For Republicans, the gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has become an annual ritual in their hyperbolic effort to peel away Jewish Americans who overwhelmingly give their votes to Democrats. But the GOP brought an extra sense of urgency to last week’s 2019 AIPAC Policy Conference. Less than six months after Democrats captured a staggering 79 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2018 midterms, the Party of Trump had hoped the recent dust-up over comments by Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar would provide the impetus for a so-called “Jexodus.”
Now that takes some chutzpah, and not just because it was the casual anti-Semite Donald Trump who issued the geshrai that “the Democrats have very much proven to be anti-Israel” and “frankly, I think they’re anti-Jewish.” As it turned out, not one but two Republican Congressmen were comparing Democrats to Nazis even as the 18,000 AIPAC attendees were gathered at the convention center just blocks away. And their talking point wasn’t a gaffe, but instead the Godwin’s Law of the Republican Party. That is to say, the leading lights of the GOP routinely compare anything they don’t like—the Trump/Russia investigations, the IRS, the national debt, abortion, gun reform, limits on for-profit colleges, and even the FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s office—to the Holocaust.
It was Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama who performed the rhetorical goose step on the floor of the House this week. Brooks, who previously compared Iran to Nazi Germany and decried the Democrats’ “war on whites,” slandered the Democratic Party and many in the news media for accusations about Trump’s ties to Russia that Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report supposedly exposed as “nothing but a big lie.” As the Washington Post reported:
Invoking the 10th chapter of the first volume of “Mein Kampf,” Brooks explained: “In that vein, I quote from another socialist who mastered big-lie propaganda to a maximum and deadly effect.”
He went on: “Quote: ‘In the big lie, there is always a certain force of credibility because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily,'” he said.
With a flourish at the climax of his argument, Brooks declared that the words came from “socialist Adolf Hitler, in his book, ‘Mein Kampf.'”
Leaving aside for the moment that no one has seen the actual Mueller Report itself, Brooks’ bogus analogy hinges on the fact that the word “socialist” appears in the name of Adolf Hitler’s “National Socialist” (Nazi) Party. That Hitler was a fascist who by 1933 had crushed labor unions and banned the Communist Party in Germany is no barrier to those like Brooks and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who traffic in Nazi comparisons.
Of course, those two GOP Godwin gits have plenty of company among the Republicans’ best and brightest. Take, for example, former House Speaker and Fox News regular Newt Gingrich.
After the FBI had raided the home and office of then-Trump personal attorney and RNC finance co-chairman Michael Cohen, Gingrich conjured up images of Himmler’s henchmen kicking down doors:
“We're supposed to have the rule of law. It ain't the rule of law when they kick in your door at 3:00 in the morning and you're faced with armed men and you have had no reason to be told you're going to have that kind of treatment. That's a -- that's Stalin. That's the—that's the Gestapo in Germany. That shouldn't be the American FBI.” [Emphasis mine.]
Of course, when the jackboot was on the other foot, Gingrich felt differently. In 2005, Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin took to the Senate floor to denounce revelations of brutality committed by American interrogators in Guantanamo Bay.
“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”
The response from the right was fast and furious. Leading the charge in defense of America’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” (a term, by the way, introduced in the original German by the Gestapo), was Newt Gingrich. Gingrich demanded the Senate censure Durbin for having “dishonored the United States and the entire Senate."
Now, no discussion of dishonoring the Senate should omit mention of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. With his eyes on a 2016 White House run, Cruz on September 24, 2013 tried to filibuster a must-pass spending bill in hopes of defunding Obamacare. His long-odds fight against the Affordable Care Act’s extension of health insurance coverage to 25 million people, Cruz insisted, had other historical precedents. Among them, of course, was the bloody campaign that had to be waged against Hitler’s fascism:
“If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany—look, we saw it in Britain. Neville Chamberlain told the British people: Accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that is not our problem. Let's appease them. Why? Because it can't be done. We cannot possibly stand against them.”
