Sep. 28th, 2016
When this election began, I was like millions of millennial men: a "Bernie bro" rooting hard for Sen. Sanders.
Watching the candidate of my dreams get steam late and lose in the primary wasn't so different from watching my favorite football team not have enough energy to complete a fourth quarter rally. Hopeful, exciting, but ultimately deflating and disappointing.
When Hillary Clinton became the presumptive Democratic nominee, I was distraught. Months before I had written about her, explaining that I despised her not for her gender — as some of her supporters accused — but for her hawkishness, her center-left policies, her husband's crime bill that incarcerated so many people of color, her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and her inability to get progressive on climate change policy.
I've spent almost every waking hour of every day following this election, reading about Hillary, Donald Trump, both parties' platforms, and the under-qualified Libertarian and Green Party candidates running. ...
Let's start with a simple but important position: Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to ever run for president....
Throughout her time in public service, Hillary Clinton has negotiated ceasefires in Israel, put the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equity Act into law, authored the Pediatric Research Equity Act (which helped re-label drugs to keep millions of children safe), and she got the EU, Russia, China and other world powers to participate in the crippling sanctions on Iran that forced the country to negotiate its nuclear plan out of existence. All while enduring propaganda that thrust Benghazi and the Clinton Foundation — from which there's also been no evidence of wrongdoing, in fact, quite the contrary — into the public's mind.
And throughout all that time, Clinton has traveled the world advocating a better life for women in places where that concept wasn't even on the radar. She's pushed for paternity leave here in the United States, and became a symbol of women's rights and women's progress everywhere. Looking at Secretary Clinton and reading about her accomplishments, it's tough to think that it was just 100 years ago the U.S. elected the first woman to Congress. That 100 years later, she's our first female candidate for president to win a primary.
How did Adolf Hitler — described by one eminent magazine editor in 1930 as a “half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” a “big mouth” — rise to power in the land of Goethe and Beethoven? What persuaded millions of ordinary Germans to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred? How did this “most unlikely pretender to high state office” achieve absolute power in a once democratic country and set it on a course of monstrous horror?
Mr. Ullrich sets out to strip away the mythology that Hitler created around himself in “Mein Kampf,” and he also tries to look at this “mysterious, calamitous figure” not as a monster or madman, but as a human being with “undeniable talents and obviously deep-seated psychological complexes.”
“In a sense,” he says in an introduction, “Hitler will be ‘normalized’ — although this will not make him seem more ‘normal.’ If anything, he will emerge as even more horrific.”
Mr. Ullrich, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a “Munich rabble-rouser” — regarded by many as a self-obsessed “clown” with a strangely “scattershot, impulsive style” — into “the lord and master of the German Reich.”
• Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who “only loved himself” — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a “characteristic fondness for superlatives.” His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. But Mr. Ullrich underscores Hitler’s shrewdness as a politician — with a “keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people” and an ability to “instantaneously analyze and exploit situations.”
• Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”
• Hitler was an effective orator and actor, Mr. Ullrich reminds readers, adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences. Although he concealed his anti-Semitism beneath a “mask of moderation” when trying to win the support of the socially liberal middle classes, he specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements borrowed from the circus. Here, “Hitler adapted the content of his speeches to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners,” Mr. Ullrich writes. He peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers. Even as he fomented chaos by playing to crowds’ fears and resentments, he offered himself as the visionary leader who could restore law and order....
He benefited from a “constellation of crises that he was able to exploit cleverly and unscrupulously” — in addition to economic woes and unemployment, there was an “erosion of the political center” and a growing resentment of the elites. The unwillingness of Germany’s political parties to compromise had contributed to a perception of government dysfunction, Mr. Ullrich suggests, and the belief of Hitler supporters that the country needed “a man of iron” who could shake things up.
• Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity, and by foreign statesmen who believed they could control his aggression. Early on, revulsion at Hitler’s style and appearance, Mr. Ullrich writes, led some critics to underestimate the man and his popularity, while others dismissed him as a celebrity, a repellent but fascinating “evening’s entertainment.”
Edit: More on this, with linkage.