This week, we’ve seen a significant number of Ohio’s public officials band together to come out forcefully and take a strong stand. This is rare. Unfortunately, the strong stand revolves around the stupidest “controversy” in the news cycle, and their united hysteria is nothing short of facepalm-embarrassing.
Yes, I’m talking about the renaming of Mt. McKinley to Mt. Denali. Cleveland.com asked followers on Facebook whether they cared that the mountain was renamed and the responses ranged from a flat, “No,” to shrugs, snark, and sarcasm.
President Wm. McKinley, you see, was an Ohioan, so naturally it falls upon Ohio’s politicians to bang their cymbals as part of the non-stop temper tantrum thrown by the Republican Party since President Obama’s election and re-election.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said that Obama “oversteps his bounds” with the name change.
Overcome by a fit of the vapors, former U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula charged that President Obama “thinks he’s a dictator” before loosening his corset and retiring to his fainting couch.
U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs released a statement that gave the appearance of being carved in black obsidian.
“This political stunt is insulting to all Ohioans,” Gibbs whined.
Insulting to all Ohioans? I’m an Ohioan and I’m not insulted. In fact, I quite like the name change. It’s obviously what the Alaskans have wanted for many years. The only thing I’m insulted by is President McKinley’s legacy of empire and death in the Philippines, which we will get to in short order.
A hyperventilating U.S. Rep. Mike Turner claimed to the Washington Post that citizens on Main Street in Dayton are “furious” and has vowed to fight the change in whatever way he can.
I somewhat enjoy the thought of Turner stomping around downtown Dayton in a huff, yelling on his cell phone to some Post reporter about how “furious” Daytonians are while other pedestrians eye him suspiciously, wondering, “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”
Meanwhile, somebody was able to pry Speaker of the House John Boehner from the Wetherington Golf & Country Club locker room bar to murmur about how he is “deeply disappointed in the decision.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci said he was “greatly disappointed” in the renaming, charging that it was done by “administrative fiat.”
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman took to the Twitters to extol McKinley’s “rich legacy.”
The McKinley legacy was a theme that was repeated throughout the fits being thrown by various Ohio political figures.
Even U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, got in on that action.
“We must retain this national landmark’s name in order to honor the legacy of this great American president and patriot,” Ryan said.
I’m afraid w/r/t McKinley’s legacy, I’m going to have to side with the likes of Mark Twain and other anti-imperialists of the period, who came to see McKinley’s Spanish-American War for what it was: A move by Wm. Randolph Hearst, Teddy Roosevelt, and other war-lovers to set America up as an imperial power on equal footing with those in Europe.
McKinley made his list of demands to Spain, which quickly acceded, but McKinley went to war regardless, destroying Spain’s decrepit Navy and taking over its colonial acquisitions, including in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Manila, and the Philippines.
After the Spanish surrender, Twain wrote, “I have read carefully the treaty of Paris [between the United States and Spain], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem…. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
McKinley, clearly, was not.
McKinley wanted to “civilize and Christianize” the Philippines because “they were unfit for self-government.” The Philippine-American War cost 4,200 American lives, the lives of 20,000 Filipino combatants, and 200,000 Filipino citizens who died from violence, famine, and disease.
A rich legacy indeed. I’m beginning to see why modern imperialist Republicans are so impressed by it.
All told, I think Kasich, Gibbs, Portman, Turner, Regula, Renacci, and Ryan, might do well to just shut the hell up and let the Alaskans call their mountain what they’d like to call their mountain. John Boehner can go back to the grill room for another Old Fashioned. It’s already bad enough that McKinley’s statue is standing so prominently outside the Ohio Statehouse.
David Charles DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.