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Defining Stalinism Down:

From a Rush Limbaugh interview of Vice-President Cheney:

Q One more, and that's the recess appointment of Sam Fox. Sam Fox is from my home state, and I know Sam Fox -- he's an immigrant, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, whose parents would have nothing -- when they died they had nothing. He is a totally self-created man, a great American. And he was treated horribly by Senator Kerry and others on that committee, simply because he had made a political donation. They essentially told him he did not have freedom of speech in this country, until he would apologize, until he would go up to Kerry and apologize for supporting the Swift Boats. Now the President has recess-appointed him. And of course, the Democrats have said they're going to investigate this and going to look into this.

This is the kind of move that garners a lot of support from the people in the country. This shows the administration willing to engage these people and not allow them to get away with this kind of -- well, my term -- you don't have to accept it -- Stalinist behavior from these people on that committee.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you're dead on, Rush. I know Sam well. He's a good friend of mine and has been for many years. I think he's a great appointment. He'll do a superb job as our Ambassador to Belgium. I was delighted when the President made the recess appointment. He clearly has that authority under the Constitution. And you're right, John Kerry basically shot it down.

Is that what Stalin is famous for? Using his constitutional power as an elected representative to decline his consent to political appointments based on his political disagreement with the appointer or appointee -- or, for that matter, based on his desire to retaliate against a political actor, by blocking political payback for that actor? If Stalinism had consisted chiefly of this, Stalinism wouldn't be the pejorative that it rightly is today.

Even if you read Stalinism broadly to refer to any attempt to impose political orthodoxy -- which seems to me an abuse of the pejorative, just as it is an abuse of the term Nazi to use it to refer to, say, any militarism or police enforcement one finds excessive -- it's not sensible or fair to use it in fields where political decisionmaking is routine, and routinely practiced by both sides.

It's not Stalinism for the Bush Administration to decline to appoint its political adversaries, or to choose an appointee because of his past political support. An Administration quite properly looks to political affiliation in its appointment decisions. Bush's decision to appoint Fox rather than, say, John Kerry is not "[telling Kerry] he did not have freedom of speech in this country"; political appointments properly turn on the content of the appointee's past political speech. Likewise, it's not Stalinism for Democratic Senators to decline to confirm their political adversaries.

Such political tit-for-tat may sometimes be unwise, or counterproductive. But it cheapens what should be a serious pejorative, insults the memory of Stalin's victims, and undermines public consciousness of Stalin's crimes, to use "Stalinism" to label political hardball in a historically (and bipartisanly) political arena.

Thanks to Mark Kleiman and Obsidian Wings for the pointer. I should also note that Limbaugh apparently misspoke about Sam Fox's being an immigrant -- he's the son of a Ukrainian immigrant, but he himself was born in the U.S.

Enoch:
Pah, let's compare how often the term "fascist" or "Nazi" is applied to the Republicans vs. how often "Stalinist" is applied to the Democrats. Now let's examine how little criticism the former receives...
4.8.2007 1:21pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
Enoch,

Lol, but of course you are correct.


But, Rush does provide such "low hanging fruit."


At least the Volokh conspirators are equal opportunity bashers.
4.8.2007 1:26pm
godfodder (mail):
Of course, Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer, a media talking head who's entire schtick is his willingness to launch these verbal salvos. You'll notice that Cheney did not use the term, or pick up on that line of thinking.

I'm sure Keith Olbermann has made far more inflammatory and baseless charges while interviewing some Democrat. Like... I dunno, in his recent chat with Bill Clinton? But nobody even pays attention to that stuff anymore. I have long said that calling Republicans fascists (or likening Bush to Hitler) is precisely analogous to calling Democrats Communists (or likening one of them to Stalin). I have also said that people would absolutely freak-out if Republicans started calling Democrats Communists. Thanks for proving my point.

I think-- deep down-- people expect more from Republicans.
4.8.2007 1:39pm
Mr L (mail):
There's a larger point, here -- was the rejection of Fox due to the mere fact that he'd donated to the Swift Boaters? If it is (and the public statements of the involved parties seem to show that), then in the inverse case we'd be seeing cries of 'McCarthyism' with more than some justification. 'Stalinism' might well be an attempt to call up the same theme without having to use a political slur that's practically owned by the left.
4.8.2007 1:41pm
timekeeper (mail) (www):

was the rejection of Fox due to the mere fact that he'd donated to the Swift Boaters?...


Yes, that is exactly it. However, the whole concept of "McCarthyism" is so near and dear to the hearts of the Democratic Party and assorted others on the left that any attempt to use the term by a conservative, no matter how accurate it may be, would be met by howling, shrieking, and unhinged editorials from the New York Times. You see, only conservatives oppose free speech, as we are reminded time and again by the left. Book burnings by religious fundamentalists are constantly cited as proof, while the newspaper thefts on college campuses are dismissed as the work of a few courageous radicals. Double standards are the norm in these sorts of discussions.
4.8.2007 1:51pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Hmm... I think Stalin also interfered with ratings of career government employees, not just appointees. I've heard that bureaucrats who criticized his administration often got "fully satisfactory" ratings when they had earned "above expectation" ones, with the result that they lost perks like fresh straw for their mattresses.
4.8.2007 1:54pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
You'll notice that Cheney did not use the term, or pick up on that line of thinking.

He didn't?



THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you're dead on, Rush.
4.8.2007 1:56pm
Shangui (mail):
"I'm sure Keith Olbermann has made far more inflammatory and baseless charges while interviewing some Democrat. Like... I dunno, in his recent chat with Bill Clinton?"

Really? Can you give an example from the interview? Did Olbermann use words like "fascist," "totalitarian," and so forth with which Clinton specifically agreed? Maybe he did, but you need some evidence.

Can anyone give an example of, say, Al Gore when he was VP being on a talk show with a prominent leftist broadcaster and agreeing ("you're dead on" was Cheney's response) to claims that the Republicans in congress were acting like fascists, Nazi, etc.? Again, maybe there are examples but all I've seen in these comments are unbacked claims. Of course lefists call Bush and others fascists all the time, but the question here should be whether or not people with the importance and stature of Cheney in the GOP do so.
4.8.2007 2:03pm
Shangui (mail):
In fact, here's the transcript of the Clinton interview from September. There doesn't seem to be anything even close to the type of rhetoric Cheney and Rush are using.
4.8.2007 2:12pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Maybe Rush should have called it Fascist or Nazi. But of course, those terms are reserved for use against those on the right, despite all three (Communism, Naziism, and Fascism) being socialist. And, of course, the reason that all three are/were so autocratic and brutal is primarily because of their desire to impose socialism on an imperfect human race. Nevertheless, of the three, Naziism is probably remembered as the most militaristic, and Stalin's version of Communism, the most brutal against politcal opponents.

