Alan Zendell, July 16, 2021
Back in 2017, when I first broached the subject of Donald Trump’s apparent infatuation with the tactics Adolf Hitler used to solidify and expand his power, some readers nodded sadly in agreement, some scoffed, and some got really angry – not at Trump, but at me for daring to compare him to the monster responsible for the Holocaust. To be fair, they had a point. Trump’s concentration camps contained Mexican “rapists and drug dealers,” not Jews and Gypsies, and the death toll in Trump’s camps (including children) was less than sixty. Hitler murdered 100,000 times as many.
When, last evening, Stephen Colbert called Trump a Fascist, his New York audience cheered as if Colbert had announced that the Yankees had just defeated the Red Sox. (Alas, the game had been rained out.) Colbert was paraphrasing the remarks of Joint Chiefs Chairman, General Mark Milley, who had been interviewed by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker for their just-released book: “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year.” Milley, a graduate of Princeton, Columbia, and the Naval War College, was appointed to serve as Chairman by Trump in 2018 and was kept on by President Biden.
There have been many tell-all books about the former president, none of them complimentary, and there will be more coming out. The unanimity with which well-respected journalists and historians have trashed Trump’s performance in office raises some important questions. Why hasn’t there been a single book written praising him? Do only angry, disgruntled people write books, as Trump would have us believe? And there’s the ultimate question: what will it take to get through to people who are still mesmerized by Trump’s message of hate and right-wing extremism? I don’t expect the Proud Boys to change their minds, although a few expressed disillusionment after being convicted of various crimes related to the January 6th Insurrection. What about the millions of people who voted for Trump who are not racists and hate-mongers? When will enough be enough?
I understand that people on the right have no use for the discredited Michael Cohen, no matter that everything he has said or written proved accurate. I also understand their negative reaction to left-leaning journalists, even famous ones like Carl Bernstein who is best known for his writings on Watergate. But no one would ever call Bernstein’s partner, Bob Woodward, a lefty, and Woodward’s books and articles about every president since Nixon have always been viewed as fair and objective. His view of Trump is like all the others’.
Similarly, the comments of prominent members of Trump’s administration, H. R. McMaster, James Mathis, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, to name a few, painted Trump as angry, vengeful, ignorant, and very often deranged. Even loyalist Steve Mnuchin announced that he couldn’t take being around Trump after the Insurrection.
When General Milley, who subscribes to the protocol of never publicly criticizing a superior officer speaks out, every American who cares about the future of our country should pay attention. What Milley said about Trump should terrify them. His allusions to Nazi tactics and specifically to Hitler leave no doubt about how he feels. Milley says Trump’s behavior in the months after he lost the 2020 election brought America to “a Reichstag moment.” He likened The Big Lie, Trump’s attempts to subvert state election officials, and his attempts to influence judges he felt owed him favors to the things Hitler did to consolidate his power. He called Trump supporters marching in the streets of Washington and several state capitals Brownshirts and said Trump was a threat to our democracy.
Milley had feared that Trump might try to overthrow the government, but was confident he would fail because the military would never support such an action. Nor would the CIA, the NSA, or law enforcement agencies. Milley has no doubt that if he could have gotten away with it, Trump would have transformed America into a Fascist state. Lest anyone doubt his meaning, a week after the Insurrection Milley said of Trump’s extremist supporters, “These guys are Nazis, they’re boogaloo boys, they’re Proud Boys. These are the same people we fought in World War II.”
That’s what the general in charge of our entire military thinks of Trump. Like the others who spoke out before him, he describes Trump as a dangerous, wannabe tyrant. Parties and ideologies aside, if you’re a patriotic American who supports the Constitution, isn’t that enough to convince you that our first priority must be making sure Trump is never in a position of power again?
This isn’t the first time people have feared the rise of Fascism in America. In 1935, as Hitler was dismantling the Weimar Republic and replacinig it with a Nazi police state, Sinclair Lewis published, It Can’t Happen Here. Can’t it?