By Bill Kaplan
On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan cast his independence and principles aside and declared his support for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. Ryan said: "Trump can help make reality of bold House policy agenda." He went on to say that "Trump and I (Ryan) have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles...." Any ambiguity about Ryan's promise to vote for Trump was dispelled by a tweet from Ryan's staff: "We're not playing word games, feel free to call it an endorsement." Another 1930s moment.
Earlier on Tuesday, the New York Times ran an op-ed entitled "The West's Weimar Moment", by Jochen Bittner, political editor of the German newspaper Die Zeit. Bittner opined: "Some people today imagine that Hitler sneaked up on Germany, that too few people understood the threat. In fact, many mainstream politicians recognized the danger, but they failed to stop him. Some didn't want to: The conservative parties and the nobility believed the little hothead could serve as their useful idiot, that as chancellor he would be contained by a squad of reasonable ministers. Franz von Papen, a nobleman who was Hitler's first vice chancellor, said of the new leader, 'We've hired him'". We know how that worked out.
Bittner went on to describe the impact of the banking - Wall Street - housing bubble that led to the Great Recession and "rise of anti-establishment movements". He wrote "Trump is no Hitler", but made clear that the U.S. and European nations are "witnessing another 1930s moment" - failing to take seriously the threat to democratic institutions. Trump's incendiary attacks against the press for exposing his lies on raising money for veterans groups, his racist rants taunting a federal judge presiding over a civil case against the so-called Trump University and claims of imperial presidential powers highlight the danger that Trump presents.
As to Ryan's hope that his endorsement of Trump will preserve a GOP congressional majority and lead to enactment of the Republican House "policy agenda", he would do well to remember what President Kennedy said: "... those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside." Ryan has made a pact with the devil. Don't take my word. Listen to another conservative.
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote: "Some Republicans keep expecting Trump to finally remove he mask of misogyny, prejudice and cruelty and act in a more presidential manner. But it is not a mask. It is his true face. Good Republican leaders making the decision to support Trump will end up either humiliated by the association (Ryan keeps trying to distance himself from Trump's racism), or betrayed and attacked for criticizing the great leader. Trump leaves no other options....Republicans have not been given the option of choosing the lesser of two evils. The GOP has selected someone who is unfit to be president, lacking the temperament, stability, judgment and compassion to occupy the office." Another 1930s moment.
-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995-2009.