The Drudge Report has linked to a story in which a Republican congressman from Georgia said he fears that President-elect Obama will “establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist or fascist dictatorship.” According to Representative Paul Broun, “It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force. I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may–may not, I hope not–but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism.”
Representative Broun cited a July speech by Obama that has circulated on the Internet, in which the then-Democratic presidential candidate called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military.
“That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist,” says Broun, adding this: “We can’t be lulled into complacency. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I’m not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I’m saying is there is the potential.”
Perhaps the reason Broun’s comments “sound a bit crazy” is because they are a bit crazy. Or more than a bit. For one thing, Representative Broun is criticizing Obama for calling for something that has (more or less) already been created by the Bush Administration: the Citizen Corps, an initiative falling under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. The Citizen Corps is an effort to promote citizen preparedness and participation. It advocates community-based strategies to foster stronger collaboration between citizens and emergency responders. And the Citizen Corps itself has a precedent: civil defense during the Cold War.
I don’t doubt for a moment that Broun represents a fringe view within the GOP. I also don’t doubt for a moment that comments like this will be used to tar the GOP as petty, nasty, insane. This is the kind of stuff the extreme Left said about President Bush on a routine basis and (mostly) got away with. It ought to be discouraged and criticized by sane conservatives at every opportunity.
There will be an impulse for Republicans to roll their eyes and ignore comments like Broun’s, and for understandable reasons. He is someone almost no-one has heard of before, and his words are, on one level, unworthy of a response. On the other hand, there is something to be said about policing one’s own ranks (I hope using that term doesn’t qualify me as Gestapo-like). During the last eight years, during the height of Bush Derangement Syndrome, it would have been commendable if mature Democrats had swatted down some of the comments from the fever swamps, rather than parroting them.
The GOP needs to be seen as embodying high-mindedness, intellectual seriousness, and a bit of grace and class. The best way to be seen in that light is actually to be animated by such things. Saying Barack Obama has the potential to be Hitler is noxious, stupid, and astonishingly self-destructive. And maybe an elected Republican, somewhere, could say so.