Opinion

opinion | Mark Pothier

Like Hitler, really?

afp/getty images

Any comparison that involves Adolf Hitler can easily go horribly wrong. But in a certain circle that includes 17 Republicans jousting to become President of the United States, criticism of Barack Obama has repeatedly been linked, directly or indirectly, to one of the most despised people in history.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s reference to the fuhrer caused a furor late last month when he tied the Iran nuclear deal to the Holocaust. In an interview with Breitbart News, Huckabee said, “This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

Huckabee later said he wasn’t likening Obama to Hitler. “I’m comparing the situation that we face, when we do not take seriously the threats made to Jews for 20 years after the writings of Hitler,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Advertisement

Here’s how some other Republican candidates reacted to Huckabee’s “oven” remarks, or how they have in the past connected Obama with Hitler or those who appeased Hitler.

Directly compares Obama to Hitler

Rand Paul, US Senator, Kentucky

Rand Paul.
AP
Get Arguable with Jeff Jacoby in your inbox:
From the Globe's must-read columnist, an extra offering each week of opinion and ideas.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

In a 2009 interview with conservative talk show host Alex Jones, Paul said he was concerned about Obama’s increasing power. “You had the money destroyed in Germany in 1923,” he said, “and out of that chaos came Hitler, who promised that these awful people were the ones doing this to you and we need to round them up and put them in camps. And the liberties just went out the window. But people actually democratically voted in a Hitler. And I worry about that again in our country.”

He then made an — apparent — joke about whether Obama supporters had “brown shirts on,” a reference to the Nazi stormtroopers.

Rick Perry, Texas governor

Rick Perry.
AP

In 2012, Perry urged people to fight against Obama’s re-election, invoking the battle against the Nazis as well as the American Revolution. “It is a powerful moment in Americans’ history, and you are on the front lines,” Perry said. “This is Concord. This is Omaha Beach.”

Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon

Ben Carson
Getty Images

In a 2014 interview with NewsmaxTV, Carson suggested the Obama administration had created a favorable climate for the rise of Communism in the United States. The interviewer asked whether Carson was specifically calling Obama and (former) Attorney General Eric Holder communists. Carson responded by encouraging viewers to reach their own conclusions. Read “The Naked Communist,” a 1958 book by Cleon Skousen, he said. “And read, you know, (Hitler’s) ‘Mein Kampf,’ and read the works of Vladimir Lenin.”

Indirectly compares Obama to Hitler

Ted Cruz, US Senator, Texas

Ted Cruz.
AP
Advertisement

“The [Iran] deal being negotiated today is reminiscent of Munich in 1938,” Cruz said in April, a reference to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s disastrous peace pact with Hitler.

Lindsey Graham, US Senator, South Carolina

Senator Lindsey Graham.
EPA

In an interview with The Iowa Republican, Graham mildly criticized Huckabee. “I think the analogy that Mike used was inappropriate,” he said. “I like Mike a lot . . . but I’m not accusing President Obama and John Kerry of walking the Jews to the ovens.”

Later, Graham added his own Hitler reference: “I think Obama is misjudging the Ayatollah the way people misjudged Hitler. Hitler at least lied about what he was going to do.”

Rick Santorum, US Senator, Pennsylvania

Rick Santorum.
AP

In 2012, Santorum — who was running for the Republican presidential nomination eventually won by Mitt Romney — delivered a rambling speech in which he compared the preelection mood in America to the days leading up to World War II. “America sat from 1940, when France fell, to December of ’41, and did almost nothing,” he said.

Santorum denied making an Obama-Hitler connection, but Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom was quick to connect the dots. Speaking on MSNBC Fehrnstrom said, “Just yesterday, [Santorum] was talking about World War II and making a comparison between President Obama and Hitler.”

Condemns comparison, but . . .

George Pataki, former New York governor

George Pataki.
AP
Advertisement

Pataki tweeted: “Agree with @Potusthat @GovMikeHuckabee remarks are ‘sad,’ unfortunately, it comes from the most divisive President in history.”

Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor

Scott Walker.
AP

On NPR’s “On Point,” guest host John Harwood asked Walker whether he would “condemn” Huckabee’s language. “Well, I’m certainly not gonna say it, but I’m telling you, they can speak for themselves,” Walker said. “I’m gonna tell you what I’m for and you’re not hearing me use that sort of language.”

Condemns comparison

Jeb Bush, former Florida governor

Jeb Bush.
REUTERS

“The use of that kind of language is just wrong,” Bush said of Huckabee’s comments. “This is not the way we’re going to win elections and that’s not how we’re going to solve problems . . . Not quite sure why he felt compelled to say it.”

Has also been compared to Hitler

Donald Trump, businessman

Donald Trump.
AP

Some people have compared Trump with Hitler (including actress Eva Longoria), and there’s even a YouTube video of Hitler reacting to the news of Trump’s candidacy. But Trump has not mentioned Hitler during his rants against Obama. Trump adviser Michael Cohen, however, said the candidate was probably fine with Huckabee’s “oven” comment.

“Does Donald Trump think it was wrong and offensive?” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Cohen.

“I don’t think so,” Cohen said. “I think what [Huckabee’s] really trying to say here is that we’re really in a bad place.”

Mark Pothier can be reached at mark.pothier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @markpothier.

Related:

Joan Vennochi: GOP debate reveals the real Donald Trump

Dante Ramos: Carly Fiorina shines, sort of, at the JV debate

Renée Graham: Bernie Sanders, other candidates need to get louder on civil rights

Meredith Warren: US president needed; some experience required

How American voters fell out of love with their own parties