15 May 2008

Historical fact-fudging

Today, I caught a slight re-write of history. It was so small most people won’t catch it, but I sure did, which earns me my gold star for the day. Earlier today, President Bush made comments basically inferring that Barack Obama would be an appeaser. I found the quote at www.HuffingtonPost.com.
“Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
Presidential hopefully John McCain was quick to jump on the bandwagon and support Bush’s remarks – and this is where the red flags go up.
“Yes, there have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain,'' Mr. McCain told reporters on his campaign bus after a speech in Columbus, Ohio. "I believe that it's not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn't sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.”
When I did some research on this, I found that Mr. McCain overstated Mr. Reagan’s role. According to my research, the prisoners were released after the U.S. and Iran signed the Algiers Accords Jan. 19. 1981. The chief U.S. negotiator on this was Defense Secretary Warren Christopher – who, as a member of the Carter Administration, served until Jan. 20, 1981 – the day Reagan took office.
I’m sorry Mr. McCain, but what did Ronald Reagan have to do with releasing the hostages? If anything, it would appear that negotiation succeeded here where armed resistance (namely the ill-fated April 1980 Eagle Claw rescue operation) failed. McCain is partially right in one of his statements: Reagan didn’t sit down and negotiate with religious terrorists. He didn’t do this mainly because he was not even president at the time. The 53 U.S. prisoners were returned after 444 days of captivity minutes before Reagan was sworn in as the new president. It doesn’t take a genius to imagine that this was done to make former President Jimmy Carter look bad. I would say that to a large extent, it worked.
I think this is another example of I’ve come to call the “Reagan Halo Effect.” He wasn’t directly responsible for the release of these prisoners, as John McCain said. Nor was he solely responsible for ending the Cold War. He worked towards the aim, true – but it’s unfair to every president since Truman to believe that it was a sole Reagan effort.
I was able to throw all of this together after 10 minutes of research on the Internet. Now, I don’t know anyone who can track everything that a political candidate says and verify it for accuracy, but in this case, the facts plainly speak different than Mr. McCain’s statement. It makes me wonder what else we might be missing.

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