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Senator likens Republicans to Nazis; Jews go ballistic

So this week it was Senator Byrd.

Last week, if you recall, it was Russell Simmons.

Senator Byrd, who is 87 and one of the longest serving members of the Senate, likened Republican tactics of removing the filibuster option from the Senate procedural rules to Nazi actions pertaining to removal of certain freedoms. The filibuster is a procedural rule that allows a minority of 40 senators to block passage of a bill. There are currently 45 Democratic senators and 55 Republican senators while Congress has a solid Republican majority. In other words, the last remaining option for Democrats seeking to block any Republican moves with respect to laws is the filibuster. Republicans are now trying to eliminate it.

Byrd cited Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s by, in part, pushing legislation through the German parliament that seemed to legitimize his ascension.

“We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men,” Byrd said. “But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends.”

Byrd then quoted historian Alan Bullock, saying Hitler “turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.”

Byrd added, “That is what the nuclear option seeks to do.”

The nuclear option is the Democrats’ nickname for the proposal to end filibusters of judicial nominations.

Needless to say, Abe Foxman was on this like a Muslim suicide bomber on a heavenly virgin.

Foxman of the ADL said the Senator, who was alive and a soon-to-be-member of the KKK when Hitler rose to power, showed

lack of understanding as to who Hitler was…It is hideous, outrageous and offensive for Senator Byrd to suggest that the Republican Party’s tactics could in any way resemble those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party…”

On the political front, Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, issued a written statement:

“With his knowledge of history and his own personal background as a KKK member, he should be ashamed for implying that his political opponents are using Nazi tactics

He then added, with completely disingenuous aplomb, that it was “disgusting” that

“some in the Senate are ready to callously incinerate” senators’ rights to filibuster.

Of course, Byrd’s comment about incineration came about because the Democrats call what the Republicans are trying to do The Nuclear Option.

“There is no excuse for raising the specter of the Holocaust crematoria in a discussion of the Senate filibuster,” Brooks said. “That kind of political heavy-handedness is inappropriate and reprehensible.”

Needless to say, it is even more reprehensible to be a Jew accusing someone of referring to crematoria incineration when it is perfectly clear that the individual is referring to the type of incineration that takes place when a nuclear bomb is dropped on people. In fact, it would seem that the phrase “nuclear option” is quite apt considering the disgusting use a Republican Jew has made of the crematoria and Jewish collective loss in order to fight a political fight that had little to do with Jews or the Jewish people.

I have to wonder what these people are thinking. Byrd is no friend of Israel and has usually resisted voting together in Senate votes of support for the Jewish state. Arab lobby groups that track which politicians are good for Arab interests and those who are bad, typically give Byrd a middling positive score. Still, that would not be a reason to go after him like this.

…And anyway, this is one instance where the context in which he uses the term Nazis has nothing to do with Jews. Byrd is referring to a period in 1933 when the Nazis, after having garnered sufficient votes in the election to have Hitler appointed as Chancellor, initiated a program of undermining the Reichstag – including possibly causing a fire to the building – to the point where they were able to secure complete control of both the Chancellorship and the German legislature so they could begin to wipe out their opponents. They did not go after Jews at this point, but mostly against Socialists and Communists who appeared to stand in their path.

The Danish Center for Holocaust Studies:

The Reichstag Fire

The Reichstag Fire, 27 February, 1933.
On the 27 February 1933 the German Reichstag (parliament building) burned down…
The Nazis convinced President von Hindenburg to sign the so-called ‘Reichstag Fire Decree’ – ‘Decree by the Reich President for the Defence of People and State’ on 28 February 1933. In reality, this decree gave the Reich Chancellor (Hitler) almost unrestricted powers to imprison any political opponent. Hitler used these powers to have communists arrested and thus forced out of the elections.

The Reichstag Fire Decree was originally planned to be in effect for only a brief period of time. In reality, however, it was kept in effect throughout World War II. It was used, among other things, as the legitimisation for Gestapo’s arrests and the confining of people to concentration camps, thus circumventing the regular judicial system.

The Enabling Act

On 23 March 1933 the Nazis succeeded in passing a law that in reality made the Reichstag lose its powers. The so-called ‘Enabling Act’ invested Hitler, as Reich Chancellor, with powers to issue legislation on equal terms with the Reichstag. In other words, he was now personally in control of both the executive and the legislative power. Incredibly, the necessary two thirds of Reichstag members voted in favour of the law, among them several members of the Social Democratic Party.

