The US-quisling, Charles A. Lindbergh, wrote his memoir in 1978 and the book (in both hardcover and paperback versions) currently sells for 1¢. This blogger predicts that The Art of the Deal also will sell for the same price by the end of November 2016. Neither Lindbergh nor Donald T. (for "The") Chump are worth one red cent. If this is a (fair & balanced) example of political market analysis, so be it.
[x The New Yorker]
America First, For Charles Lindbergh And Donald Trump
By Louisa Thomas
TagCrowd cloud of the following piece of writing
When the New York Times interviewed Donald Trump in March, one of the reporters, David Sanger, suggested that Trump’s foreign policy could be summed up as “America First”—“a mistrust of many foreigners, both our adversaries and some of our allies, a sense that they’ve been freeloading off of us for many years.”
“Correct. OK? That’s fine,” Trump responded. Sanger pressed him to be sure. “I’ll tell you—you’re getting close,” Trump said, in his typically staccato style. “Not isolationist, I’m not isolationist, but I am ‘America First.’ So I like the expression. I’m ‘America First.’ “
Apparently, he liked it a lot—so much that he has made the phrase the centerpiece of his campaign. “America first,” Donald Trump said during his major foreign-policy address in April, “will be the overriding theme of my Administration.” He tweeted it, and he turned it into a hashtag. He named his energy plan after it. At the Republican National Convention, “Make America First Again” was the theme of one night’s program.
OK, as Trump would say.
Sixty-five years ago, the spokesman for America First was another celebrity, Charles Lindbergh, who was famous for his historic solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic, and because of the kidnapping and murder of his child, which was reported so exhaustively and sensationally by the press that it became known as “The Crime of the Century.” In 1935, Lindbergh and his family fled to Europe. Unlike Trump, he didn’t want the notoriety. He was a man of secrets. He sought privacy.
But he also wanted order. In the years immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War, he visited Germany, and it impressed him. While the rest of the world seemed to crumble, Germany struck him for its “organized vitality.” “I have never in my life been so conscious of such a directed force,” Lindbergh recalled in his 1978 memoir, Autobiography of Values. “It is thrilling when seen.” He toured the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, and became convinced that no power in Europe—or the United States—could defeat it. A war with Germany would be bad for the United States, he believed. And it would be bad for “the white races.” He condemned Kristallnacht, but he wrote, in an infamous essay published by Reader’s Digest in November, 1939, weeks after the war in Europe began, that Western nations “can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood.”
In 1940, Lindbergh, who had by then returned to the US, was recruited to speak on behalf of America First, an antiwar group founded by several Yale students (including Gerald Ford, the future President, and Potter Stewart, the future Supreme Court Justice) who saw the Second World War as an awful consequence of the First—and who were determined to avoid another disastrous war. The group attracted a wide range of supporters, from celebrities to pacifists (including the leader of the Socialist Party, Norman Thomas, who was my great-grandfather); America First also included more than its share of people whose views had less to do with the catastrophes of the First World War than with their nativism and xenophobia. At its peak, it had eight hundred thousand dues-paying members, many in the Midwest. Lindbergh was the ideal spokesman: charismatic, handsome, brave, sympathetic. His appeal was democratic—until it wasn’t.
On September 11, 1941, Lindbergh gave a speech to a huge crowd in Des Moines, in which he described the agitators for the US to enter the war. There were three groups: the British, the government, and “the Jewish race.” “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government,” he told the audience.
“I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people,” he added. “Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.”
Much has been made of Trump’s place in the lineage of populists and demagogues and authoritarians—everyone from Andrew Jackson to Mussolini. It’s tempting to substitute “Muslims” or “Latinos” for “the Jewish race” and hear echoes of Lindbergh’s speech in Trump’s fear-mongering about so-called foreign threats in American society (or, given that Trump has been at best slow to disavow the anti-Semitism of some of his supporters, leave it as is). The two men do share something beyond the magnetism of celebrity: a suspicion that the nation is under threat from alien elements; a narrow definition of what it means to be an American; and an expressed belief that they speak the impolitic truth on behalf of those who are suppressed by political correctness. But Lindbergh was not Trump, and Trump is not Lindbergh. “Lindbergh did not have political ambitions,” his biographer A. Scott Berg told me (never mind what Philip Roth imagined). Nor did he seek fame. “That’s why he is buried at the edge of a cliff at the edge of Hawaii,” Berg added. “He’s still running away.”
The more interesting comparison may be in the public’s response. Anti-Semitism was prevalent in Lindberg’s time; his attitudes were not fringe. He had not made a secret of his interest in eugenics, nor his racial attitudes, which today seem reprehensible. But with that 1941 speech he seemed to cross a line. He was strongly and swiftly condemned for his anti-Semitic and divisive words—not only by interventionists who were opposed to America First but by those who had lionized him. The Des Moines Register called his speech “so intemperate, so unfair, so dangerous in its implications that it cannot but turn many spadefuls in the digging of the grave of his influence in this country.” The Hearst papers, which were generally sympathetic to the non-interventionists—and open about their hatred of Franklin Roosevelt—condemned Lindbergh, calling his speech “un-American.” His home town took his name off its water tower. Three months later, the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbor. Lindbergh, who had resigned his commission in the Air Force at the demand of Roosevelt, asked to be recommissioned; Roosevelt denied the request. In the public’s view, too, Lindbergh was disgraced. His reputation did not fully recover.
A few days ago, the Times interviewed Trump again, and Sanger returned to the phrase. “Think about its historical roots,” Sanger said.
“To me, America First is a brand-new modern term. I never related it to the past,” Trump said. People had pointed out that it was, as Trump put it, “a historical term,” but he denied the resonance. He might as well have said, as his campaign at first had about Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech, that “America First” used “common words.” It may be that he really doesn’t care that some people hear disturbing echoes. He may not have thought a thing when the Anti-Defamation League asked him to stop using the phrase, in March, and redirected fifty-six thousand dollars in donations from the Trump family to anti-bullying and anti-bias causes.
Trump traffics in nostalgia, after all, not history. And, unlike Lindbergh, he has never truly suffered for his views. History, it turns out, does not always repeat itself. Ω
[Louisa Thomas is a contributing writer for The New Yorker (online). She is the author of Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams (2016), a biography of the wife of John Quincy Adams. She also has written for Slate and Grantland. Thomas received a BA, summa cum laude (English) from Harvard University. Norman Thomas was her great-grandfather.]
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