So the North Iowa Tea Party covered up their Mason City billboard that juxtaposed pictures of Adolf Hitler (“National Socialism”), Barack Obama (“Democrat Socialism”) and Vladimir Lenin (“Marxist Socialism”) over the slogan, “Radical leaders prey on the fearful & naive.” (Here’s a photo.) Activists in statewide tea party circles repudiated the billboard. Ryan Rhodes, chairman of the Iowa Tea Party movement, wants fellow travelers to educate the public about freedom and U.S. history. Rhodes’ problem was the Hitler imagery, not the underlying message that we’re headed toward socialism.
I know I’m supposed to be outraged that right-wingers would compare Obama to Hitler, but I’m too stunned that anyone paying attention to the news could view Obama as “socialist.” I got a window onto the tea party mindset from Bob Johnson, one of the Mason City billboard’s creators. For your weekly dose of unintentional comedy, I recommend Jennifer Jacobs’ interview with Johnson on the Des Moines Register blog. Among his insights:
“It was absolutely not the aim to just create controversy. Nobody’s more surprised about the thing than I am,” Johnson said. “This billboard was misunderstood. I’m not going to say it was a mistake.” […]
“We had some hesitations about it,” Johnson said, “but for those that understand it, it’s just such a powerful billboard, so we said screw it and go ahead with it.” […]
“When we put that Hitler up there, it just totally overwhelmed everything on the billboard,” Johnson said. “That’s the one thing that just destroyed the whole concept we did not realize the power Hitler still has, the emotion.” […]
“When you want to compare the present administration to Hitler, Hitler took over the banks. Gee, what’s this administration doing? Hitler took over the health care. Gee. Hitler took over the transportation and what’s this administration doing? If that wasn’t a direct comparison to socialism, I don’t know what is.”
Let’s consider the so-called government takeover of health care, a major area of concern for the tea partiers. Under socialized medicine (as exists in real socialist countries), the government employs all the doctors and runs all the clinics and hospitals. Under single-payer health care (as exists in Canada), the government pays for medical care, but most doctors and medical institutions are privately operated.
In contrast, Obama had his top aides cut deals with health industry interests, working closely with the most corporate-friendly Congressional committee drafting a health reform bill. The key staffer charged with writing that committee’s bill, Liz Fowler, came straight from one of the largest health insurance companies. Obama broke many significant campaign promises on health care so as not to tread on corporate interests. As a result, key industries got virtually everything they wanted from the bill that passed. Private health insurance companies are now guaranteed millions of new customers in the coming years, with no new competition from government-run entities. Completing the circle, Fowler is now working for the Obama administration to help implement the health reform law.
Rest assured, no corporate CEO in America is lying awake at night worried about “socialist” health care the way Johnson says he worried people might bomb his house because they didn’t like his billboard.
Most of the Obama administration’s economic team came straight from the Wall Street culture, and the president hasn’t tried to “take over” or even break up major financial institutions.
I have no idea what Johnson is talking about when he suggests the Obama administration has been taking over the transportation sector.
Anyone who has such a skewed view of this corporate-friendly administration could gain perspective from spending a few weeks in a socialist country.