So, maybe, even despite the fact that of these three socialist movements, the names of two of them are reserved for the enemies of socialism, Stalism is probably the more accurate of the three, if you are going to appropriate the name of one of them for what Kerry, et al., were doing.
4.8.2007 2:15pm
Darren (mail) (www):
For people aware of Godwin's Law, Stalin is the new Hitler.
4.8.2007 2:20pm
Andrew Okun:
First, Rush is no entertainer. Audience of millions tunes in every day while he tries to influence public debate on policy, politics, culture and history. He deserves to be judged by that standard, not like Britney or Paris.

Second, there is no way in our age of blogs to count up one side or other others excessive historical analogies and balance them. They are legion on both sides and, no, Republicans don't behave better than Democrats on that score. Stalin isn't deployed that often, but "socialist" is used constantly and nearly always wrongly. I think it is a mugs game or a distraction to try to prove one side holier than the other in this way. Rush was gross and, more important, wrong. So when somebody, particularly someone as notable and important as Rush, compares Bush to Hitler, go ahead and say they're wrong. I, for one, will not defend them by saying righties do it too.
4.8.2007 2:22pm
Cornellian (mail):
The greater the siege mentality, the more hysterical the rhetoric. This is nothing more than the Senate allowing a senator to get his revenge on Mr. Fox, something that the Senate has always allowed senators to do. They all allow it so that they'll all have the opportunity to do it, should the need arise.
4.8.2007 2:29pm
Greg S. (mail):
The Term Stalinist is over the top. Still, I am concerned about a Senator using the power of his office to attack a person because of a political contribution. I think that is starting down a path that is not good for anyone.
4.8.2007 2:29pm
Anonymous Reader:
That's right Andrew Okun, he's no entertainer... we all know he was "elected" to his position in order to influence policy. That is an asinine statement. Of course he's an entertainer. He makes a lot of money for who he is and what he does on the radio.

Now, I don't agree that anyone should play the child's game of, he said it first, etc, etc... BUT, isn't this much bigger of a scandal than the attorney thing? We have politicians on the record stating exactly why they would not approve of this guy. Not because he has some felony or something like that in his past. But because he decided to exercise his rights. That indeed has a chilling affect, no?

Anonymous Reader
4.8.2007 2:31pm
guest (mail):
Shangui:

The Administration works closely with a network of "rapid response" digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for "undermining support for our troops."

-Al Gore, 6/24/04.

Note Gore is not merely agreeing with someone else's general comments here, but is actively stating that conservative bloggers who support administration policies are the equivalent of Nazis.
4.8.2007 2:34pm
alan rabinowitz (mail):
I think the Stalinist remark may have referred to the threat to now investigate Fox. Not close to disappearing or being sent to a gulag, but not quite a good practice in a democracy. Voting against him, giving him a hard time, its all fair game. But to investigate after the appointment because they don't like to whom he contributed?
4.8.2007 2:45pm
The Rabbit:
I am concerned about a Senator using the power of his office to attack a person because of a political contribution. I think that is starting down a path that is not good for anyone.

I think American politics started down this path in about 1789. By 1791, it was in full swing. By 2004, more than two centuries later, Sam Fox knew perfectly well that supporting the Swift Boat Veterans would mean he would never be confirmed to any position by the United States Senate. He did it anyway; it's silly to complain now.
4.8.2007 2:48pm
section9 (mail):
Shangui:


"I'm sure Keith Olbermann has made far more inflammatory and baseless charges while interviewing some Democrat. Like... I dunno, in his recent chat with Bill Clinton?"

Really? Can you give an example from the interview? Did Olbermann use words like "fascist," "totalitarian," and so forth with which Clinton specifically agreed? Maybe he did, but you need some evidence.




Let me count the most deeply corrupting way that Keith Olbermann has contributed to the decline of the political debate in this country: he has accused his political opponents of fascism. Perhaps not in the interview you mentioned, but do not mistake his political take: for Olbermann, his enemies' fascism is understood. From his August 30th 2006 laugher comparing Bush to Neville Chamberlain:




The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld's other main assertion, that this country faces a "new type of fascism."

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that - though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: "confused" or "immoral."

Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," he said, in 1954. "We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular."

And so good night, and good luck.


Aside from Olbermann's rather laughable self-regard as this generation's Edward R. Murrow, his regard of the other political party's politicians as fascists is clear, and there for all to see. It is not taken out of context, it is clearly implied in his statement.

No amount of rationalization can defend this Godwin. This is yet another example of how the Democrats have been taken to the edge, and then over it.
When you regard your political opponents as fascists, then all rhetoric is possible. And why not? When one cloaks onesself in the self-righteous garments of the legacy of Edward R. Murrow, one passes from the rarified air of critical thinking into the wilderness of mirrors of the True Believer.

Olbermann has merely become what he most despises, that is all.
4.8.2007 2:49pm
BrianNYC (mail):
I might find some relevence in Eugene Volokh's above arguement if indeed Rush had directly called Kerry a "Stalinist." But Rush didn't do that, he classified Kerry's BEHAVIOR (denying a political appointment based soley upon a politcal donation/free speech issue) as "Stalinist," or in other words, something Stalin was quite capable of.

Volokh then asks, "Is that what Stalin is famous for?" The obvious answer is NO. (Stalin is perhaps most infamous for murdering as many innocent Russians as American liberals have murdered innocent Americans to date.) However, does this make Rush's arguement, that Stalin was quite capable of behaving as Kerry did this past week, any less credible? I don't think so. Was Stalin also capable of behaving far more dictatorial as say, FDR did during his Presidency? I believe so. I also believe someone as knowledgable as Rush would be happy to point this out as well.
4.8.2007 2:52pm
Shangui (mail):
-Al Gore, 6/24/04.
Note Gore is not merely agreeing with someone else's general comments here, but is actively stating that conservative bloggers who support administration policies are the equivalent of Nazis.

Let me count the most deeply corrupting way that Keith Olbermann has contributed to the decline of the political debate in this country: he has accused his political opponents of fascism.


