frankfurt has a word for that.

    It’s not unlike a two-year-old who has learned to say “I’m sorry” after hitting people, thinking that allows him to hit people even more. Men who batter their wives offer similar blame-displacers (“I didn’t mean to hurt her; she made me do it.”). I would say his words were shameful, but it’s clear Durbin does not feel shame here. In the psychiatry world, people without shame, those who can act without conscience and only feel bad about being caught (not for their actions), are termed sociopaths.

    Whatever happened to the adults in the US? I seem to recall my parent’s era, when an apology meant “I did it, and I was wrong”, and tears from a guy meant “I feel horrible about it”. Where’d they all go?

    Durbin’s words were mere ritual, it seems, from the postmodern script. All style, no substance, all meant at counting coup. When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone,” it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

  2. Another gift courtesy of Illinois Democrats: the 2000 election recount. Al Gore’s campaign manager, Daly, was the architect of the Florida debacle. He and friends concocted the flood of attorneys that descended on the state, and the hoard of telemarketers that telephoned elderly Jewish voters to plant the seed of doubt that they may have voted for Buchanan “by mistake.” Oh, that naughty butterfly ballot!

    What’s happened to the Illinois Democrats? They sound like radical Bay-state idiots now.

  3. Compare Durbin’s words to Lott’s:

    “A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embraced the discarded policies of the past,” Lott said. “Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.”

    Now Durbin should resign his post and go on an apology tour to military bases and veterans groups………help! I’m turning blue.

  4. What’s happened to the Illinois Democrats? They sound like radical Bay-state idiots now.

    Illinois lacks an effective opposition party.

  5. Durbin is aware that this will make him popular with the core of his own party. That is why he did it. The non-apology is a way to simply repeat the basic point of his message and get further press coverage.

  6. Yeah. Look for more of this kind of outrage in the near future. Howard Dean, far from being an aberration, represents the core of the national Democratic Party, and Sen. Durbin is playing to the same constituency as Dean.

    It’s tempting to think that the Democrats are driving themselves into the political wilderness by behaving in this way. However, it may be that they are also making Mrs. Clinton more marketable nationally, because her cautiously centrist positions on national-security issues make her look good by comparison.

  7. As a fomer Illinoisian from the south suburbs of Chicago I recall Democratic Party members (a neighbor precinct captain and others) from my youth and it left me with a strong distaste for “party politics”.

    Not to give other parties a free pass, but it was “party before reason or sense”, for sure.

  8. Johnathan’s comment, “Illinois lacks an effective opposition party,” struck a chord.

    I’m assuming you ChicagoBoyz are Illinois residents. What’s the problem out there?

    I thought Illinois, and in particular, the city of Chicago, were capitalist and corporate friendly. I’d expect the social marrow of America’s traditionalist farming community to be strong in the region. The state’s residents ought to understand the merits of low taxes, God and country. What’s gone wrong?

    Too much Union/Dem cohesion? Old-style industrial unions colluding with their patrons to form an intractable political mega-structure? Should we call Illinois “Little France?”

    Or can we atttribute it, as Natie Solent does the prevalence of lower-class fag smoking*, to too much welfare?
    *No permalink, posted on 06/21/05

  9. Illinois consists of a moderate-to-conservative heartland (including some Chicago suburbs) paired with a big liberal-Democratic city. The suburbs of Chicago, which used to be part of the conservative heartland politically, are more liberal now, and the State has been trending left for years. It doesn’t help that IL Democrats are much more focused and better at politics than are IL Republicans. (The latter tend to be non-ideological go-along-to-get-along types and are not always less corrupt than their Democratic counterparts.) Also, recent Hispanic immigrants have tended to vote Democratic; and I suspect that a nontrivial fraction of IL businesspeople, who might otherwise be expected not only to vote Republican but also to raise money and get out votes, has been migrating to states with lower taxes and better weather.

  10. Peoples’ Republic of IL.

    We can’t talk politics w/our best friends anymore, each other thinks we’re nuts and we’re still working thru it.

    Had dinner w/them a couple of weeks ago. I was a good girl, stayed quiet.

    They were complaining IL’s becoming a nanny state.

    But had no problem voting for at minimum a socialist.

  11. Steve: Al Gore’s campaign manager was Willian Daly, Richard’s brother. He is now president of SBC Communications, which is located in Texas, San Antonio, I believe.

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