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So. As described Monday, the Donald and his fellow Republicans insist things are awful.*
This has left a significant chunk of the Fox electorate yearning for a strongman.
That’s what people do when things are awful. When rapists and murderers are flooding across the border, the economy is collapsing, and everybody needs a gun to protect against ISIS.**
And so today — while acknowledging he is fun to golf with (according to a mutual friend), terrific sex (according to Marla Maples), good at what he does (demonstrated long ago with Wolman Rink), and quite often funny (even I laughed out loud when, asked in that first debate what Secret Service code name he’d want, Donald chose “Humble”) — can we explore the strongman meme just a little?
Trump is no Mussolini or Putin.
But he does seem to feel a certain affinity with Putin.
And Mussolini, like Trump, was a showman (and narcissist, frequently stripping to the waste, like Putin). He wanted to “make Italy great again” and wiped out half the population of Libya. Or so I learned on the Evolution of Evil website.***
But he does retweet @WhiteGenocideTM.
And he did keep a 1941 book of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside.
Which is fine. I now have it by my bedside, too. Cost me $159 (offered now at $124). I wanted to see what it was.
And, when you think about it: what an interesting thing for a student of marketing and publicity and persuasion to read. Hats off to the Donald for intellectual curiosity.
From the 1941 introduction to My New Order by an American correspondent:
[Hitler’s oratory] stirs hatred and feeds self-vindication, and whether on paper it bears inspection for consistency, logic or soundness is immaterial.
From the 1941 foreword by a French journalist:
To use constantly and untiringly the same arguments, and to pound into the heads of his listeners the same formulas, is part of Hitler’s oratorical technique. . . . [He] is past master at throwing up verbal smoke screens . . . He knows equally well the effectiveness of massive oratorical assaults that shake the nerves of his victims or opponents . . . he knows how to give pledges that will be broken later . . . he uses insults and lies in the same manner as his generals use Stuka planes and tanks to break through the respectable but often weak front of his adversaries. . . . His crudity frequently borders on downright vulgarity.
I presume the Donald read those same words and, like everyone else, finds Hitler to have been unspeakably evil.
Trump may be a bully and a narcissist . . . and perhaps an egomaniac . . . but he is surely not the Apotheosis of Evil.
Basically, I think, he’s just having fun.
I like Stephen Colbert’s theory — that the Donald doesn’t actually want to be president (that’s hard! look what it does to your hair after eight years!) . . . and now realizes that, OMG, it could happen . . . so seeks ever more outrageous ways to try to disqualify himself, toying even with the idea of “standing in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shooting someone.” But no, he exults (or secretly laments, as Colbert would have it): even random street-shootings wouldn’t lessen his lead among Republicans.
So enough of all that. Trump is not evil.
Dreadful, perhaps; unfit to be president, for sure; but not evil.
Still, having dipped my toe into the strongman thing . . . and learning now that the Koch brothers’ fortune comes in part from the oil refineries their dad built for Stalin and Hitler**** . . . I was fascinated.
And found myself clicking from one three-minute Evolution of Evil video to the next. Like the one on Haiti’s Papa Doc Duvalier. Or, especially, the one on Hitler, which tells a jaw-dropping story I had never heard. Did you know that Hitler, then a messenger in World War I, was temporarily blinded by mustard gas? But that in his case, his sight failed to return in a few hours as it should have? And that a psychiatrist ultimately cured him by persuading him he had been endowed with prodigious powers for the purpose of making Germany great again?
Could this story be true? Absent time travel and a workable scheme to assassinate or otherwise redirect the temporarily blinded young soldier, it doesn’t much matter I guess. But it didn’t take much Googling to come up with this corroboratory account of Dr. Edmund Forster, “The Man Who Invented Hitler: The Making of the Fuhrer.”
*Things are pretty awful for the working poor and the middle class, but that’s in significant part because those same Republicans have blocked cost-of-living adjustments to the minimum wage; blocked refinancing of federal student loan debt at today’s low rates; refused Medicaid expansion; blocked the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform; and blocked the American Jobs Act that would have created millions of good jobs revitalizing our crumbling infrastructure.
**Unfortunately, a gun won’t protect you if there’s a nuclear terrorist incident, or some other awful frightening thing — real threats that keep the government awake nights. And the chances of some horrible thing like San Bernadino happening to you — where a gun might help — are like the chances of getting hit by lightning . . . yet we don’t carry lightning rods around.
***Sponsored, jarringly, I thought, when I was watching it, by a series of amusing GEICO ads.
****Which does not suggest he had — let alone that his sons have — undemocratic leanings. But it does add a bit of color to the Koch story; and perhaps explains a little better how they have so much more money than you or I.