Unscripted, Off-the-Cuff, Reductio ad Hitlerum? (Updated)

30 Oct

I tend to refer to Chris Collins’ leadership style as shtick.  He’s a fantastic salesman, and there are a lot of suckers out there.

Well, part of his shtick is to blame Albany for whatever might be convenient to blame Albany for.  That’s why he’s busy comparing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Hitler, Napoleon, and calling him the anti-Christ.

When first confronted with the fact that his Reductio ad Hitlerum was perceived as particularly offensive that people in his own party reacted to it as being unbelievable, Collins quickly issued an apology acknowledging that there’s no place in politics for Hitler comparisons.

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Collins on that point.

But the “joke” at the Adam’s Mark was not the first or only time Collins used the Hitler line.

Yesterday I asked Grant Loomis, the county executive’s director of communications, if Collins had ever made a similar reference to Silver before. He assured me that Collins had had not, that the remark was “unscripted” and “off the cuff.”

He then paused a moment and backed off a little, adding, “…to the best of my knowledge.”

I told Loomis about the Buffalo State students, and the two members of the faculty, and Loomis said, “Oh.”

Buffalo State students and two of their faculty members confirmed to Artvoice that Collins had used the exact same joke with them recently.  So, Collins is a serial Godwin-violator.  Artvoice’s Geoff Kelly concludes,

But it’s clear to me that his remark comparing an orthodox Jew to Hitler and the anti-Christ was not “off the cuff” or “unscripted”; it was not a momentary lapse in judgment. The joke is part of Collins’s repertoire. He has used it more than once, who knows how many times. Perhaps he wasn’t even aware that it was offensive until the uncomfortable silence he met at the Adam’s Mark on Saturday night. Maybe he didn’t know it was offensive until Elizabeth Benjamin exposed the remarks in the New York Daily News on Sunday. Maybe he still doesn’t believe what he said was offensive.  He certainly did not recognize it to be offensive between the time he made the remark to that group of college students and the time he made the remark on Saturday. Or he did and didn’t care. The former makes him an idiot, the latter makes him arrogant and heedless.

Bruce Fisher, Giambra’s former Deputy CE who writes a column for Artvoice, is particularly incensed by not only Collins’ statements,  but by almost universal silence from politicians on both sides of the aisle.  I think he’s overdoing it, but it reflects how many people throughout New York State – in places that have a bit more integrated diversity – might react.

Collins’ spokesman issued a follow-up release that – no joke – raises the fact that Collins has Jewish roots.

“The County Executive, at times, uses very harsh language in taking on what he believes are opponents of the taxpayers.  As the descendant of a Jewish grandfather, the County Executive recognizes that this characterization of the Speaker is wrong.  He has apologized for that characterization publicly, and personally apologized to the Speaker.  The County Executive will not let this mistake, however, distract him from his focus on protecting taxpayers and challenging the status quo locally and in Albany.”

Shelly Silver is bad enough of an actor in state politics that a dive into the deep end of Hitler comparisons isn’t even remotely necessary.  If that’s how you start out, you’ve already let Silver win the argument.  Silver isn’t the anti-Christ.  He isn’t Hitler.  He isn’t Napoleon.  He’s a very powerful man in state government who is supported by some very strong interests and constituencies.  He is profoundly responsible for many of the problems in Albany state government.  He is the very embodiment of everything that’s bad in state government.  Efforts to unseat him and diminish his power have fallen flat.

Collins could be exposing all of that and leading a statewide push to implement changes to make state government more transparent, democratic, and accountable.  He could be joining up with the Brennan Center to recruit political leaders statewide to push for rules changes that would drastically reduce Silver’s power.

Or, he could throw around Hitler analogies and pretty much screw up his chances to be seen as acceptable for statewide office.

Tomato, tomahto.

UPDATE: It occurs to me, upon hearing Dave Debo read part of Collins’ most recent statement on the air, that he decided to compare Silver to Hitler because Silver is one of several unnamed “opponents of the taxpayers”.  The equivalence, therefore is that it’s perfectly reasonable to compare someone to Hitler because Hitler was an “opponent of the taxpayers.”  Not a territorial expansionist dictatorial monster who murdered millions of people in Europe.  It’s absolutely disgraceful.

27 Responses to “Unscripted, Off-the-Cuff, Reductio ad Hitlerum? (Updated)”

  1. Joe Genco October 30, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    You are beginning to flog a dead horse (even if doing so eloquently). How about the Buffalo News endorsing an 8-6 Republican majority in the Legislature. What does this mean?

  2. The Humanist October 30, 2009 at 8:45 am #

    The only dead horse around here is Collins’ aspiration to statewide or national office. Drip, drip, drip…

  3. Genghis_Con October 30, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    @Joe – I’m sure that the 9-6 Republican majority that the News endorsed will be a much needed check on County Executive Keane who the News endorsed two years ago.

  4. Dan October 30, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    Artvoice was a great read. Oh, how I long for the days when enlightened people like Bruce were driving the county off a bridge.

    • Alan Bedenko October 30, 2009 at 9:52 am #

      Oh, how I long for the days when enlightened people like Bruce were driving the county off a bridge.

      Now THAT’S funny!

