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Tilting at Windmills

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June 23, 2010

WHEN IT DOUBT, THE RIGHT GOES WITH THE HITLER COMPARISON.... After President Obama successfully secured $20 billion in escrow for Gulf Coast victims of BP's oil spill, the right tried a variety of attacks. By now, they're familiar -- it was a "shakedown"; it was "extortion"; it was "unconstitutional."

But Thomas Sowell kicked things up a notch, taking the right-wing whining about the president fighting for small businesses and struggling families to a whole new level this week.

[D]uring the worldwide Great Depression, the German Reichstag passed a law "for the relief of the German people." That law gave Hitler dictatorial powers that were used for things going far beyond the relief of the German people -- indeed, powers that ultimately brought a rain of destruction down on the German people and on others. If the agreement with BP was an isolated event, perhaps we might hope that it would not be a precedent. But there is nothing isolated about it.

Yep, we've moved past the "shakedown" phase, and have entered the "Hitler-esque" stage. Oh good.

Likewise, Matt Yglesias noted today, "In addition, I note that yesterday noted fascism scholar and moron Jonah Goldberg observed that there's a slippery slope from infrastructure projects to Auschwitz."

Of course there is.

Far-right rhetoric is routinely exasperating, but this Nazi preoccupation holds a special place in the lexicon. Remember when Obama's efforts to rescue American auto manufacturing were compared to Hitler? And how many times did Republicans compare health care reform to the Nazis? Or how about the time a Republican congressman compared Obama to Hitler over national-service opportunities? Let's also not forget Newt Gingrich's recent assertion that Obama and his backers are actually worse than Nazis.

On its face, the fact that so many conservatives rely on Hitler comparisons so often is a reminder of an unfortunate truth -- much of the discourse on the right has gone hopelessly insane.

But I'm also reminded of the time some anonymous contributor posted a homemade video to MoveOn.org's website comparing Bush to Hitler, without the group's knowledge. MoveOn pulled the submission, but to this day, far-right voices use the incident -- "See how extreme liberals are? MoveOn compared Bush to Hitler!" -- to dismiss the left, even though the attack is baseless.

But if the left is radical because some random guy compared Bush to Hitler, what does this tell us about the right, which routinely compares Obama to Hitler?

Steve Benen 3:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

The repeal of Godwin's Law ranks up there with the repeal of Glass-Steagall as a huge mistake.

Posted by: biggerbox on June 23, 2010 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Notice that most histories of the US Conservative Movement start right after WW2. That's because the US rightwing before then was totally entangled with the ideologies of German Nazis & Italian Fascists. The current TeaPartiers are precisely a proto-Fascist movement.

Posted by: wilson46201 on June 23, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't there something akin to the Jewish defense League or some such organization that is supposed to be monitoring this rhetoric when it becomes this caustic? Seems to me there was a lot of hoopla by Glenn Greenwald over this issue not too long ago where he was asking why the Right" wasn't being called-out for using Hitler-like references in the political discourse.

Posted by: stevio on June 23, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think the only way a Dem politician could avoid the Hitler comparisons would be if the politician himself were Jewish. Then he could get all huffy and say, "how *dare* you compare me to Hitler" etc.

Posted by: flubber on June 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

It tells you that the "right" engages in a lot of wholesale projection, and their relative location on the political spectrum, Goldberg's laughable protestations notwithstanding, are of the same authoritarian, right-wing populist, fascist wing from whence the Nazis bred. So it is perfectly natural that a bunch of “Hitler”-related bile spills forth from such quarters.

Ever notice how every imagined and conjured “scandalous” behavior attributed to Obama or Democrats (and perversely the more inane or fantastical the charge, the more fervid the accusations become) is always - always - a behavior or activity that they enthusiastically and passionately engage in when they can deceive in sufficient numbers to get elected? And usually ones perfected to a razor’s edge during the dark ages of the Bush/Cheney cabal, though many, many other historical examples abound.

