The extreme sport of insult
The hard left decided long ago that George W. Bush is Hitler. In maddened corners of the Internet and at swastika-choked antiwar marches, Bush is shown with a Nazi uniform or a Hitler mustache. But does everyone on the far left believe this? Not at all. Some think that Dick Cheney is the real Hitler (he commands America's "storm-trooper legions," said former right-wing crackpot and current left-wing crackpot Lyndon LaRouche). Others think Don Rumsfeld is Hitler (both men favored mountaintop retreats, the Action Coalition of Taos points out). These comparisons are still being argued. Air Force veteran Douglas Herman, writing an op-ed piece in Florida, says Rumsfeld is more like Goering, since both men were fighter pilots, while LaRouche decided that Cheney isn't just Hitler--he's Lady Macbeth as well.
Many on the left believe that either Ari Fleischer or Karl Rove is Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Or maybe Richard Perle is related to Goebbels. The September issue of Vanity Fair suggested that Perle could be Goebbels's twin (side by side photos, headlined "Separated at birth?").
Another vexing question about Rove: Is he Goebbels or Josef Mengele? Goebbels is the top choice among antiwar commentators, but a writer to the MetaFilter site said: "Karl Rove made up stories about John McCain, just as Josef Mengele conducted medical experiments on children in Auschwitz."
One Internet site referred to Tom Ridge is Heinrich Himmler; another calls him head of "Homeland Security, the new Gestapo." Colin Powell is Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, according to a posting on the Democratic Underground site. And Frank Rich of the New York Times managed to work a famous Nazi filmmaker into the mix. He wrote that the recent Showtime docudrama, DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, was so pro-Bush that it is "best viewed as a fitting memorial to Leni Riefenstahl."
The common charge that Bush is Mussolini is controversial--many leftists insist that the Mussolini role is reserved for Tony Blair, the junior partner of Bush's Hitler. Cartoonist Aaron McGruder said on TV that Condoleezza Rice is a murderer but failed to give her any Nazi designation--a big mistake by prevailing standards. On the same show, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said, "I generally agree with [McGruder] 100 percent," but he too failed to offer a good Nazi comparison.
Paul Wolfowitz is a challenge to lefty analysts, some of whom think his intellectual background is fascist (Jeffrey Steinberg in Executive Intelligence Review ), while others believe he has Bolshevik roots (he is Trotsky's ghost, according to Canadian journalist Jeet Heer).
Anyone who calls the Bush people fascists will get no argument from Princeton Prof. Sheldon Wolin, who says, "We are facing forms of domination that exceed the old vocabulary." So if you feel like calling somebody a fascist, go right ahead.
Historian Eric Foner of Columbia compared Bush to the Japanese warlords of World War II who launched a pre-emptive war at Pearl Harbor. Since other name-callers on the left are so Nazi-minded, this qualifies as a fresh idea.
Ruthless. By last fall, most of the outstanding villains of history had been pressed into service as forerunners of George Bush. Napoleon is a heavy favorite. "The only difference between George W. Bush and Napoleon Bonaparte is 10 inches," Debby Morse wrote in the San Francisco Examiner. She compared John Ashcroft to Napoleon's ruthless police chief Joseph Fouche. History Prof. David Applebaum of Rowan University compared Bush to Robespierre as well as to Napoleon. And many have speculated on whether Laura Bush seems like Josephine. Radical journalist Alexander Cockburn wasn't sure about Bush as Napoleon, "though surely Josephine's heart beats beneath Laura's delicious bosom."
Bush is Dr. Frankenstein, according to the cartoon "Bushenstein" featured on the Democratic National Committee Web site. Anti-Bush columnist Paul Krugman apparently disagrees. The cover on the British edition of his current book of columns shows Bush as Frankenstein's monster, not as Frankenstein himself.
The frontier for Bush insults keeps shifting. One day the president is Attila the Hun, the next day he is Ted Bundy. A posting on The Unknown (an apparently unhinged news site) said that Bush is a charming lunatic, just like Hitler, Ted Bundy, Mussolini, and Hannibal Lecter. One lefty said Bush is Caligula, while another insists he is the new Nero ("Nero burned Rome, Hitler burned the Reichstag, Bush burned the World Trade Center"). Don't you love the way these people argue?
This story appears in the December 22, 2003 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.