Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018
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Tom Troy

Richard Cordray’s Nazi analogy was an overreach

  • Ohio-Primary-Governor-4

    Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, left, and his running mate Betty Sutton.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Republicans have pounced on Ohio Democratic governor candidate Richard Cordray for referencing Nazis in two recent rallies.

According to the Ohio Republican Party, Mr. Cordray made “offensive and irresponsible comparisons of Republicans to Nazis.” Mr. Cordray was called on to apologize.

Well, of course, isn’t that what the Nazis would say?

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Mr. Cordray, in speaking to Democratic groups, compared some Ohio Republicans in state government to the “Vichy French” who collaborated with the Nazi invaders in World War II. The leader of the Vichy French was Marshal Phillipe Petain, a revered French war hero who ended up convicted of treason after the war.

The first Nazi name-drop was at a speech at the Allen County Democratic Party Women’s Club on March 8.

Mr. Cordray told the ladies of Allen County that, “Somebody said to me last month that they’re ‘Vichy Republicans,’ which I didn’t fully understand. I guess that’s ‘Vichy France’ during World War II, the ones who went over and collaborated with the Nazis.”

The inference is he wasn’t even referring to President Trump as a Nazi, but rather Gov. John Kasich. The analogy was to Republicans who went along with the deep cuts Governor Kasich made in local government funding after he took office in 2011. Mr. Cordray observed that most local officeholders in Ohio are Republicans, so why didn’t they speak up about the harm done by the cutting of local government funds.

Attributing a questionable or totally bogus statement to what “somebody said” is a President Trump tactic that Mr. Cordray should avoid. That should have set off alarm bells in Mr. Cordray’s fertile mind.

It’s a tortured comparison and it was terrible politics anyway.

Rather than calling them Nazis, Mr. Cordray should be attempting to endear himself to Gov. Kasich and his admirers, who hold the governor in high esteem because of his adamant support of expanding Medicaid, the federal health care program that provides help to more than 700,000 Ohioans.

In his second known Nazi reference when speaking to Licking County Democrats in Newark on June 15, Mr. Cordray made a veiled reference to President Trump, saying that, “the tone that you set in government and leadership matters. I mean, right now we have a tone being set by the White House, which is absolutely against everything I’ve understood for America. You know, trying to find people to scapegoat and blame? That’s like Nazi Germany.”

Characterizing your opponents as Nazis or Nazi collaborators brings to mind the faux pas of Hillary Clinton when she referred to many of Mr. Trump’s supporters as “a basket of deplorables,” of former President Barack Obama when he said that conservative Republican voters “cling to [their] guns,” and of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in saying that 47 percent of Americans will never vote for him because they don’t pay taxes.

All those remarks were made to friendly audiences not expected to be heard by the general public and they came back to bite their speaker in the rear.

After videos of his comments were publicized, Mr. Cordray apologized for making an inappropriate comparison.

But that doesn’t give the Ohio Republican Party the right to tell the public or Mr. Cordray what language or topics he can use in his campaigning.

There is a legitimate lesson to be learned from the failure of the German people to see the inherent evil of the man many of them voted for president in 1932. (He lost, but was then appointed chancellor and eventually ascended to head of state in 1934, and then declared martial law.)

There are uncomfortable analogies between this administration and the Third Reich.

President Trump recently justified taking away the process of judicial hearings from illegal immigrants by claiming that the policy of giving everyone a hearing without separating families would require the hiring of 5,000 judges. False. Mr. Trump said he was told that was correct. No one reputable told him such a thing. His Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said there would be a need for a couple of hundred judges at most.

Mr. Trump is not Hitler by any stretch. Mr. Trump has lived a commendable life in many respects, always in the public eye, and has found business success. He is not a criminal and has not advocated overthrowing the American government. Nor is our country the cracked and rotted Weimar Republic. It’s a strong, open democracy.

Mr. Cordray, who is a very smart guy, needs to resist the temptation to explore interesting intellectual analogies that pop into his mind on the political stump.

Stick to Ohio issues, leave deep philosophical questions to the professors and philosophers, and reach out to Ohio voters of both parties.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com419-724-6058, or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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