Oh those Republicans. Ya just gotta love ’em. They can’t seem to get enough of the Holocaust as a tool for denouncing science and politics they don’t like. The latest victim of Holocaust abuse syndrome is Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. In an address to Baltimore Jewish leaders, he made this lame analogy when asked his view on stem cell research:
“You of all folks know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool,” said Steele, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, to a crowd of about 40 at a Baltimore Jewish Council board meeting. “I know that as well in my community, out of our experience with slavery, and so I’m very cautious when people say this is the best new thing, this is going to save lives.”
This guy’s really hit the Daily Double though. He’s abused the Holocaust AND slavery in a feeble attempt to belittle stem cell research.
The Baltimore Sun says this about the audience reaction: “His answer stunned many in the audience.” As well it should since the overwhelming number of Jews embrace scientific and medical research including stem cell research.
The Baltimore Jewish Council’s director later expressed his opposition to Steele’s statement:
“If the lieutenant governor was drawing a comparison between stem cell research and human medical experimentation during the Holocaust, he must understand the pain this kind of analogy would inflict on survivors and their families,” Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said in a statement to The Sun. “We absolutely reject any comparisons between ethical and lifesaving medical research, and the horrors committed by the Nazis in their evil drive to create a master race. We welcome any clarification Lt. Gov. Steele can offer about his remarks.”
Steele quickly issues a clarifying statement which did little to soothe feelings:
“When I was asked the question about stem cell research, I had just finished speaking at length about my first trip to Israel and the powerful memories I had of my visit to the Holocaust museum there,” Steele said. “Those memories have had a lasting impression on me, but in no way did I intend to equate the two or trivialize the pain and suffering of more than six million Jews.”
Well sure you meant to equate the two. Isn’t that the purpose of your rhetorical device, if you can grace it with such a name? You essentially call stem cell research Nazi science and so link it in people’s minds with people like Dr. Mengele. As for trivializing the suffering the six million, you did that too. That’s what abusing the Holocaust for political gain does. Though politicians of all stripes seem to do it, Republicans have brought it to a high art. Read this doozy from Grover Norquist calling the estate tax “a Holocaust of the rich.”
The day following the Sun’s story, Steele realized his mistake and apologized for his remarks, though I found even his apology (at least this part of it) hypocritical:
“I just hope that there is no grandstanding on this because this is a very sensitive issue, both with respect to the Holocaust and the memory of those affected there, but also the issue of stem cell [research],” Steele said during [a] radio interview.
“Grandstanding” indeed. Who grandstanded first, Mr. Steele? You or your opponents? If you hadn’t spoken so glibly you wouldn’t have given them the opening to attack you. And if you’d really understood the “sensitivity” of the Holocaust you wouldn’t have abused it in the first place.
Steele’s opponent in the Senate race is U.S. Rep. Benjamin Cardin, son of national Jewish leader Shoshana Cardin.
Hat tip to National Jewish Democratic Council.