Palin Tweet Helps Normalize “Obama-as-Hitler” Image

Andrew Belonsky :: Friday, June 25th, 2010 3:20 pm

President Obama’s ideological opponents have a habit of comparing him to Adolf Hitler.

Images and placards portraying Obama as Adolf have become part and parcel of Tea Party protests. However lopsided and offensive the juxtaposition may be, it’s not surprising: Hitler was a living nightmare, and provides a readily accessible emblem against which political enemies can effectively be equated.

The Republicans have thus far been wary of the potentially toxic Hitler imagery. It’s a turnoff, to be sure, and far too inflammatory for official approval. That attitude seems to be waning, for two Republican leaders, Rep. Louie Gohmert and Sarah Palin, this week embraced Thomas Sowell’s article that correlates Obama’s handling of BP’s relief fund with Hitler’s pre-Holocaust actions and chastises the “useful idiots” who allowed both men’s “dictatorial” policies. Don’t these right wing leaders realize that their arguments rely on that same species of idiocy?

If Michael Hastings’ Rolling Stone article sparked Stanley McChrystal’s resignation, Sowell’s piece led to the normalization of the Obama-as-Hitler argument. The columnist claims that allowing the White House to distribute the BP-funded relief account echoes Hitler’s 1933 Enabling Act, which the Nazis described as “for the relief of the German people.” “That law gave Hitler dictatorial powers that were used for things going far beyond the relief of the German people,” says Sowell. “Indeed, powers that ultimately brought a rain of destruction down on the German people and on others.” Obama, like Hitler, has seduced mindless masses into supporting an ultimately tyrannical endeavor.

“When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics,” writes Sowell. Lenin would later call this population “useful idiots,” and they were, Sowell points out, “a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.”

The journalist also believes that same brand of idiot has today allowed Obama’s power grab, of which the BP relief fund is but a small component. “If the agreement with BP was an isolated event, perhaps we might hope that it would not be a precedent. But there is nothing isolated about it,” warns Sowell before dropping the c-word: “czar.” It’s a pretty outrageous summation, yes, but that hasn’t stopped some Republicans from using it to their advantage.

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert on Tuesday praised Sowell as “brilliant” and read the “useful idiot” segment on the House floor. He then declared, “We do have useful idiots today, who are heard to say, ‘Wow, what we really need is for the president to be a dictator for a little while.’ They know not what they say.” Obama’s backers are far too ignorant to understand the subtle truths, whatever those may be.

Not one to miss a trend, Sarah Palin also espoused Sowell’s article. “Don’t let the lamestream media suck you into ‘[the GOP is] defending BP over Gulf spill victims’ BS,” Palin wrote on Twitter yesterday. She then continued, “This is about the rule of law vs. an unconstitutional power grab,” before directing her followers to Sowell’s article. No doubt the ever-influential –- and self-aware -– Palin’s endorsement will shore up widespread Tea Party support for Sowell’s thesis. Her followers will believe almost anything she says, and she knows it.

To play the Adolf card eclipses any real engagement. Citizens simply dismiss every Presidential move as tyrannical “because he’s Hitler,” and soon the message becomes so ingrained that voters no longer think for themselves. They buy into incendiary balderdash and fuel an entire political uprising, and that uprising only grows when cult-like officials such as Palin join the fray. Conversation falls by the wayside as political issues are simplified to the point of absurdity. And that’s precisely what we’re seeing from ring-wing arguments equating our Commander-in-Chief with the man responsible for the deaths of about 11 million people.

Obama-as-Hitler is a hackneyed argument that does nothing but shut out true democratic debate. Just as McChrystal’s comments on the president undermined civic authority, so too do intentionally overblown images that distract from the larger political mission.

Political and social leaders should spend their time discussing why or how the government needs to be involved in cleaning up the spill, rather than pushing inflammatory, unproductive rhetoric. Besides, if anything needs a little Hitler imagery, it’s anti-immigrant policies that target specific social groups. As I said, old Adolf’s a readily accessible emblem.

Image via JBrazito’s Flickr.