Jewish Groups Assail Nazi Comparisons Made by Conservatives in Health Care Debate

“Regardless of the political differences and the substantive differences in the debate over health care, the use of Nazi symbolism is outrageous, offensive and inappropriate,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor. “Americans should be able to disagree on the issues without coloring it with Nazi imagery and comparisons to Hitler. This is not where the debate should be at all.”

In this week’s protests at town hall forums, some conservatives have used Nazi imagery to compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler and congressional Democrats to Nazis.

In an interview this week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said of the town hall protestors loudly assailing President Obama’s health care reform push, “I think they are AstroTurf -- you be the judge, carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care. This initiative is funded by the high end. We call it ‘Astroturf,’ it's not really a grass roots movement. It's AstroTurf by some of the wealthiest people of America.”

That some of the protestors are comparing President Obama and congressional Democrats to Adolph Hitler and Nazis is unquestionably true.

That they’re “carrying swastikas and symbols like that” because the protestors themselves are supportive of Hitler and the Nazis, does not seem to be true at all.

Pelosi’s office says she meant the former, not the latter.

Conservatives seized upon the latter.

Yesterday, conservative talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh said that “the Speaker of the House accusing people showing up at these town hall meetings of wearing Swastikas -- that is not insignificant folks. This woman is deranged. They are unraveling. But that is not insignificant. You have the Democrat Speaker of the House saying that people -- citizens -- who are concerned about health care are now wearing Swastikas. She’s basically saying that we are Nazis. She is saying that the people who oppose this are Nazis.”

Limbaugh said it’s liberals, not conservatives, who are the ones who invite the comparison.

“Obama's got a health care logo that's right out of Adolf Hitler's playbook. Now, what are the similarities between the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi Party in Germany? Well, the Nazis were against big business -- they hated big business. And of course we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn. They were against cruelty and vivisection of animals, but in the radical sense of devaluing human life, they banned smoking. They were totally against that. They were for abortion and euthanasia of the undesirables, as we all know, and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized healthcare.”

Limbaugh said that “this is why I have always bristled when I hear people claim conservativism gets close to Nazism. It is liberalism that's the closest you can get to Nazism and socialism. It's all bundled up under the socialist banner. There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy that's being heralded like a Hitler-like logo.”

Limbaugh said, “Oh, another similarity. Obama is asking citizens to rat each other out like Hitler did. Obama's the one that's got the snitch website right out of the White House, , asking citizens to report people who are saying weird, odd things. You know the White House responded, ‘No, no, no, we're not taking names here. We're not taking names. We're just taking people who are putting up faulty arguments and refuting them.’ Well, that's not the intention. Ted Kennedy's dad, by the way, Joe Kennedy, sympathetic to Hitler, sympathetic to the Nazis....[Obama] is sending out his brownshirts to head up opposition to genuine American citizens who want no part of what Barack Obama stands for and is trying to stuff down our throats....Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate. His Cabinet only met once. One day. That was it. Hitler said he didn't need to meet with his Cabinet; he represented the will of the people. He was called the messiah. He said the people spoke through him.”

The ADL’s Foxman specifically said cited Limbaugh’s comparison as offensive, saying “comparisons to the Nazis are deeply offensive and only serve to diminish and trivialize the extent of the Nazi regime’s crimes against humanity and the murder of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust. I don’t see any comparison here. It’s off-center, off-issue and completely inappropriate.”

The American Jewish Congress issued a statement, “The Limbaugh comments comparing Obama ( and Pelosi )to Hitler and the Nazis are grossly offensive and intolerable. They reflect a nasty and hyperbolic tendency on our political culture, one which makes reasoned discourse impossible, confuses disagreement with evil, and which makes it impossible to distinguish evil from ordinary politics. ... It behooves all participants in the political process to unequivocally disavow the comparison and to make it plain that peddlers of such noxious comparison have no place in our politics, no matter how large their audiences. And all Americans should make plain their disgust at the comparisons by talk show hosts by a prompt use of the off button.”

Another such comparison was made in Pueblo, Colorado, shot by an employee of the Democratic-allied Service Employees International Union, as first reported at Talking Points Memo .

In the video, a spokesman for the groups “Patients First” -- part of the conservative group “Americans for Prosperity” -- describing the health care reform bill as pushing euthanasia for the elderly, which he compares to Hitler’s Final Solution for the Jews.

“When you reach 65 and every five years thereafter you’re going to have to have counseling session with some, um, some federal airhead,” he says.

“Part of this process is called End of Life counseling.” He says, a section of House Bill 3200. “And part of End of Life counseling can be an End of Life order. ’End of Life,’ what’s another word for that? ‘Death.’ ‘Order,’ what’s another word for that? A ‘sentence.’”

He says Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Robert Mugabe issued “End of Life” orders -- in their respective genocides.

"Adolf Hitler issued six million end of life orders,” the speaker says. “He called his program the Final Solution. I kind of wonder what we're going to call ours."

In House Resolution 3200, page 425 refers to “advance care planning consultation,” defined as a senior and a medical practitioner discussing “advance care planning, if…the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years.” This includes an “explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to,” an “explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses,” and an “explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.”

It directs the medical provider to give the patients “a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning,” and an explanation “of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title,” as well as “an explanation of orders regarding life sustaining treatment or similar orders.” says the “accepted definition of end-of-life planning means thinking ahead about the care you would like to receive at the end of your life -- which may include the choice to reject extraordinary measures of life support, or the choice to embrace them….the bill would not make these sessions mandatory.”

Liberal Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, pointing out how many conservatives and Jewish groups condemned in 2004 for two video ad submissions that compared President George W. Bush to Hitler, has challenged the same groups and individuals to condemn Limbaugh.

-- jpt

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