President Trump’s greatest superpower is his ability to inspire the worst in his critics.
The clearest example of Trump’s ability to turn his critics into self-identifying deranged persons lacking any clear sense of perspective appears in the world of political punditry, where so many ostensibly keen and evenhanded analysts have outed themselves as aggressively ignorant historical illiterates.
On Monday, for example, CNN and ABC News contributor Ana Navarro responded to news that Andrew McCabe had stepped down as FBI deputy director by comparing the ordeal to the Holocaust.
“First, [Trump] came for [former FBI director James] Comey, & they didn’t speak out b/c they were Trump apologists. Then, he came for McCabe, & they didn’t speak out b/c they were Trump apologists,” she tweeted. “Next, he’ll come for Rosestein [sic] & they won’t speak out b/c they’re Trump apologists. Last, he’ll come for Mueller...”
Yes, yes, the loss of yet another FBI chief is something like the systematic roundup and extermination of six million Jews.
Unfortunately, Navarro’s brand of silliness isn’t even all that unique in the current media landscape. She’s far from being alone in responding to the rise of Trumpism by tossing aside all semblance of restraint.
CNN contributor and former Clinton adviser Paul Begala warned earlier this month that Trump has been acting like Joseph Stalin. And Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Syrian President Bashar Assad. And Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
On Jan. 18, as Congress battled over a budget deal that included disagreements over continued funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, Vox founder Ezra Klein lamented: "Imagine you're a small country charting a path between Chinese-style autocracy and American-style democracy — which many are right now. How appealing does our model look to you at the moment?” he asked.
Great question! Would you rather be the nation engaged in a contentious funding debate, or would you rather be the nation responsible for the Tiananmen Square massacre? A delayed reauthorization of a program that funds health insurance for middle-class kids, or an event wherein the state outright murdered an estimated 10,000 students.
Then there was the time this year when the Committee to Protect Journalists awarded the president the “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom,” lumping him in a list of dishonors with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and, yes, Putin.
Trump is a lot of things. He is rash, impetuous, impulsive and generally unfit for the job. His tenure in the White House, and the general deterioration of national politics on his watch, will have real, lasting consequences, few of which are likely to be good.
He is not, however, just like Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot or any of the other 20th-century dictators who are directly responsible for the wholesale slaughter of millions of human beings.