Wasserman Schultz’ attack on Rubio is disgraceful

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

On Tuesday night Marco Rubio held a fundraiser for his presidential election at the home of Harlan Crow, a real estate developer and Republican donor. This would seem to be an uninteresting and commonplace story during a presidential campaign. It would have been so had Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee chairman, not stirred up an unwarranted media circus over it.

As reported in The Dallas Morning News, Wasserman Schultz released a statement saying, “Today, as the sun is setting for Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement and the most holy day on the Jewish calendar – Senator Marco Rubio will hold a fundraiser in a home that features two paintings by Adolf Hitler, a signed copy of Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, and a cabinet full of place settings and linens used by the Nazi leader.” She further called the event “appalling,” “the height of insensitivity and indifference,” “a gross act of disrespect,” “tasteless,” and “astounding.” She also made sure to attack him for disrespecting the “sizable Jewish population in [his] home state of Florida.”

Given her presentation of the issue, one would be forgiven for thinking Marco Rubio had a fundraiser with a Nazi supporter on Yom Kippur. Of course, that would be disgraceful and would merit denunciation, but that is not what happened.

Harlan Crow houses his collection of priceless art and historical artifacts at his Texas residence. Politico notes that Crow’s collection “includes works from Monet, Renoir, Winston Churchill, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as busts of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito, and Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and others.”

The Dallas Morning News notes that Crow’s library houses “artifacts such as Eisenhower’s five-star helmet, a silver tankard created by Paul Revere, the deed to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, and paintings by Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, Rembrandt Peale,” “a letter…Harry Truman wrote to Washington Post critic Paul Hume,” “correspondence from George Armstrong Custer,” “first editions by Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton,” “the copy of the first U.S. Census, signed by Thomas Jefferson,” “Vasco de Gama’s original report on the New World,” “a miniature model of the ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb, signed by the pilot of the Enola Gay,” “[a] cannonball embedded in [a] tree removed from Gettysburg,” “two life masks of Abraham Lincoln,” and “Hitler’s placesettings and linens in the cabinet upstairs – discretely kept in a closed cabinet, so the swastikas are not on display.” Regarding the busts of communist dictators, The Dallas Morning News reports “Crow has said the collection is not intended as a celebration of repressive regimes but to preserve a part of world history.”

This is the great controversy over which Wasserman Schultz is running her mouth. Crow is clearly not a Nazi sympathizer, but a collector of rare historical artifacts. Wasserman Schultz evidently believes that private collectors have no right to preserve anything from the unsavory aspects of our history, at least not without bringing disgrace upon themselves and anyone who associates with them.

In her zeal to attack Republicans for any reason she can muster, Wasserman Schultz represents political correctness run amok. It does not matter to her that important historical artifacts are worth preserving, even if they are closely tied to ugly parts of our history. It is not an affront to Jews to preserve Hitler’s personal effects, assuming one does not venerate Hitler or his ideals (which Crow does not). We cannot let our delicate sensibilities affect which aspects of our history we preserve, keeping the nice parts and leaving the offensive parts by the wayside.  

Statements like Wasserman Schultz’s promote the whitewashing of our history by denigrating the preservation of its unattractive elements. Under her standard, we could stigmatize anyone who owns a copy of The Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital, even if the owner does not espouse Communist principles and has a solely academic interest. Perhaps we could also stigmatize the works of Mark Twain and William Faulkner because their portrayals of race relations offend us.

It is not Marco Rubio’s conduct, but Wasserman Schultz’s that is “appalling,” “astounding,”  and “tasteless.” Our history has many dark elements in it and we have a right and a duty to preserve them, even if they are unsettling. Wasserman Schultz can try to run from history if she wants to, but she must not try to hide it from the rest of us by attacking its preservers.


Brian McCarty is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at brian.mccarty@uconn.edu.