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Posted at 4:26 PM ET, 01/19/2011

Dem Rep says GOP health care rhetoric worthy of Goebbels

By Greg Sargent

Just when you thought the debate over our political climate had died down a bit, along comes Dem Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennesee. He has now poured a can of gasoline on those dying embers with an extraordinary diatribe on the House floor, in which he attacked GOP mendacity on health reform to the work of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels:

Jonathan Karl, who first flagged this moment, has a transcript:

"They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie. Just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like `blood libel.' That's the same kind of thing.

"The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it -- and you had the Holocaust. You tell the lie over and over again. And we heard it on this floor: Government takeover of health care. Politifact... said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover. It's insurance."

Look, just stop it. As the National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement today, invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is "never acceptable."

Beyond this, though, this is just tactically stupid. Cohen would surely insist that he wasn't calling Republicans Nazis; he was merely stating widely-known historical facts in order to vividly describe GOP mendacity. But the comparison Cohen made is clear, and it just plays into the right's hands. At a moment when liberals and Dems are trying get Republicans to condemn the right's "eliminationist rhetoric," and are trying (with some success) to get nonpartisan opinionmakers to acknowledge that the most toxic rhetoric comes overwhelmingly from the right, this gives conservatives ammo to undercut this point.

All this will accomplish is to get Rep. Cohen some cable play, and lead to a lot of somber murmuring and head-shaking among pundits about how "both sides do it." Yes, I get that liberals want to see Dems fight it out with all they've got. But this isn't going to persuade anybody of anything. What's the point?

By Greg Sargent  | January 19, 2011; 4:26 PM ET
 
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Comments

Well, you can question the wisdom of what he said, but what he said was true.

Posted by: kindness1 | January 19, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Should the full House censure Cohen?

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 19, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

@kindness1

Be that as it may, one doesn't find Godwins Law with Godwin's Law.

This whole argumentum ad hitlerum nonsense really has to stop.

Posted by: holyhandgrenaid | January 19, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

*doesn't fight...

ugh

Posted by: holyhandgrenaid | January 19, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Of course he was not invoking The Holocaust. He was reminding people of How Goebbels perfected the Propaganda tactic of repeating a Lie, so big, that people would think, no one would make up such a thing, and kept on repeating it, until it became accepted by most people. That is what was done to the Jewish people, which then made it more acceptable in the minds of those who had been brain washed with Big Lies, to go along with extermination of millions of innocent people, just because they happened to be Jewish.

The Republicans did hammer home The Big Lie, over and over, that it was " A Government Take Over Of Health Care"

It is A Big Lie.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 19, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

If his constituents would call his office and express their disapproval then this would stop. Perhaps we should all pressure this guy to apologize in an effort to make concrete our new commitment to civility.

Posted by: sbj3 | January 19, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Call Cohen's office in DC here

Phone: (202) 225-3265

and ask him to apologize.

Posted by: sbj3 | January 19, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

In order to restore civility; The Republicans should tell the American people the truth, that Health Care Reform is not a Government take over of Health Care, and that Death Panels were never proposed in the bill.

Civility should include The Republicans apologizing for spreading "The Big Lie".

Posted by: Liam-still | January 19, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Liam-still writes
"It is A Big Lie."

Indeed it is. The point could have been made adequately by walking up to the line but not stepping over.

Why not just say this (taken from the excerpt above, with specious remarks removed):

"" "They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it.

"You tell the lie over and over again. And we heard it on this floor: Government takeover of health care. Politifact... said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover. It's insurance." ""

With the Goebbels comparison in there, that becomes the story. Take it out and you can stay on topic about the repeated lies told about the HCR bill.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 19, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Greg -

Cohen is absolutely correct. I wish he was my Congressman, instead of the worthless DINO in our district. Now that the Dems are in a minority in the House it's going to take guys like Cohen, Weiner and maybe some of the more liberal Dems from the CA delegation to take on the Reich Wing GOP on their own terms.
Putting the back of your hand to your forehead and clutching the end of your desk chair, and getting a case of the vapors is a main stream liberal malady that we can't afford. The GOP will continue to proverbially kick your teeth down your throat and then accuse you of mumbling. Who cares about the MSM’s preoccupation on the he said/she said Andrea Mitchell-like response. The Dems have to develop their own talking points in order to change the MSM narrative going into 2012.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 19, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

sbj3, I also contacted Boehner's office (12022250600) and the Rules Committee to lodge my complaint (12022259191).

