The rhetoric of politics and history

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.

It’s hyperbole.

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.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

Bickford Wiles's picture

IRS / Gestopo

Too bad the liberals won't publish the truth about the powers of the IRS. The IRS will have the power to confiscate your home if you do not pay your Health Care Tax/penalty. Tell me they won't ! The Liberals have found just another "grab the wealth strategy" to fill their pockets. Power to Le Page !!

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Never read the law did you

Romneycare (we should give credit where its due to the original author) as passed by the Congress, signed by the President and reviewed by the US Supreme Court explicitly bars the IRS from collecting the individual mandate tax penalty as reported yesterday on FoxNews and reflected in the IRS Commissioner's testimony before Congress prior to passage of the bill. The IRS can not place a lien on your property, can not garnish your wages, can not charge you a penalty, fine, or interest (on the tax penalty) if you fail to buy private health insurance beginning in 2014. That's the truth not the fantasy of the author of the above comment.
Since when is paying for a project "grab the wealth strategy". I know its very different from the Republicans never pay for anything strategy.

Bickford Wiles's picture

So you think you Know the Law.

Since when did the IRS fail to collect back taxes? Since this Is a tax,why wouldn't they enforce it? Like the Obama administration goes by the law. What a Joke !

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Since the Affordable Care Act was passed.

The ACT as passed by Congress prohibits the IRS from using any of the collection techniques it has been authorized to use by other laws to collect the tax penalty. The IRS Commissioner testified under oath that under the the ACA as then proposed he had neither the authority nor the means to collect the penalty. That was important testimony at the time because the Republicans were spreading every lie they could think of including that the IRS would have to add 15000 workers to collect the penalty. No Joke; its the law.
And yes the Obama Administration always follows the law.

Bickford Wiles's picture

The dirty ACT

The ,so called ACT is a misnomer. If you really beleive that this is going to improve Health Care, your just another blind one being led by a foreigner. B.O. broke the Law from the start when he swore to uphold the Constiution of the U.S.A.The only ones to benefit from the ACT will be free-loaders and illegals. You must be one of these.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Amazing, well not really

1. Obama broke no law and he has fully complied with his oath of Office. To suggest otherwise is to expose a complete ignorance of the US Constitution and its purpose or an overwhelming hatred of the American story.
2. Half a dozen folks at my employment already are benefiting from the provisions allowing children up to 26 to remain on their parents health care insurance policy. More are already benefiting from the prohibition on denying insurance to people with pre-existing conditions (every woman in the place). All are benefitting from the elimination of caps on lifetime benefits. One man here doesn't have to worry that he will be denied insurance because he now has cancer. Soon many will benefit from free contraception and other preventive medicine techniques. These are people who WORK every day. Some have second and third jobs to feed and clothe their families; forget college for their children thats beyond their means now. And those that don't have second jobs have their own businesses - roasting pigs, making baskets or christmas decorations, or combinations of enterprises to make a few more bucks etc, etc. So don't you dare call these hard working people free-loaders.
3. The ACA includes an individual mandate which even while uncollectible and too small will help eliminate the current free-loaders on the system.
4. Illegals (well they are sort-of illegals) benefit this country far more than many citizens with far fewer benefits. One of the benefits illegals can not and will not get is the benefit of ACA. Too bad.
5. We all benefit from the requirement that health insurance companies reduce their overhead from the current 30-35% to 20%. That will save alone more than $300 billion in premiums, rebates, or reduced costs of care.
6. As the ACA is implemented the benefits multiply. By 2014, while the ACA is hardly perfect not a person in this country will not benefit from its passage.

Sorry, can't deal with your pathological cynicism

Bickford Wiles's picture

Socialist Policy

As the Obama continues to tread on the constitution and push the country into social programs paid for by just 40% of the population; less,now that his policies have collapsed the market, I continue to be baffled by the people who welcome Socialism.

