That civil discourse on the part of congressional democrats flew out the window yesterday and it did so in a most disgusting way. Congressman Steven Cohen D-Tenn. accused House Republicans of using the Nazi’s “big lie” strategy to try to discredit the health care law.”They say it’s a big government takeover of health care, a big lie, just like Goebbels,” Cohen said, “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually people believe it.”

Cohen, made the remarks not in the heat of debate over repeal of the health care law, but in a speech Tuesday night with few other lawmakers on the House floor. “The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it — and you had the Holocaust,” he said. “We heard it on this floor, government takeover of health care.” The Congressman also used the term “Blood Libel.” which got Sarah Palin in trouble.

Cohen, who is Jewish, also invoked the term “blood libel.” Those are the words that recently got Sarah Palin in hot water for using them to denounce critics who charged that inflammatory conservative rhetoric and imagery contributed to the Arizona shootings. The term blood libel is sometimes used to refer to any false accusation, but historically it is associated with a rationale for anti-Semitism

Apart from Cohen’s bombast, supporters of the health care reform say repeated Republican assertions that the law amounts to a government takeover of the health care system are gross exagerrations, or just plain false.

Allow me to explain why Cohen’s comments where particularly heinous. First of all even if you agree with Cohen’s contention that the Republican claims were false, there is no compatibility between a political lie and the genocide of millions of innocent people including over a million and a half children. In all likely Cohen, who’s family comes from Lithuania, lost some of his family during the Holocaust. By using a Holocaust analogy for a perceived lie, he cheapens the memory of their suffering.

Beyond that, Cohen should avoid mean spirited politics as he himself has been the victim of  hate speech in a political campaign. During the 2008 campaign, he faced a campaign for his challenger that suggested that the voters in his district should not vote for him because he was white….and Jewish.


The flier was followed by a TV ad trying to connect Cohen with the KKK.The ad featured Cohen alongside a hooded Klansman, criticizing him for voting against removing a statue of Klan founder Nathaniel Bedford Forrest from a local park.

Another ad falsely charged that  Cohen voted against school prayer (which he didn’t) trying to question his religious convictions:

“Who is the real Steve Cohen, anyway?” a narrator said as a child was heard praying in the background . “While he’s in our churches clapping his hands and tapping his feet, he’s the only senator who thought our kids shouldn’t be allowed to pray in school. Congressman, sometimes apologies just aren’t enough.”

The apology line appeared to be a veiled reference to a legislation Cohen sponsored in Congress that apologizes to African- Americans for the “fundamental injustice” of slavery and racial segregation.

In the end, Cohen won by a landslide. His sizable victory suggested that Memphis voters, both black and white, resoundingly rejected his opponents divisive campaign tactics. Now only three years later, Cohen has forgotten the lesson he taught his opponent.