Friday, 22 April 2016

Why Trump is a Tyrant

One of the lessons the Classics teach us is that freedom is fragile. They show people an age where humanity flourished during systems of government that, for all their faults, guaranteed some basic rights and the chance for people to speak up against injustice and to dethrone tyrants. And then these free systems were destroyed from within. Frustrations with partisan bickering and selfishness led people to look for a "strongman" to set things right. For the Greek city states it was Philip of Macedon, and for the Romans it was Julius Caesar and thereafter Caeasar Augustus. For the Romans a nightmare of despots followed, with the likes of Nero and Caligula displaying some of the most depraved behavior ever shown by tyrants. Then, except for sporadic glimpses, there was no real widespread freedom over all the Western world for over 1700 years. The first democracies and republics were not killed: they committed suicide. This is what made John Adams warn: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." This was the lesson John Adams took from the Classics.

Yet these societies did not go ignorantly into the long dark night of tyranny; nor, to their credit, did they do so without a fight. Demosthenes warned the Athenians and other Greek city states about Philip, and his Philipics are treasured today as masterpieces of rhetoric. The Athenians listened, although first when it was already too late, and took a brave last stance against the onset of tyranny. Similarly Cicero, in Rome, argued in his thirteen Philipics (inspired by Demosthenes) against Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius. Although ultimately unsuccessful, his speeches survived and helped fuel the flame of liberty throughout generations until freedom could rise again with the American revolution. Cicero and Demosthenes were major influences for the American and French revolutionaries. I am not sure the concept of a democracy or a republic would have survived without them.

So what lesson can we learn from them now that we see tyranny and autocracy rearing its ugly head once more in Western democracies? Only this: "Beware of the tyrant!" Do not let your partisan bickering jeapordize the fragile freedoms you have. Do not let your short-sighted and selfish goals imperil the liberty of this and all future generations. Do not sell your vote and influence in order to let "our tyrant" win over "their tyrant." If there was one painful lesson the Romans had to learn, it was the "equality" of oppression and fear experienced by rich and poor under the terrible reign of the tyrants.

On this blog, I have sometimes lamented the erosion of both morality and liberties in Western societies, and yet the present moment makes me more indignant and troubled than I have ever been before about the state of particularly the constitutional republic of the United States of America. In Donald Trump, a large portion of their populace seem to outdo the Roman republic in selfishness and short-sightedness. Instead of settling for a Caesar Augustus after years of civil war they skip right to a Nero in times of peace!

The Roman emperors were not the high-culture snobs they are sometimes depicted as. A great many of them were base buffons, displaying and indulging in behavior that would shock even Hollywood, using their power to break every written and unwritten law, and take depravity to such absurd lengths that no honest man or woman could bear it. Nero was Donald Trump + power. If power can corrupt even good people, what will it do for someone who already brags about affairs with married women, runs strip-clubs, encourages violence, and promises he will commit war crimes and silence anyone who opposes him by changing the law? Tyranny, for the Greeks and Romans was not a form of government. Tyranny was a disease of the mind, a madness. The Roman historian Tacitus writes, "How truly the wisest of men used to assert that the souls of despots, if revealed, would show wounds and mutilations - weals left on the spirit, like lash-marks on a body, by cruelty, lust, and malevolence" (The Histories 202).

You may say I am exhaggerating and that Trump could never become Nero because he is bound by the Constitution and checked by the Supreme Court and Congress. Besides, there is the public that voted for him and public opinion to keep him in check. I ask you, "What bonds can control a man that cannot even control himself?" He is a slave to his whims and desires, do you think such a person will be bound by law, morality, or bonds of trust? He who bought the Plaza Hotel to move his wife into its penthouse just so he could free up the penthouse of his casino for his mistress? The only limits that can check him are the limits of possibility, and I fear that a Trump presidency will reveal for everyone just how much power the Executive Branch of government has amassed in the past hundred years. The constitutional limits on the presidency were made to limit the damage a "Trump" could do, but for the past fifty years at least those limits have been loosened to better fit a president with the character of a saint. For all their excesses, neither Bush nor Obama have aspired to become tyrants. Pushed by their constituents they have strained the constitutional limits of presidential power, but they have never sought to consolidate that power.

