James Comey, the Reichstag burning, and the Donald Trump big lie

Burning of the Reichstag 1933. Germany / Mono Print

Burning of the Reichstag 1933. Germany / Mono Print

Is FBI Director James Comey’s October 29th memo to Congress about Clinton emails the Trump campaign’s ‘burning the Reichstag’ moment? The sinister undertones of the  campaign have been evident from day one, with Trump’s notorious statement in his announcement speech that “when Mexico sends its people…..they’re sending people that have lots of problems….They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”.  Parallels between the Trump campaign and the ‘big lie’ road to power of the Nazis in the 1930s might seem overheated, yet they have been drawn repeatedly by observers who generally are known for their sobriety. (I link below to a sampling of excellent analyses along these lines.)

Time is running short and, if things go badly   James Comey’s  weekend memo could well, viewed through the lens of history, be seen as a 2016 presidential campaign echo of Nazi Germany’s Reichstag burning.

The burning of the German Reichstag (‘parliament’) on February 27, 1933 was a crucial step in the Nazi seizure of power. As of late 1932, it seemed that the popularity of the Nazis may have peaked. They  won 37.4 percent of the vote (13.7 million votes and 230 Reichstag seats) in elections of July 1932. Political crisis followed immediately, and in a repeat election in November 1932  the number of Nazi votes fell to 11.7 million (and 196 seats). Though Hitler nonetheless was appointed Reich Chancellor in 1933, many among the German elites were complacent. “Within two months”, vice chancellor Franz Von Papen told a conservative acquaintance, “we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he’ll squeak”.

We can’t know whether or not Comey intended to give the Trump campaign a propaganda gift by sending to Congress a memo laced with innuendo about Hillary Clinton but wholly devoid of content. But we do know that the memo has fanned the flames of overheated rhetoric, and given new momentum to Trump’s deplorable campaign.

There’s no certainty either on the details of the ‘Reichstag fire’ plot. The Nazis (with no evidence) blamed the communists for starting the fire. The communists (and some contemporary historians) have suggested that the fire was a plot by the Nazis. The usual explanation is that it was the work of a troubled, young Dutch anarchist construction worker, Marinus van der Lubbe.

Regardless of actor and intent, there is no ambiguity about the consequences of the Reichstag fire. Here is how they are described by the historian Richard Evans in his book The Coming of the Third Reich: Rudolf Diels, the (non-Nazi) head of the Prussian political police, summoned to report to the group of leading Nazis encountered a scene of frightening hysteria…. Hitler shouted as if he wanted to burst: ‘There will be no more mercy now; anyone who stands in our way will be butchered. The German people won’t have any understanding for leniency…. These subhumans don’t suspect at all how much the people is on our side…. The psychologically correct moment for the confrontation has now arrived….’. A new decree was drafted, suspending several sections of the Weimar constitution, particularly those governing freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly… The Nazi seizure of power could begin in earnest.” In an election in March 1933, the month after the Reichstag burning, the Nazis and their Nationalist allies won 52 percent of the votes.

Yes, if  (god forbid….) Trump were to win there are many steps from electoral triumph to the emasculation of the American constitution. Many checks and balances stand in the way of a  ‘Reichstag fire’ moment of a kind which destroys citizen rights. Hopefully, we won’t find out what such a journey could look like. So in that sense this post is a cautionary tale in the sense of  George Santayana’s aphorism that  those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. [Finally, as promised, you’ll find below links to  some powerful recent articles which draw the analogy between the Trumpians and the Nazi rise to power:

Rowan Williams (the Archbishop of Canterbury), A nervous breakdown in the body politic

Andrew Sullivan (former editor of The New Republic America has never been so ripe for tyranny

Michiko Kakutani (book review editor of the New York Times In ‘Hitler’ an ascent from dunderhead to demagogue

Eric Weitz, Professor of History, City College of New York Weimar Germany and Donald Trump

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One response

  1. Stuart Jay Silverman
    223 Rolling Trail
    Hot Springs, AR 71913
    Ph. (501) 760-2725
    autobiopsy@aol.com

    DONALD TRUMP: WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
    Making America Grate Again

    “When as in Pence-ive mood I lie,
    And think of other fish to fry,
    My head with airy nothing fills,
    And dances with the Daffydills.”
    –The Daffydills, W.W. Redux,

    THE PRESUMPTIOUS CANDIDATE
    “If He Only Had A Brain”

    Does it matter his hands are so small?
    That his slanders and plain lies appall?
    Should we care he’s a boor
    With a hemorrhoid’s allure?
    And his cohorts cry, “No! Not at all!”

    THE TAFFETA TRUMP

    Still, without a clear theory of mind,
    The Republican sport’s in a bind.
    He sees other people
    As dogs do a steeple,
    Just a hydrant too far for his kind.

