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Posted at 3:01 PM ET, 01/20/2011

No Labels gets this one right

By Jennifer Rubin

I've been tough on No Labels, but the moderate, pro-civility group (there I go again labeling!) got one right today:

While Americans are deeply divided on last night's vote to repeal health care reform legislation, citizens should unite in condemning a toxic analogy used during the debate on the House floor, according to a new national movement launched last month to combat hyper-partisanship and promote political problem solving.

No Labels today is throwing a yellow flag, repudiating a statement made by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during the heat of the debate to repeal the health care reform law.

On Tuesday night, Rep. Cohen used an incendiary Nazi analogy to criticize opponents of health care reform legislation passed in the 111th Congress, saying:

"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 a lie over and over again. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care."

The group goes on to say that, sure, health care is a controversial topic, but "using an inflammatory Nazi analogy on the House floor to characterize the policy statements of your opponents does nothing to advance the health care debate and does plenty to widen the political divide we must bridge to achieve progress on urgent national problems."

Good for No Labels. Not a week after the "civilty" lectures following the horrible Arizona killings we had Cohen on the floor using the most objectionable rhetoric with nary an eye brow raised among liberals. But No Labels isn't in charge of policing the House (although its contribution is appreciated); the House is in charge of policing the House.

Here's my idea: a bipartisan letter from Republican and Democratic leadership to Cohen demanding an apology on the floor to his colleagues. Now, hard how would that be? Unless, of course, the Democrats are only interested in finger-pointing at Republicans.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 20, 2011; 3:01 PM ET
Categories:  Arizona shooting  
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Comments

The Era of Civility was short-lived.

Posted by: eoniii | January 20, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I think Rep. Cohen already put out a statement explaining exactly what he meant by his comment, so the mock indignation regarding it seems a little overwrought.

Posted by: mustangs79 | January 20, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

As a Democrat, I say the Nazi comparison is uncalled for but how predictable that Rubin who never sees a Republican speech she doesn't like has mustered up the nerve to condemn a Democrat for crossing the civility line and wants to throw some stones. How about if the bi-partisan bill vows "I" language? "I" will refrain from Nazi comparisons when there aren't any Nazis in the room? And how about going one further and not lying about the contents of the health care bill to scare people against it?

Posted by: SarahBB | January 20, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Democrats only want bi-partisanship for cover.....or when they are losing

Cohen put out an "explanation"...that "Goebbels reference was not a nazi reference"......like there were dozens of propaganda ministers named "Goebbels"....

The left's "nazi analogy" stuff has been going on so long that they do not even notice when they do it......

When the House budget cuts start....watch how 'civil' and analogy-free the left.....isn't

Posted by: georgedixon1 | January 20, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Wow a member of the media created 'No Labels' praising her 'No Labels' media fellow travellers, how predictable and sanctimonious.I think i will now cry tears of pious joy.

Posted by: insaneinthemembrain | January 20, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Where does WaPo find these intellectually challenged right wing columnists?

Just asking.

Posted by: flamingliberal | January 20, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Where does WaPo find these intellectually challenged right wing columnists? Just asking. Posted by: flamingliberal

Probably from the same pile of dung they get their lazy, hypocritical leftist dunces.

Posted by: je121819 | January 20, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

O. K. Ms. Rubin. Everyone's going to play nice.

A statement and then a question.

As the right in this country moves further and further to the far, far right, what are we supposed to say about the wingers' policies if analogies with Nazi Germany happen to be true?

Posted by: flamingliberal | January 20, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

in response to this:
==============
I think Rep. Cohen already put out a statement explaining exactly what he meant by his comment, so the mock indignation regarding it seems a little overwrought
===================

this weenie in congress spoke a bunch of weasel words that don't add up to an apology. It is just that simple.

As others have noted the left's calls for civility were just lies. What you guys mean by civility is "everyone who disagrees with the liberal agenda must behave in a manner dictated by the liberals themselves".

I don't think so pal. It seems to me that the left is acting like sore losers and that's just fine. Nothing will insure another knock down in round two of throwing out the leftist bums than you guys living in denial for the next two years.

Congressional Democrats face a huge problem. the Republicans were elected to do some things, that they are doing them. the Democrats can either move to obstruct and face another shellacking, or retire. Let's see if Lieberman sets the precedent.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 20, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

this weenie in congress spoke a bunch of weasel words that don't add up to an apology. It is just that simple.
*************************************
I don't think he felt he had anything to apologize for. As I said, I'm sure there will be plenty of mock indignation, and then we'll all move on to the next comment everyone claims to be horrified by.

