Goldstein: The Better of Two Evils

Impeachment will only make a martyr of Trump.

by Matthew Goldstein | 5/18/17 12:25am

In 1944, one year before the end of World War II, the British Special Operations Executive — a secret wing of the British military formed for the purposes of espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines — devised a plan to kill Adolf Hitler. In its design, a German-speaking marksman fluent in the dialect of the Bavarian district of Berchtesgadener Land would parachute in and assassinate Hitler from afar as he walked to his morning tea at the Berghof, his Alpine retreat in Bavaria, Germany. Using information provided by one of Hitler’s personal guards, captured at Normandy on D-Day, plans were drawn up for Operation Foxley, which would be the third attempted execution of the Fuhrer. But those plans, and the operation, were never realized.

The Allies recognized two things that made Hitler’s premature assassination an unadvisable strategic move. First, Hitler was an awful military strategist. His tendency to place his confidence in his own battlefield knowledge, entirely centralizing control of the Wehrmacht, stripped his vastly savvier generals of the power to effectively command their troops. If Operation Foxley were to go through, the British worried, Hitler might be replaced with a superior strategist who would be better at repelling Allied advances into mainland Europe. Second, there were worries that killing Hitler before the larger war was won would turn him into a martyr and deflect blame — in case of a German loss — from the failings of Nazism to the loss of its leader. Absent Hitler, the adherents and sycophants of national socialism might cling to it, claiming all the while that if only their Führer had not been killed, their ideology would have prevailed. But the Allies did not merely want to beat Germany tactically; they wanted to defeat the wider scourge of Nazism and demonstrate that they could topple it with Hitler still at the helm.

Speed through the geopolitical timeline 73 years later, and we find ourselves with an inept president who has fired the Federal Bureau of Investigation director responsible for investigating Russia’s role in his election to the presidency, drawing calls of obstruction of justice from lawmakers and the press. This president has invited the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. into the Oval Office for a meeting photographed only by Russian state media but barred to American press. He has, at that meeting, divulged classified information shared with the U.S. intelligence community by its Israeli allies. And he has, finally, utterly undermined his White House staff’s attempts at deflection, spin, explanation and qualification of his actions. It may not come as a surprise that a poll released after these revelations shows more Americans in favor of Trump’s impeachment than are against it — 48 percent to 41.

But Americans who have opposed President Donald Trump at every turn, and those whose ambivalence or support has taken a radical shift in light of Trump’s evident inability to do much of anything right, should bear Operation Foxley in mind. Disregard, for a moment, the blatant hypocrisy of a man who, during his campaign, smeared his opponents at every turn with allegations of improper relations with foreign officials and irresponsible handling of classified material. This and other hypocrisies may be maddening, but they are at the moment largely irrelevant irreparable wrongs. Consider only that Trump is god-king to his supporters much as Hitler was to his own and that if he is impeached, we may well face the same repercussions to which the Allies gave voice in deciding not to assassinate Hitler.

Trump is a terrible strategist — more than that, he seems to be an id-driven kindergartener without a semblance of ego, superego, self-awareness, remorse or common sense. He needlessly extends critical news cycles by tweeting out inane garbage in much the way a threatened toddler bangs his fists on the floor. He systematically undermines the work of his sideshow-freak White House staff to make him appear even somewhat reasonable. His rationales are based in emotion and swift reaction, with no regard for immediate or future consequences. There would be more questions as to his mental fitness for office if its absolute absence were not already clear. If Trump is impeached, as greater numbers of lawmakers are suggesting he should be, Vice President Mike Pence — by all accounts a far greater strategist and politician — would rise to the Oval Office.

This should concern anyone with fears about Trump’s putative legislative and executive agenda. Under Pence, who has similar — if not more stringent — views on many issues, this agenda would likely be easier to accomplish. This leads to the second argument against impeaching Trump: The supporters of Trumpism — that ill-defined nationalist, isolationist, big-R Republican coalition — will not be defeated until they have demonstrated that the movement itself, and not just Trump, is untenable. Trump, like Hitler before him, did not create populism or generate the issues driving his supporters’ undying loyalty. If he is impeached, Trumpism will not die. It may in fact strengthen, deepening divisions between those who believe his impeachment to be a blessing and those who believe he would have made America great again if just given the chance. Impeachment may indeed feed the very fire that led to Trump in the first place. It is therefore prudent not to impeach our incompetent commander-in-chief but to vote him — and all of the lackeys and hangers-on he has cultivated in politics — out of office as soon as possible.