Donald J. Trump has a strange and unhealthy fascination with the “strength” of those who pummel, terrorize, and kill people. At the Miami Republican debate, he stood by comments in support of the Communist Chinese dictatorship for killing protesters during a “riot,” and he praised the leading killer in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, for being “strong.” Despite these shocking assertions, Trump was seen by some in the media as turning in a respectable or even “presidential” performance. At least he didn’t talk about his body parts or use obscenities.
Once again, according to Trump’s leading media cheerleader, the Drudge Report, the New York businessman won the debate. Drudge said he got 63 percent in an online survey, versus 24 percent for Senator Ted Cruz.
It seemed bizarre to me. But in a matter-of-fact manner, moderator Jake Tapper noted that Trump has been criticized for “praising authoritarian dictators.” He quoted Trump as saying about China’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”
Despite the clear meaning of his words, Trump lamely replied, “That doesn’t mean I was endorsing that.” He added, “I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich had the Reaganite response. He said, “I think that the Chinese government butchered those kids. And when that guy stood in front—that young man stood in front of that tank, we ought to build a statue of him over here when he faced down the Chinese government.” He was referring to the famous picture of a pro-democracy demonstrator standing in front of a Chinese tank.
The estimates of the dead in Tiananmen Square range from several hundred to more than 2,000.
President Reagan wasn’t president at the time, but his partner in foreign affairs, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain, said she was “appalled by the indiscriminate shooting of unarmed people.” The French Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas, was quoted as saying that he was “dismayed by the bloody repression” of “an unarmed crowd of demonstrators.”
Today, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination is defending the “strong, powerful government that put it down with strength.” At the same time, he’s critical of U.S. allies around the world now facing threats from the Russians, the Chinese and the North Koreans. Trump said, “…we take care of Germany, we take care of Saudi Arabia, we take care of Japan, we take care of South Korea. We take—every time this maniac from North Korea does anything, we immediately send our ships. We get virtually nothing.” It’s a lie, of course. In fact, the South Koreans have a “burden sharing agreement” with the U.S. under which they paid $861 million last year.
Trump seems to have no interest in maintaining America’s strategic alliances, throwing into doubt the survival of tens of millions of people who depend on the United States for their freedom.
Under a President Trump, there could be another domino-theory scenario, with American allies falling like dominoes around the world. In the Middle East, because Trump wants to pursue a strategic alliance with Russia, we are likely to see NATO member Turkey fall to Russian aggression, and the Saudi oil fields would then be a major target of the Russian-Iranian military axis. Israel comes after that.
At the debate, Trump said, “As far as Putin is concerned, I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia. I think he has been a lot stronger than our leader, that I can tell you. I mean, for Russia, that doesn’t mean I’m endorsing Putin.” Oh, really? He has defended Putin against charges that the Russian dictator kills people, saying, “we kill a lot of people, too.” He gladly accepted Putin’s support for his candidacy. “When people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia,” Trump said.
It’s bad enough that he admires “strong” foreign leaders who carry out military aggression and kill their political opponents. His own campaign has now been accused of wrestling a young female reporter named Michelle Fields to the ground and bruising her arm. She worked for Breitbart News, a media organization named for the conservative journalist, Andrew Breitbart, who won the Reed Irvine Journalism Award for confronting the political and media establishments. Ironically, most of the editors and reporters at Breitbart News have been promoting the Donald J. Trump candidacy. They’ve been forced to come to grips with what happened to their own reporter, a development that may or may not cause them to reconsider their support of the New York businessman. After the debate, Trump said he didn’t believe Fields had been manhandled by his staff.
This incident, which was not brought up during the Miami debate, occurred after a protester was sucker punched by a man during a Trump rally. The Trump supporter has been charged with assault and was quoted as saying that, next time, the protester should be killed.
Robert Zubrin, who has written on why the Kremlin is openly backing Trump for U.S. president, told me during a recent interview that “Trump constantly talks about strength. He never talks about liberty.” It is a telling observation. He says Trump is offering America “strong man rule.” He made these comments before the Republican debate in Miami, and the physical confrontations with Fields and the anti-Trump protester. Trump says he does not condone the violence, but he seems to encourage physical confrontations at his rallies. His cult-like followers pledge personal allegiance to him.
In this context, Zubrin noted, Trump re-tweeted a quote from the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The quote was, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” Trump called it “a very good quote.” Zubrin asserts, “Trump actually imitates the gestures of Mussolini, upturned chin and so forth.” Not willing to hide his opinions, Zubrin believes Trump is a fascist, or a national socialist.
As the incident with Fields demonstrates, it appears that Trump and his campaign want to muscle the press and anybody else who gets in his way. The use of muscle has mostly been unnecessary until now. The Trump campaign has had the media feeding out of their hands. However, Trump has threatened lawsuits against the Cruz campaign and the Club for Growth for running ads. Trump’s lawyers sent a “cease-and-desist” letter demanding that the Cruz campaign take down a campaign ad showing Trump on “Meet the Press” in 1999 saying, “I am pro-choice in every respect,” and adding that he would not ban partial-birth abortion.
In other words, Trump didn’t want the America people to be informed about his own previous positions on this issue. How’s that for someone about to get the nomination of a political party that claims to be for individual freedom and freedom of expression?
In the Fields case, the behavior by the Trump campaign seems to be somewhat similar to the case of Melissa Click, the University of Missouri professor who was fired for blocking a journalist’s access to a left-wing protest. “Hey, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here?” Click was caught saying. “I need some muscle over here.”
These totalitarian tendencies can be found on the right and left. During the Democratic Party debate with Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) refused to disavow his support of the Castro dictatorship. Trump hasn’t said so, but perhaps he, too, respects the Castro brothers for being “strong” leaders like Putin and the Communist Chinese.
Zubrin, the author of Merchants of Despair, noted with concern that Trump has already announced that he wants to “open up” newspapers and other media to lawsuits for saying bad things about political and government officials. Trump says, “One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”
Our media are “protected” by the First Amendment, designed to encourage a diversity of voices and hold government accountable.
Zubrin said Trump seems to think “our press is too free,” and that “we don’t have enough lawsuits.”
In fact, without these proposed changes, Trump and others like him can still sue the press, and he has done so.
Trump in the past filed suit against a New York Times reporter who wrote a book that Trump said had misrepresented his net worth. Trump considered this malicious. Trump had demanded $5 billion in damages and spent $1 million in legal fees over a five year period before the case was thrown out. The Washington Post reported that Trump said in an interview that he knew he couldn’t win the case but pursued it anyway just to make the reporter’s life miserable. Trump said he was “happy” about it.
“America does not need a dictator,” Zubrin told me. “That’s one thing we don’t need. So it’s almost beside the point what his positions on the issues are. His ultimate position is he wants to be a strong man backed by a mob.”
And the party of Reagan and Lincoln is about to nominate this guy? It’s no wonder that conservative journalist Fred Barnes predicts that conservatives will launch their own candidate for president if Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination.
America will never be the same. In fact, the country that Ronald and Nancy Reagan loved has already changed in very disturbing ways. Both major political parties seem to be having a fascination with adherents of totalitarian ideologies—Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald J. Trump on the right. Whatever happens to Sanders, he has already pushed Hillary Clinton further to the left. The Democratic Party has already become a vehicle for imposing socialism on the American people.
On the other side, if the Republican Party accepts Trump as its nominee, it may be finished as a major party, as conservatives desert the GOP and regroup under a different banner. It truly is a time for choosing.
CommentsComments are turned off for this article.