Posted by: mustangs79 | January 20, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

But Ms. Rubin isn't really "playing nice." Her compliment of No Labels is, if you read the piece carefully, a means for her to attack Democrats while pretending to be pro-civility.

Posted by: SouthernerInDC | January 20, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

I suppose occasionally we have to give credit where it's due, even if it's rarely due. Just last week NoLabels called Sheriff Dupnik "eloquent." Now "dupnik" is in the Urban Dictionary, and no, it doesn't mean "eloquent."

@mustang79: Rep. Cohen's "explanation" was as dumb as his own overwrought, highly tendentious, inflammatory, and completely unfair (not to say irrelevant) outburst. It was offensive, and his "explanation" should have included an apology to the 6 million Jews the Nazis killed and to the fellow congressmen who happen to disagree with him and the voters who elected them to represent them. We don't like being compared to Nazis and we don't like half-assed "explanations" that imply that we don't understand plain, "I'm going to get my soundbite on the evening news if it kills me" English when we hear it. He's a second-rate pupil of the execrable Alan Grayson School of Civil Discourse.

Posted by: bbmoe | January 20, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

@bbmoe

You don't refute the lies so...are we out in the open now, can we all agree that GOP politicians routinely spread lies about the ACA act? Good. It will make these discussiongs much less tedious.

Posted by: rgray | January 20, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

It was offensive, and his "explanation" should have included an apology to the 6 million Jews the Nazis killed and to the fellow congressmen who happen to disagree with him and the voters who elected them to represent them. We don't like being compared to Nazis and we don't like half-assed "explanations" that imply that we don't understand plain, "I'm going to get my soundbite on the evening news if it kills me" English when we hear it. He's a second-rate pupil of the execrable Alan Grayson School of Civil Discourse.
****************************************
I'm sure Democrats don't like being compared to Soviets, Nazis, etc. either, and yet the occasional Republican does make them without the world coming to an end or the need for a bipartisan letter from the House leadership demanding apologies. It was a dumb comment on Cohen's part, but I got what he was going for, and I have better things to do than spend my time being offended over a non-event like this.

Posted by: mustangs79 | January 20, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The last sentence of the piece sums it up nicely, I think. When the President asked us all to be civil, he meant conservatives; liberals can carry on the President's dirty work, as usual.

Posted by: carolina-born | January 20, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

georgedixon wrote: "The left's "nazi analogy" stuff has been going on so long that they do not even notice when they do it......"
________________________________
OK, George. You raise a valid point: some people on the left like to call some people on the right "Nazis" with no basis in fact. Pretty stupid and obviously uncivil.

So I'll assume you'll agree with me that it's equally wrong when some people on the right call some people on the left "communists" with no basis in fact. Pretty stupid and obviously uncivil.

We're agreed, right?

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | January 20, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I said when No Labels posted this on FB and I will say it again. The man was 100% right. Repeating lies until unimformed people believe them is a favorite of propagandists. What ever happende to "learn from history or be doomed to repeat it"? Look, here's the thing. I'm all for civility but not at the cost of free speech and most importantly the truth.

Posted by: tastclair | January 20, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Shortly after the totally corrupt Katharine Weymouth was named Chief Executive of Washington Post Media, she instituted the idea of "salons". They were dinners to be held in her mansion and those politicians, lobbyists, think tank sycophants and others wishing a more favorable treatment from the Post could pay to attend the "salon" and have dinner with WaPo's columnists. A little money never hurts. Might get you front page if the money's enough.

Such corruption is disgusting. That she would so corrupt an influential member of the Fourth Estate.... and retain her job... is scandalous. In fact, it's worse than scandalous as who would ever consider Wapo a reputable newspaper after that. Unless she resigned, of course.

And then there was the memo to one of her editors demanding a turn to the right and the hiring of more right wing columnists and reporters.

I can't speak for you, but I know where the intellectual light weight, Jennifer Rubin came from.

She came from a corrupt newspaper headed by a corrupt executive who should have resigned long, long ago.


Posted by: flamingliberal | January 20, 2011 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Did Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) forget that he was live on C-Span1? Nazi metaphors have no place in any discourse. Goebbels certainly did not have the copyright on the propaganda technique called "The Big Lie".

