WORTH REPEATING: And Then They Came For Me



RELATED: Melania Trump said a journalist barraged with anti-Semitic death threats had “provoked” Trump supporters by writing a controversial profile of her. “I don’t control my fans, but I don’t agree with what they’re doing. I understand what you mean, but there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them,” Melania told DuJour magazine. Julia Ioffe filed a police report last month when Donald Trump supporters flooded her with neo-Nazi death threats following the publication of her profile of Melania. Trump backers sent Ioffe, who is Jewish, images showing her face superimposed onto that of an Auschwitz prisoner [PICTURED, ABOVE] and a cartoon of a Jew being shot in the head. MORE

FOREIGN POLICY: Even during the darkest days of the Bush administration […] I didn’t doubt that senior U.S. officials would generally act in good faith. I raised these questions not because I could truly imagine a U.S. president targeting journalists or political critics for detention or death but simply to highlight how dangerous it was to create a system in which the wisdom and integrity of senior officials are our sole protection against abuse. What happens if one day you get a leader with neither wisdom nor integrity? What happens if you get a sadist or a madman? This, after all, is why the founders of the Republic demanded a “government of laws and not of men.”

Today, these no longer seem like purely rhetorical questions. Steve Bannon, who once described Breitbart as a “platform for the alt-right,” is now sitting on Trump’s National Security Council, and we have a president whose vindictiveness is legendary, as is his penchant for threats and snap decisions made without consultation. We have a president who doesn’t hesitate to use his bully pulpit to bully those who cross him, from college students to foreign leaders to federal judges. And we have a president who unapologetically admires murderous strongmen like the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. (In a Super Bowl Sunday interview with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, Trump shrugged off O’Reilly’s comment that Putin is a “killer”: “There are a lot of killers,” Trump said. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”)

For decades, we’ve had the luxury of assuming that the United States would always have a professional, nonpartisan civil service. We’ve had the luxury of assuming that the fearsome coercive powers of the federal government would be exercised responsibly and constitutionally. For those of us who often find ourselves criticizing government actions, that has been a vital assumption: For the most part, we’ve been able to take for granted that notwithstanding occasional mistakes, the FBI and Secret Service will focus on genuine threats and won’t target journalists, NGO advocates, or other critics.

Looking ahead, I’m not sure we will continue to have that luxury.

I’m not suggesting that Trump’s next move will be drone strikes targeting his journalist critics. But I am suggesting that we are no longer living in a time of normal politics. Trump and Bannon have told us as much. This makes it more important than ever for the rest of us to keep asking hard questions and having uncomfortable conversations, no matter how many filthy and threatening emails and tweets we get. The alternative is worse: If journalists and commentators let themselves be intimidated into silence; if Trump’s attacks on judges and civil servants lead them to back away from their commitment to the rule of law; if the FBI and Secret Service become tools of executive vengeance rather than impartial instruments of justice; if military leaders become too cowed to recall that their most fundamental duty is to the U.S. Constitution, not to Donald Trump….

Well, then Trump will be right that America is no better than Putin’s Russia. MORE