Are Nazi References "Off the Table"?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: May 20, 2008 12:40 PM
President Bush's Nazi/appeasement analogy delivered before the Israeli Parliament has certainly created a lot of controversy.  Pat Buchanan, for example, calls it "playing the Hitler card."

Aside from the irony that liberals have long compared Bush to Hitler, it does seem to be good and safe PR advice to advise politicians to steer clear of making Hitler or Nazi analogies. 

In fact, some believe we should never invoke the comparison.  As a blogger on The American Prospect put it:

North Americans need to forget the events of World War II, including the Holocaust.

Really?  I would argue we should never forget.  As Santayana said:  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."   

Still, the idea that Nazi references are "off the table" seems to be gaining acceptance among pundits.  But what if there really is a direct analogy?  ... And if human nature inexorably leads some to totalitarianism, why eliminate a compelling argument that journalists could use to warn civilization about the threat?

Without a doubt, demagogues have wrongly used -- or over-used -- the Nazi analogy in the past.  As Justin Logan wrote for Cato and American Prospect, "If you live in the United States and want to start a war, the first step is to compare the foreign leader to Adolf Hitler."  As such, it is prudent for those who value freedom to not "cry wolf." 

AsGodwin's law states:  The "overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact."

So what's the solution?  We should resist the pundits' call to declare even legitimate references to Hitlerism and Nazism as out-of-line, but we must also reserve the analogy for appropriate cases.