Earlier this week, David A. Graham posted this photo of Newt and Callista Gingrich at Auschwitz over at The Atlantic:
There was, he said, “something distinctly off” about it.
The photo is several years old, but it was quickly picked up by a whole bunch of people and pretty much everyone rushed to agree that this is one of the more stunning examples of Gingrich being clueless and smug and awful.
I totally disagree.
There are a whole lot of reasons for not liking Gingrich — and I’ve written about a bunch of them in the past — but visiting a concentration camp and memorializing the visit with a photo isn’t a very good reason. I’ve been to a concentration camp myself and I took a lot of photos. I wanted to show them to others, to people who wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel there, in order to explain more fully and more clearly what I had seen. And I wanted to simply say, in some way, that I had been to such a place. For me, this was something personal; I was living proof that the genocidal project undertaken at this place had failed. So long as people continue to visit these places, these crimes will be remembered and future crimes like this one will be recognized and, I hope, fought against. More people should visit Auschwitz and take photos there, as the Gingriches did.
One thing more: I can tell you that, at least from my experience, there are no happy tourists at concentration camps. And I don’t need to think Gingrich and his wife are happy tourists here in order to be prevented from voting for him.
What Graham and a whole lot of others are doing with this photo amounts to playing politics with Auschwitz and I have no stomach for it.