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Franz Von Papen Was Wrong, And So Is Paul Ryan

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Franz Von Papen Was Wrong, And So Is Paul Ryan

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan talks to reporters during an event to discuss the Republican Party's anti-poverty plan at House of Help City of Hope in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In 1933, Franz von Papen was hungry for revenge.

Having been ousted as chancellor of Germany through political subterfuge, he wanted payback against the former ally who had succeeded him. So he struck a new alliance, this one with Adolf Hitler, leader of a rising popular movement called the Nazis, and maneuvered to have him appointed chancellor. Von Papen didn’t think much of his partner. Like most political observers, he considered Hitler a noisy buffoon. Von Papen was certain he could control him once in power.

House Speaker Paul Ryan seems to have made a similar calculation last week in endorsing another noisy buffoon, Donald Trump.

He is not, of course, the first Republican to do so. While the likes of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney have shown statesmanlike courage and refused Trump their support, other big names have shown all the spinal fortitude of Gumby. This includes New York Rep. Peter King (who once called Trump a “feckless pretender”), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (who said he was less qualified for the presidency than “a speck of dirt”), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (who described him as “the most vulgar person” to ever run for president) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, (who proclaimed him “a madman who must be stopped”).

It is not unheard of for a politician to hang a philosophical U-turn on a candidate once the primaries are decided. But it is unheard of — perhaps even unprecedented — for so many to do so having criticized the candidate in such harsh and personal terms. Paul now thinks a man less qualified than dirt should run the country? Jindal now wants to give a “madman” access to the nuclear codes?

That’s not a U-turn. That’s a U-turn in an 18-wheeler with bad brakesdoing 90.

Now Ryan adds his name to this list of moral imbecility. After weeks of ostentatious agonizing, he finally declared his support in a statement that, like so many others, was mainly noteworthy for its tepidity. “I’ll be voting for (at)realDonaldTrump this fall,” he tweeted. “I’m confident he will help turn the House GOP’s agenda into laws.”

The very next day, Ryan was forced to condemn his nominee for another spasm of the graceless, clueless, classless behavior that has long characterized him. Meaning his claim that a federal judge hearing the case against the apparent fraud that is Trump University should recuse himself because he is a “Mexican” and therefore unfit to fairly judge a man whose attacks on undocumented Mexican immigrants are the stuff of political legend. It didn’t seem to matter to Trump that this particular “Mexican” was born in Indiana. Indeed, he doubled down, later adding that a Muslim judge would also be unfit.

This blatant bigotry, said Ryan, was “out of left field.” Which is bull. When you know a man is adored by David Duke and other white supremacists, when you’ve seen him tweet racist material, heard him call Mexicans “rapists” and say the border should be closed to Muslims, you don’t get to play the startled ingenue when he says something racist.

Does Ryan really believe this guy will be guided by “the House GOP’s agenda”? Does he really think a man who has reached this lofty point by ignoring convention will suddenly agree to be constrained by it once he has achieved power commensurate with his ego?

Apparently, he does. And that’s pathetic.

Some people will resist comparing Ryan with von Papen. But history teaches, when we allow it to. It imparts lessons, if we only listen. The lesson here is that leadership requires sound judgment, the ability to see what is right in front of you and understand it for what it is. Von Papen did not. He saw only a noisy buffoon he thought he could control. Ryan should take note.

Because, as it turned out, von Papen was wrong.

Photo: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan talks  to reporters during an event to discuss the Republican Party’s anti-poverty plan at House of Help City of Hope in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. charleo1 June 8, 2016

    Trump will never be President. But the rise of such a buffoon as Trump from the status of media gadfly, to t.v. personality, to birther advocate, and then to the nominee to become one could argue, the singularly most powerful person on the planet, should give us all pause. And also, much trepidation about what in the hell is happening to people that would cause them to think this man is qualified in any way to be President? Or might be trusted with the fate of our Nation for even a millisecond, God forbid, the next four years!

    “PPP.” Trump stammered yesterday in baffled response to an audience member’s hoping to get the fraudster’s opinion on the giant international trade deal, Trans-Pacific-Partnership. PPP? Ah yes, that thing. (cough-sputter) Are these so called leaders of the once grand, now lunies-toons, charade of a Party kidding us with this shyster? I long to once again live in a country where a joke was just a joke, and Americans knew one when they saw it….And didn’t try to elect it President.

    1. FireBaron June 8, 2016

      Sorry, charleo, but Trump is exactly what the right-wing media has crafted him to be – the jingoistic, misogynist, xenophobic, racist, know-nothing standard bearer for the GOP. Frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing “He’s only saying what we are all thinking.” Don’t know about you but his lack of thought process comes no where near what I or any other reasonable human being actually thinks. His oral ejaculations of hate disgust me.
      And, what is worse, people I consider to be reasonable are slavering at the mouth waiting for his inauguration! My only assumption is that they are only listening to the surface of what he is saying, and not the undertone or implications. They are not paying attention to the words and deeds of his followers and supporters. They also have the misguided belief that Trump can accomplish by Presidential Fiat the magical restoration of all jobs that were off-shored (I wonder if that includes ones that Trump off-shored, too), and replace all H1-B workers with domestic workers, and magically deport between 7 and 11 million immigrants here illegally!

      1. charleo1 June 8, 2016

        I agree. But let me share with you something just as important. You are not alone, and it is they who are in the minority. As Hillary Clinton made note of last night, (6-8-16.) She said, this is not an ordinary election, with the same Democratic, and Republican back and forth about taxation, the size of government, and so on. What it is about, she went on to say, is about who we are as a Nation. And whether a candidate in such a diverse country as ours, can run for the highest office embracing the divisive politics of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, by appealing to the fears, and lowest common denominator of voters, and win. She said, we are better than that. That the Country deserves better than Donald Trump. Who not only wants to build a wall at the border, but walls between Americans. Then, she recited the part of our pledge of allegiance that goes, “One Nation, under God, indivisible, with justice, and liberty for all.” It is I believe a winning foundational truth about our Country, in which the vast majority of Americans totally agree. And have demonstrated time and again, over the years when we as a Country have had this choice. And I thoroughly believe we will continue on that course once again.

