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Opinion: Four years ago, these readers warned what Trump was capable of

President Trump takes the oath of office in Washington on Jan. 20, 2017.
(Jim Bourg / Associated Press)

Hindsight is always 20/20, the saying goes — perhaps so, but looking back at some of the letters we published between election day on Nov. 8, 2016, and President Trump’s inauguration the following January, I can say that reading warnings from the past, which could be mistaken for retrospectives from today, is terrifying.

If in early 2017 someone had predicted the plain facts of today — an outgoing president on his second impeachment, U.S. troops quartered in the Capitol to deter a second attack, and a National Mall turned into a no-man’s land before Inauguration Day — they’d have been dismissed as a left-wing alarmist.

Still, at the time, some of our letter writers were clear-eyed about where our country was headed under the nascent Trump administration. This is what some of them wrote just as the 45th presidency was coming into existence.

In a Nov. 22, 2016, letter, Siegfried Othmer of Woodland Hills made a chilling historical comparison:

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“We judge prewar Germans harshly for not seeing Adolf Hitler’s racism as categorically disqualifying. A large minority of Americans have just elected a president who offered them hope, overlooking an attitude toward race and torture that ought to have been categorically disqualifying.

“We should be just as concerned about the one as we were about the other. Neither had any prior experience in governing. Both showed dictatorial tendencies early. Both were persuaded that their passionate followers in effect gave them a blank check.

“I can hardly believe that I will be living through the self-destruction of two aspiring empires in a single lifetime.”

On inauguration day in 2017, Pamela Zivkovic of Newhall sent us this letter:

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“I am 66 years old and have never missed an inaugural address.

“This year is unlike any other. I can easily say I am ashamed and [frightened] for our upcoming four years. I have never been so scared about the fate of this country. Our allies around the world must be equally scared and confused.

“I dread what might happen, and although I’m not a religious woman, I might actually pray now. God help us all.”

This letter by Scott W. Hughes of Westlake Village on Jan. 15, 2017, was written in reaction to a news conference by the then-president-elect:

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“Welcome to the new regime.

“Trump is officially vilifying the free press, calling it ‘fake news’ for reporting a story that was not fawning to him. Tyrants do that, presidents don’t.

“We are in for four very long years unless Republicans in Congress finally say enough and impeach and prosecute him for nepotism and treason (and a myriad of other offenses that I’m sure he’ll commit). That is, if he doesn’t reduce the entire planet to radioactive slag in a temper tantrum.”


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