ATLANTA — In what is surely one of history's most stunning political comebacks, Adolf Hitler is enjoying a new burst of popularity and influence. No, he is not alive and hiding in Argentina. Hitler is most definitively dead. He's no Elvis.
Even so, at least to hear the tea party tax protesters and whooping opponents of health-care reform tell it, Hitler, if not the operating head of the Democratic Party, is its current inspiration and President Barack Obama is his greatest living impersonator.
Pictures of the president with a little Hitler mustache decorate the protests. And Democrats, we hear, want a big-government health system so that like the Nazis they can, um, euthanize the handicapped and the elderly, the latter, oddly, one of their constituent groups.
For a while, this seemed puzzling. Just weeks ago any stab at universal medical coverage was denounced as socialist. Then suddenly health-care reform was Nazism redux. But wasn't socialism always considered leftist and Nazism just about as far right as right could go?
The protesters have an answer for that. You see, "Nazi" is short for the National Socialist Party -- Hitler's -- and so socialism and Nazism are one and the same, at least in Obama-hating circles.
To buy this, all you have to do is ignore the fact that Hitler from start to finish opposed socialism. He added the word to an existing party name only to gull German voters and, he hoped, co-opt socialism's popularity in Germany after World War I.
The Nazi Party was born and died a hard-right movement founded in, and run on, pathological anti-Semitism, racial purity and violence -- a horrid Gotterdammerung of false gods preening. It was only the "national" in its name that ever counted.
Hitler and the Nazis stand uniquely filthy in the offal of history's slaughterhouse, not least -- in addition to the scores of millions their war killed -- for the genocidal mania in which they quite deliberately and very mechanically murdered 6 million men, women, children and infants simply because of who they were the moment they were born.
Such evil is not for sloppy use as a handy political slander of passing political convenience. Such evil demands eternal quarantine.
Liberals bear a share of the blame for the play Hitler still gets in our politics. They have too often stooped to calling this right-wing pop-off "Hitler" or that right-wing excess "Nazi." Not even such a damaging bully as the late, red-baiting Wisconsin Republican senator Joseph McCarthy was ever, at bottom, anything worse than a drunken demagogue.
If you despise their efforts to provide medical coverage for the uninsured, to reduce costly inefficiencies and to stop insurance companies from overriding the medical decisions of doctors and their patients, call the president and Congress' Democrats just about any name you wish except Hitler or Nazis.
For the record, in the parts of the world with which we usually identify, what those practices are usually called is "commonplace."
Tom Teepen is a columnist for Cox Newspapers