During Gov. Paul LePage’s weekly radio address, he over-reached when — in criticizing the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Affordable Care Act — he compared the IRS with Nazi Germany’s secret police, the “Gestapo.”
The response was strident, with Democrats immediately calling for LePage to apologize for his “intentionally offensive” comparison and to end all future “hostile language.”
The governor did apologize, saying it was “not my intent to insult anyone, especially the Jewish community, or minimize the fact that millions of people were murdered.”
That’s more of an apology than that offered by others who have inveighed against the horror of Hitler's regime.
In 2003, Sen. James Inhofe accused Clinton-era EPA Administrator Carol Browner of using “Gestapo tactics” to force public acceptance of the theory of global warming, calling it “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”
Inhofe, first elected to the Senate in 1994, is now the third-ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee and enjoys tremendous support of his party and his constituents in Oklahoma for his straight-talking approach and frank views on public policy.
Sounds just a little bit like LePage.
Or, like former Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer.
Last year, at the height of the NFL contract conflict, Toomer accused Commissioner Roger Goodell of the unthinkable, saying “I think the way Mr. Goodell has handled this, the way he’s kind of using his power, is like a kind of Gestapo-type situation, controlling the players, not letting the judicial system do its work.”
Maybe Toomer, who is 38 years old, never met a Holocaust survivor and doesn't appreciate the full sting of this comparison.
Last year, Occupy Wall Street protesters accused police in Lower Manhattan of using Gestapo tactics in ongoing efforts to enforce peace and order in the streets. Law enforcement efforts may have been aggressive, but disruptive Occupy protesters were certainly not being beaten and killed based on a hatred of their religious faith or sexual orientation.
In 1993, representatives of Federal Express accused the U.S. Postal Service of using Gestapo tactics to intimidate shippers. And no one ever apologized.
Last year, when an Apple employee left an iPhone 4 prototype in a Bay Area bar, where it was then “lifted” by two bar patrons who recognized a techno-find when they saw it, the prosecuting district attorney in San Mateo County referred to Steve Jobs’ internal police force as the “Apple Gestapo.”
Hardly. Internal security to enforce corporate policies also protects valuable corporate work product.
This "Gestapo" overgeneralization is usually made, not out of ignorance, but in an effort to make a point that something is really, truly bad.
And, as we all know, the actions of the Gestapo were among the worst we — as thinking people — can think of.
But, unless we’re actually referring to the brutality of Nazi Germany’s secret police, any comparison to Gestapo tactics or Gestapo-like actions is not fair and it’s not accurate.
LePage was wrong to do it, and has since acknowledged that his radical reference overshadowed what he really wanted to say, which is that “Obamacare is forcing the American people to buy health insurance or else pay a tax. Our health care system is moving toward one that rations care and negatively impacts millions of Americans.
“We no longer are a free people,” he said in a statement Monday. “With every step that Obamacare moves forward, our individual freedoms are being stripped away by the federal government. This should anger all Americans.”
That’s his very firm opinion, and more clearly expressed in writing than on radio.
LePage erred, joining a long line of others who have invoked the same offensive and jarring comparison to make a point.
Last year, in Manatawu, New Zealand, elementary principal and liberal stalwart Allan Alach referred to the nation’s Education Review Office as “the Gestapo” on his personal blog. He was writing about a controversial national education standards policy, and the school’s board of trustees defended his comments as learned opinion.
But, as etiquette expert Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute said this week in reference to a recent blue streak of political profanity in public settings, bad language – which includes inflammatory hyperbole – “crowds out whatever they were actually trying to say.”
Such as with LePage in Maine. The gist of his message was lost in a single word.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.