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Post Partisan
Posted at 06:44 PM ET, 10/05/2011

Obama, Hitler and Hank Williams Jr.


“Obama, Hitler and Hank Williams Jr.” is not a headline one ever could have imagined writing. But then, who could have thought that we would become so idiotic?

Let’s be perfectly clear: Barack Obama is not Adolf Hitler. He doesn’t even look like him. Unless, that is, you paint a skinny mustache on him. Even then, he only looks like Obama with a Hitler mustache. Or Charlie Chaplin.

Obama obviously has never done anything to remotely suggest a Hitler comparison, but as I read Wednesday’s headlines, Hank Williams Jr. apparently compared the president of the United States to Hitler.

OMG. This has never happened before. Except for the 13,900,000 mentions that pop up when you Google George W. Bush and Hitler.

And who knew that Hank Williams Jr. was still alive? Kidding, kidding.

But there are a few of us out here who don’t watch “Monday Night Football” and so were only vaguely aware that, for the past 20 years, Williams’s song “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” has opened the TV festivities each week. (This doesn’t mean he was still alive, it seems reasonable to mention.)

Make that did open. ESPN has benched the singer for saying that which cannot be said. Or something. It’s hard to say what caused this tempest to erupt.

In fact, Williams didn’t really compare Obama to Hitler. What he said was that Obama playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner was like Hitler playing with Benjamin Netanyahu. Get it? Two guys who are enemies aren’t likely to play golf.

Though clumsy and not necessarily true, it’s not a bad analogy for a country singer. Not that country singers aren’t clever, I hasten to add. Or that they are analogy-averse. But clearly Williams is neither a pundit nor a politician and was just speaking his mind in what he considered a fairly friendly environment. That’s why they call it “Fox and Friends,” isn’t it?

Williams’s obvious intent was to say that political enemies don’t golf together, even though they surely do. But must we always be so literal? Why not burn down an embassy and some effigies while we’re at it? Williams himself subsequently explained his thinking, citing Obama and Vice President Biden as “the enemy,” politically speaking. But this was not enough in our pitchfork-grabbin’, burn-the-heretic political culture.

In dropping Williams’s song from Monday night’s really big show, ESPN issued a statement that read in part: “We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast.”

Oh, harrumph-harrumph.

Within the usual span of nanotime — that is, immediately — Williams was excoriated by the usual chorus of excoriators. How dare he compare the president of the United States to Hitler. (See Paragraph Four.)

I’m certainly not defending Williams for his weak, free-associative powers. I wrote ages ago that we should retire the name Hitler for all time except when specifically discussing World War II and/or the Holocaust. His name is too convenient, though one wonders whatever happened to Attila the Hun. And of course, invoking Hitler trivializes that which defines horrific.

As everyone including Williams knows, disagreeing with the president does not make him horrible or scary and certainly no mass murderer. But should making a clumsy analogy intended to convey a broader idea cause one to be cast into the outer darkness?

Following the template for public atonement, Williams apologized for his poor choice of words. He thanked his supporters. No word yet about whether he’ll enter rehab. Meanwhile, back on the mother planet, Earthlings went about their daily tribulations, variously rending their garments or rolling their eyes.

My own days will not be less bright without Williams opening “Monday Night Football,” should his sentence to purgatory be extended. I will miss him the way, say, Bush misses being compared to Hitler. But until the outraged are willing to be evenhanded in their defense of civility, perhaps we might let sleeping amateur pundits lie.

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By  |  06:44 PM ET, 10/05/2011

 
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