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An amusing dust-up over a bust

August 1, 2012 - Mike Maneval
An amusing dust-up between political staffers and media pundits has simmered the past couple weeks over a bust of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill - or, rather, two busts of Churchill. What has gone unsaid in the dust-up lends the triviality its hilarity.

The controversy flared up when Mitt Romney, presumptive Republican nominee for president, vowed to return a bust of Churchill to the Oval Office, according to D.C. newspaper The Hill. A staffer for the Obama campaign and a number of liberal commentators responded erroneously that the bust never was removed from the White House, but simply moved outside the Oval Office to a prominent spot outside the Treaty Room.

ABCNews' Jake Tapper, on Friday, reported the confusion stemmed from there being two busts of Churchill, one which was loaned to the White House and was returned to Great Britain by the Obama administration, and the other positioned outside the Treaty Room.

But what has provided me with considerable laughter in this affair is this: In vowing to return a bust of Churchill to the Oval Office, Romney is pledging to honor a man modern American conservatism almost certainly would define as a socialist.

Churchill, as a member of British Parliament, led an initiative, only undone in the 1980s, to nationalize British Petroleum. While critics of President Barack Obama have lambasted him as a socialist for government support of General Motors and Chrysler, the U.S. government worked relatively quickly to divest itself of its stake in both car companies and turn both back over to the private sector. Churchill and his allies instead sought a permanent majority stake - 50 percent plus one share - to retain the ability to command the industry's direction. Winston Churchill, the man who Romney feels must be venerated with a bust in the Oval Office, simply did not trust the private sector to place the nation's stability and health above the interests of shareholders. And in a climate where the base of voters upon which Romney depends considers such an attitude sacrilegious, I laugh at his respect for Winston Churchill ... the British socialist.

 
 

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