Huckabee and the Holocaust: Nothing new for Republicans | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 27.07.2015
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Huckabee and the Holocaust: Nothing new for Republicans

Not a man to give in, presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has stood by his comment that an Iran nuclear accord would march "Israelis to the door of the oven." In recent years, Republicans have invoked Hitler an awful lot.

The former Arkansas preacher-governor Mike Huckabee has drawn justified ire for saying US President Barack Obama's administration was "marching Israelis to the door of the oven" by easing sanctions in exchange for Iran's submitting to nuclear inspections. But you've got to give it to the Republican for doubling down, emblazoning the quote over a mashup of the Iranian and Israeli flags, adding his logo, and sending the graphic out from his campaign Twitter account.

Since Obama sought the presidency in 2008, opponents have sought the right broad brush with which to smear him. None has resonated more with - or been repeated more by - Republicans, white nationalists, right-wing media, Tea Partiers and, occasionally, rival Democrats than comparisons to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Not a week after the 2008 election, Georgia Republican Representative Paul Broun said "it may sound a bit crazy and off base," but a campaign pledge by Obama to expand social service programs "was exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany." Months after Obama's 2009 inauguration, Fox News host Glenn Beck compared Obama-era participants in the Americorps civil service program - begun under President Bill Clinton in 1993 - to Hitler's Brownshirts. In 2010, an Iowa Tea Party billboard featured the trio of Obama, Hitler and the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, comrades in arms united only in the Iowan imagination.

Barack Obama: Hitler

The strangest of bedfellows, L-R: Hitler, Obama and Lenin

Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Victoria Jackson found a home at World Net Daily in 2011 for "The 3 Scariest Things About Obama": "private army (like Hitler)," "socialist (like Hitler)" and "media control (like Hitler)." During the run-up to the 2012 election, a Catholic bishop said "Obama, with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path" ... as Hitler (and Josef Stalin, who beat the Nazis during World War II). Eight months after Obama took his second oath of office in 2013, Senator Ted Cruz, now running for president himself, compared Republicans who voted to fund the president's Affordable Care Act to 1930s British premier Neville Chamberlain, "who told the British people, 'Accept the Nazis.'" That continued a long-running Republican tradition of comparing Obamacare to an unspecified Hitlerian health plan.

Obama: Hitler

Anti-Obamacare protesters inexplicably invoke Hitler

In 2014, the California Republican candidate for governor Tim Donnelly compared Obama to Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong Il, Mao Tse Tung and the 18th-century English imperial King George III - because the president had, at various points in his presidency, paid lip service to gun control legislation.

Huckabee's comparison wasn't even the first this year; in January, Republican Representative Randy Weber criticized Obama for not traveling to France in a show of solidarity with world leaders following the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo - and did so by bringing up Hitler. The Texan deleted his tweet, but Twitter users preserved it.

The list is by no means exhaustive. These are merely selected annual highlights. But how is it that the Holocaust could become such low-hanging fruit?

History of Hitler comparisons

Comparisons between a US president and the Nazi dictator have their precedent. In his eight years in power George W. Bush was caricatured as Hitler at more than one peace march. During NATO's 1990s Balkan interventions, Serb nationalists mocked up a Nazi uniform around President Bill Clinton, and in her nascent second campaign for the Democratic nomination Hillary Rodham Clinton has already been branded with the moustache and a swastika by various right-wing outlets.

The iconography appears to end there, though. No one caricatured George H.W. Bush, commander-in-chief from 1989 to '93 and vice president from 1981 to '89, as a Nazi, not for posterity at least. President Ronald Reagan visited a cemetery where Nazis were buried, but escaped any accusations - perhaps because during World War II he played a heroic fighter pilot who punched out an SS officer in a film.

Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon certainly didn't receive annual comparisons to Hitler. Maybe back then the wounds were too fresh, there were too many people still alive who remembered the fight, remembered the horrors, considered the war too much a tragedy to make a cheap political point out of. It didn't hurt that Photoshop didn't appear until 1990 and the Internet had yet to emerge.

Anyway, those days are gone, and the US presidential election is still more than 15 months away. It's a fair bet the Republicans will continue to aim their Hitler tweet cannons at the incumbent and the Democrats in the race, maybe even the Jewish socialist Bernie Sanders. At some point, they might point them at each other.

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