In the wake of comments from Rush Limbaugh equating Barack Obama to Hitler, a leading Jewish Democratic organization is calling on the House of Representatives' lone Jewish Republican to repudiate the talk show host.
On Friday, National Jewish Democratic Council David Harris called on House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to denounce Limbaugh's remarks. Pointing out that the Virginia Republican had said more "Limbaughs" were needed in the GOP just last week, Harris called on "Cantor and the Republican Party to condemn Limbaugh and these utterly contemptible tactics."
"Mr. Cantor, after Rush's website antics today and comments yesterday, do you really still think you 'need' Limbaugh?" his statement read.
The question wasn't immediately answered, with Cantor currently traveling in Israel. But Harris' statement got to a larger point: to what extent should the GOP -- and, in particular, its Jewish members -- be held accountable for the recent bout of Obama-Nazi comparisons?
Not all Jewish organizations agree on the issue. Marc Stern, the acting executive director of the American Jewish Congress, said that it wasn't fair to tag the congressman with Limbaugh's remarks "because a week ago he said something nice about Rush Limbaugh."
That said, Stern added, "I think everybody in the political system ought to eschew these remarks. I think this sorts of fire-bomb labeling is McCarthyism at its worst, whether from the left or the right... It is destructive of our politics. We don't need talk show hosts of either stripe, making informed and intelligent debate impossible."
Indeed, while GOP lawmakers have gone somewhat unscathed, conservative groups and figures have been unusually willing to slap Rush Limbaugh down for this latest rhetorical splurge. Salon's Glenn Greenwald asked commentators who condemned a 2004 anonymous MoveOn.org ad comparing Bush to Hitler if they would offer similar denunciations now. Some did.
"It is wrong, outrageous and damaging for Rush Limbaugh to compare Obama to Hitler," said the National Review's Cliff May. "Such hyperbole only serves to confuse and trivialize issues much more grave than tax rates and health-care plans."
Reached by phone, Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti Defamation League and another individual critical of MoveOn.org, also criticized Limbaugh.
"Regardless of the political difference, regardless of the substantive differences, the use of Nazi symbolism, Nazi comparison, is outrageous and inappropriate and its not where the debate should be," he said. "Disagree on the merits and the issues without collaring it with this imagery."