SENATOR TOM DASCHLE'S attack on President Bush on Monday was unprecedented for the leader of the opposition party in Congress, but high-profile Americans have a long history of getting it wrong on matters of war and peace. Most famous among these is Charles Lindbergh, who help found the America First Committee in September of 1940. Lindbergh barnstormed for isolationism, blasting the British as he went, demanding that America "not dissipate our strength, or help Europe dissipate hers, in these wars of politics and possession," exclaiming that "I would as soon see our country traffic in opium as in bombs," and denouncing the prospect of--sound familiar?--dead children: "I do not want to see American bombers dropping bombs which will kill and mutilate European children, even if they are not flown by American pilots."
Lindbergh's efforts were not without harm. They contributed to German miscalculation, as William Shirer makes clear in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich." The German military attaché in Washington, General Friedrich von Boetticher "overestimated the influence of the isolationists in American politics," writes Shirer, "especially of Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, who emerges in his dispatches as a great hero." One wonders how Daschle and others are being portrayed in the Iraqi dispatches this week.
Here is Shirer's summary of Lindbergh:
Charles A. Lindbergh, the hero flyer, who had seemed to this writer to have fallen with startling naivete, during his visits to Germany, to Nazi propaganda boasts, was already consigning Britain to defeat in speeches to large and enthusiastic audiences in America . . . He condemned England for having "encouraged the smaller nations of Europe to fight against hopeless odds." Apparently, it did not occur to this man that Yugoslavia and Greece, which Hitler had just crushed, were brutally attacked without provocation, and that they had instinctively tried to defend themselves because they had a sense of honor and because they had courage even in the face of hopeless odds. On April 28 Lindbergh resigned his commission as a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve after President Roosevelt on the twenty-fifth had publicly branded him as a defeatist and an appeaser. The Secretary of War accepted the resignation.
Shirer dealt with Lindbergh in a footnote. A future historian of the war to liberate Iraq may not be so generous with Senator Daschle. President Bush, who has thus far dealt with his domestic and foreign critics with only indirect criticism, should keep in mind FDR's example. At some point the American public deserves to have the proponents of vulnerability at home and indecision abroad rebuked.
Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.