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shader

If Hitler was president, how much damage could he do? Power of executive branch too high?

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I've been reading a lot of r/pol.  I always think it's fun to read the extremes, and trust me some of these people think Trump actually is Hitler.  But in between their bits of insanity there are some really good points being made about the power of the executive branch.

First of all, the president seems to have more power than presidents in most modern democracies.  Although the president is quite limited in terms of passing laws the traditional way, executive orders are being issued at an escalating pace.  The president has unbelievable power when it comes to the armed forces. He can make major decisions on a global scale without congressional approval.

When it comes to his conduct, the president is essentially above the law.  The only way to get him out is by impeachment AND removal, which is a virtual impossibility if his party is behind him.

The big check on his power is the election.  If you do a poor job, you're outta there in 4 years.  

So imagine that an Adolf Hitler clone were running for president, only he hadn't written Mein Kampf, and had done a better job of masking his true intentions.  This clone could run on the peace platform, (as Hitler actually did when he convinced most of the world that all he wanted was peace, but really was just stalling for time so that he could build Germany's army), but truly wanted war.

When elected how much damage could he do?  As bad as Hitler was, he wasn't a dictator that went against his countries wishes.  He played into their fears and desires and he knew the importance of perception.  When making decisions (invading Austria and then Czech) he used lies to assure the public that these things had to be done.

Perhaps the Hitler comparison is inflammatory to the overall discussion of whether the executive branch has too much power.  You don't need to actually be Hitler to do damage.  But I think it's interesting to study how past dictators arose, and when you look at the power of the presidency in the US, I can't help but wonder if it could happen again?

 

Edited by shader

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Hitler would have deported every single illegal immigrant by the end of his first year in office.

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The next year is going to be very instructive in that regard.

Earlier this year, PBS launched a show called The Dictator's Playbook, tracing how 20th C despots like Mussolini, Idi Amin, Kim Il Sung, Saddam Hussein consolidated power and rose to rule their countries. It's been amazing how often i've been able to say "Trump would do that" while i watch these shows and it's going to be very interesting to see which elements of that playbook our President will begin to entertain when it strikes him that his time might be coming to an end.

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I guess not much since most in here think of Trump as a hitler like guy.

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1 minute ago, lod001 said:

I guess not much since most in here think of Trump as a hitler like guy.

Most people recognize that Trump has done tremendous damage already.

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Untold damage if he could launch nukes. I don't know all of the safeguards we have against that, or how hard they are to overcome...

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An Adolf Hitler would never be elected in this country unless we faced economic catastrophe or some other unimaginable social catastrophe, such as a terrorist nuclear attack, etc. It would have to be something that had the public seriously questioning their immediate future.
 

Hitler's campaign would not be hidden; he would run on the promise to do away with our democratic state, because our current form of government was insufficient to solve the crisis, and that only a dictatorship would work. Hitler would promise to be that dictator; he would call for Congress to pass an Enabling Act giving him full dictatorial powers "during the emergency."

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30 minutes ago, timschochet said:

Hitler's campaign would not be hidden; he would run on the promise to do away with our democratic state, because our current form of government was insufficient to solve the crisis, and that only a dictatorship would work. Hitler would promise to be that dictator; he would call for Congress to pass an Enabling Act giving him full dictatorial powers "during the emergency."

Congress and the states. It would require a constitutional amendment in America just as it did in the Weimar Republic.

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26 minutes ago, timschochet said:

An Adolf Hitler would never be elected in this country unless we faced economic catastrophe or some other unimaginable social catastrophe, such as a terrorist nuclear attack, etc. It would have to be something that had the public seriously questioning their immediate future.
 

Hitler's campaign would not be hidden; he would run on the promise to do away with our democratic state, because our current form of government was insufficient to solve the crisis, and that only a dictatorship would work. Hitler would promise to be that dictator; he would call for Congress to pass an Enabling Act giving him full dictatorial powers "during the emergency."

It’s not whether Hitler could do what he did in Germany.  Obviously the current USA and post ww1 Germany are two entirely different countries.

The question is how much damage could Hitler do as the president of the USA.  The president of the USA is not a figurehead position. It has real power.  How far could a really, really bad guy take things?

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28 minutes ago, timschochet said:

An Adolf Hitler would never be elected in this country unless we faced economic catastrophe or some other unimaginable social catastrophe, such as a terrorist nuclear attack, etc. It would have to be something that had the public seriously questioning their immediate future.
 

Hitler's campaign would not be hidden; he would run on the promise to do away with our democratic state, because our current form of government was insufficient to solve the crisis, and that only a dictatorship would work. Hitler would promise to be that dictator; he would call for Congress to pass an Enabling Act giving him full dictatorial powers "during the emergency."

Another thought on this.  Hitler was no dummy.  If he were running today, he’s fool the country by keeping his future plans to himself.

