Reviewed by Carol Moeller —
Lest we think Trumpism is new and unique, Rachel Maddow highlights situations in the 1930s and 1940s in our nation’s history that have eerily similar parallels to Trump’s efforts today. Maddow backs up her stories of sedition, as well as authoritarian and fascist forces by people in power, with speeches and witness recordings obtained from the National Archives. In the lead up to WW II, Hitler engineered a propaganda program within the United States that used American politicians who favored isolationism to propagate Nazi ideas. Funding for these efforts came directly from the Hitler government. An anti-Semitic and racist radio evangelical urged his followers to stockpile weapons to use during a promised civil war; funding was provided by Hitler to interfere with the American election; an isolationist “America First” (sound familiar?) Committee existed in Congress; franking privileges were used by congressmen to spread Nazi propaganda, all of which resonates quite clearly with what has been going on recently. Adding color to all of this was a suspicious plane crash that killed a politician deeply implicated in championing Nazi ideals, the report of the burning of multitudes of implicating documents, and finally, the sudden death of a judge overseeing the resulting sedition trial (which resulted in the trail being abandoned). Merrick Garland no doubt is aware of the extreme difficulties faced during that trial, as well as the disheartening result.
Once FDR had passed, the new President (Truman) and his Attorney General sealed the report of a Justice Department official who uncovered a 30,000-page trove of documents in Germany which backed up all the above and implicated 24 well-connected congressmen. That official was understandably incensed by this, so he leaked relevant details and gave a series of speeches around the country about what he had found. He went “ultra vires” (going beyond one’s legal authority) to get his findings published, though unfortunately that didn’t happen until years later when most of those involved were out of office (which is why many of us had never heard of all this). Because justice was not served in this case by our Justice Department, Maddow emphasizes that it is individuals like this journalist who deserve credit for going ultra vires in insuring at least that the record be set straight.
Check out Rachel Maddow’s Ultra podcast here.
Excellent work! I appreciate each contributor taking the time to inform us on happenings that some of us missed during the month.
I have listened to all of the episodes of Rachel’s podcast. They are well done and, like her show, almost mesmerizing to hear. The biggest surprise for me was the cozy relationship that Harry Truman had with one of the leading villains. The Justice Department utterly failed on this one.