Everyone, not just Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), sould start quoting George Orwell's 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language, starting with:

"...In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the
indefensible. ...

one ought to recognize that the present [1946] political chaos is connected with the decay of language,
...
Political language-and with variations this is true of all political
parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound
truthful and murder respectable. and to give an appearance of solidity to
pure wind. ..."

http://www.george-orwell.org/Politics_and_the_English_Language/0.html

As a registered Democrat, I am so offended by Rep. Cohen's descent into Nazi-invocation, that I am writing my congressman Engel to finally tell him what I think about the Democratic Party descent into ... fill in the blank.


Posted by: K2K2 | January 20, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Civility, yes, definitely.

But we also need accuracy. "This job-killing" (affordable health care act) would make a wooden nose grow if the Congressional Budget Office analyses are to be believed, and they generally are. We need a civil way to correct (I originally typed "call out," but that probably is uncivil).

Thought: When a Member makes an assertion that another Member challenges, a neutral party should quickly adjudicate who is right: the assertor or the challenger. The "wronger" should then have to forthrightly acknowledge his/her error and state what is correct in a setting with equivalent visibility as that for the original statement. Not doing so, or repeating the erroneous assertion, should be grounds for prompt and severe disciplining by the House.

Posted by: jimb | January 20, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Rubin:

Please respond to the following statement:
"The GOP and other critics of the HCR legislation 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 a lie over and over again. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care."
_____________

So what we have here is an edited version (mine) of Cohen's statement which omits any inflammatory reference to Nazis (feel free to compare my version to Cohen's original statement). You and No Labels have chastised Cohen for his lack of civility. OK, so be it. So now dispute the substance of his argument.

Please. I'm sure I can trust you to do so in a thoroughly civil manner.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | January 20, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Republicans HAVE been using standard Big Lie tactics for most of my adult life. They have no reason not to, because such tactics have served them extraordinarily well. And they have always relied on brain-dead corporate media hacks to 1) disseminate the lie, and 2) cluck about manners and decorum should anyone speak candidly about it. Apparently, today's brain-dead corporate media hack, Rubin, is upset because somebody cited Dr. Goebbels. Shocking!

There's something a lot worse **worse** than the supposed "incivility" of what's laughably called "our discourse". It's the sheer stupidity of it, the dumbness, the way people in all factions spout empty euphemisms for fear of speaking a truth and offending somebody. Self-appointed manners police like Rubin are one reason that it's so dumb.

What kept Rubin from discussing **what** the Congressman was talking about, instead of **how** he phrased it? It's probably this: It's a substantial issue, it's complicated, and your basic journalist is too much of a fluff-obsessed dullard to pay attention.

Oh, my -- how UNCIVIL of me!

Posted by: SGlover910 | January 20, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

It's wonderful to see Rubin criticize the comparison of political opponents to the Nazi party. It does desreve to called out. however, I only wish I had seen her be a tenth so indignant and rightous when her buddies Glenn and Rush repeatedly describe the President and his supportors as Nazis. Once she becomes a bit less hypocritical and a bit less inconsistent in this regard, then I'll take her rant against the Dems a bit more seriously.

I'm all for diversity, but Rubin is simply not up to WAPO standards, left or right. Isn't there anyone less predictable and banal on the right that you can hire if you feel you have to be more PC?

Posted by: mike141 | January 20, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

"As the right in this country moves further and further to the far, far right, what are we supposed to say about the wingers' policies if analogies with Nazi Germany happen to be true?"

flamingliberal, The Nazis were from the political Left, not the political Right. The Nazis/fascists were on the same political wavelength as the communists. As a matter of fact, letters of approval were sent around between Mussolini, Hitler and FDR as they all had similar "progressive" ideas of how society should be shaped. Naturally, this was before the war.

Stalin and the commies hated Hitler and the fascists, largely because they were both trying to claim the same ideological ground. The propaganda savvy Soviets started labeling the fascists as "right-wing" so as to identify them as "opposites" from the communists.

So, next time you want to suggest that Republicans/conservatives are creeping ever closer to a Nazi ideology, you may want to keep in mind that the Nazis were left-wingers, not right-wingers.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 20, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Feel free to call people ....
Nazis
Communists
Racists
Socialists

Voters are actually smart enough to figure out who is lying.

Don't take away free expression on the mistaken premise that voters are dumb.

The long term history is that voters are fairly smart about seeing through political lies and smears.

Trust voters.
Trust the 1st Amendment.

