Now here comes Grover Norquist, who compares the senior senator from New York to members of the political party of Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) believes that when the land of the free and the home of the brave gives an American the gift of being able to use his talents to become an extraordinarily wealthy man, it is wrong for that person to renounce his American citizenship to avoid paying his fair share of taxes.
I cannot think of a proposal more worthy than the bill proposed by Sens. Schumer and Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) to redress this wrong. I believe the overwhelming majority of patriotic Americans would strongly agree with Schumer. Grover Norquist has every right to disagree and rise in defense of tax evaders who renounce their Americanism to avoid their taxes. He even has the right to compare Schumer to members of the party of Himmler and Eichmann. But I would propose that this is Exhibit A of what I call the campaign from hell, an intolerance and vindictiveness unworthy of our nation, in which one party is exponentially more guilty than the other.
I cannot recall a time in American history when so many members of one party questioned the American citizenship or Christian faith of a president, and when so many leaders of that party were incapable of saying in clear and decisive terms that such attacks have no place in American politics.
Recently a House Republican subcommittee chairman, one of several using taxpayer money to finance partisan inquisitions, joined the chorus of those questioning the president's American birth. Another House Republican equated House Democrats with communists. House Republican leaders, instead of offering the strong condemnations these comments would have inspired from previous generations of congressional leaders, uttered timid words with pained expressions of ambivalent disapproval concluding that the president is, in fact, an American and House Democrats are not, in fact, communists.
When William Buckley was the pillar of conservative values he deemed that these character assassinations had no place in the National Review that he cherished, because Buckley believed they have no place in the political discourse of the America he loved. I knew Buckley. He was a great man. Those on the right who join the hot new GOP trend of calling opponents fascists, socialists and communists are no William Buckleys. They are no Ronald Reagans, either.
The most important political book of the year is the profoundly truth-telling It's Even Worse Than it Looks, by Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann. The most important book review was by Robert Kaiser of the Washington Post, discussing this book.
Ornstein and Mann argue, in a view that offers great truth but wins few friends among those who book television talk shows, that both parties are not equally to blame for what I call "the permanent campaign from hell" that creates the government that most voters believe is hell. They write, and I agree, that it is Republicans who deviate to extremism of politics and obstructionism for partisanship from historical norms of American political discourse and practice.
Nazis? Communists? Socialists? Charges the president is not an American or Christian? Republicans destroying the integrity of the Senate and any hope for a major jobs bill through abuse of the filibuster? A conservative Supreme Court majority decreeing that the super-wealthy can spend unlimited secret monies to pay for slanderous television ads, to buy elections serving factional interests the Founding Fathers united to condemn?
My advice to President Obama is to return to the roots of his 2008 campaign, to be bold in proposing a new format for multiple debates, to combine the calm tone of FDR's fireside chats with the appeal to reason of Ross Perot's charts and to seek a mandate in ways I will discuss in part two of "The campaign from hell."
This column was originally published at The Hill.
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