Richard Nixon’s enemies list was a black-tie affair. What a party! The twenty original names included such luminaries as film star Paul Newman, Congress member Ron Dellums, and journalist Daniel Schorr. Some powerful VIPs almost felt slighted not to make The List.
The Nixon people later added scores of other individuals, as well as groups, but they could conveniently amass only so many names, given how primitive the technology was compared to today.
Of course, there was also the earlier McCarthy era, with its less exclusive blacklists of scads of subversives. But at least Sen. Joseph McCarthy didn’t sit in the Oval Office. Nor could he track ordinary Americans to the extent that law-enforcement and intel agencies can today—if nothing else, by monitoring social media postings on Facebook and elsewhere.
Now flash ahead to the possible presidency of one Donald Trump and consider the need within the bounds of ethics to pull out all stops to prevent him from sullying the White House.
We already understand how vindictive and litigation-minded The Donald can be—just look at his dreams of using the presidency to make antitrust trouble for Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, to name one of many examples. But did you know that Trump has his own indirect McCarthy ties, by way of the late Roy Cohn?
Having served as one of McCarthy’s most vicious aides, Cohn went on to eventually become a thuggish lawyer for Trump, as documented in The Truth about Trump, a well-researched biography by Michael D’Antonio, a veteran journalist who helped Newsday win a Pulitzer. Cohn tutored Trump in press manipulation and smear-making. During the Nixon administration, Cohn did his best to bully a young Justice Department attorney working on an anti-discrimination suit against The Donald.
Cyber-era McCarthyism—in fact, worse
Might Trump and his allies give us a turbocharged reinvention of McCarthyism, using databases to track his enemies with far more than Stasi– and KGB-level efficiency? And could an outspoken ebook, pbook, or blog turn into a genuine threat to your health—maybe even a fatal one, if Trump emulates his hero Putin, under whom so many Russian journalist have died under suspicious circumstances? Keep in mind Trump’s own love of violence, as demonstrated by his incitement of it at his rallies.
The conventional wisdom among establishment Republicans is that the usual suspects would tame Trump rather than the other way around, one excuse that major GOP politicians have used to justify their party’s bizarre nominee for President. I’m not so certain of that. If you read the D’Antonio book, you’ll find a recurring pattern in The Donald’s life—a grotesque swollen ego and a hair-trigger temper mixed with an eagerness to inflict pain on others. “At Kew-Forest,” D’Antonio writes of his subject’s elementary school days, “Donald Trump was a bit of a terror. He once said that he gave a teacher a black eye ‘because I didn’t think he knew anything about music.’ According to Trump, he was then already the person he would always be. ‘I don’t think people change very much,’ Trump would tell me. ‘When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same. The temperament is not that different.'”
First Amendment risks from Democrats, but nothing like Trump
Mind you, I’m not going to apologize for the First Amendment-related sins of one of Donald Trump’s main enemies, perhaps Number Two behind “Crooked” Hillary Clinton—President Barack Obama. Before the Obama administration I could call up the White House media people, at least try to have a question answered, or even get through to the office of an aide, by way of the switchboard. Some months ago I wanted to reach out to the administration to get a sense of how it felt on the national digital library issue. The White House operator wouldn’t even connect me to Obama’s media office. It did no good to mention I’d appeared in The Washington Post and other leading publications as a freelancer or that I’d been writing for more than 20 years on the topic about which I was calling.
The White House in effect is licensing journalists or at least paving the way for such an authoritarian practice. Perhaps I’d have enjoyed better luck if I had been able to pave the way with old Harvard Crimson connections. The Obama Administration in certain respects is a textbook example of Ivy League cronyism. So, no, I’ll not carry water for the Obama on First Amendment issues and I’ll regard the rise of Trumpism as a payback for the contempt that D.C. elitists so often have shown for the rest of the country, on such issues as the dreadful Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), an assault on the the American working class, not to mention a copyright nightmare.
Still, even as someone who rooted to the max for Bernie Sanders, I’ll never confuse Obama and his admirer, Clinton, with Putin and Trump.
Clinton and her people won’t systematically police the press, social media, bookstores, and libraries for subversion—they are a long way from that; rather, they would reflect the traditional norms of American politicians and understand the backlash that would occur if they meddled in a massive way.