Posted by: jfv123 | January 20, 2011 10:37 PM | Report abuse

What about this "cease fire" (so-to-spe­ak) and the call for and end to incendiary rhetoric? The democrats broke their own rules faster than Rosie O'Donnell breaks her diets. Sarah Palin was crucified for using the term "blood libel" to describe the vicious lies that she was to blame for the Arizona shooting..­. but the liberal commenters seem to jump to Cohen's defense when he uses blood libel to call Republican­s Nazi's for repealing the health care bill. Just like when another democrat basically said republican­s wanted children to die from lack of health care. If that's not incendiary rhetoric (and a complete lie) I don't know what is. It took 2.2 seconds for democrats to break their own "cease fire". I actually find it funny in a sad way.

Posted by: Anniebobannie | January 20, 2011 10:39 PM | Report abuse

So, next time you want to suggest that Republicans/conservatives are creeping ever closer to a Nazi ideology, you may want to keep in mind that the Nazis were left-wingers, not right-wingers.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons
*************************************
Who is suggesting the GOP is creeping closer to Nazi ideology? How did you misconstrue that one? The guy was accusing the GOP of using propaganda to achieve their goals - something the Nazis were very good at. Propaganda is a tool, not an ideology.

Posted by: rgray | January 20, 2011 10:59 PM | Report abuse

So, next time you want to suggest that Republicans/conservatives are creeping ever closer to a Nazi ideology, you may want to keep in mind that the Nazis were left-wingers, not right-wingers.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons
*************************************
Who is suggesting the GOP is creeping closer to Nazi ideology? How did you misconstrue that one? The guy was accusing the GOP of using propaganda to achieve their goals - something the Nazis were very good at. Propaganda is a tool, not an ideology.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I am suggesting that the right wing in the US is creeping closer and closer to Nazism, for one. I am not just suggesting it, I am repudiating (or refudiating if that makes more sense to this reactionary) the notion that Nazism or Fascism arises from the left.

It doesn't. It arises from the right. The whole collective history of US and European historians and economists affirm that. Just because right wing liars such as Jonah Goldberg, who is a joke in academic circles, posit such nonsense doesn't make it true. And just because some wingnuts want to re-write history, doesn't make their revision true.

And the far right wingnuts can tell all the lies they want for as long as they want as often as they want. But some questions in history have been decided. Rewrite all you want, but the truth is the truth, despite vacuous intellectual right wing nuts such as Jonah Goldberg.

And.... that governor of Arizona who is now going to kick hundreds of medically indigent patients off of medicaid so that the scandal of letting 168 people who need transplants won't die... who is going to take the money from those people with no voice... and give it to those who need transplants to assuage the barbarity of their politics... if that is not Nazism, what is??


Posted by: flamingliberal | January 20, 2011 11:31 PM | Report abuse

No Labels seems to be keeping an eye on politician's behavior. Gotta give them credit for sure. I certainly appreciate the effort to keep Washington on the right path and actually working for America instead of the normal senseless bickering and name-calling.

Posted by: doctgo5 | January 21, 2011 1:09 AM | Report abuse

not appropriate to whip out Nazi analogy. But he is right about the big lie repeated over and over again -- with tons of $$ behind this big lie.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | January 21, 2011 1:42 AM | Report abuse

To the girls at this joke called "no labels", EFFFFFFFF EEEEWWWWEEE. Get a job!

Posted by: carlbatey | January 21, 2011 1:45 AM | Report abuse

Rep. Cohen's use of the Nazi German paradigm to excoriate his opponents was certainly tasteless and indecent, no matter what his "explanation" or "apology" may have meant.
Worse, it was intellectually lazy and puerile, the sort of invective I would expect from a 14 year old posting on the Daily Kos.
And as a Jew, I find Rep. Cohen's abuse of the word Nazi in an American political context to score a political point to be disgusting per se, insulting to the memory of the Jews murdered by the Nazis and their European and Arab helpers, and trivializing of the Holocaust.
Rep. Cohen, as a Jew and as an American should be deeply ashamed of himself.

Posted by: Beniyyar | January 21, 2011 4:36 AM | Report abuse

O. K. Ms. Rubin. Everyone's going to play nice.

A statement and then a question.

As the right in this country moves further and further to the far, far right, what are we supposed to say about the wingers' policies if analogies with Nazi Germany happen to be true?

