Robert Gibbs answer to David Corn of Mother Jones’ last question at Friday’s briefing is getting considerable attention from the right. Corn asked Gibbs about House Republican leader John Boehner‘s declaration that the House health care bill was the “greatest threat to freedom” he’s ever seen. Gibbs’ response was worth a slight chuckle, but they ignore his larger point.
Boehner’s money quote: “This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in the 19 years I’ve been here in Washington.” Here are his remarks in full, which the producers of V would do well to work into their show:
Boehner wasn’t the only one at the rally to see dire consequences to health care reform, as Corn points out. Here’s what Gibbs had to say about Boehner’s proclamation:
Q Yesterday at the rally on Capitol Hill, Congressman Boehner said that he considers the health care bill to be “the greatest threat to freedom” he has ever seen. I just was wondering what your response is to that.
MR. GIBBS: I think we could take up the better part of our afternoons and probably significantly into the weekend thinking of other conflicts that we’ve seen or read about throughout the history of the world that might be a greater threat to freedom than what Congressman Boehner was discussing.
I will continue to say what I’ve said before. You hear — in this debate you hear analogies, you hear references to, you see pictures about and depictions of individuals that are truly stunning. And you hear it all the time. People — imagine five years ago somebody comparing health care reform to 9/11. Imagine just a few years ago had somebody walked around with images of Hitler. Hopefully we can get back to a discussion about the issues that are important in this country, that we can do without being personally disagreeable and set up comparisons to things that were so insidious in our history that anybody in any professional walk of life would be well advised to compare nothing to those atrocities.
Watch it here:
My first reaction to the line that’s getting all the attention, “People — imagine five years ago somebody comparing health care reform to 9/11. Imagine just a few years ago had somebody walked around with images of Hitler,” was to suppress a chuckle. As Hot Air’s Allahpundit and The Weekly Standard’s Mary Katherine Ham point out, people walking around with images of Hitler during the Bush years isn’t like conjuring a jet-propelled, laser-wielding unicorn. Furthermore, you only have to go back a few weeks to find a Democratic member of Congress invoking both 9/11 and the Holocaust.
Some might argue that the likes of Boehner’s statement, or Virginia Foxx’s, get extra absurdity points, and defend Grayson on the grounds that he, at least, was making the comparison to something that actually results in deaths. I think Gibbs’ summation is what people should be focusing on:
Hopefully we can get back to a discussion about the issues that are important in this country, that we can do without being personally disagreeable and set up comparisons to things that were so insidious in our history that anybody in any professional walk of life would be well advised to compare nothing to those atrocities.
I would point out that, although it would be hard to miss Bush-era Hitler comparisons, the media has changed since then. The 2008 campaign created a voracious 15-minute news cycle that demands fresh meat, so the bar for what gets reported is considerably lower now. The crazy quote that used to merit a breathless blog post now becomes fodder for endless panel discussion.
It’s become standard practice in partisan politics to respond to ridiculous quotes by saying, “Hey, they do it too,” but not “We should stop doing that.” Short memory notwithstanding, I think the takeaway from this response is that we should replace Godwin’s Law with Gibbs’ Dictum, and just stop doing it.
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