The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

GOP congressman quotes Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ to slam Trump’s adversaries as liars

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) quoted an anti-Semitic passage by Adolf Hitler on March 25 in an effort to attack Democrats and the media. (Video: U.S. House of Representatives)

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) took to the House floor on Monday to portray President Trump’s detractors as Nazis but ended up slurring them using an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory drawn verbatim from Adolf Hitler’s writings.

It’s 2019, and the Führer’s magnum opus, “Mein Kampf,” has become a playbook for political combat in Congress, at the very moment that Trump is calling the Democrats “anti-Jewish. ”

Brooks, a five-term Republican, accused Democrats and members of the media of propagating a “big lie” about collusion. The expression was coined by Hitler to describe how Jews used their “unqualified capacity for falsehood” to blame a top German military commander for the country’s losses in World War I. A lie could be so big, Hitler claimed, that it perversely defied disbelief.

It was unclear if Brooks grasped that by leveling charges of the “big lie,” he had inverted his own analogy, making Democrats the equivalent of interwar German and Austrian Jews. He set out to compare the other side to fascists, but he was the one employing a fascist smear — one that, ironically, came to define Nazi propaganda.

“America can either learn from history or be doomed to repeat it,” Brooks warned.

A spokesman for the congressman didn’t return a query from The Washington Post inviting him to elaborate on his analysis.

In the Republican fusillade issuing from Capitol Hill following the summary of a report clearing Trump of coordinating with Russia during the 2016 election, the remarks from Brooks, 64, stood out. Not least thanks to his own promotion efforts: He uploaded a video of the five-minute speech to his YouTube page and retweeted coverage in Yellowhammer News, a conservative website focused on Alabama.

His hands on the lectern, occasionally glancing up from notes, Brooks began: “A ‘big lie’ is a political propaganda technique made famous by Germany’s national socialist German workers’ party, but more on that later. ”

He placed extra emphasis on the word “socialist,” which has returned as the GOP’s favored boogeyman following the rise of a more vocal left-wing flank of the Democratic Party.

It’s true that the so-called big lie is an expression made famous by the Nazis, who were not socialists in any meaningful sense, despite having “National Socialist” in their party’s title. But the Nazi-era accusation gained currency in the Third Reich because it was deployed by Hitler and his followers to depict Jews as traitors to the German nation. The Nazi dictator used the term to blame Jews for propagating the idea that German Gen. Erich Ludendorff, a notorious anti-Semite who had been Paul von Hindenburg’s chief deputy, was to blame for Germany’s defeat in World War I.

“For more than two years, socialist Democrats and their fake news media allies — CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, Washington Post and countless others — have perpetrated the biggest political lie, con, scam and fraud in American history,” Brooks continued, arguing that Attorney General William P. Barr’s conclusions exposed the accusations of collusion as “nothing but a big lie.”

He added that, “If socialists in the fake news media had any honor, they would cleanse their souls and atone for their sins. ”

But he didn’t expect journalists to do so, he said, “Because doubling down is essential to big-lie theory. ”

Invoking the 10th chapter of the first volume of “Mein Kampf,” Brooks explained: “In that vein, I quote from another socialist who mastered big-lie propaganda to a maximum and deadly effect. ”

He went on: “Quote: ‘In the big lie, there is always a certain force of credibility because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily,'” he said.

With a flourish at the climax of his argument, Brooks declared that the words came from “socialist Adolf Hitler, in his book, ‘Mein Kampf.'”

Indeed they did, and the vilification of Jews as treasonous was central not only to Hitler’s worldview but to the Nazi war machine.

On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League called on Brooks to apologize for comparing Democrats to Nazis but made no mention of his decision to deploy rhetoric from “Mein Kampf. ”

The floor speech was not the first time that Brooks has invoked Hitler’s account of his political ideology, which was banned in Germany until its copyright expired in 2015. Much of the text was dictated during the Nazi leader’s nine-month stay in the Landsberg Prison, where he was detained following his failed Beer Hall Putsch.

In a 2015 town hall, as reported, Brooks likened Iran to Nazi Germany, citing illiberal politics practiced in Tehran as a reason American diplomats should discontinue nuclear talks ongoing at that time. He asked his constituents, “Don’t you wish people before World War II had read ‘Mein Kampf’ and paid attention to it and stopped it from ever happening?”

He has also accused Democrats of waging a “war on whites. ”

Brooks, an attorney, held office at the state and local level before he rose to the national stage in 2010. In 2017, he mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who had been tapped as Trump’s attorney general. Republicans instead put forward Roy Moore, who later came under allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors and lost the special election to Democrat Doug Jones.