Opponents

The Jews were not the most important of the opponents after the Nazi takeover. It was far more important for the new people in power to deal with political opponents, particularly the communists. In this respect, the Reichstag Fire Decree constituted the perfect weapon, because it could be used as the formal basis for state-controlled attacks against left-wing politicians.

On 14 July 1933 a law made all other political parties than NSDAP illegal.

Okay, so Byrd was using a little hyperbole here. But essentially, what he means is that the Republicans have taken the 9/11 attack, the “War on Terror,” the Iraq War and other issues (which sometimes have a manufactured air about them, like our sudden “crisis” with gay marriages”) and have used this sense of tension and being under attack not only to create certain facts such as redistricting that almost guarantee them control over Congress, but they are now attempting to shut down the last government mechanism that allows expression of the political will of about 48% of the electorate. He and the other Dems regard this as a “nuclear option” because it destroys any viable opposition to Republican actions.

One could agree with Byrd or disagree with him, and one could accept his analogy or claim he is over the top, since the Republicans seem to prefer beating Democrats in elections rather than imprisoning them, but what does any of this have to do with Jews and Hitler’s relationship to Jews?

Nothing. Nada. Diddly squat.

And yet, there are our community leaders going out there and bringing up the Holocaust because a politician said “Nazi,” “Hitler,” and “incineration.” It’s embarrassing and it’s foolish because if we are ever to use our suffering under the Nazis to express our concerns as Jews, we should be very careful to only do so when it really matters to Jews, and only in the most extreme circumstances. Otherwise, we will look like, uh, you know, that boy who cried “wolf” once too many times.

7 Comments

  1. doug

    3/3/2005 at 3:02 pm

    if joe lieberman said it or almost any dem senator, other than Byrd I’d agree with you. However Byrd is just a little too creepy and his hisory of tolerance fotr the “inferior races” just a little too much to disegard this statement.

  2. T_M

    3/3/2005 at 3:11 pm

    Which one of his statements, Doug?

  3. Timm

    3/4/2005 at 1:04 pm

    I might be extremely liberal about many things, and completely opposed to the “nuclear option”, Byrd’s comments made me sick to my stomach. And he’s not being censored by the Senate for such insensitive remarks…go figure.

  4. T_M

    3/4/2005 at 4:26 pm

    I dunno, I’m more worried about the filibuster option going than Byrd’s comments, because I am dubious about whether one party should control the House and the Presidency to the degree the Republicans do now.

    He used an analogy that is too strong, and false if you dig into the details, and possibly offensive to some. But read what he said and it is not off the mark in the sense that they are trying to turn democratic means to remove a democratic rule that protects the large segment of voters who didn’t vote for them.

    They are seeking to obstruct any opposition whatsoever, and it’s not as if they won 80% of the votes in this election, they didn’t. A majority has to respect the rights of the minority and since the Senate might quash this last vestige of minority influence on the law-making process, I understand Byrd’s deep concern. I think by focusing on his language and analogy, we are giving the Republicans another side issue so they can sidestep the real one – which is that what they are doing is unconscionable. Heck, it should be the Republicans themselves saying this since they were key benefactors of the filibuster when they were in the minority.

  5. ck

    3/4/2005 at 5:21 pm

    Checks and balances, checks and balances, they keep telling me that that’s what US government is all about. Getting rid of the filibuster eliminates one of those checks. Sounds unAmerican to me. Also, the word filibuster just sounds cool, in a dorky civic-minded kind of a way. It would suck if it was no more. I always chuckle when I hear it.

    Filibuster. Filibuster. Filibuster. Filibuster.

    Hee hee hee.

  6. GrandMuffti

    3/5/2005 at 3:48 pm

    Muffti agrees. Fillibuster is a cool word. Furthermore, wouldn’t it be better if Jewish groups didn’t freak out everytime a comparison of anything to the Nazis is made? Amen to TM for pointing out the lack of any real connection to Jewish concerns in the comments. Muffti thinks the analogy to the Nazis is rather strained; but part of th reason the ‘holocaust’ card is becoming less effective is because we complain about these sorts of things so vocally even when our interests are merely marginally implicated.

  7. GrandMuffti

    3/5/2005 at 3:49 pm

    Oy. sorry. Muffti meant to put ‘holocaust card’, rather than ‘holocaust’ card.

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