Let's Fix This Country
the election

Why Donald Trump Is Dangerous

Once president, his weapons go far beyond Twitter

The days-long assault on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado that peaked from 3:20am to 5:00am one morning underscored to what lengths Donald Trump will go for vengeance. It amplified concerns for how that character trait is
likely to burst forth when transported to the affairs of the Oval Office. Bill Maher reminded viewers of "Hillary's ad from 2008, 'Who do you want answering the White House phone at 3:00am?' How about someone who's not already enraged in a hissy fit?".

At the same time, Trump is at pains to persuade us that "my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I have a winning temperament".

Most feared is the intemperate Mr. Trump having access to nuclear weapons, which Sen. Tim Kaine brought up in the vice presidential debate when he alluded to Ronald Reagan's dread of

“…someday some fool or some maniac or some accident triggering the kind of war that is the end of the line for all of us."

It is not an outlandish conjecture. Trump seems to view nuclear weapons as little different than other weapons; he seems not to grasp Reagan's understanding that they threaten the annihilation of civilization. To Chris Wallace on Fox News, Trump said,

"It's not like, gee whiz, nobody has them. So, North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea."

Wallace asked, "With nukes?". Trump answered, "Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes". He urged South Korea to do the same. "Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?", CNN's Anderson Cooper asked. "Saudi Arabia, absolutely", Trump replied, then reversed himself, but continued:

"It’s going to happen, anyway… you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them".

None of that relates to his temperament except that, matching his disregard of the existential threat nuclear proliferation poses to no less than the planet itself, he is equally rash about putting them to use. He would use a nuclear weapon in the Middle East. Trump said to Chris Matthews, "Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn't fight back with a nuke?". And when challenged by Matthews, Trump asked, "Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?". Joe Scarborough, former congressman and co-host of "Morning Joe", was told that at a foreign policy briefing Trump asked three times in an hour, "If we have them, why can't we use them?". Trump confirmed his willingness to go nuclear against ISIS in an interview with Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics.

What about using them in Europe, Fox News' Eric Bolling asked. "I’m not going to take cards off the table. Europe is a big place". On "Face the Nation" he said about nuclear weapon use, "You want to be unpredictable".

third world leader

In the second debate Mr. Trump said to Hillary Clinton, "If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation". When she countered with, "It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country", he jumped in with, "Because you’d be in jail". Much as how politics is conducted in the backwaters of the world, Trump has thus openly said he would take steps to send his opponent for the presidency to prison.

arrogating power

If he makes it to the presidency, maybe the enormity of the responsibility will sink in. Those around him might succeed in keeping his finger off the button, but what will restrain his temperament at home? There's an unanswered question of whether Donald Trump is committed to the separation of power.

He shows little appreciation for, and perhaps not even understanding of, the checks and balances of the Constitution's three branches of government. James Madison worried about the collapse of that division in Federalist Nr. 47:

“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Perhaps it is just harmless bombast, but with first person declarations he speaks as someone who expects to hold all the power of government: “I am your voice” and "I alone can fix it" and "When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country" — this is the language of a dictator.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “He’ll have a White House counsel” to reign him in and Sen. John McCain assured us we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed his constitutional obligations, but the mere fact that these major congressional figures are worried enough to make such statements about their own party's candidate for president is eye-opening.

Trump has made no mention of working with Congress to accomplish his objectives. Taking notice of President Obama's use of executive orders, he has boasted that he will use that path to assert power. “He’s led the way, to be honest with you,” he said in January on “Meet the Press". “But I’m going to use them much better, and they’re going to serve a much better purpose than what he’s done.”

He was asked on “Good Morning America” whom he would appoint to the Supreme Court. Trump answered he would “probably appoint people that would look very seriously at” Hillary Clinton’s “e-mail disaster because it’s criminal activity”. Apart from his apparently not realizing that the Supreme Court neither investigates nor prosecutes, that says his litmus test would be to choose justices who he thinks would be complicit in going after opponents.

That's in accord with Trump having already shown that he is contemptuous of the rule of law — except as it benefits him. There was his attack on the judiciary in the person of Federal District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in retaliation for his denying a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit against Trump University. Trump called Curiel a "hater" and questioned whether he could receive a fair trial from the Indiana-born judge because he is a "Mexican", insinuating that the judge's ruling was payback for Trump's racial slurs against Mexicans as criminals and rapists. Trump's slanders are absent forethought, much less research. He might have first discovered that in the 1990s Curiel had led a joint task force in California against a Tijuana drug cartel, his life threatened to the extent of the U.S. Marshalls Service having him live in a Navy base for a year.

"This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary" said David Post, a retired law professor who writes at Volokh Conspiracy, a right-leaning law blog quoted in the The New York Times..

Trump seems possessed of an insecurity that no one has been able to explain. It is hypothesized as the cause for his lashing out out at every slight. He turned on the only female Hispanic governor in the nation, New Mexico's Susana Martinez, for not showing up at his rally there, never mind how problematic that would be for her among her Latin constituency, or how demeaning for her personally, for that matter.

mute the press

Donald Trump would hardly be the first president to be irked by the prodding and poking of the press. An adversarial relationship is its job in order to pry open the secrets of government. But not yet in government, Trump already harbors a corrosive animus toward the fourth estate. "I gotta tell you, the media is [sic] among the most dishonest groups of people I've ever met", Trump said in February. "They're terrible". He has said that most reporters are “absolute dishonest, absolute scum”. Two nights after the election he was back to tweeting that the protesters were "professionals...incited by the media", when the media in fact was cooing over another peaceful transition of power.

He once mailed a columnist a copy of a negative article she'd written about him with her picture circled and the words "The face of a dog" written in the margin. McKay Coppins, writing for Buzzfeed, made the faux pas of calling the Trump Organization's palatial estate, Mar-a-Lago, a "nice, if slightly dated, hotel". Trump sent him enraged tweets as much as several times a day calling him a "dishonest slob" and his work "true garbage with no credibility" in a fusillade that cropped up repeatedly for over two years.

He mocked a reporter by imitating his physical disability for his having questioned Trump's thoroughly debunked claim to have seen "thousands" in Jersey City celebrating the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

He uses the legal system to intimidate, regularly suing those who cannot afford to defend. In 2006 he sued the author of a book who claimed Trump greatly exaggerated his wealth. Trump said in an interview that he knew he wouldn’t win but pursued the suit for five years anyway to make a point. “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.”

He has now threaten to sue The New York Times for the misdemeanor of reporting, demanding that the paper retract their interview with two women who said Trump had "touched them inappropriately". He thinks its hould be "off limits" for the media to investigate his behavior.

For Trump. blame is always elsewhere. The system is rigged. The media is biased. That same media that gave him what was valued at over $2 billion in free access by the time of the Republican convention. That same media that, as for no one before him, welcomed the New York chutzpah of his phone calls into live television programs, patched in by the control room in the hope that Trump would make news with yet another headline grabbing howler.

Only too willing to make that Faustian bargain for ratings, the press finally turned contrary over the question of where had the $6 million gone that Mr. Trump claimed he had raised for veterans in a telethon this past January. Weeks of questioning prompted Trump to rage against the "dishonest" press coverage of his campaign and to call a press conference in late May where he read a list of charities to which the money had been distributed. Only then, as reporters discovered, did the exposure cause him to cut a check for the $1 million he had personally pledged over four months earlier. For catching him out he called the press "disgusting", one reporter "a sleaze", and another "a real beauty". The media "make me look very bad", he complained. "For Trump the only honest reporter is one who reports the news exactly as Trump wants at that exact moment", was the appraisal of Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe

After the press conference, which had been contentious, Trump was asked if he will continue to berate and insult journalists. "Yes, it is going to be like this", he answered. "You think I’m gonna change? I’m not going to change. I am going to continue to attack the press. I find the press to be extremely dishonest. I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest”.

He revoked the press credentials of The Washington Post, thereby banning its reporters from attending campaign events. The Post had run the headline, “Donald Trump Suggests President Obama Was Involved With Orlando Shooting” after Trump had said on Fox News that Obama doesn’t understand Islamic terrorism, or “he gets it better than anybody understands. Look guys, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or has something else in mind”.

Post editor Marty Baron said, “Donald Trump’s decision to revoke [our] credentials is nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press. When coverage doesn’t correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished”. Trump had already barred from his events Politico, BuzzFeed News and The Huffington Post.

Post owner, multi-billionaire Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, is in Trump's gun sights for that indiscretion. ”The fact is, the Washington Post is being used by the owners of Amazon as their political lobbyist so that they don’t have to pay taxes and don’t get sued for monopolistic tendencies that have led to the destruction of department stores and the retail industry,” read a statement from the Trump campaign. Mr. Trump said in February:

“He wants political influence so Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems. One of the things I'm going to do if I win…is I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post…writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected. You see, with me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people, but I’m not taking money, I’m not taking their money. We’re gonna open up those libel laws, folks, and we’re gonna have people sue you like you never got sued before.”

That has become a principal concern with Trump: a vengeful president who use the powers of the federal departments and agencies — the FBI, the Justice Department, the IRS — to bring low his enemies and in particular to snuff a free press. At the very moment that the media face an existential economic threat from the digital world, along comes a president who has little to no belief in the First Amendment, who admires and envies despots Putin and Erdogan for having the power to shut down newspapers and jail journalists in their countries. With Trump will we see an attempt to make seditious libel — the act of criticizing him or the government — a crime?

A president who doesn't get the point that the First Amendment counts more than he — who opposes the role a free press plays in a democratic society — will be a dangerous and regrettable choice for the job.

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