A Turning Point

This has been a busy last few weeks in the world of politics. It started with the dismissal of James Comey, the FBI director, before his 10 year term is up. His firing, according to Trump, was because of his persistence in investigating the Russian connection to the election. Simultaneously, the disorganisation was made evident by his staff speaking to the press, making the claim that Comey was fired because his mistakes leading up the election. The irony of that statement is clear, given that Trump repeatedly thanked the FBI Director for assisting in clearing the air about Hillary’s campaign.

The firing, which caused quite a stir in the press and excuses and cover from the Republicans in Congress and the Senate, already looked bad in the press. Trump managed to invite the Russian Ambassador to the White House (which is already quite unusual) while the firing was occurring. Hardly a week had gone by before it was followed by more mistakes and missteps from the administration (or, as some of us call it, fucking crazy shit).  It’s now come out that Trump managed to leak highly classified intelligence, intelligence that even our allies were not privy to, to the Russians during the visit.

I write all of this to just give background to my thoughts of the week. There’s quite a bit of schadenfreude among many who are not Trump supporters about the enormous gaffes by the administration this week. I’m looking at the situation with increasing concern, not because of what happened directly (I expect missteps and gaffes by the Trump administration, it was clear long before he was elected that he is incompetent), but because of the lack of outrage amongst the Republicans in Congress and the Senate. I’ve lived most of my life (all of it until now) with the Republicans being staunchly anti-Russian. When I was younger, there was always outrage about “the communists” and the USSR, and anytime any US president has met with Putin or other Russian leaders, there’s been quite the outcry.  Now we have an administration that may have been elected or helped by Russian propaganda during the election, and is actively disclosing secret information to the Russians in a way that endangers our relationship with our allies, and we have nary a peep from Republicans about these relationships.

The whole situation reminds me of the book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”.  Before you start thinking that I’m about to compare the Trump administration with the Nazis, let me say that I’m not, so please hear me out.  The point of Rise and Fall was not to document everything the Nazis did during the war, which is well documented elsewhere, but was actually to document soon after the war what had actually happened in Germany among the citizens and the elites in power that enabled the Nazi regime to take power.  A common theme among the people interviewed in the book was that early on during Hitler’s rise to power, his rhetoric struck a chord with society at the time. Anti-semitism was rampant throughout the civilized world, not just in Germany, and so much of what he said was far less vitriolic than how it appears to us now.  Hitler would make outlandish statements about the Jews, and people would nod their heads in agreement, knowing that he didn’t mean what he said. As Nazi behavior got more extreme towards the Jews, people would excuse it as not commonplace, or things blown up by the media. Each step he took towards the holocaust was excused, with a general belief that if things got truly crazy, someone would step up to him. What was actually occurring is that each excuse would make everyone who defended him that much more complicit in his behavior, which lead to more excuses, and further atrocities.

Now I’m not claiming that Trump is a Nazi, or that the end result will be anything close to the Holocaust. What does concern me is that I see a similar excusing of behavior by Republicans in his party, each outrage making them a bit more complicit, and less likely to stand up to him when the next outrage occurs. If he had fired Director Comey at the start of his administration, it might have been a step too far, but after all the other excuses made for his behavior up to this point, firing the Director of the FBI doesn’t seem like such a big deal. After all his lies, misstatements, and just general incoherent rambling, disclosing top secret information to the Russians is excused either by minimizing the importance of the information or consequences of such disclosure.  I used to take solace in the belief that at some point he would do something so outlandish that republicans would have no choice but to speak out. Now I’ve come to believe that each time there isn’t outrage by Republicans at something he does brings us even further from anyone in his party ever speaking out about him. With all of the latest disclosures, there does seem to be some reticence from the Republicans about it, but we shall see if any of this ever leads to anything serious.