Last week, top administration officials, including Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, equated the war in Iraq with fighting Nazis in World War II. As part of this analogy, the Bush gang made its critics out to be Neville Chamberlain — as if troop redeployment in Iraq is the moral equivalent of appeasing Hitler.
As if that weren't quite offensive enough, Condoleezza Rice has upped the ante a bit, suggesting that opponents of the war are the moral equivalent of those who would tolerate slavery in 19th century America.
Secretary of State Rice compared the Iraq war with the American Civil War, telling a magazine that slavery might have lasted longer in this country if the North had decided to end the fight early.
"I'm sure there are people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold," Rice said in the new issue of Essence magazine.
"I know there were people who said, 'Why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?'" Rice said.
Now, I know that Rice, like much of today's Republican Party, is desperate. I realize that this appears to be a challenging campaign cycle for the GOP, and they're willing to engage in whatever demagoguery necessary to survive the next 10 weeks.
But to suggest, out loud, on the record, that critics of the war in Iraq are similar to those who would approve of slavery is perhaps the most breathtakingly stupid remark ever uttered by a Bush administration official. And given the competition, that's no easy feat.
Ironically, Rice was supposed to be the level-headed one. Just today, Eugene Robinson complemented the Secretary of State for her less-reckless language — while Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were drawing on Nazi analogies, Rice also appeared before the American Legion convention and simply referred to the enemy in the war on terrorism as "violent extremists," which, as Robinson noted, "sounds so 2006."
But Rice's decision to use reasonable rhetoric apparently didn't last. Also note the choice of publications: Rice didn't use the Iraq opponents = slavery supporters argument on Meet the Press; she used it in an interview with Essence magazine, which has predominantly African-American readers. It's about as subtle as a sledgehammer — Rice was effectively telling black voters, "Democratic criticism of the war is analogous to opposition to the Civil War. Unless you like slavery, vote Republican."
Maybe Rice thought that Essence's circulation is small enough that these comments wouldn't cause a stir. Maybe she no longer cares. Either way, the Secretary of State needs to apologize for her inanity.