It may seem odd that the leading presidential candidate from one of our two major parties is running on preventing his opponent from “weaponizing” the government while at the same time promising to rain vengeance down on his political enemies with the full force of his office, but that’s precisely where we are right now.
Donald Trump—who never misses a chance to claim the 91 felony counts he’s collected are all illegitimate and politically motivated, as if President Joe Biden forced him to store top secret government documents in his bathroom/auxiliary dining room—has already flatly asserted he’d lock up his political opponents if given the chance.
Of course, we’ve got a long way to go before the 2024 general election, and there’s a nonzero chance that, a year from now, Trump will be making his own MAGA swag in a prison workroom for 20 cents an hour after his campaign inks a lucrative contract with a for-profit prison, but the danger Trump presents—and openly promises—is so grave, it needs to be squarely dealt with. Now.
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And CNN’s Kaitlin Collins, who as much as anyone else in the media is guilty of normalizing Trump, is at least taking one diffident step in that direction.
On Monday, Collins interviewed former Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and he affirmed just how unprecedented—and horrifying—a second Trump term would be. The interview comes on the heels of Trump’s and Rep. Paul Gosar’s recent suggestions, in the wake of an unflattering Atlantic article, that former Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley should be put to death for treason.
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ESPER: “Milley’s tenure was extraordinary. He did a great job. He has served honorably, and he deserves our praise and thanks, and he does not deserve what he’s receiving from President [sic] Trump right now.”
COLLINS: “You mentioned this new reporting. There is a new piece in The Atlantic, and part of that says that Milley has told friends that he expects if Trump does return to the White House … that the newly elected president will come after him, and Milley’s reportedly told people, quote, ‘He’ll start throwing people in jail and I’d be on the top of the list.’ Do you think that’s a justified concern?”
ESPER: “Look, I think it’s a legitimate fear. If you recall from my memoir that you mentioned at the top, I cite a circumstance where the president, egged on by his close advisers, wanted to call back to active duty Adm. [William] McRaven and Gen. [Stanley] McChrystal to court-martial them for some things that they allegedly said in the public domain, and Milley and I had to talk the president out of doing that for any number of reasons. So is it possible that a new loyalist sitting around Trump in the Oval Office will say, ‘Let’s call up Milley’? Yeah, it’s quite likely. … The president’s also said that his second term would be about retribution, right? So I think these are all legitimate concerns.”
Well, at least Trump would get rid of the two-tiered justice system. It would be one tier and one tier only. And if you were unlucky enough to find yourself on that tier, you’d essentially be fucked. After all, there’s a reason Trump loves murderous dictators so much: He wants to be just like them. So essentially, in a second Trump term, everyone in the country would live in mortal fear of our once and future president, with the possible exception of the folks on the Polonium-210 Marketing Board.
COLLINS: “Can we just take a moment and—you were his Pentagon chief, the former defense secretary saying that it is a legitimate fear that the former commander in chief, who is seeking to be the commander in chief again, would want to seek retribution against someone like Gen. Milley simply because he doesn’t like the way that that tenure is being reported in books and in articles.”
ESPER: “Yeah, and I think simply also because of the way Milley conducted himself, which was to offer candid, frank advice. If it wasn’t what the president wanted to hear because of what Milley was saying or he didn’t want to hear what I was saying—look, he doesn’t like that. He wants to find yes men in his office. And so, yeah, he would do that. It’s hard for me to believe I’m saying that as well, I wish I didn’t have to say that, but if I didn’t have the experience in the Oval Office with President [sic] Trump seriously wanting to call back to active duty McChrystal and McRaven to court-martial them, I would be less certain, but unfortunately it is what it is.
See, media? See? Donald Trump, who incited an insurrection against the legitimate government of the United States, is openly promising to turn our nation into an autocracy that subverts the rule of law in order to indulge the febrile whims of a de facto king. And his former top advisers are frantically ringing the alarm bell. Seems like that should be the lede in every story written about Trump from now until next November, but then again, there’s a horse race to cover. The fact that one of the horses has broken loose and is currently trying to kill and eat the other horses appears to be of minimal concern.
After all, this is the same guy who tried to get Disney to gag comedian and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel because he didn’t like his jokes. What the fuck do you think he’d do with a second term? Reach across the aisle in a sincere attempt to heal the nation?
Of course, you’ll also likely recall that, in 2016, Trump ran on protecting our nation’s secrets before opening a secret documents reading room next to his toilet. In other words, if he accuses a political opponent of doing something sketchy—like he’s been falsely accusing President Biden of doing—you can rest assured he’s doing it himself. Look for him, at some point in the near future, to claim President Biden has taken a protracted series of increasingly concupiscent bubble baths with Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin.
The truth is, Trump remains a clear and present danger to American democracy, and the media really need to understand this and start to emphasize the truly unprecedented—and, let’s face it, fucking weird and scary—nature of his candidacy.
If not, we’ll all be making MAGA swag in Trump-branded reeducation camps for 20 cents an hour—if we’re lucky.
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