Yeah, that’s no accident either. You’ll waste your time trying to point that out to them. But the pattern could not be more explicit.

Posted by: jsacto on June 23, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

let's not forget that the GOP has a guy in the upper echelon of leadership that was, wait for it, IN CHARGE OF COUNTING THE JEWS, in Nixon's govt - nevermind quite a few lost their jobs - it's really the Dems that are Hitleresque...

what a bunch of hacks...

Posted by: polldancer on June 23, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

But if the left is radical because some random guy compared Bush to Hitler, what does this tell us about the right, which routinely compares Obama to Hitler?

That they're fuckin' idiots, as I've been saying for years now (though only for a bit over a month at this site).

Move over, GOP. It's time for the FIP!

Posted by: David Bailey on June 23, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Comparisons of the Bush administration to fascists are not unreasonable. What else is a "unitary executive" but a fascist dictator? Also, both supported torture and invaded foreign countries on the basis of false justifications.

Posted by: N.Wells on June 23, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

What it tells us is what we've known for a long time: When it comes to the MSM megaphone, IOKIYAR.

Posted by: Kris on June 23, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's not insane, it's calculated. The average chuckle-head in this country was asleep or checking out the opposite sex when WW2 was taught in history class. They have no clue what fascism or nazism is other than it is something really bad and that we went to war against them. That's it. And this ignorance gets worse as time goes on. High schoolers today are getting their info from the barely-awake chuckleheads that got a teaching credential.

The people who are in politics for the money that can be made (Republicans and Conservadems) are aware of this general ignorance and so they exploit it without guilt.

Why is anyone surprised?

Posted by: nameless bob on June 23, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I really do think the Repulicans admire the Nazi's.
I'm waiting for Rush, or Glenn, or some COngressman or Senator to show up wearing one of those spiffy full-length black leather coats the SS wore.
Nah, it's too much of a turn on. They'd all come careening out of the closet like the Circus Clowns do out of the car.
I'd hate to have to clean up the mess after that orgy...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on June 23, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

In word and deed, the GOP began divorce proceedings on reality decades ago.

How did that Bush administration official explain it? Something like: they create their own reality; when (or if) people react critically to it, they conjure a new reality; with reason and common sense thus vanquished, they are as political Gods.

Voters had wised up by 2006 and 2008. Regrettably, an ossified democratic party establishment still lacks the chops and/or inclination to boldly assault and repudiate it. By habit or design, with notable exceptions, it remains stuck in "react" mode.

Posted by: JL on June 23, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

"But if the left is radical because some random guy compared Bush to Hitler, what does this tell us about the right, which routinely compares Obama to Hitler?"

That they're hypocrites hoping their base isn't smart enough to catch on to their hypocrisy. Sadly they're too often right.


They're going overboard on the Hitler/Nazi comparisons because, for a while, it looked Obama just might actually change the course of American politics. They couldn't just arrogantly dismiss him as they often do with Dems and/or libs (they don't often go together), they had to paint him as so bad and wrong for America, low-info voters just couldn't be sure if he could be trusted. So they'd wind up staying home on Election Day 2012. And then Republicans win. They did the exact same thing with Clinton, or rather, they TRIED to. From whispers that he had political enemies murdered to coke in the Oval Office to bribery and ill-gotten profits to lying under oath about oral sex as grounds for impeachment, they went after Clinton with everything they got. And while they couldn't take him down, they were able to confuse enough people in one state to steal the election in 2000. Obama at a time was proving to not only be as popular as Clinton, but an icon to a generation of voters. So accusing him of murder or adultery with an intern isn't enough. He has to be the reincarnation of Hitler.

Besides, if they shout Hitler enough, then when a Republican ever DOES get back in the Oval Office, and he embraces the sort of truly evil sick fuckery the Bush Administration dove into with gusto, and we accuse them of politics that border on fascism, they can say "see? Tit for tat. You're just angry because our guy won, so YOU have to call him Hitler, just because we called YOUR guy Hitler."

