The Allen West Goebbels Flap

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) dropped some high-powered verbal ordnance in front of reporters last week, as reported in Politico:

“If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine,” West told reporters in the Capitol. “I think that you have, and let’s be honest, you know, some of the people in the media are complicit in this, in enabling them to get that type of message out.”

West was responding to a question about Congress’s low poll numbers and the fact that public blame is centered more on the Republicans. A Pew Research Center poll released Thursday found two in three voters in favor of tossing out most members of Congress in 2012, with a larger share of the blame aimed at the GOP.

The freshman Republican, whose district is in heavily Jewish South Florida, said his reference to Goebbels wasn’t designed to link Democrats to the overall Nazi party.

“I’m talking about propaganda, OK,” he said. “Don’t start taking my words and twisting it around. I’m talking about propaganda. And I think that’s a very important thing. When you tell me that everyone thinks that the only people on Capitol Hill are House Republicans, it’s because that’s what’s being portrayed, is that there’s nobody else up here.”

“Once again, you guys will take whatever I say and you will spin it to try to demonize me or demagogue me,” West added. “What I’m talking about is a person that was the minister of propaganda. And I’m talking about propaganda. So please. I’ll be prepared to wake up tomorrow and you guys make up some crazy story. Whatever.”

That happened on Thursday, Dec. 15.  West might have been able to wake up the next day without encountering any crazy stories, but he found one waiting for him on the House floor today, as described by the Palm Beach Post:

On what may be the final day of House business in 2011, U.S. Rep.Donna Edwards, D-Md., has introduced a resolution condemning U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, for saying last week that Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels would be “very proud” of Democratic efforts to blame congressional dysfunction on the GOP.

Reading from the resolution on the House floor this afternoon, Edwards said: “Such outrageous Holocaust analogies have no place in our political dialogue. They are offensive, they trivialize real historical events and they diminish the memory of the 6 million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust.”

The proposed resolution calls West’s conduct “repugnant” and says the House “disapproves of the behavior of the Representative of Florida, Mr. West, for bringing discredit to the House by offending the memory of those who died during the Holocaust.”

It’s a good thing there’s nothing else going on that would warrant the attention of Congress in the waning days of the year, as West spokeswoman Angela Sachitano pointed out in her response:

The Members of the Democrat party have stooped to a new level in their attempts to bring down Rep. West, who they have deemed a threat to their power. Here we are in the midst of serious Congressional business, and they are focusing their energy on Rep. West. Rep West has no comment at this time.

The House ended up tabling Edwards’ motion on a vote of 231-188, then resumed its far more edifying discussion about who hates the middle class more.

I would have thought such resolutions primarily intended to chastise representatives for what they say on the House floor, rather than what they say to reporters, or else they’d spend all day passing resolutions to condemn each other.  We’re paying far too much for Congress to watch its time wasted on partisan hysterics. 

If Rep. Edwards thinks Rep. West went too far by bringing up Goebbels, she’s free to grab a reporter and vent.  Besides, if every Third Reich analogy dropped before reporters is to become fodder for formal condemnation, the Democrats had better clear their calendars.  They don’t usually go as far as West did to make it immediately clear that they’re not explicitly calling their political opponents Nazis.

I don’t care for Goebbels analogies much myself.  Besides their vulnerability to criticism for being excessive and offensive, they’re so ancient and played out.  The study of both fascism and Nazism, which are two separate but related horrors, is too serious to suffer distraction by quoting Goebbels’ famous but pedestrian observations about Big Lies and such.  Others have said it better.  Leave the old monster in his crypt.