The media laugh at any attempt to compare President Trump with former President Ronald Reagan, but there are many similarities, not the least of which are the withering attacks both men endured while running for and as president.
The extraordinary assaults by media, celebrities and jealous politicians against Mr. Trump have been unending. Their attacks include questioning his mental health, comparing him to Hitler (over and over and over again), declaring him a fascist, insisting he’s a modern-day Manchurian candidate, that he’s a traitor (because Russians!), and on and on.
The striking thing about the nature of the attacks is that they’re all personal. They are accusations meant to instill in the listener a sense of danger, provoking an existential fear of the president of the United States.
Now why would someone want to do that? And what could possibly be the result of creating that toxic environment?
Mr. Reagan withstood similar vitriol by the same and usual suspects. The Sun newspaper quoted author Steven Hayward’s recollection of the rhetoric against Mr. Reagan: “Democratic Rep. William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was “trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf.”
The Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (later a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany,” The Sun reported.
After being attacked relentlessly by fellow Republicans during the campaign, Hollywood making their condemnation known, and the media working overtime to demonize Mr. Reagan, it shouldn’t be surprising within 90 days of taking the oath of office, a lunatic shot the president.
The now-freed John Hinckley believed murdering Reagan would impress actress Jodie Foster. “I will admit to you that the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you,” the attempted assassin wrote to Ms. Foster.
“I’ve got to do something now to make you understand in no uncertain terms that I am doing all of this for your sake …. Jodie, I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance with this historical deed to gain your respect and love,” concluded the letter, written just hours before he went to the Washington Hilton, shooting the president and several others.
There’s nothing at all in Ms. Foster’s history indicating she expressed a loathing for Reagan. At the time of the shooting, she was a 19-year-old student at Yale. But it’s arguable that the overall media environment had become so toxic, a man with an already tenuous relationship with reality thought shooting the president would be a good idea and appreciated. After all, Mr. Reagan was a doltish, unhinged fascist who would start World War III simply because he was dumb. And evil, of course.
So far, the drumbeat against Mr. Trump is virtually identical. In the middle of the campaign, The Washington Post delivered an editorial titled, “Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy.”
The usual Hitler-fascist accusations are a daily narrative. Within the last two weeks, Democratic legislators started openly suggesting the president is mentally ill. The Hill reports, “A growing number of Democrats are openly questioning President Trump’s mental health. …. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during a weekend interview with CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ said that ‘a few’ Republican colleagues have expressed concern to him about Trump’s mental health.”
NPR also decided to get into the act just a few days ago with an article that mused, “At 70, Trump is the oldest American president to ever take office. Couple his age with a family history of dementia. …” Yeah, subtle.
So on one hand, he’s a Machiavellian traitor cohort of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the other, he’s a guy who is mentally ill. Oh, heck, let’s make it both. The New Republic, a leftist rag, chimed in with its obscene suggestion that the president is possibly suffering from an undiagnosed case of syphilis. Because … why not?
On Twitter and in his column at the Daily Wire, John Nolte refers to this dangerous public rhetoric against the president as “assassination dog whistles.” Then almost as if on cue, NBC News tweeted on Feb. 20, “President Trump reaches 32 days, won’t be shortest U.S. president.” So, they were expecting (hoping?) for him to not be president at this point in time?
As media rhetoric boils, last week a middle-schooler was arrested for throwing a 2x4 piece of wood at the presidential motorcade in Florida. He then implicated four other teenagers in what appears to be an attempted assault of the president. Charges are pending.
I do believe there are many similarities between Reagan and Mr. Trump. Now with the benefit of history, where are the responsible journalists and statesmen calling for the daily vitriolic personal attacks to stop? Where are the Bushes? The Cheneys? And even the Kennedys? They all know what it’s like when a president is murdered. The media should complain all they want about Mr. Trump’s policies, but focusing on demonizing the president personally isn’t politics, it’s a danger to us all.
• Tammy Bruce, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk show host.