It's worth noting just how quickly Barack Obama is being compared to Adolf Hitler compared to past presidents. Call it the Hitler index of political polarization.
During the campaign, numerous conservative pundits likened Obama to the Nazi dictator, including Jonah Goldberg, Ann Coulter, and Ben Stein. But it's still shocking to see that a member of Congress, Rep. Paul Broun, has now joined them in this lunatic rhetoric just six days after Obama was elected.
For the purposes of comparison, I did some preliminary Nexis searches looking for equivalent rhetoric targeting Bill Clinton by national-level political figures (i.e. I exclude the various extremists on the Internet, local talk radio, etc.). The earliest I can find is Ross Perot saying this in 1998:
[H]ave there been any other world leaders that had these same mental defects? Yes. People so driven for power, they would do anything to keep it. Hitler had it. Stalin had it. Saddam Hussein has it. Castro's got it, just to mention a few. Now, surely we can do better than that in the good old U.S.A.
By the end of Clinton's term in 2000, Republican members of Congress had contracted Hitler fever:
[R]etiring Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Idaho), commenting on one of Clinton's national monument designations, said, "This president is engaging in the largest land grab since the invasion of Poland." Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) went a bit further a couple of weeks ago when Clinton designated Arizona's Ironwood Forest a national monument. "I would draw a parallel to Hitler," Shadegg said. "He eroded the will of the German people to resist evil."
Our favorite is Arkansas Republican Rep. Jay Dickey's recent fundraising letter reminding supporters they can give him $1,000 for the primary and another $1,000 in the general election campaign. He doesn't want anyone to "later ... say to me that I should have reminded you of the threats," he said. "Just as people who read Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' and then later were surprised at the evils of the 3rd Reich [sic]," Dickey said, "we have the blueprint for what the White House plans to do: defeat me! This is because I not only dared to vote my conscience on the impeachment issue, but dared to do it after a publicly expressed threat that I would lose the election if I did. Are we going to let an astounding abuse of power go unanswered?"
With President Bush, the first direct comparison to Hitler by a member of Congress didn't come until 2007, when Rep. Keith Ellison compared the Bush administration's actions after 9/11 to the way the Nazis used the Reichstag fire to seize power:
America's first Muslim congressman has provoked outrage by apparently comparing President George W Bush to Adolf Hitler and hinting that he might have been responsible for the September 11 attacks.
Addressing a gathering of atheists in his home state of Minnesota, Keith Ellison, a Democrat, compared the 9/11 atrocities to the destruction of the Reichstag, the German parliament, in 1933. This was probably burned down by the Nazis in order to justify Hitler's later seizure of emergency powers.
"It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that," Mr Ellison said. "After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted."
To applause from his audience of 300 members of Atheists for Human Rights, Mr Ellison said he would not accuse the Bush administration of planning 9/11 because "you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box - dismiss you".
(Senator Dick Durbin also compared the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to that of the Nazi regime in 2005, but he was not directly referring to President Bush or his administration.)