Thoughts On Rhetoric (Mostly in Favor of Democrats)

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Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), my former congressman, was in a town hall meeting shouting down as irrational some LaRouchers who showed up and compared the health care legislation to Nazism.

The video I saw showed mostly Frank, and not all of what he was responding to, but what I did see from the citizen in attendance warranted his response: such a comparison is irrational. If you're going to make such a comparison, it is only for the purpose of undermining rational argument by raising the spectre of the Holocaust and other atrocities. You could compare it to Sweden or Britain or Canada, and get some use out of the comparison, but bringing up the Nazis only serves to undermine legitimate argument.

Maybe he should have responded using different words and tone -- he serves the people, and he was treating them like pundits or politicians instead of concerned citizens -- but the gist of his comments in response to the Nazi comparison was just fine.

Then there's this woman, who calls herself a conservative Republican who follows biblical values. She apparently considers yelling "Heil Hitler" to an Israeli Jew who supports the Democrats' reform, in order to highlight her opinion that Obama is as bad as Hitler, to be a "biblical value." (Psssst: it's not.)

Finally we have Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY), who said, "I will vote adamantly against the interests of my district, if I actually think what I'm doing is going to help them. ... I will vote against their opinion if I actually believe it will help them."

I am told this is arrogant; that he is saying he knows what is best. But I always thought it was liberals that wanted their congressman to rule by opinion poll, and that it was conservatives who respected the words of their British godfather, Edmund Burke: "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion." It seems to me that Massa was just expressing, with less eloquence, what Burke said 250 years ago.

However, with all this criticism of Republicans and conservatives and defense of Democrats, I should balance things out by mentioning the latest from Brian Baird, who recently apologized for calling health insurance reform protestors Nazi "brownshirts" and comparing their rhetoric to that which drove Timothy McVeigh to become a terrorist. He has done it again.

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