The Washington Post

Nixon, Gestapo, and... McConnel camp maxes out on rhetorical scale

Going there: Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Gestapo. (HO/REUTERS)

Though we heard on Thursday that the conversation (in which McConnell and aides discussed trashing his would-be opponent, Ashley Judd) was said to have been taped by someone standing outside the meeting room, McConnell at first declared that his Louisville, Ky., office had been bugged.

Calling the leak “quite a Nixonian move,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters: “This is what you get from the political left in America. Much like Nixon in Watergate, that is what the political left does these days.”

The senator’s campaign manager Jesse Benton, slammed the “Watergate-style tactics” in an interview with ABC News.

Now, the Loop has documented how Watergate has become an overused reference by both parties for all manner of political chicanery.

Just a day later, Benton ratcheted up, calling the recording a “Gestapo-style” attack.

Ah, now we’re talking! Now it’s not dirty tricks, or even some criminal activity, but comparing the culprits to the Nazis’ evil secret police? Where does one go from there? In the spectrum of truly detestable characters, it seems the McConnell folks have lunged for the outer limit.

Probably so, says Mitchell McKinney, the director of the University of Missouri’s Political Communications Institute. Mentioning the Gestapo “obviously takes us into Hitler-esque territory, and everyone knows that a politician should never mention Hitler. That’s when everyone just rolls their eyes.”

McKinney says the dramatic language might work against the McConnell camp. Overblown rhetoric is actually a warning sign, he says, a sort of “the lady doth protest too much” indication that the speaker is worried, big-time.

“Clearly here, the response is not in proportion to the offense, whatever that might be — and that’s a reflection of their concern about the damage the recording might do.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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