By Derek Danneker
March 2, 2017
In a speech given to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 24 President Trump continued doing what he seemingly does best. That is, railing the media for their coverage which he finds unpleasant and fake. Expectedly, he took the fight to twitter, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” On President Trump’s that morning was the F.B.I. and continuation of the investigation into his Russian ties, he lambasted on Twitter, “The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security “leakers” that have permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even……”
In the podcast “Waking Up” with Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author David Frum(picture right), an editor for The Atlantic made the case that “while there are many secrets about the Trump presidency, there are no mysteries.” We know, he goes on to say, that he has Russian ties. We may not know exactly to who or why but we do know it exists.
American banks will not lend Donald Trump money, yet we know from his federal financial disclosure form that he owes $315 million to a small group of lenders and a Jan. 5, 2017 report from the Wall Street Journal states that his Companies owe about $1.5 billion to more than 150 institutions. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” said Donald Trump Jr. back in 2008 at a real estate conference. Trump’s campaign manager was Paul Manafort, who Frum describes as “a consigliere of a russian-puppet ukrainian government” afterwards, President Trump’s position on Russia’s taking of Crimea changed.
Then there is Trump encouraging Wikileaks, who’s leaks are ever in Trump’s favor. Hacking the Democratic National Committee for instance, which all intelligence experts agree was done by Russian intelligence. Frum equates it to knowing who did the burglary and the diamond necklace that was stolen is seen your storefront window, and maybe there is a chain of conveyance, but by no means are you an innocent possessor of it.
Later the day of President Trump’s CPAC speech, the White House press secretary Sean Spicer banned reporters from CNN, the New York Times, Politico, the Los Angeles Times and Buzzfeed from attending a non-televised briefing. This occurred while allowing news organizations who were less critical of the administration (Fox News, Breitbart, CBS to name a few) and who were not voraciously following President Trump’s Russian ties. It should also be noted that Breitbart News (where Steve Bannon, Chief strategist, spent his editorship) got an exclusive interview with President Trump.
Maajid Nawaz (picture left), host of Leading Britain’s Conversation, pointed out the tendency of the extreme left and right of creating an echo chamber. The recent media ban however is far more insidious. “Those students, the loony left on campuses, who are banning speakers, who are burning campuses, and who are trying to tear down statues, just because they don’t like history, those students don’t have power. Your president has power.” President Trump is the most powerful man in the world, creating the “ultimate echo chamber… if this man retreats into an echo chamber, and only takes opinions that agrees with him, and rejects everything else as fake news, we are in for a terrible time.”
In Frum’s most recent essay, “How to Build an Autocracy,” he writes on how exactly President Trump could use flaws of the American government as well as the wellspring of authoritarian populism in which we seem to find ourselves awash.
As James Lowell, the founder of The Atlantic who Frum quotes said, the constitution is not a “machine that would go of itself,” and checks and balances is a metaphor, not a mechanism. A congress whose only checks are against presidents of the opposite party leads to a frighteningly unobstructed president. Additionally, this is one of the few times in history where a president does not share his party’s ideology and as Frum says “He can -and would- break faith with them in an instant to further his own interests.” In an inverse relationship, congress is worried about losing Donald Trump’s faith. President Trump’s erratic nature leaves him scandal prone, threatening to ruin all that Republicans have worked for. Though they cannot contain scandals, they can look the other way, as seen Monday when 229 Republicans in the house voted down a bill that would have forced Trump to reveal his tax returns.
As head of the executive, President Trump can remove or replace top ranking officials who are investigating him: the commissioner of the IRS, the 93 U.S. Attorneys or the head of the criminal division at the Department of Justice. None are beyond his reach.
As rich as he claimed to be, which was highly doubted during his campaign, he now is. The United States has astoundingly weak anti-bribery and the Emoluments Clause (prohibiting the giving of money from foreign governments) does not apply to private institutions. This combined with his not-so-blind trust, he is already significantly richer than his campaign days.
“In true police states, surveillance and repression sustain the power of the authorities. But that’s not how power is gained and sustained in backsliding democracies. Polarization, not persecution, enables the modern illiberal regime.By guile or by instinct, Trump understands this.” Frum says. Trump will play off serious accusations by creating another, typically on twitter. Civil unrest hides his delinquency.
In order to thwart the democratic-backslide, we need to continue resisting tyranny. Frum says “get into the habit of telephoning your senators and House member at their local offices, especially if you live in a red state.” The backslide in a modern state is a slow one, we cannot become drowsy and demoralized. Frum ends nicely “Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.”