Both these comments are missing my point. I don't care what Rush says. He's not an elected official who is supposed to be working for the good of the country. The issue is Cheney expressing immediate and specific agreement with him. When Gore made the above remark he was no longer VP, nor did he hold any other elected office at the time. I do think there should be a different standard for elected officials. I'm certainly not defending Gore's 2004 remark and Olbermann is an idiot many times over. I explicitly said in my original comment that people on the left make such remarks all the time (and Ann C., Rush, etc. dish it out just as counterproductively on the right). I want examples of someone who is the equivalent or near equivalent of Cheney making them while in office. Again, I won't be surprised if there are such examples. But the earlier commentators were simply throwing out claims without any evidence.
4.8.2007 3:00pm
Henry Bowman:
I see nothing wrong with calling Democrats Communists. Read the platform of the Democratic Party and compare it to the Communist Manifesto. Being a Communist is not the same as being a Stalinist: there are lots of Communists in the World who are not mass murderers -- they mere support totalitarianism.
4.8.2007 3:03pm
Baseballhead (mail):
That's right Andrew Okun, he's no entertainer... we all know he was "elected" to his position in order to influence policy. That is an asinine statement. Of course he's an entertainer. He makes a lot of money for who he is and what he does on the radio.

If he's just an entertainer, then he should stop calling himself America's Anchorman. OF COURSE he's more than just an entertainer -- the man routinely gets interviews with the most powerful Republicans in the country, and unlike Leno or Letterman, he actually talks policy all day long. Limbaugh shouldn't be getting a pass for making stupid comments, and I think Republicans would acknowledge that.
4.8.2007 3:12pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
It seems fair to me. Hitler is already taken, Stalin is next up.

Pol Pot doesn't seem to fit, unless the Dems declare vast areas blighted or something and build community centers.

No doubt survivors of Pol Pot would be annoyed, but that's the language for you.
4.8.2007 3:18pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
which seems to me an abuse of the pejorative, just as it is an abuse of the term Nazi to use it to refer to, say, any militarism or police enforcement one finds excessive...

Where's the line? Torture? Rape? Slavery? Illegal human experimentation? Genocidal policies like controlling birthrate? Property confiscation aimed at opponents and target groups? Imprisonment of innocent people for social engineering purposes?

Some comparisons to the Nazis are quite appropriate. So regardless of what Godwin and his "law" says, I and I hope many others will continue to use them when we deem them to be appropriate.
4.8.2007 3:23pm
Ron Mexico (mail):
What are we to call successful entertainers then? What exactly is Rush, you say he's no entertainer, then what is he? Is he a political operative simply because he's popular? He can call himself America's Mom for all I care, in my book he's still just a radio guy. So what if he talks policy, I talk policy with people, what am I then? Not just some guy with an opinion? Is there some amount of listeners that transforms you from entertainer to some label no one has specified yet but will now be known as "not an entertainer".
4.8.2007 3:29pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Rush only preaches to the choir, and then only about the sins of the Democrats, who are unlikely(!) to pay much attention. If he were as vehement about Republican shortcomings he might have a political effect but criticising Democrats to an audience that won't vote for then anyway means he's pretty much self-neutering.
4.8.2007 3:30pm
bobb (mail):
Pah, let's compare how often the term "fascist" or "Nazi" is applied to the Republicans vs. how often "Stalinist" is applied to the Democrats. Now let's examine how little criticism the former receives...

Because of course the right way to calibrate one's moral compass is by comparison to lefty pundits.
4.8.2007 3:35pm
Enoch:
When Gore made the above remark he was no longer VP, nor did he hold any other elected office at the time. I do think there should be a different standard for elected officials.

How about Mario Cuomo in 1994, calling Newt and the House Republicans, "Republican Storm Troopers"?

Charlie Rangel in 1995, on the Contract With America: "Hitler wasn't even talking about doing these things." In 1995, when the House Ways and Means Committee killed a preferential tax break for minority broadcasters, Rangel said the move was "just like under Hitler." "When I compare this to what happened in Germany," he added, "I hope you will see the similarities to what is happening to us."

Charlie Rangel in 2005: Operation Iraqi Freedom is "just as bad as the 6 million Jews being killed."

Tom Lantos in 1998, on the GOP-led House: "just like Hitler's parliament."
4.8.2007 3:51pm
frankcross (mail):
I knew what the responses would be, and that is totally irrelevant. How is "he did it too" a defense, for anyone over eight years of age?

Sure, liberals have made similar unfair attacks, but that's not relevant to criticizing Rush. Unless you see the world through such a narrow, partisan, ideological tunnel of vision. Whereby we are in some sort of ideological war, so that one can't criticize "my side." Which is a worldview closer to fascism/communism than that of any of the politicians being talked about
4.8.2007 4:01pm
Shangui (mail):
Enoch,

Good examples. Now none of these people are anywhere near the status of a sitting Vice President, but they are certainly deeply troubling.
4.8.2007 4:03pm
Michael B (mail):
Defining Stalinism down?

Something Hollywood and the MSM, among other PR outlets, have been doing for a long, long time. Preludes include the storyline/script associated with the Spanish Civil War, before that the storyline/script associated with the Ukrainian genocide, aka the holodomor.

Too, the entire association of fascism/Nazism with the right, from Lenin's rhetorical forays forward, is a dubious assignation in and of itself. Mussolini, the foremost intellectual and ideological originator of fascism, was a correspondent of Lenin's, not with democrats in Britain, the U.S. or elsewhere.
4.8.2007 4:04pm
Perseus (mail):
Now none of these people are anywhere near the status of a sitting Vice President

Since the office of VP is (as John Adams put it) "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived," the statements of a member of Congress or a governor are vastly more important.
4.8.2007 4:21pm
Cornellian (mail):
(Stalin is perhaps most infamous for murdering as many innocent Russians as American liberals have murdered innocent Americans to date.)

If that's your mindset it's not surprising that Rush's comments would appear moderate and reasonable.
4.8.2007 4:36pm
LM (mail):
Volokh then asks, "Is that what Stalin is famous for?" The obvious answer is NO. (Stalin is perhaps most infamous for murdering as many innocent Russians as American liberals have murdered innocent Americans to date.)

A nice reminder that however dismaying Rush or Olberman's overreach, there's always someone who will up the ante. Dare I dignify it by requesting a cite?
4.8.2007 4:37pm
James B. (mail):
Slightly OT -

But how do people think about an amendment to abolish the recess appointment. If my understanding of history if correct wasn't this provision more of a recognition that in the 18th Century Congress might be out of session for months at a time. Now with are full-time legislators, the recess appointments has become (for both Dem and Rep admins) just a way to get an appointment that would have been otherwise blocked.

I think a constitutional amendment that would prevent future presidents from exercising this power would have broad Congressional appeal has it would tip power away from the executive branch.
4.8.2007 4:43pm
Shangui (mail):
Since the office of VP is (as John Adams put it) "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived," the statements of a member of Congress or a governor are vastly more important.

