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Donald Trump and the Legacy of Joe McCarthy

By       Message John Kiriakou     Permalink
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From flickr.com/photos/22007612@N05/5440607608/: Donald Trump
Donald Trump
(image by Gage Skidmore)
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I can't tell whether Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump really believes the nonsense he's been spouting on the campaign trail or if he's just having such a good time stirring the political pot that he doesn't realize the damage he's causing to the body politic. Trump has denounced Senator John McCain, a bona fide war hero who spent seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, as "not a hero" because "heroes don't get caught."

He famously derided undocumented Mexican workers as "rapists and drug smugglers." He called for the forced closure of mosques across the United States. And he advocated a database where Americans who happen to be Muslims would be forced to register, ignoring the United States' ugly, racist, and illegal history of interning Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Trump's foreign policy can be distilled to a speech he gave last week when he said, in response to the Paris terrorist attacks, "We need to bomb the sh*t out of these people." That's not a policy. That's the musings of a demagogue who doesn't understand the complexities of policy or of war, and who doesn't care about the innocent people he would kill in the process.

Trump even backed the use of violence against a protestor at one of his recent rallies. When the man, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement, shouted something at a Trump rally in Alabama, Trump supporters beat him while Trump said, "Maybe he should have been roughed up. What he did (protesting Trump's racist comments on the campaign trail) was disgusting."

It's easy to laugh at the lunacy of Trump's positions on a wide variety of issues, many of which are patently unconstitutional. But Trump is attracting enough support that some pundits posit that he could actually win the Republican nomination for President. He's vocalizing the hate of a sizeable chuck of the Republican Party's right wing. There's still time to send Trump packing, and there's still time to smother his hate speech in its crib.

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We've made the mistake of tolerating a demagogue in the past, when Americans danced with a populist hate-monger. We must not make the same mistake again. In the 1950s, Americans allowed Senator Joe McCarthy to spout his hate unchallenged. He accused political enemies, liberals, and anybody else he didn't like of being communists, and thus threats to the national security, just as Trump is doing today. The result was the destruction of untold lives and livelihoods, a shameful "black list" of Hollywood writers, directors, producers, and actors, and even suicides.

Americans finally got wise to McCarthy, but not until he had left his black mark on history. We can, and should, kick Trump to the curb before he does any more damage.

Perhaps the most egregious and obvious reason to not support Trump is his unapologetic support of George W. Bush's torture regime. Trump said only a week ago that he would bring back waterboarding and other forms of torture employed by the Bush administration. Completely ignoring the fact that the Federal Torture Act outlaws torture in the United States, the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act outlaws torture, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which the US not only signed, but authored, outlaws torture, Trump said, "Even if it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway."

What Trump is thus advocating is what the Constitution calls "high crimes and misdemeanors." Torture is illegal in this country. If a President implements a policy that is illegal, he is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and would then be subject to impeachment, trial, and conviction.

But for goodness sake, let's not let it get to that point. Americans need to stop the Trump abomination now. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past. Trump has to go.

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John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA and two years in a federal prison for blowing the whistle on the agency's use of torture. He served on John Kerry's Senate Foreign Relations Committee for two years as senior investigator into the Middle East. He writes and speaks about national security, (more...)

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