This is why I would feel comfortable with national digital libraries—mixed with many nongovernment options such as Amazon and other e-bookstores—under a Clinton Administration.
Donald Trump is another story, given the threat to libraries in terms of both censorship and funding cutbacks if his authoritarian ways and contempt for facts win out.
Just as billed: An existential threat and a schoolyard bully in the Biff Tannen vein
The Washington Post and others have depicted Trump as an existential threat to American democracy. I’d agree. Not getting through to Obama’s White House media office is an outrageous annoyance. Displeasing President Trump’s list-keepers could be lethal—even for small-fry troublemakers outside the elite—if his Putin-loving side and Biff Tannen tendencies prevail. Hillary Clinton may not offer a full nirvana for us free speech advocates if she follows the example of her friend Obama. But given the alternative, we really should do everything we can to make certain that she, not Trump, is elected President.
Trump image credit: Here. The picture of Biff as he looked in 1955 is from the Back to the Future trilogy.
The thought that the following may still be true is what worries me.
Adlai Stevenson: “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!”
Supposed response to a woman who called out to him: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” during one of his presidential campaigns.
Meaning that those lists you speak of may well become “actionable.”
There is now a petition to the White House asking for an investigation of Trump’s recent request of Russia to hack US servers and interfere in the upcoming election. It is available for signing at this link: https://wh.gov/iFQcB (it is a “We the People” petition). If you are interested in joining the request, please read the petition and if amenable, sign it.
Hi, Rich. I signed and encourage others to do likewise. David
Thanks, David. Please spread the word.
Interesting opinion column from George Will, former Conservative Republican, now just Conservative, about Trump and the Russians: “How entangled with Russia is Trump?” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-entangled-with-russia-is-trump/2016/07/29/d5255d10-54e7-11e6-b7de-dfe509430c39_story.html)
One way or another, Rich, we need to figure out a legal means to force The Donald to open up his tax returns before the election. Of course many voters may be so ill-informed that they won’t care even if we find Trump entangled with both Putin and the Russian mafia, or mixes of the two. This is the payback that members of the American elite are getting for dumbing down the media and not sufficiently promoting books and critical thinking and other boring stuff among the grubby masses. Not to mention the worship of marketing over substance. Hail to the First Marketer—our glorious Non-Reader-in-Chief! Meanwhile thanks for sharing the Will column, and, yes, I’ll do what I can to spread word of the petition. I hope you similarly let people know about the above commentary via Facebook, Twitter and otherwise.
There is a very interesting article in The Guardian about Trump’s relationships with Putin and other Russians. The article is found at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/30/donald-trump-paul-manafort-ukraine-russia-putin-ties. The more I read about this, the more I begin to think Trump may be the modern-day Alger Hiss. As typical for Trump, he puts his pockets first.
David Rothman – This is a man who dodged the draft, has taunted POW’s and has mocked the parents of dead soldiers. This is a man who has mocked the disabled, hurled insults at women and slandered vast swathes of American minorities.
Do you REALLY suppose that anyone who would still vote for this wannabe Hitler cares about his ties with Russia??
That’s rhetorical because the answer is no
@BDR: I wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump, but lots of people still will. Welcome to America 2016.
Trump is a loathsome Fascist and, as noted, an existential threat to our democracy. But blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt and elsewhere are rightly angry at the Establishment for shafting them by sending jobs overseas and lowering wages of many of the remaining ones. A vote for Trump is a vote for revenge.
Regardless of Hillary Clinton’s many flaws, I hope people will understand the stakes and vote for her instead—in fact, volunteer to help her campaign.
The fire in this case is a lot worse than the frying pan. And, yes, the Russian angle does count. Russia is trying its hardest to destablize the U.S. to the extent it can. Trump is a buffoon whose policies would weaken us and the EU to Russia’s advantage.
Addendum: And, I might add, to the disadvantages of blue-collar workers here. Less U.S. global influence will mean still fewer jobs.
IGNORING DJT is the best medicine: Pathognomonic Politics in the USA 2016 https://goo.gl/IXxNpj