Sen. Rick Scott’s ‘Gestapo’ rhetoric was way off base

·4 min read

I keep a little meme on my screen for use in political discussions when someone invokes Nazis.

It looks like an elementary school reading textbook titled, “Everyone I Don’t Like is Hitler!” Next to a cartoon sketch of der fuhrer, the subtitle is “The emotional child’s guide to political discussion.”

I send that image to people, usually liberals, who see a revival of the Third Reich in every conservative thought or deed. Frankly, it’s offensive that some people can go from zero to Nazi in a single syllogism — like, Hitler was a right-winger, this-or-that candidate is a right-winger, therefore he or she is an incipient Hitler.

That disrespects the suffering, persecution and murder of millions of people. Nazis stand alone in the modern history of evil and calling every bigot and tyrant one of those goose-stepping sadists is emotionally childish.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is leading Republican efforts to regain control of the U.S. Senate  in this fall's elections.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott is leading Republican efforts to regain control of the U.S. Senate in this fall's elections.

Sen. Rick Scott, representing a state with a large Jewish population that includes Holocaust survivors, ought to know better than to recklessly toss around Hitler references. But sometimes knee-jerk devotion to Donald Trump beclouds a Republican’s political judgment, even sense of decency.

“This should scare the living daylights out of American citizens,” Scott said of the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. “The way our federal government has gone, it’s like what we have thought about the Gestapo and people like that — that they just go after people. What we thought about the Soviet Union. What we look at (in) Latin America. We have got to say to ourselves, ‘This cannot be our country.’

Scott’s reaction, dutifully parroted by Republican leaders in Washington, was not just rhetorical overkill but factually inaccurate. Whatever they were looking for, the feds had to assemble evidence to show probable cause that Trump had something they needed. An impartial federal judge had to determine that the petition justified a search warrant. And then duly sworn police agents executed that warrant in a lawful manner.

Do you hear echoes of the Nuremberg laws in any of that? Were victims’ lawyers told when the Gestapo or SS invaded homes?

Scott thinks the feds “just go after people?” Well, if you were president for four years, or you have classified materials that shouldn’t be in your sock drawer, the government might come see you.

Folks not covered by the Presidential Records Act probably don’t fear that the FBI will “just go after” us.

Marco Rubio speaks to attendees at the Walton Republican Women Federated's July 6 luncheon in Northwest Florida.
Marco Rubio speaks to attendees at the Walton Republican Women Federated's July 6 luncheon in Northwest Florida.

Florida’s other senator, Marco Rubio, said the White House and Justice Department want “to persecute a likely future election opponent.” Rubio also warned that “one day, what goes around is going to come around.”

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Republican revenge will “come around” in six months, if the GOP wins the House, Senate or both. Several GOP members of Congress expressed an eagerness to punish the FBI — even abolish it — for having the impertinence to do its job on South Ocean Boulevard. In this case, “Defund the police” isn’t such a scary slogan for some Republicans.

Former President Donald Trump waves as he departs Trump Tower, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney general's office for a deposition in a civil investigation. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
Former President Donald Trump waves as he departs Trump Tower, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney general's office for a deposition in a civil investigation. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Gov. Ron DeSantis took to Twitter to decry “another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the regime’s political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves.” The president’s son has not exactly gone unnoticed and, if the Republicans take over either chamber of Congress, we can expect to see him in the news more often than his father for the next two years.

It’s easy to accuse the FBI of being politicized, even “weaponized.”

J. Edgar Hoover kept secret files and intimidated top Washington leaders, movie stars, labor leaders and even harassed Martin Luther King Jr. for decades. His successor, L. Patrick Gray, got a wrist-slap for obediently deep-sixing some Watergate evidence for Nixon (although the FBI’s deputy director, Mark Felt, turned out to be the “Deep Throat” secret source who was helping the Washington Post expose Nixon.)

Director James Comey’s disclosure, days before the 2016 election, that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails certainly helped Trump get elected. And who fired Comey for refusing to be a “loyal” minion of the White House?

The same guy whose mansion had G-men swarming all over it last week, that’s who.

Bill Cotterell is a retired Tallahassee Democrat capitol reporter. He can be reached at bcotterell@tallahassee.com.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Bill Cotterell: Sen. Scott’s ‘Gestapo’ rhetoric on Trump search off base