Payson state Rep. Brenda Barton made national headlines this week when a post on her Facebook page referred to President Barack Obama as “De Fuhrer” and to National Park Service rangers as “thugs.”
The Payson Republican compounded the furor when she reportedly defended the post by telling a reporter for the Capitol Times that America increasingly resembles Nazi Germany and that Hitler started out “with national health care and gun control.”
The comments made the national news broadcasts and triggered indignant demands for an apology from the Arizona Democratic Party.
Barton’s Facebook post said: “Someone is paying the National Park Service thugs overtime for their efforts to carry out the order of De Fuhrer ... where are our Constitutional Sheriffs who can revoke the Park Service Rangers authority to arrest??? Do we have any Sheriffs with a pair?”
Arizona House Minority Leader on Wednesday called on Barton to apologize or resign. “To call Rep. Brenda Barton’s comments disgraceful is an understatement. By comparing President Obama to Hitler, she has trivialized the Holocaust, insulted those who suffered and disrespected those who fought to stop the atrocities occurring during this time. It appears she did this because she is ignorant of the facts. The other alternative is that she did this simply to garner both media attention and political points with radical extremists. Whatever her reason, her actions are unbecoming of an elected public servant and an embarrassment to the state. She should apologize or resign.”
Barton’s post apparently makes reference to a movement to convince county sheriffs to disregard federal laws with which they disagree. The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association maintains that elected sheriffs swear an oath to protect the state and federal Constitution, which gives them the right to ignore federal laws they believe violate the Constitution — especially any restrictions on gun ownership.
Former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack founded the organization.
The philosophical roots of the organization go back to the Sagebrush Rebellion, a movement that rejected the legitimacy of federal laws and land ownership and encouraged defiance of federal authority. Barton’s political roots also go back to that movement.
Barton’s post was evidently triggered by the Obama administration’s decision to close the national parks and war memorials after the Republican-controlled House refused to approve a continuing resolution to fund the government. The law exempts from the shutdown “essential” federal workers that protect public health and safety. The government furloughed 800,000 workers.
A widely viewed video clip showed a Republican congressman confronting National Park Service rangers at the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. when the rangers attempted to enforce the closure. The congressman told a female park ranger she “should be ashamed” of herself. The Park Service subsequently decided to allow veterans access to the memorial, despite the closure of most of the national parks nationwide (See story on page 11A).
In the subsequent interview with Capitol Times Barton allegedly said, “It’s not just the death camps. (Hitler) started in the communities, with national health care and gun control. You better read your history. Germany started with national health care and gun control before any of that other stuff happened. And Hitler was elected by a majority of the people.”
In a recorded comment to a Capitol Times reporter posted on the publication’s Web site she also compared the Obama administration to Pol Pot, the Cambodian communist dictator whose regime caused the death of one-quarter of the nation’s population, perhaps 3 million people.
She said “Like I said. It got your attention to run the comparison. You have historical documents. You can run a comparison between the government during the time of Germany.
Don’t forget Germany. And don’t forget Pol Pot. We have a lot of examples of how a federalized government begins to get a grip on their citizens. We have to say no ... It’s the first step that can lead to Cambodia.
“I think we are on a slippery slope of losing a constitutional republic.”
She rejected calls for an apology, saying: “it got your attention. Is comparing him to Adolph Hitler controversial? I don’t think it’s controversial at all. My point is the imperialistic style of governance, of making life difficult for the citizens and residents of America and Arizona, causing immense grief and trouble to make them shut up.”
After her comments went viral and splashed across the national news, Barton on Wednesday issued a long statement explaining her remarks (for the complete statement, see Page 5).
In that statement, Barton defended her remarks, saying “I never used the word or said that President Obama was ‘Hitler.’ That was a creative assumption of the Capitol Times reporter, who also reported that I referred to our government as a “Constitutional Democracy.” I would never use that description because, we are in fact — through law and history — a Constitutional Republic.”
