Once a liberal gets talking about fascism, which ranks high among his perennial obsessions, amusing observations and dubious claims are sure to follow.
Usually the left winger in question will opine about the genuine, hard-core varieties of fascism found in Europe during the 20th century, before he inevitably condemns the domestic versions endured by Americans during Republican presidential administrations.
Case in point -- Thom Hartmann, one of the most influential voices in liberal radio, talking on his program Monday about an op-ed written by Vice President Henry Wallace in 1944 --
I've got a piece published over at AlterNet this morning. It's titled "The Sad Truth of Our Politics: It's Basically Turned Into a Competition Among Oligarches to Own Everything," with a subhead, "It Could Still Happen Here," a reference to Sinclair Lewis's 1935 book.
"It" referring to the inevitable arrival of fascism in America. Eighty years after Lewis's overwrought prophecy, "it" still hasn't appeared. Much like global warming, "it" is one of those alleged apocalyptic threats that loom over the horizon for decades but never quite get here.
And in this article I'm quoting Henry Wallace, Vice President Henry Wallace. ... In April 9th, 1944, he published an op-ed in the New York Times in answer to a question. He was vice president under Franklin Roosevelt. FDR's first vice president was John Nance Garner, then Henry Wallace, then Harry Truman, and then of course FDR died in office and Harry Truman became president, so, and then was re-elected. (More accurately, Truman was elected outright in 1948).
But in early 1944, in April of 1944, Henry Wallace was asked to write a piece for the New York Times answering three questions -- What is a fascist? How many fascists do we have in the United States? And how dangerous are they? Now keep in mind, this is while we were fighting Germany, Italy and Spain in Europe. We were fighting three countries that claimed to be fascist. The Nazis arguably were fascist with a death cult, Franco and Mussolini, straightforward fascists.
Not so sorry to break the news to you, Thom, but you're two for three -- the United States didn't fight Spain in World War II, any more than we battled Switzerland. Both were neutral. There were Americans who joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight with the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), but that's as close as it comes to the United States taking arms against Franco's Spain in the Second World War (1939-1945).
An error this conspicuous creates considerable doubt about the validity of your thoughts on fascism, especially that pernicious American brand that is bound to appear any generation now.
I fully expected Hartmann to correct himself in more than two hours of his show to follow on Monday, but it never came, nor was it forthcoming Tuesday or Wednesday. Apparently it also sailed past those who help him produce his show, but that may have been a case of their minds wandering once Hartmann started venting yet again about fascism.
Callers to liberal radio shows often fancy themselves as much more intelligent than those knuckle-dragging conservatives. None of those who called Hartmann on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday brought the error to his attention.
It wasn't the only example on Monday's show of Hartmann's shaky grasp of US history. The next one came when a caller alleged that American wars are motivated by racism and bigotry --
CALLER: If you take out, given all the wars that the United States has been involved in, not just currently but let's say the last half-century, if you take out the ethnic portion of it in terms of black and brown and yellow people, if you take out the religious part of it which is generally, now we're talking about Islam and terrorists and we all know that that is, you know, dog whistle for Muslims. If you take those elements out, the United States would not be involved in any wars.
HARTMANN: Well, there would have been one -- our intervention in Kosovo on behalf of the Muslims against the Christians. When we bombed Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, you know, they were running these rape camps and all this stuff, that was Christian white Europeans who were murdering, oppressing and running these giant rape camps against, frankly, darker skinned and Muslim people in that area. .... That's the one exception. That's the only time that I know of, well actually, I suppose the War of 1812 as well, you know, where the United States was involved in a military action against somebody who was actually white, who was Caucasian and Christian.
CALLER: Yeah but there's actually another caveat to that, Thom, and that was the war against Nazi Germany but in those cases ...
HARTMANN: Oh yeah, you're right, you're absolutely right. (laughs) How could I have missed that?! (Hartmann thanks the caller).
But if the War of 1812 qualifies in this perverse equation, doesn't the American Revolution? Our opponent in both was Great Britain. And shouldn't the Civil War be added to the list? And if Nazi Germany in World War II should be included, why not Imperial Germany in World War I? Not to mention Mussolini's Italy in World War II.
The war we're fighting now against ISIS in Syria and Iraq -- motivated by Obama's racism toward brown-skinned jihadists? Really?