      2. Dominick Vila June 8, 2016

        Great post!

      3. plc97477 June 8, 2016

        I think a lot of the slaverers are hoping that after 4 years with the orange idiot in charge that everyone will be happy to elect anything but. That assumes he is not going to totally annihilate the country if not the whole planet.

  2. stcroixcarp June 8, 2016

    Paul Ryan, the wonder child of the Republican party, has been instrumental in crafting an evil agenda for this country. He wants to privatize and cut social security and medicare. Destroy all all safety nets for the poor, outlaw abortion, and privatize public education. He is Trump’s police wonk. He needs to be defeated by the people of his district. He endorses Trump who is not only the face of the republican party but its heart and soul.

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  3. pisces63 June 8, 2016

    The most insulting thing about his statement? He made it after a meeting on poverty in DC. Making this statement in front of a group of black people the right disparages at every turn.

  4. pisces63 June 8, 2016

    Oh, everyone. I hope you are waiting with baited breath on the Donald’s extensive speech on the Clintons, Monday. OOOOOHHHH, I just can’t wait.

    1. FireBaron June 8, 2016

      Doesn’t matter what he says. At least 95% will be either unsubstantiated rumors or damn lies. The other 5% will be stuff what was proven to be non-existent. However, his scum-sucking followers will believe every excremental utterance from his pie-hole.

  5. Arie June 8, 2016

    “As the Presidential campaign progressed, I was hoping the rhetoric would tone down and reflect a campaign that was inclusive, thoughtful and principled. While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.”


    Mark Kirk is the Republican US senator for Ilinois.

    This is the example Ryan, McCain etc. should have followed.

    1. mellowjohn June 8, 2016

      Mark Kirk is the soon-to-be former Republican US senator for Illinois.
      fixed it for you.

      1. CrankyToo June 8, 2016

        Make it happen, Illinois.

    2. Janice R. Veach Walter June 8, 2016

      Everyone of those Republican politicians should have followed this example, or come up with it on their own. They will destroy the party my family has supported for generations. The tide is turning.

  6. Paul Bass June 8, 2016

    Paul Ryan, forever a GOP weasel, do we expect anything less?

    1. charleo1 June 8, 2016

      Expect less? no. But then, I’m hardly ever surprised either. Threatening to force the economy off a debt cliff in the middle of the deepest recession in 80 years, because the President was Black, and so he had to fail, was a real eye opener for me, that nothing is out of bounds for the American Taliban Party. The filthy seditionists tearing at the fabric of our democracy.

  7. latebloomingrandma June 8, 2016

    I think it was Maya Angelou who said that if someone shows you who they are, believe them. Donald has shown us, in spades. And everyone should run from him. Last night’s speech was so not him, and he looked immensely uncomfortable saying words that were not his.

  8. Elliot J. Stamler June 8, 2016

    I usually don’t agree much with Leonard Pitts but as a long-time avocational historian of the Third Reich I must acknowledge he has his historical facts right.
    Von Papen, a very conservative Catholic politician and former Chancellor of Germany (briefly) schemed with other very conservative German businessmen to ease Hitler in as Pitts writes…and more than anyone else, was responsible for persuading the very elderly, senile German President, Von Hindenburg, who intensely disliked Hitler, into appointing him. Von Papen was rewarded with becoming Vice Chancellor.
    Here is the further reward that Von Papen, the cynical worm, got. Within a year or so he was forced by the Nazis out of his job. In the 1934 Hitler purge (The Night Of The Long Knives) the Nazis came to murder him but he was saved because his good friend, Hermann Goering, sent squads of police to protect him. At the end of WWII he stood trial with the other German leaders at Nuremberg but he was one of only 3 acquitted because disgusting and vile as he was the Allies couldn’t legally pin on him charges for conspiring and waging aggressive war or crimes against humanity-even ‘tho Von Papen continued to loyally serve Hitler throughout the 3rd Reich’s years.
    So maybe Paul Ryan and the rest of the spineless wonders could take a lesson from where they’ll wind up if OUR HITLER with his orange hair and 100% cruel and evil personality, comes into power.

  9. stsintl June 8, 2016

    The thinking among the Republican leadership is that they, with the financial backing of their SuperPACS, will pick the VP [Virtual President] for Donald Drumpf’s ticket, just as they did in 2000 when they picked the infamous Dick Cheney to run the Oval Office while GWB signed the papers as POTUS. All Donald wants is to go down in the history books as POTUS. He could care less about the responsibilities of the Oval Office. The Virtual Presidsent will run the government as per Paul Ryan’s agenda. This is a win-win strategy. In politics, there is no room for moral integrity or “Social Responsibility”.

  10. Insinnergy June 8, 2016

    So we’ve had the conservative outrage machine screaming for Hillary’s head for months now over the POSSIBILITY that she may have broken a rule by having her email on a private server, yet she still hasn’t even been charged with anything…

    We are now treated to the news that Donald Trump… also running for president… is actually in multiple courts… fighting multiple actual counts… of breaking actual laws.

    So where is your aggrieved whining, oh so law-abiding conservative ones?

    Where is your moral outrage that a Presidential Candidate has been … *pause for effect*… BREAKING THE LAW!

    Where is your sense of proportionality when we have an email server versus scamming old people and Students out of money on a wealth con??

    Yeah: Nowhere.
    You hypocritical retards.


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