City of Brass

City of Brass

Barack Obama is not Hitler

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

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
year
.”

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.

Obama’s judgement

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

There’s a great anecdote by Joe Klein about Obama’s meeting with General Petraeus in Iraq that I think speaks very well of Obama’s judgement and leadership, especially with regard to military matters:

Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the
briefing and promise to take his views “under advisement.” Or he could
tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course
of action — especially with a general not used to being confronted.
Obama chose to speak his mind. “You know, if I were in your shoes, I
would be making the exact same argument,” he began. “Your job is to
succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a
potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests
through the prism of our overall national security.” Obama talked about
the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the financial costs of the
occupation of Iraq, the stress it was putting on the military.

A “spirited” conversation ensued, one person who was in the room
told me. “It wasn’t a perfunctory recitation of talking points. They
were arguing their respective positions, in a respectful way.” The
other two Senators — Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed — told Petraeus they
agreed with Obama. According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting –
which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing — ended
agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama’s perspective was,
necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable
obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had
laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge.
Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over
the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility
(and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the
unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.

I think this is a critical point, especially since Iraq is a single front in the war against extremist fanatics and Obama has articulated a broader strategy, with emphasis on Afghanistan. I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall for that debate!

Now, McCain’s argument has been that he was right about the Surge and supporting Petraeus in his Iraq strategy, but the problem here is that the Surge is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Waziristan is not Anbar, for numerous reasons (not least of which being that the locals in Waziristan are very pro-Taliban, whereas the Anbarites were anti-Al-Qaeda). Not only is McCain content to delegate responsibility to Petraeus rather than taking the broader view required of him as commander in chief, but his judgement is in fact severely flawed if he thinks that the Surge is a magic bullet. Keep in mind also that Joe Biden is a recognized foreign policy expert on Pakistan, so this bodes well for the long-term strategy of the Obama Administration towards the war on terror overall.

Barack Obama is a US citizen

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I’ve previously addressed the “non-citizen smear”, but as a public service here is a summary for the benefit of anyone who may still doubt the
eligibility of Barack Obama for President according to the Constitution:

Do share this post with anyone who is irrational enough to believe the non-citizen smear, but rational enough to be convinced otherwise by solid evidence. Don’t bother sending the link to people who fail the second criteria, you’ll be wasting Internet.

Twitter

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Anyone here have a Twitter account? I’m @azizhp – if you use twitter too, please do leave a comment with your username!

I’ve actually been writing a lot about twitter over the past year or so. Here’s a compilation of interesting users to follow, for example.

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