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Posts Tagged ‘RICHARD NIXON’

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2019 at 12:04 am

On September 12, 2001, President George W. Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”—not Iraq.

On November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

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Liars Club:  Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld

Bush and his war-hungry Cabinet officials knew that Americans demanded vengeance on AlQaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. So they repeatedly fabricated “links” between the two:

  • Saddam had worked hand-in-glove with Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al-Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.

Yet as early as September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that

  • There was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.
  • There was scant evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al-Qaeda.
  • Saddam had tried to monitor Al Qaeda through his intelligence service—because he saw it and other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as potential threats to his secular regime.

Bush administration officials repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions. And they further claimed that US intelligence agencies had determined:

  • The precise locations where these weapons were stored,
  • The identities of those involved in their production.
  • The military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.

Among other lies stated as fact by members of the Bush administration:

  • Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa.
  • Thousands of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq could be used in centrifuges to create enriched uranium.
  • Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions.
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin.
  • Saddam Hussein had issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when US forces crossed into Iraq.

August 26, 2002: Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

September 8, 2002: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN: ”There is certainly evidence that Al-Qaeda people have been in Iraq. There is certainly evidence that Saddam Hussein cavorts with terrorists.”

September 18, 2002: Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons—including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas.”

October 7, 2002: Bush declared in a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

March 16, 2003: Cheney declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq—on March 20, 2003.

Even as American occupying forces repeatedly failed to turn up any evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs), Bush and his minions claimed the invasion a good thing.

In fact, Bush—who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard—even joked publicly about the absence of WMDs.

He did so at a White House Correspondents dinner on March 24, 2004—one year after he had started the war.

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George W. Bush at the 2004 White House Correspondents’ dinner

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were simply the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope—no weapons over there! Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

Meanwhile, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women—-the elite of America’s media and political classes—laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

It was a scene from the court of the ancient Caesars, complete with royal flunkies: “Hey! The country we just destroyed wasn’t a threat to us after all!  Isn’t that a gas?” 

The war that Bush had deliberately provoked:

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Created a Middle East power vacumn.
  • Allowed Iran—Iraq’s arch enemy—to eagerly fill it.
  • Frightened and repelled even America’s closest allies.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis. 
  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.

History—in the form of a war-hungry President and a compliant Congress—seems about to repeat itself.

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2019 at 12:28 am

September 11, 2019, will mark the 18th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.  Inevitably, this is a time to remember all those whose lives were so cruelly snuffed out.

But it is also a time to remember those Americans who made this atrocity—and the Iraq war that followed—inevitable.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has chronicled their arrogance and indifference in his 2010 biography: American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Hamilton noted that Richard Clarke, the national security adviser on terrorism, was certain that Osama bin Laden had arranged the [USS.] Cole bombing in Aden on October 12, 2000.

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States—either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she “insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting” in April, 2001, writes Hamilton.

Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.”

Wolfowitz—whose real target was Saddam Hussein—said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.” And he insisted that bin Laden couldn’t conduct his terrorist acts without a state sponsor—namely, Iraq.

Wolfowitz, in fact, blamed Iraq for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Clarke was stunned, since there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in this.

“Al-Qaeda plans major acts of terrorism against the United States,” Clarke warned his colleagues. He pointed out that, like Adolf Hitler, bin Laden had actually published his plans for future destruction.

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Osama bin Laden

And he added: “Sometimes, as with Hitler in Mein Kampf, you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do.”

Wolfowitz heatedly traded on his Jewish heritage to bring Clarke’s unwelcome arguments to a halt: “I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan.”

Writing in outraged fury, Hamilton sums up Clarke’s agonizing frustrations:

  • Bush’s senior advisors treated their colleagues who had served in the Clinton administration with contempt.
  • President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seemed content to ignore the danger signals of an impending al-Qaeda attack.
  • This left only Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Richard Clarke and a skeptical Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, to wage “a lonely battle to waken a seemingly deranged new administration.”

Richard Clarke

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor would any of them be brought to account.

Disgustingly, these were the same officials who, afterward, posed as the Nation’s saviors—and branded anyone who disagreed with them as a traitor, practices the Right continues to exploit to this day.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

Yet even worse was to come.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush took Clarke aside during a meeting in the White House Situation Room:

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam [Hussein, the dictator of Iraq] did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al-Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

Hussein had not plotted the attack–and there was no evidence proving that he did. But the attack gave “W” the excuse he wanted to remove the man he blamed for the 1992 defeat of his father, President George H.W. Bush.

