EDITOR’S NOTE: The week a group of Bush-hating videos came to light as a result of a contest held by the left-wing activist website MoveOn.org. Two videos entered in MoveOn’s “Bush in 30 Seconds” contest compared the president to Adolf Hitler. In addition, as NRO’s Byron York first reported Wednesday, the maker of one of the videos chosen as a finalist in MoveOn’s competition has also made an extensive Bush-Is-a-Nazi web movie.
The comparisons of the president to Hitler, and of the Bush administration to the Third Reich, represent a growing phenomenon on the left. Last August, York investigated Bush-hating, including the Bush-is-a-Nazi theme, for National Review. At the time, York wrote that “sooner or later, [such ideas] will find their way into the political debate of 2004.” And now they have.
Below is York’s story, from the September 4, 2003 issue of National Review.
Are you aware of the murderous history of George W. Bush — indeed, of the entire Bush family? Are you aware of the president’s Nazi sympathies? His crimes against humanity? And do you know, by the way, that George W. Bush is a certifiable moron?
If you haven’t heard the news, you’re not on the cutting edge of Bush-hating. Anyone with Internet access and a little curiosity can discover an extensive network of websites like Bushbodycount.com, which accuses the president and his family of involvement in “mysterious” deaths; Fearbush.com and Takebackthemedia.com, which traffic in images of Bush in Nazi regalia; and Presidentmoron.com and Toostupidtobepresident.com, which portray the president as a drooling idiot. Taken together, the sites, and dozens of others like them, represent the far Left’s online equivalent of the infamous Clinton Chronicles and Clinton Body Count videos and websites of the 1990s, which accused Bill Clinton of all sorts of murders and criminal deeds. Back then, the Clinton compilations troubled liberal observers and spurred a series of disapproving articles — not to mention armchair psychoanalyses — about Clinton-hating. Today, there appears to be less concern. But perhaps the political world should take more notice. Yes, some of the Bush-hating sites are obscure, but others are not, and given the upcoming presidential race and the intense passions it will likely generate, it seems reasonable to predict that they will all become better known. And it seems just as likely that some of the material they publish will inexorably seep into the wider political discussion. Bush-hating, already intense in some circles, could well become a growth industry in the coming year.
THE BUSH REICH
A staple of Bush-hating is the portrayal of the president as a Nazi. That has, of course, been a prominent part of other attacks against other presidents, but today it seems to be deployed with particular aggressiveness against Bush. There are thousands of references, across the vastness of the Internet, linking Bush to Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. Do you want to buy a T-shirt with a swastika replacing the “s” in Bush? No problem. Do you want to collect images of Bush in a German army uniform, with a Hitler mustache Photoshopped onto his face? That’s easy. Do you want to find pictures of Dick Cheney and Tom Ridge and Ari Fleischer dressed as Bush’s Nazi henchmen? That’s easy, too.
And it’s not just doctored photos. There is a lot of writing, much of it quite serious, claiming similarities between Bush and Hitler. “It’s going a bit far to compare the Bush of 2003 to the Hitler of 1933,” writes Dave Lindorff in “Bush and Hitler: The Strategy of Fear,” which appeared in February on the far-left site Counterpunch.org. “Bush simply is not the orator that Hitler was. But comparisons of the Bush administration’s fear-mongering tactics to those practiced so successfully and with such terrible results by Hitler and Goebbels . . . are not at all out of line.”
Lindorff is not an obscure, solitary blogger. The author of Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, he has contributed to The Nation and Salon, and has appeared on National Public Radio. And Counterpunch is not an obscure website. It is edited by the leftist journalist Alexander Cockburn, features writing by Edward Said and Philip Agee, and claims to attract 60,000 visitors each day. Nor was Lindorff’s Bush/Hitler reference an aberration at Counterpunch. The day before Lindorff’s article appeared, another author, Wayne Madsen, wrote that Bush is “borrowing liberally from Hitler’s play book.” The FŸhrer, Lindorff said, “would be proud that an American president is emulating him in so many ways.”
A significant portion of the “Bush is a Nazi” rhetoric has its origins in the antiwar movement. One antiwar site, Takebackthemedia.com, which attracted some attention in the press during the run-up to war in Iraq, features a variety of anti-Bush “flash movies.” One, entitled “Bush is not a Nazi, so stop saying that,” begins with ominous music and the warning: “The media will not tell you of the Bush family Nazi association.” The movie goes on to accuse the Bushes of first financing the Third Reich — and then coming up with a clever plan to conceal their treason: “To offset their reputation as World War II traitors, former President Bush joined the U.S. Navy as a pilot.” Then the viewer sees a series of statements equating the current President Bush with Hitler. “Both leaders had catastrophes occur allowing them to remove many civil rights,” the movie says, showing side-by-side pictures of the Reichstag fire and the World Trade Center attacks. The screen switches to a photo of Bush with a young woman athlete and a picture of Hitler with an adoring young fan. “Imperialism seems to be a real turn-on,” the text says. Later, the movie shows Bush with a small child alongside a picture of Hitler with a young man; the caption reads, “You don’t mind if I kill your brother/father/uncle to get rich, do you kid?”
