Yalta, Schmalta

YALTA, SCHMALTA….In Latvia on Sunday George Bush talked about the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe following World War II:

The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history.

A throng of other commentators has already explained why Bush’s implication that Eastern Europe was cravenly sold out at Yalta is wrong. Although it’s true that FDR and Churchill essentially divvied up Europe with Stalin at the Yalta conference, they did it because they didn’t have a choice: the Red Army already controlled most of Eastern Europe, and full scale war was the only thing that would have dislodged them. FDR and Churchill knew this and decided to acknowledge the obvious rather than start up yet another all-out war on an exhausted continent ? a decision that probably would have been unpopular but acceptable if they had only fessed up to it instead of pretending no deal had been made. David Greenberg provides a more detailed history if you’re interested.

But here’s what I’m curious about: why did Bush mention Yalta at all? For most people alive today this is long dead history, but Bush’s speechwriters are well aware that “Yalta” was once a codeword extraordinaire among a certain segment of the population. In fact, it was perhaps the single biggest bugaboo of the wingnut right in the late 40s and 50s, right up there with Alger Hiss and Joe McCarthy’s list of communists in the State Department.

But most of those people are dead. So who was the reference aimed at? Not just the Latvians, that’s for sure. Bush is a master of using codewords in his speeches, and inserting Yalta into this speech wasn’t a casual decision. It was there for someone. Who?