Senator Mitch McConnell does seem to be channelling the chancellor of Germany circa 1932, Franz von Papen. Von Papen was confident that Hitler could be contained and manipulated. Hindenburg and von Papen gave Hitler’s Nazi party control over only three ministries, so how much could go wrong? McConnell has looked down his nose at Trump, and fidgeted a bit over a few of the more openly bigoted outbursts and retweets, but has spent more effort excusing and minimizing. Fritz Stern, who lived through “Five Germanies,” condemned von Papen as “the frivolous gravedigger of what was left of German democracy” in the early 1930s. Does McConnell want to be judged as a 21st-century American von Papen?
McConnell made light a couple of days ago of Trump’s remarks to the NYT undercutting NATO. A “rookie mistake,” said the senator, who went on to say that Trump was not unfit to be commander-in-chief because his implicit invitation to Putin to expand Russia’s hybrid warfare into NATO territory would be contrary to the views of “anybody he might make secretary of state or secretary of defense” (source: Greg Sargent, Washington Post Plum Line, July 21). Sargent comments: “We’ve reached a new level of absurdity. Now we are basically being told that the check against the threat Trump poses will come from his own cabinet officials.” Richard J. Evans wrote in The Coming of the Third Reich that “the complacent belief of Franz von Papen and his friends that they had Hitler where they wanted him did not last long” (p. 316). I wonder if Mitch McConnell is as complacent as von Papen? Maybe not, but he is so far nowhere near dropping Trump “like a hot rock,” as he is reported to have promised his Republican Senate colleagues earlier this year. If and when McConnell does take a look at Franz von Papen’s Memoirs, I hope that he can do so without the impediment of a President Trump whose Minister of Propaganda has “opened up the libel laws.”