In the wake of President Donald Trump's "unhinged" address at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona, former British ambassador Peter Westmacott joined many Americans in expressing shock at the president's rhetoric on Wednesday—comparing the rally to one that might have been seen during the rise of the Nazi state in 1930s Germany.
Shades of 1933 Germany. And an invitation to autocrats w/o America's checks & balances to play the same game more dangerously. Leadership?? https://t.co/AUkVEHmbiA— Peter Westmacott (@PeterWestmacott) August 23, 2017
The president spent much of his hour-long tirade railing against the press, declaring that most reporters "are really, really dishonest people, and they're bad people" who "don't like our country." The press coverage of the last ten days was a special focus; since last week, Trump has faced heavy criticism for his equivocation regarding a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Westmacott is just the latest observer to compare Trump's actions to those of autocrats like those of the Nazi regime. Last month the president's speech at the annual Boy Scout Jamboree was as focused as his Phoenix address was on Trump's ongoing battles with the free press and other adversaries, prompting comparisons to a Nazi Youth rally.
Writing in Foreign Policy In Focus on Wednesday, Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker argue it's time to take such Nazi-Trump comparisons seriously:
For starters, both rose to power with minority support....At his peak, Hitler managed to muster just 39 percent [of the German vote]. (Contrary to myth, he never won a popular election outright.) Trump took over the Republican Party with a similar style of demagoguery and dumb luck.
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Both Hitler and Trump have used bullying and threats to keep government officials in line. Nazi supporters intimidated, beat, and assassinated some of their opponents. Trump is no Hitler—not yet—but he’s turned his Twitter account into an intimidation tool and managed to keep the majority of his party in line with him, even with neo-Nazis chanting "Heil Trump" in the streets.
The former ambassador's comments coincided with an urgent condemnation by a United Nations panel focused on race relations to the Trump administration's troubling response to white supremacists in the United States.
Invoking its "urgent warning procedure," The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination denounced "the failure at the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject and condemn the racist violent events and demonstrations" led by white supremacists. The group also urged the U.S. to "actively contribute to the promotion of understanding, tolerance, and diversity between ethnic groups"—values which the country has historically prided itself on promoting.
The Committee generally only gives reviews of U.N. member countries' race relations every four or five years, but its urgent warning procedure is used for cases of unrest that could "spiral into terrible events," according to its chair, Anastasia Crickley.
In an interview with the New York Times, Crickley expressed shock at the glowing reviews avowed neo-Nazis gave the president after his statements on Charlottesville. "I was horrified as well by the way leaders of [the white supremacist] movement were able to state afterwards that they felt secure in their support," she said.
The last time the panel issued such a decision was last year, when it twice criticized the government of Burundi in East Africa for not addressing its human rights abuses. Before that was in 2014, in a decision concerning the so-called Islamic State group’s attacks against civilians in Iraq.