On a weekend in which major American cities are in peril thanks in no small part to Republicans sticking their fingers in their ears for years, some media observers are ready for Trump to step up to the plate and become president. Really, really ready. Desperately ready. So ready, in fact, that they’re seizing on any little detail—in this case, Trump’s debt-ceiling deal with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi—and using it as an emblem of the dignified, reasonable Trump presidency they’re sure is just around the corner. Barring that, they want to stop Trump—whose unembarrassed embrace of the politics of racial resentment make him the purest embodiment of the modern Republican Party to ever hold office—from dragging the GOP down with him.
The AP declared—the same week Trump ended DACA—that we were now seeing “Trump the independent. … unbound by ideology and untethered by party allegiances.” At the New York Times, Peter Baker presented credulous readers with a Promethean Trump who had upended “150 years of two-party rule” and should be considered “the first independent to hold the presidency since the advent of the current two-party system around the time of the Civil War.” Even when the story itself didn’t make the ludicrous argument that Trump was not at home in the Republican Party, people tried to spin it that way. Here’s how Washington Post reporter Robert Costa promoted an article by Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker headlined “ ‘Trump Betrays Everyone’: The President has a Long Record as an Unpredictable Ally.”
It’s the best press Trump has gotten since the sickening wave of praise he got for launching missiles into Syria, but it won’t be the last time this happens. Trump’s ascent—and everything it implies about the United States and its institutions—seems to have broken a few brains. Every few weeks, someone writes an article introducing the world to a new Trump: older, wiser, and at long last, a statesman. Ten seconds later, New Trump milkshake-ducks his way back into disgrace, and everyone goes looking for another scrap of evidence to hang their hopes on. It’s such a pathological cycle that it seems like it might have happened before.
It turns out it did! The 1930s were a decade during which Adolf Hitler, it is now generally agreed, did some bad things. Establishing a German dictatorship, murdering his political rivals, passing the Nuremberg Laws, rearming Germany, building a network of concentration camps, overseeing Kristallnacht, invading Poland, and executing disabled people look, in retrospect, like the actions of a bloodthirsty, racist madman. But wouldn’t it be prettier to think that a great nation like Germany would never consent to be led by someone so evil? Barring that, wouldn’t it be nice to believe that vague concepts like “the dignity and responsibility of public office” would have a civilizing influence, forcing even evil men to do good things? American journalists sure thought so! Here’s a brief anthology of press clippings in which the pundits of the day introduced their readers to a new Hitler, a statesmanlike Hitler, a “freewheeling, transactional poll who looks for wins.”
You can read the actual examples at Slate.