Tea party rhetoric, Nazi comparisons – and our own culpability

Get ready for a whole lot more hyperbole comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler. That’s the word from the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who cites chapter and verse about the Tea Party’s fascination with the absurd comparison, starting with the now-removed billboard in Iowa featuring Obama, Hitler, and for good measure Joe Stalin.

And it’s not just the tea partiers, Milbank warns: “The vile sign in Mason City was not a one-off by a fringe group. It was a logical expression of a message supported by conservative thought leaders and propagated by high-level Republican politicians.”

He cites Thomas Sowell of the conservative Hoover Institution and the ever-popular Sarah Palin, then moves on to Fox News personality Glenn Beck:

“Consider these tallies from Glenn Beck’s show on Fox News since Obama’s inauguration: 202 mentions of Nazis or Nazism, according to transcripts, 147 mentions of Hitler, 193 mentions of fascism or fascist, and another 24 bonus mentions of Joseph Goebbels. Most of these were directed in some form at Obama — as were the majority of the 802 mentions of socialist or socialism on Beck’s nightly ‘report.’”

He concedes that the Holocaust allusion tsunami is not just a Republican phenomenon, pointing his finger at California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) – who is Jewish.

“But at the moment, the anger pendulum has swung far in the conservative direction, and accusations that once were beyond the pale — not just talk of Nazis and Marxists but intimations of tyranny, revolution and bloodshed — are now routine,” he writes.

This, of course, worries Jewish leaders who recognize the danger of extremist rhetoric entering the mainstream.

But our protests don’t carry a lot of weight, given the proclivity of some in our own community to describe almost anything they don’t like as akin to the Nazis – despite our assertions that the Holocaust and the political events leading up to it were unique in human history.

Ditto the charge of “blood libel,” which we hear from some Jewish activist or fringe group just about every day.

Yes, it’s tempting to use this form of rhetorical overkill. But if we keep it up, we shouldn’t be surprised if one day we mention the Holocaust, and people just yawn and say, “yeah, right.” And we shouldn’t be surprised if our democratic system becomes completely dysfunctional as every last one of our political opponents is transformed into a paragon of absolute, Hitlerian evil.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.