Are you really saying that Dick Cheney has less influence on current US policy, especially foreign policy, than any given member of congress? Do you really think that Cheney's statements hold less weight than Rangle's now, Cuomo's when he was gov. of New York, or Gore's when he holds no office? Come on. That's simply absurd. The situation is obviously different in the present case than it was when Adams spoke those words. I conceded that these examples are important, but let's not get ridiculous.
4.8.2007 4:47pm
Jonesy:
Youre taking Rush Limbaugh seriously? He's a troll. He doesnt care if its really "Stalinism" or not, he's just trying to get a rise out of people. Thats what he's made a career out of.
4.8.2007 4:53pm
Mister Snitch! (mail) (www):
Shangui's wrong, and so now he's hiding behind absurd arguments about "who's more influential". Don't waste your time with him, he's obviously got nothing better to do. Point is, Obermann DOES make the kind of references he was charged with. Done and done.
4.8.2007 5:00pm
Steve:
This post was a bit of a throwaway no-brainer, to tell the truth, but it was all worth it for the priceless excuse-making in the comments.
4.8.2007 5:03pm
Shangui (mail):
Shangui's wrong, and so now he's hiding behind absurd arguments about "who's more influential". Don't waste your time with him, he's obviously got nothing better to do. Point is, Obermann DOES make the kind of references he was charged with. Done and done.

Mister Snitch,

I can't really be "wrong" as all I did was ask examples. I got them from Enoch and agree with him. Perhaps you should read my earlier post (2pm) when I agreed that Olbermann is "idiot many times over." My only point of disagreement is with the claim that he made similar statements in his interview with Clinton. He didn't. Read the transcript. Then you might also note that I agreed with Enoch that his example are good ones, and further agreed that there are many, many examples of similar idiotic statements by others on the left. If you are of the opinion that Cheney as VP has less influence on US policy than Rangel as rep., Mario Cuomo as gov., and Al Gore out of office, then please explain why, or perhaps we should not be wasting our time with you. Not that "done and done" isn't a brilliant retort. Touche, my friend.
4.8.2007 5:16pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
No one seems to have pointed out that Rush's use of "Stalinist" is completely Rovian--it is, in fact, Fox's behavior that is more consistent with Stalinist standards, helping in whatever way he can to smear political opponents. No lie or innuendo was low enough in that campaign and Fox was one of the peddlers.

I also find the claims of restrictions on his freedom of speech to be intriguing. His speech was never restricted--nor is it being restricted by denying him a plum appointment any more than John Bolton's expression of his opinion on the UN being restricted by his not being appointed as the permanent Ambassador to the UN. Speech is free, but it may have consequences that have nothing to do with that particular freedom. No one would blink an eye if a Republican-controlled Senate rejected a nominee who once expressed admiration for Mao or Fidel. In fact, all but ardent Communists and Maoists would nod approvingly. So how is failing to approve this jack to an ambassadorship restricting his freedom of speech? But even stronger--how is paying someone to express a political opinion an expression of speech?

It seems that Fox is the one who is guilty of the cowardly, Stalinist behavior by hiring others to express what he himself did not have the balls to say--quite possibly because he knew that 1) the information was false, 2) no one in his right mind would care for Sam Fox's opinion unless they already agreed with it in advance, and 3) he knew that one day such an expression might come back and bite him on the ass by stymieing his political ambition.

As for some nutcases complaining about the use of "fascist" and "totalitarian" with respect to this administration, I have only one thing to say--if the shoe fits... Let's face it--fascism has become associated with its most radical, repressive manifestations, in the same way that the word "propaganda" is now associated in the most negative way with one of its foremost proponents--Joseph Goebbels. But fascism is a political ideal, of sorts--the kind that almost naturally evolves to repression. Similarly, propaganda is an art of public opinion manipulation that has only acquired a negative connotation during and after WWII.

What the Bushies--and Cheney, in particular--are aspiring to is "compassionate fascism", a fascism with a human face, of sorts. They hope to destroy their political opponents without physically assassinating them. But their ideal is still pure fascism. One only needs to examine the loyalty tests established by this bunch for federal offices to recognize the beast. Take a look at the Boston Globe story this morning about the hiring practices in DoJ. And these bastards throw a fit when they don't always get their way?
4.8.2007 5:21pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Well, Buck Turgidson has done a great job of illustrating Enoch et al.'s point. So, yes, people on the Left do this stuff, too (and I've often criticized them for it). But this hardly excuses Limbaugh's statement, or Cheney's agreement with it.
4.8.2007 5:29pm
Perseus (mail):
I don't know the true extent of VP Cheney's influence on the conduct of American foreign policy (though people love to speculate), but I think it's safe to say that he derives that influence from his relationship with the president, not from his status as a sitting vice president (i.e. from the constitutional office that Adams found so insignificant).
4.8.2007 5:43pm
fishbane (mail):
Since the office of VP is (as John Adams put it) "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived," the statements of a member of Congress or a governor are vastly more important.

Asserting that Cheney is not an influential figure in the current administration is simply silly.

I realize that isn't exactly what you're doing, but come on.
4.8.2007 5:53pm
Enoch:
How is "he did it too" a defense, for anyone over eight years of age?

Let's keep in mind it is the Left that is obsessed with uncovering examples of "Republican Hypocrisy"...
4.8.2007 6:09pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Eugene,
My point was precisely to illustrate that Enoch was coming an incorrect perspective--so, in some ways, it is an illustration of his point.

Had Enoch et al. not whined about the current WH team being accused of being fascist, I likely would not have mentioned it. But, in fact, their tactics and practices do match rather closely. This does not make them fascist, but it does make inquiring minds wonder.

On the other hand, my comment about Fox, not a reaction to his nomination, being Stalinist would have been there irrespectively of Enoch's post. This, unfortunately, is representative of what has been going on for the past six years overtly (and for the previous decade more subtly)--any disagreement with the opinion of the powers that be (at least, when it comes to Republicans) is painted as Leftist, Communist, socialist, liberal (AKA Communist), Stalinist, Leninist, etc., but, most importantly, un-American and un-Patriotic. It took a while to sink in, but now the majority knows better. But there are still 30% of adults out there who swallow this propaganda hook, line and sinker. It appears that you are not one of them, but the majority of your readers--as evidenced by the comments on this thread--are.
4.8.2007 6:13pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
I THOUGHT I was smelling a ratcheting up of rhetoric by the Aministration and their lackeys ("toadies" ? "minions"? "lickspittles"? I can't quite find the word that captures my feeling for Fox and Limbaugh...) in the face of the realization that the Democrats may actually DO something.

