The Washington Post

Sorting out the rhetoric in the health care debate


twin [1] w/amter

In her Jan. 23 op-ed column, “Disarm the language police,” Kathleen Parker astutely addressed the dangers of dampening down and sanitizing public discourse. Unfortunately and ironically, she repeated media inaccuracies about my words that have permeated the press for several days. Ms. Parker stated, “You want real trouble in free speechery? Suggest that someone is Hitler-esque or a Nazi, as Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen recently did.” For the record, I never called my Republican colleagues “Nazis” or “Hitler.” And I would never consider doing such a thing. I was shocked to read the first media reports, some saying outright lies and others implying that I’d called my Republican colleagues or opponents of health-care reform Nazis.

Last week, I participated in a colloquy on the House floor about the Republican efforts to repeal health-care reform and their repetition of certain phrases as part of their messaging. In making the case about the fallacy behind the “government takeover of health care” message, I referred to the assertion by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact that it was the “Biggest Lie of 2010.” I said that if a big lie is repeated time and again, people believe it. Then I said, “like Goebbels,” referring to how propaganda is delivered — by repetition — as spelled out by the most infamous propagandist ever known.

And I did not compare the Holocaust to the repeal of health care reform. My only intent was to talk about messaging and falsehoods, not content. I never intended to offend and regret if offense was taken.

Steve Cohen, Washington

The writer, a Tennessee Democrat, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. SIGOK

Hi John. Congressman Cohen did indeed author this letter to the editor. There was one missing word in the letter you sent me so I added it in bold and underline below. And no, we did not issue this letter to anyone else. My daytime phone number is 202.226.7916 and my personal cell is 201.543.7671. Thank you for your time and consideration, John. You are appreciated.

Michael Pagan

Communications Director

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9)


parker twins [2]



If Kathleen Parker wants to correct those who would misconstrue the meaning of Sarah Palin’s deliberately inflammatory metaphors [“Disarm the language police,” op-ed, Jan. 23], she should at least get it right. Ms. Parker is mistaken when she asserts that “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD” is merely “the language of hunting and shooting.” Hunters don’t retreat; it is soldiers and warriors who sometimes need to employ this strategy.

Had Ms. Parker checked Ms. Palin’s Twitter entry and contemporaneous Facebook page (which contained the now-notorious map with gun-sight cross hairs), she would know that it was a metaphoric call to arms against “those House members who voted in favor of Obamacare . . . the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington.” The metaphor is for armed conflict, not hunting, and for “lovers of America” to defend a nation she thinks is under siege.

Steven Amter, Washington


3625 Tilden Street NW, Washington DC 20008

(o) (202) 293 3993 (h) (202) 364-6991


Palin, S. (Posted 2010, March 23). “Don’t Retreat – Reload” Twitter, Sarah Palin. Retrieved from:

Palin, S (Posted 2010, March 23). “Don’t Get Demoralized! Get Organized! Take Back the 20!” Facebook, Sarah Palin.!/notes/sarah-palin/dont-get-demoralized-get-organized-take-back-the-20/373854973434


I am the true author of the letter, which is entirely original, which I wrote solely on my own initiative. I am using my real name and have not posted this letter, or anything similar, to any other entity. I have no involvement with the subject matter other than my own beliefs and opinions.

My cell phone number (not previously given) is (202) 213-3278


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