A quiet man

I was just reading this interview with former US Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, about Donald Trump. You could see the cutting edge of Trump apologetics, on the way to determining that the Republican establishment has always been allied with Trump. The trick is to reinterpret Trump’s crude thinking as simply crude (or bold, down-to-earth) formulation of very clever, even sophisticated thinking. And then there’s this:

Isaac Chotiner: You were at a meeting on Monday with other Washington figures and Trump. What did you make of him?

Newt Gingrich: Well, Callista and I were both very impressed. In that kind of a setting he talks in a relatively low tone. He is very much somebody who has been good at business. And he listens well. He outlined the campaign as he saw it. I think he did a good job listening. He occasionally asked clarifying questions. He was very open to critical advice. I am not going to get into details, but I will say my overall impression was that in that setting he was totally under control…

Does none of Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans or Muslims worry you or upset you?

I think he was too strong in talking about illegal immigrants in general, although if you look at the number of people who have been killed by people who aren’t supposed to be here, there is a fair argument on the other side too.

It makes him seem like a reasonable guy who occasionally gets carried away when speaking with the common folk.

Hitler comparisons are almost never useful, whether for insight or political rhetoric. Trump is not Hitler. Even among 1930s fascist dictators, Hitler is not the one Trump most resembles. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but be reminded of something Albert Speer wrote, explaining why as a young academic he found himself drawn to Hitler:

What was decisive for me was a speech Hitler made to students, and which my students finally persuaded me to attend. From what I had read in the opposition press, I expected to find a screaming, gesticulating fanatic in uniform, instead of which we were confronted with a quiet man in a dark suit who addressed us in the measured tones of an academic. I’m determined one day to look up newspapers of that time to see just what it was he said that so impressed me. But I don’t think he attacked the Jews….

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