The latest “Obama = Hitler” shenanigans: Too stupid even for the Hitler Zombie…

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Remember the Hitler Zombie? He doesn’t show up all that much anymore. The reason is not because a lot of brain dead Nazi analogies aren’t being used to demonize political opponents. In fact, If I had a mind to, I could probably populate this blog with nothing other than people whose brains have obviously been eaten by the zombie, leaving so little intellectual firepower left that they actually believe that comparing President Obama to Hitler makes sense. Mainly, the reason that I don’t do Hitler Zombie bits so often anymore is that the monster has chomped so many brains, producing so much craziness and so many idiotic, historically ignorant Hitler analogies, that the crazy bar has been raised to too high a level. What would have been an excellent example of over-the-top nonsense for a satirical blog post featuring the undead Führer in a story demonstrating his mad brain chompin’ skillz three years ago would barely register as anything unusual today.

So it is with, sadly, the health care debate.

The latest nonsense appears to be emanating from (who else?) Rush Limbaugh and other right wing pundits, and it’s shown just how low opponents of President Obama’s health care reform initiative will go. I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of problems with the bill and many points of legitimate disagreement. However, the latest attack has nothing to do with anything of the sort. Rather, it’s the usual use of the argumentum ad Hitlerium gambit: pure demonization.

I first became aware of this when a reader sent me this link, in which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi referred to protesters crashing town hall meetings on health care reform “wearing things like Nazi swastikas.” The implication was that Pelosi was saying that Republicans were Nazis and that maybe she’d make a good “victim” of the Hitler zombie. I’ve never liked Nancy Pelosi (I think she’s an idiot, quite frankly), but I don’t think that’s the correct interpretation. Again, go back to the “Tea Parties” and see that, indeed, there were lots of protesters carrying Nazi swastikas and equating President Obama to Hitler. Personally, I think Pelosi just stated what she was trying to say very poorly and that she was simply referring to such protesters, who do in fact exist.

And certainly the opposition to Obamacare isn’t shy about Nazi analogies. Get a load of the latest, namely the claim that President Obama’s symbol for his health care initiative looks like a Nazi symbol. Indeed, go to Rush Limbaugh’s website, and you will see a Flash animation of the Nazi symbol morphing into the Obama symbol:

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The resemblance, as far as I can tell, is really superficial. I wouldn’t have picked it up. In any case, the Obama logo is based on the caduceus. One could argue whether the caduceus imagery is historically correct, but it isn’t Nazi imagery. And Rush goes off the reservation when he says:

They accuse us of being Nazis and Obama’s got a health care logo that’s right out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook. Now what are the similarities between the Democrat Party of today and the Nazi party in Germany? Well, the Nazis were against big business. They hated big business and, of course, we all know that they were opposed to Jewish capitalism. They were insanely, irrationally against pollution. They were for two years mandatory voluntary service to Germany. They had a whole bunch of make-work projects to keep people working one of which was the Autobahn.

They were against cruelty and vivisection of animals but in the radical sense of devaluing human life, they banned smoking. They were totally against that. They were for abortion and euthanasia of the undesirables as we all know and they were for cradle-to-grave nationalized health care.

The stupid, it does so burn. I suppose I could say that the Nazis were for a strong military and pre-emptive action against enemies. That means, but Rush’s own logic, that President Bush was a Nazi! Rush is also–well, there’s just no other way to put it–full of shit when he says that the Nazis hated big business. The Nazis loved big business! They hated trade unions and supported large industrial concerns! Many top capitalists in Germany supported the Nazi Party. I do have to wonder, however, what Rush meant by “Jewish capitalism.” It sure sounded to me as though he at least partially buys into the imagery of “Jewish bankers” and “Jewish capitalists” that the Nazis promoted.

Rush is also wrong about the Nazis and smoking. While it’s true that Hitler detested smoking, it’s also true that it was the Nazis who first showed a strong epidemiological link between smoking and cancer. As a result, the Nazis tried to do whatever they could to decrease smoking, including banning smoking at hospitals, on trains, and in some public buildings. As the war dragged on, any source of money to fund the troops was sought. Guess what? The Nazis did what so many other governments have done in the past. They taxed cigarettes. Indeed, in Robert Proctor’s, The Nazi War on Cancer you can even find images of tobacco tax stamps with Hitler’s familiar visage on them. Moreover, there was a distinct mixed message with regard to tobacco in Nazi Germany. Limited tobacco rations were used to reward the “deserving” (e.g. frontline soldiers, members of the Hitler Youth) and were denied to the “undeserving.” Moreover, it’s arguable whether the tobacco control policies instituted by the Nazi regime or the shortages of tobacco resulting from the war were the real cause of the decline in tobacco consumption after 1939. In any case, this is one of the rare cases where the Nazis were right. They actually discovered that smoking causes cancer and heart disease twenty years before the U.S. started to appreciate the danger.