Posted by: slappy magoo on June 23, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

[D]uring the worldwide Great Depression, the German Reichstag passed a law "for the relief of the German people.

So what law was passed that gave Obama dictator status and forced BP to come across with some cash for the relief of the American people?

Posted by: flyonthewall on June 23, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas Sowell is a grade A asshole and a fraud.

If the conservatives he supports had their way he'd be picking cotton and drinking from a different water fountain.

Posted by: jharp on June 23, 2010 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Flyonthewall: And if Obama had just stayed the hell out of BP's own business, what reasonable person can doubt that it would have voluntarily established such a fund, to be administered by oil industry experts?

Posted by: JL on June 23, 2010 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

While Benen makes a point, it's also true that this very comment section on WashingtonMonthly.com has been host to many, many comparisons of Bush and Hitler:

http://www.google.com/#hl=en&source=hp&q=bushitler+site%3Awashingtonmonthly.com&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&fp=45835207582d5ee7

One presumes that Benen could have cleaned up those comments at the time (at least, the ones posted after he began writing here), but he left them be.

Posted by: TG on June 23, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, there is a similarity between infrastructure and Auschwitz, except that it is lack of infrastructure projects that create the similarity -- dead people.

Just ask the families of the 13 people who died when the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007.

Rightwing apologists make me sick.

Posted by: karen marie on June 23, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

One presumes that Benen could have cleaned up those comments at the time (at least, the ones posted after he began writing here), but he left them be.
Posted by: TG

Why should they be taken down?

Anonymous commentators and Thomas Sowell are now judged by the same criteria?

God you people are stupid.

Posted by: jharp on June 23, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

"If the conservatives he supports had their way he'd be picking cotton and drinking from a different water fountain."
Posted by: jharp on June 23, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Ridiculous hyperbole.
See, it's exactly this kind of over-the-top, histrionic, button-pushing rhetoric that has tainted the body politic, thus forcing the Real Americans® to finally lose their patience, and escalate their verbiage ever-so-slightly.
As you can see, the loss of civility is entirely the fault of you Dirty F^¢§ing Hippies.
Plus, of course, you cannot deny that Mr Sowell never said anything about race -- his or the Obamanation's. You just hadda go play that race card, because that's all you've got. This further proves that it's you LIEberals who are the REAL racists! Put that in your hash-pipes and smoke it!
Besides, anyone with a half-a-brain (which leaves out all you libtards) knows that Sowell is one of the good Negroes, and as such, would never be wasted "out in the fields;" he would be a house-... well, you know.

Posted by: TeaBeggars & Publicans 4-Evah! on June 23, 2010 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

But if the left is radical because some random guy compared Bush to Hitler, what does this tell us about the right, which routinely compares Obama to Hitler?

Some random guy? You are so funny sometimes.

Calling for a moratorium on Gulf of Mexico oil drilling, and then requiring BP to pay the lost wages of everyone put out of work by the moratorium, is certainly a "shakedown", even if it is only a part of the package. The moratorium penalizes the companies that did not have BP's lax safety record.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 23, 2010 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Remember Louis Black's 'Glenn Beck has Nazi Tourettes' on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart?

It was only a few weeks ago and it's already a classic. It isn't just Glenn Beck who is a moron out there.

Posted by: kindness on June 23, 2010 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Anonymous commentators and Thomas Sowell are now judged by the same criteria?"

No, Anonymous commentators judged by a much higher standard. Thomas Sowell is judged only on spelling, and the editor makes sure he gets that right.

Posted by: fostert on June 23, 2010 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

People who don't have a clue about history should avoid making historical comparisons.

Contrary to Sowell's claim, the law 'for the relief of the German People' was, as its German titel reveals (Verordnung des Reichspräsidenten zum Schutz von Volk und Staat), an measure based on Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. That article gave the German president (Hindenburg) the right to bypass the parliament and enact so-called emergency measures as requested by the Chancellor (Hitler). The Reichstag did squat in this context.

