Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Trump is More Paranoid and Dangerous than Nixon

A piece in the New Republic takes a frightening look at the lust for revenge and paranoia that will sweep into the White House on January 20, 2017, and the danger that Donald Trump poses to anyone that his warped and narcissistic mind may deem and "enemy."  Given Trump's pettiness, there could be few limits on his efforts to seek revenge and punish those who see him for what he is and the danger that he poses to the nation.  Add to Trump's dangerous personality the surveillance and other  powers that will be at his disposal, and all of us have cause to be very afraid.  Here are article excerpts:
Donald Trump and Richard Nixon have at least one thing in common: They are the two most paranoid and vindictive men ever to win the presidency. Both came to power armed with enemies lists, vowing to seek revenge against those who stood in their way. Both roamed the mansions of power late at night, raving against every perceived slight. Both were caught on tape describing the ways they enjoyed bending others to their will.
But Nixon, unlike Trump, was an introspective man. In one particularly fascinating moment of self-reflection following his resignation, he described to a former aide the habits that had enabled him to rise to the top of Washington’s greasy pole. When you’re on your way, he explained, it pays to be crazy.
“In your own mind you have nothing to lose, so you take plenty of chances,” Nixon said. “It is then you understand, for the first time, that you have the advantage—because your competitors can’t risk what they have already.” That’s an insight that Trump put to good use during the Republican primaries, when he was willing to place high-stakes bets that his more experienced rivals were unwilling or unable to match.
But then you win, and your problems begin. “It’s a piece of cake until you get to the top,” Nixon confessed. “You find you can’t stop playing the game the way you’ve always played it, because it is a part of you and you need it as much as an arm and a leg. You continue to walk on the edge of the precipice, because over the years you have become fascinated by how close to the edge you can walk without losing your balance.”
The ways Richard Nixon chased that high are now a matter of voluminous historical record. None is more harrowing than his exploitation of the vast powers of his office to spy on those he perceived as threats to his power, and then seek to use the results of that surveillance to neutralize or destroy them.
The first phone tap on one of his own officials came in the fourth month of his presidency. That same year, federal agents snared a gay, closeted antiwar organizer named David Mixner in a “honey trap,” and threatened to release photographs of his assignation unless he ratted out his comrades. By the second year, an entire unit of the Internal Revenue Service was chartered in a locked, soundproof room to harass a blacklist of antiwar activists.
His enforcer, Chuck Colson, drew up “enemies lists” that included such fearsome figures as actress Carol Channing and Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton. The IRS was deployed to audit their taxes or take away the nonprofit status of their organizations. 
Donald Trump assembles enemies lists, too; his organs of cognition appear to be structured around the idea of revenge. There are Republicans who voted against him, like Senator Lindsey Graham. (“It’s so great our enemies are making themselves clear,” Trump surrogate Omarosa Manigault exulted, “so that when we get to the White House, we know where we stand.”) There are media organizations he claims have covered him unfairly, like The Washington Post. . . . And it’s not hard to imagine that Trump’s list of targets will only grow longer as his power expands. Like Nixon, he has spent his entire life chasing the narcotic rush afforded by dominating others, the better to fill the void where a functioning soul ought to be.
But there are two key differences that set Trump apart from his predecessor in paranoia. First, his soul is sicker by miles than Nixon’s. And second, the surveillance apparatus he is about to inherit is far scarier than the one available to Nixon. . . . .  “Now we are about to hand over that entire apparatus to a paranoid, score-settling sociopath whose primary obsession seems to be with crushing his personal enemies.”
Today the government can monitor virtually every form of communication, including the contents of emails, phone calls, online searches, and a host of personal data.
It’s not hard to imagine the kind of damage Trump could do with the powers of the NSA at his disposal. “Let’s say you become part of the Trump opposition,” says Jon Stokes. “It probably won’t be long before Trump knows what kind of porn you like. Sure, that’s against the law—but the government has been breaking those laws for 20 years. We’ve just been doing it for noble, Jack Bauer reasons, not petty Donald Trump reasons.”
Consider, too, all the federal officials beyond the director of national intelligence who will serve at the pleasure of Trump. There’s the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, whom the president could illegally order to target enemies with tax audits, like Nixon did. The head of the Small Business Administration, which could cut off loans to Trump’s rivals. The entire Cabinet, which oversees billions of dollars in federal research grants and defense contracts and construction jobs. . . . And the head of military intelligence, who could use the Pentagon’s powers to spy on left-wing groups, as it did under Lyndon Johnson and to a vastly expanded degree under the paranoid auspices of Richard Nixon.
What will happen when President Trump orders some eyesore removed from his sight, only to discover the limits of presidential power? Revenge is a narcotic, and Trump of all people will be in need of a regular, ongoing fix. Ordering his people to abuse the surveillance state to harass and destroy his enemies will offer the quickest and most satisfying kick he can get. The tragedy, as James Madison could have told us, is that the good stuff is now lying around everywhere, just waiting for the next aspiring dictator to cop.

Be very, very afraid.

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