In a democracy, people vote directly for laws. In a republic, they elect people to adopt laws.
“What I did suggest, rather directly, was that the National Park Service enforcement personnel (referring to them as “thugs” for their reported behavior) were simply following orders of “their leader” — and I used the German phrase for emphasis, Der Fuhrer. I am referencing the president’s behavior as indicated by his actions.
“The Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary defines ‘Fuhrer’ as “(2) a leader exercising tyrannical authority.’”
Barton then argued that President Obama meets the definition of a “Fuhrer” because he exercises “tyrannical authority.”
She objected to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) enacted by the House and Senate that gave the director of the Department of Health and Human Services the ability to set fees and terms of the law that she said infringed on the taxing authority of Congress, although the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld most sections of the law.
She also objected to several changes President Obama made in implementing the law, like delaying certain deadlines for businesses to comply.
“Is that constitutional or ‘exercising tyrannical authority?’”
She also made reference to recent cases in which the Internal Revenue Service flagged applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party and other conservative groups, requiring the groups to fill out burdensome paperwork.
“Is that not ‘tyrannical authority’ and did it not seem that IRS office personnel obeyed enthusiastically?
“What president of the people orders the NSA to spy on his citizens and sends the IRS against his enemies? Is this not behavior in accord with tyrannical authority? Arresting veterans for visiting their war memorials? Prohibiting Catholic priests from volunteering to perform the Mass for our Catholic men and women in uniform? Closing businesses on federally leased land? How would you classify that, constitutional authority or tyrannical authority?”
The arrest of veterans apparently refers to an incident on Monday in New York when police arrested 19 people at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza who gathered to protest the 12-year-long war in Afghanistan. The protesters refused to leave when the memorial closed at 10 p.m. and handcuffed themselves together to resist efforts to make them leave.
The reference to priests prohibited from performing Mass apparently refers to the practice of hiring priests as private contractors to perform Mass on military bases. The shutdown cut off the money to pay the priests to conduct the services.
The references to closing businesses apparently refers to the decision by the Forest Service to close even campgrounds on public land run by private contractors, including most of the campgrounds in Rim Country.
Barton continued: “If I had simply said “the leader” in my Facebook post, would we be having this community discussion today? My purpose was to bring to the public’s attention the actions and behaviors of our president and his administration since this government shut down began. For the record, I was suggesting that President Obama was behaving as a tyrant. Didn’t the Founders of our country call their king a tyrant and worse?”
Barton’s interview comments linking Hitler’s support for National Health Care to Obama’s Affordable Care Act reflects a thread of commentary on some conservative Web sites. Commentators claim that German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck introduced “socialized health care” in 1883, but Hitler expanded coverage when he came to power. Some conservative blogs then say Hitler took advantage of a national health care system to carry out policies of “racial hygiene” and genocide. These policies led to mass sterilization and the murder of people considered defective.
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on a recent show said, “national health care has always been one of the first objectives of any of the famous totalitarian regimes. Hitler, national socialism, first thing he did, nationwide health care. The socialists in the UK, nationwide health care. You get that control and you control everything about how people live.”
The United States remains virtually the only industrialized nation without a national health care system providing universal coverage, although we spend about three times as much per capita as other advanced nations.
Barton indicated that Hitler came to power as a result of a majority vote. Actually, Hitler’s National Socialist Party won 35 percent of the vote in 1934, enough to win his appointment as chancellor in the midst of the Great Depression. His victory represented a remarkable comeback after he spent time in jail for his role in a failed 1923 coup attempt. His policies led to World War II, which killed an estimated 60 million people, including the murder of 5.5 million Jews.
Soon after he gained control, Hitler suppressed opposing parties and unleashed a political reign of terror that led to the suspension of most civil rights on the pretext of fighting communism. Hitler used private armies of thugs to murder and intimidate political opponents, which perhaps accounts for Barton’s reference to park rangers as “thugs.”