Here is a brief list of what Trump the Tyrant could and possibly would do as president:
- Replace any leader of the military and any government agencies with stooges that are blindly loyal to Trump and do not hesitate to break any law to do his will. The CIA, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and other departments as they currently run are impervious to oversight by Congress. Trump will then have a 3 million person strong army to do his bidding and punish his critics and enemies. If you thought the Obama IRS overstepped its authority, just wait for the Trump IRS, CIA, and Department of Justice.
- Threaten Supreme Court Judges to rule in his favor whenever he is challenged on executive overreach. His campaign is already threatening to put out the names and room numbers of Republican delegates at Cleveland who could possibly oppose his nomination to his rabid supporters who are not afraid of using violence. What would a "hint" like that do against the Supreme Court Judges? "Gee, Justice Thomas sure has a nice house. Would be a shame if anything were to happen to it." Especially when anyone who committed a crime in doing so would have the protection of the White House. Trump already offered to cover the legal bills for anyone who committed assault against protesters at his rallies.
- Threaten to use the power of his NSA spies against senators or representatives who oppose his legislative agenda. He has already threatened Speaker Ryan that "we'll get along, otherwise he'll have a price to pay." Speaker Ryan should, according to the Constitution, be almost as powerful as the president. The current situation and status of the Speaker just shows how far the US has fallen from that ideal.
- Wage war (against ANYONE he wants!) for 90 days. 90 days!!! Any liberal who felt smug about Eric Holder's unconstitutional defense of Obama's Drone War should choke on that grin as he realizes what potential powers he has helped bestow on a President Trump. And any conservative who has not bowed down to the altar of Trumpism and wants to maintain any right to voice a protest about potential abuses by the president should feel the call to act now. These powers mean that once Trump hits the White House EVERY single man, woman, and child on this planet is a potential target. American citizens are not exempt, because Holder made that legal. Children are not exempt, for Trump specifically said he would force the military to torture and kill the children of his enemies. For someone who takes every ounce of opposition to his will as a personal insult, that category of "enemies" and "terrorists" could expand to just about anyone. (Ask Michelle Fields, whom he has accused of being a potential terrorist)

He is someone who sees every power and authority as his leverage to crush those who oppose him, His Dad's Army of lawyers have sheltered him from the law his entire life. Imagine what he will do with the Department of Justice at his disposal. If you elect him, you just gave him the world's ultimate leverage. Nothing will then be able to stop him from doing whatever he pleases with whomever he pleases.

So, with the world open to his desires, the question would become: "What are the desires of this man?" His supporters freely admit and even applaud the fact that he would and could do all these things, but they justify it with statements such as this one by Twitter user @larrysr19701: "Ive survived Obama's Tyranny, so far. Im sure Trump wont disappoint." I don't care how right-wing you are: If you believe Obama is the worst tyrant to have walked the Earth then you need to read a history book. Trump supporters seem to believe there is some kind of moral quality to this man that would somehow make up for the immorality he has bathed in throughout his almost 70 year long life. Let's look at some of the personality traits he has shown:

It is incredible how uncertain of himself this guy is. He has the confidence of a schoolyard bully who acts tough to hide the fact that he gets beaten at home. The protesters at his rallies, they are a personal danger to him, and encouraging his supporters to beat them up is just self-defense. He sees every opposition to him as evidence of a conspiracy; he sees every loss as evidence of fraud. Name one single state that Trump has graciously conceeded to an opponent. Iowa? "It must be fraud, that's why I didn't win." Utah? "Romney stabbed my back and Cruz cheated." Wisconsin? "The establishment and Cruz are in this together." Everyone is out to get Trump according to him. He is nasty to everyone and acts all surprised and innocent when there is any kind of response. But of course, as Trump is fond of saying, he's just a "counterpuncher." Someone else hits him, and he hits back twice as hard. Except, Cruz had no hand in the ad that caused Trump to attack Heidi Cruz and accuse Ted Cruz of adultery (without any evidence). Trump is likely to respond to a terrorist plot hatched in a Muslim suburb of Brussels with a nuclear strike against Belgium. And this guy takes ANY criticism as a veiled personal attack. Megyn Kelly asks a critical question, he goes after her personally. Michelle Fields asks for an apology from his campaign manager, and he labels her a liar and a terrorist. Any news outlet opposes his policies, and he labels them corrupt. This guy thinks he is so brilliant that any critic cannot be acting out of anything but bias and animosity. If in his young years his Dad's army of lawyers shielded him from accountability, now his army of devotees are shielding him from sanity. Imagine an army of intelligence agencies and soldiers shielding him from scrutiny, dedicated to take down his enemies.

From the beginning Trump never had any substance on policy or solutions. His main reason for running was an ego trip. To be able to have the bragging rights of "almost" becoming the most powerful man on Earth. His main argument for electing him continues to be his massive ego. Just read one of his tweets: "News tells of massive foreign criminal gangs in our largest cities. Only I can solve!" It doesn't matter what his policies or preferences are, as long as HE is in charge the decisions are bound to be good. He'll solve a 700 billion gap in Medicare and Social Security payments by clamping down on 3bn worth of "waste, fraud, and abuse." He'll make a gigantic wall along the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it. He'll solve the Israel-Palestine conflict by "making a good deal." Any problem in the world, just sprinkle som magic "Trump" dust on it and the problem will fix itself. If ever there was a man who claimed to be a god.... Oh, he can get these things done, no mistake. But his cures will be worse than the original problem. He can make up the 700bn by labelling, at random, half of all Medicare and Social Security payments as "waste, fraud, and abuse." He can make Mexico pay for the wall by threatening war and annexing Baja California until they pay the wall as a ransom. He can solve the Israel-Palestine conflict by killing off 1/4 of Gaza, including the entire leadership of Hamas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority with all their families and extended families and "collateral damage." It really is amazing what you can get done if you don't let morals get in the way. Nazi Germany were particularly good at these kind of solutions. This is the kind of scorched-earth tactics Trump has lived by his entire business life. He has not studied up on any of the issues and gets his information from cable news (by his own admission). The fact that he can still consider himself fit for the hardest job on Earth tells volumes about the arrogance of this man.

