A Straight Line From Lindbergh to 'Israel-Firster'

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Interesting thoughts, and a bit of relevant history, from Carl Cannon at RealClearPolitics:

[C]urious minds want to know whether the Gingrich campaign will continue to reap the largesse of Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who seems an unlikely Gingrichian. To explain it, some critics have taken to calling Adelson an "Israel-firster." That ugly term has been applied, not just to Adelson, but to other supporters of current U.S. policies regarding Israel, as Atlantic Monthly writer Jeffrey Goldberg describes.

Bashing Jews for their supposed disloyalty to their nation is a crude maneuver that has been employed long before Israel existed. It has been a tactic of both the far-left and far-right, almost as though haters from both extremes come together on the dark side of the moon.

Demonizing people in this way is always a nasty form of argumentation, but in our country it is particularly disquieting when this kind of discourse seeps into the mainstream of our major political parties. Lately, that seems to have happened within certain Democratic circles, as Ben Smith reported in Politico. In Charles Lindberg's time, the intolerance on display by the "America-First" crowd was mostly (but not exclusively) Republican.

On Jan. 23, 1941, with Britain under siege from the Third Reich, Lindbergh went so far as to testify on Capitol Hill in opposition to Franklin Roosevelt's Lend-Lease program. It was the culmination of a tragic personal journey. In the mid-1930s, Lindbergh and his wife had gone to Europe seeking solace after the kidnapping and murder of their baby. For some reason, the flier was impressed instead of appalled by what he found in Nazi Germany. In 1938, he allowed himself to be decorated by Hermann Goering, commander of the Luftwaffe. And upon his return to the United States, he called for neutrality with Germany, and denounced "the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt administration" as being the instigators of war.

In that infamous speech, delivered in Des Moines on Sept. 11, 1941 - 60 years to the day before 9/11 - Lindbergh went way beyond opposing Lend-Lease. "Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences," he said. "Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government."

Lindbergh's anti-Semitism caused even his fellow isolationists to turn away from him. Earlier, President Roosevelt had criticized him by name, leading to Lindbergh's resignation from the Army Air Corps Reserve. After Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh begged to return to the service, but FDR wouldn't hear of it.

Eventually, Lindbergh made his way to the Pacific, by signing on as a civilian consultant to United Aircraft. Out there, he found his way into the cockpit, flying some 50 combat missions and teaching U.S. pilots how to conserve fuel. This heroism helped restore Charles Lindbergh's reputation. But bigotry is not a stained easily erased.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/01/a-straight-line-from-lindbergh-to-israel-firster/251810/