Correction to This Article
A March 26 Outlook article by Katrina Vanden Heuvel on the use of Nazi analogies in political debate misquoted a Feb. 1 speech by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond. In a critique of the Republican Party, Bond said, "Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side."
Update Our Insults New Names to Call

By Katrina Vanden Heuvel
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Here's a modest proposal for improving national political discussion: Stop equating our opponents with famous dictators, their chief executioners, police apparatus or ideologies. I'm all for learning from history, but times are hard enough in American politics -- with war, threats to national security, the greatest divide between rich and poor in our history and deep cultural divisions. Present differences deserve to be described in contemporary terms. The purpose of public speech is not just to restate anger but to clarify the principles and evidence that fuel it -- in ways that invite discussion, not inhibit it. The demons are already among us -- so let's muster up some new analogies and declare a ceasefire on such demonizing rhetoric as this:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

"I mean, we've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He's a person who was elected legally -- just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally." (February 2006)

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), on the "nuclear option" of eliminating the filibuster:

"Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal. That is what the nuclear option seeks to do." (March 2005)

Author Michael Crichton, on a Senate global warming hearing:

"It's all like a Stalinist show trial. The senators all get up and make their statements and leave. No one listens." (March 2006)

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, on Republicans:

"The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side." (February 2006)

"Focus on the Family" founder James Dobson, on stem cell research:

"In World War II, the Nazis experimented on human beings in horrible ways in the concentration camps, and I imagine, if you wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefited mankind." (August 2005)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), on Guantanamo abuse:

"You would believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners." (June 2005)

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), on Democrats protesting the nuclear option:

"[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.' " (May 2005)

Entertainer Harry Belafonte:

"We've come to this dark time in which the new Gestapo of Homeland Security lurks here, where citizens are having their rights suspended." (January 2006)

Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, on those who support the estate tax:

"That's the morality of the Holocaust. 'Well, it's only a small percentage,' you know. . . the morality that says it's okay to do something to a group because they're a small percentage of the population." (October 2003)

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), describing Guantanamo detainees:

"Hitler, in his philosophy, was, you know, he hated Jews, he was murdering Jews, and there were some people he liked. But he never went to the level that these [extremists] are going to." (July 2005)

Commentator Michael Savage, on George Soros's campaigning against Bush:

"I couldn't believe what I heard when I turned on C-SPAN today, and heard billionaire George Goebbels Soros attacking Bush." (June 2004)

Humanities professor Camille Paglia, on students tape-recording professors as evidence of liberal bias:

"When students become snitches, we are heading toward dictatorship by Mao's Red Guards or Hitler Youth." (March 2006)

Katrina Vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of the Nation.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company