So Soon, Republicans are Nazis…

I know it seems like I’m picking on liberals these days — though I have called out Rush Limbaugh twice — but the latest outrage from Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen cries out for… reaction? bewilderment? pity?

During a speech on the House floor late Tuesday night, Cohen said that Republicans were like Nazis for continuing to call the health care law passed in 2010 as a “government takeover of health care.”

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing, blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing.”

“The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it – -believed it and you have the Holocaust. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care. Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover,” he added.

Wow. Nazis and blood libel” — that phrase Sarah Palin caught utter hell for using after she was preposterously linked to murder, and frankly used more appropriately than here. A Cohen, a member of the priestly class, rants about Nazi Republicans and accuses them of “blood libel” about a phenomenon that has nothing whatever to do with falsely accusing a particular people. How utterly bizarre and disturbing.

What to make of this? One liberal Jew makes it just a little more difficult to civilize our political discourse and take care with terms like “blood libel,” to be sure. And one liberal Democrat makes it more difficult for people like me to insist on civility.

Because of people like Rep. Steve Cohen, the Holocaust may have less meaning. Because of people like Rep. Steve Cohen, the horrid foulness of Josef Goebbels may have less meaning. Because of people like Rep. Steve Cohen, the horrendous suffering of the Jewish people may be more difficult to remember, and easier to elide into repugnant Holocaust-denial.

Take great care, always, in comparing anything to the Holocaust. It was the most systematic genocide ever conceived and viciously executed in human history. Other genocides have come close. They lacked the industrial might and political and corporate will. Such is human hatred.

Representative Cohen warrants censure. Never mind our commitment to a new tone. Never mind the disgusting cliché of comparing political opponents to Nazis. The man thinks Republican (and the majority of Americans’) opposition to Obamacare is a big lie, the biggest lie, the Blood Libel. He’s incapable, in short, of exercising sound legislative judgment.

And this isn’t the fly-over outback. It’s the House of Representatives. Shame.


UPDATE (January 20, 2011): Rep. Cohen refused today to back away from his incendiary remarks. That’s a further shame. Redemption is pretty accessible in this country — it usually just takes an apology. But the best Rep. Cohen could do, when taken to task by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, is say: “I won’t say it again, but I was right.” This is shock politics at its most cynical. But it’s not surprising that Rep. Cohen stands by his comments. Despite being compared to a Klansman and targeted with anti-Semitic innuendo himself — by his Democratic opponent — Rep. Cohen just loves the hate. Back in April, he described the Tea Party as the KKK “without the hoods and robes.”  For liberals aching for anything that casts the regrettable Rep. Cohen in a better light, David Weigel at Slate defends Rep. Cohen here. I think Weigel is full of bull-poop, and seems so weary, so very very weary, that he’s delighted to re-introduce Nazi comparisons into American political dialogue, just for the stimulation of it.


5 Responses to So Soon, Republicans are Nazis…

  1. jeff veazey says:

    One thing about the two party system, it makes you glad there are only two. Every time, one of the parties is handed the moral high ground by the other, someone or some group, exhibiting the worst kind of judgment, distorted logic, twisted emotional outbursts and insensitivity. This high ground is rarely seized, rather, yielded, like a long slow racheting down from a high place from which one can almost view freedom, then down, down, into the abyss of base language just a level above grunts and snorts, turning the Holocaust into a metaphor like baseball, or horse racing. I have been repulsed by the use of Holocaust metaphors from all corners of the political landscape. Having sat through a one day “trial” of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and hearing hours of testimony of survivors, I completely agree that Holocaust
    and genocide imagery should be reserved solely for those events.

    There were so many other effective, appropriate ways that Rep. Cohen could have expressed his outrage at the Republican lies about the health care bill. The facts are becoming clear that the job killer claim of Boehner posse is one of those lies, as Will Rogers said, and as I often cite, that got half way around the world before the truth had a chance to get out of bed. Intentionally lying to the American people should also be grounds for censure.

    If this debate continues past one little wasted day of ceremonial “We got you!” into an actual funding debate later, then certainly, factual statistics regarding the numbers of people who will die and suffer across the nation due to a lack of health care are fair game and the Republicans will have to own those numbers. The “Death Panels” rhetoric of the last session on the floor of the Congress by Republicans has set the bar pretty low and Democrats will be helpless at the urge to cite the Republicans as the new Death Panels of Health Care, should they fail to fund Health Care. That national tragedy will not need to be expanded into gross hyperbole comparing it to the darkest hatred of the ages, it will stand on its own.

  2. jeff veazey says:

    Just a typo correction In the second sentence it should have been “exhibits”, not “exhibiting”. There are probably more but this compelling post of yours caused me to reply before I had my second cup.

  3. There are few issues that warrant the comparison to the slaughter of 11 million people. Not supporting the health care law is definitely not one of them. Civility is not achieved by using hyperbole too liberally.

  4. Pingback: On Political Disagreement « The Prince and The Little Prince

  5. Pingback: On Glenn Beck, George Soros, and Moderate Dialogue (and Nazis of course) « The Prince and The Little Prince

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