Most observers of the GOP convention in Cleveland are fixated on the disorder on the floor, Melania Trump’s apparent plagiarism of a speech by Michelle Obama, and the overly lengthy speech by a former three-star general. But something far more insidious occurred in the hall in Cleveland last night.
I stood on a platform some years ago overlooking what is now a parking lot overrun with weeds in Nuremberg, Germany. This used to be Zeppelin Field, where Adolf Hitler yelled and screamed his way to party unity at his annual rallies. And when I watched Rudolph Giuliani address the convention last night, my thoughts went back to a time and place that our civilization wishes it could take back.
I am not comparing the former mayor of New York City or Donald Trump to Hitler, but one would have to be ignorant of history to miss the severe and scary parallels between the mood, tone, and rhetoric of the Trump movement and the rise of the National Socialists in pre-war Germany. As a history major and part Jew, these details land a bit harder on me. On 9/11, I was sitting in my History of Nazi Germany class and as we watched footage of the towers falling, my professor remarked something to the effect of: “no matter what happens moving forward, we must not become like them.”
While Giuliani was almost uncontrollably waving his arms and screaming into the microphone last night, I saw a bloodlust in the eyes of the delegates. Each and every time he said the word “Muslim” the eyes of these largely white and middle-aged delegates burned a little hotter, their cheers taking on a primeval quality.
I’ve been a pretty good Republican in my adult years. I helped out the Romney and Rubio campaigns, and I think there are some real stars in the party, such as Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. Ben Sasse.
But my country is more important than my party. A few years ago a group of my Naval Academy classmates and I wrote a book talking about our experiences graduating into war in 2002. I can tell you with certainty that exactly zero of my shipmates went to the battlefield excited about killing the enemy. They did it because it was their job to keep America safe. No one jumped up and down with passionate tales of killing those damn terrorists.
America wins, has always won, with cold and calculated temperance. With resolve and a strong moral compass.
Trump is not the answer. This is not because I’d like to see Hillary Clinton occupy the White House, but because I’d like to see America keep its identity as the bastion of free thought and compassion in our world.
John Ennis advised the Romney and Rubio Campaigns on defense policy. He is a former Pentagon speechwriter and co-author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, In the Shadow of Greatness.