By James A. Kidney
Hitler had Joseph Goebbels and Joachim von Ribbentrop. Donald Trump has Roger Stone and Paul Manafort. God help us.
Goebbels was Hitler’s propaganda minister and a close associate. Hitler named Goebbels his successor in his will. Goebbels actually had the title of Reich Chancellor for one day after Hitler died. Then he killed his wife, six children and himself in advance of the Russian seizure of Hitler’s bunker. Nearly every ugly theme of the Nazi regime was supported by the thinking and actions of Goebbels.
Ribbentrop, a close confidant of Hitler’s, was Nazi Germany’s foreign minister from 1938 until 1945. He was executed after trial at Nuremburg. He helped broker the Pact of Steel, an alliance with Mussolini’s Italy, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union which Hitler later discarded.
It is way past time to apologize for, or to be reticent in making, the “easy” comparisons between Hitler and Trump. The well-off Germans laughed at Hitler, until they had to take him seriously as he took advantage of angry nationalism, fueled by the harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty, hyper-inflation, the alleged power of the Jews and the mostly-imagined threat of Russian Communism.
Trump has worked the same route, using many of the same tools successfully applied by Der Fuhrer. These include stirring class jealousies, crudely attacking everything and everyone from international allies to war veterans, war dead and their parents, the handicapped and, most recently, babies and their mothers, and playing on exaggerated fears of lawlessness at home and terrorism imported from abroad. Of course, all of this is spiked by racism, white power platitudes and claims that the country needs what only Der Fuhrer — er, Trump — can provide: mean, brutal exercise of power domestically and abroad.
It is not clear if Trump has the brains, political talent or empathy with the downtrodden white working man to trigger the anger necessary to win on his own the Republican nomination and meaningfully challenge the Democrats for the presidency. We do know that he was encouraged to run for president by his Rasputin, Roger Stone, who doubles as his advisor and propaganda inspiration.
When it became clear that Trump was more than a political punch line, Stone persuaded his puppet — er, candidate — to hire Paul Manafort as his national campaign chairman and, later, campaign manager. They are, in role and effect, Trump’s Goebbels and Ribbentrop. One inspires the paranoia and hatred. The other purports to be an idea man for international affairs and runs the ground forces for the election.
Roger Stone: Political Hit Man
Overstated? Not really. Stone urged Trump to begin promoting the notion that the November elections will be “rigged” to make him lose. Spend a few minutes listening to his interview with Breitbart online radio. Stone is a fabulist about politics. Listen to him claim first that the 2012 Ohio vote was rigged in
Obama’s favor after Karl Rove thought it had been fixed for Mitt Romney. There is no evidence for any of this. Stone cites for support of the notion of extensive voter fraud a man named Richard Charnin, whose most recent blog post posits that, but for voter fraud, Green Party candidate Jill Stein should win the presidency.
Stone advises in the Breitbart interview, conducted only this week, that Trump should begin claiming the election will be rigged NOW. Trump promptly began saying so. Svengali plus Goebbels. Watch out.
Count on Trump to include in his stump speech that the vote will be rigged because “I read it somewhere” or that “everyone is saying it.” “Everyone” is Stone and Charnin.
Nobody ever claimed Goebbels was sensible or sane. But he, like Stone, could string together nonsensical theories for crazed plots that appeal to those with an appetite for believing the world is conspiring against them.
Stone, 64, has a long history of nasty conduct beginning with Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign when he
was hired by chief “dirty trickster” Jeb Magruder. The Stone Wikipedia entry has a long list of manipulative activities he at least claims to have manufactured for conservative political candidates. Among them is the assertion that he worked with Roy Cohn, Red-baiter Joe McCarthy’s aide-de-camp, to arrange for John Anderson to win the nomination of the Liberal Party of New York. This was to split the opposition to Reagan in the 1980 election campaign so Reagan could carry New York, which he did.
Stone’s complete absence of ethics even caused him to be fired by a corrupt politician. Again according to Wikipedia, in 2007 Stone was forced to resign as a top advisor to Joseph Bruno, at the time the majority leader of the New York State Senate. “On August 6, 2007, an expletive laced message was left” on the answering machine of Bernard Spitzer, the then-83-year-old father of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer. The caller was “threatening to prosecute the elderly man if he did not implicate his son in wrongdoing.” The call was traced to Stone’s wife’s phone.
