A leading Jewish advocacy group today brought its influence to bear on the increasingly vitriolic healthcare debate.
The Anti-Defamation League called the use of Nazi images by some opponents of healthcare overhaul “outrageous, deeply offensive and inappropriate.
The group, which bills itself as the leading opponent of anti-Semitism, also condemned remarks by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who compared President Obama’s health care logo to a swastika, and policies championed by the Democratic Party to those of the Nazis.
“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,” Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director and a Holocaust survivor, said in a statement. “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.”
Limbaugh, on his show Thursday, said, "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."
Some who have been protesting Obama's healthcare plans at town hall events being held by members of Congress during their recess have taken to putting Hitler-like moustaches on Obama's image.
“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,” Foxman added. “I don’t see any comparison here. It’s off-center, off-issue and completely inappropriate.”
UPDATE: The Simon Wiesenthal Center added its opprobrium.
“It is prepostrous to try and make a connection between the President’s health care logo and the Nazi Party symbol, the Reichsadler,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center's founder and dean, said in a statement.
"Americans have every right to be critical of the president’s healthcare plan but we demean ourselves and everything that America stands for when we compare either Democrats or Republicans to the Nazi Third Reich. Some of us may be too liberal and others too conservative, but none of us are Nazis.”
The Democratic National Committee has called on congressional Republicans to disavow the comments -- to no avail, so far.
"It's disgusting that rather than condemning this hate filled symbolism and mob activity, the highest echelons of the Republican party from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck on down, are encouraging it - and that the likes of Michael Steele, Eric Cantor and John Boehner are fanning the flames of this is reprehensible. The repeated use of Nazi symbolism at community meetings by the Republican incited mob proves that these protests have nothing to do with health care, but rather that the Republican party is willing to sink to the lowest, most despicable levels to accomplish their goal of "breaking" President Obama. As we saw last fall, this is exactly the type of hateful tone that the American people overwhelmingly rejected and these Republican tactics will no doubt backfire once again," DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said in a statement.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.