Bush believed that his father would have been re-elected if he had “gone all the way” into Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War.

He would finish the job that his father had started but failed to compete.

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2019 at 12:07 am

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

So threatened President Donald Trump in a tweet on May 19.

Meanwhile, a debate raged among American military and Intelligence officials about the latest intentions of the Iranian government.

Some officials believed that Iran or its militias might be planning to attack American military bases in the Middle East. Others believed that Iran might be acting defensively to counter possible American aggression.

“I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons, and they can’t be threatening us,” Trump said that same evening in an interview with Fox News.

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Donald Trump

“And with all of everything that’s going on, and I’m not one that believes—you know, I’m not somebody that wants to go into war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly—by far most importantly.” 

That same day, Major-General Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, responded: “Iran is not looking for any type of war, but it is fully prepared to defend itself.”

The Trump administration has aggressively tried to effect “regime change” in Iran. Its methods have included diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, hawkish rhetoric and increasing the number of American soldiers and weaponry deployed in the Middle East.

If this seems familiar to those Americans with a sense of historical perspective, there is good reason for it.

These are precisely the methods used by the George W. Bush administration in its build-up to invading Iraq in March, 2003.  

Even as the rubble was being cleared at the Pentagon and World Trade Center, President George W. Bush was preparing to use the attack as an excuse to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Hussein had not plotted 9/11, and there was no evidence that he did. But that didn’t matter to Bush and those planning the invasion and conquest of Iraq.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has dared to lay bare the facts of this disgrace. Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

In 2007, he began research on his latest book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents From Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

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Nigel Hamilton

By Nigel Hamilton (Nigel Hamilton picture)

The inspiration for this came from a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy–who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

And this arrogance and indifference continued–right up to September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and Pentagon became targets for destruction.

Among the few administration officials who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

Clarke had been thus appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. He continued in the same role under  President Bush—but the position was no longer given cabinet-level access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with other, higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

These turned out to be the very officials who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States.

“Indeed,” writes Hamilton, “in the entire first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Clarke was not permitted to brief President Bush a single time, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new al-Qaeda outrage.”  [Italics added]

Nor did it help that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time. 

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States–either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

REPUBLICANS: FROM “BETTER DEAD THAN RED” TO “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 13, 2019 at 12:07 am

During the 1970s and 1980s, Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of being acting agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

As late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charge that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

In short: Clinton might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchurian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas—one of America’s poorest states—and then President.

Making this charge even more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, Republicans find that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” doesn’t carry the same weight.

So they turn to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 1991, it is unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changes when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, runs for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praises Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invites him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance is simple: Each has something to offer the other.

Putin wants the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which has preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump has often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wants to be President. For this, Putin can supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news, and even the hacking of key voting centers.

These Russian monies are officially classified as “campaign contributions”—not bribes.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks releases 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports trace the leak to Russian hackers. 

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump says at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This is treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targets Clinton’s personal office and hits more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proves one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donates to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gives $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars go to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributes:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributes $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontribute $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.  

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participates in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learns that the Russians are trying to subvert the electoral process.  

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issue a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepts a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepts another $1 million from Blavatnik. This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

* * * * * * * * * *

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals—but its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But when Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions,” they decided: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: FROM “BETTER DEAD THAN RED” TO “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 10, 2019 at 12:07 am

On September 7, 2018, former President Barack Obama asked: “What happened to the Republican Party?”

He did so as a guest speaker at the University of Illinois.  And he quickly answered it:

“Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB. Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack.  What happened?” 

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Barack Obama as President

On the surface, it seems the Republican Party has drastically changed.  But, in reality, there has been no substantial change at all.

In 1932, Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt wins election against Republican President Herbert Hoover. So popular is he that he wins an unprecedented four terms—12 years!—in the White House, seeing America through the Great Depression and World War II,

In 1945, Roosevelt suddenly dies in office, leaving Vice President Harry S. Truman in command. He lacks the imperial magnetism and eloquence of FDR, so Republicans assume that 1948 will be a cakewalk for them.

But it isn’t. Instead, Truman wins a second term—and rubs it in by holding up the now-defunct headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” for reporters to photograph.

By 1952, Republicans have been locked out of the White House for 20 years.  They’re desperate to return—and angry enough to do anything to win.  

They find attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rides a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with him.

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rises to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy

Americans are already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin has not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it has occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union develops—and demonstrates—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China falls to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek is driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerates following McCarthy’s speech. 

