Over at New York magazine’s Daily Intel blog, Peter Keating is wondering why the full force of organized American Jewry hasn’t been deployed to demonize critics of the Obama administration.
Keating lists a few instances in which right-wing critics of Obama and especially of his plans to change America’s health-care system compared the president to Hitler and his programs to Nazism. Such comparisons are, of course, not merely over-the-top insults but also vile. Say what you will about the faults of ObamaCare as well as the absurd cult of personality that has grown around the president, but neither he nor his party can or should be compared to the Nazis. Obama is a preening puffed-up poseur who is in love with himself and is pioneering some very bad ideas, but he is no totalitarian. Nor is he a mass-murderer like Hitler. Any comparison between the two or between liberal Democrats and Nazis in general says everything about the people who make such comparisons and nothing about Obama. The simple rule for rational politics is that anyone who invokes Hitler loses the debate as well the respect of right-thinking citizens.
The promiscuous use of the word Holocaust to describe anything bad has gotten out of hand. (I knew we were in trouble several years ago when an episode of the X-Files had one of the heroes saying that a mysterious happening in a lake that killed amphibians was a “frog holocaust.”) Indeed, Keating notes that a Democratic member of Congress recently decried our current system of health care as a “Holocaust in America.”
But what liberal polemicists like Keating and other members of the Obama cheerleading squad want from Jewish groups aren’t merely news releases or the usual attempts at education and outreach in response to such offenses. What they desire is a full-court press of the entire organized Jewish world, whose aim should be to take down Obama’s critics and effectively tar all such dissenters from our Nobel-laureate leader’s plans with the brush of extremism, if not anti-Semitism. The goal is to intimidate all those who take the name of Obama in vain, not just people who foolishly circulate goofy e-mails about his place of birth or religion.
But if Jewish groups — which are, contrary to the myths propagated by the anti-Israel Left, mostly populated by mainstream liberals and not conservatives — are reluctant to do so, they have good reason.
The most obvious reason is that, although liberals say with outrage that criticism against the president entailing the use of Nazi analogies is something new, it isn’t. In fact, for the entire eight years of the administration of George W. Bush, such invective was commonplace. There is virtually nothing nasty put about by the nuts on the Right about Obama that wasn’t already spewed by the Left about Bush and Cheney. Liberals pretend there is something particularly dangerous about right-wingers getting up at town-hall meetings and ranting about the expanding powers of the federal government. But what exactly is the difference between such persons and many antiwar protesters who often used intemperate and insulting rhetoric against Bush all the while displaying contempt for the right of others to free speech?
Liberals chose not to notice the excesses of Code Pink provocateurs or the nonsense spouted by the Moveon.org crowd when the latter was portraying Bush and Cheney as totalitarians extinguishing the flame of American liberty. But when right-wingers behave badly, it isn’t merely a case of protesters losing perspective but the thin edge of a new wave of racism and anti-Semitism. (The irony that the demonization of the state of Israel is primarily a left-wing phenomenon is lost on those who make such accusations.)
Keating is right when he says that “injecting Hitler analogies into subjects like Medicare reimbursement rates renders the Holocaust mundane, as though Nazis simply supported big government, rather than genocide.” But that was just as true when liberals were trying to compare Bush’s successful counterterrorism tactics against al-Qaeda and other Islamists to those of Hitler’s Gestapo. Both sides of the political divide are guilty at times of hypocritically judging their opponents more harshly than their allies. While Jewish groups have an obligation to hold those who employ Holocaust analogies accountable, they would do well to stay out of the sort of partisan crossfire into which Obama’s foot soldiers would like to fling them.