The Politics of “I’m Sorry”…

10 Oct

Johnny Depp’s recent foot-in-mouth incident was not as egregious and did not have the immediate repercussions as country music singer Hank Williams Jr’s comparison of President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.

In an appearance on last week’s “FOX and Friends,” Williams said that Obama golfing with House Speaker John Boehner was “like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu.”

OK, let’s go to the dictionary.

Definition of Hitler:

1. An Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party:

2. Most commonly associated with the rise of fascism in Europe, World War II, and the Holocaust:

3. Gained support by promoting Pan-Germanism, antisemitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and propaganda.

4. Probably not someone you would compare to a U.S. president who represents everything he would have detested.

Thanks to FOX and the Tea Party, Obama is probably the president who has been compared the most to Hitler even though — with the possible exception of wheelchair-bound FDR — he’s the only one who would have been shipped off to Dachau.

It’s interesting because historically speaking previous presidents have done worst things than passing health care reform. There’s Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which led to the Trail of Tears. And 12 U.S. presidents owned slaves (eight of them did so while in office). Can you imagine the trouble Obama would get into if he owned slaves?

Surely, you ask, Williams did not mean to compare Obama to Hitler? Unlike Depp, the nice people at “FOX and Friends” gave Williams the “Idiot Retraction Option.” This is preemptive to the “Apology Due to Public Outcry.”

Williams declined this option and further embraced the “Sinking Ship Statement.” He stated that “they’re the enemy” and clarified that by “they” he meant Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

I don’t believe that comparisons to Hitler should be off-limits, as many commentators seem to think, but they just need to make sense and be grounded in reality. Too often they reflect the sad reality that the speaker is unaware of any other appropriate bogeyman aside from Hitler. If you want to ignore body counts but at least have an internally consistent position, compare Obama (godless socialist, per FOX) to Stalin (godless communist, per his MySpace page).

Williams later issued the “Half-Assed and Too Little Too Late” Apology:

“The thought of the leaders of both parties jukin and high fiven on a golf course, while so many families are struggling to get by simply made me boil over and make a dumb statement… I am very sorry if it offended anyone.”

This is similar to Newt Gingrich’s claim that he cheated on his wife because he loved his country so much. Williams made his “dumb statement” out of righteous anger.

ESPN reacted to this by pulling Williams’s intro from Monday Night Football. The song’s title “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” was also the text of the telegram Hitler sent Poland prior to invading. This later prompted a sermon from Sarah Palin on her FOX show “Strawman Arguments with Sarah.”

“Hank Williams and what he is going through now, I think it’s a very clear  illustration of a greater societal problem and that is the hypocrisy on the left  — the liberals who can throw these stones at a conservative and they knowing that they’re not going to be held accountable… It’s a one way street and we’re always walking on eggshells, aren’t we? … you know, like, oh geez, if I say that is  somebody going to misinterpret it or spin it as something that is quote unquote  racist or sexist or anything else? But the other side … they can say whatever  they want and nobody calls them out on it. I think it’s pretty disgusting.”

The “nobody” in this case would be FOX News, which calls them out on a daily basis. Shirley Sherrod was fired for statements taken out of context that FOX and conservative bloggers made a stink over.

And isn’t this the example of free-market capitalism that conservatives love so much? The big corporation (ESPN) decided that an individual (Williams) was a liability and parted ways with him. This is business. And his first amendment right to free speech protected him in that the government didn’t arrest him for comparing the president to a genocidal maniac.

I don’t get the priorities here: I should lose my job in the military because I’m gay. I should go bankrupt because I’m uninsured. But I should be able to say stupid things on TV with no repercussions? Well, I guess, the latter freedom does ensure that Sarah Palin remains employed.


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