Four weeks after Adolf Hitler became the German Chancellor in 1933, arsonists torched the Reichstag parliament building. Hitler quickly used the attack as an excuse for wiping out his political enemies and seizing total power over Germany, and we know the rest of that horrific story. With Donald Trump sharing so many stances and ambitions similar to those of Hitler, the world has watched carefully to see if he tries to light his own Reichstag Fire. Thus far he keeps coming up empty.
Historians disagree to this day as to whether Hitler was the beneficiary of an extraordinarily well timed gift of good luck with the fire, or whether he hired the arsonists himself. But amid the historically weak start which Donald Trump finds himself off to, with exploding scandals and an imploding approval rating right out of the gate, he can’t afford to wait for a Reichstag Fire to come to him.
Trump began his quest for a game changer by taking a strange flyer on a small scale, high risk, low reward military mission in Yemen which produced no results. Perhaps he was hoping he could capture a terrorist, thus demonstrating a magical military touch right out of the gate, giving him an excuse to seize broader power. But if anything the mission backfired on him. And so this week, in a military exercise which the evidence increasingly suggests was an empty stunt aimed at doing no real damage (link), Trump lit up a Syrian air base with fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles in response to a gas attack on civilians.
That didn’t afford Trump much traction either. In fact the Gallup daily tracking poll pegged Donald Trump at the same exact approval rating the day after the Syria attack as he’d had the day before (link). The incident has also raised questions, both here on Palmer Report (link) and from the likes of MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell (link), as to whether Putin might have arranged the Syrian gas attack just to allow Trump to look victorious by pretending to retaliate. This is not the narrative Trump was looking for.
In other words, whatever Trump’s true goal in Syria, it was not accomplished. And so now tonight he’s dispatched U.S. warships to the Korean Peninsula (source: BBC) in a seeming attempt at provoking some kind of military conflict with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, and perhaps with China in the process. We’ll see how it plays out tonight and tomorrow. But if Donald Trump is still trying to light his Reichstag Fire, he’s come up empty thus far – and as his administration continues to collapse, he may be running out of time. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report