Whoa! Let me get this right. After Sunday morning, we now have a potential “Republican” candidate who is comfortable quoting the Italian dictator and ruthless fascist Benito Mussolini, one of Hitler’s closest allies. Specifically, Trump retweeted a quote from the fascist dictator and said Sunday is comfortable being “affiliated” with that quote, and by implications the man. Winston Churchill must be turning in his grave. Along with many of our sacred Greatest Generation. Does history mean nothing?
We have a potential “Republican” candidate who has declared he will push to have the entire media, what we constitutionalists or believers in the First Amendment call a “free press,” liable for inaccurate or uncomplimentary stories about a political candidate. In other words, he is content to give the president power to go after what he refers to as a “terrible” group, the folks who bring us the news, flawed as it often is. Benjamin Franklin must be turning in his grave. Does freedom of speech mean nothing?
We have a potential “Republican” candidate who is admittedly under scrutiny, being officially audited, by the Internal Revenue Service – and yet, even then, refuses to release his tax returns, or for that matter any prior audited tax returns that might illuminate why. Justice Scalia, Justice Rehnquist, and all our prior Attorneys General must be turning in their graves. Does truth and rule of law mean nothing?
And we have a potential “Republican” candidate who, pressed to prove the accuracy of prior claims by stating his gross income, effective tax rate, or even level of charitable contributions – refuses. And this against the backdrop of Veterans groups asking why they have not received promised contributions, after he called them to his side for a private, televised event in Iowa. Countless honest citizens and Veterans, now gone to their common rest, must be rolling in their graves. Does honor mean nothing?
Yes, the average lifelong Republican is entitled to begin asking – what is going on? I think even George Orwell, famous for his dystopian book 1984, might be asking – what is going on? I think perhaps the most poignant questions are these two: How can a man run for President of the United States who so clearly misunderstands, does not respect, or cannot comprehend the importance of our biggest rights, biggest issues and biggest responsibilities of that office? Even Chancy Gardner was a mere advisor of a naïve, shallow president – not the president himself.
And second, how can the common sense of average Americans – in whom I have always believed, as Jefferson and our Founders believed, be so adrift, so unanchored, so willing to be spoon-fed nonsense, to content to leave these statements – and what they portend – unexamined? How can they be so dozy as to imagine that the values being asserted are what America is about?
Understand this – neither Ronald Reagan nor any other modern conservative, of any stripe, no matter how frustrated with the size of our government, level of taxation and debt, fear for our country’s security – would ever counsel throwing their lot in with Mussolini, or someone who did not understand what retweeting the fascist’s quote means. Nor would they throw their lot in with someone who suggested shutting down the free press with lawsuits for bad stories, effectively eviscerating the First Amendment. Nor would they hide behind an audit to block Americans’ seminal “right to know.” Nor would they fail to answer fundamental questions about their basic finances, when that is the heart of a man’s campaign to lead.
These ironies now go beyond comic, into the surreal. How little will we allow ourselves to think? Put differently, how much will we allow ourselves to be taken for the fool? How long will we permit ourselves to forgive, ignore, stonewall, and bury truth – in exchange for the pleasure of venting disapproval at Obama and go-along Republicans? I sincerely hope that we are at the end of our rant. I hope we collectively retain enough common sense to keep balance. I hope we still know how to honor basic constitutional rights – and the men and women who died keeping them alive for us. If we do not, we have given away the soul of the country.
If we have entered the twilight zone of disinterest in history, honesty, sanctity of free press, free speech and freedom’s reign, then we are indeed in deeper trouble than I thought. We have begun to forget how precarious democracy is, how easily thrown away, how fragile the balance of powers, how permissive freedom must be to survive, how imperfect we all are – and why we tolerate each other’s imperfections and imperfect government to preserve the Republic.
Republicans have always been proud of being responsible, genuine stewards of the Republic. How ironic, if we should suddenly become detractors who cripple the institutions we have sworn to protect and defend. Let us not do that. Let us think about this election, and vote with attention to the details. Let us pick a real constitutional conservative, someone who respects where we come from, what we stand for, how we treat each other, and how we have always lived. In a word, Whoa! Let us get this right.