Saturday, 22 November 2008

Peter Oborne's selective history

Peter Oborne uses his Daily Mail column today to make a ludicrous argument against the possible appointment of Caroline Kennedy as Ambassador to Britain, writing:

This would insult Britain, Mr President
... Before making such a decision, he ought to reflect that giving the post to a Kennedy would be an insult to Britain. Some of her family were long-standing supporters of IRA terrorism during the Irish troubles. Nor should it be forgotten that Caroline's grandfather, Joe, himself American ambassador to Britain in the Thirties, notoriously favoured Hitler over Churchill.

There are two things wrong with this.

Firstly, whatever we mght think of a US system which meant we had an ambassador to London who knew more about breeding horses than diplomacy at the time of 9/11 , the merits or otherwise of Caroline Kennedy's appointment should depend on what President elect Obama believes she would bring to the role, not the views of her Joe Kennedy. The Spectator's James Forsyth advocates Caroline for London, believing that the combination of her own skills and the mystique of Camelot would gain the US a major public diplomacy boost.

Secondly, however, were Oborne right about the central releavance of what Caroline Kennedy's grandfather did as Ambassador seventy years ago, it would surely then be the height of hypocrisy to use the Daily Mail to prosecute that argument.

Joe Kennedy was a staunch advocate of appeasement as Ambassador to London from 1938 to 1940.

So, "notoriously", was Lord Rothermere. Among the British elite, there was probably no more prominent, enthusiastic or valued public advocate of appeasement, European fascism and Mosley's British blackshirts than the founder and propreitor of the Daily Mail.

An illuminating selection of his public comments can be found on the Rothermere profile of John Simkin's Spartacus Education website.

After Joe Kennedy took up his London posting, here is Rothermere's post-Munich telegram in 1938 congratulating his dear Fuhrer on the annexation of Czech territory.

My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher.

Joe Kennedy continued to push for a negotiated peace after the outbreak of war (and was finally pulled as Ambassador for his outlandish public statements about the end of democracy). So, along with foreign secretary Lord Halifax, did Rothermere. They were both firmly on the wrong side of history, whatever John Charmley and other historical revisionists argue.

Clearly both Caroline Kennedy (born 1957) and the fourth Viscount Rothermere (born 1967), chairman of Associated newspapers today, find themselves at the centre of public life because of what, in different ways, they have inherited.

Even so, there must be a limit to how far either can be held responsible for everything in their family histories.

1 comment:

PALS said...

Whoever she is. People should accept the fact that not all sons or daughter acts the same as their fathers.

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