Sunday, March 06, 2016

Trump Steps Back a Bit from Authoritarianism, But Wants to Legalize Waterboarding at Minimum and Torture If Possible

At Thursday's debate, Donald Trump was asked what he would do if the military refused to obey illegal orders to intentionally kill families of terrorists. Trump responded:
“They won’t refuse, they’re not going to refuse me — believe me.” “You look at the Middle East, they’re chopping off heads,” Trump said, before turning to water-boarding. “If we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too. Frankly, that’s the way I feel.”
Trump followed up with his view of Presidential leadership: "I'm a leader. I've always been a leader. I've never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they're going to do it. That's what leadership is all about."

It's clear that Trump is an authoritarian leader. His gut response is that executive commands are more important than Congressional or Constitutional laws.

After the debate Trump partly stepped back from saying the military will obey him no matter what he orders.
"We have an enemy that doesn't play by the laws. You could say laws, and they're laughing. They're laughing at us right now. I would like to strengthen the laws so that we can better compete."
"You know, it's very tough to beat enemies that don't have any, that don't have any restrictions, all right? We have these massive restrictions. Now, I will always abide by the law, but I would like to have the law expanded," Trump said
"I happen to think that when you're fighting an enemy that chops off heads, I happen to think that we should use something that's stronger than we have right now. Right now, basically, waterboarding is essentially not allowed, as I understand it. ... I would certainly like it to be, at a minimum, at a minimum to allow that."
. . .
When Dickerson asked if rules are what "separates us from the savages," Trump said he didn't think so.
"We have to beat the savages," he said.
Dickerson asked if that would require throwing all the rules out.
"You have to play the game the way they're playing the game," Trump asserted. "You're not going to win if we're soft and they're, they have no rules. Now, I want to stay within the laws, I want to do all of that, but I think we have to increase the laws."
This is a retreat from Trump's previous clear support of authoritarianism. But the mindset is still there. One has to win at all costs. Government is basically involved in competition. That's his view of economics as well. "You have to play the game the way they're playing the game." So, what matters is not the Constitution, not law, not Supreme Court decisions, not the Bill of Rights, not even God's laws, but how the other side plays the game.

Be prepared for a President Trump to propose something like a bill of attainder with more punishment than just deprivation of property being applied in the U.S. as well as on foreign battlefields. Because, of course, the U.S. is also a battlefield with ISIS. Think of the San Bernardino massacre. Trump has said we should go after the terrorist couple's family members with no proviso that it should be based on evidence that would stand up in a court of law.*
*Full disclosure: Someone close to me was questioned by the FBI about a family member building a possible bomb. It turned out to be a legal explosive. The family knew nothing about the explosives involved.

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