Posted by: flamingliberal | January 20, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

============================================
That some writers who pretend civility are very more interested in showing their familiarity with Professor Godwin??

Posted by: PALADIN7E | January 21, 2011 4:59 AM | Report abuse

Cohen is a fool with no clout from a district that is so gerrymandered that it would elect a rabid dog if it was a Democrat, much less a yellow one.

His constituents are getting exactly the kind of representation they deserve.

Posted by: corco02az | January 21, 2011 5:40 AM | Report abuse

What is being lost here is that "government takeover of healthcare" is not a "big lie." Anyone who actually reads the Affordable Care Act will find enormous growth in government power in every aspect of health care. The increase in the bureaucracy alone should be an indication of how much more powerful the government will be over the sector. While there are good things included in the law, they are far outweighed by the negative consequences of it.

Posted by: SavingGrace | January 21, 2011 6:16 AM | Report abuse

rubin is right.cohen is a man without any imagination.further he debases the memory of those who were slaughtered.
an apology is not enough.he he should resign forthwith.

Posted by: razor2 | January 21, 2011 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Here's some red meat for the angry: compared to what we have, a government takeover of health care **might** be A Good Thing. Here's why: No government program has been or ever could be worse administrated than private health care is today. There is so little good to say about it: practice by whim, without evidence of effectiveness; charges rigged to benefit health insurers; minimal emphasis on getting healthy and staying there; no support for patients and families facing death; excessive payments for care of no proven worth; procedure-based payment, systematically encouraging procedures. The money we waste on the combination of unnecessary, improperly performed and improperly withheld health care is paid for by too much time spent being ill and too much overhead built into the cost of all we do and produce. It amounts to somewhere between 30% and 50% of what we spend in health care. There is plenty of money in the system for health care, but it is SO badly spent. OK: now rave on!

Posted by: frodot | January 21, 2011 7:38 AM | Report abuse

frodot, I'll rave on. I submit that whatever problems the US health system has is *because* of the government. It is due to the very restrictions and regulations that the govt imposes on the system that is the cause, in your words "....could be worse administrated than private health care is today." If the govt simply laid out some minimal basic rules/laws and provided legal protection for patients and then got out of the way, we'd have a much superior system than we have now. And one that would be light years better than a heath system that's run by the govt.

flamingliberal, I find it unsurprising, especially given your tag of "flamingliberal," that you'd revolt against the notion that Nazism is a left-wing ideology. It's discomforting to learn that what has been the ultimate "right-wing" bogeyman for the
Left is actually not right-wing, but left-wing.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 21, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

"Not a week after the "civilty" lectures following the horrible Arizona killings we had Cohen on the floor using the most objectionable rhetoric with nary an eye brow raised among liberals."

Rachel Maddow "raised her eyebrows" and called Rep. Cohen out on this on her show last night. Just a stupid comment.

Posted by: daveb59 | January 21, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

He's accusing his opponents of a logical fallacy (the Big Lie fallacy) not of behaving like Nazis as there's nothing essentially Nazi-like about fallacious reasoning.

Posted by: DJ_Spanky | January 21, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

She talks about labeling. Notice, however, that the target here is a Democrat - and all the instances of conservatives calling Obama/Democrats, among other things, communists/socialists/Marxists/Nazis have not merited this kind of response from this writer.

Posted by: ravensfan20008 | January 21, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

What is the surprise? No labels said they would try to end partisan sniping. Also, not a surprise: Jennifer Rubin has not moved beyond partisan sniping.

Posted by: billyvw | January 21, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Nazi comparisons are inappropriate and ineffective, of course. But the bigger problem with Cohen's statement is that the Republican's arguments are not "lies." Democrats need to get their brains around the idea that it is not a "lie" to disagree with them.

Of course, if an argument is silly enough (say, the notion that Obamacare will save money by giving 30 million more people health care) then it might be more civil to say that the ones making that argument are lying rather than that are idiots.

Posted by: Larry3435 | January 21, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

As the right in this country moves further and further to the far, far right, what are we supposed to say about the wingers' policies if analogies with Nazi Germany happen to be true?
==============================================

As the right moves further and further to the right... you mean to the principles of the Constitution? Obviously then, that means that you on the left have moved further and further away from the Constitution.

Posted by: russellburgett | January 22, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

You mean you actually thought the left meant it? Well now you know better.
Being a "progressive" means never having to say your sorry because self righteous is it's own excuse.

Posted by: devluddite | January 22, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

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