With great fanfare Madeline Albright’s book, Fascism: A Warning, is being circulated to the leading lights in the publishing world. As the New York Times noted, “Who better to address these questions than Albright, whose life was shaped by fascism and whose contribution to the cultivation of democracy as a stateswoman and private citizen is unparalleled.”
However, Ms. Albright falls into the trap of converting fascism into a variety of political ideologies. For example, a factor in fascism’s rise is “the connivance of conservatives.” Yet it is conservatives that are often apprehensive about an aggressive nationalism, the foundation of fascism, and conspire to challenge its precepts.
The theoretical arguments in the book are merely the set up for an attack on “Trump’s isolationism, protectionism and fondness for dictators” which she claims, “are eroding America’s ability to lead and help solve international challenges, deepening divisions within the West and emboldening antidemocratic forces.”
Of course what is truly noteworthy about her claim is the relative success of the Trump foreign policy and the abysmal failure of Ms. Albright. It was Albright who orchestrated the absurd deal with North Korea in which it received aid from the U.S. in return for cessation of its nuclear program. While the former occurred, the latter didn’t.
Ms. Albright also said during a campaign event in New Hampshire ahead of that states primary that “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” This controversial remark was seen by many women as startling and offensive.
In addition, during NATO’s bombing of Serbia, it was revealed that her investment firm, Albright Capital Management was preparing to bid in the proposed privatization of Kosovo’s state owned telecom and postal company. It was estimated that the deal that the deal could be as large as 600 million euros.
So there you have it: a leading figure insulting key constituents in her own party; a secretary duped by a third rate power and a major figure in the Democratic party using her office for enormous personal gain. Now she lectures on fascism when the characteristics cited here are clear examples of fascism’s deployment.
Yes, President Trump has been vulgar and yes, there is a mercantilist temptation in his trade policy, but the idea he is emboldening antidemocratic forces is not a sustainable argument. In fact, one might argue that Trump is much further from the influence of fascism than Ms. Albright.
Yet this canard, this casual breezy assertion that Trump is a fascist persists. In large part it is due to his supporters who have emerged from the ranks of the disenfranchised. Many are angry at both parties and, of course, have directed their ire at Washington. Trump, the outsider, has capitalized on this support. But it should be noted these are patriots before they are nationalists, a distinction often lost on the press corps. And Trump – for better or worse – is a patriot.
By contrast Ms. Albright is an honored member of the Washington establishment. Her pedigree stands as a source of legitimacy. Her words don’t go through the cauldron of media review. She has gravitas. Recently she maintained Viktor Orban who came to power in Hungary was experiencing the painful fallout of the financial crisis. Surely this was an undeniable factor. Yet Ms. Albright seemingly overlooks the stance Orban adopted regarding the Syrian immigrants who flooded Europe at the urging of President Merkle. He noted with the first wave, they can march through Hungary on their way to Germany but they had better not stop here. That resistance, more than any other factor, accounts for his popularity.
It is easy to cover one’s tracks when no one is looking. But in the bright light of day things are often different from author’s claims. Ms. Albright has gotten a free ride for a long time, but casting a word like fascism about cavalierly is a dangerous venture, one that damages public discourse and might even come back to haunt her.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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