“…Close to Brown Shirt tactics”

“The White House struck back hard…against conservative pundits and town hall protesters who have compared the President to Hitler and his policies saying that the critics are ‘on thin ice’ and should ‘take that temperature down a bit,’” Sam Stein wrote on the Huffington Post blogsite.

By “the White House” Stein meant Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary. He admonished the president’s detractors to lay off the Nazi stuff. But “struck back hard?” – this old reporter thinks the president’s flak showed remarkable restraint.

Congressman Brian Baird didn’t pull punches. “What we’re seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics,” the Washington Democrat told a newspaper reporter.

The Republicans and the Republican-friendly “conservative pundits and town hall protestors” are in high dudgeon over Baird’s remarks.

All Baird said was that the screaming, swastika sign-toting protestors’ tactics were Nazi-like.  “I never, nor would I ever, say people who oppose this bill  are Nazis,” Baird told another newspaper reporter. “People are welcome to disagree with health care reform but they are not welcome to intimidate or threaten people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, more than a few protestors and pundits have been flat-out calling Obama a Nazi – when they’re not slamming him as a “socialist” or a “communist.”

There is a ton of irony, apparently all of it lost, on the louts who show up to shout down Democratic members of Congress at town hall-style forums. The protestors claim to be patriots. They say they’re for American “values.” What about “values” like freedom of speech and civil discourse?

Hitler’s Brown Shirts – who wore swastika armbands – insisted they were patriots and guarantors of German “values.” Hitler and the Brown Shirts hated the idea of free speech. They hated democracy, period, and destroyed it in Germany.

“Brown Shirt tactics” included raucous disruptions of anti-Nazi party meetings and rallies. Brown Shirts would storm halls. They would threaten, intimidate and bully speakers, including elected members of the German parliament.

Not surprisingly, the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity – the modern media’s versions of the Rev. Charles Coughlin, the father of hate radio who sometimes spoke admiringly of Hitler – are helping egg on the town hall protests. Limbaugh said Obama’s health care plan logo looks like a Nazi insignia.

So far, the GOP brass has done little or nothing to curb the Nazi-baiting. President Eisenhower — who could tell the protestors a thing or two about real Nazis who he helped beat in World War II — must be spinning in his grave over what’s become of his party. 

But members of America Jewish groups – many of whose ancestors were among the six million European Jews Hitler murdered – say it’s time to stop the Nazi smear job on Obama and the Democrats. “It is preposterous to try and make a connection between the President’s health care logo and the Nazi Party symbol, the ‘Reichsadler,”’ said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

At the same time, the American Jewish Congress says Limbaugh’s remarks about the Nazi logo are “grossly offensive and intolerable” and reflect “…a nasty and hyperbolic tendency in our political culture, one which makes reasoned discourse impossible, confuses disagreement with evil, and which makes it impossible to distinguish evil from ordinary politics.” The Congress statement adds, “It is not acceptable from either the right or the left, both of which have in recent memory used such analyses.” (I agree. Leftist linking of President George W. Bush to Hitler is just as “grossly offensive and intolerable” to me as rightist comparisons of Obama and Hitler.)

Similarly, Myrna Shinbaum of the Anti-Defamation League argued, “Whatever one may think of how President Obama is dealing with issues such as the economy and health care, comparisons to Hitler are beyond the pale and have no place in political debate. Such comparisons diminish the history and memory of the 6 million Jews and 5 million others who died at the hands of the Nazis and insults those who fought bravely against Hitler.”

Anyway, here’s what I can’t figure out. If health care reform – call it the neutral “health care change” if you want — is so “downright evil” as Sarah Palin puts it, why would anybody feel the need to shout down those who favor it? If the Democrats’ health care plan is as bad as the Republicans say it is, wouldn’t that be obvious to everybody?

Therefore, why don’t the Republicans tell the swastika-sign toters to zip it and go home? If the Democrats really are prescribing bad medicine, wouldn’t it make more sense to let them blab all they want, thus dooming  their health care proposals by their own words?

My guess is the GOP cheeses and the likes of Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity – none of whom could get elected dog catcher – don’t want a free and fair public debate on health care because they’re afraid they’d lose.

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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a native Kentuckian, a professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance journalist. He is a member of the American Federation of Teachers and the Kentucky Education Association/National Education Association. He is the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, which he describes as "a strictly non-partisan chronicle of our political past from Gov. Isaac Shelby to Gov. Ruby Laffoon."
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One Response to “…Close to Brown Shirt tactics”

  1. VH says:

    Well, you see if its Code Pink or MoveOn.org staging a protest, then that’s OK. If it’s conservative little old people or baby boomer types, then they’re thuggish Brown Shirts. Strangely, there were some town hall meetings in 2005 that had <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2005-03-16-gop-townhalls_x.htm&quot; very similar loud and obstructive protests
    but nary a liberal voice complained. There were many, many depictions of Bush as Hitler but not one liberal voice ever called to end the depictions. It is hypocritical for Democrats to stand on the 1st amendment only when it suits their cause. I’m sorry but the 1st amendment applies to every citizen not just liberals.