    ODE TO A PLATYPUSS

    Jurassic Donald, hair and palm well-greased,
    Allowed his Christmas’ list to be released
    Wherein he wished all who wished him well peace,
    But those who dared pick at his golden fleece
    Brimstone and ashes, for the very least.
    And thereupon his pumpkin face was creased.
    A gelid smile broke out, as when a failing feast
    Reverses course to bubble up like yeast,
    Or grain’s disgorged by liberated geese,
    Or hordes repeal a slumlord’s septic lease.
    The Donald, heated, taps his swollen spleen,
    Going from moldy orange to bile green

    A QUESTION OF CLASS

    In the heat of the fray, Donald Trump,
    Who called Rosie a slob and a frump,
    Turned from mere polliwog
    Into virulent frog
    Oozing toxins from high on a stump.

    INCONCLUSIVE CONCLUSION

    Much too full of himself to admit
    That he hasn’t a clue when to quit,
    Still his ham actor take
    On her long bathroom break
    Proves him, in the end, full of…it.

    DONALD DUCKS THE QUESTION

    By “wherever,” he said, he meant, “nose,”
    When the hormonal question arose,
    He just couldn’t be rude,
    Or so vulgar, or lewd,
    As to hint at her menstrual flows.

    LOOSE AS A GOOSE

    So, he’d never “mock the disabled,”
    And therefore the charge should be tabled,
    Along with reporters,
    Those sad last resorters,
    And the papers by which they’re enabled.

    TREXIT, ANYONE?

    “If the Pound takes a hit…well, that’s sad
    For the duffers and grounds men in plaid,
    But my course in the rough
    Will do well off that stuff.”
    “And the people who suffer?” “Too bad.”

    HUMPTY TRUMPTY

    He’s got I-bars and bricks to install
    In his ‘Keep-`em-out’ Mexican wall,
    He’s got shingles and lead,
    But it’s all in his head,
    So the loony-bin wagon’s on call.

    ANCHOR BABY?

    He said it was just a suggestion
    To profile and vet by complexion,
    Unlike Mama Trump
    With her Scots’ baby bump
    Whose status was never in question.

    SEMBLANCES

    Like a gangbanger caught on the fly,
    Or a sneak thief doubling-down on a lie,
    He’s full of excuses
    For all his abuses
    While he looks the abused in the eye.

    THE DONALD ISSUES AN
    APOLOGY-CUM-EXPLANATION-CUM-CLARIFICATION
    IN THE MANNER OF MCGONAGALL

    “Those who know me know I would not dare ever
    Refer thoughtlessly about a lady’s wherever,
    In the sense, that is, of thoughtless disparagement
    Of her lady parts, which are in marriage meant
    To solace and give comfort to her wedded spouse
    Because to do otherwise would label the speaker a louse.
    So, Megyn, these words are meant only to assure you
    I really respect and would under no circumstances abjure you.
    It’s just that as a male God gave me dominion
    Over you, and that’s not just my opinion.
    The Church Fathers, after all, noted that Adam had rule
    Over Eve, and anyone who doesn’t believe it is not cool.
    So, I hope I’ve made it clear and you’ll harbor no animosity,
    And try to tampon down some of your female ferocity.”

    AN INVIDIOUS COMPARISON

    As The Donald is sounding his horn,
    And subjecting his party to scorn,
    In the east, al-Assad,
    And Isis play god,
    The jihadis of carnage and porn.

    THE TRUMP OF DOOM

    Now The Donald will go them one more:
    Like the old gods, he’s gung-ho on war.
    He’d search out and destroy
    From Beirut to Amboy,
    And by doing so even the score.

    THE PEROXIDE PUNDIT

    In his lunatic brain, The Great Trump
    Thinks, “If you disagree, you’re a chump.”
    “No stare decisis
    “When dealing with Isis!”
    And the suckers keep priming his pump!

    THE BANKRUPT

    But rants tend to fade out or abort,
    Which has hampered The Donald in Court
    Where each trumpery brief
    Gets no sort of relief
    And his dixit’s cut woefully short.

    THE FATHER OF LIES

    It’s not rare that when something’s a fake,
    Say, a cheap imitation of snake,
    Trumpery’s on the bill
    With both swindler and shill.
    (Link to reprobate, con man, and rake.)

    THE TRUMP SINKHOLE

    Some deny that the Donald’s a troll,
    Or a sniff-about tax-dodging mole,
    Merely hungry for cash,
    And a chance to talk trash
    Climbing into or out of his hole.

    DEALING WITH THE DEALER

    Alas, Trump in his “businessman” mode,
    Getting rid of an overripe load,
    Is careful to place
    The turds in each case
    On the customer’s side of the road.

