In Salon Andrew O’Hehir joined the throng of commentators comparing Trump to Hitler and you can’t blame them except comparisons to Hitler are so common and far-ranging they have all but lost their shock value.
Trump’s not Hitler. Hitler was an old-fashioned politician. He wanted office for power and to accomplish his particular policy goals. He wasn’t in it for the money. Old-fashioned pols were satisfied with the palace, the army of servants, the limousines and houses in the country. Donald Trump has no policy agenda except to pass a massive tax cut for himself, in case he ever has to pay taxes, and to eliminate the estate tax so his children will get it all. He is not interested in the power of the office because he doesn’t know what to do with it.
All he wants is the money. He wants to use the Presidency to squeeze and cajole money and favors for his businesses so he can line his own pocket. It’s all he’s ever done in his life; it’s the only thing he understands. He is a deeply insecure narcissist who desperately wants affirmation and he seeks it in two ways: public attention and income. As a performer, he’s obsessed with ratings and the polls. Similarly, he needs income to prove his worth to himself and others. But mostly to himself, since he won’t release his taxes which ought to show how rich he is, but will probably tell another story.
He will probably be completely unaware of what is going on in his administration just as he was unaware of what was going on in previous administrations. He only knows what he sees on TV. He will use Mike Pence as his CEO. Every once in a while there will be a signing ceremony and he’ll sign whatever Pence puts in front of him.
And that is where the danger is: not in Trump, in Pence. He is a wildly right-wing ideologue, unpopular and unsuccessful in his home state. He plans to bring that ideology and failure to Washington. As VP, he will be the invisible man of the capital, moving around behind the scenes. Together with Paul Ryan, also a right-wing ideologue and one who is dedicated to maintaining power, they will push bills through a compliant Republican Congress which will make any sane person wonder how these extremists got into power—but we know the answer to that.
But if Trump does his job, sane people will not notice the Ryan/Pence revolution. If Trump indulges in his late-night tweeting, boasting, attacking the media and the rest of his over-all clownishness, the press and the people will be distracted from policy just as they were during the election. If he gets too distracted by doing conflict-of-interest business deals or—heavens to Betsy—stands up to Pence/Ryan on policy, those same deals will provide cause for some sort of scandal. That will draw the attention of the media away from Pence/Ryan or if things get too bad, Ryan will impeach Trump and get him out of the way. Trump isn’t Hitler, the fearless leader of the Republican Party. He is a convenient buffoon who got the Party through the election. It is ready, willing and able to throw him under the bus at a moment’s notice.
To make room for President Pence or President Ryan. They are interested in power and particular policy goals.
Then it will be 1933.