His Heart Isn’t Big Enough

Andy McCarthy is angry:

What does it say when the president of the United States is unable to acknowledge that the United States won the Cold War and broke the bonds of Soviet tyranny for nations of Eastern Europe?

His latest outburst was prompted by this truly outrageous statement from President Obama:

Now, make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.

The nerve of the man! To suggest that Solidarity, Pope John Paul, the ‘Singing Revolution,’ or Mikhail Gorbachev had anything to do with the fall of Communism is downright unpatriotic. Doesn’t he realize that Ronald Reagan was responsible for literally every crack in the Soviet edifice?

From a diplomatic perspective, you needn’t be a latter-day Metternich or Talleyrand to grasp that claiming sole responsibility for ending the Cold War might be a bit off-putting to foreigners. And given Russia’s well-known sensitivities about the issue, I think it’s very sensible of Obama to tread lightly on the world stage.

But beyond the pragmatic case against needlessly pissing off important countries, what I’m truly astounded by is McCarthy’s unthinking chauvinism. Is it really that outrageous to credit the people of Eastern Europe and Russia for helping end the Cold War, particularly when Obama’s generous account actually reflects the historical reality? Is McCarthy so uncharitable that any acknowledgment of the achievements of other countries somehow detracts from his own patriotism?

Many on the Right identify with the go-it-alone mystique of the American cowboy, whose straight-shooting approach is supposedly a guide for foreign policy. But it’s worth remembering that our iconic Western heroes (Shane comes to mind) were strong and silent rather than unthinking braggarts. A patriot should have enough confidence in his country’s achievements to survive without needless reaffirmations of national pride, something McCarthy should remember before his next attempt to insult half the world.

As a counterpoint to McCarthy’s bluster, I’d recommend Reagan’s D-Day commemoration, originally found through this old post from Daniel Larison, who is also worth a read on the subject of patriotism.

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35 thoughts on “His Heart Isn’t Big Enough

  1. I think it’s more that they (the NR types) are returning to form.

    One is reminded of how they (the NR types) responded to Clinton. The man couldn’t use a Kleenex(tm) without having someone point out that it was tacky for the Commander In Chief to communicate (let alone demonstrate!) that his humors were unbalanced.

    We had 8 years of relative silence during the Bush years (years when a little more reasoned criticism might have resulted in more measured excesses that wouldn’t have had such a swing of the pendulum back in 2008)… but if you look at the Clinton years, that particular criticism meets the template of pretty much every other (pre-Monica) criticism that Clinton received.

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  2. It’s also important to note that all those tough western cowboy heroes always had help. Either from upstarts or the women in their lives, or from some other unlikely place. Always, I think, without fail. And that’s one of the morals of the Western – that even these tough, solitudinous guys need a hand now and again. They can’t go it alone.

    McCarthy’s is a voice that conservatives don’t need right now. This constant “Obama can do no right and hates America” line is getting old. So much more productive to actually critique him when he is wrong. When you do it all the time, people start to think that you’re just lying – and that perhaps the opposite is true: that Obama can do no wrong. That’s a pretty bad conclusion to draw, but it’s what happens when people keep spouting this kind of crap.

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    • I’m sure that some would be happy to point out that they are only doing what some did when Bush was president and sauce for the goose, etc.

      The fact that they credit Republican defeat with the nature of the criticism rather than the stuff the Republicans did that actually merits criticism pretty much indicates, to me, that the thing most likely to put them back in power is the pendulum swinging back.

      They, being them, will probably assume that it wasn’t the pendulum swinging back but because they were oh-so-diligent in their criticism of downright everything.

      Unfortunately, many Democrats will say “hurray, it’s our turn to criticize every single thing too!” and the game can begin again.

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    • E.D. I remember the Democratic attitude toward the Soviet Union during the Carter years; the fear, the trembling, the Democratic groveling….it was truly disgusting and representative of the Left. Reagan refused to bow, and the Left went nuts; he was going to get us nuked, he was a cowboy, he was insane! But Renaldo Magnus was right, and he had the Kahunee’s to stand on the truth. While the Left saw a powerful, near-perfect state, Reagan saw the corrupt, rotting corpse of socialism. And, he was so right; you just can’t change history!

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  3. When has National Review ever shied away from the inflammatory? Here is the NR on civil, voting rights, in 1957.

    “National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.”

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    • I’m not sure how a National Review’s editorial from 50 years ago is relevant, Bob. They have some good writing and some bad writing, and this is a pretty egregious example of the latter category. I also think it reflects a lot of unspoken assumptions on the Right, which is very unfortunate.