Bruno was convicted on two felony counts of “theft of honest services” in 2009 after a trial that showed how he mingled taxpayer business with his own. Stone either was too dishonest for Bruno, or, more likely, too clumsy for being caught.
For more amazing Stone stories, read the Wikipedia entry.
Don’t say Stone is not loyal, however. He is very loyal to the memory of Richard Nixon. He has a picture of Nixon tattooed on his back.
Paul Manafort: Ambassador to Tyrants
Any biography of Stone leads directly to Trump’s campaign chairman, Manafort, 67. Manafort and Stone joined with Charlie Black to form a political consulting firm hired for Reagan’s second presidential campaign. Manafort later became director of operations for the George H.W. Bush
campaign in 1988, working under campaign manager Lee Atwater. That campaign featured the famous Willie Horton ad in which Democratic candidate Mike Dukakis was essentially charged with allowing a felon to go free to commit murder. It has long been viewed as an ad appealing to base racism. Atwater apologized for the ad before he died.
Manafort is personally familiar with dictatorial types like Trump. In fact, he has worked for them much of his professional life. Black, Manafort & Stone signed Angola rebel Jonas Savimbi as a client in 1985, with the goal of refurbishing his image in Reagan Washington to obtain additional aid for his cause. Savimbi, who abandoned communism and was supported by the United States in the long Angolan civil war and whose reputation outside conservative circles is mixed, obtained millions of dollars in aid from Congress after being toasted by conservative think tanks at events arranged with the influence of Manafort and Stone.
Other Manafort clients over the years, including after he and Stone broke up their consulting firm, were Philippine strong man Fernando Marcos, Zaire dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and the governments of Equatorial Guinea, Kenya and Nigeria. A monograph prepared by the Center for Public Integrity in 1992, titled The Torturers’ Lobby: How Human Rights-Abusing Nations are Represented in Washington, reported:
On a different continent, both Kenya and Nigeria have widely criticized human rights records. Last year, Kenya received $38 million in U.S. foreign aid, and spent over $1.4 million on Washington lobbyists to get it. Nigeria received $8.3 million and expended in excess of $2.5 million. Whom did both countries call upon to do their bidding before the U.S. government? The lobbying firm of Black. Manafort, Stone and Kelly Public Affairs Co.. which received $660,000 from Kenya in 1992-1993 and $1 million from Nigeria in 1991.
Former Reagan political operative Paul Manafort oversees foreign accounts; his partner, Charles R. Black, was a senior political strategist in the 1992 Bush-Quayle campaign. Their firm’s fees to represent Nigeria. Kenya, the Philippines and Angola’s UNITA rebel group in 1991 totaled more than $3 million. All four receive U.S. aid and abuse human rights. A spokeswoman for Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly told the Center that the firm does not “attempt to explain away” concerns about human rights. Instead, she said, “we try to open a dialogue.”
More recently, Manafort was retained as an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential campaign of Viktor Yanukovych, from December 2004 until the February 2010 Ukrainian presidential election. Yanukovych was the favored son of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Party members said Manafort was hired on the advice of Russian strategists.
Manafort’s connection to Yanukovych, who was deposed from power, prompting the Russian seizure of the Crimea, is hardly incidental to the Trump campaign. Politico noted only this morning that Trump changed his tune on the Ukraine after hiring Manafort. Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Putin, failed to recognize the Russian takeover of the Crimea (until called upon it by news broadcasters), suggested Russian computer hackers seize and publicize Hillary Clinton’s “personal” emails from her server and proposed that Baltic nations and others in NATO be U.S. extortion victims if they want our military protection in the event Putin tries to seize those lands.
Manafort now controls the Trump campaign machinery, to the extent that Trump allows him to do so. However, Trump’s refusal to announce support for the campaigns of Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain has led to at least one report that Manafort is losing his grip on the campaign.
Maybe. But Trump seems to have adopted Manafort’s laissez faire view of international conflict. There are no suggestions that Stone, who holds no formal post in the Trump campaign, does not have the candidate’s ear.
The point here is not the extraordinarily shady and disreputable histories of Stone and Manafort. Rather, it is to raise the question:
What sort of leader for America would retain or listen to such men?
History speaks to us of such a leader. We should listen.