Congressman’s ‘brown shirt’ comment criticized; Dems want repudiation of Rush


A Democratic congressman’s use of Nazi imagery to describe protesters at town hall meetings is drawing criticism from both the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council. But the NJDC is noting similar rhetoric is coming from the right as well, including Rush Limbaugh’s comparison yesterday of the Democratic Party to the Nazi Party.

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) told the Columbian that he’d be conducting “telephone town halls” with voters instead of appearing in person:

Baird said he’s using the new system because he fears his political opponents may be planning "an ambush" to disrupt his meetings, using methods Baird compared to Nazism.

"What we’re seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics," Baird, D-Vancouver, said in a phone interview. "I mean that very seriously."

RJC executive director Matt Brooks said he found it “very troubling that a member of Congress would resort to such inflammatory and offensive rhetoric.”

“Obviously public opinion is shifting dramatically away from the Democrats’ health care reform legislation and rather than face the citizens of his district openly, Congressman Baird would rather try to stifle discussion and make inappropriate Nazi references about his constituents.”

NJDC president David Harris agreed that Baird’s remarks were inappropriate.

“We think all Holocaust comparisons used in politics are wrong and unfortunate on both sides of the aisle,” said Harris. “We’ve been careful to say over the years that nobody should be engaging in Hitler comparisons, Nazi comparisons.”

But Harris then went to note, though, that many of those comparisons had been coming from activists on the right, noting, as examples, this Obama protester holding a swastika sign at a town hall meeting last week and comments on Thursday by Rush Limbaugh that “Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate" and his comparison of Democrats and Nazis

“It needs to stop,” said Harris, and “it’s time for the Republican Party to stand up and say enough is enough.”

The Democratic Party is now calling on the top Republican Jewish lawmaker to repudiate Limbaugh’s remarks. Here’s Ron’s brief:

"Rush Limbaugh’s comparison of the Democratic Party to the Nazi Party in World War II is as disgusting as it is shocking," said a statement Thursday from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Limbaugh’s use of the Nazi swastika in attempting to make a tasteless political comparison has no place in the public discourse. Just this past weekend, Minority Whip Eric Cantor said that the GOP ‘needs’ Mr. Limbaugh. He should immediately condemn Limbaugh’s hateful rhetoric in the strongest possible terms and encourage Republican Members to do the same."

The reference to Cantor (R-Va.), who is Jewish, arose out of an interview in Ha’aretz; Cantor has in the past said that polarizing figures such as Limbaugh should not dominate the Republican discourse. In the Ha’aretz interview he was making clear that he still feels Limbaugh and other hard-liners have a place in the party.

Limbaugh launched his attack Thursday after U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decried the use of swastikas by protesters at town hall meetings aimed at explaining Obama administration health care proposals. Although it is clear from Pelosi’s remarks that she is not likening the protesters to Nazis — she is instead decrying how the protesters liken Democrats to Nazis — Limbaugh accuses Pelosi of likening Republicans to Nazis.

"She’s running around now claiming that we’re Nazis, that not only are we an unruly mob but that people are showing up wearing swastikas," he said.

Limbaugh then makes a case for Democrats being close to Nazis, citing as examples a truck driver who in 1997 appeared in Congress to back a Clinton-era tax plan and who as a a teenager had tattooed a swastika on his arm. Limbaugh also says the symbol for the Obama health care plan resembles Nazi imagery.

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who founded the Institute on the Holocaust and the Law, called on Republicans to denounce Limbaugh’s comments.

"The Holocaust taught us that silence in the face of evil expression becomes acquiescence to evil," Israel said. "And what Limbaugh said is pure evil."

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