Monday, February 12, 2007

The trouble with Henry

[Henry Ford receives the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest honor available to non-Germans, on July 30, 1938, his 75th birthday.]

The place of one's announcement for a campaign for the presidency always has had a certain significant symbolic value, which is why Barack Obama, for instance, chose the steps of the old Statehouse in Springfield, Ill. -- where Lincoln once famously remarked that "a House divided cannot stand" -- for his announcement.

Which makes Mitt Romney's decision to announce his campaign at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit all the more peculiar. As Jeffrey Hauser observes, it has raised the wrath of leading Jewish groups, and for good reason: Ford, in addition to being a noteworthy industrialist, was also one of the most powerful and raging anti-Semites in the nation's history.

The "Ford problem" raised its head again last year, when J.D. Hayworth decided to make his campaign against immigration focus on resurrecting Ford's version of "Americanism," which happened to be explicitly anti-Semitic.

Indeed, as I explained earlier:
Maybe they have simply bought the timeworn image of Ford as the clever industrialist who brought the automobile to the masses.

Maybe they simply have forgotten -- or were never aware of -- the rest of the Henry Ford story.

That would be the Henry Ford who in 1920 began publishing The International Jew -- one of the most infamous anti-Semitic screeds in history. This text first raised to national prominence the notorious Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion hoax -- and indeed may have been responsible for its subsequent wide distribution in Hitler's Germany as well.

Speaking of Hitler, here's what he had to say about the speculation in 1923 that Ford might run for president:

I wish I could send some of my shock troops to Chicago and other big American cities to help in the elections ... We look to Heinrich Ford as the leader of the growing fascist movement in America ... We have just had his anti-Jewish articles translated and published. The book is being circulated in millions throughout Germany."

As the ADL notes:

Though Ford apologized for The International Jew and closed the Dearborn Independent, he later accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Hitler's Nazi government in July, 1938.

This award, incidentally, is the highest honor Germany can offer to a non-German.

Ford also probably did more than any American to help build the Nazi war machine in the 1930s.

The peculiar thing about this is that Romney is LDS, and Mormons are notably Judeophiles and have a history of rejecting anti-Semitism. Either he is unaware of this aspect of Ford's background, or he simply doesn't care.

Recall, if you will, that Ronald Reagan announced his campaign for the presidency in 1980 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a town most noted for having been the site of three notorious murders from the Civil Rights era. The announcement, in retrospect, heralded Reagan's clear adoption of the Southern Strategy, a choice that gave fresh life to the once-dying embers of racism in American culture and led us to the increasingly stratified racial society we now struggle against. Let's hope Romney's choice does not announce something similar.

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