I’m old enough to remember a time long, long ago when it was absolutely the worst thing you could do to compare the president of the United States to Adolf Hitler. And by “long, long ago,” I mean 2004.
That’s the year that the liberal website Moveon.org sponsored a contest for homemade political campaign ads. One of the contest entries featured quotes from George Dubbya Bush to the effect that God had toldhim to strike the country’s enemies and that he was “taking steps to protect the homeland.”
These were superimposed over stock footage of Hitler speaking to cheering, swastika-waving crowds. It was crude, it was heavy-handed, it was over the top and unfair. It also was taken down off the website, and it didn’t make the cut for the first round of the competition.
But that didn’t stop Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie from calling the ads “the worst and most vile form of political hate speech” and demanding that the Democratic candidates, none of whom had anything to do with the ads, “repudiate this pollution of our political process” by denouncing them.
It looks like the Republicans are still ultra-super-sensitive, in a “Princess and the Pea” kinda way, about being in any way even vaguely associated with Hitler or the Nazis.
When Vice President Joe Biden recently sent out a fundraising
message saying there was going to be a “GOP blitzkrieg” of dirty campaign tactics, Republican lawmakers went verruckt (crazy). Despite the fact that “blitzkrieg” and its shortened form “blitz” have long since passed into common usage as an expression for any fast, overwhelming attack, the GOP claimed they were being compared to the invaders of Poland.“Invoking the Nazis’ crimes against humanity in a political debate is simply inappropriate,” a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner said. But apparently it’s only “inappropriate” or “vile” if you’re a Democrat. As you know, the only principle the GOP has left is IOKIYAR (It’s OK If You’re a Republican), and comparing their political rivals to Nazis is, it seems, A-OK with them:
* Posters and placards of President Obama dressed as Hitler abound at tea party rallies.
* National Review Editor Jonah Goldberg wrote a notorious book entitled “Liberal Fascism.”
* Conservative columnist Thomas Sowell, writing about the $20 billion dollar relief fund paid by BP for the Gulf oil spill, directly compared the fund to laws passed by Germany’s Reichstag that gave Hitler “dictatorial powers.” (A Republican congressman read the column out loud on the floor of the house. )
* On May 16 of this year, Republican elder statesman Newt Gingrich went on Fox News and asserted that “the secular socialist machine” (his buzzword for the currently elected government) “represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union ever did.”
Backed into a corner by host Chris Wallace, Gingrich said that he wasn’t really calling the administration Nazis, he was just saying they were as big a threat as the Nazis. You know, sort of like saying, “I’m not saying your sister’s a prostitute, I’m just saying she sleeps with a lot of guys for money.”
The biggest proponent of associating President Obama and ill-defined “liberals” as Nazis, however, is Glenn Beck. Pretty much any spokesman for the administration or its policies can expect at some point to be compared by Beck to Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels. He’s responded to critics of Fox News by invoking a famous poem about the Holocaust and directly comparing Fox to the Jews. (“When they’re done with Fox, and you decide to speak out on something. The old, ‘first they came for the Jews, and I wasn’t Jewish.”)
And the list goes on, with not a peep from the Republican leadership.
In the responses to this column, both in e-mail and in the online comments section, I tend to get some negative feedback for using terms like “wingnut.” Maybe I should become a Republican again. Then I can call people anything, up to and including Nazis, and no one will say a mumblin’ word.