Bruce Bartlett -- former adviser and confidant to President Ronald Reagan -- compared Donald Trump's presidency to the designed-to-fail fictitious musical "Springtime for Hitler" in the Mel Brooks musical comedy "The Producers" and said that Trump's administration thus far has been "far, far worse" than he ever imagined it would be.
In an op-ed essay for Politico magazine titled "Trump is What Happens When a Political Party Abandons Ideas," Bartlett reminded readers that he wrote a satirical column in 2015 saying that the Republican Party should nominate Donald Trump for president so that he could "lose in a landslide" to Hillary Clinton and set the GOP on the road to principled reform and nudge it away from embracing the far-right fringe.
"Trump was a guaranteed loser, I thought," Bartlett said. November's election results took him by surprise as much as anyone else.
"Needless to say, I was as dumbfounded by the election results as Max Bialystock was by the success of 'Springtime for Hitler.'" he wrote. "Almost everything that has happened since November 8 has been the inverse of what I’d imagined. Trump didn’t lose; he won. The Republican Party isn’t undergoing some sort of reckoning over what it believes; his branch of the Republican Party has taken control."
Moderates, he said, have been hounded to the margins and ignored. The resulting presidency has been "far, far worse than I imagined. He has instituted policies so right wing they make Ronald Reagan, for whom I worked, look like a liberal Democrat. He has appointed staff people far to the right of the Republican mainstream in many positions, and they are instituting policies that are frighteningly extreme."
Trump, said Bartlett, has laid siege to American values and to our position in the world.
"He’s voiced not only skepticism of NATO, but outright hostility to it. He’s pulled America back from its role as an international advocate for human rights. He’s attacked the notion of an independent judiciary. He personally intervened to request the FBI to ease up on its investigation of a former adviser of his, then fired FBI Director James Comey and freely admitted he did so to alleviate the pressure he felt from Comey’s investigation. For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a 'wait-and-see' approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable," he said.
The problem is not new, however, he wrote. It began many years ago, but "Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power."
Bartlett worked under Reagan and his successor Pres. George H. W. Bush, and said that in those days, conservatives at least could be counted on to do research and analysis.
"In the 14 years since then, I have watched from the sidelines as Republican policy analysis and research have virtually disappeared altogether, replaced with sound bites and talking points," he said. "Talk radio and Fox News, where no idea too complicated for a mind with a sixth-grade education is ever heard, became the tail wagging the conservative dog."
Bartlett urged conservatives to re-intellectualize their movement on a "solid foundation of thinking, analysis and research by smart, well-educated people."
"Listening to the common man rant about things he knows nothing about," he warned, "is a dead-end that leads to Trump and failure because there is no 'there' there, just mindless rhetoric and frustration."