A couple of weeks ago, I recall the Prez himself likening Senators' desire to actually get sworn testimony, (as opposed to private chat) in regard to the DOJ to conducting "show trials". So,if I follow the analogies, making Rove, Meier, etc. actually talk under oath is like summary execution, and Kerry's desire, flawless or not, not to accommodate the appointment of a man who assisted in political dirty trcksterism aginst him personally, is roughly the same as, say, engineering the killing of a few million peasants, (and any political rivals who happen to be hanging around). . . . and on the war, the most vocal, including Cheney himself, have moved from mere references to "appeasement" and Chamberlain, to phrases like "aiding terrorism".

Yep, sounds like a real effort at bipartisanship from the Administration...
4.8.2007 6:29pm
John Herbison (mail):
It seems that many on both the left and right have confused the childhood taunt, "so's your old man", with acceptable political discourse. At least Limbaugh and the Vice-President didn't tell Senator Kerry to "Go [Cheney] yourself" a la Cheney's admonition to Senator Leahy.

The moore interesting question is, why do Republicans celebrate this kind of debasing schtick by accepting moral cretins like Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter in the Republican wing of "polite" society? What does it say about Dick Cheney and the Bush/Fudd administration that the Vice-President would appear on Limbaugh's show in the first place? What does it say about several candidates for the Republican nomination for President that they would share a stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference with a harridan like Coulter?

Voltaire was correct with regard to defending others' right to free expression, but folks like Cheney, Limbaugh and Coulter make one wish that birth control were retroactive.
4.8.2007 6:41pm
Enoch:
Had Enoch et al. not whined about the current WH team being accused of being fascist,

Actually most of my examples were from 1994-2000.

Since when does quoting Democrats directly constitute "whining"? It is a simple statement of fact that numerous Democratic politicians have called Republicans Nazis / Fascists.

any disagreement with the opinion of the powers that be (at least, when it comes to Republicans) is painted as Leftist, Communist, socialist, liberal (AKA Communist), Stalinist, Leninist, etc., but, most importantly, un-American and un-Patriotic.

Who's whining now?

The number of instances of Republicans being called Nazis in the past 8 years massively exceeds the number of instances of Democrats being called Communists. It isn't even close.

Somehow, the Unprecedented Power of the so-called "Powers That Be" is insufficient to shut down the constant yammering on the Left. Gee, what kind of fascist regime is it that can't even prevent its opponents from calling it fascist?
4.8.2007 7:17pm
Brian K (mail):
So it's okay for Bush to nominate people based on the speech they've made, but it's not okay for Kerry to vote against people based on the speech they've made?

There's that great republican integrity in action!
4.8.2007 7:18pm
Andrew Okun:
There is a very important point to be made about this incident, but it is not that anything that happened was Stalinist. Stalinist is when Fox is hauled before the Senate at 2 a.m. in his pyjamas. Stalinist is when he mumbles apologetically for his alleged crimes in the desperate hope that he can spare some of his family members being executed. Stalinist is not when he has to answer in an embarrassingly public forum for a donation that was already public record; it is when he has to answer for donations he never made documented by forged records and fabricated snitches. Stalinism is not when he has to make do with a recess appointment; it is when he is never seen or heard from or mentioned again. Rush needs to reread, or read, Darkness at Noon.

There is a haunting passage at the start of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. It is about a photograph in Feb 1948 of Czech communist leaders Gottwald and Clementis standing on a snowy Prague balcony to harangue a crowd. Because of the cold Clementis lent Gottwald his fur hat. Four years later Clementis was purged and executed for treason and propaganda officials removed all traces of him from history, including photographs. "Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall. Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald's head."

The question of Stalinism doesn't arise in the Kerry/Fox business. That Fox had the right to participate in a vicious smear against Kerry ought to give Kerry some leeway in smearing back. And as was discussed about the test clause a week or so back, the answer to what Senators consider when judging appointees is politics. Don't like Kerry's behavior? Deelect him from the Senate.

But a question does arise, and one that should be uncomfortable for everyone. Campaign finance disclosure requirements have now been extended outside the closely confined box of the candidates' own bailiwick and as a result, it has become illegal to publish some things collectively and anonymously. Regardless of the odious nature of the Swift Boat business in particular, by making a rule that we get to know the identities of backers of such things, we may have effectively outlawed the anonymous political hit pamphlet or its modern equivalent. I'm not sure that is a good thing. If you had actual tough guys in office, rather than the Kerrys and Clintons of this world, it might be suicide to get involved in open criticism of public figures. My question is, should the Swift Boat guys have been able to publish their filth completely anonymously? Would our public square be better or worse if they could?
4.8.2007 7:29pm
Kazinski:
It it pretty obvious that the political cliamate in this country is deteriorating when charges of Stalinism, Facism, McCartyism and (perhaps more justified) Chamberlinism, are routinely thrown about bya partisans on one side or another. But politicans and commentators are just responding to what their audience is demanding. The politically interested class in this country is loving it, and egging on such comments, and you can see it here in the comments, with the general attitude of: "my side may go over the line sometimes but they are just responding to the outrageous conduct on your side." It is what we are asking for so lets not complain when we get it.
4.8.2007 7:35pm
Andrew Okun:
The number of instances of Republicans being called Nazis in the past 8 years massively exceeds the number of instances of Democrats being called Communists. It isn't even close.

There is no easy way of defining or measuring this pair of numbers and, if such a definition and measurement is even possible, nobody has done it.

If someone ever does it, though, I'd find it hard to believe they'd come to your conclusion. I have yet to see a message board or blog discussion remotely touching on politics where Dems or liberals weren't labelled socialist in short order. I don't mean that all right-wingers do it ... maybe almost none of them do it, but there always seems to be one around.

Maybe a number-theoretic description is appropriate here:


While almost all conservatives do not compare liberals to communists, the conservatives who do are everywhere dense.
4.8.2007 7:56pm
Cerveza (mail):
Prof. Volokh:
I think you fail to attend to the difference between an occasional and momentary bit of political exaggeration, and a steady barrage of pure hate. Look at the comments above! Do you fail to see the intensity and irrationality of the rage that far too many on the Left possess? These people (take a gander at Richard Gould-Saltman) are unabashedly shrieking "fascist!!, Nazi!!" at anyone who disagrees with them. Rush Limbaugh aside, you just don't see that same irresponsible, inflammatory name-calling on the Right. Yes, yes, yes-- there are individual examples, but on the Left it has become absolutely mainstream.

And for many of these people, I think they actually believe it! Literally. It is not just rhetoric. Bush is a fascist, no different than Hitler. And these paranoid beliefs are maintained despite an almost complete lack of objective evidence. They are maintained almost entirely on a steady diet of irresponsible rhetoric that is put out by Left leaning politicians and their allied media outlets. This phenomenon of Bush-hating did not grow out of nothing, and it is not a rational response to any objective reality. It is the product of a political/media environment that has become pathological.

