Why LePage's 'Gestapo' Comment Is Different
There are a number of ways in which Governor Paul LePage's claim that, under Obamacare, the IRS is a "new Gestapo" is different from and worse than his previous outlandish statements.
First of all, this wasn't some off-the-cuff remark to a reporter, or an off-script moment in a speech. This was an official part of the Governor's address to the state, vetted by his office, widely distributed in print and audio formats and played on radio stations across Maine.
Second, this can't be downplayed as an offensive yet lighthearted remark, as have some of his other statements. He wasn't telling someone to "kiss his butt" or joking about toxic chemicals causing women to grow "little beards," he was knowingly and deliberately comparing President Obama's signature health care legislation to an act of Nazi Germany.
I don't care what kind of point you're making; unless you're discussing another systematic genocide it's not even close to being within the realm of rhetorical reason to equate something with the holocaust.
Third, while some of his previous extreme remarks have exposed his ugly thinking on important issues, none have done so as clearly and on such a hot-button national issue as has this statement.
Following the recent Supreme Court ruling, health care reform is currently one of the most high-profile issues in the nation. There's no question that his remarks will be a national story. By making the reference he did, when he did it, the Governor deliberately placed himself within and validated the worst rhetoric of the extreme Tea Party fringe. It's as if he pointed at the guy at the rally holding a sign with Obama covered in swastikas and said, "You know what? He makes a good point."
Fourth and finally, LePage made the statement in support of a truly indefensible policy. The actual legislative sentiment the Governor was expressing may get much less attention than the words he used, but in the end it may be much more important. In his remarks, LePage declared that he opposes the creation of a health care exchange and will refuse to implement the Affordable Care Act, including the expansion of Medicaid.
Expanding coverage for these groups is 100% paid for by the federal government for the next three years. In short, LePage is saying that he will deny health care to people who need it, not because of any financial reason, but because of his own extreme political position against the law. He's willing to deny care out of spite.
Up to this point, Governor LePage has avoided making a real apology for any of his offensive remarks. It's time for that to change. The egregiousness of this statement and the worldview it represents require an immediate apology to the people of Maine.