US Senator Robert Byrd, on the floor of Congress, on October 17, has explicitly compared the Bush media operation to that run by Herman Goering, mastermind of the Nazi putsch against the German people.
On the same day, the Associated Press ran a national story linking Prescott Bush to Adolf Hitler. The lead read: "President Bush's grandfather was a director of a bank seized by the federal government because of its ties to a German industrialist who helped bankroll Adolf Hitler's rise to power, government documents show."
That night, CNN ran a "streamer" on the bottom of its all-news programming confirming that "declassified documents show Prescott Bush connections to Nazi finance."
Stories reminding the public that the grandfather of George W. Bush and his United Trust Bank were cited by the US government in 1942 for helping Hitler under the Trading With the Enemies Act, have now spread widely through the major meda.
What's going on here? Are these stories linking Team Bush to the Nazis irrelevant? Mere partisan politics? Or do they indicate a growing public concern with what is actually happening in Washington?
Coming on the floor of the US Senate, Byrd's searing critique indicates that the equation of Team Bush with the Nazi elite has gained a certain mainstream credibility. A conservative Democrat who has represented West Virginia in the Senate for decades, Byrd is one of America's leading Constitutional scholars. He is known as the master of Senate procedures. A passionate student of the English language, his epic orations for peace and the preservation of historic American freedoms are likely to grace school texts for decades to come.
That the cautious, thoughtful Byrd has conjured explicit comparisons between the infamous mass murderer Hermann Goering and the administration of George W. Bush is a stunning commentary on how far to the right the Republicans have really gone. Goering was convicted of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Nazi war crimes tribunal after World War II. He killed himself just before he was to be executed.
That the mainstream media has again found newsworthy the long-established connections between the Bush family and the Nazi Party is also instructive.
For sixty years it has been a matter of public record that Prescott Bush helped finance Hitler's rise to power and world war. Later a US Senator from Connecticut, Prescott was father to President George H.W. Bush and grandfather to George W. Bush. Because legal action was taken, Bush's deeds have been a matter of public record since 1942. They were widely covered in newspapers and electronic media at the time. The history is readily accessible.
But right-wing Bush fanatics continue to deny those ties existed. In a nationally syndicated radio show, conservative talk host Michael Medved recently claimed that Prescott Bush's bank's ties to the Nazis had not been established.
Similar denials have surrounded Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is a matter of public record that his father volunteered for the Austrian Nazi Party and the infamous SA, which engaged in brutal mass murder. Arnold himself has attempted to distance himself from his family's Nazi past. He has made large donations to the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which has tracked Nazi fugitives. His backers now claim he attended an anti-Nazi rally at an early age.
On the other hand, he has been linked to statements admiring Hitler for his speaking ability and his ability to gain a huge following. A past indicating a strong authoritarian nature has also been cause for alarm. In 1975, Schwarzenegger yearned for his own Nazi-style rally, "like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium. And have all those people scream at you and just being [in] total agreement whatever you say."
Widespread allegations linking Karl Rove to family ties of explicit Nazi origin have been withdrawn by Al Marten, who originally publicized them through his web site. But Rove is quoted in Bob Woodward's best-selling BUSH AT WAR as comparing the reaction of a New York Yankee crowd to an appearance by Bush as being "like a nazi rally."
Known as "Bush's Brain," Rove is the GOP's political mastermind. Widely feared for his harsh, vindictive actions, Rove is at the center of allegations that the CIA's Valerie Plame was "outed" in retaliation for a report filed by her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, that contradicted the Bush-Rove line on Saddam Hussein's nuclear program. The disclosure could involve a breach of national security and a ten-year felony.
The ultimate GOP operative, Rove helped engineer the recent redistricting of Texas for expanded Republican control of the Congressional delegation. He may also have helped choreograph the Schwarzenegger campaign, where control of the California state house could vastly enhance the likelihood that Bush will hold the White House in 2004. Along with the Executive, Congress, Judiciary and major media, the GOP now controls governorships of the four largest states, the largest one-party concentration of power in US history.
Bush supporters deny his Nazi family ties have anything to do with Republican policies. Visiting the "sins of the father" (or grandfather) on an offspring has not been considered fair game in US politics.
But after eight years of total assault on Bill Clinton and his family, one can only imagine the media frenzy had Clinton's grandparents been linked to the Soviet Union. Would Rush Limbaugh or Karl Rove have found such ties "irrelevant"?
Does Rush's apparent narcotic addiction resemble that of Hermann Goering? Is he the Right's real minister of propaganda? Do his "dittoheads" resemble the unthinking brownshirts that terrorized millions?
Such things can be hard to hear. In polite society, they can strain "credibility." But blood ties and shallow images were not what Sen. Byrd's comparisons between Bush and Goering were about: they were about Bush's actual behavior.
Like Senator Byrd, tens of millions of Americans are deeply worried that this administration has waged an unprecedented assault on American civil rights and liberties. It has shredded the Constitution and the natural environment as none other in US history. Its unprovoked attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq have prompted thoughtful comparisons to the unprovoked Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. Its illegal detainment center at Guantanamo and its cavalier use of the drug war, the prison system and the powers arrogated through the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security apparatus have brought the US to the brink of dictatorship.
Given the horrific reality of what the GOP is now doing to America and the world, we should be profoundly thankful that the public is uneasy. If Team Bush objects to being compared with the Nazi elite, perhaps it should act less like it.
Too much sad history has been told over the centuries by those who failed to speak plainly and forcefully when the times demanded it.
What the Republicans are doing to America and the world has been seen before. And, it's been stopped before, but only by facing reality.
Speaking Truth to illegitimate power makes dictatorships temporary. That's the only way the SuperPower of Peace can ultimately prevail...which it will.
Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis are co-authors of 'GEORGE W. BUSH VERSUS THE SUPERPOWER OF PEACE', available November 1 from www.freepress.org.
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