PRUDEN: Likening Putin to Hitler shows Hillary’s shaky grasp of history

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Enough already with the Hitler talk. War drums and loose lips are giving the old Austrian paperhanger a bad name.

Der fuehrer has held the franchise as “most evil figure in history,” and now excitable politicians and pundits of little imagination are trying to take the title away by putting him in league with mere pikers. Hitler remains unique in his evil.

Hillary Clinton, hardly a reasonable facsimile of a student of history (or much of anything else), set the teeth of scholars on edge this week with her comparison of Vladimir Putin to Herr Schickelgruber.

She told a group of her fans in California that what’s happening in Ukraine and Crimea reminds her of the early days of Nazi Germany.

“Now, if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ‘30s,” she said. “All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right, I must go and protect my people, and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.”

We know that’s what she said because someone who was there recorded it and gave it to The Long Beach Press-Telegram. Miss Hillary tried to correct the record — “walk it back,” is the preferred Washington weasel-wording on the day after a bad-hair day — but it’s difficult to argue with a recording of your words in your very own voice.

Bubba is better at hairsplitting explanations, but he was apparently not available to help the missus.

Remarks like Hillary’s constitute not a felony, but only a misdemeanor if you’re in a tavern at closing time, arguing with the motormouth at the end of the bar, and you want to shut him up with the argument-clincher of the night.

A onetime secretary of state who thinks she has the chops to be the president of the United States is expected to be sharper with the language than that, and it’s not clear what she was driving at.

Almost nobody, particularly politicians, uses the language well. Sloppy is OK; clever is not necessary.

Vladimir Putin, like Josef Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev before him, invites dark comparisons, partly because of his mordant past as a KGB “operative,” and because he still acts like one.

George W. Bush said he looked into Vlad’s eyes and saw his soul. Hillary, in an earlier remark that actually was clever, said she wasn’t sure about that. “I didn’t know he had one.”

Politicians and their speechwriters (who are usually unavailable to furnish quotable quips) can’t resist references to Hitler any more than the blowhards in the bar at closing time. Even invoking “Hitler” rarely stops such conversations.

Lyndon Johnson invoked the sordid memory of der fuehrer to justify escalation of the Vietnam War in 1965. (“We learned from Hitler and Munich that success [of despots] only feeds the appetite of aggression.”)

LBJ’s fanatical critics accused him of evil beyond the imagination of the Nazis. Running out of words is a terrible waste of passion.

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About the Author
Wesley Pruden

Wesley Pruden

Editor Emeritus — American journalist legend and Vietnam War author James Wesley Pruden, Jr. is Editor Emeritus of The Washington Times. Pruden’s first job in the newspaper business dates back to 1951 as a copyboy at the now defunct Arkansas Gazette where he later became a sportswriter and an assistant state editor. In 1982, he joined The Washington Times, four ...

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