    DONALD’S ASCENT

    Not like a Gemini rocket
    breaking through cloud cover
    to soar into the velveteen sky,
    not like an arrow launched
    from a steel-strung bow by a
    warrior hot on the hunt,
    not like a hero or heroine pressed
    into the fray by circumstance who
    wins through to painful victory,

    but like a balloon, overburdened
    by hot air, escaping the will and hand
    of a fretful child who watches it sail away

    WHEN HE’S FIRED (UP)

    Being challenged and, thereby, displeased,
    The Donald discordantly wheezed
    His lies out of tune,
    And over the moon,
    An old trumpet whose brass is diseased.

    STARBUCKS MELODY

    Still, The Donald is surely the cream
    On the latte of maybe and seem,
    And will sing any tune
    To inflate the balloon
    On which he’s suspended his dream.

    THE MUSICAL TRUMP*

    With a horn unencumbered of mute,
    The Donald is forte on toot.
    His bass is sublime
    As he farts marking time.
    When he tinkles to end, he’s a flute.

    *trump, my brother-in-law informs
    me, in the U.K. is slang for “fart”

    AND SPEAKING OF…

    He’s a businessman versed in the arts,
    And a melter of feminine hearts.
    The Trump has no rival,
    His words are archival,
    And the universe rings when he farts.

    JERSEY CITY BLUES

    With his grip of what is on the wane,
    Mr. Trump is convinced it’s all gain
    As he goes round the bend
    Hell-bent to the end,
    A caboose in pursuit of its train.

    TWEETY PIE’S TWEETS

    The garbage mouth’s not so much bitter
    As not in control of his shitter,
    Which voids through his mouth–
    Up, down, north and south–
    Then purges the leavings on Twitter.

    JURASSIC SQUAWK

    So let us praise The Donald, T. rump*,
    Evolution’s strange retrograde bump.
    We’d thought such extinct,
    But our DNA blinked,
    And a birdbrain crept out of the dump.

    *Tyrannosaurus rump

    CODA 1
    BEYOND THE PALIN
    The Ice Queen Cometh

    The clatter of a rotor broke the stillness of the ice
    Where Sarah Barracuda had a wolf pack in her sights.

    The leader, whom she gut shot, lay bleeding on the ice
    While Wasilla’s mighty hunter read the predator his rights.

    A terror when she fishes, digging through the Arctic ice,
    She governed like a pit bull (roughly seven hundred nights):

    Now she tells you she’s no quitter in a voice that shatters ice.
    When she winks, a steely glitter shows she’s sighted in the heights.

    She was only warming up some flinty southern ice
    When she ran with John McCain and unfurled the northern lights.

    These days, she’s playing bulldog wearing lipstick bright as ice,
    In service to a blunderbuss who deals in slurs and slights.

    To dismiss her with contempt might be skating on thin ice–
    She’s the answer to their prayers say the party’s troglodytes.

    In her coy bolero jacket streaked with artificial ice,
    Sarah smiled and pussy-footed a maze of hazy mights.

    Clad in glitter and kiss-kissy for her slide across the ice,
    Sarah puffed out adulation to endorse The Donald’s spites,

    And the crowd, not much warmer than a herring on dry ice
    Saw, beneath the froth and glitz, how the barracuda bites.

    CODA 2
    HIS ATHLETIC SUPPORTERS

    With their malcontent leading the charge,
    And the Tea Party hauling his barge,
    They couldn’t care less
    For the debt-ridden mess
    He’d bequeath to the public at large.

    CODA 3
    FOLLOWING THE LEADER

    Those pudding eyes shifting and misty,
    That cookie dough sibling of twisty,
    The pup brought to heel
    By the art of the deal–
    Oh, pity, dare pity, Chris Christie.

    CODA 4
    PLUMBING THE DEPTHS

    In the realm of things misbegotten,
    There’s Trump linking up with Tom Cotton,
    The lunatic fraud
    With Arkansas’ bawd—
    The smell isn’t rank, it’s plain rotten.

    CODA 5
    STRIKING OUT
    AT THE CONVENTION

    What was that? Just a tongue-in-cheek fling.
    You’ve been watching The Donald play king.
    He bamboozled his kids,
    Put the Right on the skids…
    And so Christie and Pence kiss the ring.

    CODA 6
    WHAT AILES TRUMP

    The husband times three now has wed
    Roger Ailes, from whom women have fled,
    Who agree that his touch
    Was too often too much—
    But he offers The Donald good head.

    CODA 7
    “O, THAT WAY MADNESS LIES”

    Oh, if only this show were the end,
    We could smile as the loonies descend,
    But I fear more’s to come
    As the star stumblebum
    Makes his way inch-by-inch round the bend.

    EPILOGUE
    THE ANUS-THAT-WALKS-LIKE-A-MAN

    Ave atque vale this past year’s also-ran,
    Who left his mark each time he hit the fan.

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