October 28, 2007
Why Do We Embarrass Ourselves Like This?
Why is it that San Francisco, by any measure among the most progressive constituencies in the country, continues to elect do-nothings like Pelosi, right-wingers like Feinstein, and embarrassments like Lantos?
Dutch lawmakers who visited the Guantanamo Bay military prison this week said they were offended by a testy exchange in Washington with a senior congressional Democrat.
The lawmakers said that Tom Lantos, chairman of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee, told them that “Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay.”
“You have to help us, because if it was not for us you would now be a province of Nazi Germany,” Lantos said, according to the Dutch lawmakers.
“The comments killed the debate,” said Harry van Bommel, a member of the Socialist Party. “It was insulting and counterproductive.”
Not to mention typical.
Is there any thread that ties these atypical San Franciscans? Anything they can agree on, other than a rejection of San Francisco values?
Posted by Chuck Dupree at October 28, 2007 10:53 PM
It could be worse, Chuck. You could live in Connecticut and have Lieberman to be ashamed of.
Dude, you ain't got shit on me. I come from Kentucky, the home of the Worst Person in the Senate.
But it is interesting to see which page Lieberman, McConnell, Feinstein, Lantos, and Pelosi are all reliably reading from.
I know, I know, it really does suck, they don,t represent San Franciscans but they do represent the old money and corporate interests. I don't call Finkstein's office much anymore, she doesn't care what constituents think and ditto for Pelousy.
We need Tom Lantos.
He is the only member of Congress who was in the anti-N*zi Resistance in Europe. As such he brings experience at least as valuable as that of John McCain, who is the only member of Congress with experience of military torture. Lantos has shown his sensitivity to oppressive governments' tactics, for example, by excoriating Yahoo for collaborating with China on arresting dissidents. That is more than Nancy Pelosi does, for one.
If Lantos says bitter things about the European record of indifference to the H*locaust, he unfortunately has reasons. The extent of past indifference was worse than people like to admit, and now the murders of the six million are again being derided and denied and brushed aside.
It happens, incidentally, that Lantos does not represent much of San Francisco -- Pelosi does. Lantos represents the California 12th District, which includes only a comparatively conservative southwestern nibble of San Francisco. See http://www.calvoter.org/voter/maps/index.html and enter "CD12" in the second window. I have often thought, however, that it would be nice to have him as a representative.
In this particular case, I could wish he hadn't said that particular thing too. But it should be possible to disagree with him without calling him names in turn.
It's true that Lantos doesn't represent as much of San Francisco as Pelosi does; he's got a good chunk of San Mateo county. But he represents the part I lived in for about a third of the two decades I've been here. Now I'm back, ugh, to Pelosi.
Admirable as it may be to fight for your own, having resisted the Nazis does not free you from the need to be a decent human being from then on. Calling out Yahoo for collaborating with the repressive Chinese government is trivially easy and politically nearly cost-free. Neither excuses warmongering or the support of torture, both of which have been consistent Lantos positions during the times I've lived in his district. Those positions are embarrassing and harmful to the United States. How is it name-calling to state that?
- Fighting against N*zis was and is fighting for everyone's own. And it was apparently quite difficult at the time.
- If it's so easy to try to stop Yahoo from helping the Chinese to persecute dissidents, then why hasn't all of Congress actually stopped them from doing so? And is it really so easy for the representative of a tech-heavy Bay Area Congressional district to oppose a large tech company's expansion into a major overseas market? I don't think so.
- Calling someone "an embarrassment" is assuredly calling him names.
The thing is, Lantos isn't an oafish hater like Sam Brownback. He is a decent human being. He just has a dated idea of what the United States is; he hasn't allowed himself to see what we're becoming. It's a circumstance that calls for attempts at persuasion, not slanging.
Certainly fighting Nazis was quite difficult, and valuable as well.
As for Yahoo, I don't see any evidence that Lantos tried to stop them from dealing with China, but maybe I've missed it. All I see is a politician making an easy statement at no cost to himself. Why other people don't do it? Good question. Why doesn't Lantos, and the rest of Congress, denounce torture, or warrantless wiretapping?
We may have to agree to disagree on this issue. Everything I've encountered about Lantos indicates to me that he is in fact an oafish hater, though I agree he's not like Brownback; for instance, I doubt very much that he has any truck with "intelligent design" or that sort of anti-intellectual BS. Lantos, it appears to me, has a different set of hates than Brownback. Perhaps you're contending that Lantos's hates are reasonable, whereas Brownback's are not?
And again I may have missed it, but I've never encountered a shred of evidence that Lantos is a decent human being (fighting the Nazis proves nothing in this respect, there were plenty of scumbags fighting the Nazis as well as plenty of brave and honorable people). Of course, I've never met him, but have only read about him in the sense that I always try to keep up on the doings of my Representative.
Finally, is it your opinion that I cannot say that I'm embarrassed by my former Congressman, and that thus he's an embarrassment to me, without calling him names? If so, how do I put the fact that I'm embarrassed by his actions, in particular his support of torture, so that I state my position without being a name-caller? Or do his past actions make him immune to criticism?
P.S. I should say here that the meeting I blogged about was not the first, but the latest in a long series of events over two decades that gave me a bad impression of Tom Lantos. Perhaps I've misunderstood him all these years, and he's really a great guy. But I've never read anything about him that gives me something to hang that evaluation on. If there are positives to list for him, I'll certainly examine them.