While being interviewed by Breitbart on Sirius XM radio, Mike Huckabee said the following: “This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. He’s so naive he would trust the Iranians, and he would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiot thing, this Iran deal. [It] should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people.”
Like most super-heated rhetoric that relies on highly charged historical analogies, Huckabee’s is actually very difficult to parse.
Is Huckabee saying that Obama or the Iranians, or both, are comparable to Hitler?
And beyond the idea of a mass extermination fueled by anti-Semitism, how are the Holocaust and a nuclear attack exactly comparable? Would not the gas chambers, rather than the ovens, be a more appropriate point of analogy?
I am not trying to trivialize or to minimize any threat to Israel, or even arguing that Americans ought to support the deal negotiated by John Kerry on behalf of the Obama administration.
But just as the details of the treaty—the words in the treaty—matter a great deal, I think that the political commentary on the treaty, especially when offered by presidential candidates, deserves at least some level of the same sort of close scrutiny.
At the very least, one should ask how exactly contemporary Israelis are comparable to the Jews who were exterminated in the death camps. Those Jews were almost entirely helpless–unable to prevent or, in many cases, even to conceive of what was about to befall them. In contrast, for decades, it has been generally conceded that Israel has had a nuclear arsenal. Moreover, Israel is supported by the most powerful and, arguably, the most aggressive military power in the world. And, lastly, Israel is certainly not going to be surprised by anything that Iran might do.
Moreover, although most Americans will be able to define the word “idiot,” I wonder how many can define “feckless.” In this word choice, Huckabee is employing a very common technique in demagoguery—to use a word that sounds extremely derogatory, and even somewhat familiar, but that is actually not very clearly understood by most of one’s listeners. For at its root, demagoguery is calculated condescension towards one’s audience posing as an intrinsic bond with one’s audience.