Dan Rather · Open Facebook Comment to Donald Trump:
No sir, Mr. President, with all due respect. The job of protecting this country from a terrorist attack falls on your shoulders.
In the past few days Mr. Trump has launched a very serious and very dangerous campaign of suggesting that if an attack occurs it will be the fault of federal judges who ruled that his Executive Order on immigration was Constitutionally problematic. And more recently he suggested it might be the fault of the press for not reporting on terrorist attacks – an assertion which any fair read of the evidence shows is a lie. As with the sweeping allegations of millions of fraudulent voters (where is the investigation of that dire threat to our democracy now?), the White House cannot supply facts to back up the President’s claim.
Mr. Trump is the Commander in Chief. The armed services and intelligence community report to him. Searching for scapegoats to blame even before an event occurs is to sow the seeds of destabilization to the very fabric of our republic. These are the tactics of a thin-skinned bully who may realize he is in far over his head. No doubt there are many in Mr. Trump’s base who are being whipped up into a misguided frenzy fueled by “fake news” and right-wing media. This is a common tactic of authoritarian rulers I have seen around the globe. It is stoking civic unrest and paving a path to crack downs and repression.
I do not think – or perhaps a desperate hope is father to the thought – that this tactic will work here. Mr. Trump built his brand on a bold, brash form of leadership and I think most Americans will see through the rhetoric of dodging responsibility. Furthermore we cherish an independent judiciary as a bedrock of our checks and balances. We can see that the press has covered terrorist attacks fully. And I do not see either judges or reporters backing down. Quite the contrary.
But Mr. Trump is signaling how he will react in a time of crisis. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Trump calls the play, he drops back … oh no, another fumble.