This past Sunday Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison invoked Nazi Germany to condemn the Bush administration before an audience of Twin Cities atheists. Star Tribune reporter Mike Kaszuba reported Ellison’s comment as follows:
On comparing Sept. 11 to the burning of the Reichstag building in Nazi Germany: “It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country [Hitler] in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is 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.”
Ellison subsequently explained himself to Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten, who also commented on his explanation:
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.
Now comes the Star Tribune editorial board to lend Ellison a hand. In its editorial on Ellison’s comment, the Star Tribune begins with the assertion that “[a]lthough he was careful to keep his comments in context,…Ellison…took predictable flak for alluding to the Nazi era during recent comments about the Bush administration.” I have no idea what is meant by the assertion that Ellison was careful to keep his comments in context; he kept them in the context of the Bush adminstration, which is the basis of the minuscule amount of criticism he has received about the comments from the likes of us. Moreover, Ellison has taken almost no flak for his comments. And the comments do a bit more than “allud[e] to the Nazi era.” At the least, they assert that the Bush administration nefariously “used” 9/11 as a pretext to seize dictatorial powers. Any problem with that? Not according to the Star Tribune:
[T]he point Ellison was trying to make deserves a hearing: The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he said, were “almost like the Reichstag fire … it put the leader of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.”
Forget about Hitler for a moment. The terror attacks of 9/11 were indeed a starting gun that kicked off a rush to expand government power. Could the Patriot Act have passed without 9/11? Would Congress have authorized a war in Iraq? No credible observer believes that the attacks were some kind of inside job (though an alarming number of people in Muslim countries are happy to think so). But neither is it credible to suppose that the Bush administration has failed to take advantage of the popular support presidents enjoy in times of crisis. Any president would do so.
Few, however, would go as far as this president has gone. Bush and his team seem intent on enlarging his authority and defying those who would challenge him or his administration. Geneva Conventions? Quaint. Habeas corpus? Flexible. Court approval of wiretaps? Outmoded. Rising calls to replace a secretary of defense? “I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I’m the decider, and I decide what is best.”
Insofar as the Bush administration is concerned, Star Tribune editors see no need to make an argument for their readers anymore. They are like the prisoners in the old joke who entertain each other by calling out the number of jokes they have told each other numerous times before. Joke number 54? Foreign terrorists captured abroad are entitled to treatment as prisoners of war. Joke number 65? Foreign terrorists captured abroad are entitled to use the federal court system to challenge their confinement. Joke number 78? Foreign terrorists calling into the United States have a reasonable expectation of privacy for their phone calls.
Then we have one that calls for a new number. Bush declined to fire a cabinet secretary despite “rising calls” for him to do so. Has any president ever before behaved so brazenly? Let’s make that joke 100. And, finally, one for Power Line readers. Joke number 101? The Star Tribune editorial board.
“The truth about Keith Ellison.”
“The Ellison hustle.”
UPDATE: Gary Gross writes:
Joke number 101? What a sick joke!!!
Joke number 102? Keith Ellison was interviewed by the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He told them that signing on as a co-sponsor of Dennis Kucinich’s impeachment bill was “a matter of principle.” Keith Ellison has principles? Who knew? I wrote about it here.
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