STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH
In the first part of this series (http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/211 ) , I presented "what really happened" at the famous meeting in Munich, Germany between the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. As revealed in the 1995 book by Clement Leibovitz and Alvin Finkel, In Our Time: The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion (New York: Monthly Review Press), based on British government documents released under the British Official Secrets Act and related materials, the real story was rather different from the "appeasement" tale that has been the standard treatment in the Western press since that time.
To review it briefly, on September 30, 1938, along with the French and the Italians the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gave the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler "permission" to invade the nation of Czechoslovakia which, by the way, was not invited to the conference. Descending from his airplane upon his return to London, waving a piece of paper Chamberlain uttered four of the most famous words in modern European history: "Peace in Our Time." Hitler proceeded to occupy most of the rest of the country about six months later (bits and pieces having been chopped off by the Poles and the Hungarians) without making any further deals with anyone.
We know what happened less than a year later, with the guns of September and the beginning of World War II. We also know now that "appeasement" was not what Chamberlain was about. Rather he was focused on: A) trying to keep Hitler focused on his much-touted "Drang Nach Osten" ("Drive to the East") in order to achieve the destruction of the Soviet Union; and B) preventing the Red Army of that nation from taking up a prominent place in Central Europe. For the Soviet Union had pledged to the Czechs full ground and air military support if they took up arms against the Germans, which they were ready to do. As the deadline for the threatened German invasion approached, the Red Air Force had many planes warming up ready to attack the Nazis. But, under enormous pressure from the British and French governments, the final "go" never came from the Czech government to the Soviets and the planes stayed on the ground.
The way Hitler negotiated with Chamberlain on the Czech situation and why Hitler refused to seriously negotiate with him on the proffered deal, except to get a complete capitulation as Hitler did at Munich, speaks volumes about what is going now between Obama and his DLC/Right vs. McConnell/Boehner and their GOP/Far-Right over fiscal and economic policy.
Further, the much-touted "compromise" that Obama achieved with the GOP on taxes and unemployment insurance has about as much value for the majority of the people of the United States as the "Peace in Our Time" that Chamberlain achieved with Hitler had for either peace in their time or the Czechs.
The comparisons are fascinating. While Obama was negotiating with McConnell, et al, the "Democratic Party Air Force" was warming up on the runways in the House of Representatives. In fact, the House had just a few days before passed an extension of the Bush reduced tax rates for all but the wealthiest members of our society. But Obama, ostensibly a President representing all of his party, pointedly refused to consult with them, much less bring them into the negotiations. He just gave away the store, just like Chamberlain did with the Czechs ready to fight and the Soviet Union ready to back them up. But why did Obama do that? Was it because he is "weak," because he doesn't know the myriad political attacks that could have been effectively used on the GOP/Far Right, because he doesn't know that the whole thing could have been left hanging out there until December 31 when he almost certainly could have gotten a better deal for the American people? I don't think so.
Just as Chamberlain was not "appeasing" Hitler but had other objectives in mind, so was Obama out to achieve other objectives, entirely in line with Democratic Leadership Council/Right policy. And he could not do that if he brought the House Democrats and their fairly strong Progressive Caucus into the negotiations. Is Obama not DLC as I have been saying off and on since December 2007 (http://tpjmagazine.us/jonas232)? Well just take a look at this statement by the current DLC chair, former Congressman and banker Harold Ford, Jr. who, by the way, can be seen frequently spouting the DLC's mantras on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," (from their website): "DLC Chair Harold Ford, Jr., Statement on Bipartisan Fiscal Commission: 'American disgust with politics is driven by the fact that, unlike families who have to make tough choices about their own budgets, Washington seems unable to live within its means. The Fiscal Commission has forced Democrats and Republicans to sit down across a table and hash out their differences. In the near term, we need to embrace tax cuts that spur business investment, stimulate job creation, and lift wages for the middle class. But the Commission's recommendations -- cutting spending and reforming the tax code -- get to the meat of our long-term challenge: lowering our national debt. This is the dose of fiscal sanity we need.' " By the way, it will take the GOP/Far Right just about two weeks into the New Year to begin screaming about the "Obama deficit."
Who needs Republicans to take these positions when you've got a so-called Democrat doing so? And who did Obama call in for a private White House chat on the budget, taxes, the deficit and the like? None other than Bill Clinton who, before he was President was the DLC chair in the 1980's. It was Clinton who, in his first State of the Union Address, made an announcement that could have been taken right out of the mouth of Ronald Reagan: "The era of big government is over." Obama took a page from the Clinton playbook even before that most recent visit. He started "triangulating" the progressive Democrats in the Congress just like Clinton did, using language to describe them and the policies that they had been putting forth that he hardly ever uses against the GOP/Far-Right.
Finally, the GOP/Far Right has taken Obama for a ride. In the run-up to the election they had been screaming "deficit reduction." The screaming stopped long enough for them to add $900 billion to the deficit mainly to pay off their rich contributors and managers. How long do you think it will take for the screaming to start up again? I would say faster even than it took Hitler to take over the rest of Czechoslovakia. And in the deal, the GOP/Far Right did major damage to Social Security, that it has been gunning for since the day after the original legislation was passed in 1935. But do you think that McConnell is going to give up his announced prime objective for the coming Congress, to unseat Obama in 2012? Well no.
But why, you might ask, when they've got such a seeming patsy (actually someone who happens sub rosa to agree with so many of their major policies) in the White House? For the reason much like the one Hitler had for refusing to negotiate further with Chamberlain after Munich (and Chamberlain was still striving for a Drang-Nach-Osten/but-preserve-The-Empire deal through the winter of 1940, after the war had started). Hitler was afraid of the power of democracy in Great Britain. He was afraid that the point would come when Chamberlain would be thrown out by Parliament, and Churchill, anti-Nazi through and through, would take his place. And of course that's exactly what happened.
So yes indeed, the GOP/Far Right will be going for the whole hog in 2012, even though Obama is pretty much carrying out their policies (see my BuzzFlash Commentary, Alternate Reality: McCain Wins, http://blog.buzzflash.com/jonas/199 ). They simply don't trust the democratic process in our great land. Why the Democratic Party might actually, in one way or another, manage to put a real Democrat in the White House, someone like the pre-Viet Nam War Lyndon Johnson, let's say. And boy, they and the corporate power they represent couldn't have that now, could they?
Published on BuzzFlash/Truthout on Wed, 12/15/2010 - 9:11am.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for Truthout/BuzzFlash (http://www.truth-out.org/, http://www.buzzflash.com), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville Post (http://www.greanvillepost.com/; a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com (http://www.opednews.com/), a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.