Crank Call
by Peter Kurth

January 13, 2004

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Gee, only two weeks into the new year and I’ve already got a case of the “what ifs?” What if we had an honest government? What if our media told the truth? What if Americans studied world history, or, for that matter, their own?

Really, you’d think with all those bestselling biographies of the Founding Fathers floating around -– John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, etc. -- people would be learning something. But I guess they never do. “I wander alone, and ponder,” as Adams said. “I muse, I mope, I ruminate. We have not men fit for the times.”

I’m talking about “the Bush and Hitler thing,” as I see it called, the giant flap created last week over a couple of TV ads that never aired. These commercials –- two of them -- were entries in the “Bush in 30 Seconds” campaign, a nationwide competition for anti-Bush TV spots sponsored by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund. According to news reports, one of the submissions “mixed images of Hitler and Nazi militarism with Bush taking the oath of office. The other quoted Hitler and Bush as saying they acted in God's name to vanquish their enemies” –- a statement of fact, inasmuch as both men did, and do, say such things.

Let me repeat: Neither of these commercials was aired. Before being removed, they sat briefly with about 1500 others on the Bush in 30 Seconds Web site, having “slipped through” MoveOn's screening process in violation of its written guidelines asking for no submissions that were “inappropriate for television,” whatever that means.

"None of these was our ad,” explained MoveOn’s co-founder, Wes Boyd, “nor did their appearance constitute endorsement or sponsorship by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund. We do not support the sentiment expressed in the two Hitler submissions.”

Why not, I wonder? I’ve compared Bush to Hitler from the moment of his “election” and I don’t apologize for it. I don’t say they’re the same – I say they’re alike. Both were nonentities before they came to power. Both had no experience for the job. Like Hitler, Bush lies, consistently and constantly, and, like Hitler, he uses ends to justify means. As he said himself, so famously, during the last election, “If this was a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier – just so long as I’m the dictator.”

In fact, there was no one out there to be offended by the Bush-and-Hitler commercials until “Jewish leaders and Republicans” –- I quote the Los Angeles Times -- raised a stink and accused MoveOn of – well, what is the accusation? As of Monday, the only place you could find these ads was on the Web site of the Republican National Committee, beneath a disingenuous rant about “despicable tactics” and a call for all Democratic presidential contenders to disavow the message of some ads that no one saw.

“Such ads are anything but appropriate for television,” says RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, “and MoveOn.org should apologize for posting [them].” MoveOn has apologized for posting them, but apparently this is insufficient penance for the self-incensed.

"To compare the president of the United States, his fight against al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, with the politics of Hitler is ... shameful, it is beyond the pale, and has no place in the legitimate discourse of American politics," says Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “Adolf Hitler was responsible for the greatest crime in the history of mankind – the Holocaust. To compare Hitler to an American President is not only ludicrous, but defames the Holocaust.”

At the same time, Rabbi Hier condemns Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei for saying, over the weekend, that Israel is seeking “an apartheid solution” to the Palestine problem, as evidenced by the great big wall it’s been building around the citizens of the West Bank. And no “debasement” exists, presumably, in the words of Grover Norquist, the Republican Party’s “prophet of permanence,” who recently remarked on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” program that the American estate tax, affecting some two per cent of the population, reflects “the morality of the Holocaust.

“Excuse me,” said “Fresh Air’s” sturdy hostess, Terry Gross. “Excuse me one second. Did you just … compare the estate tax with the Holocaust?”

"No,” said Norquist, fumbling for words, “the morality that says it's okay to do something to a group because they're a small percentage of the population is the morality that says the Holocaust is okay because they didn't target everybody, just a small percentage."

Ah. And there’s nothing wrong, either, I suppose, with New York Post columnist Ralph Peters attacking Howard Dean and his “Internet Gestapo,” as he did last week, right in the middle of the MoveOn fuss. Not a peep about it from Republicans, rabbis or the so-called free press.

"These are the techniques employed by Hitler's Brownshirts,” Peters wrote. “Had Goebbels enjoyed access to the Internet, he would have used the same swarm tactics as Dean's Flannelshirts … It's Goebbels again: Just keep repeating the lies until the lies assume the force of truth.”

The truth, I’m afraid, is that no one owns history, no one owns Hitler and no one owns the Holocaust, not even the Jews. I know what I’m in for when I make that statement, but I believe it needs to be said.

“So far, I've seen nothing to eliminate the possibility that Bush is on the same course as Hitler,” writes an unnamed reader, a survivor of the Nazi occupation of Europe, on the Web site TruthOut.org: “And I've seen far too many analogies to dismiss the possibility. The propaganda. The lies. The rhetoric. The nationalism. The flag waving. The pretext of 'preventive war'.”

Shall we go on? Or have you had enough already?

Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: peterkurth@peterkurth.com. Visit his website at: http://www.peterkurth.com/


Related Article: Bush as Hitler? Let's Be Fair by Alexander Cockburn


Other Articles by Peter Kurth


* A Cynic's Guide to the Top Stories of 2003
* Talking Turkey
* Let Them Drink Coke
* The Gang that Couldn’t Talk Straight On Iraq
* Party Rules








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