He didn’t have to do that to gain power in Germany.  But when it became appropriate, he preached peace and kept his orders so secret that only his closest henchmen knew them.  

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5 hours ago, shader said:

As bad as Hitler was, he wasn't a dictator that went against his countries wishes.

I do not believe the entire country of Germany wanted to kill Jewish people ..... that was Hitler and his ideas and with the SS he controlled with fear

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41 minutes ago, Stealthycat said:

I do not believe the entire country of Germany wanted to kill Jewish people ..... that was Hitler and his ideas and with the SS he controlled with fear

Anti-semitism was very prevalent.  He rode those fears to popularity and was supported, even though yes, the people had no idea he was going to setup concentration camps and exterminate millions of Jews.

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OMG. Waiting for the companion thread about Stalin 

Edited by squistion
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8 hours ago, shader said:

When elected how much damage could he do? 

I guess I’ll just point out:

- Hitler’s big score was the enabling acts - he got this passed after the Reichstag fire and it basically gave him dictatorial powers.

- Here in Louisiana, Huey Long essentially achieved the same thing. He was running the state while also governor. He could fire judges, had his own press and liberally concerted state assets to his private ownership. 

- Putin might be a better comp. he gradually took control of the intelligence apparatus, the courts, state and local offices, and the media.

I suppose if there’s a threat from say hypothetical R or D future president it comes from: the emergency powers act, the delegation powers doctrine which has been embedded in US law since the New Deal, media acquisition by regime friendly oligarchs, and the use of executive orders which the USSC has almost never checked. 

I would like to see Dems address these gaping holes in reforms but I am not expecting it.

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I think this is a good discussion to have. But I think it'd be more helpful to remove the Hitler angle and focus it more on how much power the Executive Branch has.

Maybe think of it in a totally hypothetical scenario imagining if a person were elected and then magically turned into another person. Or were somehow under the influence of someone evil who could control everything they did.

Basically, how off the rails could a POTUS go and how much damage could they do before being limited by the checks and balances of our country?

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In a slightly connected thing, obviously on a much tinier scale, I remember lots of my conservative friends panicked when Obama was elected. I have a friend who started an extremely successful company selling ammunition driven mostly by the (as it turned out, irrational) fears that Obama would take their guns away. 

I told my conservative friends to relax. Even though I voted for Obama twice, there was only so much a POTUS could do and they and their conservative buddies were going to be fine. 

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1 minute ago, Joe Bryant said:

In a slightly connected thing, obviously on a much tinier scale, I remember lots of my conservative friends panicked when Obama was elected. I have a friend who started an extremely successful company selling ammunition driven mostly by the (as it turned out, irrational) fears that Obama would take their guns away. 

I told my conservative friends to relax. Even though I voted for Obama twice, there was only so much a POTUS could do and they and their conservative buddies were going to be fine. 

I had a friend buy a ton of handgun suppressors in anticipation of Hilary winning. :lol: I should ask him how that investment went.

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On 10/16/2019 at 1:10 PM, Maurile Tremblay said:

Untold damage if he could launch nukes. I don't know all of the safeguards we have against that, or how hard they are to overcome...

I assume this is an accurate description of the process: https://www.businessinsider.com/nuclear-bomb-launch-procedure-us-government-president-2017-11

Quote

The following is a transcription of the animation.

It can take the US government just minutes to launch a nuclear weapon. Here's how it would work.

The president has the sole authority to call for a nuclear strike. Once the call is made, a series of critical steps follow.

The president first meets with top military advisers. The meeting would take place in the Situation Room. If the president is traveling, a call is made on a secure line.

If the president still wants to go through with the strike, the order is verified. To authenticate the order, a challenge code is read to the president. It's usually two phonetic letters like "Delta-Echo."

The president then receives the "biscuit", a laminated card that's always near the president. The biscuit has the matching response to the challenge code.

The Pentagon then broadcasts an encoded message to missile crews. The message is only about the length of a standard tweet.

It includes the war plan, "Sealed Authentication System" or (SAS) codes, and the actual missile launch codes. When the launch crews get the message they open lock safes to obtain the SAS codes. These codes are compared with the SAS codes included in the message.

If fired from a submarine the captain, executive officer, and two others authenticate the launch order. Fifteen minutes after receiving the order, the missiles could be ready to launch.

If fired from land, there are 50 missiles controlled by 5 launch crews in different locations. Each crew "votes" for the launch by turning their keys at the same time.

There are five different keys, but only two need to be turned to launch the missiles. In this scenario, the missiles could be ready to launch just minutes after the president's order. Once the missiles are launched, there's no turning back.

 

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Can't really answer the question without knowing if there's a large chunk of the population willing to look the other way and excuse every action no matter how harmful it is or how obvious the lies about it are.

Edited by Popeyecon

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3 minutes ago, Bucky86 said:

I had a friend buy a ton of handgun suppressors in anticipation of Hilary winning. :lol: I should ask him how that investment went.