I appreciate your effort in pointing out the rhetorical mote that exists in the eye of the political Right. Cheney should have corrected Rush. But shouldn't you also spend a little time examining the verbal log that is hanging out of the Left's eye?
4.8.2007 7:59pm
Dave N (mail):
James B. wrote (some time ago):

But how do people think about an amendment to abolish the recess appointment. If my understanding of history if correct wasn't this provision more of a recognition that in the 18th Century Congress might be out of session for months at a time. Now with are full-time legislators, the recess appointments has become (for both Dem and Rep admins) just a way to get an appointment that would have been otherwise blocked.

I think a constitutional amendment that would prevent future presidents from exercising this power would have broad Congressional appeal has it would tip power away from the executive branch.


I have no problem at all with that amendment, as long as it also specifies that the Senate cannot "filibuster" executive nominees and that executive nominees are entitled to an up-or-down vote within a reasonable time, say within 90 to 120 days of their nomination.

As to the issue at hand, I find it deplorable when politicians or commentators on either the right or left engage in name-calling (fascist, socialist, communist, whatever).

It is done as a mechanism to say that those who disagree with me are not worth debating because their views are too extreme to be reasonable.

It is a great way to shut people up and stifle debate (who, after all, wants to be associated with Stalinists, Nazis, etc.?).
4.8.2007 8:00pm
Michael B (mail):
"What the Bushies--and Cheney, in particular--are aspiring to is "compassionate fascism", a fascism with a human face, of sorts. They hope to destroy their political opponents without physically assassinating them. But their ideal is still pure fascism." Buck Turgidson

"But, in fact, their tactics and practices do match rather closely. This does not make them fascist, but it does make inquiring minds wonder." Buck Turgidson

If their very ideal is not even a diluted fascism but in fact is "pure fascism," how is it at all in doubt? Or is that to apply reason/logic where it is not intended? Regardless, another example in a similar vein:

Cheney is responding to Rush conversationally and informally, and he is responding to Rush as entertainer/commentator, not before a legal or even a high-minded academic venue. Likewise, he's responding to all of what preceeded, not the Stalinist assignation in a singular, directed fashion. More emphatically still, when Cheney explicitly clarifies his opening "you're dead on" reply, Cheney does not affirm the Stalinist assignation, he more simply states "you're right, John Kerry basically shot it down." Rush was wrong with his assignation, but what Cheney intended is not at all apparent.

Then again, Cheney is the velcro VP, not the teflon totalitarian a la Uncle Ho or his mentor, Stalin himself during the 20's, 30's and 40's, or others still, so we're to accept such opining as substantial proof. And Bush=Hitler and Bush lied/people died, to name a couple other, insubstantial, oft-repeated claims.
4.8.2007 8:03pm
John Herbison (mail):

Rush Limbaugh aside, you just don't see that same irresponsible, inflammatory name-calling on the Right.


Cerveza, on what part do the political spectrum do you regard Ann Coulter? What about Michael "Savage" Weiner? Sean Hannity?

Is it coincidental that the medium most thoroughly dominated by Limbaugh wannabees is one that does not require its audience to be able to read?
4.8.2007 8:08pm
sherlock (mail):
"Regardless of the odious nature of the Swift Boat business..."

It is not "odious" for 250 honorable verterans, almost all who were senior to Kerry and served in Vietnam much longer than his 4 months, to on record that Kerry was and is a serial confabulator, and in his testimony before the US Congress committed perjury and slandered the US military.

That is called "telling the truth", and telling the truth is not odious. John Kerry is odious.
4.8.2007 8:21pm
Kazinski:
I've been very proud of the modest contribution I sent to the Swift Boat Veterans, but no one told me it would disqualify me from being Ambassador to the Belges. I'm also a little confused about the definition of "Swiftboating", best I can tell it refers to making charges or expressing opinions that it would be very uncomfortable to debate or rufute, so they must be hushed as quickly as possible to keep people from making up their own minds. Is that the gist of it?
4.8.2007 8:34pm
LM (mail):
Maybe Rush should have called it Fascist or Nazi. But of course, those terms are reserved for use against those on the right....

So when Bill O'Reilly likened MoveOn.org, and Air America to Nazi propagandists, he was peeved because they're so far Right? I suppose James Dobson was aiming at the vast Right Wing Conspiracy when he compared embryonic stem cell research to Nazi death camp experiments. And Grover Norquist was blinded by his hatred for Conservatives when he compared the Estate Tax to the Holocaust. Likewise for Nazi-labeling from Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson and Michael Savage.

Before anyone dismisses these as the ravings of provocateurs, trivial next to offending comments from Cuomo, Rangel and Lantos, consider that "Nazi-bombs" have also been thrown by the likes of Jeff Sessions, Peter King and Phil Gramm.

Eugene is right. Both sides commit inexcusable rhetorical overreach. One-sided outrage over the practice is either blind or unprincipled.
4.8.2007 8:39pm
The Rabbit:
Boy, you all are totally nuts. On both sides.
4.8.2007 8:42pm
Andrew Okun:
"Regardless of the odious nature of the Swift Boat business..."

It is not "odious" for 250 honorable verterans, etc...

...That is called "telling the truth", and telling the truth is not odious. John Kerry is odious.


Ok, you have your view of the validity of what they said and I disagree. See how we both sniped at each other without making bogus historical allusions! We are to be commended.

Meanwhile, my sentence you quoted did start with "Regardless.." The questionable act here is not Kerry's understandably having a beef with a guy on record as believing him a traitor, nor is it with the guy, Fox, who, if he believes Kerry was a traitor, was expressing himself well within the ambit of the First Amendment on the topic. The questionable act here is a federal law requiring Fox to file with the feds because he was criticizing a candidate for public office, even though Fox and the Swift Boat Brigade were not affiliated with a campaign. I meant my question, is it good or bad to have to reveal sources of funding for independent campaigns like that?
4.8.2007 9:53pm
Clyde (mail):
"Swiftboating" is when someone tells vicious truths about someone else.

And it wasn't done "anonymously." I saw some of the SBVT guys on television. That's hardly "anonymous."
4.8.2007 10:04pm
Andrew Okun:
Eugene is right. Both sides commit inexcusable rhetorical overreach. One-sided outrage over the practice is either blind or unprincipled.

Both sides ... all sides, since there may be more than two ... clearly commit inexcusable rhetorical overreach, I agree. But I think there should be a third option on your list, one which may overlap with unprincipled. One-sided outrage may also be rational.