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 19, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"But this isn't going to persuade anybody of anything. What's the point?"

Greg,

Since when is the point of "debate" on the House floor to persuade anybody of anything? It seems to me the main purpose is to score points with one's own "base."

Did Joe "Liar!" Wilson persuade anyone? No. Did he score points with his base, and reap major benefits in terms of attention and political donations? Yes.

Was it this bad before television guaranteed that outrageous comments in floor debate would get covered like the latest outrage from Snooki or The Situation?

Posted by: bearclaw1 | January 19, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

If millions of people die from lack of health care, because The Republicans repealed their chance to be saved;

What would you call that?

What would you call the act of a political party that resulted in the premature deaths of millions of people?

Posted by: Liam-still | January 19, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"sbj3, I also contacted Boehner's office (12022250600) and the Rules Committee to lodge my complaint (12022259191)."

Quick, someone get the smelling salts!
Your concern is as phony as a $3 bill.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 19, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

House Rule XVII prohibits impugning the motives of other Members or uttering words that are otherwise deemed unparliamentary. A demand that the Member's words be taken down results in the clerk reporting the words and the chair ruling on the propriety of said words. If the demand is made in the Committee of the Whole, the Committee rises and reports them to the House where the chair rules on their propriety.

The offending Member may obtain unanimous consent to withdraw the inappropriate words or the demand may be withdrawn. Following such a withdrawal, the Member proceeds in order. However, if the Member's words are ruled out of order, they may be stricken from the Congressional Record by motion or unanimous consent, and the Member will not be allowed to speak again on that day except by motion or unanimous consent.

The intent of this Rule is to provide an atmosphere where the Members of the House debate the legislative issues before them, rather than engaging in "personality" by characterizing the actions of another Member or showing disrespect to the institution.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 19, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Steve King(R) is still Telling The Big Lie.

"Steve King Defends Health Repeal: ‘There Will Always Be Those Who Slip Through The Cracks’

Last night, Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren pressed Rep. Steve King (R-IA) on how repeal of health care reform would help the uninsured or the poorest Americans who can’t afford to purchase coverage. King first responded, “There will always be those who slip through the cracks,” then tried to dodge the question by arguing that just 12 million would be left without coverage should the law be eliminated. “That’s less than 4 percent of the population. And it’s wrong for us to try to change 100 percent of the policy to address less than 4 percent of the population in America,” King said"

Apparently Republicans see their role as to always make sure that there will never be a shortage of big crack for millions of poor sick Americans to fall through.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 19, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

"The intent of this Rule is to provide an atmosphere where the Members of the House debate the legislative issues before them, rather than engaging in "personality" by characterizing the actions of another Member or showing disrespect to the institution."

I guess then that you can take offense at about 435 members of the House. As your boy, double digit Cantor, would say "c'mon!" By consistently lying and calling a piece of legislation again and again a "government takeover of healthcare" is "showing disrespect to the institution", and the members on the other side of the aisle.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 19, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

All, I spoke to Steve Cohen, he doubled down hard:

http://wapo.st/fWAgzr

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 19, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh, so there ARE death panels in this legislation?

Seriously, I get where Cohen went too far.

But Republicans' lies about the health care bill were simply unfathomable. I mean, DEATH PANELS! Pulling the plug on Grandma. Cooking the books. These are literal, actual accusations that were made by very high-ranking Republicans, not some shmoe backbencher, and they weren't repudiated by the leadership.

And it could be worse...he could be a Gentile accusing a Jew who had been shot in the head of Blood Libel.

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 19, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

No one should impugn the motives of John Boehner when he passed out Tobacco Lobby Checks to fellow Republicans, on the House Floor, just before they voted for legislation that The Tobacco Lobby favored.

Yeah; No one should ever impugn Weeping Boehner's motives, when he did that.

Bribes are cool with Republicans, on the house floor, but pointing that out, in the house, violates the rules.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 19, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Hey, at least unlike Sarah Palin, Cohen used the term "blood libel" correctly!