Such material will undoubtedly seem crazy to most readers. But it received a kind of scholarly seal of approval with the recent publication of a study of political conservatism — written by professors at Stanford, Berkeley, and the University of Maryland — that likened Hitler and Mussolini to Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh. All were “right-wing conservatives,” the authors wrote in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, and as such shared traits like “mental rigidity and closed-mindedness,” “increased dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity,” and “fear, anger, and aggression.” “One is justified in referring to Hitler, Mussolini, Reagan, and Limbaugh as right-wing conservatives,” the professors concluded, “because they all preached a return to an idealized past and favored or condoned inequality in some form.” If the nation’s leading scholars can lump together Hitler and Reagan, why not Hitler and George W. Bush, as well?
[Author’s note — As if to prove the contention that Bush-hating which starts on the Internet fringe can move into the mainstream, shortly after this article was written, Vanity Fair magazine, on page 146 of its September issue, featured a letter from a reader who said he noticed something interesting about a photo of Bush administration military adviser Richard Perle. The picture reminded the reader of a famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. “Here it is: the same arrogance, the same malice toward the photographer, the same all-around creepiness,” the reader wrote. “Perle isn’t the first government official to use deceit and fear mongering to force an extremist, irrational, and ultimately violent view on an entire nation or globe.” A letter like that — with rhetoric that could have come straight from Counterpunch — is usually tossed in the trash at major magazines, but Vanity Fair’s editors found the argument so compelling that they published the letter in a special box with the Perle and Goebbels photos side-by-side.]
AN EVIL EMPIRE?
When web surfers tire of reading about the president’s Nazi tendencies, they can turn to the history of the Bush Crime Family, or what is sometimes known on the web as the BFEE, or Bush Family Evil Empire. The website Bushbodycount.com tells the story of hundreds of deaths in which the president and his relatives were allegedly implicated. “This is a list of bodies, a roster of the dead, who might have been called Witnesses had they not met their untimely ends,” Bushbodycount says. The site accuses the president, as well as George H. W. Bush, of involvement in dozens of suspicious deaths, beginning with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Bushbodycount tells readers that “an internal FBI memo reported that on November 22  a reputed businessman named George H. W. Bush reported hearsay that a certain Young Republican had been talking of killing the president when he came to Houston.” The site refers to an old, discredited story from The Nation that came out during the 1988 presidential campaign alleging that the elder Bush had been in the CIA in 1963. “George H. W. Bush has denied this,” Bushbodycount concludes in classic conspiratorial style, “although he was in Texas and cannot account for his whereabouts at the time.”
Of course, not all the deaths with which the Bushes were allegedly involved were so momentous. For example, Bushbodycount connects the Bush family to the death of Mark Lombardi, a New York conceptual artist whose work took its inspiration from the Iran-Contra, Whitewater, and savings-and-loan scandals (one of his pieces included an image of Neil Bush, the president’s brother). “On the evening of March 22, 2000,” Bushbodycount writes, “Mark Lombardi was found hanging in his loft, an apparent suicide,” another potential “witness” — to what is not clear — who met an untimely end. A similar fate awaited J. H. Hatfield, author of the George W. Bush biography Fortunate Son, a book that achieved momentary notoriety for its allegation that Bush had used cocaine. But Hatfield’s fortunes fell after the charge was debunked and his role in an alleged credit-card-fraud scheme, as well as his imprisonment for a 1987 car bombing, came to light. “He was found Wednesday, July 18,  in a motel room, an apparent suicide,” Bushbodycount notes. With his death, Hatfield joined Bushbodycount’s “silent voices,” those “daring souls who kept the candles of democracy burning while their ignorant neighbors were helping the George Bush clan extinguish the fire.”
All this might seem silly were it not for the fact that similar scandal-mongering was taken quite seriously during the Clinton years. The notorious 1994 video The Clinton Chronicles tied Bill Clinton to a series of “mysterious” deaths — “Since August 1991, an alarming number of Clinton associates have died of unnatural causes,” it said — and helped spawn a small industry of Internet “Clinton body count” lists. Condemning The Clinton Chronicles and tying its unfounded accusations to the mainstream political opposition became a standard part of White House defense strategy in times of scandal. For example, in her famous “vast right-wing conspiracy” appearance on the Today show in January 1998, then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton complained about the “mean-spirited give and take of American politics right now,” which included, she said, “accusing my husband of committing murder, of drug running.” A few years earlier, Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos, speaking to the Washington Post, angrily said of the president’s enemies, “They’re accusing him of murders. . . . That’s unheard of.” The paper reported that Stephanopoulos “senses a conspiracy of sorts — a campaign of ‘manufactured hate.’” And Bill Clinton himself often mentioned the accusations in an effort to show how unreasonable his opponents had become. “I’ve been accused of murder and all kinds of things,” he said at a 1999 news conference.
