City of Brass

City of Brass

Barack Obama is not Hitler

I don’t subscribe to the view that any invocation of Hitler in a debate is an automatic defeat (the so-called “Godwin’s Law“) but it is definitely true that equating various people to Hitler appears to be a national pastime in election silly season. Case in point: the Republican Jewish Conference has declared Obama’s presidency would usher in a new Holocaust:

Pennsylvania Democrats are calling on U.S. Sen. John McCain’s campaign to disavow the letter from the state Republican Party’s “Victory 2008″ committee.
The letter, which reportedly was sent to 75,000 Jews, was signed by
three prominent Jewish Republicans, including Sandra Schultz Newman, a
former state Supreme Court justice, and I. Michael Coslov, the campaign
chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

The e-mail, after extolling McCain’s record and questioning U.S.
Sen. Barack Obama’s commitment to Israel — as well as his associations
with William Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — says that “Jewish
Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, November
4th, 2008. Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s
and 1940s and made a tragic mistake. Let’s not make a similar one this

Both Coslov and Newman are distancing themselves from the letter,
saying they hadn’t actually read its contents before signing on.

Of course the signatories are now back-pedaling; after all, they hadn’t expected anyone to find out what they were doing, now, did they? The official reaction from the Republican Party in PA is typically unrepentant:

Michael Barley, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Republican Party, told
The New York Times that the e-mail “definitely went a little bit
farther than the facts would support” and that the political operative
who composed it had been fired.

“a little bit farther” ? How about a mile beyond? Disgusting that they can’t even bring themselves to – ahem – condemn

I’d like to praise my fellow Beliefnet blogger Rabbi Hirschfield, who took exceptional umbrage to the invocation of the Holocaust, pointing out correctly that doing so defames the memory of the Holocaust itself and trivializes it for mere political posturing:

How can the same people who pride themselves on maintaining the
importance of Holocaust memory invoke the real horrors of the past as a
political tool? Ironically, mobilizing that kind of fear and memory of
past defeat was used by early Nazis to mobilize Germans in support of
National Socialism in its early stages.

… do they not
see that the comparison itself denigrates all that they value about the
strength of this country and the accomplishments attained by Jews
precisely because this is not Weimar Germany? America now is not
Germany then, and it shows a profound lack of appreciation for American
Jewish experience to miss that point.

I’d only add that the repeated invocation of the Holocaust has already diluted it’s impact as a great moral warning. It’s almost the corollary of Godwin’s Law – by equating minor political disagreements with something so enormous as the Holocaust, it is the Holocaust that is trivialized, not the other way around. This tendency to analogize everything to Hitler and the Holocaust is what feeds the crazies’ Holocaust-denial and further anti-Semitism. 

I also note that John Kerry did not come under this kind of attack from right-wing Jewish groups. Could that be because Kerry was white, and had a non-foreign sounding name? I think it’s clear that the signatories of this email – their lame protestations aside – were banking on tapping into the fear of Obama’s Otherness and the latent muslim smear to amplify their message of fear.

Also note that this is not an isolated incident. In Florida, for example, the following sign was displayed at a McCain campaign field office in Pompano Beach:

Again, note the emphasis on Obama’s middle name – intended to highlight his Otherness, as well as link him to the worst dictators of the 20th Century. The GOP county chair condemned the sign and ordered it removed, but the sign’s creator was unrepentant.

In other ODS news, here’s a few more gems courtesy of Kevin Drum.

  • John McCain

    My friends, I don’t approve this message.

  • ben

    i think the letter is right on – why are you afraid to write his middle name?

  • http://wow... gabistan

    speechless. what dirty politics.

  • Brandon

    McCain and the GOP has managed to cause me do something I never thought I would do; donate to a democratic candidate for president.
    I’ve wanted McCain to get the nomination since 2000. After he got it, I was thrilled, thinking for once we’d see a presidential election where the republican candidate wouldn’t use deception, hatred, manipulation and fear to try and eek out a victory. Now, I hope McCain loses this election and eventually his senate seat. McCain and anybody willing to do the underhanded crap they did this election shouldn’t be elected or appointed to any public office ever again.

  • Elaine Gauck

    McCain showed his integrity by refusing release in order to allow the enemy to use propoganda, and thus was put in solitary for TWO YEARS. A true hero and a true AMerican.
    Obama on the other hand, is almost promoting socialism, licenses for illegal aliens, including terrorists, higher taxes, collecting illegal donations to his campaign, associating with questionable people, Ayers, Wright, ACORN, PLO people. Where is his integrity? Was he truly born in Hawaii? Or was he born in Kenya which would make him ineligible for president material?
    If he wins because of the millions of illegal donations, should he be eligible to be our president? Yes, he is eloquent, but then elect his speechwriters.
    I am truly frightened at the prospect that our future president has muslim ties and questionable backers. This is ludicrous!
    Does he have a conflict of interests?
    I cannot believe the polls – that the American people are so concerned about money, than they are about terrorism, socialism, murder of unborn babies that might grow up to cure cancer, heart disease, etc.
    Shakespeare was the illegitimate son of an illiterate mother. In today’s culture, he would have been aborted.
    Obama’s minister for 20 years quoted on video with “Not God Bless America, God DAMN AMERICA. Tell me that Obama went to this man’s church for 20 years, and did not know what Wright stood for and did not confront him.Did not sever ties with him until after his nomination.
    SERIOUSLY, I DO NOT TRUST HIM TO LEAD THIS COUNTRY. Do you really think that God backs a man that will not allow medical help to babies that survived abortion?
    Maybe not Hitler, but maybe Herod.
    Vote your conscience, not your pocketbook.

  • John Bryans Fontaine

    Stating that Obama equals Hitler is absolutely the most Orwellian, double-think message I have heard. Obama an Aryan supremacist? A militarist bent on taking over the world?
    But then again, this is precisely why the Right ( or is that Reich? ) is failing. Their LIES are becoming so preposterous – such as Obama as Hitler – that they’ve reached National Enquirer status.

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