In a segment on NPR’s “On Point” Friday, a fellow guest compared me to an Adolf Hitler supporter because I said something positive about President Trump’s tenure in office. Yes, seriously.
After I said some of Trump’s norm-breaking actions are good — namely his call for civil service reform and attempts to curtail some agencies’ powers and regulations — Norman Eisen, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and, ironically, co-founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said my support of Trump reminded him of the people who have supported authoritarian, mass-murdering regimes.
Our conversation begins around the 31-minute mark, here, where you can listen to what I said about President Trump that prompted this characterization from Eisen:
When Bre was speaking . . . I couldn’t help but think of those who greeted, don’t take offense, please, Bre, but those who greeted the other tyrants of the past 100 years. Whether they were of the left, like Lenin and Stalin, or the right, like Hitler — not saying Trump is Hitler, making those same claims about the evil that needed to be swept away and the change that needed to happen.
My favorite part of this is that he told me not to be offended right before he compared me to enthusiastic Nazis or Joseph Stalin supporters. He also says he’s “not saying Trump is Hitler,” then proceeds to make precisely that comparison. While Eisen is saying this, you can hear the host, David Folkenflik, try but fail to stop him. It’s like watching — or in this case, listening to — a car crash in slow motion.
Folkenflik handled it professionally, letting me respond and apologizing for the short length of time left for that. I took advantage of it to talk about my family’s history of sacrificing everything to flee from authoritarian strongmen to become Americans. To compare a conservative to Nazis and communist revolutionaries is so inaccurate, and Eisen deserves to be called out for it.
I am writing this to draw attention to the tone from some of Trump’s critics. To them, everything merits a comparison to Hitler, and to make the “mistake” of saying a positive thing about President Trump — even when that positive thing is sandwiched between skeptical comments about him — is labeled as tantamount to helping the Nazis construct concentration camps. That’s so detached from reality and people who cannot see that should have no credibility.
So what is and what is not allowed to be said in public about the president without being called a Nazi? I said I wish Trump could tweet less and focus his lib-owning powers on regulatory rollbacks and taking down the administrative state. To Eisen, for some reason, that sounded like support for Nazis. One of us needs a reality check, and it’s not me.
I’d also like Eisen, and others who think the way he does, to explain what exactly Trump has done that befits the policies of Nazi Germany. I certainly understand being concerned about Trump’s rhetoric, but as a president, what has he done with his powers that resemble Germany in the early 20th century? No reporters have gone to jail, been ransacked, or assassinated. The press is free to publish repeated screeds about what an authoritarian would-be murderer the president is, and it does so with abandon. Nobody is confiscating Americans’ guns or other abilities to defend themselves against government repression.
American citizens are not being rounded up and herded into ghettoes. On the contrary, foreign citizens who have broken our laws receive free health care, shelter, food, and other necessities, and the full benefits of our world-class legal system including legal representation, all paid by the people whom they have trespassed upon.
Frankly, this is why Trump won. He won because whenever someone voices an opinion that differs from the politically correct line, that person gets compared to people who supported authoritarian regimes of the past. This knee-jerk “HITLER, HITLER, HITLER” reaction, even when qualified by a “I’m not saying Trump is Hitler” comment, only suggests to the American people that our capricious tweeter in chief is easily the most adult in the room.
It also displays a vast ignorance about what policies are the actual hallmarks of viciously repressive totalitarian regimes. That is unacceptable for people who hold positions of broad public influence and are given the ability to opine freely to the audiences of the country’s largest media organizations.