You don’t have to like Trump to think they’re out to get him
I come to you today with good news and bad news for Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters. The good news is that liberals have stopped comparing him to Adolf Hitler. The bad news is now they’re comparing him to Vladimir Putin.
This supposed insight, linking the former president to the tyrant who invaded a neighboring country, comes not from some fringe left-wing website or from the faculty lounge of a progressive institution of higher learning, where you can’t get tenure unless you hate Donald Trump. No, linking Trump and Putin comes from one of the most influential institutions in all of America, one that not only sets the agenda for what the mainstream media will cover and how they’ll cover it, but more broadly, an institution that sets the table for our national conversation about all things political and cultural.
Yes, I’m talking about the New York Times. Specifically, a piece on the opinion page, written not by some infrequent contributor you’ve never heard of — but, rather, from Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd, a longtime star of the opinion page who, like most of her fellow liberals, has absolutely no use for Donald Trump.
Dowd never tires of telling us just how much she loathes the man. She has called him a “corrupt Joker” and said he was “evil.” She has said he’s the “Kardashian” of the political world because of his ability to attract attention. She’s always coming up with clever new ways to tell the same old story. And now she’s telling us why Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are two of a kind: “Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, long entwined, continue on vile parallel paths: They would rather destroy their countries than admit they have lost.”
There’s something to that, except — and somehow Dowd missed this point — only one of them launched an illegal invasion into a neighboring country. Only one of them commands troops that torture and murder civilians, including children. Whatever else Trump is, he’s not a ruthless killer. He may demean his political enemies but he doesn’t order his henchmen to throw them out of windows. But if you’re looking for a reason to show how much you detest Donald Trump, you’ll find a way to do it. To a lot of liberals like Maureen Dowd, it’s not complicated — a thug is a thug.
“Both thugs are getting boxed in,” she tells us, “Trump by a bouquet of investigations into his chicanery and Putin by an angry public pushback against his bloody vanity war.”
Dowd is a clever writer who has a knack for using words that I have to look up. I’m sure she’s smart. But whatever else her column may be, it’s not serious journalism, opinion or otherwise, as comforting as her observations may be to her liberal readers.
“The bodies of critics and oligarchs dying in ‘accidents’ and ‘suicides’ are piling up around him,” she writes, “like a scene in ‘Goodfellas.’ He is ruining countless lives in concentric circles, from former friends, to Russian citizens yanked into a war they don’t believe in, to Ukrainians willing to die for freedom.”
That’s a fair description of Putin. But how many dead bodies has Trump been responsible for? How many fake accidents and suicides has he engineered? What peaceful country did he invade?
“They have each created a scrim of lies to justify lunatic personal ambition,” Dowd tells us. “And while it should be easy to see through these lies, both cult-of-personality leaders are able to con and bully enough people to remain puissant.” (Puissant. Look it up. I had to.)
And let’s not forget, Dowd informs us, “Both Putin and Trump are famous for accusing everyone else of their own sins.”
She writes: “It would be poetic justice to think the walls were closing in on Putin and Trump at the same time, because at some point, all this will become unsustainable. Losers, refusing to admit defeat.”
We get it. Maureen Dowd and just about every lefty who reads the New York Times doesn’t like Donald Trump. They’re hardly alone. I don’t like a whole bunch of things about Trump — from his dishonesty and his out-of-control ego, all the way to his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which made him, as his many critics have said, “a threat to democracy.”
Despite all that, serious people don’t lump Trump in with murderers like Hitler or Putin. To do so isn’t a sign of thoughtfulness. It’s a sign of laziness.
Columnists are granted a lot of leeway in what they write — and that’s how it should be. But even opinion journalists have an obligation to be fair and not use their influence to smear public figures they can’t stand.
I’m sure there are plenty of liberals who think Maureen Dowd was simply stating an obvious truth — that there’s nothing wrong with comparing Trump to Putin, or Hitler, or Genghis Khan, for that matter. That’s because a lot of liberals see anyone on “the other side” not simply as wrong or misguided, but as terminally stupid, even dangerous.
It seems to me that when you casually compare political foes to monsters — and when you do it in the New York Times, the oracle of wisdom for so many on the left — you’re the one playing a dangerous game. You’re the one pouring gasoline on the fire that’s already burning in America. And that — even if it never occurred to Maureen Dowd or to her liberal fans — is also a threat to democracy.
Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Substack page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.