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    • Will, I find this editorial stance much more egregious than the item that made you “so goddamn mad.” After all the McCarthy piece you reference is only a political attack. The editorial speaks to antidemocratic impulses. If you feel “good writing” excuses such a stance so be it.

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    • Obviously not to you.

      For me it speaks to their willingness to make outrageous statements a la McCarthy. I don’t understand why you see it, the editorial, as something other than equal or worse than the item you responded to. I guess, for me, the passage of time does not lessen the ignorance expressed there. Perhaps in 50 plus years McCarthy statement will no longer piss you off.

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      • Can I mention some of Robert Byrd’s more colorful turns of phrase or would that be uncharitable.

        You wouldn’t believe some of the things that were included in the Democratic Party’s platform early in the 20th Century, now that I think about it.

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          • Well, I’d ask a handful of questions:

            Did NR ever apologize or retract or recant from that position? Specifically, did *BUCKLEY*, the author, say “dude, I shouldn’t have said that”?

            If those questions are asked and it turns out that, no, NR never recanted and Buckley never apologized, then your position that we should totally ream NR for it (and that we secretly know stuff about people who work there now who were born years after those words were writen) is a good one.

            If, however, the position was apologized for… well, it’s about as uncharitable to bring those words from 50 years ago up as it would be to quote some of Byrd’s more colorful (no pun intended!) phrases from way back when or to bring up the Democratic Party platform from even way backer.

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                    • And Robert Byrd said “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side… Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds. ”

                      The quotation is what it is, is it not?

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                    • Jaybird, I must ask again, what is your point? I’ve already admitted, my comment at 1:23pm, that people say stupid things.

                      This thread began with an example of something posted on NR by McCarthy that Will found offensive. I added a comment, also from NR, that I found offensive, albeit one from it’s early days. Will found my comment less than worthy. But to this point the topic remained on statements found at NR. Then you really opened the irrelevant door by pointing out, shock, many people, including Democrats make offensive statements.

                      Look, I’ll say it again, people, parties, magazine say/print stupid things. I’m not excusing the folks at NR or Robert Byrd, or anyone.

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                    • My point is that, yes, people say stupid things.

                      People also apologize for having said stupid things.

                      Continuing to bring up the stupid things that were apologized for as a bludgeon is somewhat uncharitable.

                      Byrd apologized and recanted. This makes bringing that old quotation of his in any given discussion about Byrd somewhat… well. Tawdry.

                      Personally I see “Dude, I changed my mind. I was wrong.” one of those statements that changes things.

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                  • We’re going in circles here. This is likely my last comment on this topic. Again, as I said above, if the folks at NR apologized for either the 1957 editorial or their comment regarding the Birmingham church bombing, my comment posted at 1:19pm, I will be happy to read and evaluate them.

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    • Here is another gem from NR.

      “Let us gently say the fiend who set off the bomb does not have the sympathy of the white population in the South; in fact, he set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically as to raise the question whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur — of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro.

      “And let it be said that the convulsions that go on, and are bound to continue, have resulted from revolutionary assaults on the status quo, and a contempt for the law, which are traceable to the Supreme Court’s manifest contempt for the settled traditions of Constitutional practice. Certainly it now appears that Birmingham’s Negroes will never be content so long as the white population is free to be free.”

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  4. Good post Will, the combination of jingoism and chauvinism is just astounding. But when you believe – as Liz Cheney said a few weeks back, the best nation that ever existed in history, it “logically” follows that all achievements of note were necessarily our achievements – if not entirely, then almost entirely.

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  5. It tends to annoy me when people say that Reagan played no role in ending the Cold War, which is a statement that most of the players that they would credit instead will directly and explicitly deny. I say that even as I think that a lot of what Reagan did was gawdawful.

    That said, it goes beyond jingoistic to think that Reagan and the US were the be all and end all that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain. He was one of a lot of players working simultaneously, but not necessarily in conjunction with each other. This mindset is particularly destructive, though, because it feeds into the pernicious idea that people in other countries are incapable of fighting for themselves, and that freedom from oppression can only be delivered by direct US intervention. It also undermines the idea that certain rights are in fact universal, supplanting it with the idea that those rights are solely the creation of the United States.

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  6. Elsewhere, McCarthy takes Chinese state media at face value and assumes the recently protesting Uighurs must all be dangerous terrorists.

    I guess he likes some kinds of Communism?

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