Nazi analogies are a common irrelevance in American political discourse, and have been for decades (Godwin's law, also known as Godwin's law of Nazi Analogies, was framed Mike Godwin in 1990: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 in 1.").
In that sense, Perkins is merely reflecting a mindless zeitgeist, to which he was exposed in more extreme form as a director (now retired) at the News Corporation (which owns Fox News). [The same day the Journal published Perkins letter, Free Republic posted a more deeply paranoid piece titled "The Konservativ Kristallnacht is here" online.]
"They were obviously father and son, with the same tall, athletic build. They were so handsome that they could have made money modeling, if anyone could afford to hire them. The aura of money seemed to float around them." -- Tom Perkins, 2006, in his novel "Sex and the Single Zillionaire"
Perkins, who in 1972 was a founding partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, a prominent Silicon Valley venture capital partnership, denied that his choice of words implied any anti-semitism:
"This is not the case. My late partner [Eugene Kleiner] was from Austria and fought in the U.S. Army. We became the deepest of friends during our long association, and he taught me "never imagine that the unimaginable cannot become real.' He was never comfortable with the extreme political currents in America. He never took our demonization for granted. He would have understood my letter, and would have agreed."
His former firm, on the other hand, did not agree. Kleiner Perkins tweeted on January 24: "Tom Perkins has not been involved in KPCB in years. We were shocked by his views expressed today in the WSJ [Wall Street Journal] and do not agree." Others echoed this sentiment, as summed up by the New York Times three days later.
One of the harshest and most powerful assessments came from venture capitalist Mark Suster's blog: "This is not a mere gaffe that people won't remember in 3 years. Perkins will forever be associated with greed, insensitivity and lack of historical context. If it were my firm I would rebrand as Kleiner".
"We have too much inequality in our country. It's not just a matter of fairness or morality it's a matter of good economics. Having a highly functional middle class is good policy for long-term economic growth. Having a fair society in which lower income families have a shot at social mobility is essential for our security and well being."
On Bloomberg TV, Perkins hinted at some agreement with that opinion: "I am friends with [California Governor] Jerry Brown. I voted for him. I will vote for him even though he raised my taxes 30%. He tells me the number one problem in America is inequality. And that's probably and possibly true."
But Perkins has a different answer to the problem: "It's absurd to demonize the rich". I am your classical self-made man". I think the solution is less interference, lower taxes, let the rich do what the rich do, which is get richer. But along the way, they bring everybody else with them."
The "classical self-made man," with degrees from MIT and Harvard, turns out to be a cliché of conservative pseudo-economics, a pale cliché at that, who echoes Reaganomics but votes for Jerry Brown.
Here's Tom Perkins' letter in its entirety. Author Daniel Steel is his ex-wife.
"Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?"
Regarding your editorial "Censors on Campus" (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."