Tony Norman: Republicans have us singing a different tune
April 14, 2017 12:00 AM
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
White House spokesman Sean Spicer asserted this week on the first day of Passover that, unlike Bashar Assad, Adolf Hitler never used chemical warfare against “his own people."
By Tony Norman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In a way, I blame Mel Brooks. Surely, I’m not the only one who has noticed that large chunks of our increasingly fragile American reality are beginning to feel like outtakes from “The Producers.”
Instead of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder trying to bamboozle an audience with a purposely tasteless musical celebrating the Third Reich, the Trump administration either says or does something so over the top that it tests the limits of our tolerance for absurdity.
When White House spokesman Sean Spicer confidently asserted on the first day of Passover that Adolf Hitler never sunk to the level of Bashar Assad because, unlike the Syrian dictator, the Fuhrer never used chemical warfare against “his own people,” you can practically hear the chorus to “Springtime for Hitler” bleeding into reality.
In attempting to clean up his gaffe, Mr. Spicer managed to confirm to all the world that stupidity, obliviousness and insensitivity are never mutually exclusive when it comes to this administration.
It was during Mr. Spicer’s rambling explanation for his previous inane statement that America was introduced to the latest euphemism for German concentration camps — hello, “holocaust centers.”
That night, cable news anchors and pundits shuddered while the clip played incessantly. Late night comedians tried to make us laugh about it, and we did given the absurdity quotient of the material. Still, not even the comedians wanted to put too fine a point on the dark underlining reality: America’s nuclear arsenal is now in the hands of a president who surrounds himself with people who have as little regard for truth or history as their boss.
Mr. Spicer apologized and even blamed himself for “letting the president down,” but he found himself dodging the logical implications of his statement — if Assad truly is worse than Hitler, then what is the Trump administration prepared to do about it?
But even as we scratched our heads over the Trump administration’s incoherent and hypocritical Syria policy, we were digesting fascist imagery closer to home.
The video of 69-year-old Vietnamese American doctor David Dao being manhandled and dragged by police from a full United Airlines plane in Chicago reached a peak this week.
On one of the new videos of the now infamous encounter, Dr. Dao can be heard politely telling the Gestapo wannabes that he’s “a physician and I have to work tomorrow at 8 a.m.,” when they tell him he has been selected for involuntary “re-accommodation.” He refuses to budge. The cops refuse to take “no” for an answer.
Dr. Dao had a fully paid seat on that flight from Chicago to Louisville, Ky., but the three bully boys who broke his nose, knocked out two front teeth and bloodied him to the point that he’ll have to undergo reconstructive surgery didn’t want to hear it.
They were only following orders as they dragged him bloody and semiconscious from the plane’s cabin. Dozens of horrified passengers recorded the beating and provided a more accurate report of the incident than did the cops, who justified the barbaric treatment by claiming Dr. Dao was belligerent. It was the kind of lie cops are no longer given the benefit of the doubt about when cameras are rolling.
After letting loose with a blood-curdling scream, Dr. Dao moaned and repeated a request that they “just kill me.” His humiliation and sense of helplessness were felt vicariously around the world within hours as social media showed the depths to which this country’s corporate culture had sunk. How could this happen to any citizen on any airline?
Boycott threats began immediately. United stock lost 4 percent of its value the next day. The company’s CEO was passively defiant at first but eventually groveled to save his own skin as outrage mounted around the world.
The three cops who did the dirty work were removed from duty pending an investigation, but they haven’t been fired — yet. Facing the most dramatic blowback in its history, United promised to change its policies and not use police to settle disputes it could easily solve with monetary and other inducements.
Still, the image of the police pulling an innocent citizen down an airplane aisle will linger. It feels dark and ominous, like a symbol of what’s to come. There’s definitely something in the air. Republicans are going crazy with Nazi comparisons. The problem for them is that they’re the ones in power.
A day after Mr. Spicer’s gaffe, North Carolina state Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican, took to Facebook and compared Abraham Lincoln to Hitler, saying he’s “personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration is cheered on by white power advocates, Klansmen, subtle Holocaust deniers and alt-right activists.
It’s “Springtime for Hitler” in America, all right. Unfortunately, the encores keep coming.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1631. Twitter @TonyNormanPG.