If any writer had compared President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders to Hitler, I doubt if any major newspaper would have published it. But, as it is, Dana Milbank followed the line of least resistance and broke Godwin’s Law, and did just that toward Trump and Cruz, particularly Trump, in his column of Jan 31.
What is Godwin’s Law? It is basically this: When a person runs low on reason in an argument, the tendency is to resort to comparing opponents to Hitler or the Nazis. When this happens the perpetrator has stooped low enough to be considered the loser in the debate.
Now Godwin recognized that there are rare times that a legitimate comparison to Hitler may be in order.
For instance, if Trump (whose daughter Ivanka is a Jewish convert) really expressed hate toward the Jews or he wanted them exterminated, then yes, the Hitler comparison would be valid. Milbank found no such correlation.
Here are some flimsy reasons he produced, supported by anecdotal opinions of a handful of Jews he interviewed.
▪ Trump is a demagogue, or one that appeals to popular desires and prejudices rather than using rational argument. Actually, one could say the greatest demagoguery of all is to use the Hitler card as a means of attack. Or one could say that Bernie Sanders is a demagogue for appealing to the public’s desire for free stuff. Even if he fits this mold it does not make him like Hitler.
▪ Trump has a plan to register Muslims. The trouble is this is not what Trump said. To this accusation he stated: “I didn't suggest a database — a reporter did. We must defeat Islamic terrorism and have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America.” Obama’s government is already doing more than this in tracking every possible email sent throughout the world.
▪ Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States. At least this is partially true. Trump does want a temporary ban until more security can be established. But this does not correlate to anything Hitler did with the Jews. Jews were not complaining about not being able to get into Nazi Germany. Their complaint was that they couldn’t get out. Muslims here are not complaining that they cannot leave.
▪ Trump retweeted a funny picture of Jeb Bush. It turned out that the picture was sent to him by a guy with a racist background. I’ve got news for you: Many of us resend humorous pictures on Facebook or Twitter and don’t take the time to investigate the belief system of the originator. I’ll bet even Obama has a few racist followers sending him tweets. Snopes fact checkers concluded that Trump probably made an honest mistake.
▪ Trump’s delivery is similar to Hitler’s. This is silly. Anyone who has watched old films of Hitler speaking will see little in comparison. Obama’s guru, Jeremiah Wright, spoke much more on the emotional level like Hitler.
▪ Trump “discredits everybody who disagrees with him.” Most candidates of both parties do this, but it does not make them like Hitler.
Milbank ends with quoting atrocities committed by Hitler that have absolutely no correspondence with any Republican candidate.
Since Cruz and Rubio did well in the Iowa caucus, they will be getting more media attention. Let us hope the media can stay away from the using the Hitler card on them and all other candidates.
Joseph J. Dewey is an author of more than a dozen books and thousands of articles on philosophy.