Were you expecting to hear our national leaders—elected and otherwise—conduct a high-minded, rational, post-partisan national conversation about the future of American health care? Too bad. It’s August, that magical time of year when legislators return to their home districts to face their constituents, and political discourse heads straight into the sandbox. A few days ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a TV reporter, correctly, that protesters have been turning up at rallies against the Democrats’ plans for health-care reform and waving signs emblazoned with swastikas and SS lightning bolts, signifying, we imagine, a link to totalitarianism.
Yesterday, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh decided to swat at Pelosi’s gnat-sized remark by detonating what amounted to an atom bomb; on his program, he highlighted a conservative blogger’s comparison of Obama’s “Organizing for Health Care” logo—a caduceus, the ancient Greek symbol of medicine, perched atop the familiar red-and-blue Obama “O”—to the Nazi image of an eagle spread-winged above a swastika. Immediately, the search term “Obama health care logo” went “volcanic” on Google. Limbaugh added to the point on his web site, where he featured the two images—Obama’s and the Nazis’—fading into one another, along with another of Obama Photoshopped into the place of a Stasi spy, from “The Lives of Others.” (Note to Rush: The East German Communists may have turned out to be totalitarians, but they were Nazi-hating totalitarians.)
For anyone wondering, yes, the ADL has already objected, noting that calling people Nazis just cheapens and trivializes what the actual Nazis did. Which reminds us: Orly, are you listening?
Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.