In a blistering op-ed, a former Reagan adviser has compared Donald Trump’s rise to power and the presidency to the designed-to-fail “Springtime for Hitler play created for the Mel Brooks comedy, The Producers. At the same time, he notes that the Trump administration is doing “far, far worse” than he ever expected.
In an op-ed essay written for Politico entitled “Trump is What Happens When a Political Party Abandons Ideas,” Bruce Bartlett penned a scorching indictment of a Trump political campaign and subsequent administration whose policies are “frighteningly extreme.” The former Reagan aide said that President Trump, once inaugurated, lay siege to American values and its standing in the world.
Bartlett was quick to remind readers that he wrote a satirical piece in 2015 that suggested the Republican Party go ahead and nominate Donald Trump for president in order for him to suffer a landslide loss to Hillary Clinton. This, he said, would enable the GOP to embark on a path to principled reform and steer it clear of going further toward the extreme right. He thought Trump was a “guaranteed loser,” but then he won not only the Republican nomination but the general election as well.
“Needless to say, I was as dumbfounded by the election results as Max Bialystock was by the success of Springtime for Hitler,” Bartlett wrote. “Almost everything that has happened since November 8 has been the inverse of what I’d imagined.”
Moderates have been marginalized and ignored, he said, resulting in an administration that is “far, far worse than I imagined. He has instituted policies so right wing they make Ronald Reagan, for whom I worked, look like a liberal Democrat. He has appointed staff people far to the right of the Republican mainstream in many positions, and they are instituting policies that are frighteningly extreme.”
Since taking office, the former aide and confidant of Ronald Reagan said, Trump has laid siege to American values and the country’s standing in the world. He listed what he perceives as Trump transgressions: his “hostility” towards NATO, distancing the U.S. as an advocate of human rights, “attacked the notion of an independent judiciary,” and “personally intervened to request the FBI to ease up on its investigation of a former adviser of his, then fired FBI Director James Comey and freely admitted he did so to alleviate the pressure he felt from Comey’s investigation.”
But, as Bartlett pointed out, the problem is not a new one, beginning as it did several years ago.
“Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.”
Bruce Bartlett’s op-ed piece echoes the writings of John Dean, former White House attorney to Richard Nixon, who excoriated the George W. Bush administration for the abandonment of the conservative idea upon which the Republican Party was founded and developed over the years. Dean argued in his books Worse Than Watergate and Conservatives Without Conscience that the Bush administration’s centralization of power in the presidency was anathema to the dictates of the U.S. Constitution.
In January, Dean, in an interview with The Atlantic, said that he was worried that the Donald Trump presidency would be the most corrupt in history — and that Trump would likely get away with it. Why? Simply because the continuing and increasing powers that have concentrated in the office of the presidency in the past half-century, not to mention the weakening of all the traditional checks to that power — the press, Congress, the Supreme Court — in the same time period.
Bartlett is in agreement, noting that since the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations (for which he worked), research and analysis seem to be missing from Republican politics. “In the 14 years since then, I have watched from the sidelines as Republican policy analysis and research have virtually disappeared altogether, replaced with sound bites and talking points,” he said. “Talk radio and Fox News, where no idea too complicated for a mind with a sixth-grade education is ever heard, became the tail wagging the conservative dog.”
“In the 14 years since then, I have watched from the sidelines as Republican policy analysis and research have virtually disappeared altogether, replaced with sound bites and talking points,” he said. “Talk radio and Fox News, where no idea too complicated for a mind with a sixth-grade education is ever heard, became the tail wagging the conservative dog.”
It has been pointed out by Media Matters (per Salon) that not only is President Trump an avid watcher of cable news (especially Fox News Channel), he seems to be formulating policy from conservative news and talk radio shows.
Bartlett wrote that he saw a way out for conservatives, urging them to re-intellectualize the GOP with a “solid foundation of thinking, analysis, and research by smart, well-educated people.”
“Listening to the common man rant about things he knows nothing about,” the former aide warned, “is a dead-end that leads to Trump and failure because there is no ‘there’ there, just mindless rhetoric and frustration.”
Bartlett’s indictment of the less educated in the success of Donald Trump is supported in the post-general election analysis done by FiveThirtyEight, where it found that areas with higher education levels voted for Clinton, while those with a few years of college or simply a high school diploma or less voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
Trump wrote and starred in his own production of Springtime for Hitler, and it should have been, at least by expert consensus, a roaring failure. But it was not. And so the production continues…
[Featured Image by John Minchillo/AP Images]