NYT Doubles Down on Ben Carson and Nazi Germany
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Apparently not satisfied with publishing an article by University of Vermont professor Alan E. Steinweis criticizing GOP candidate Ben Carson for suggesting that widespread gun ownership among Jews in Nazi Germany could have saved lives — an article that I termed one of the most ludicrous I’ve ever read — the New York Times has decided to double down on Carson and Nazi Germany by publishing an article today entitled “Why Ben Carson’s Nazi Analogies Matter” by Peter Wehner.
Favorably citing Steinweis’s article, Wehner takes Carson to task for saying that the United States “is very much like Nazi Germany.” Wehner says that Carson’s statement is “a special kind of libel.”
I can only assume that Wehner isn’t a lawyer. If he was, he would know that a statement can be both libelous and true.
We have all become accustomed to defining Nazi Germany by the Holocaust. Therefore, it’s tempting to arrive at the conclusion that Nazi Germany was a tyrannical regime only because of the Holocaust.
Not so! Even if the Nazi regime had never killed one single Jew (or Catholic, Protestant, gypsy, or dissident), it would have still have constituted a gold standard when it comes to tyranny.
That’s what some people just don’t get — that Nazi Germany was a tyrannical regime independent of the Holocaust — and that Americans should be concerned that there are ominous parallels (the title of a 1983 book by Leonard Piekoff on this subject) between the U.S. government and Germany’s National Socialist government.
Now, obviously just because a particular government program was implemented by Nazi Germany doesn’t automatically mean it was bad. But shouldn’t the fact that one of the most tyrannical regimes in history adopted a particular program cause us to presume the worst, not the best?
To get a better understanding of what Carson may have been alluding to, let’s go back to the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ushered in his welfare-state revolution for the United States, whereby the primary purpose of the federal government became taking care of people by taking money from one group of people and giving it to another.
That’s what Social Security, the crown jewel of the American welfare state, is all about — taking money from the young and productive and giving it to seniors. It had never before existed since the founding of the republic, until the FDR administration enacted it. From there we got Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, Obamacare, corporate bailouts, foreign aid to dictators, and all the rest of the dole society.
Consider Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act, which placed American businesses and industries into cartels, and which had the power to set their own prices and establish their own rules and regulations. It was represented by what was called the Blue Eagle, an insignia that American businesses were expected to display in their storefront windows. If a business refused to go along, it would be targeted for boycotts for being “unpatriotic.” The NIRA and the Blue Eagle were straight out of the fascist economic playbook of Italy’s Benito Mussolini.
In fact, there is something important to realize about Roosevelt’s New Deal revolution: It was virtually a mirror image of what was happening in Germany under Hitler’s national socialist program and in Italy under Benito Mussolini’s fascist program. (Question: Would Wehner consider comparisons with fascist Italy to be libelous too or only comparisons with Nazi Germany?)
For an insightful comparison between FDR’s, Hitler’s, and Mussolini’s economic philosophy and programs, I recommend a book entitled Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch. Or read a review of the book entitled “Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt” by David Boaz of the Cato Institute or a review entitled “Three New Deals: Why the Nazis and Fascists Loved FDR” by David Gordon of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
I’ll bet Wehner might even be shocked to learn that Hitler even sent Roosevelt a letter commending him on his economic program for America.
The Supreme Court declared the NIRA and much of the rest of the New Deal unconstitutional. By doing so, the Court was saying that FDR’s (and Hitler’s and Mussolini’s) type of governmental structure had no place in American society, by virtue of the U.S. Constitution, which was the instrument by which our American ancestors brought the original form of the federal government into existence.
In other words, if FDR wanted to change America’s governmental system in a fundamental way, under our constitutional system he was required to seek a constitutional amendment.
Needless to say, Roosevelt was outraged that his personal will was being stymied by what Roosevelt acolytes called “nine old men.” So, to avoid having to go through the trouble of seeking a constitutional amendment to change America’s governmental system, FDR devised his infamous “court-packing scheme,” which was designed to pack the Supreme Court with judicial cronies who would eagerly comply with his personal will.
Would it be libelous to suggest that Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme was as dictatorial as, say, Hitler’s establishment of his “People’s Court” tribunal to try German terrorism cases? It might be, but it also would be a true statement.