Posted by: claireunga | January 19, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I thought that invoking Nazi comparisons would bother me but it isn't. Representative Cohen is absolutely correct in that the Republican approach is to lie, lie and then lie some more. And why do they lie? Because in this day and age lies become truth...not truth in that what they say is factual but truth because people believe the lies and support the liars and their politics. What should he have said, "don't believe the Republicans"? That goes a long way with today's media.
The Republican use of over the top rhetoric demands that any response contain at least an equal level of nonsense to even be given coverage. The study released this week that found how badly college students have developed the skills for critical thinking could not have come as any surprise to Republican politicians. They have been using lies, exaggeration and hyperbole with great success knowing that they can state something as fact if they make the statement enough times and that a large segment of America will accept it unwaveringly.
It would be so refreshing to have an actual debate on the merits of any issue that included an intelligent discussion of the facts. There would still be room for opinion to be part of the debate, nothing would stop that, but we can't even do that because the truth is off-limits.
I am deeply saddened that it has come to this but what other alternatives are available when the major force in Washington today is so completely devoid of any ethical or moral standards?

Posted by: mikemfr | January 19, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

@Liam-still "Of course he was not invoking The Holocaust."

"The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it -- and you had the Holocaust."

Reads like he was invoking the Holocaust to me.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 19, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for admitting that The Big Lie Tactic can end up taking the lives of millions of people.

The Republicans have been spreading The Big Lie, in order to take away medical care from millions of sick people.

Sound familiar, to the results from Goebbels Big Lie Tactics? To me it does.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 19, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

The president recently called congressional Republicans "hostage-takers." Cohen's language isn't far off from there.

Posted by: tomtildrum | January 19, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

The Repuplican Lie

So That Millions May Die.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 19, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Repeal has passed 245-189. Only three Democrats (Boren, McIntyre, and Ross; obviously, Giffords did not vote) voted with the GOP.

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 19, 2011 6:34 PM | Report abuse

The reason that Republicans can lie with impunity is that the Washington Post, among countless others, will never bother to correct the record or contradict a conservative liar.
Cohen for President 2012!

Posted by: sparkplug1 | January 19, 2011 7:04 PM | Report abuse

sparkplug1, I agree that Rep. Cohen should primary Obama. The more the merryier!

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 19, 2011 9:29 PM | Report abuse

US House Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) is being raked over the coals by the right-wing blogosphere, Fox News, CNN, Washington Post, etc. for using an evocative metaphor about the repetitious "big lie" propaganda technique employed in the health-care reform debate (specif. "death panels" & "government takeover"). The corporate media congeal to condemn the metaphor while ignoring the real-world impacts of the propaganda's impacts on people, i.e., denying them medical treatment.
What is the greater obscenity? The political use of lies to disenfranchise Americans of the right to adequate medical care? Or, the use of a disturbing metaphor to describe the means by which that end is sought? I contend it's the former.
The corporate media will not allow any discussion of its role in propagating health-care falsehoods and its repetition of the "big lies" as newsworthy, and will punish anyone who dares to expose or challenge it. In the current "style-over-substance" media "mainstream", ruffling the feathers of cubical dilettantes supersedes practical policy analysis.
Cohen is right. Republican and the Tea Party opponents of health-care reform did use the "big lie" technique most egregiously employed by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and the media amplified it.
While many critiques of using Nazi and Fascist analogies as inappropriate to contemporary policy conflicts are correct, in this case, the analogy fits perfectly. Those disturbed by it appear to be those unwilling to recognize and expose the lies and their real-world effects.
David Broadwater
Atascadero, Calif.

Posted by: DavidBroadwater | January 20, 2011 2:56 AM | Report abuse

It is outrageous and offensive for anyone in any way to relate the functioning of American politics and political debate to the Nazis and the Holocaust. It is completely inappropriate to even attempt to imply such a relationship.

Posted by: elieliw | January 20, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Wow! When I first heard a clip of this speech on the radio, I thought it was a Republican talking about the endless stream of lies that have been used to promote Obamacare. Talk about the Big Lie ...

Posted by: tonyr4096 | January 20, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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