This sort of idiocy spewed by Limbaugh grates. After all, if Hitler built the Autobahn, does that mean that Eisenhower was a Nazi because he build the Interstate Highway System? If stupidity were a virus, Rush is trying to infect the world. But even Rush pales in comparison to the latest Nazi-related lie that’s being spread about the Obama health plan. Let’s just take a look at what Sarah Palin just said about it last week:

And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

If Rush’s stupid burns thermonuclear, Palin’s stupid burns with the heat of every supernova that has ever been in the entire existence of the universe, so much so that it’s seared the brains of her Republican colleagues in the House, who wrote:

Section 1233 of the House-drafted legislation encourages health care providers to provide their Medicare patients with counseling on ‘the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration’ and other end of life treatments, and may place seniors in situations where they feel pressured to sign end of life directives they would not otherwise sign. This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law.

The fact is that none of this is even in the health care bill. None of it in any form that would be recognizable based on Palin’s histrionics. Here is the text of the current version of the end-of-life counseling provision in the bill:

Advance care planning consultation

‘(hhh)(1) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such consultation shall include the following:

‘(A) An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to.

‘(B) An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses.

‘(C) An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.

‘(D) The provision by the practitioner of a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning, including the national toll-free hotline, the advance care planning clearinghouses, and State legal service organizations (including those funded through the Older Americans Act of 1965).
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‘(E) An explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.

‘(F)(i) Subject to clause (ii), an explanation of orders regarding life sustaining treatment or similar orders, which shall include–
‘(I) the reasons why the development of such an order is beneficial to the individual and the individual’s family and the reasons why such an order should be updated periodically as the health of the individual changes;
‘(II) the information needed for an individual or legal surrogate to make informed decisions regarding the completion of such an order; and
‘(III) the identification of resources that an individual may use to determine the requirements of the State in which such individual resides so that the treatment wishes of that individual will be carried out if the individual is unable to communicate those wishes, including requirements regarding the designation of a surrogate decisionmaker (also known as a health care proxy).
‘(ii) The Secretary shall limit the requirement for explanations under clause (i) to consultations furnished in a State–
‘(I) in which all legal barriers have been addressed for enabling orders for life sustaining treatment to constitute a set of medical orders respected across all care settings; and
‘(II) that has in effect a program for orders for life sustaining treatment described in clause (iii).
‘(iii) A program for orders for life sustaining treatment for a States described in this clause is a program that–
‘(I) ensures such orders are standardized and uniquely identifiable throughout the State;
‘(II) distributes or makes accessible such orders to physicians and other health professionals that (acting within the scope of the professional’s authority under State law) may sign orders for life sustaining treatment;
‘(III) provides training for health care professionals across the continuum of care about the goals and use of orders for life sustaining treatment; and
‘(IV) is guided by a coalition of stakeholders includes representatives from emergency medical services, emergency department physicians or nurses, state long-term care association, state medical association, state surveyors, agency responsible for senior services, state department of health, state hospital association, home health association, state bar association, and state hospice association.

Whenever you hear someone like Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin make a claim about a law or bill, it’s a good idea to go to the original source. Usually, what they say about a bill they don’t like is related to the contents of that bill only by coincidence. The lies that Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are peddling, namely that Obamacare will force old people to have discussions about euthanasia, are ridiculous misrepresentations of what is actually in the bill.

Basically, all this part of the bill is saying is that the government will encourage primary care physicians to discuss end-of-life issues with their patients every five years. As a cancer surgeon who has frequently had to deal with end-of-life issues I consider this to be a very good thing. Before my practice was more restricted, back when I did general surgical oncology, I used to get consultations all the time for elderly, infirm patients with widely metastatic cancer who were clearly on their last legs but who were unfortunate enough to have a surgical complication near the end, such as a bowel obstruction or bleeding. Even though we knew that surgery would be very unlikely to provide much palliation and would definitely increase their suffering in their last time on earth, surgeons would be consulted. No one had ever discussed with the patient or the family how he or she would want terminal care managed. The doctors would assume that we still had to do everything, and the family, not knowing and not wanting to feel as if they hadn’t tried everything, would be reluctant to say “no more” and accept this complication as the terminal event.

No one is saying that the current health care reform bills are perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The product of our messy legislative process, complicated by divisions among the Democratic Party itself, the bill is a huge mish-mash. The problem with the harvesting of brains of the bill’s opponents by the Hitler Zombie, however, is that the histrionic exaggerations and lies about what is actually in the bill are a huge distraction designed not to make the bill better but to scare people so much that the bill goes down in flames. When opponents start labeling this bill another Final Solution, that goes so far beyond rational debate that it deserves nothing but contempt and ridicule:

I created the Hitler Zombie as a literary device (if you can call it “literary”) to mock people who make specious comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis for the sole purpose of demonizing their political opponents. I’m with Ed Brayton on this one. I didn’t like it when George Soros, Michael Moore, and left wing antiwar protesters would compare George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler and the Republicans to Nazis, and I don’t like it now that I see conservative protesters, egged on by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and others, doing the same to President Obama and the Democrats. Of course, as Ed pointed out, those who wailed the longest and hardest about those nasty anti-Bush protesters likening Bush to Hitler are strangely silent now that their side is doing the same to Obama.