At the end of the first week in January the RNC lashed out furiously at a Democratic website Move0n.org for including in its featured entrants for robust campaign ads for 2004 a couple that offered Bush/Hitler comparisons.
One features Hitler making a speech, cross cut with footage of the Nazi blitzkrieg, while a voiceover says "A nation warped by lies lies fuel fear fear fuels aggression invasion occupation." As the scene fades from Hitler giving a raised arm salute to Bush with his hand raised at his inauguration, the voice-over says, "What were war crimes in 1945 is foreign policy in 2003."
The second ad shows Hitler, speaking in German, with a voiceover translating the lines as "We have taken new measures to protect our homeland, I believe I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator." Then, as Hitler continues to speak, the voiceover says, "God told me to strike Al-Qaeda, and I struck him." The visage of A. Hitler becomes that of G. Bush and the voiceover continues, "and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did." "Sound familiar?" the voiceover sinisterly proclaims.
As a way of enticing undecided voters to vote against George Bush next November, both ads seem a trifle heavy-handed, which is probably why MoveOn.org's audience didn't include them in the 15 finalists. But this didn't stop the RNC screaming. Somewhat cravenly, MoveOn's Eli Pariser then said his group "regrets" the brief appearance of the two ads on the MoveOn website. They're gone now, though as of January 6 you could find the scripts of the offending two on the RNC's site.
Hitler/Bush comparisons began their current vogue after an article by Dave Lindorff appeared last February, here on CounterPunch.org, to which Lindorff is a regular and valued contributor.
In a full bore attack on Bush-as-warmonger Lindorff swept into an impassioned finale, declaring that "we must begin exposing George W. Bush and his War Party for what they are: craven usurpers aiming at nothing less than the undermining of all those things that most of us hold dear.
"It's going a bit far to compare the Bush of 2003 to the Hitler of 1933. Bush simply is not the orator that Hitler was. But comparisons of the Bush Administration's fear mongering tactics to those practiced so successfully and with such terrible results by HItler and Goebbels on the German people and their Weimar Republic are not at all out of line."
I thought Lindorff's measured assessment of the two leaders' rhetorical talents indicated appropriate objectivity, but our CounterPunch inbox was soon crammed with furious denunciations of Lindorff from Bush supporters. Then in July one of the Wall Street Journal's mad-dogs in residence, James Taranto, did us a favor by taking a passing jab at CounterPunch as "an outfit whose staple is stuff comparing Bush to Hitler". There were other useful attacks in the National Review and Washington Times.
Of course this allowed Lindorff to return to the scene of the crime, with further measured comparisons between the Bush administration and the Third Reich, such as shared propensities to warmongering, melding of corporate and political elites, recourse to the Big Lie, contempt for civil liberties and due process. Such kinship notwithstanding, In that spirit of fair play for which CounterPunch is justly renowned, Lindorff judiciously reminded our readers that "we may not yet have a dictatorship" and that "while he has rounded up some Arab and Muslim men purely because of their ethnicity or religion, Bush has not started gassing them--at least not yet".
I don't think you'd sort that sort of gentlemanly sense of fair play and politeness from the likes of the ordure-encrusted Taranto or that fat, lying drug-addicted hypocrite, Rush Limbaugh. Earlier this week Lindorff argued on our site that the two ads dumped by MoveOn.org are pretty good.
My problem with the Hitler-Bush pairing is not so much the comparison per se which is solidly in the respectable mainstream of political abuse, but in the strange hysteria of Democrats about Bush as a leader of such consummate evil, so vile that any Democrat would be preferable. Any Democrat? George Bush is by definition a warmonger, but Wesley Clark, one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination, actually issued an order that could have sparked Armageddon. Back in the war on Yugoslavia, in his capacity as NATO's Supreme Commander, Clark ordered the British general, Sir Michael Jackson, to block Russian planes about to land at Pristina airport. Jackson refused to obey, declaring in one furious exchange quoted in Newsweek, "I'm not going to start the Third World War for you".
The central political issue this year is the absolute corruption of the political system and of the two parties that share the spoils. Wherever one looks, at the gerrymandered districts, the balloting methods, the fund raising, corruption steams like fumes from a vast swamp. To rail about Bush as Hitler is to blur what should be the proper focus. If you want to hear an American answer to Hitler-as-warmonger at full tilt go and read the speeches John F Kennedy was making and planning to make when he was shot.
Hitler, genocidal monster that he was, was also the first practicing Keynesian leader. When he came to power in 1933 unemployment stood at 40 per cent. Economic recovery came without the stimulus of arms spending. Hitler wanted a larger population, so construction subsidies produced a housing boom. There were vast public works such as the autobahns. He paid little attention to the deficit or to the protests of the bankers about his policies. Interest rates were kept low and though wages were pegged, family income increased by reason of full employment. By 1936 unemployment had sunk to one per cent. German military spending remained low until 1939.
Not just Bush but Howard Dean and the Democrats could learn a few lessons in economic policy from that early, Keynesian Hitler, whose hostility to unions they also echo. As for warmongering, American presidents and would-be presidents don't need lessons from anyone. As Hitler freely acknowledged in his campaign bio, Mein Kampf, the debt was the other way round.
Alexander Cockburn is coeditor of The Politics of Anti-Semitism, and the author of The Golden Age is In Us (Verso, 1995) and 5 Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond (Verso, 2000) with Jeffrey St. Clair. Cockburn and St. Clair are the editors of CounterPunch, where this article first appeared.
* Related Article: 27 Similarities between Hitler and President Bush by Edward Jayne
Other Recent Articles by Alexander Cockburn
London and Miami: A Tale of Cops in Two Cities