Let’s not forget that FDR’s Social Security program originated not among America’s Founding Fathers but among Germany socialists. That’s where Otto von Bismarck, the so-called Iron Chancellor of Germany, who introduced Social Security to Germany, got the idea. I wonder if Wehner knows that the website of the U.S. Social Security Administration proudly displays a bust of Bismarck on its website.
Of course, the United States and Nazi Germany aren’t the only countries that have adopted Social Security. Look at Cuba, which everyone would acknowledge is a socialist country. What are the core elements of Cuba’s socialist system? Social Security, national health care, public (i.e., government) schooling, and economic regulations. Why, Cuba even has drug laws, just like the U.S. government.
Does Wehner consider Cuba to be ruled by a tyrannical regime? Given that he served in three Republican administrations, undoubtedly he does. But then what about those welfare-state programs that are shared jointly by the U.S. government and Cuba? Does Wehner consider it libelous to show that both the Cuban and U.S. governments embrace such programs?
Of course, Social Security (and Medicare, Medicaid, and public schooling) is not the only parallel between Nazi Germany and the United States. Let’s not forget the Interstate Highway System, the biggest socialist public-works project in U.S. history. It was inspired by Hitler’s Autobahn. It would be impossible to find any Republican (or Democrat) who doesn’t ardently believe that this enormous socialist boondoggle was necessary to America’s freedom and prosperity. Never mind that the authority to build the Interstate Highway System wasn’t among the enumerated powers delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.
Perhaps the biggest parallel between the U.S. government and the German government in the 1930s was the enormous national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto the U.S. government after World War II. U.S. officials said that it was necessary to adopt this totalitarian structure in order to oppose the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union, which had been Hitler’s enemy and America’s partner during World War II.
The national-security state is composed of a giant permanent standing army with the power to arrest, torture and incarcerate people, a secretive intelligence agency with the power to assassinate people, and a national surveillance agency with the power to secretly spy on and monitor the activities of the American people.
Yet the Nazi regime was founded on the concept of a national-security state too. Didn’t it have a giant military industrial complex? Didn’t it have the power to round up, incarcerate, torture, and assassinate people? Didn’t it have the power to spy on and monitor the activities of the German people?
Indeed, I wonder if Wehner knows that the national security state even secretly brought Nazis into the U.S. government, including Nazis who helped it conduct medical experimentation on unsuspecting American citizens. Libelous? Maybe, but also very true.
President Eisenhower certainly understood that the military industrial complex fundamentally changed America’s governmental system. He said so in his Farewell Address. He also said that this governmental apparatus constituted a grave threat to the liberties and democratic processes of the American people, just as a similar national-security state apparatus had done in Germany and also in the Soviet Union.
In Wehner’s libel suit, it would be interesting to know how he would distinguish the Gestapo’s surveillance schemes from those of the NSA. Maybe he would say that the Gestapo surveillance was to impose tyranny while the NSA’s surveillance is to protect “freedom.”
We also mustn’t forget that George W. Bush wasn’t the only ruler in history to adopt declare a war on terrorism and adopt extraordinary emergency powers. When the terrorists firebombed the Reichstag in what was Germany’s 9/11, Hitler requested the German Parliament to declare an emergency and to grant him temporary emergency powers to wage war on both the terrorists and the communists (both of which the U.S. national security state would later make its officials enemies as well). By the time World War II some 12 years later, the “temporary” powers delegated to Hitler were still in existence.
Bush did it differently. While he went to Congress and sought a declaration of an emergency, he unilaterally decreed that he (along with his national security establishment) now wielded, as commander in chief, omnipotent powers to wage war against the terrorists. That’s how Americans ended up living under a government whose military and intelligence forces wield the power to arrest them, put them into a military dungeon or concentration camp, torture them, or assassinate them — all without trial or due process of law. Fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, thanks to renewals by Congress, the 9/11 “emergency” (along with those omnipotent powers) is still in place.
The most amusing part of Wehner’s New York Times article is his last line, where he refers to the U.S. government as a “republic.” Typical conservative, living the life of the lie, the life of self-deception, the life that holds that war is peace, slavery is freedom, and empire is republic. Like his fellow conservatives and liberals, Wehner epitomizes the words of the great German thinker Johann Goethe: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”