And the Clintons did more than talk. In 1995, White House aides prepared a 311-page study entitled “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” which outlined a complex scheme of Clinton conspiracy theories. The still-young Internet, it said, took scandal stories and “bounced [them] all over the world.” The document even singled out a lone website operator, a graduate student at Dartmouth, who posted a body count on his site. The death list was “one of the wackiest examples of the conspiracy theories that pass for news on the Internet and talk radio,” wrote the late New York Daily News columnist Lars-Erik Nelson in a 1999 article, “Conspiracy Nuts Hit New Low with the Body Count.” “It is ignored by the mainstream media as too nutty for serious comment. But it is widely circulated and widely muttered over.”
The same might be said of the Bush body count, which is likely being seen by more people than one might imagine. The bible for Bush murder-and-conspiracy aficionados is a book titled The Immaculate Deception: The Bush Crime Family Exposed, which promises readers a “shocking” look into “the unsavory past of George Bush and his family.” The book, originally published during the first Bush presidency and re-issued for the second, has been invisible in the press, but sells at a steady pace. On Amazon.com recently, it ranked No. 385 in sales — not a best-seller, but well ahead of several other books that appeal to the anti-Bush audience, including The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder, by Mark Crispin Miller, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, by Al Franken, and Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, by Molly Ivins.
In July 2001, a fictional “study” purporting to show that George W. Bush had the lowest IQ of any recent president spread across the Internet. According to a “press release” on the web, the “Lovenstein Institute” of Scranton, Pa., conducted a “four month study of the intelligence quotient of President George W. Bush” using the “Swanson/Crain system of intelligence ranking.” The fictional researchers determined that Bush’s IQ was 91 — precisely half that of Bill Clinton’s 182, which was said to be the highest of recent presidents.
The hoax should have been easy to spot. A check of any number of databases (and even the phone book) would have shown that the “Lovenstein Institute” did not exist. In addition, the report cited the work of “Dr. Werner R. Lovenstein, world-renowned sociologist,” and “Professor Patricia F. Dilliams, world-respected psychiatrist”; a simple check would have shown that both were fictional characters. Nevertheless, the IQ story struck some of the president’s critics as so believable that a few of them, including newspapers in Britain and Europe and Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, reported it as fact. It can still be found on the web today. There, it’s just a small part of the wider discussion about George W. Bush’s “stupidity.” Surfing the web, readers will find dozens of sites devoted in whole or in part to declaring that the president is irredeemably dumb.
There is Toostupidtobepresident.com, the introduction of which reads, “Surely, there have been smug, duplicitous, rich whelps who have served as President of the United States. But, none of them have been quite as dumb as George W. Bush. . . . Perhaps, his brain was damaged by a 20 year alcoholic binge. Maybe it was all the alleged cocaine, or even a combination of both the former and the latter.” There is also Presidentmoron.com, which features phony news stories that, instead of referring to “President Bush,” refer to “President MORON.” And there is Bushisamoron.org, which says that it is “dedicated to preserving the legacy of Bush’s idiocy.”
There’s also Buzzflash.com, a popular leftist news site that regularly refers to the president as the “moron-in-chief.” And then there are Bushorchimp.com and Smirkingchimp.com, which juxtapose images of Bush and chimpanzees. Again, such material might not seem worth taking seriously, but the kind of smash-mouth discourse one sees on the web can sometimes make its way into the larger political world. For example, last year Françoise Ducros, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrtien’s director of communications, was forced to resign after calling Bush a “moron” at a NATO summit. Ducros was cheered in some quarters of the web, where she was seen as bringing into the mainstream dialogue something that’s said online every day.
In April 1994, Time magazine’s Nina Burleigh wrote a story titled “Clintonophobia! Just who are these Clinton haters, and why do they loathe Bill and Hillary with such passion?” (Readers might remember Burleigh for the brief celebrity she enjoyed in 1998, when she confessed her sexual desire for Clinton and told the Washington Post that she would be “happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.”) In the Time article, Burleigh quoted historian Alan Brinkley, who declared that Clinton was “the first president who has generated this kind of right-wing hatred” and suggested that a conservative president would not have had to suffer such attacks from his opponents. “Liberals tend to value tolerance highly,” Brinkley said, “so there’s a greater reluctance to destroy enemies than among the right.”
There is now a conservative president, and Brinkley’s dictum is being put to the test. It appears to be failing; one could wander through the anti-Bush world on the web for a long time looking for the liberal tolerance that Brinkley cited.
Furthermore, Burleigh classified as Clinton-haters those who simply raised questions about Whitewater or opposed the First Lady’s health-care plan. If a similar standard were applied today, everyone who questioned the war in Iraq or opposed the president’s tax cuts would be a Bush-hater. Clearly that’s not the case. But there are Bush-haters out there. Just as there were people during the Clinton years who accused the president of murder or imagined him snorting cocaine in the White House, there are now those who see George W. Bush as Hitler and fantasize that his family is an international crime organization. Perhaps it will all somehow remain confined to the Internet. But experience tells us it probably won’t, and, sooner or later, the ideas of Counterpunch and Bushbodycount and Presidentmoron will find their way into the political debate of 2004.