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March 2, 2005
Byrd Compares Republicans To Nazis On Senate Floor

Senator Robert Byrd, defending the minority's right to filibuster on the Senate floor today, wound up his speech by comparing Republican efforts to eliminate the hijacking of the Senate on the Constitutional duty of confirming federal judges to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Not only did Byrd imply that the GOP equates to the worst mass murderers of the 20th century, he's so proud of doing so he's posted the speech to his own website:

Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolinis Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitlers dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact. And he succeeded.

Hitlers originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

Let's stop the history lesson here for a moment. By the time the Enabling Law came up for a vote, the SA (Brownshirts) had effectively terrorized the Reichstag into giving Hitler everything he wanted. Hitler did not come to power through purely democratic means, nor did he care all that much about the sheen of legality. His SA by that time numbered into the millions, and they had already blazed a trail of violent chaos, attacking all of their political opponents, assassinating a number of them; that's how the Nazis came to power. So when Byrd speaks about how the Nazis used legal means to secure their dictatorship, rest assured that the Senator takes that completely out of the context in which it occurred.

More important is the disgusting and deranged implication of death camps and genocide towards Byrd's political opponents just because they propose to change the Senate's rules -- not laws, just the internal rules -- to allow for majority rule on one particular task. Perhaps this point eludes someone who spent the Nazi years belonging to a group that paralleled the same racial philosophies of Hitler himself, but Byrd should know better than to demean the millions of victims of the real Nazis by invoking them as an insult to people who simply oppose Byrd politically.

Byrd, with his attempted filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is the last person who should be standing in the well of the Senate, calling anyone a Nazi. Why the Democrats have defended this doddering old embarassment for decades is beyond any explanation but the most base and cynical: he votes the right way. Republicans shunned Trent Lott for waxing nostalgic for an old Dixiecrat on his birthday. Will the Democrats do the same for the lunatic who has befouled the political environment with this intellectually, morally, and historically bankrupt foolishness?

Don't bet on it. It takes strength of character to hold your allies accountable, and so far, the Democrats haven't shown an ounce of it. Even their own party chair goes around proclaiming his "hate" for Republicans, who comprise at least 35% of all registered American voters. With "leadership" like this, we can expect the Democrats to dissolve into a parody of a political party, tossing around insults instead of ideas and lies instead of truth. (via Hugh Hewitt)

UPDATE: A complete fisking of Byrd's insanity can be found at Radioblogger.

UPDATE II and BUMP TO TOP, 3/2: I suspected that this would not get much coverage in the mainstream media, and I was correct. The Los Angeles Times covers the nomination flap, but the lead is Colorado freshman Senator Ken Salazar's betrayal of William Myers; Henry Weinstein covers the debate over the so-called "nuclear option" but mentions nothing of Byrd's Nazi references.

The New York Times, meanwhile, doesn't mention anything about the debate over the cloture rule in its piece by Neil A. Lewis, which screams in its headline that Democrats "pummeled" Myers. Their subsidiary, the Boston Globe, doesn't even cover the confirmation hearing. (And what's with that Campaign 2004 banner, anyway? The election's over, folks.) The Washington Post mentions Byrd's Nazi reference but not his equating the GOP to the Nazis.

Broadcast networks haven't touched it, either. NBC, ABC, and CBS all remain silent. Only Fox News gave any coverage at all, and they had the sense to report it properly:

Senate Republicans are game to see several of President Bush's judicial nominees confirmed for the bench but Democrats oppose many of them. On Tuesday, Sen. Robert Byrd compared Republican tactics on nominees to Adolph Hitler's use of power in Nazi Germany. ...

Byrd compared the move, not yet undertaken, to Hitler's abuse of power. "Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality. He recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side," he said.

Looks like another mainstream media blackout designed to protect one of their own. The Democrats and Republicans both combined to out one old segregationist who made an off-the-cuff remark at a birthday party that the media missed. Apparently the media doesn't cover the Senate, either.

UPDATE: I missed this entry by Jon at QandO where he shows that Hitler was significantly less interested in legality, cloaked or otherwise, during his grip on power.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 2, 2005 8:00 AM

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