Any American can be accused of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

Even “untouchable” Republicans become targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these is President Dwight D. Eisenhower—labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacks the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convenes an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfire, exposing McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemns his behavior as acting “contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans ride the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depict themselves as the only ones who can be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans hold the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lose it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turn once more to those who prey upon their fears and hates.

They elect Richard Nixon, who promises to end the Vietnam war and attack “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators—and, above all, “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elects him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter wins the Presidency in 1976 and loses it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. 

Reagan doesn’t want to continue the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intends to roll it back. Tensions rise between the United States and the Soviet Union—the highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

American proxies fight Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escapes nuclear holocaust.

“JUST ANOTHER WEEK IN CALIGULA’S ROME”—AND TRUMP’S WASHINGTON

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2019 at 12:16 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. And the riches that go with it.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation. 

Like Adolf Hitler.

Like Richard Nixon. 

And his supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

TRUMP VS. MACHIAVELLI: TRUMP 0, MACHIAVELLI 10

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2019 at 11:30 am

After his untimely assassination, President John F. Kennedy became the subject of a flood of adoring biographies.

Among these:

  • With Kennedy, by Pierre Salinger;
  • A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.;
  • Kennedy, by Theodore C. Sorensen;
  • The Pleasure of His Company, by Paul B. Fay;
  • My Twelve Years With John F. Kennedy, by Elvelyn Lincoln;
  • Conversations With Kennedy, by Benjamin C. Bradlee.

Many of these appeared shortly after his death. Some—such as A Thousand Days and Kennedy—were massive—totaling 1,087 pages for the first and 758 pages for the second.

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John F. Kennedy

Many of these books were written by those who had worked closely with Kennedy and knew his most intimate secrets. Yet the worst of those secrets did not emerge until the early 1970s.

Among those:

  • Kennedy’s compulsive womanizing.
  • His poor health and reckless use of drugs (licit and illicit) to control it.
  • His waging a no-quarter war on Fidel Castro (including using the Mafia to try to assassinate the Cuban dictator).

Kennedy inspired loyalty by somehow making those around him feel they were valued—and partners in a great historical moment.

By contrast, Donald Trump had held office less than two years when three books highly critical of him emerged.

The first, Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, appeared in January, 2018. The second, Unhinged, by Omarosa Manigault-Newman, came out in August.

Among the reviews of Fire and Fury

“What makes the book significant is its sly, hilarious portrait of a hollow man, into the black hole of whose needy, greedy ego the whole world has virtually vanished.”―The Guardian

“An undeniably juicy chronicle of a presidential administration that in just one year has been beset by numerous scandals and crises….” ―The San Francisco Chronicle

Wollf is an author, essayist, journalist, and columnist. He was never a member of Trump’s inner circle—yet he was given extraordinary access to those who worked in the West Wing of the White House.

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Donald Trump

Manigault-Newman, on the other hand, had known Trump intimately since 2003, when she first appeared on his NBC “reality” series, The Apprentice. She campaigned for him in 2016 and followed him into the White House as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison—until she was fired in December, 2017. 

After her firing, she abruptly underwent a conversion from worshiper to heretic. As a reviewer on Amazon.com put it:

“It’s a story that starts with a starry eyed younger Omarosa, and ends with her freedom from the ‘TrumpWorld cult’.

“Along the way she becomes increasingly aware that her former mentor, friend, and idol, has no empathy for others, is narcissistic to an extreme, does not read or intake new information unless it’s on a favored cable TV channel, and she also sees signs of dementia-like behavior leaving her wondering what, if anything, she can do as an insider.” 

And on September 11th, the most devastating book yet to appear on Trump made its debut: Fear: Trump in the White House.

Its author was Bob Woodward, legendary investigative reporter and Washington Post associate editor.

Woodward “made his bones” as a journalist with Carl Bernstein from 1972 to 1974. Their reporting made “Watergate” a household word—and helped bring down President Richard M. Nixon.

Perhaps the most startling secret to be found within Woodward’s book: Nearly every member of Trump’s handpicked staff considers him an idiot. 

  • His former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “He’s a fucking idiot.” 
  • John Kelly, his now former chief of staff: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown.” 
  • His now former Secretary of Defense James Mattis: Trump acted like—and had the understanding of—“a fifth- or sixth-grader. ”
  • His former lawyer, John Dowd, warned Trump not to testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller: “It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit” for perjury. 

In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli raised the question of “whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.”

And he answered it: “The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”  

But Machiavelli warned against relying primarily on fear: “Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

If Trump ever read Machiavelli, he has ignored this warning with a vengeance.