By the time Cruz forced a government shutdown with his Quixotic crusade against Obamacare, his Republican colleagues had been comparing the ACA to National Socialism for years. State insurance exchanges helping millions of people in the United States obtain coverage, Idaho state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll darkly warned in January 2013, are the equivalent of a final solution for health care:
"The insurance companies are creating their own tombs. Much like the Jews boarding the trains to concentration camps, private insurers are used by the feds to put the system in place because the federal government has no way to set up the exchange."
In Maryland, the Republican Women of Anne Arundel County explained in 2009 that "Obama and Hitler have a great deal in common." Five years later, conservative rocker and future Trump White House guest Ted Nugent told right-wing radio host Dennis Miller that he agreed with that assessment. While he apologized for calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel,” Nugent insisted:
“There was an incrementalism to what happened in Germany and other places historically, where they came in slowly. And I think that’s what Obamacare is, that’s what I think most of what he represents. The IRS — I really believe that what we see with the IRS can be compared accurately and historically to the early maneuvers of people like jackbooted thugs, like the Brownshirts. I really believe that and I think that you are being too soft on them.” [Emphasis mine.]
As it turns out, Nugent’s grotesque rhetoric was little different than that of a sitting Republican governor. In 2012, Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage reacted to the Supreme Court's ruling upholding Obamacare:
"We the people have been told there is no choice. You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo—the IRS."
LePage was not the first Republican to compare the Internal Revenue Service to Hitler's henchmen. During the GOP's successful crusade to gut the agency in the late 1990s, Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott decried the IRS's "Gestapo-like tactics" while Alaska's Frank Murkowski protested, "You don't need to send in armed personnel in flak jackets."
Michele Bachmann and Mike Huckabee couldn't agree more. Despite the fact that the total federal tax burden as a percentage of the U.S. economy hit its lowest level since 1950, presidential candidate Bachmann had a different story to tell New Hampshire Republicans in May 2011:
Bachmann recounted learning about a horrific time in history as a child -- the Holocaust -- and wondering if her mother did anything to stop it. She said she was shocked to hear that many Americans weren't aware that millions of Jews had died until after World War II ended.
Bachmann said the next generation will ask similar questions about what their elders did to prevent them from facing a huge tax burden.
"I tell you this story because I think in our day and time, there is no analogy to that horrific action," she said, referring to the Holocaust. "But only to say, we are seeing eclipsed in front of our eyes a similar death and a similar taking away. It is this disenfranchisement that I think we have to answer to."
While Michele Bachmann was in Manchester wondering, "What will you say to that next generation about what you did to make sure that wouldn't be their fate?" Mike Huckabee was in Pittsburgh asking the same thing. As the Daily Beast reported, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister told the National Rifle Association that the mounting U.S. national debt is akin to, you guessed it, the Holocaust:
He spoke of how, at Israel's Holocaust museum, he looked over his 11-year-old daughter's shoulder as she wrote in the guest book, "Why didn't somebody do something?" Then he said, "We cannot afford to be a generation that leaves our children with nothing but a huge debt and the very erosion of the freedoms that our founders and our fathers died and gave us so valiantly. And that's why I say, 'Let there never be a time in this country where some father has to look over his daughter's shoulder and see her ask this haunting question: Why didn't somebody do something?'"
Why didn't someone do something is the same question that haunted North. Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx when it came to protecting the bottom lines of for-profit colleges. In her speech to National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the North Carolina Republican appropriated the famous Holocaust maxim to protest federal regulation of for-profit colleges. As Inside Higher Ed reported, Foxx complained that nonprofit, private institutions should have joined in their defense:
"'They came for the for-profits, and I didn't speak up'… Nobody really spoke up like they should have."
For her part, Foxx was only following in the footsteps of her GOP colleague, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland. Federal student loans, he cautioned in 2012, weren't merely unconstitutional, but the first step toward the gas chambers:
"If you can ignore the Constitution to do something good today, tomorrow you will be ignoring the Constitution to do something bad...The Holocaust that occurred in Germany--how in the heck could that happen? And when you start down the wrong road, it can be a very slippery slope."
