Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert was back at it stirring the pot on Twitter the other day, calling public health workers who are conducting door-to-door vaccination outreach “Needle Nazis” in a July 8 tweet. And her usual detractors bent on unseating the first-term, headline-making Republican congresswoman were back at it, too, thundering with ritual indignation.
The offending tweet, as reported by The Gazette, warned: “Biden has deployed his Needle Nazis to Mesa County. … The people of my district are more than smart enough to make their own decisions about the experimental vaccine and don’t need coercion by federal agents. Did I wake up in Communist China?”
That drew a letter to Boebert’s office from the Colorado Democratic Party on Wednesday demanding an apology. A party spokesman said the letter was signed by dozens of Boebert’s “Jewish and non-Jewish constituents,” and some Jewish state lawmakers.
“Let us be clear: trivializing the Holocaust to score cheap political points is insulting to the memory of those who were murdered, and that is what your statement calling public health workers ‘Needle Nazis’ has done,” the letter said.
Of course, Boebert is in good company — or bad, depending on your view of the Biden administration. Colorado Democrats might not recall it was the president who invoked the specter of Nazi Germany just last fall on the campaign trail against then-President Trump.
Fending off Trump campaign charges that he was peddling socialism, Biden retorted on MSNBC last September that Trump was “sort of like Goebbels,” the architect of Adolf Hitler’s propaganda machine. “You say the lie long enough, keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it, it becomes common knowledge.”
President Joe Biden apparently thought the analogy so apt, he recycled it this year to express his distaste for firebrand Republican U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, of Missouri and Texas, respectively. Incensed at Hawley and Cruz for supporting Trump’s claims of election fraud, Biden denounced the two in his trademark, meandering style at a Jan. 8 news conference in Wilmington, Del., as captured on C-SPAN:
“They’re part of a big lie. I was being reminded by a friend of mine, maybe you were with me, I can’t recall … that, you know, with the great lie, keep repeating the lie, keep repeating the lie. There was a point when Dresden was firebombed, 250 people that were killed. Or, was it 2,500 people that were killed. And Goebbels said no, 25,000 — or 250,000 were killed. And our papers printed that. Our papers printed it. That’s a big lie.”
The president’s rendering of history aside — an official German government commission concluded in 2008 that about 25,000 perished in the Allied air raid on the German city — he evidently had no qualms about invoking the imagery of wartime Nazi propaganda to chide two Republican pols.
Nazi-fying one’s foes is in fact well-traveled territory. Longtime Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby captured it particularly well in a commentary he penned the better part of two decades ago. Even then, Nazi references, as well as the manufactured outrage over their use, had long since exceeded their shelf life.
“The most striking thing about the uproar over Illinois Senator Dick Durbin’s comparison of American servicemen to ‘Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or ... Pol Pot’ is that his grotesque comparison even caused an uproar in the first place. …
“When another Senate Democrat, West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, declared a few months ago that the Republican effort to bar filibusters on judicial nominations was no different from Hitler’s strategy to achieve dictatorial power, where was the storm of protest? When Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Rick Santorum, on the other side of the same debate, said of Democrats objecting to the GOP’s stand, ‘It’s the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, “I’m in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city? It’s mine,’” why was there no outpouring of censure? When pundit Robert Novak, at still another point in the filibuster controversy, fumed that for Republicans to consider compromising with Democrats would be ‘like going to a concentration camp and picking out which people go to the death chamber,’ how many commentators and talk-show hosts erupted in outrage and contempt?”
For all of our political differences as a society, we at least should be able to agree that “Nazi” and its spinoffs are well past their freshness date as political barbs. And for that very reason, maybe we also can agree that orchestrated indignation over their misuse is just as stale.
The Gazette editorial board