  5. AnswerLady October 30, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    No mention of the serial anti-semite anywhere in mainstream media (except Jim Heaney’s blog). @Joe Genco What does this mean? Well, maybe the snooze, etc are happy to make money off of stories about prisoners being beaten and raped in our county jail. Lets not forget the annual tear fest of needy people the snooze parades out every holiday season, big money in that too, not some much in telling people they might need to pay more taxes to help ease it.

  6. Mike In WNY October 30, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    Of course a dead horse is being flogged here, Collins is a Republican and elections are Tuesday. Collin’s stupid joke doesn’t even make the list of the top 500 problems facing taxpayers and government.

    • Alan Bedenko October 30, 2009 at 10:19 am #

      Collin’s stupid joke doesn’t even make the list of the top 500 problems facing taxpayers and government.

      Of course not. No one said it did.

  7. AnswerLady October 30, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    Collins “joke” gives us an insight into his character. The flawed moral character of this guy is one of the top 500 problems facing Erie county voters.

  8. Mike In WNY October 30, 2009 at 11:36 am #

    I would bet there are a lot of people living in glass houses who are casting stones, all to gain a political advantage. Tsk, tsk.

  9. The Humanist October 30, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    The political advantage is putting a microphone in front of Chris “Shecky” Collins and letting him tell his well-rehearsed knee-slapper about how his Jewish enemies are just like Hitler.

  10. Mike In WNY October 30, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    If Collins has a flawed moral character as the result of a bad joke, then Obama must have no character at all after calling the Cambridge Police stupid, and he wasn’t even joking!

    Collins made a joke that anyone with a functional brain realized did not represent a literal version of his views. Obama made a serious statement on national TV that undoubtedly fanned the flames of racism.

    • Alan Bedenko October 30, 2009 at 11:51 am #

      @Mike in WNY, the two events you try to equate aren’t even in the same solar system.

  11. Byron October 30, 2009 at 11:57 am #

    He also misquoted Obama – typical Rebmann bullshit.

  12. The Humanist October 30, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    @ Mike in WNY – Collins’ Republican audience at the Adam’s Mark didn’t seem to get the “joke” Maybe he should have doubled down and said that, while Silver is an antichrist, he is good with money.

  13. Marc Odien October 30, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    “You are beginning to flog a dead horse (even if doing so eloquently). How about the Buffalo News endorsing an 8-6 Republican majority in the Legislature. What does this mean?”

    In a mostly democratic area. not much…

  14. Mike In WNY October 30, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    Byron, you responded stupidly, I never quoted Obama.

    @Pundit, If Obama’s remark is equivalent to the solar system, then Collins’ joke is equivalent to a quark.

    • Alan Bedenko October 30, 2009 at 1:46 pm #

      @Mike in WNY: I said “the two events you try to equate aren’t even in the same solar system.”

      I didn’t say “Obama’s remark is equivalent to the solar system”.

      Please, do keep up.

  15. Byron October 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    You clearly said that he called the Cambridge police stupid, which he didn’t. Weasel.

  16. Byron October 30, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    Seriously. And for the record, Obama said that the police acted stupidly; he didn’t call them stupid, as Rebmann claimed. If you’re trying to make a point about someone’s lack of character based on what he said, you should probably report accurately what he said, don’t you think?

    Unless your objective was just to make a fool of yourself, which is possible.

  17. HapKlein October 30, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    My take on Collins was that he is an excellent speaker but one must focus on why he would use such tortured construction to reach the dreadful comparison he did. I think it was his audience.

    Let us set the scene. The highly ambitious Western New Yorker is facing a large audience of non-committal, silver haired Rudy G Republicans, over half of them from downstate. Most are unloading the batteries from their hearing aids and the others probably dozing or yawning and glancing at their watches.

    Chris quickly realizes the peril that few will remember his name much less his words (and..ahem… state wide potential) and recalls an earlier use of Nostradamus in a humorous way and the words just tumble out and history is made.

    Considering his obvious surprise and two day delay in apologies I think that he was unaware that a downstate Jewish population would take offense that one of their elected leaders was compared to the anti-Christ.

    But I am delighted to think this may just be the beginning of the unwinding of a windbag.

  18. Hank October 30, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    so someone who “acts stupidly” is actually an intelligent person who just acts stupid? You liberal shitbirds will do anything to protect that ignorant bastard in the Oval Office.

    Saw a great poster Yesterday—A picture of your Savior that said “Gay Marriage?” NOPE, BUT THANKS FOR YOUR VOTE. Obviously there’s a lot of “suckers” out there, and they’re not all homosexuals.

  19. Byron October 30, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    HapKlein makes a good point, but a politician or other public figure should just never go down the Hitler road, period. I know tea-baggers love to compare everyone they don’t like to the Fuehrer, but serious people should know better.

  20. Mike In WNY October 30, 2009 at 2:59 pm #

    Can Idi Amin be compared to Hitler? Oh, wait, he didn’t kill Jews, silly me!

    • Alan Bedenko October 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm #

      Can Idi Amin be compared to Hitler? Oh, wait, he didn’t kill Jews, silly me!

      Wow. Just wow.

  21. al l October 30, 2009 at 6:07 pm #

    ive gotta know: whats the problem with Napoleon? was he too urban-centric? did he build too many of Paris’s parks? too much time working on municipal infrastructure?

    seriously. in the past 2000 years Napoleon wouldnt make the top 500 of most evil people.

  22. The Humanist October 30, 2009 at 8:15 pm #

    Hank is very concerned about gay marriage.

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