EDITORIAL: Raese Remark Less Than Tactful But Not Meanspirited

HNN Staff

Politicians inevitably have moments they'd like to have back, especially on the campaign trail.  

U.S. Senate candidate John Raese had one of those days recently, when at a Putnam County Lincoln Day he compared the horrors of Hitler's Germany to his home county's smoking bans.

Monongalia County now mandates businesses to post a sign on their building notifying the public that they are in compliance with non-smoking ordinances. That irked Raese, who sees such moves as an encroachment on businesses.

Alas, as many politicians and armchair debaters have been known to do, Raese reached far for an analogy to drive his point home.  He compared the anti-smoking signs mandated by the Monongalia County authorities to the yellow Star of David patches that Hitler forced Jews to wear during his regime, singling them out for abuse.

If Raese's point was that people today feel their government is singling them out for abuse, he may find a lot of friends to agree with him.   America was born out of an impulse to shake off abusive government, after all.  

However, even a speaker as compelling as John Raese may have a quite difficult time convincing people that the plight of smokers and businesses in West Virginia compares with the abuse experienced by European Jewry while Hitler was in power.   There really is no comparison, of course. 

So it was a case of hyperbole on Raese's part, a real reach, designed to make a vivid and memorable point.  And it was a mistake, one Raese would probably like to take back about now.

However, in reading the press accounts, we don't see any intentional meanspiritedness here by Raese--just a politician trying too hard to make his point.  We've seen that before by political leaders in both parties here over the years.  Raese certainly isn't alone in having an occasional case of foot-in-mouth disease.  

Reporters doing research into Raese's past comments can find some candid blurts.  However, over a public career of nearly thirty years, we can find no evidence of anti-semitism.  Indeed, his media businesses have appeared to always be fair, even generous, in their coverage of Jewish culture in West Virginia.

That doesn't exempt John Raese from choosing his words wisely, so as not to offend anyone unnecessarily.  However, his remark should be seen for what it was--an inadequate analogy--not an intentional slight.



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