Heinz Guderian was a German general who played an important role in the development of Blitzkrieg tactics. He was also a highly effective field commander, known to his men by the nickname “Hurrying Heinz.”
Also not a bad writer–here’s his description of the character of Adolph Hitler:
He had no real friend. His oldest Party comrades were, it is true, disciples, but they could hardly be described as friends. So far as I can see there was nobody who was really close to him. There was nobody in whom he would confide his deepest feelings. There was nobody with whom he could talk freely and openly. As he never found a true friend, so he was denied the ability to deeply love a woman. He remained unmarried. He had no children. Everything that on this earth that casts a glow of warmth over our life as mortals, friendship with fine men, the pure love for a wife, affection for one’s own children, all this was and remained for ever unknown to him. His path thru the world was a solitary one and he followed it alone, with only his gigantic plans for company.
There is an interesting parallel between the above excerpt and a passage in Thomas Carlyle’s review of Faust, published in 1822:
Mephistopheles is not the common devil of poetry, but one much more adapted to his functions. It is evident that he was a devil from the first and can be nothing else. He is emphatically ‘the Denyer’, he fears nothing, complains of nothing, hopes for nothing. Magnanimity, devotion, affection, all that can sweeten or embellish existence, he looks upon as childish mummery.
(No, I’m not accusing Guderian of plagiarism…there are things a lot worse than plagiarism of which he could be justly accused! But it is very likely that he read Faust in school, and I wonder if he might have also been exposed to early commentary on the play, including the Carlyle piece.)
While searching for the Guderian quote (in conjunction with my recent Faust post), I ran across this blog post, which attempts to draw parallels between Guderian’s description of Hitler’s character, and…the character of Donald Trump. The blogger does this by interspersing passages from the Guderian quote with comments about Trump made by Mark Shields and David Brooks in a PBS Newshour appearance.
(Now, personally, I don’t see why anyone would consider a man who evaluates presidential candidates by the quality of the crease of their trousers as a particularly good source for analysis and insight, but whatever…)
Something is missing from the linked blog post, as it is from many similar Trump denunciations….and that is the name Hillary Clinton. Because Trump isn’t running in a vacuum, he isn’t running against, say, JFK or Harry Truman or even Jimmy Carter; he is running against Hillary Clinton, and barring some unlikely event or events, one of the other of them is going to be President.
And I would assert that whatever degree of match there might be between Trump’s character and the character outlined in the Guderian piece, the match is considerably stronger in the case of Hillary Clinton.
There is practically a cottage industry…heck, not a cottage industry, but a major well-financed industry, so large that it should probably have its own SIC code…devoted to producing denunciations of Trump…via magazine, newspaper, blog post, and television..without considering the realities of the alternative.
Here, for example, is a long article with the title How President Donald Trump could ruin his enemies’ lives. The writer points out the vast array of leverage points that a President can bring to bear to destroy an individual or a business. While discussing the hypothetical tyrannical acts of a Donald Trump presidency, however, she neglects to discuss the actual, real, non-hypothetical things that have actually been done by the forces aligned with Hillary Clinton and by Clinton herself. The IRS persecution of conservative political organizations and their principals, for example. The Hillary Clinton response to Benghazi: “We are going to have the filmmaker arrested.” The college students who are being persecuted by star-chamber proceedings in the name of political correctness.
(And as Grim notes, there would be “much institutional resistance…to a Trump attempt to turn a bureaucracy made up very disproportionately of Democrats against his enemies. A Clinton attempt, by contrast, would be as happily embraced as the Obama attempts have been.”)
There appears to be much fear that Trump would unleash mob violence. For example: writing in Commentary, James Kirchick says, “Donald Trump is the candidate of the mob, and the mob always ends up turning on the Jews.”
There are certainly some unpleasant characters among Trump supporters. But the actual mob behavior over the last decade and a half, including especially mob behavior targeted at Israel and at Jews in general, has been largely driven by the “progressive” Left. Is Kirchick really unaware of the huge number of outbreaks of leftist thuggery, of which I described a small sample in my post The United States of Weimar??
I believe that much of the willingness to support Clinton, even by people who are opposed to most of her policies and don’t much care for her record, is driven by matters of verbal style…that is, the fact that she talks in a way that Americans have grown accustomed to having their politicians talk. This has led to a great over-estimate of her competence. Someone at Ricochet quoted Jonah Goldberg as saying Hillary is the competent pilot that wants to take us to a bad place. Trump wants to take us to a place that doesn’t exist (maybe never existed) and on top of that doesn’t even know how to navigate or even fly a plane.
I do not see the slightest evidence that Hillary Clinton is a “competent pilot.” Is she an effective executive? When questioned about the failures that led to the Benghazi debacle, she said “I AM the Secretary of State, and the ARB (Accountability Review Board) made it very clear that the level of responsibility for the failures that they outlined, sat at the level of Assistant Secretary and below.” And also, “1.4 million cables come to us each year, all of them addressed to me.”
As I argued in my post excusing failure by pleading incompetence, these responses clearly demonstrate that Hillary Clinton has no idea at all of what executive management is all about. An executive is not only or even primarily responsible for his or her own individual tasks—he or she is responsible for the work of the people in the organization, and for organizing that work properly and effectively.
These responsibilities include establishing an information and decision-flow architecture…including clear assignment of responsibilities…to ensure that the right things are seen and acted upon by the right people at the right time. Failure to do this..and to maintain and tune the system over time…will predictably result in catastrophes. There is no indication that Hillary understands any of this.
In what other aspects of “flying or navigating the plane” has Clinton demonstrated competence? Is she an effective negotiator? Is she a good motivator of subordinates? Does she understand modern warfare? Does she have any understanding of how the economy actually works?
If one wants to use the “pilot” metaphor, I’d argue that Clinton is like someone who has taken a lot of airplane rides and hung around airports a lot, and picked up quite a bit of jargon, but has no idea of how it all fits together or what most of it actually means.
Look, we have a bad choice this year, two terribly flawed candidates. But focusing on and amplifying the flaws of one candidate, while ignoring and covering up those of the other, is not a very wise way to proceed.
Personally, I’m far from thrilled with Trump. But I think Hillary is so terrible that her election would likely lead to policies and to a social milieu so bad as to be unrecoverable for decades, if ever.