That’s the same kind of slippery slope, the National Rifle Association and its GOP water carriers warn, which runs from common-sense gun safety legislation directly to the gas chambers.
"In 1939, Germany established gun control," GOP Congressional candidate Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher announced, adding ominously, "From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated." As Salon reported, Mr. Plumber has plenty of company within the ranks of the GOP in spouting the handguns-to-Hitler myth. Calling out Fox News, the Drudge Report, and Ohio Republican Debe Terhar, the Anti-Defamation League lamented that "Holocaust imagery taints gun control debate."
Then there's the issue of abortion. In January 2013, Virginia GOP legislator Dick Black marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by comparing family planning clinics to the Nazi's death camps:
I recall back to the days of Nazi Germany, there was a place called Auschwitz. And over the gates of Auschwitz was a sign, and the sign said "arbeit macht frei," which means roughly "your labors will make you free." People who went behind those doors never returned. Their labors didn't make them free. And I'm reminded that we refer to our clinics as "women's health clinics" and we talk about women's reproductive rights and so forth.
In 2011, the people behind Mississippi's failed "personhood" initiative distributed 600,000 DVDs declaring, "Saying it's OK to choose is the same thing as saying it's OK for Hitler to choose." Again, as Salon reported that year, the Holocaust analogy was one happily shared by some of the leading lights in the Republican Party:
Mike Huckabee, who supported Personhood USA's failed efforts in Mississippi, has often compared the Holocaust and abortion, saying of Nazi extermination, "educated scientists, sophisticated and cultured people looked the other way because they thought it didn't touch them." The day before Phil Bryant was elected governor of Mississippi -- at the same time the state's voters rejected the Personhood amendment -- he evoked the Jews of Nazi Germany "being marched into the oven," because of "the people who were in charge of the government at that time" as an argument to vote for it.
For his part, Ben Shapiro agrees with Huckabee’s “abortion as Holocaust” comparison, having denounced “Planned Parenthood's genocide against the unborn” and “something from the laboratory of Dr. Josef Mengele.” And that goes double for Huckabee’s 2015 slander that President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
Huckabee is right. He didn’t say that Obama is forcibly shoving Jews into ovens. He said that the Obama administration has brought the Israelis to the brink of a second Holocaust, that the Obama administration is complicit in the Iranian desire to achieve that second Holocaust.
Which is exactly what many Republicans and their supporters on the far right have been claiming for years. Protesting tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, Powerline declared, "First, they came for the rich." (Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins agreed, warning that scrutiny of America's 1 percent was leading to a repeat of Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht against the Jews while Blackstone chief Stephen Schwarzman complained that President Obama's proposal to raise tax rates on private equity firms is "like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.")
Michelle Malkin similarly argued, "First, they came for the Catholics." And during the last election, many social conservative leaders warned that voting for Obama could trigger another Holocaust. In so doing, they were just updating the nightmare scenario described by CBN founder and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson after he was criticized by the Miami Herald over his involvement in the 1990 Florida governor's race:
"Do you also have a ghetto chosen to herd the pro-life Catholics and evangelicals into ? Have you designed the appropriate yellow patch that Christians should wear?"
Sadly, the Republican butchery of Holocaust history applies to the Shoah itself. Just one week into his presidency, Donald Trump marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2017 with a statement that proclaimed:
“It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”
Impossible, indeed, if like President Trump, you don’t mention that any of those “innocent people” were Jewish. The chutzpah of the White House didn’t help matters, as press secretary Sean Spicer rejected complaints about the omission as “nitpicking,” “pathetic,” and “ridiculous.” Yet less than three months later, Spicer played—or more accurately, comically misplayed—the Hitler card to justify U.S. strikes against Syria following the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
“You had someone who was as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons. So you have to, if you are Russia, ask yourself is this a country that you and a regime that you want to align yourself with."
