IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Priebus' 'Captain Schettino' comparison trivializes victims

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is comparing President Barack Obama with the Italian cruise ship captain who allegedly abandoned his

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is comparing President Barack Obama with the Italian cruise ship captain who allegedly abandoned his sinking ship.

Priebus said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" that Obama was "our own little Captain Schettino," accusing Obama of abandoning ship in the U.S. and spending more time on his re-election campaign.  

The comparison/analogy between Obama and Schettino is, of course, patently unfair and just silly.

Even Priebus’s predecessor, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, told msnbc the analogy was "unfortunate." 

“I mean, people died in that situation,” Steele said on "Morning Joe."

Steele hit it precisely on the nose, although he should've taken it a step further.  Steele should have said outright that the reason Priebus' comparison is so potentially offensive and hurtful is that it trivializes, and therefore, further victimizes the victims of a real tragedy.

The Costa Concordia ran aground Jan. 13, 2012, off the shore of Isola del Giglio, near the western coast of Italy, when the captain deviated from his planned route and struck a reef, creating a huge gash that capsized the ship. More than 4,200  terrorized passengers and crew were on board.  Seventeen bodies have been recovered, while 16 people are listed as missing, including two Americans, with one body not yet identified.  Schettino is facing charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship.

Do the families of the dead, the injured and the survivors think its appropriate to use their pain and suffering as part of a cheap political line?  Doubtful.

Still, Priebus doubled-down today on his analogy.  And 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee seconded it!

But this isn't even the most extreme example out there.  On Friday, for example, 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin sharply criticized the Republican Party "establishment" for using what she called a "Stalin-esque rewriting of history."

"What we saw with this ridiculous opposition dump on Newt (Gingrich) was nothing short of Stalin-esque re-writing of history," she wrote on Facebook, obviously going a bridge too far.

Mrs. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, apparently has not heard of the Great Purge, which is perplexing because, after all, she "can see Russia from my house!"

OK, it was really Tina Fey doing an impression of Palin who said that, but Palin actually did cite the proximity of Russia as part of her foreign policy experience in 2008:

The Great Purge was a two-year period in the 1930s when Stalin used assassinations, intimidation, imprisonment and exile to eliminate anyone he considered an enemy.  An estimated 950,000 to 1.2 million were killed:

And we've lost track of all the analogies that have been made between Obama and people like Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot and on and on.  Most are made by crackpots, of course, and easy to dismiss.  But some are made by public figures. 

Even GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich used the Nazi/Stalin card against Obama as recently as 2010.  Watch him squirm to explain what he said: 

As Gingrich does here, defenders of these analogies usually say "aw shucks" they aren't comparing the people, they are comparing the policies or imagined policies (such as health care and gun control), but even those analogies are wildly inaccurate and over the top, of course.  

Sure, many of us may have used extreme analogies at one time or another in order to shock somebody into seeing our point of view.  But those were done in private and/or limited conversations.  

For a politician or a public figure to use them in public is simply irresponsible.  It says two things about them:  they are desperate to get attention and very lazy about how they get it.