It often works. If Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh say something disgraceful, how is it we liberals wind up defending Mario Cuomo or Charlie Rangel? Simple strategy ... part of a good defense is to counterattack where the opponent is weak. Every bit of defending is a bit of time, effort and attention spent on topics other than the one we want. Certainly when, I don't know, Sean Penn or somebody says something ghastly, it is simple enough to respond to a critic "I'll listen to you when you have the decency also to criticize Ann Coulter!" Then the right-wing types can ignore the jibe and stay focused or, more usually, respond and find themselves defending the indefensible.

Meanwhile, is it the case that we must be two-sided in our outrage. Does somebody actually need me to criticize something Mario Cuomo said in 1994 to make my criticism of Rush Limbaugh valid? No, if I criticize Cuomo, I just feed the next post of "even liberals can't stomach" or "you didn't criticize him vigorously enough" or "but you didn't criticize Michael Moore." And no, nobody needs my input on Mario because they're quite willing to slam him themselves. My efforts can go into defending someone I want to defend, say Al Franken [Okun quickly ducks and looks around] or attacking Rush Limbaugh.

I think we can attack a public figure for saying something stupid or wrong without explaining ourselves with reference to all other expression. I hate to give up the criticism of, say, "why does he/she only criticize when it's..." but that just leads to pointless and unveriafiable generalizations going back and forth and fogging things up.

Limbaugh and Cheney were wrong.
4.8.2007 10:06pm
davod (mail):
Dear Leader is hearteaned at the swift denounciation by the apparatchiks of this yellow dog imperialist who supported the running dog imperialist swift boat's lies about hero of the people Kerry. Those same running dog imperialist devils who questioned comrade kerry's patriotism when he said this " I would like to talk on behalf of all those veterans and say that several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia. These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit - the emotions in the room and the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.

They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

We call this investigation the Winter Soldier Investigation. The term Winter Soldier is a play on words of Thomas Paine's in 1776 when he spoke of the Sunshine Patriots and summertime soldiers who deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough.

We who have come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now. We could come back to this country, we could be quiet, we could hold our silence, we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country, not the reds, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out....

In our opinion and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.

We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but also we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.

We found most people didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Viet Cong, North Vietnamese or American.

We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how monies from American taxes were used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by the flag, and blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs and search and destroy missions, as well as by Viet Cong terrorism - and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong.

We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.

We learned the meaning of free fire zones, shooting anything that moves, and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of orientals."
4.8.2007 10:26pm
Brian K (mail):

I meant my question, is it good or bad to have to reveal sources of funding for independent campaigns like that?


It is unquestionably good. It helps the public ensure that our elected politicians act in a responsible manner. It helps the public to root out instances of vote buying, bribery, pay-for-play or a number of other activities that are rightly viewed as bad. It also helps the public determine on what basis a person was nominated. Where they nominated because they have extensive experience in the field or because they brought in the most money to the official's campaign? (note that the two are not mutually exclusive) It helps the public determine which people and corporations are influencing which official and how effective this influence is.

I also think you are using an over broad and unpractical definition of anonymous. If someone makes an anonymous donation, it does not mean that absolutely no one knows who made it. It only means that the general public does not know who made. It does not mean that select people in influential positions would not know. Obviously the organization that received the money would know who made the donation. It is unreasonable to think that word of a large donation would not get to the politician who most directly benefited from the large donation. This is why disclosure laws were extended to third parties. It prevents person X from going up to politician Y and saying "in exchange for this post, I'll donate $5 million to your causes. Now since I can't give this money directly to your campaign fund, I'll just give it to those who are campaigning on your behalf." Without the extension to third parties, any reform enacted would be useless.
4.8.2007 10:38pm
Michael B (mail):
Repeating, repeating, then repeating still again, then: voila, it's declaimed as "truth" itself, with great satisfaction no less. The power of repetition, together with brow-beatings for failing to conform. And it is conformity that's desired, not soundly explicated and suitably vetted arguments. Even doubt is to be vanquished, and vanquishede utterly.

Obviated in all this, to cite but one prominent example noted herein, is Kerry's mendacity as reflected in his "Winter Soldier" testimony, v. here.

Or of the SwiftVets per se, Patterico recently commented, ABC NEWS Smears Swift Boat Veterans for Truth with Slanderous News Article, specifically citing a challenge outlined well over two years ago. Purported proofs in support of Kerry and contra the SwiftVets can be summoned, but the partial and purported nature of those arguments become evident upon close and at times not-so-close examination.
4.8.2007 11:37pm
fishbane (mail):
Davod would be slightly more amusing if (s)he understood parody.
4.8.2007 11:50pm
davod (mail):
Parody be dammed. I plead failing memory and I lost my notes of the 70s.

My introduction to Comrade kerry's speech at the Congress was meant to emulate the one act plays from North Korea I picked up at the East Wind book shop in Kings Cross Sydney in the early 70s (They were Maoists up in Sydney, as opposed to the Marxists in Melbourne). Now that I think back, Comrade Kerry's confession sounded a bit like the words in one of those plays.
4.9.2007 12:12am
MJSgl (mail):

Now the President has recess-appointed him. And of course, the Democrats have said they're going to investigate this and going to look into this.



"Investigating this...look[ing] in to this": It is these actions that I think (reading the whole context of the snipped quote) Rush is referring to as being "Stalinist." Certainly, a bit hyperbolic. Nevertheless, using Congressional power in this manner does have a decent whiff of "Stalinism" to it.

Had he been referring to the appointment itself or the the rejection of the appointment or the consideration of politics in rejecting that point, I would agree that the "Stalinist" epithet would be a bridge too far. But, again, I don't think that was the reference here.
4.9.2007 12:55am
Fred of Del Mar (mail):
It's actually a triumph of the left that Stalinist refers to authoritative or at worst dictatorial. Calling someone a Stalinist does not mean he is a murderer (even though Stalin was), it is equivilent to calling him a dictator. "Stalinist methods" mean authoritative methods. Calling someone a Hitler is much worse, like calling them a mass murderer, eg. Pol Pot.

That said, I agree that neither term should be used to describe American politicians, but Stalinist is a more mild term that Hitlerite, even if Stalin murdered more people.
4.9.2007 1:55am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Alternate interpretation of Rush's comments:

"They're threatening him with criminal investigations because of a private contribution to a PAC; criminalizing speech is reminiscent of Stalin."

Of course, that depends on how RL was interpreting their threats. I haven't kept up with this story, but that's what it sounded to me like he might've meant--that it was Stalinist to accuse the fellow of a crime just because of a political position he took with his cash.
4.9.2007 2:08am
Michael B (mail):
Re, parody.

