McCain, Rubio, and Graham Appreciate Hillary Clinton’s Putin-as-Hitler Analogy

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 5 2014 3:03 PM

McCain, Rubio, and Graham Appreciate Hillary Clinton’s Putin-as-Hitler Analogy

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Don't worry, he doesn't want to kill all the Jews, he just wants to take over Europe.

Photo by Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday Hillary Clinton spoke at a private event to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach—so, naturally, she talked about Hitler. The Long Beach Press-Telegram got audio of Clinton's comments about the strategy and precedent of the current Russian incursion into Crimea. This part understandably created some agita.

Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the '30s. All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right, I must go and protect my people, and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.

This is not the official position of the Obama administration. It's also the sort of analogy that would light up Media Matters or your favorite conservative derp site if uttered by a Republican. Conveniently enough, after today's DOJ vote, some of the Congress's leading hawks were asked by reporters whether they agreed with Clinton.

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"Good!" said Arizona Sen. John McCain, reacting to a paraphrase of Clinton's analogy. "I think I did that in the last couple days. The point is that if Putin is allowed to go into a sovereign nation on behalf of Russian-speaking people, this is the same thing that Hitler did prior to World War II. Went into the Sudetenland on behalf of German-speaking people. So I am pleased that Hillary Clinton is commenting on it."

What about you, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio?

"There certainly are similarities," said the senator, who'd been winning plaudits on the right for his reactions to the Crimea and Venezuelan crises. "I mean, I think Nazi Germany stands on its own as a unique and barbaric government. There's certainly no peer in terms of its brutality. I think the point she was making, was that in terms of the claims they've made, that they need to move into a neighboring country to protect an ethnic group tied to them are similar to the arguments Hitler made in the 1930s."

And what about South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham? He had the most deliberate answer of the three.

"I don't think that Putin wants to kill all the Jews," Graham said. "I don't think he wants to take over Europe. I think he does want to expand beyond his borders, and the justification he's using is just what Hitler used. I'm not saying he's Hitler—I'm saying he's an autocratic dictator who's suppressed freedom in his own country, and his goal is to snuff out efforts by people who live around him, under his sphere of influence, to have their freedom. She's right in this regard: The excuse given by Hitler, when going into the Sudetenland, was that he had to protect the German people. But I don't think either of us are saying Putin is Hitler."

And how did he take the comment coming from Clinton? "She understands that if she wants to run for president, she needs to drop this failed foreign policy like a hot potato. Well, good luck—she had her chance to influence it. Why is the Congress acting, why are they tripping over themselves to do something? Well, because we don't think the president will."

McCain said much the same thing. "The whole administration deserves the blame, everybody, for the weakness and total misperception of the nature of Vladimir Putin. Pushing the reset button is certainly a demonstration of that."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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