Billmon, as he's wont to do, nails it:
Conservatives, of course, froth at the use of such terms, which is why the propaganda machine immediately zeroed in on Durbin's reference to an extreme nationalist party that flourished in a certain central European country in the 1930s and early 1940s. Just as they popped a vein over Amnesty International's use of a Russian word for forced labor camp.
Strictly on the facts of the case, they are correct: The American archipelago is just a series of flyspecks compared to its Soviet predecessor. At its peak, the Soviet gulags held an estimated 2.5 million prisoners. The number of deaths -- by torture, execution, disease or deliberate starvation -- has to be counted in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. The KGB, meanwhile, set a record for the assembly-line murder of political prisoners that I don't think has been matched since, not even by that wannabe Saddam.
As for the central European extremist leader, well, we all know what he did.
I guess that's enough to satisify most conservatives. (Maybe they should print up some bumper stickers: "America: Still better than Stalin.") But some of us have slightly higher expectations of a modern parliamentary democracy.