Obama is not like Hitler, he’s like Capone 

By writing a column that drew comparisons between the uninformed electorate of post World War I Germany and our own in the Obama era, Thomas Sowell helped Keith Olbermann fill at least 30 seconds of his show last week. (Olbermann also provided several minutes of filler by reading a short story — I thought I had accidentally tuned in to Monsterpiece Theater.) Sowell’s Hitler comparison, though quite indirect, created a stir in the Left blogosphere, too. Sowell had violated Goodwin’s Law, which states clearly that only President George W. Bush can be compared to Hitler.

I hate Hitler comparisons. But how disturbing to watch so many on the Left make this inartful rhetoric into a distraction from Obama’s devil-may-care attitude about his proper role as president under our system of limited and divided government.

Obama is not like Hitler. He is like Machiavelli, or Al Capone, or the hawk in Hesiod’s parable, or anyone else in any other context who lives under the illusion that might makes right. His administration’s governing axiom is “I won the election, and I’m bigger than you, so I’m going to push you around.”

This, I believe, is what our own Michael Barone referred to when he coined the term “gangster government” as applied to this White House. Obama knows that as President, he is stronger than most economic actors, and he is using the weight of his office to bully them. No doubt he views himself not as a bully but as Superman or Robin Hood. But his office has constitutional limits which he consistently fails to observe, and each transgression both sets a bad precedent for future presidents and makes us number to his own outrageous behavior.

Are you a CEO? Obama thinks he can fire you — and he will.

Are you a car dealer? He will take away your franchise and all the investments you’ve made in it.

Did you put your money into a safe investment like senior corporate bonds? Sorry, but the president has decided that you and all other senior creditors of Chrysler are expendable in bankruptcy, because he wants to help the UAW stave off the extinction it has earned through greed and irrelevance. (Oh, and to add insult to injury, the bailed-out Chrysler will use the leftover money to hire Obama fundraisers as lobbyists so that they can raise and contribute even more in 2012.)

Are you a small businessman? Obama will rig the rules to force you into binding arbitration with a labor union.

Are you an employee trying to save for retirement? Obama wants to make it easier for a union to seize your shop, make your employer cut off your 401(k), and turn you into cannon fodder for some currently under-funded union pension plan from which you will someday collect pennies for every dollar you are owed.

Are you an energy company that signed leasing contracts with the U.S. government in good faith, then drilled responsibly and safely offshore for years with a perfect safety record? He’ll give your business the death penalty; and all because BP, a major Obama donor and strong supporter of his climate initiatives, for whom the brother of his top advisor lobbies, was apparently careless and caused a disaster.

Are you a dentist (or an oral surgeon)? Obama has an opinion on whether you should take that kid’s tonsils out, and you’d better listen if you want to be paid for your work.

Are you a doctor? Obama will tell you what kind of pill to prescribe, because you are either too greedy or too incompetent to choose the right one. Oh, and he’s setting up yet another federal panel to tell you whether you should be recommending mammograms and to women of what age.

Are you a living, breathing human being residing within the United States of America? Obama says you have to purchase government-approved health insurance (sorry, your current plan probably doesn’t qualify), and your only ways out are to commit suicide, move abroad, or become a Christian Scientist.

It’s discouraging to see that even when the cause is just — as with holding BP responsible for the billions of dollars in damage it is causing in the Gulf of Mexico — this administration cannot restrain itself from becoming involved in a way that exceeds the president’s constitutional powers. Even if it is salutary for BP to set aside $20 billion for damage claims, Sowell is correct to point out that the end does not justify the means.

This president, who has been hopelessly sluggish and excessively deferential to BP in performing his actual, legitimate duty of keeping federal waters clean, has no legitimate legal role in arranging the settlement of third parties’ restitution claims by arbitration. But he’s done such a poor job at the former, and he apparently feels he can make up for it with the latter. At best, Obama is a showman, merely taking credit for something BP was going to do anyway. At worst, he is using the power of the United States government’s executive branch to interfere in a restitution process for which the rule of law prescribes other remedies — courts of law, fines, penalties, deprivation of future leases, and settlement agreements arbitrated under terms worked out with the victims themselves, not with the President of the United States.

Our presidency has a limited role which has grown disturbingly beyond its constitutional scope in recent decades. It’s painful to watch this president’s cheerleaders go shamelessly silent about Obama’s role in trampling the rule of law and furthering this dangerous trend, especially after hearing them complain for eight years, at times correctly, about his predecessor’s role in the same.

If you want to blame Bush for using the presidency to diminish civil liberties of the accused, or for expanding the president’s powers to make war with only conditional Congressional approval, I’m willing to listen. But no one on the Left seems to care that Obama is undermining all Americans’ economic freedom. Under Obama, business, private property and private, legal, contractual agreements are being manhandled by government every time a crisis, real or imagined, makes such usurpations politically useful or at least more palatable to the electorate. Those who stand in his way he blames for the nation’s current problems. He plans to “get in the faces” of those who resist, and he has dozens of friendly journalists on speed-dial who will happily spread lies and smear them as greedy or even as traitors. He doesn’t want them “to do a lot of talking, just get out of the way.”

If Sowell had written a Hitler-free column on this topic, I think that’s the point he would have driven home more forcefully. Just because a president can shove people around, it does not mean that he should or that he does so legitimately.

About The Author

David Freddoso

David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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