Whatever side of the aisle a member of congress sits, there needs to be an underlying sense that when push comes to shove there is a love of country that when push comes to shove would come before politics. That is not the case with Louis Farrakhan protégé Congressman Keith Ellison. Last Sunday, Ellison joined the ranks of the America hating loonies. In a speech to a group of atheists in Minnesota he compared the President of the United States to Hitler and implied that Bush was behind 9/11 so he could accuse the Muslims. At the very least those statements are the political equivalent screaming fire in a crowded theater, but when a member of the United States Government makes a statement like that it borders on treason. This man deserves an official rebuke from his congressional colleagues. Keith Ellison Goes Overboard By Katherine Kersten On Sunday, Fifth District Congressman Keith Ellison found a wildly receptive audience in what might seem an unexpected place: a gathering of Minnesota atheists. “You’ll always find this Muslim standing up for your right to be atheists all you want,” he told them. (You might want to check the Qur’an on that, Rep. Ellison.) His speech invoked standard talking points of the hard left. He characterized Vice President Dick Cheney’s decision not to answer certain questions as “the very definition of totalitarianism, authoritarianism and dictatorship.” Actually, bona fide tyrants don’t just claim, as Cheney has, that some communications are off-limits; they torture and execute their political opponents and whole populations. Imagine how long a critic like Ellison would have lasted in Stalin’s Soviet Union or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. But even the “impeach Bush now” crowd might have raised an eyebrow when Ellison compared the Sept. 11 terror attacks to the burning of the Reichstag, or Pariament building, in Nazi Germany in 1933. “It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that,” he told applauding atheists. “After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.” If you’re fuzzy on your history of Nazi Germany, you might have missed Ellison’s point. Here’s the context. On Feb. 27, 1933, the Reichstag building in Berlin burned. The fire occurred a week before the March 5 elections, which pitted the Nazis against the Communists, Social Democrats and other parties. For decades, it had been widely believed that the Nazis themselves planned the fire in an effort to discredit the Communists and justify Nazi seizure of emergency powers. Today, many scholars believe that the arsonist was a lone radical. The identity of those responsible for the fire remains controversial. It is clear, however, that Hitler – then chancellor – cynically exploited the Reichstag fire to grab power for himself. The day after the fire, Hitler pushed through a decree that ended protection of political, personal and property rights. Then he moved to crush thousands of his political opponents, including Reichstag members. In “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” William Shirer provides a vivid account: “Truckloads of stormtroopers roared through the streets all over Germany, breaking into homes, rounding up victims and carting them off to [Brownshirt] barracks, where they were tortured and beaten.” Hermann Goering, one of Hitler’s henchmen, made clear that the rule of law was over: “Fellow Germans, my measures will not be crippled by any judicial thinking,” he bellowed. “I don’t have to worry about justice; my mission is only to destroy and exterminate, nothing more! … [T]he struggle to the death, in which my fist will grasp your necks, I shall lead with those down there – the Brownshirts!” Despite their brutal tactics, the Nazis failed to win a sufficient parliamentary majority to take power legally. On March 23, with storm troopers lining the aisles, Nazi leaders persuaded the new Reichstag to pass an “enabling act” that effectively ceded total power to Hitler. Where is George Bush, with all his shortcomings, in the terrible tale of the Reichstag fire and its aftermath? On what grounds does Ellison compare Bush with Hitler, who butchered 6 million Jews and many others? On Tuesday, Ellison told me that he invoked the Reichstag fire to make the point that “in the aftermath of a tragedy, space is opened up for governments to take action that they could not have achieved before that.” Which of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 actions did he place in that category? The Iraq war, Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence and certain provisions of the Patriot Act, he said. Those seem a tad short of unleashing storm troopers, torturing political opponents and demolishing the rule of law. During his speech, Ellison went on to tell the atheists that “I’m not saying [Sept. 11] was a [U.S.] plan, or anything like that, because, you know, that’s how they put you in the nut-ball box — dismiss you.” Granted, such statements might get you dismissed as a nutball. But are they true? Ellison now says they are not. When we spoke, he agreed that Osama bin Laden — not the Bush administration — was responsible for the attacks on 9/11. But why didn’t he do the responsible thing and say that when asked about it at the atheists’ meeting? During Ellison’s first six months in Congress, observers have mostly left behind his worrisome past. It includes his connection with Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam in the 1990s, his defense of Kathleen Soliah (who later was convicted of planting pipe bombs under two Los Angeles police cars) — and his praise for convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur, who is on the lam in Cuba. Some Democrats may have sighed with relief that Ellison has largely moved on to bread-and-butter issues like health care and education. But just when things were looking up, we learn that Ellison is still humoring folks with extreme ideas. One wonders what the next six months will bring.
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