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Eric Cantor's Cant About Churchill

03/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jacob Heilbrunn Author, "They Knew They Were Right: the Rise of the Neocons"

Eric Cantor is leading the GOP off the cliff in opposing President Obama at every turn, but, as the Washington Post reports today, he apparently regards himself as a new Winston Churchill, warning his countrymen in the 1930s about the gathering storm at home and abroad. Say this for Cantor: he doesn't think small. What's next? Cantor styling himself as Julius Caesar leading his outnumbered forces to complete the conquest of Gaul? Or will it be George Patton rallying the troops during the Battle of the Bulge? The possibilities are limitless.

But Cantor's fixation with Churchill is emblematic of the broader worship of American conservatives for the British prime minister. Churchill, a romantic figure, tried (and failed) to stave off the collapse of the British empire. By turns, unpredictable, irascible, and unreliable, he hopscotched between political parties and often displayed poor military judgment during the second world war. But none of this has deterred American conservatives and neocons who have constructed a demigod.

All this simply underscores the extent to which today's Republican party is living in the past. If Obama resembles anyone, it isn't Churchill's old foe, Neville Chamberlain, but his good friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt.