Clyburn CNN Jan 29

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-Columbia, told CNN on Monday night that the current political climate resembles Germany shortly after Adolf Hitler was elected. Screenshot.

On the eve of President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn on Monday night gave his own assessment of America's current political climate by comparing it to Germany just after Adolf Hitler was elected.

The South Carolina Democrat told host Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight" that Americans need to "get a handle on things."

"Having studied history and having taught history, I can only equate one period of time with what we are experiencing now and that was what was going on in Germany around 1934 right after the 1932 elections when Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor," Clyburn said.

"He began to do things to discredit the media, to disrupt the judicial system and if you recall from your studies, they had swastikas hung in churches all over Germany."

After describing the present as "precarious times," Clyburn warned the country needs to open its collective eyes and listen to the lessons of history.

"When I see and hear and experience what's going on in the country today, I think back to that time, and I really believe that we as Americans had better get a handle on things. If we don't, we could very well see ourselves going the way of Germany," Clyburn said.

"You know that's a stark comparison. People are going to say, 'Oh he's comparing him to Hitler and the Holocaust and all of those things,'" Lemon responded.

Clyburn, who as assistant Democratic leader holds the third most senior position in his party's leadership, interjected, walking back his comparison but not by much. 

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"The number one difference in this, if I were making that comparison, then this president would be Mussolini and (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin would be Hitler."

A growing number of House Democrats announced plans to boycott Trump's State of the Union but not Clyburn.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.