1.You beleive in nurturing your babies well into their adult years.When will they have to Grow Up ? All of these wonderful benefits you speak of,cost money.If they don't enforce the tax/penalty, how can their be enough money to pay for these luxuries?
2.Why should a perfectly healthy person ,or anyone be forced to purchase something they don't need or want?
3.Illegals get better benefits than our own citizens.The Obama administration,including the crooked Justice Department,encourage their entry.why would they not receive health care also?
4.Interfering with the Commerce system by tying businesses hands is not productive.
5.Sure,we all benefit if the impossible task of paying for it ever happens.The CBO says otherwise.
Sorry for my previous cynical remarks.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

PR

1. President has never "trend on theConstitution".
2. Nor has he pushed the country into social programs paid for by just 40% of the population - that's a ridiculous conclusion. First, 50% (not 40%) of income tax payers pay no Federal income taxes. That includes every payer from Exxon Mobil with $40 billion in profits down to college students with $1600 in income. He has introduced no new social programs.
3. He has not collapsed the market (I assume you mean the stock market). The S&P stood over 1500 in 2007 and by 2008 it was 771. Now that's a collapse and it happenned during Bush's residency not Obama's. Not because Bush was sitting in a chair in the Oval office but because his policies of not enforcing Federal financial regulations allowed th financial services industry to begin defrauding the American consumer of trillions of dollars. The stock market has increased every year Obama has been in office. Its increaded over 3% this year already.
4. Not only has Obama not welcomed Socialism; its very difficult to find a single proposal he has made not just the ones that have passed Congress that were not originally Republican proposals. The Affordable Health Care Act Romneycare) being the obvious best example of this.
to your point 1 - yes, they are wonderful, they should have been in place 100 years ago. We don't believe in punishing our children for no other reason than sadistic pleasure.
point 2 - why should a car drivr who has never had a accident be forced to by insurance; because it makes all of our lives better.
point 3 - below contempt and totally false. Don't know where you get this Beck BS. Illegal immigrantion is down compared to the Bush years and deportations are much higher. The only people encouraging their entry are republican businessmen who can pay them less and exploit their labor.
point 4 - nonsense. No evidence of that and 100 years of experience that confirms that is no better PR than "clean Coal"
point 5 - CBO says no such thing.

I'm reminded of the reply to a comment I made some time back that bewailed the terrific damage the ACA had done (past tense may I emphasize) to the medical devices industry by adding a 2.3% excise tax on sales. Long list of plant closures and layoffs followed with specific companies and reasons. Looked really damning. Until you notice that the excise tax does not go into effect until the 2014 tax year. It does not apply and is not now collected on current sales. So it can not be the reason for a layoff last year.

Bickford Wiles's picture

Liberal Thinking.

1.The president, himself,has said"he is not concerned about the constitution".Meaning,he doesn't necessarily go by its guideline.
2. If you don't call the Affordable care Act a social program,what is it?Healthcare costs have skyrocketed since its inception.Also, Obama is proposing exhorbatant taxes on new medical technology,thus increasing costs.This policy will out source business and create more job loss.
3.By Market,I'm referring to business.Due to his haphazard attack on the free-market,millions of jobs were lost.
Your Liberal buddies,Frank and Dodd are responsible for the Fannie-Mae,Freddy -Mack operation during the Bush tenure that collapsed the system.
There is no way you can convince a socialist he is wrong until they run out of other peoples money.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Ok, I'll keep playing

1. Source; the President is a Constitutional scholar and teacher such a statement is completely out of character with his entire life.
2. Its what it is a Health Insurance Reform program - a business program of regulation.
2a. Yes, they have but not because of the ACA. Health Insurance costs will probably go up when the Exchanges go into effect and three levels of insurance plans are offerred to those WITHOUT insurance. Exchanges do not yet exist therefore can not yet affect insurance premiums. Insurance companies have agreed to keep the changes that have been made by the ACA because they are profitable and have almost no cost even if the ACA was overturned. Our premiums here at work have for at least ten years increased by 16-22% yearly with reductions in coverage each year. Heath Care costs went up 6% last yea at mostr. ACA had nothing to do with these changes.
2b. 2.3% is exhorbatant (give me a break) on an industry with profits well into the 20% range. Might increase health care costs. Might. Companies can not carry added costs to prices if there is price competition in their markets. They therefore reduce something else or increase productivity. I agree that it will be used as an excuse by business to cover up their weak management, but they started lying when they took out their incorpoation papers.
3. "Due to his haphazard attack on the free-market, million of jobs were lost." First, what in hell does that even mean. Since the stimulus was passed, March 2009, jobs have been created not lost. When bama took office January 2009 we were losing 750,000 jobs per month the highest loses were March of that year. President Oama was not in office long enough to do anything to stop the lose (less than 3 month and Congress has to pass whatever the President proposes). Every month since the stimulus went into effect jobs have increased.That's just simple facts. We are up to what 27 months of continuous private sector job growth. The unemployment numbers have only stayed high because Republican governors have cut more than 1 million public sector jobs (total public sector jobs have gone down by more than 600,000 net. Some states have added public sector jobs).
3a. What haphazard attacks on free-markets. Name one.
3b. Please explain how two Congressmen can be responsible for the behavior of two private corporations when they don't even controll congressor the Presidency much less two private corporations.
3c. Fannie-Mae and Freddy-Mack were victims just like AIG of the housing Collapse, not causes of it.The cause was fraud in the housing market, more than well documented, bribery by mortgage-initiators, again more than well documented, criminal violation of the banks in securitizing mortgages, well documented in cases in New York and California (the only two cases so far tried). Everyone who thinks even a few Republicans blames the collapse at least on sub-prime mortgages. FM & FM were legally barred from buying sub-prime mortgages until 2006; the housing collapse started in mid-2007. When FM & FM yelled for help they had purchased less than 3% of the sub-prime mortgages in the country. Please explain how they could have collapsed a bubble 33 times larger than their involvement. We had a commission conclude FM & FM were victims.
Never can convince a capitalist fundamentalist of anything because they think they are morally superior to everyone including God.