Maybe what Sowell really meant was the so-called 'Enabling Act' ('Ermächtigungsgesetz' or 'Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich') of 1933, which formally authorized Hitler to govern without having to consult the Reichstag on anything.

When was any such act proposed, not to speak of passed in Congress?

Posted by: eserwe on June 23, 2010 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Some random guy? You are so funny sometimes

Yep, in terms of media exposure, some random and And it ISN'T just BP's lax safety record, it's a lax safety record for an entire oil and gas industry who've been allowed to "self-regulate" for a decade, and that includes affiliates and subcontractors like Transocean and Halliburton and others. When a car make begins exploding on impact, ALL cars with that make are recalled and inspected. You don't just wait for the other ones to begin exploding because it's too "costly" to bring them in. unknown guy who sent in a video to Moveon.org. That's it. There were no politicians or national pundits on the left during the Bush presidency who literally likened him to Hitler as have Beck and Limbaugh and United States Senator Jim DeMint and Sowell and dozens of others on numerous occasions and continue to do. Not one.

So yeah, it IS just a phenomenon of the rightwing media and political machine. And yes, that makes you a person of inferior character by association. Deal with it.

Calling for a moratorium on Gulf of Mexico oil drilling, and then requiring BP to pay the lost wages of everyone put out of work by the moratorium, is certainly a "shakedown", even if it is only a part of the package. The moratorium penalizes companies that did not have BP's lax safety record.Calling for a moratorium on Gulf of Mexico oil drilling, and then requiring BP to pay the lost wages of everyone put out of work by the moratorium, is certainly a "shakedown", even if it is only a part of the package.

Firstly, it ISN'T just "BP's lax safety record." It's a lax safety record for an entire oil and gas industry who've been allowed to "self-regulate" for a decade under oilmen who ran the country. And that industry includes affiliates and subcontractors like Transocean and Halliburton and others who are as we speak working on and managing these other rigs.

Secondly, when a car make begins exploding on impact because of a faulty component, ALL cars with that make are recalled and inspected. You don't just wait for the other ones to begin exploding because it's too "costly" or "unfair" to bring them in. That has got to be one of the more fuckwittiest things you've ever alleged, and that's really saying something.

Lastly, the moratorium has put just 33 deepwater rigs temporarily out of commission so it can be determined if they, too, are going to kill the ocean and everything in it due to cut corners and lax safety. That's out of a total of almost 4000 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. You're a statistician, do the fucking math. Even if BP were forced to reimburse those rig owners -- and that's a big "if" that you're pretending is a foregone conclusion -- BP could certainly afford it, and DESERVES it for creating this disaster. My guess is, however, that because the government ordered the moratorium BP will hot have to pay those particular parties.

Doesn't matter, it's a non-issue. Just something you're trying to make political hay out of to divert from the real issues, like your indirect responsibility in this matter by repeatedly voting for the individuals and the party whose "philosophy" of lack of government oversight and total deference to corporations allowed this to happen.

Posted by: trex on June 23, 2010 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

can we frame a copy of Godwin's Law and send it to every republican in office or running for it?

Posted by: raffles on June 23, 2010 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Cutting and pasting error. The first paragraph of my last post should have read thusly:

Yep, in terms of media exposure, some random and unknown guy who sent in a video to Moveon.org. That's it. There were no politicians or national pundits on the left during the Bush presidency who literally likened him to Hitler as have Beck and Limbaugh and United States Senator Jim DeMint and Sowell and dozens of others on numerous occasions and continue to do. Not one.

And let's add to that list a number of Congressmen.

And to amplify on that point, not only is the comparison patently silly -- Obama is conciliatory to point of ridiculousness to the Republicans, a centrist on most issues, and anything but dictatorial -- but worse, these comparisons are MEANT to the fears of the right-wing and inflame them into some kind of armed uprising, a la Beck.

This outrageous rhetoric is meant to hold the executive branch essentially hostage to the possibility of domestic terrorism. DeMint, Limbaugh, Beck and these other assholes don't believe for a minute that Obama is a dictator. They're just pissed that they lost an election to someone who embodies what they loathe most: a minority and a Democrat. And if they have to upend the entire country to get back at him they will.