Cruelty and savagery
Politics and real-estate business are blood sports, there is no doubt about it, but even in those venues Trump has earned a reputation for ruthlessness. As a business practice he breaks contracts and pays contractors just 90% of the sum agreed upon in the contract, hoping they will just take that sum and not sue, since that will cost them more. When anyone accuses him of fraud or abuse he responds by trying to destroy their lives. He even sued an author for 5 billion dollars for stating that Trump's fortune was worth 3 billion, instead of the 10 billion Trump claims it's worth. He is suing those who were defrauded by him in the Trump University scam for complaining. As a candidate, in the "job interview" stage of the process where people try to be their best, he has encouraged violence against protesters and Republican delegates, maligned non-rivals such as Megyn Kelly, Michelle Fields, Heidi Cruz, and a disabled reporter, and taken every cheap shot and ad hominem argument imaginable. In his personal life he cut vital medical care to a family member, a little boy with a dangerous neurological disease, because the boy's parents were in a dispute with him about his father's inheritance. The parents sued successfully, and the medical insurance was reinstated, but this clearly shows that no holds are barred against Trump's enemies. As a president he has already said he would torture and kill the wives and children of terrorists. He has applauded the tactics used by Putin to stifle dissent and the actions of the Chinese government during the Tianmen Square Massacre. If there is a low-road insult, a threat, or any use of force Trump can apply to impose his will and get away with it, he has demonstrated time and again that he can and will use it. Lord help us all if this man is ever given executive power and the sovereign immunity of a president.

Immorality and Avarice
One question I and a lot of people have been asking themselves: "Why in the world does Donald Trump want to be president?" He certainly has no desire for public service, as shown by the fact that he has never run for elected office even once. He clearly is uncomfortable discussing foreign policy or any kind of policy for that matter. As far as power and pleasure goes, is there no limit to his appetite for these things? Is there anything more a billionaire could wish for that his current sack of gold does not bestow upon him? If he ever achieves it, what will this guy do with ultimate power? My mind hesitates to go there, but it has to be clear to everyone what the consequences of electing him are likely to be. Bill Clinton was an adulterer, but he at least tried to keep a facade of decency. Contrast this with someone who brags about "sleeping with famous married women" and who runs strip clubs at his casinos. Imagine a mobster family taking over the White House and you would get the idea. He would turn the White House into a brothel. This would be the image portrayed to young men in America and throughout the world. This is the lesson: "Cheat, choose the low road, hit your opponent below the belt, use any advantage you have, and you too can become the leader of the free world some day." Make Chick Hicks the hero of Cars, make Gaston the hero of Beauty and the Beast, forget all that religion, philosophy, and civilization has taught man about morality and justice: "Might is right."

Immorality and avarice. These are the vices which a tyrant can exercise without restraint, and the very ability to do so constitute the lure and reward of tyranny. To have whatever one's eye lusts for, be it property, power, or people, this is the lure for the tyrant. The desire for absolute power would have little meaning for unscrupulous people if that power did not enable one to break all bonds which social position, morality, and laws would otherwise restrain. The Roman emperors would frequently display that power by taking the wives of men they had invited to the palace. Do not be surprised if Trump repeats as president the behavior he has bragged about as a billionaire. Remember the words of one of your Founding Fathers, John Adams:

"Those passions [vanity, pride, selfishness, ambition, and avarice] . . . when unchecked, produce the . . .  effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation." How much harder then for someone who has never resisted such temptations....

Turn around while there still is time! Do not elect "your tyrant" to beat "their tyrant" and recognize tyranny for what it is: madness. A tyrant is in your midst and wants to be at your head. Do not allow it!

The West has lived without tyrannies for so long that they cannot imagine anymore what it is like to live under one. Words like "tyrant" are thrown around and misused as soon as there is any new executive overreach. But tyranny, in its proper sense, has an entirely different scope. There is no private property in a tyranny, nor is anything sacred. There is nothing where anyone can say, "this is mine" or "this is private." What is there then to live or hope for?
As the Athenian Euripides writes:
"Why should one acquire wealth and livelihood
For his children, if the struggle is only to enrich the tyrant further?
Why keep his young daughters virtuously at home,
To be the sweet delight of tyrants?
I'd rather die than have my daughters wed by violence" (First Democracy, Woodruff 63).

 Cicero, who saw the death of the Roman Republic in his time sums it up like this in his The Republic: "As soon as a king takes the first step towards a more unjust regime, he at once becomes a tyrant. And that is the foulest and most repellent creature imaginable, and the most abhorrent to god and man alike. Although he has the outward appearance of a man, he outdoes the wildest beasts in the utter savagery of his behavior" (50).

I fear the American public will discover too late that their watered down public institutions and Constitution are woefully inadequate to meet the challenge of a tyrannical president.