Michael's Essay: Playing the Hitler Card


Adolph Hitler is making a comeback ---- big time. Yes friends, after his last club date when he bombed so badly in the Berlin Bunker, we all thought we had heard the last of the Aryan Anschlusser. But no, he's on the hate circuit once again. He's even made it into the House of Commons, which is a notoriously tough room.

During a recent debate about our troops in Afghanistan, the prime minister reached back 74 years to attack the former leader of the former CCF for being soft on Hitler. This is what he said: "Unlike the NDP, we are not going to ideologically have a position regardless of circumstances. The leader of the NDP in 1939 did not even want to support the war against Hitler."

When someone pointed out that the NDP didn't come into existence until 16 years after the Hitler war ended, he said: "Okay, it was the CCF: same difference."  The next day, Foreign Minister John Baird, the Bard of the Conservative caucus, piled onto the attack on CCF Leader J.S. Woodsworth, who has been dead for generations.

Mr. Baird, an avid history buff, is known as the Arnold Toynbee of Ottawa West-Nepean. When Mr. Baird begins to expatiate on the CCF cozying up to Hitler, it's best to put down our spoon and listen. As it happens, the Reverend J.S. Woodsworth is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest Parliamentarians in the history of the country, probably responsible for bringing to life the universal old age pension. He was a mild-mannered but tough-minded progressive. He was, however, a lifelong pacifist.

The CCF voted to support Canada's entry into the war, Mr. Woodsworth being the only holdout; for him it was a matter of conscience.

Mr. Baird and Mr. Harper were playing what is called in the US, the Hitler Card.
Since the election of Barack Obama, playing the Hitler card has become a popular political pastime.

It is an important and useful part of the Republican Party and Tea Party political tool chests, to compare Obama to Hitler and the Democrats to National Socialists, at every opportunity.

Thus Mr. Baird and Mr. Harper joined the ranks of such luminaries as fabled teevee crackpot Glenn Beck, the former part-time governor of Alaska --- and talk radio Slut King Rush Limbaugh.

Playing the Hitler Card is not the same as playing the Taliban Card.

The Conservative minority government took delight in referring to the late leader of the NDP as Taliban Jack Layton.

Mr. Layton was pushing for peace talks with the Taliban insurgents, which of course is what is happening  at the moment.

Comparing one's political opponents to Hitler and their adherents to members of the Nazi Party, well, it sort of shuts down conversation. It's embarrassing for politicians to have to stand up and produce documents which show they are not Hitler.

I don't suppose it matters much when Linda Ronstadt calls the Bush administration a new bunch of Hitlers.

Or when the very strange Senator Rick Santorum calls anybody opposed to George Bush "just like Hitler in 1942."

Nevertheless, constantly referencing Hitler is unnerving.

The list of neo-Hitlers grows longer by the day: George Bush of course, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Moammar Gaddaffi, Manuel Noriega. The re-emergence of Hitler is everywhere.

Perhaps the NDP should respond to the Conservatives' attack on their guy by going after  former Tory party leaders.

What about the Canadian Pacific scandal of John A. MacDonald? Is there funny stuff, bribery and such, still going on in the Treasury?

And forget the current fiasco over the F-35s. What about the Conservative prime minister canceling the Avro Arrow, a crime that to this day cries out to heaven for justice. But the Opposition should be careful.

Once politicians play the infamous Diefenbaker Card, there's no turning back.

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