Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Rich Iott, the Tea Party darling who is the Republican candidate for Ohio’s 9th District, isn’t necessarily unfit to be a U.S. Representative just because he used to dress up as a Nazi soldier, although he would have to come up with a much better explanation of why he thought that was a fun thing to do than he has managed to do so far. And if he’s planning on borrowing Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch” campaign video approach—“I am not a Nazi. I’m you!” Worth a shot? Nah—-he should forget it. Still, let’s give him the benefit of a very large doubt.
It doesn’t help. He has still disqualified himself.
The reason—other than the fact that he admires Nazis—Rich Iott has disqualified himself from any elected office of trust is that he never disclosed to his movement, his party, his supporters, the media or the voters an aspect of his background that was absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, “Bet the farm on it, Maggie, ’cause the horse is a sure thing!” certain to embarrass him and anyone who believed in his candidacy if it came to light, before or after the election. This is dishonest, cowardly, deceptive and irresponsible—as irresponsible as the detestable John Edwards continuing to run for the Democratic presidential nomination knowing that he had a festering scandal involving a hidden mistress and an illegitimate child. This is rank betrayal of trust, and a neon sign-bright instance of failing the duty of candor to those to whom he owes it, which in this case includes the state of Ohio and the entire nation. The duty of candor is the duty not to withhold key information from those who depend on you, and Iott failed it spectacularly.
In the neck-and neck race for the bottom of a putrid barrel in this frighteningly unethical field of candidates for national office, Iott just pulled ahead by a lap.
The Atlantic, in an expose by Joshua Green (complete with pictures of Iott and his Heiling pals smiling in their Nazi garb) has revealed that Iott for years donned a German Wafen SS uniform and participated in Nazi re-enactments. It seems that Iott was active with a group whose members are devoted to reliving the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II. Iott not only failed to divulge this bizarre activity; he actively took steps to hide it. His participation in the Wiking group is not included on his campaign’s website, and he had his name and photographs removed from the group’s website.
When confronted by The Atlantic and the photos, Iott admitted his involvement with the group over a number of years but said his interest in Nazi Germany was only “historical” and that he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism. “No, absolutely not,” he told Green. “It’s purely historical interest in World War II.” He does seem to admire the Nazi military accomplishments, however: “I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that here was a relatively small country that from a strictly military point of view accomplished incredible things. I mean, they took over most of Europe and Russia, and it really took the combined effort of the free world to defeat them. From a purely historical military point of view, that’s incredible.”
It is incredible what you can accomplish if you are completely ruthless and totally devoid of respect for truth, life and humanity.
As Green points out, the Wiking group website suggests a disturbingly sanitized version of history that strains to find the “good side” of Nazi soldiers. Green writes, “The group’s website includes a lengthy history of the Wiking unit, a recruitment video, and footage of goose-stepping German soldiers marching in the Warsaw victory parade after Poland fell in 1939. The website makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS, and includes only a glancing reference to the “twisted” nature of Nazism. Instead, it emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism:
Nazi Germany had no problem in recruiting the multitudes of volunteers willing to lay down their lives to ensure a “New and Free Europe,” free of the threat of Communism. National Socialism was seen by many in Holland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and other eastern European and Balkan countries as the protector of personal freedom and their very way of life, despite the true underlying totalitarian (and quite twisted, in most cases) nature of the movement. Regardless, thousands upon thousands of valiant men died defending their respective countries in the name of a better tomorrow. We salute these idealists; no matter how unsavory the Nazi government was, the front-line soldiers of the Waffen-SS (in particular the foreign volunteers) gave their lives for their loved ones and a basic desire to be free.
Ask a Russian how admirable these particular soldiers were. Indeed, go to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. and check out the films of them stomping Russian women to death.
It is easy to understand why Iott felt that it would be advantageous to hide his support of an organization holding this view of soldiers who committed countless atrocities, not to mention his taste in uniforms. Nevertheless, even if we adopt the most benign interpretation of his enthusiastic participation in their re-enactments—that he’s an idiot—Iott had to know that this aspect of his past would guarantee his defeat if it ever became public. He knew this, yet allowed himself to be offered as a candidate, to accept endorsements and contributions, and to defeat alternative Republican candidates—candidates who never had the impulse to engage in Nazi re-enactments, or, for that matter, KKK re-enactments, re-enactments of the serial killings by Ed Gein or Jeffrey Dahmer, re-enactments of the Donner party’s cannibalism, or any other depraved activity—for purely historical purposes, of course. That Iott allowed himself to be backed by the Republican Party in a campaign against a non Nazi-admiring Democratic incumbent, without divulging this damning information before the party was committed to him, proves his lack of character, forthrightness, accountability and trustworthiness.
And he’s an idiot.