Opinion: The latest example of Trump’s seeming obsession with Nazism

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

At the Republican National Committee’s annual retreat this weekend, former President Donald Trump took the stage to a recording of the national anthem sung by the “J6 Prison Choir,” whose members were incarcerated for taking part in a violent effort to keep Trump in power following his loss in the 2020 election.

Dean Obeidallah - CNN
Dean Obeidallah - CNN

It’s not the first time Trump has kicked off an event by playing this song that celebrates the January 6, 2021, attackers. Every time he does, it should disgust patriotic Americans. But that wasn’t even the most offensive thing Trump did at Saturday’s private luncheon for donors, which was held at his Mar-a-Lago club.

Trump launched into a profanity-laced tirade in which he declared — despicably — that President Joe Biden was running a “Gestapo administration,” invoking the name of the notorious Nazi political police infamous, as the Holocaust Encyclopedia explains, for “organized deportations of Jews from across Europe to ghettos, concentration camps, killing sites, and killing centers.”

Trump’s reprehensible remark, made to a room packed with individuals who had donated $40,000 or more to the Republican National Committee, was part of a 90-minute harangue in which he groused indignantly over having been charged with 88 felonies across four different jurisdictions — something he often does publicly and loudly. Prosecutors at his current trial underway in New York City allege that the former president was at the center of what they have called an elaborate “election fraud” that involved covering up the payment of hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump denies the allegations.

It’s hard to catalog all the ways in which likening the current administration to the brutal Gestapo is so deeply offensive and so off the mark, including the casual use of language that invokes Nazis – something Trump does all too often.

For one thing, it trivializes the history of the Holocaust and the perpetrators of the unspeakable crimes carried out by Adolf Hitler and his followers. For another, there is not a scintilla of evidence that the current administration harbors authoritarian tendencies. But, as is so often the case with Trump, he tarnishes the object of his scorn with the failings that he himself could reasonably be accused of.

It was Trump, after all, who has said that he would be a dictator on “day one” of his administration. It is Trump whose actions and statements increasingly seem to invoke authoritarianism as the presidential campaign marches on. And the fact is, there is one major party presidential candidate who repeatedly has invoked Nazi language — and it’s not Biden.

In December, Trump caused a firestorm when he parroted language used by Hitler by describing migrants as “poisoning the blood” of the United States. The previous month, Trump described his political opponents as “vermin,” which concerned many given that that dehumanizing term has antisemitic connotations and was employed in Nazi rhetoric. Scholars of the Holocaust have pointed to Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” and his speeches in which he called for racial purity and said German blood was being “poisoned” by Jews.

Trump hasn’t apologized for using such language. Instead, in December, he told supporters at a rally in Iowa, “I never read ‘Mein Kampf.’” Trump then added that Hitler used the term “poisoning the blood” of the country “in a much different way.” He then repeated the same dangerous rhetoric about migrants, saying, “They’re destroying the blood of the country. They’re destroying the fabric of our country, and we’re going to have to get them out.”

Was there an uproar among the big GOP donors at Saturday’s event over Trump deploying the word “Gestapo” or over his Nazi-like language at a time when we are seeing an alarming spike in antisemitism across the United States? Have Republican leaders denounced this rhetoric? Not that I’ve seen, and I don’t expect to hear them publicly criticize their presumptive presidential nominee and undisputed leader of their party. Not if past is prologue.

Interestingly, Trump’s celebration of those who waged the January 6 attack conjures up Hitler’s tactics after his own attempted coup in 1923 known as the Beer Hall Putsch — a thwarted attempt by the would-be dictator and his followers to violently overthrow the government of the German state of Bavaria.

Hitler would publicly honor those killed in that failed attempt to seize power by making them martyrs for the cause and celebrating them publicly as heroes. Hitler became chancellor of Germany 10 years later in 1933, where one of the first orders of business was the formation of the Gestapo, the German secret police, under the leadership of his loyal aide Hermann Göring.

At the GOP event Saturday, Trump offered anyone who would donate $1 million a chance to speak at the podium. Reportedly, three people took Trump up on his offer. One of those donors claimed that God chose Trump to lead the country.

And while the former president was speaking Saturday, the RNC co-chair, his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, presented Trump with a plaque commemorating the success on the Billboard music charts of the song by the January 6 attackers. Last week, Time magazine published an interview in which Trump once again praised the January 6 attackers, some of whom brutally beat up police officers, as “patriots” and vowed that if re-elected he would consider pardoning those still in jail for that attack.

All this leaves me asking myself once again which is the presidential candidate who loves democracy and our Constitution, and which is seeking to pull us backward into dark and dangerous times.

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