There’s an anti-Obama t-shirt for sale depicting the visages of Hitler and Obama, bearing the inscription: “Hitler Gave Great Speeches, Too.”
At first blush, such a comparison seems absurd, if not offensive. Hitler is the very face of evil itself. It’s very hard for most people to comprehend such a comparison. (Besides, if you ask any Lefty out there, he’ll tell you that it’s Bush and Cheney who are the Hitlers of our time!) Is Obama going to gas six million Jews to death? Of course not.
But the Hitler we know is the Hitler of 1945, after his suicide, after World War II, after the Holocaust – the ex post facto Hitler. This is a distorted view that obscures how and why Hitler rose to power in 1933.
And if we look at the Hitler of 1933, as if we did not know what he would become, the similarities with Obama are unsettling.
How are the Hitler of 1933 and Obama similar?
Inexperience: Prior to becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler held no significant position within society. Obama’s resume isn’t much better. Obama hasn’t completed a full term in the Senate yet, and has no significant committee chairmanships or legislation to his credit. Prior to a stint in the Illinois Senate, he was a “community organizer.” Prior to becoming Chancellor, Hitler was a corporal in the German army — and a National Socialist party organizer. Both were losers in their youth – Hitler a failed artist, Obama a self-admitted drug user and dealer.
Unity: Obama has made clear that his goal is unity. So was Hitler’s. The Nazi slogan “Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Furher” – One Nation, One People, One Leader” – made unity his overriding principle. Hitler argued that Germans must be united with Austrians, and with Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain agreed – after all Hitler seemed such a reasonable man, willing to negotiate, who wanted only peace. Hitler’s next step was to demand unity with Germans in Poland, too, and he invaded in 1939, sparking World War II.
Hope and Change: Like Obama, Hitler promised hope to the German people after the defeat in World War I and change from the economic disaster of the unpopular Weimar Republic. Hitler promised jobs, a better standard of living, socialized medicine, economic prosperity, and national security. Hitler did not think that constitutional limitations should impede necessity. For Obama, like Hitler, expanded government power is the answer to all questions. Individualism must be subsumed to the state – Obama proposes a massive national service, as did Hitler.
Cult of Personality: the Nazi Furherprinzip, or “Leadership Principle,” postulated that only one, specially gifted Leader could solve Germany’s problems. Obama’s followers – like Oprah Winfrey, who dubbed him “The One” – similarly believe that Obama transcends mere politics. Obama’s campaign has even resorted to using Nazi and Soviet-style propaganda posters of the Great Leader’s image bearing the inscriptions “Hope” and “Change.”
Rhetorical Appeal Based on Empty Platitudes: Both Hitler’s and Obama’s mass appeal derives from their larger-than-life oratorical ability. Like Hitler, Obama speaks to enormous crowds, desperate to be part of the “movement.” Hitler’s crowds were so big that he had to speak in athletic stadiums – just as Obama has scheduled his Democratic Party nomination acceptance speech for a 75,000 seat outdoor stadium rather than the indoor convention hall, the first time in the history of American politics such a stunt has been contrived.
Like Hitler, Obama speaks in platitudes, not specifics. Obama speaks of unity, hope, change, etc. etc. without bothering to fill in the details. Obama wants to negotiate with terrorists, rid the world of nuclear weapons and carbon emissions, and provide nationalized health care without telling us exactly how it will get done. Similarly, Hitler spoke of Germany’s greatness, its coming resurgence, ridding it of its enemies and traitors, etc. without ever giving details.
Hitler took power in 1933 in a democratic society. He never campaigned by telling the German people that he planned to march six million Jews, women and children included, into gas chambers and throw the bodies into mass graves. (According to Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw, it is possible that the Holocaust wasn’t even Hitler’s plan at all, but a “Plan B” that evolved after the failure of the campaign against the Soviet Union precluded deporting the Jews to Siberia.)
He never campaigned by telling German voters that he would invade France, the USSR, attack Great Britain, and go to war with the United States. If he had, he’d never have won office.
And that’s the point. In 1933, when Hitler took office, nobody really knew what he would actually do. In 1933 he was little more than a very popular man who made a hell of a lot of great speeches and a lot of BIG promises. Ditto for Obama in 2008.
What people did know in 1933 was that whatever Hitler did, it wouldn’t be good for the Jews. And what we do know in 2008 is that whatever Obama does if elected, it won’t be good for conservatives, pro-lifers, taxpayers, small-government libertarians, Constitutional originalism, or American national security.
Better hang on — tight.