By repeatedly showing himself ignorant of—and even indifferent to—the realities of Presidential statecraft, Trump quickly forfeited the respect of his top staffers and Cabinet officials. 

As a result, Trump has produced a dysfunctional administration constantly teetering on the edge of meltdown.

And by regularly humiliating those staffers and Cabinet officials, he destroyed their ties of loyalty to him as a man and President.

This has produced legions of angry, disillusioned members seeking revenge—and they will eagerly leak Trump’s latest embarrassing secrets to the first reporter who comes asking.

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2019 at 12:15 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

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Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless President Donald Trump starts firing staffers. But this could lead to his firing the wrong people. To protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. 

He’s never been able to poke fun at himself—and he grows livid when anybody else does.

At Christmastime, “Saturday Night Live” aired a parody of the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its title: “It’s a Wonderful Trump.”  In it, Trump (portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin) discovers what the United States would be like if he had never become President: A great deal better-off.

As usual, Trump expressed his resentment through Twitter: The Justice Department should stop investigating his administration and go after the real enemy: “SNL.”

“A REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live. It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal? Only defame & belittle! Collusion?” 

By saying that “SNL’s” right to parody him “should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?” Trump has chosen to ignore the role of the First Amendment in American history.

Cartoonists portrayed President Andrew Jackson wearing a king’s robes and crown, and holding a scepter. This thoroughly enraged Jackson—who had repulsed a British invasion in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans. To call a man a monarchist in 1800s America was the same as calling him a Communist in the 1950s. 

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During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was lampooned as an ape and a blood-stained tyrant. And Theodore Roosevelt proved a cartoonist’s delight, with attention given to his bushy mustache and thick-lensed glasses. 

Thus, the odds are slight that an American court would even hear a case brought by Trump against “SNL.” 

Such a case made its way through the courts in the late 1980s when the Reverend Jerry Falwell sued pornographer Larry Flyint over a satirical interview in Hustler magazine. In this, “Falwell” admitted that his first sexual encounter had been with his own mother.

In 1988, the United States Supreme Court, voting 8-0, ruled in Flynt’s favor, saying that the media had a First Amendment right to parody a celebrity.

“Despite their sometimes caustic nature, from the early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass down to the present day, graphic depictions and satirical cartoons have played a prominent role in public and political debate,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist—an appointee of President Richard Nixon—wrote in his majority decision in the case.

Moreover, there is absolutely no doubt that Trump would be forced to take the stand in such a case. The powers-that-be at NBC and “SNL” would insist on it.

And recent history has shown that while Trump loves to sue those he hates, he does not relish being put on the stand himself.  

On October 12, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. 

He accused the Times of inventing accusations to hurt his Presidential candidacy. And he threatened to sue for libel if the Times reported the women’s stories. He also threatened to sue the women making the accusations. 

He never sued the Times or the women.

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on February 20, 2019 at 12:11 am

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Donald Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” 

This from the man who, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, shouted: “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks!” 

Of course, that was when Russian Intelligence agents were exposing the secrets of Hillary Clinton, his Presidential opponent.

And, in a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, 2018, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. 

The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

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Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, former Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks. 

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2019 at 12:43 am

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake news NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17.

Less than nine hours earlier, “SNL” had once again opened with actor Alec Baldwin mocking the 45th President. In this skit, Baldwin/Trump gave a rambling press conference declaring: “We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border—or The Brown Line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

Right-wingers denounce their critics as “snowflakes”—that is, emotional, easily offended and unable to tolerate opposing views.

Yet here was Donald Trump, who prides himself on his toughness, whining like a child bully who has just been told that other people have rights, too.

The answer is simple: Trump is a tyrant—and a longtime admirer of tyrants.

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Donald Trump

He has lavishly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, such as during his appearance on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”—a reference to then-President Barack Obama. 

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Putin’s killing of political opponents.  

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father …If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying for it.  

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

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Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which has refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

Joseph Stalin

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

One characteristic shared by all dictators is intolerance toward those whose opinions differ with their own. Especially those who dare to actually criticize or make fun of them.

All Presidents have thin skins. John F. Kennedy often phoned reporters and called them “sonofbitches” when he didn’t like stories they had written on him.

Richard Nixon went further, waging all-out war against the Washington Post for its stories about his criminality. 

But Donald Trump has taken his hatred of dissidents to an entirely new—and dangerous—level.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Trump was outraged—not that one of his aides had joked about a man stricken with brain cancer, but that someone in the White House had leaked it.

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