In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 11, 2018 at 12:27 am

A reputation for being feared can be useful.

But it’s dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. 

Whoever does so, warns Niccolo Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

Such a President is Donald Trump, who, as a Presidential candidate in 2016, told journalist Bob Woodward: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

As  a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. Making one inflammatory statement after another, he offended one group of potential voters after another. Among those groups: 

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Blacks
  • The disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-war

Since becoming President on January 20, 2017, Trump has attacked and/or infuriated a wide array of influential agencies or groups. Among these:  

  • “Obamacare” patients: Trump authorized the directors of Federal agencies to waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act—which provides medical insurance to 22 million otherwise uninsured Americans—to the “maximum extent permitted by law.”  
  • The CIA: Appearing at CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, Trump addressed about 400 case officers. Standing before the star-studded memorial wall honoring 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty. Trump ignored their sacrifice. Instead, he boasted of the size of his Inaugural crowd and how many times he had appeared on the cover of Time.
  • Civil rights advocates: Trump signed an executive order banning Muslims from entering the United States. 
  • He also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to massively expand the number of people subject to detention and deportation.
  • Women: Trump has publicly insulted numerous women—such as Carly Fiorina, Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell—on their looks.
  • He’s been accused by 22 women of making improper sexual advances.
  • And he successfully backed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whom Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers.
  • Medicare patients: During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he would allow Medicare to negotiate down the price of prescription drugs. But after meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists on January 31, 2017,  Trump said: “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare.”  

And he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Jeff Sessions: Trump waged a Twitter-laced feud against his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • On the day after the November, 2018 mid-term elections, Trump fired him.
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: Trump told him: “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations….You’re past your prime.”
  • Chief of Staff Reince Priebus: Suffered repeated humiliations by Trump—such a being ordered to kill a fly that was buzzing about.
  • On another occasion, Trump told an associate that Priebus was “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”
  • On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly: Trump similarly ridiculed Priebus’ replacement, a former Marine Corps general. Kelly tried to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to Trump—and bring discipline to his schedule.
  • Instead of being grateful, Trump became furious. Kelly told colleagues: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
  • The United States Secret Service: Before taking office as President, Trump infuriated this agency by keeping his longtime private security force—and adding its members to the elite federal agency. Thus, he clearly sent the insulting message: “You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you.”

Trump’s repeated humiliations—and firings—of high-ranking administration officials have led to a near-paralysis of his government. Many agencies remain plagued by staff shortages. And many of the replacements are not of “top drawer” quality.

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he’s clearly forgotten the Florentine’s warning on the need to avoid hatred at all costs.

The new musical version of the play/movie A Bronx Tale allows Mafia capo Sonny to sing his lesson on fear versus love to Calogero, the teenager who idolizes him: 

Listen now what I tell ya
This advice is you know whose
Love or fear—
It’s up to you kid
But you live with what you choose.

And it’s true: You live with what you choose.

Make being loved your top priority, and you risk being labeled a weakling who can be rolled—as Bill Clinton did.

But make being feared your goal, and you risk creating an atmosphere of hatred and paranoia—as Donald Trump has.

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