As it turned out, one of the people Donald Trump wanted to align himself with was First Assistant Attorney General of Texas Jeffrey Mateer. Last fall, Trump nominated Mateer to a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Ultimately, Mateer’s nomination was withdrawn, and not merely for his comment that transgender children were part of “Satan’s plan.” The hymnal of the man so concerned with religious freedom contained many tunes about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Among them was one concerning an LGBT ordinance in Houston:
“History teaches this, totalitarian governments, what they first attack is freedom of religion, freedom of beliefs. Because they know that strikes at the core of freedom. If they can destroy freedom of conscience, then every other liberty is at stake. And so, we see that in history, whether that be Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia, or Communist China. That's what they strike at first. And it's just a stepping stone to taking away all freedom."
Mateer made the same argument about abortion and the new activism of a Catholic Church which is “waking up” to the threat:
“I think what happens is that when it starts to hit you and it hits your church, you start realizing, 'Oh my, that they come after us.' Of course there's that great quote that comes out of the Nazi Germany, 'First they came for what, the communist, and then they came for the Jews, and then eventually they came for me,' the Niemöller quote. I think when people start realizing, 'Oh, they are coming after me,' they wake up."
“Woke” is certainly not a term frequently associated with America’s right-wing in general or with “Cool Kids Philosopher” Ben Shapiro in particular. (If Godwin’s Law states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1,” the corollary is that the odds that a conservative bemoaning Holocaust analogies previously trafficked in them approaches 100 percent.) That’s why all people regardless of ideology can take Shapiro’s plea for civility with a very large grain of salt:
And Ben Shapiro should know. Not because the former Breitbart propagandist the New York Times elevated as a “provocative ‘gladiator’” for young conservatives complained a year ago after liberal attacks on President Trump’s vicious child separation policy that “Nazi has become a stand-in for ‘thing I don’t like.’ And that means that everything you don’t like becomes ‘Nazi policy.’” No, Shapiro should know better because he’s one of the chief producers of the Holocaust analogies he claims to detest. After all, it was the same Ben Shapiro who called Democrats and the Obama White House “anti-Semitic,” and branded Obama’s a “borderline a Jew-hating administration.” Not to content to rest there, in 2010 Shapiro singled out Rahm Emanuel—one of the many Jewish members of the Obama White House—for special treatment. “Emanuel,” he said, “is a kapo.” And how does the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum define a “kapo?”
A concentration camp prisoner selected to oversee other prisoners on labor details. The term is often used generically for any concentration camp prisoner to whom the SS gave authority over other prisoners.
All of which is why Republicans and their conservative amen corner should abandon their GOP Godwin’s Law and stop the ham-handed comparisons of everything to Adolf Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. Not because it will help them get Jewish votes; GOP positions on health care, taxes, abortion, equal rights and pretty much everything else are simply anathema to Jewish Americans. No, dropping their Hitler talking points will let Republicans do what they do best when it comes to reaching out to members of the Tribe here in the United States: admit the Republicans’ posture toward Israel being largely set by evangelical Christians for whom Jews merely serve as Biblically mandated End Times cannon fodder for the Second Coming of Christ.
After all, even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognizes this. Yes, Bibi used his AIPAC appearance to take aim at Rep. Omar when he said about supporting the high-profile lobbying group, “Take it from this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins.” No, as Haaretz reported, it’s not even about AIPAC, but American evangelicals:
“We don’t need AIPAC anymore,” Benjamin Netanyahu mused to one of his advisers a few months ago. “We have enough support in the United States from the evangelicals. I’d happily give up on AIPAC if we didn’t need to counteract J Street.”
J Street, as you are probably aware, is a liberal Jewish group that, among other positions, supports a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Or, as Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, described J Street in May 2016:
Finally, are [American pro-peace lobby] J Street supporters really as bad as kapos? The answer, actually, is no. They are far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas – it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.
With schmucks like that and their goyim allies, Republicans shouldn’t count on a Jexodus any time soon.