Romney and Churchill



I heard a snippet of commentary today about some remarks that Mitt Romney recently made in London.  He apparently said that, should he be elected president, the bust of Winston Churchill that Barack Obama notoriously removed from the Oval Office will return.  The commentator thought it absurd and self-contradictory for Governor Romney to be praising Mr. Churchill when, apparently, in some book or book manuscript somewhere, Governor Romney has also said that it was only the English Channel that saved Britain from Nazi conquest.


But this objection is historically ignorant.  There was a time when, effectively, only the English Channel saved Britain from Nazi conquest.


Troops of the British Expeditionary Force awaiting evacuation on the beach at Dunkirk in 1940


As I briefly noted in a blog post from England last week, the Battle of Dunkirk, fought between 26 May and 4 June 1940, was very nearly a total and essentially fatal military disaster for the United Kingdom.  Winston Churchill had only become Prime Minister of Great Britain on 10 May, just slightly more than two weeks before the crisis began at Dunkirk.  Had it become the utter catastrophe that it very nearly did, and which only a kind of miracle prevented it from being, Churchill — though beyond question a truly great wartime leader — would have had neither the opportunity nor the resources of men and materiel with which he ultimately worked his magic.


Thus, there is absolutely no contradiction in saying that the English Channel saved Great Britain from Nazi invasion and very probable conquest while, at the same time, praising Winston Churchill’s remarkable leadership.


It’s unfortunate that history is no longer taught in American schools.


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  • Mary E Petty

    Professor Peterson,
    While it is true that what constitutes history in American schools, is becoming less and less history and more spin, political correctness, and outright fiction, a key to having access to the truth, is to know your own family history. If people will study the lives of their own ancestors, they can come to a personal connection with what did happen in history. Ancestors are the people of history; and if enough of us Americans knew our own family history, we would have a view of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that could free us from the shackles of today’s so-called truth about history. Me thinks, we would sure live our lives differently, vote differently and become engaged differently in today’s battles for freedom.

    Thank you for your insights and courage.

  • Jonathan Larsen

    You should probably fact check your claim that Obama notoriously removed the bust of Churchill from the Oval Office. It is true that Churchill’s bust was removed from the Oval Office when Obama came into office (replaced, by the way, by a bust of that great anti-American, Abraham Lincoln–(what, an American president have bust of a great American president and a private hero in his office–how absurb)), but a replicia of the Churchill bust remains in the private White House residence (as was examined in a picture of Obama and Cameron). There was simply nothing notorious about it.

    • danpeterson

      Well, I heard a not particularly conservative Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter refer to it just two days ago, so I’m not sure that I’m out there in the swamplands on this point.