Long game.

 

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5 minutes ago, Joe Bryant said:

In a slightly connected thing, obviously on a much tinier scale, I remember lots of my conservative friends panicked when Obama was elected. I have a friend who started an extremely successful company selling ammunition driven mostly by the (as it turned out, irrational) fears that Obama would take their guns away. 

I told my conservative friends to relax. Even though I voted for Obama twice, there was only so much a POTUS could do and they and their conservative buddies were going to be fine. 

Now that I think about it, it might be good to revisit this with some of those guys.

As I think about it more, some of them likely do think Obama did damage. 

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11 minutes ago, dgreen said:

That is scary. It seems that the President doesn't need anybody else's authorization; the ultimate decision is his alone. For missiles to actually launch, others would have to obey his orders, but they have no legal authority not to. I supposed that's how it has to work, but it's still scary.

If the President goes off the rails and starts nuking other countries (or our own) for no good reason, we would need our own version of Stanislav Petrov to break protocol and stop him.

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1 minute ago, Maurile Tremblay said:

That is scary. It seems that the President doesn't need anybody else's authorization; the ultimate decision is his alone. For missiles to actually launch, others would have to obey his orders, but they have no legal authority not to. I supposed that's how it has to work, but it's still scary.

If the President goes off the rails and starts nuking other countries (or our own) for no good reason, we would need our own version of Stanislav Petrov to break protocol and stop him.

Looks like it involves the following people:

The President - sole decision maker, but needs some additional people to take action to make it happen

Top Military Advisers (not sure why it isn't Advisors) - These people don't seem to have any power since the President can seemingly continue without their approval

The person who gives the President the "biscuit", which I assume also then includes someone who creates the "biscuit" (maybe the same person who gives it to the President)

Someone at the Pentagon who broadcasts an encoded message

Missile Crew - compare the encoded message to previously created documentation (which had to have been created by someone or some process)

If launched from a submarine, looks like there are four additional people who have to do something.

If launched from land, two out of five people have to turn the key.

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3 minutes ago, Maurile Tremblay said:

That is scary. It seems that the President doesn't need anybody else's authorization; the ultimate decision is his alone. For missiles to actually launch, others would have to obey his orders, but they have no legal authority not to. I supposed that's how it has to work, but it's still scary.

If the President goes off the rails and starts nuking other countries (or our own) for no good reason, we would need our own version of Stanislav Petrov to break protocol and stop him.

Thought there use to be a two-man rule where another person confirmed by the senate has to agree, but I might be thinking of a Tom Clancy novel.

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13 minutes ago, Maurile Tremblay said:

That is scary. It seems that the President doesn't need anybody else's authorization; the ultimate decision is his alone. For missiles to actually launch, others would have to obey his orders, but they have no legal authority not to. I supposed that's how it has to work, but it's still scary.

If the President goes off the rails and starts nuking other countries (or our own) for no good reason, we would need our own version of Stanislav Petrov to break protocol and stop him.

There was a long podcast I listened to in the last year or so that gave the story of a former US officer in charge of turning the key who tried to raise the issue of lack of oversight (unsuccessfully, this was years ago), I'll have to see if I can find it again.

Took some weird googling, but I did find the guy: Harold Hering - "How can I know that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane president?" - 1973

Edited by mcintyre1
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1 hour ago, Maurile Tremblay said:

That is scary. It seems that the President doesn't need anybody else's authorization; the ultimate decision is his alone. For missiles to actually launch, others would have to obey his orders, but they have no legal authority not to. I supposed that's how it has to work, but it's still scary.

If the President goes off the rails and starts nuking other countries (or our own) for no good reason, we would need our own version of Stanislav Petrov to break protocol and stop him.

it seems logical that the guys on the ground will exercise some discretion even in a totalitarian state like the Soviet union.   A small strike like described here, while a disaster for a country,  wouldn't disable a retaliatory strike on the attacking country, thus it is an easy decision to wait and see if it is real.  "no one" is dumb enough to launch only 5 missiles at the soviet union, no point in it unless you were a terrorist group that might be able to escape at least nuclear retaliation of your home land. 

Edited by Hot Diggity Dog

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1 hour ago, Maurile Tremblay said:

That is scary. It seems that the President doesn't need anybody else's authorization; the ultimate decision is his alone. For missiles to actually launch, others would have to obey his orders, but they have no legal authority not to. I supposed that's how it has to work, but it's still scary.

If the President goes off the rails and starts nuking other countries (or our own) for no good reason, we would need our own version of Stanislav Petrov to break protocol and stop him.

Or a high school "hacker" from Seattle who convinces NORAD to play tic-tac-toe on their computers.

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And to the thread question,  I  think yes Congress has ceded to much authority to the executive branch.   In the end it would come down to the guys on the ground with the guns.  President Hitler's plans ultimately rests on how many guys with guns he can get loyalty from. 

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