A sense of history is not required when applying to be a journalist at Politico, the sometimes edgy and always rapid-fire D.C. political news publication.
On Wednesday, Jack Shafer, Politico’s sarcastic “senior media writer,” wrote a piece attempting to explain why Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running against Hillary Clinton. Clinton, as of Tuesday night, had clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, provided, of course, that the super delegates who’ve committed to her don’t suddenly change their mind and support Sanders in Philadelphia.
Writing of Sander’s non-concession speech after losing the California primary, Shafer editorialized:
“Ignoring the Associated Press’ napkin math that puts Clinton over the 2,383-delegate threshold, Sanders demonstrated the defiance of Jim Bowie at the Alamo, Baghdad Bob in the Iraq war, Japanese soldiers at Iwo Jima and history’s other famous dead-enders.”
In Shafer’s head, the defenders of the Alamo were the equivalent of Imperial Japanese soldiers battling it out against U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima. Try explaining that to a Texan.
While Iwo Jima and the Alamo did – as individual battles – turn out rather badly for the defenders, the causes behind each engagement and the culmination of the conflicts they were a part of are extraordinarily different.
Texans – then citizens of Mexico – rose in opposition to the heavy-handed military government of Antonio López de Santa Anna, a military officer who wanted to renege on the rights Mexico’s constitution afforded settlers in Texas. The ensuing conflict, which began in 1835 and ended in 1836, resulted in Texas becoming an independent republic. The Alamo, a futile but imagination-inspiring last stand of a Texas garrison at San Antonio de Bexar, was then – and is still viewed now – as a bold stand by free men and women defending self-government.
In contrast, the Japanese defenders of Iwo Jima were fighting for a militarist cause that perpetrated numerous atrocities on subjected peoples and sought to build a Pacific empire that denied basic human rights to individuals.
Sure, maybe Shafer was just trying to cleverly draw parallels between an American presidential candidate whose hopes for the White House are beyond gone and historical examples. But the examples he selected were hardly equal to one another, or to an American political campaign. Sometimes less snark and more facts are appropriate when reporting the news.