In the first interview given by Donald Trump as president-elect, the soon-to-be President reaffirmed an earlier promise not to accept the presidential salary the comes with his new position. “I think I have to by law take $1, so I’ll take $1 a year.”
“$400,000 you’re giving up,” CBS’s Lesley Stahl noted, as if his sacrifice was somehow philanthropic. The motives for Trump’s decision seem clear, but the public reaction to his choice has been quite polarized.
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One writer has gone so far as to draw comparisons between Trump and Hitler, not because of any of his rhetoric, but because of his salary decision. Parker Molloy, a transgender writer at Upworthy, tweeted that she thinks Trump is taking a page “literally out of Hitler’s playbook.”
It is worth noting that Molloy doesn’t know what literally means. It is also worth noting that Trump isn’t the first president to turn down the presidential paycheck. The first one was George Washington.
Washington served as commander of the revolutionary army without accepting payment. When he was elected, he announced that he would again serve his new country free of charge. Washington said of his role with as general, “the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation.” As president, he decided “from this resolution I have in no instance departed. And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself, any share in the personal emoluments … for the Executive Department.”
For those of you who might need a translation, what Washington said is that it is an honor to serve the country.
Yet that’s not how we, as a country, see things. We want our public servants to work for us. If they accept money for their position, we can hold them responsible for their decisions.
Molloy could have noted that Washington, Hoover, and even JFK declined the presidential salary. Still, she–like others–feel the Hitler comparison is a bit more apt.