Trump trans­forms of­fice into hy­per-bully pul­pit

The Columbus Dispatch - - Opinion/forum - ANN MCFEATTERS Ann McFeatters is a columnist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice. am­cfeat­ters@ na­tion­al­

Let’s con­sider abuse of power. Long af­ter NFL play­ers be­gan tak­ing a knee dur­ing the pregame na­tional an­them to protest racial in­equal­ity, Don­ald Trump de­cided he could use the move­ment to ce­ment his po­lit­i­cal base and change the con­ver­sa­tion from his lack of a prompt re­sponse to dev­as­ta­tion in Puerto Rico.

Trump then ar­gued such protests were an un­pa­tri­otic af­front to the flag, the mil­i­tary and the coun­try. Never mind the con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tee of free speech. He called for a boy­cott of the NFL. He told team own­ers to dis­ci­pline gen­u­flect­ing play­ers.

Trump’s ef­fron­tery out­raged team own­ers. Jerry Jones, owner of the Dal­las Cow­boys, took a knee with his play­ers at their next game.

Then Trump or­dered Mike Pence, his vice pres­i­dent and a for­mer gover­nor of In­di­ana, to leave a Colts-49ers game in In­di­anapo­lis if any­one took a knee. Sev­eral play­ers did. Pence, to­tal toadie, im­me­di­ately left the game, cost­ing tax­pay­ers $250,000 by fly­ing from Cal­i­for­nia to In­di­ana and back to Cal­i­for­nia.

Trump threat­ened to use fed­eral tax laws to pe­nal­ize the NFL’s cen­tral of­fice if play­ers con­tinue protest­ing racial in­equal­ity. The White House backed down from that bald mis­use of power. Trump was “just mak­ing a point.”

But Jones now says Cow­boys who “dis­re­spect the flag” won’t play. “If you do not honor and stand for the flag in the way that a lot of our fans feel that you should … then you won’t play,” Jones said. The own­ers are con­sid­er­ing a “rule” to ban silent protests dur­ing the an­them.

Then this week, NBC re­ported that at a July Pen­tagon meet­ing Trump blithely sug­gested in­creas­ing the na­tion’s nu­clear arse­nal ten­fold. “I want more,” three of­fi­cials said he de­manded. Trump didn’t un­der­stand that this would vi­o­late in­ter­na­tional treaties, would be im­pos­si­bly costly ($30 tril­lion or more) and is to­tally un­nec­es­sary, ac­cord­ing to the mil­i­tary.

Hu­mil­i­ated, Trump sug­gested it might be ap­pro­pri­ate to take away NBC’s broad­cast li­cense (it doesn’t need a li­cense; in­di­vid­ual sta­tions have li­censes).

Af­ter the July meet­ing, NBC re­ported, Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son called Trump a “mo­ron,” which Tiller­son has not de­nied. Trump re­acted by say­ing he’s smarter than Tiller­son and said Sen­ate com­mit­tees should in­ves­ti­gate NBC and other news net­works.

Trump has told more than 1,000 doc­u­mented lies since tak­ing of­fice. But he keeps call­ing fact-based re­ports he doesn’t like “fake news.” His sup­port­ers love it.

Then, when movie mogul Har­vey We­in­stein was outed by news mag­a­zines for many al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment, Trump said he is not sur­prised. We’re not sur­prised Trump knows about abuse.

We­in­stein’s and Trump’s il­le­gal be­hav­ior is fla­grant, il­le­gal abuse of power. Vot­ers in 2016 did not care and elected Trump any­way. We­in­stein has been ousted from his own com­pany.

Cur­rently, Trump has been taunt­ing North Korea’s un­sta­ble dic­ta­tor as “Rocket Man,” with­draw­ing from in­ter­na­tional cli­mate and trade agree­ments, and scorn­ing the Iran nu­clear deal that five other na­tions agree is stop­ping Iran’s ef­forts to build nu­clear weapons.

Ten­nessee Re­pub­li­can Sen. Bob Corker, who is not run­ning for re-elec­tion, said Trump is get­ting dan­ger­ously close to start­ing World War III. Trump’s re­ac­tion was to de­nounce and belit­tle the man he once con­sid­ered to be his vice pres­i­dent or sec­re­tary of state. Corker is chair­man of the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee.

Speak­ing of North Korea, Trump said, “My at­ti­tude is the one that mat­ters.”

Two-thirds of Amer­i­cans are dis­heart­ened by Trump. His re­sponse is to dis­tract and pump up his die-hard sup­port­ers by ap­peals to their worst in­stincts, in­clud­ing, again and again, racism.

Trump’s re­fusal to learn what he doesn’t know is alarm­ing. So is the idea that Corker, privy to the na­tion’s se­crets, wor­ries Trump could start a war, the ul­ti­mate dis­trac­tion and abuse of power.

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