Posted by: trex on June 23, 2010 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't what Obama did a lot like pressing someone to settle out of court? Not very formally, but in spirit? And isn't that a good thing, to avoid lots (not all I guess) of the costly and wasteful (in the sense of how much skimmed by "the middle men") litigation?

TG: Yeah, "Bushitler" comparisons but:
1. They were "commenters at some blog" and not national media figures - or worse, our elected officials talking like that.
2. The stimulus for saying it, when Bush had been supporting torture, snooping etc.

Posted by: neil b on June 23, 2010 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

As for allegations it's a shakedown to make BP pay for a moratorium the government imposed:
No. Consider if company B running traffic lights somewhere was negligent and the lights stopped working right. The city etc. would have to stop traffic until the problem was fixed. The losses of not being able to drive are company B's fault, because the government responded as it needed to, to a safety problem caused by company B. The Gulf case is similar. Get it?

Posted by: Neil B23 on June 23, 2010 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

What really irritates me is their inability to use some other historical analogy once in a while. Napoleon? Julius Caesar? The Renaissance Popes? Juan Peron? I mean, show some imagination.

Posted by: Speed on June 23, 2010 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Here is my amateur psychologist take on all this Hitler stuff from the right.

Jonah Goldberg had to bebase himself when he wrote "Liberal Fascism" because the right wing knew it needed some ponderous tract to obscure and deflect the very real concerns that the American Conservative Movement had morphed into a pseudo-fascist movement.

What do we mean by that? Hitler historian Richard Evans, in the first volumn of his three-volumn history on the rise of the Third Reich, provides a wonderful description of the cultural roots of Nazism, which are basic family-clan tribalism (or hyper-nationalist populism if you like) writ large. Reading it, there is an eerie similarity between the aims of the Third Reich to purify German civilization and the cultural purifying fanatics who have flocked to politicized religious fundamentalism with its belief that America is a "Christian Nation" and ought to reflect that fact in both its culture and politics. Goldberg provided the talking points necessary for the right to disguise that inconvenient truth, from itself if not from us.

The hypocrisies and double standards we see from the right follow from this basic tribalism. The instantaneous fury that erupts at any comparisons at all between American conservatism and Hitlerism, at that the same time that the right employs such comparisons against liberals routinely -- promiscuously -- is just a further reflection that the hive-like conservative mind is driven not by logical consistency, intellectual integrity or empiricism, but by group loyalty.

Posted by: Ted Frier on June 24, 2010 at 6:45 AM | PERMALINK

You know what's really weird? If Adolf Hitler had done any of the Hitler-esque things Obama is being accused of, and none of the Hitler-esque things he actually did, he'd have probably been a pretty decent guy.

Posted by: chrenson on June 24, 2010 at 6:50 AM | PERMALINK

The basic lunacy of the right wing can also be found in the way they constantly evoke some idealized notion of the Founding Fathers in order to give their prejudices the mythic glow of antiquity, and yet the conservative project of an American Republic separate and divided, and purified of all "liberal/progressive" influences, is the exact opposite of what the Founding Fathers hoped to achieve with a republic that could accommodate and assimilate many different "factions" into one, harmonious whole.

I'm willing to bet good money that virtually all of those who evoke the Founders haven't read a single one of the 80-plus Federalist Papers that explain the thinking behind E Pluribus Unum.

Posted by: Ted Frier on June 24, 2010 at 6:55 AM | PERMALINK

Admit it, the similarities are uncanny. Everybody remembers when Hitler invaded Poland and forced everyone to have health care.

Posted by: beejeez on June 24, 2010 at 7:55 AM | PERMALINK

Keep an eye on what nefarious deeds the Repubs are accusing Dems of doing right now. Next year it'll be a bedrock plank in the Republican party platform.

Posted by: Harry Tuttle on June 24, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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