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Nonsensical historical analogy of the day


Courtesy of David Broder, who’s going to need a sitz bath if he keeps straining like this:

I was thinking back to when another Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, found himself stymied in another seemingly endless ordeal. Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 officials and workers hostage for 444 days, while the United States was helpless to free them . . . .

As sinister as the jet stream of escaping oil and gas looks via the underwater camera in the gulf, Barack Obama has not yet moved into the category of the late-night patsy that Jimmy Carter became. The Iranians were more clever, or diabolical, in exploiting their hostages than the restrained BP executives or their enviro foes are in this situation.

Um. I’m confused. Leave aside the implication that environmentalists are simply “foes” of BP executives who might, under different circumstances, be “exploiting” the catastrophe simply to humiliate and extract concessions from the Obama administration. As others have pointed out, it would be difficult to imagine better adjectives than “clever” and “diabolical” to describe the recent behavior of British Petroleum (whom Broder is, in any event, old enough to remember by its original name, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.) Perhaps Broder’s understanding of “clever” and “diabolical” doesn’t include flagrantly shortcutting environmental regulations, ignoring worker safety rules, manipulating energy markets, befouling an ecosystem and then denying access to reporters trying to cover the aftermath. But since I’m assuming that BP executives, their environmental “foes,” and the Obama administration all seek minimally shared goals — plugging the goddamned leak — I’m failing to appreciate how this is supposed to resemble an in utero Iranian hostage-crisis. But since Broder concedes that in nearly every meaningful way, this doesn’t resemble the Iranian hostage crisis, I won’t worry too much.

Fortunately, we don’t need to linger on this self-refuting part of Broder’s column, because what comes next is even more spectacularly idiotic.

But we have seen this movie before, and we know how it ends politically. Somebody else shows up and says he can fix this. Or end it. Or make it come out right.

This is why Democrats are right to be very nervous as this gulf incident drags on in its second month. We have endured about as much technical explanation of the rigors of deep-sea drilling as we can stand.

The chart talks demonstrating that we had figured out where the hostages were being held didn’t do Carter a lick of good when voters were aching to see the captives walk into their families’ arms.

I assume that Broder is suggesting here that Obama’s political opponents — the people who believe that BP is the victim here, that Baby Jesus broke the well, and that everything is going to be fine someday — are going to work the issue in the style of Ronald Reagan and use the spill to regain control over the government.

Here again, though, I have no idea what Broder is talking about. The Reagan campaign spent most of 1980 (falsely) accusing the Carter administration of trying to secure the release of the hostages by enticing the Iranian revolutionaries with promises of weapons and ammunition — weapons and ammunition that the Reagan administration, of course, eventually delivered themselves under different circumstances. As far as I can recall, the Reagan camp had no superior, alternative plan — unless we believe Gary Sick — to actually bring the hostages home; they simply hoped the status quo would endure until the November election, after which point they were greatly contented with Carter’s ability to actually finish the job. Though I suppose it’s probably true that many in today’s GOP would be perfectly content to allow the Gulf disaster to continue so long as it brought suffering to the Obama administration, I’m eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of Broder’s prophecy that the Republicans will offer a minimally convincing plan to fix the situation. Since the full extent of the GOP’s vision on mineral extraction is to drill everywhere and deregulate everything, the comparison to 1980 would only make sense if Reagan had campaigned on the notion that hostage situations were really quite unavoidable from time to time and that any retaliation would represent an unconscionable intrusion upon the rights of hostage-takers.

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