A Study In Appeasement
July 28 2003
Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister who agreed to the transfer of the
Sudetenland to Germany, is known to history as an appeaser. Munich, where his
infamous conference with Hitler was held, has become an international synonym
for craven appeasement.
Chamberlain's defenders argue that he had no real choice. The British were
unprepared for war and could not stop Hitler's seizure of the Sudetenland in any
event. Moreover, the Sudetenlanders were a Germanic people who had never lived
under Prague rule until 1919, should never have been ceded to the Czechs at
Versailles and would vote 90 to 10 to join the Reich anyway.
Chamberlain simply did not think Prague's rule of a dissident Sudetenland was
worth fighting a European war like the 1914-1918 struggle, in which 750,000 of
Britain's bravest had perished.
Thus did appeasement come to be the mortal sin of politics. Which brings us to
the NAACP. At its Miami convention, Chairman Julian Bond said of the Republicans
that they appeal to "the dark underside of American culture, to that minority of
Americans who reject democracy and equality." They "practice racial division."
"Their idea of equal rights," Bond sneered, "is the American flag and the
Confederate swastika flying side by side." And when 2004 comes around, "the
no-show National Guardsman and his draft-dodging vice president will lose by 3
Rough stuff from the chairman of what is supposed to be the most respected
civil-rights organization in America. Did the GOP respond with Churchillian
blasts from the White House, Congress and party headquarters? If so, I missed
Nor is this the first time Bond used such insults. When Bush formed his Cabinet,
Bond said he had drawn on "the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the
wretched appetite of the extreme right wing and chose ... officials whose
devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection."
GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey wrote to Kweisi Mfume, his former House colleague
and NAACP president, that Bond's screed was "racial McCarthyism" that will
"divide our nation." Bond dismissed Armey's letter as a "typical complaint of
those who oppose justice and fairness." And that was that. Game, set, match, to
Why do the Republicans take it? Why do they not retaliate and punish
organizations and individuals who insult their president and mock their party as
racist, evil, retrograde and sick? Why do they seem to have so little
self-respect as to tolerate this? What are they afraid of?
My view: Republicans are intimidated by people like Bond, for they are terrified
of being branded "racist," and fear Bond and the NAACP have the power to burn
that brand into their hides. They fear the NAACP can raise the decibel level on
the race issue and marshal a vast black turnout, which will go 90-to-10 to the
So, they meekly accept the abuse. On issues of racial equality for whites and
blacks, Bush Republicans are born appeasers.
What might the GOP do? Exactly what Democrats would do, were they in power and a
Christian Coalition leader unleashed such partisan bile on their president and
party. Demand an IRS audit of its tax exemption. Red-line out from the budget
all discretionary funding for its programs. Have the House speaker write to
corporate contributors of the organization to tell them this is an unfriendly
Conservative groups should ferret out the big donors to the NAACP and publish
their names, so stockholders can respond to Bond's slanders. Congress could act
to break up big foundations like Ford, longtime financier of the NAACP, and
require foundations to expend 7 percent of their assets yearly until they go out
Play hardball with people who play hardball with you.
But if Republicans behave like battered wives, consider the conduct of the
Democratic presidential candidates who turned down the NAACP's invitation to
appear on the stage in Miami.
When Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich were no-shows, Mfume
roared, "You have no legitimacy over the next nine months in our community. ...
You have become persona non grata. Your political capital is the equivalent of
Within 48 hours, all three were crawling across the stage in Miami, begging
forgiveness. Wailed Gephardt: "I'm sorry I was not here. ... I apologize to all
of you for not being here, and I thank you for letting me be here."
Said Lieberman: "By not coming, Monday, I was wrong. I regret it, and I
apologize." Said Kucinich: "I'm very sorry I wasn't able to be here. Amazing
grace, how sweet it is, once was lost, now I'm found."
Wonder what old George Corley Wallace would have told Mr. Bond.
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