Our presidential election year has barely started, and already left-wing troublemakers are getting away with murder. In 2000, the NAACP produced an ad featuring James Byrd's daughter suggesting George W. Bush was forcing her to relive her father's pickup-dragging death by refusing to sign a "hate crimes" law. Now the radical haters at MoveOn.Org have used their Internet space to show ads comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler, and the media, so quick to condemn any negative ads produced by Republicans, are giving them a free ride.
Two 30-second Hitler spots were among more than 1,500 entries for a contest MoveOn.org sponsored to find one that ''tells the truth about George Bush's policies.'' The rules promised that "we're not going to post anything that would be inappropriate for television," signaling it's perfectly appropriate to compare the president to the author of the Holocaust.
One ad put graphics over pictures of Hitler speaking in German, graphics that somehow made Hitler and Bush both megalomaniacs channeling the will of God. "I believe I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator ... God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did." The ad ends with the words ''Sound familiar?'' on a black-and-white screen. The other Bush-Hitler ad ended with the message "What were war crimes in 1945 is foreign policy in 2003."
Republicans were understandably furious. "This is the worst and most vile form of hate speech," protested Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. Jewish groups also denounced the incivility. "Their lack of discretion cheapens the level of political discourse in America," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Even soul mates of the group were aghast. Liberal foreign policy analyst Mel Goodman, who was recommended to reporters a few weeks ago by MoveOn.org publicists, denied any connection to the group and said their ads were "beneath contempt."
Wes Boyd, a MoveOn.org founder, fired back, claiming Republicans were somehow "deliberately and maliciously" misleading the public by asserting that MoveOn.org had sponsored the advertisements, but even Boyd had to confess the group's officials "deeply regret" that the ads "slipped through our screening process."
Guess who did not have any criticism for this hate-mongering group? Democratic candidates and the liberal news media. News coverage ranged from the minimal and dismissive (Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, ABC) to the nonexistent (CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR). And it's not because they consider the group, or its ads, to be irrelevant. Last July, NBC's Katie Couric aired one of the group's Bush attack ads (with a graphic over Bush's face reading "MISLEADER") to her millions of viewers. She suggested to Tim Russert: "As we look at background video, Tim, of an ad that's being put out by a group called MoveOn. ... It was started by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs frustrated by the political process." In the midst of this video press release, Katie couldn't even identify them as liberal. They were just "frustrated." Now that these "entrepreneurs" have been exposed as leftist hate-mongers, NBC is silent.
Comparing an American president to the fiendish fascist architect of death camps used to be seen as beyond the pale, the kind of ridiculous attack you might expect in the 1960s from wild-eyed SDS types. Now it's the message of the most active leftist political group in America, and it doesn't even merit a mention on the networks.
Maybe that's because some journalists themselves are using that hateful rhetoric.
As the Drudge Report was spreading the word of the Bush-Hitler ads on the World Wide Web, Couric was on the air bashing Tom Ridge, the Secretary of Homeland Security, for having the audacity to require that foreigners who want to visit America first submit to having their fingerprints done. She posed this question: "A Brazilian judge said -- compared the new security plans to Nazi horrors, saying, 'I consider the act absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis.' How do you respond to that?"
It's too bad Ridge didn't answer this way: "Katie, do you really mean to suggest that your news judgment tells you that it's a completely reasonable public statement to compare requiring a little ink on your fingertips with burning bodies in the furnaces of Auschwitz?"
What was true 20 or 30 years ago about public civility remains true today. Comparing American political figures or policies to Nazi Germany -- unless it's the actions of the American Nazi Party or their ilk -- is the first mark of a reckless kook. It's just too bad that the kooks now include the Democratic establishment and the liberal media.