Saturday, January 22, 2011




Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), a few days after the Arizona tragedies, took the rostrum of the House of Representatives, a House conceived and created over two hundred years ago by an American people.[1] Then and now Americans charge their representatives with a sacred trust: to protect upon their oath an American legacy, a Constitution and the Rule of Law— to preserve forever a Republic conceived in principles of universal and impartial justice, dignity and freedom.

Americans decry political demagoguery because it inspires deceit, hatred and alienation. Demagoguery divides one people into tribes. They demand instead that their representatives rationally debate the issues of the day so as to discover that truth, harmony and understanding by which a people and their nation may conciliate and survive. Rational debate serves to protect the American legacy, and secure for posterity not only the dignity of the office entrusted to representatives and senators, but also to reflect well upon the dignity of those Americans who in the exercise of their franchise placed their representative or senator at the pinnacle of tradition and power. All politicians find their way to power because they have convinced Americans, by truths or falsehoods, that in thought, word and deed, they embody the virtue, ethos and moral discipline to which Americans for over two centuries have aspired.

Democrats, following the Arizona tragedy, descended into Dante Alighieri’s most obscene Circle of Hell, and from that unholy place accused millions of conservatives—Tea Partiers, Glen Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and all Republican representatives— of a national criminal conspiracy to incite the commission of mass murder. Incitement to murder is a criminal offence prosecutable were it possible to indict, try and imprison, upon baseless and incendiary falsehoods, two hundred million conservatives. Indeed, some of those who rage for civility have threatened to murder Sarah Palin or in images of murder delight in telling of her death.

Others, of course, presumably responsible congressmen, seek political self-aggrandizement in demands that the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights be abrogated, as it has been abrogated in the past, in the same rhetorical frenzy shouted out in Arizona. In 1798 John Adams signed off on the Alien and Sedition Acts. In 1917, Woodrow Wilson signed off on the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917. In 2002, former President George Bush signed the McCain/Feingold Bill, which again criminalized free speech, until finally and at last the Supreme Court struck it down. Like the bills signed by John Adams and Woodrow Wilson, Senator McCain’s bill defied the plain words of the First Amendment, albeit, of course, like the other bills, for a good reason.

The Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917, forbade inter alia the writing or utterance of opinions critical of the government, bureaucracy, its congress or the president and other demeaning expressions of opinion which President Wilson might conclude could be “useful to the enemy.” The citizen exercised his First Amendment right of free speech at his peril. He risked indictment, trial, and if found guilty up to a ten thousand dollar fine, twenty years in jail—or both. Better silence citizen when freedoms go unprotected by a Bill of Rights.

In Abrams v. The United States, a troubled Russian immigrant—we have seen his like in one city or another wondering the streets, mumbling inanities and obviously troubled—passed out pamphlets to passerbys in which he expressed opinions critical of America’s potential involvement in Russia following its communist revolution. The Supreme Court—a bit put off by a statute vesting power in the president to decide, ex post facto, whether a citizen should be jailed for his expression of a political opinion, restricted prosecution of free speech only to those opinions which created a clear and present danger [that is an immediate danger] to the government’s prosecution of the war.

In an expression of the hysteria of the times—the same which, as will be seen, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) instigated from the rostrum of the House of Representatives—the Supreme Court affirmed the Russian’s conviction for violations of the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 under the clear and present danger doctrine. Justices Brandeis and Holmes dissenting marveled at the application of Clear and Present Danger, to this now imprisoned American citizen. Indeed, by what mysterious power did this lonely American conjure into being a clear, present and immediate danger to the wealth, reach and martial power of the mighty sovereign states and their central government? Justices Holmes and Brandeis pointed to the evidentiary absurdity of a criminal conviction and imprisonment based upon "a silly leaflet by an unknown man [that] could not be construed as consequential.”

Too much already has been written of the Arizona tragedy. Those who used the maiming and death of innocent people, including one nine-year-old female child, in search of political self-aggrandizement have placed themselves beyond the pale of human dignity. They are demagogues who intend to inspire, by libel and defamation, hatred of the political party that “shellacked” them in the 2010 November elections. There is not much more need be or can be said of demagogues—this because demagogy is akin to pornography. Once you first describe its patent obscenity, all else is repetition.

Now on to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). The congressman, sotto voce, compared the language of conservative Republicans to that of Nazis, in that the two alike are simpatico to the Second World War immolation of the Jews, and the celebration of their Holocaust. Republicans, in their Nazi like repetition of a “lie”, are no less than craven Nazi liars. In a venomous attack upon the character of Republicans and by reference, to the character of those conservative Americans who voted Republicans into office, Rep. Steve Cohen likened Republicans and their supporters to such Nazi monsters as Joseph Gobbles, and, by association, to the mass murderer Adolph Hitler. He shouted out to a virtually empty chamber,

They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Gobbles," Cohen said. "You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing… the Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it--believed it and you have the Holocaust.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) should be ashamed of himself. He has disgraced his office as he has disgraced the truth, as he has betrayed the dignity of the House of Representatives, as he has betrayed the people who entrusted him with power. He should resign his office. He should be censured. He must apologize. He has not yet, and he never will.

[1] Johanathan Karls, ABC New, (2011), “Say What? Democrat Compares Republicans to Nazis.”

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