Unlike mimicry, parody is a form that's difficult to apply to itself, to self-parody, to someone who has become a caricature of himself or herself. E.g., it's not difficult to apply parody to a DeNiro, or differently a Kissinger, as the parody can be readily distinguished from the object being subjected to parody.

By contrast one can mimic a Will Ferrell or a John Kerry, but it's difficult to apply parody as such to their performances since they reflect examples of self-parody. In Ferrell's case it's part and parcel of his performance as an actor. In Kerry's case he takes himself seriously as do his supporters, thus fails to comprehend the self-parody, the comedy and tragi-comedy, he's come to exemplify. Others among the Left/Dems fall into this same category, but Kerry provides a stand-out performance, a particularly salient example, in this vein.
4.9.2007 2:17am
Brian K (mail):
Joe Bingham,

You're right...you haven't kept up with the story. Congress isn't going to look into whether or not the campaign contributions were legal but whether or not the recess appointment is legal. No one has questioned the legality of the donations.
4.9.2007 2:23am
Alexander Hamilton (mail):
Try this one: Mugabe is Zimbabwe's Stalin. Does it work for you?
4.9.2007 2:37am
BrianNYC (mail):
(Stalin is perhaps most infamous for murdering as many innocent Russians as American liberals have murdered innocent Americans to date.)

If that's your mindset it's not surprising that Rush's comments would appear moderate and reasonable. - Cornellian

Well then, in the spirit of moderation and reason, I should have qualified that: at least Stalin had the class to terminate unwanted, Russian innocents with one quick bullet to the back of the head. American liberals remain unwilling to "moderate" their patented and premeditated practice of terminating unwanted innocents by crushing their skulls and sucking out their brains with a vacuum. Indeed, that is my mindset, oh moderate one. Prove me wrong.
4.9.2007 6:21am
BrianNYC (mail):
Volokh then asks, "Is that what Stalin is famous for?" The obvious answer is NO. (Stalin is perhaps most infamous for murdering as many innocent Russians as American liberals have murdered innocent Americans to date.)

A nice reminder that however dismaying Rush or Olberman's overreach, there's always someone who will up the ante. Dare I dignify it by requesting a cite? - LM

Don't rely on my numbers. Simply google the approximate number of murdered souls related to Stalin's tenure vs. the number of murdered souls since the conception of Roe v. Wade for yourself. If you find any "overreaching" discrepancy in numerical comparison, just remember: what's a few million silently-snuffed souls, more or less, when they never existed in the first place? Shhhhhhhhhh!
4.9.2007 6:40am
Jeek:
Mugabe is Zimbabwe's Stalin. Does it work for you?

Nah, because he is one of the few people who openly admires Hitler and says he wants to be "a Hitler"!
4.9.2007 9:14am
ed o:
Maybe it was meant to be a compliment-after all, Stalin was actively assisted by the left in this country when he was in power without regard to his body count. why get in a tizzy about being compared to someone who was such a hero that leftists in the US gave nuclear secrets to him and spied for him for ideological reasons. with that going for him, that Stalin couldn't have been a bad guy, could he?
4.9.2007 2:36pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
WANDERIN' OT here, a little:

Cerveza:

Those who know me know that:

(a) I disagree with most of the views of many of the posters here, including some of those of our right honorable host, Doc Volokh, and that while I routinely note that disagreement, I don't generally resort to name-calling as to other posters, nor do I refer to most of the posters on this list, or any sub-category, as "those people" (or "these people", or even to, though it's tempting, e.g., "Cerveza and others of his ilk").)

I fancy myself a left-leaning gadfly here (or, on good days, a left-leaning fox in the right-leaning henhouse) but also understand I'm a guest, regardless of the vigor of the debate, and believe I conduct myself accordingly, and consistent with our host's guidelines;

(b) I avoid exclamation points, and eschew multiple exclamation points, (except when I'm imitating someone else's style), and I try to be fairly stinting in my use of OTHER WRITTEN EMPHASIS(I beat up the junior lawyers in my office about this with some frequency...);

(c) that on those occasions, in the last twenty or so years, when I've wanted to imply that someone has fascist leanings,or was engaged in conduct that seemed fascist, or Nazi-ish, I'll rarely resort to the bare epithets, since they've been badly over-used (almost, but not quite as much as "Commie"), though I have been known to refer to jackbooted thuggery as "jack-booted thuggery".


So, I'm pleadin' "not guilty" to the "unabashed, paranoid hateful shrieking" accusation, though I'll plead nolo to having accused various polticians (and their ilk) of doing exactly that.
4.9.2007 2:37pm
Gordo:
Just as the child of a holocaust survivor has a problem when Olbermann or his ilk compare an American politician to Hitler, I suspect that Eugene Volokh, given his background, has a problem when an American polemicist compares a bit of ruthless, but typical American political skullduggery to the actions of Josef Stalin.

Let's all just leave it at that, and remember that, despite all of the problems we face in the 21st century in this nation's domestic political scene, they don't hold a candle to those faced by Europe and the world around the middle of the last century.
4.9.2007 5:52pm
BrianNYC (mail):
There is much wisdom to be found in Gordo's last posting.
4.9.2007 6:13pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Wait a second...

Sen. Kerry referred to denizens of Asia as "Orientals?" He should be made to apologize on Al Sharpton's show.
4.9.2007 11:09pm
Public_Defender (mail):

Aside from Olbermann's rather laughable self-regard as this generation's Edward R. Murrow, his regard of the other political party's politicians as fascists is clear, and there for all to see.


Even assuming that your characterization of Olberman is correct, shouldn't we hold a sitting Vice President of the United States to a higher standard than a cable blowhard?

Al Gore's brown shirt comment was out of line, too. I haven't done the research to see if he has retracted it, but he should.
4.10.2007 7:52am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Gordo-

Let's all just leave it at that, and remember that, despite all of the problems we face in the 21st century in this nation's domestic political scene, they don't hold a candle to those faced by Europe and the world around the middle of the last century.

But the thing is that laws and rules have been creeping. Suddenly torture is being condoned. Suddenly habeas corpus has been taken away and arbitrary imprisonment is OK. Many of the laws and rules on illegal human experimentation are being violated with little enforcement. Etc, etc, etc... Many people are unaware of how bloody, oppressive, and totalitarian socialism, collectivism, etc. can and often has to be.

Are these equivalent to the Holocaust or communist massacres? No. But they do represent dangerous steps on the same continuum. So when I feel that people are engaging in behavior that is similar to the Nazis or Stalin I will not hesitate to make the comparison. The Holocaust and the communist massacres were horrible chapters in world history, which is why it is so important that they not be repeated, even to a milder degree or in microcosm.
4.10.2007 2:24pm