Radio talker pours fuel on the fire of raging health care debate
“Rush Limbaugh’s remarks comparing Democrats to Nazis drew swift condemnation from many corners of the Jewish community — and also sparked a fight between Jewish Democrats and Republicans over which side isn’t doing enough to stop the use of such analogies,” writes JTA’s Washington correspondent Eric Fingerhut.
The raucous, sometimes uncivil discussion about health care reform has produced some Nazi/Hitler analogies, from Limbaugh and other pundits, in the cause of characterizing reform of the health insurance system as a demonic plot. It has produced the latest clique of conspiracy theorists, the “deathers,” who think believe that there is a euthanasia proposal tucked into the 500-page health care reform legislation.
(In the way of background, the “truthers” are those who contend that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the Bush administration, and the “birthers” refuse to acknowledge the evidence that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.)
The intemperate attacks on health care reform more and more resemble the sleazy ad hominem attacks on Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. Back then he was a Muslim — now he’s Hitler.
Fingerhut wrote on Monday:
The latest flap erupted last week with Limbaugh’s remarks on his nationally syndicated radio show. He was upset that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had noted that some of those protesting the Obama health care plan at town meetings across the country had carried signs bearing swastikas.
Limbaugh responded that the similarities between the Obama health care logo and the Nazi logo were “overwhelming,” then launched into a lengthy comparison of “the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi Party in Germany.”
“Well, the Nazis were against big business,” Limbaugh said. “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 of mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working, one of which was the Autobahn.”
Jewish groups criticized the remarks, saying they not only were insensitive to Holocaust victims but also undermined American democracy.
Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, formerly of the University of Minnesota, decried Limbaugh’s comments in an article published on the MSNBC Web site. Caplan argues thatÂ Limbaugh “and those invoking the Nazi analogy to attack President Barack Obama’s effort to reform health care in America are not “insane” as David Brooks pronounced on last Sunday’s Meet the Press. Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the rest of the loud-mouthed right wing are, when they even hint at an analogy to the Nazis in talking about Obama’s health reform effort, engaged in something far worse than insanity. They are engaged in the vile evil of Holocaust denial.”
On the complaints of the “deathers” and the pundits stoking the passions of those who have a visceral hatred of Obama and the Democrats, Caplan concludes:
When the right wing, in their distaste for the President’s push to reform a heath care system that even the American Medical Association and the pharmaceutical industry recognize has to be fixed, suggest that the disabled will be targeted, or that the elderly will be killed or find themselves without health care due to rationing by government bureaucrats as happened in Nazi Germany, they marginalize the gross evil that was the racial bigotry that fueled Nazi programs to euthanize, sterilize, experiment upon and torture people in places that were in no way connected to hospitals, clinics or nursing homes.
There is plenty to debate about health reform. But there is nothing to debate about the contemptible introduction of references, direct or oblique, to Nazi Germany. To do so is to engage in Holocaust denial. To do that is, as those Americans of the greatest generation who died or were injured fighting the Nazi menace well understood, inexcusable.
We have not heard the end of arguments in the health care debate. Indeed, the Washington Post recently reported that more than $52 million has been spent this year on health care reform-related ads, according to theÂ Campaign Media Analysis Group, “setting the stage for what may be a record-breaking legislative battle.”
Air time is being purchase by drugmakers, labor unions, the Republican and Democratic parties, and, of course, health insurance companies, in a media onslaught that is being compared to the 2008 presidential campaign advertising.
Evan Tracey, CMAG’s chief operating officer, told the newspaper:Â “This has the potential to certainly be the biggest [ever] as far as an advocacy advertising campaign goes.” — Mordecai Specktor