Column No. 45 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - January 27, 2005
In a dispatch from Berlin on December 12, 2004, John B. Judis of The New Republic wrote:
At a small gathering of officials and intellectuals in Berlin, the guests mull -- and finally reject -- a comparison between Bush's United States and Germany's darker past, but they still worry that the United States could be on a ‘slippery slope’ toward religious fanaticism.”
Indeed. As Maureen Dowd noted in the (likely little-noted) last two sentences of another one of her superb columns on Georgite policy in Iraq: “[The Iraqis] may choose to live in a theocracy. Americans did.” And so there you have it, in The New York Times, not just places like the pages of The 15% Solution.
But what about “comparisons between Bush’s America and Germany’s darker past?” Is that an automatic “forget it?” The issue is serious, controversial, and, I believe, does bear careful consideration. Take the following comparisons just between GW and AH. They do make one shiver a bit, don’t they? Yes, there are certainly differences, but examine the similarities. Not necessarily in order of importance they are:
Bush is not quite as open as Hitler was about what his real aims are. After all, Hitler had laid them out in a book – widely unread until it was too late, of course. Bush states his true goals only at closed meetings of his top contributors, or the War Council of the Republican Religious Right, the Council on National Policy, or in public places that nobody (especially Democratic electoral candidates or the Democratic National Committee) ever looks, such as the 2004 Republican National Platform.
In persecuting identity groups, Hitler went after the gays first, most directly, starting in 1934 with the pink triangles gays were forced to wear on their sleeves, moving quickly on to imprisonment and then, shall we say, “elimination.” It might not be fair to say that Bush’s “anti-gay marriage” amendment amounts to starting down the same road. However, the newly elected Republican Senator from North Carolina has called for the banning of all homosexual teachers from all school classrooms, which to some might sound like the beginning of a Nuremberg (could that be Charleston?) Law. I have not heard that Bush has disavowed that Senator’s sentiment.
Hitler's Ministry of Propaganda (MoP) was part of the government. Could it be that Bush’s privatized one, Fox”News”Channel, the Washington Times, Hannibaugh, the bought Armstrong Williams, etc., etc., amounts to the same thing?
Hitler's racism was quite out in the open. Bush's is carried on by winks, nods, and policies that, while they look like one thing, like Civil Rights Act enforcement, are in practice quite another: planning to use the anti-voter fraud provisions of the Civil Rights Act to statutorily limit non-white voting. So there’s a real difference.
Hitler destroyed the Weimar Constitution in one fell swoop, directly amending it with the post-Reichstag Fire “Enabling Act” of March 1933. Bush is going after the US Constitution piecemeal, via such steps as the Patriot Act (see TPJ No. 36), and the arrogation of powers not provided to him by the Constitution, via Executive Order (see TPJ Nos. 19 and 43). So that one might be considered a similarity or a difference.
Hitler mobilized fear, hate, religious bigotry, and intolerance for difference and the "other" as central to his political plan. So does Bush.
Hitler used religion politically and so does Bush. Hitler appealed to both Protestants and reactionary Catholics (Hitler being one of them himself). So does Bush. Another disquieting similarity is that Hitler too thought he was divinely guided.
Hitler had the support of a major portion of the German industrial class. The US industrial class is diminishing in importance, but Bush has the support of major industrial sectors: the extractive and chemical industries, some portions of the remaining manufacturing sector, major portions of the financial, information processing, and retail sales groups. Significant portions of the German ruling elite probably did not agree with Hitler’s racial theories, especially as to his plans for their implementation, and did not think that he ever would get around to implementing them. The same could well be the case in the U.S. for the ruling elite’s view of Bush’s Christian Rightist ideology.
Both had Time Man-of-the-Year covers, although Hitler was awarded only one.
A big difference, so far, is that Bush has no private army, except ad hoc as in the attack on the Miami/Dade election board in 2000 that stopped the recount there that would have likely given Gore the Presidency. Hitler had three private armies of significant size, with spiffy uniforms and real weapons: the Sturm Abteiluing (SA), the street-fighting "Brownshirts;" the Schutzstaffel (SS) which began its existence as his personally loyal private guard; and the Stahlhelm (Steel Helmets) the right-wing WW I veterans' street gang.
Finally, a definite difference: Hitler’s trademark photo showed a bad moustache, a bad hairdo, and a scowl. Bush, in contrast, has good hair and his trademark smirk.
Different? Similar? We present. You decide.