House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) criticized conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, on Friday, for drawing comparisons between President Obama and Adolph Hitler. And, in a sequence that seems rare in modern Republican politics, the Virginia Republican seems eager to publicize his rebuke.
Cantor's office sent over a write-up of the congressman's interview with Bloomberg News, in which he praised Limbaugh as a voice of the conservative movement but condemned his use of Nazi imagery and analogies to chastise the president.
"Do I condone the mention of Hitler in any discussion about politics?" Cantor said. "No, I don't, because obviously that is something that conjures up images that frankly are not, I think, very helpful."
Speaking out against the Hitler comparisons -- even when they are made by conservative voices -- would seem like an utterly non-controversial posture for a Republican leader (and a Jewish one at that) to make. But Cantor and his colleagues in the House have, to this point, walked a fine line in rebuking Rush -- fretting about the pushback they might receive from his listeners. The Congressman is the lone Jewish Republican in the House. And aides stress that he has consistently lamented any use of Hitler or Nazism to make a political point.
The issue, nevertheless, emerged once again on Thursday after a tea party protest that Cantor attended featured several signs equating health care reform with the Holocaust. Democrats jumped on the imagery -- alongside Cantor's presence -- by insisting that the extremist elements of the party had taken over the event.
On a more emotional and honest level, decorated writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel tweeted (yes, he's on Twitter) that the signs at the Capital Hill protests were an "indecent and disgusting" form of "political hatred."
Cantor, of course, can't be held responsible for the actions of a widely attended health care protest. But clearly, both he and his advisers saw the need to demonstrate some distance.
"The Republican Party in its roots is a party of inclusion and we ought to be promoting that and making sure that voices are heard," Cantor said in his interview with Bloomberg Television.