Jim Fortier's picture

Gov. Lepage's Comment

I think that he should THINK before he opens his mouth to comment about something;he has done this BEFORE and will do it AGAIN!!

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

LePage, Think - oxymoron.

LePage has accomplished something. His handwritten reply to Senator John Patrick's email has been rated by an internet content filtering organization as pornography. Another first for the Governor.

MARK GRAVE's picture

I think the Governor’s

I think the Governor’s comments are spot on, and I hope he vehemently opposes the Medicare expansion provision in ACA.

Moreover, if the Federal Government retaliates, which it has a history of doing - look at Arazona, against Maine, Maine residents should without dollar for dollar from the Federal Government collectors for what is withheld from the state.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Mark, you need to review the above comment

In your ferver to attack the Fed's you became incoherent. I know you can say this better; even though you know it doesn't make any sense.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Oh, don’t forget there really

Oh, don’t forget there really is better living through smaller government!

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

as I leave work; which smaller

the constitutional "smaller" - Federal Government controls the national defense and economy; the Randian "smaller" - President, 4 clerks, and a Congress that meets for 1 day every 2 years; the Republican Businessman "small" - just big enough that it can ban my domestic and foreign competition and defend me from my workers, my vendors, and my critics; the Communist "small" - just small enough that the party can make every decision; or evangelical "small" - just big enough that the god's government can run everyone's life.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

as along

as independent (now that's a subject by itself) regulators are on the job

MARK GRAVE's picture

Well, bashing the feds is

Well, bashing the feds is always justified.

That said, I have not mastered the keyboard on my touch pad yet. I need to disable the auto-correct features since it sometimes replaces misspelled words with words that I didn't intend.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

It is an easy target and many times deservingly so.

mine too; mine also, doesn't display some keys I press, sometimes displays keys I don't press but that's crumbs under the keys.

MICHAEL LEBLANC's picture

Geheime Staatspolizei

Put your dislike where it belongs. The IRS does not make tax policy, Congress does. The IRS does not make enforcement policy, the administration does, via the Treasury Department.

The word gestapo is an abbreviation of Geheime Staatspolizei, German for "Secret State Police". There's nothing secret about the IRS, but it is being converted into a federal police to enforce a certain provision of ObamaCare which, of course, is not a tax. Or it is. Or it isn't. Which way is the wind blowing?

If the expansion of the IRS is to intimidate people into complying with a non tax, then we all better get used to goose-stepping and heil-ing.

RONALD RIML's picture

So who would you rather collect the Retreaded RomneyCare??

The ATF????

MICHAEL LEBLANC's picture

Not ATF, but WTF.

Evidently you find a photo you like and then strain yourself to put a comment with it. Whether or not it makes sense to the discussion never enters your mind. It's a symptom of early-onset dementia caused by over exposure to tweed from an old cap on a bald head.

I would much prefer a system that does not need to be enforced, that emphasizes freedom of choice, that does not require an SS to supervise the transfer of wealth from those who earn it to those who want it handed to them on a plate.

Under the current circumstances, I recommend as collection agent the Retired Kankakee Policemen's Bund. Let them do something productive for a change with the skills they have learned.

RONALD RIML's picture

So that explains your iconic picture and attitude

in a nutshell.

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