Donald Trump's faults are legion. But which ones are truly awful?
A crass womanizer who brags about his penis. But wait a minute. Lyndon B. Johnson was vulgar and crude and crass and a womanizer -- and LBJ was easily eclipsed as a womanizer by John F. Kennedy.
A bigot who attacks Mexican immigrants and Muslims among other "undesirables." But wait a minute. Richard Nixon railed against the Blacks and the Jews, among other "enemies" of Nixon's righteous "silent majority" of Americans.
An ignoramus who knows little of foreign policy. But wait a minute. Many presidential candidates have lacked foreign policy experience (Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, to cite two recent examples).
A posturing tough-guy who supports torture for America's enemies and the murder of terrorists' families. But wait a minute. The Bush/Cheney administration freely used torture (they just called it "enhanced interrogation techniques"), and the Obama administration freely uses drones to "take out" terrorists and whoever may be with them (including innocent family members).
A serial liar who can't be taken at his word. But wait a minute. Name any president, other than Jimmy Carter, who prioritized truth-telling.
A bully who bludgeons his opponents into submission. But wait a minute. Just think of LBJ, Nixon, and Dick Cheney (yes, he was a Vice President, but still). These men were all bullies.
A shameless showman who exploits the media while professing to hate it. But wait a minute. Nixon despised the media; the media colluded with Kennedy to hide his negative qualities; and Obama has cozied up to the corporate media even as he's actively prosecuted whistleblowers.
Focusing on Trump's many "awfuls" is not the best way to defeat him, since America's presidents have hardly been choir boys. Put simply, Trump's prejudicial attitudes toward women, minorities, and other groups or peoples he doesn't like don't mark him as exceptional, nor does his record of flip-flops on issues, as the American people have come to expect that politicians are basically liars.
Where Trump is vulnerable, I believe, is his tyrannical qualities. Trump's past behavior suggests he sees himself as above the law. Put differently, he sees himself as a law unto himself. And if he wins the presidency I simply don't believe he'll honor his oath of office to the U.S. Constitution.
Remember during the Frost Interviews when Nixon said, If the president does it, that means it's legal? That's Trump in a nutshell. Recall during the Republican presidential debates when Trump said the U.S. military would obey his orders regardless of their legality under the U.S. Constitution. Yes, he later recanted that dictatorial position, but his initial answer revealed his essential nature: I'm in charge, I'll do what I want, everyone else has to obey me.
Here "Star Trek" fans may recall an episode from the original series called "Space Seed," featuring Ricardo Montalban as Khan. A tyrant from Earth's past, Khan speaks of unifying humanity under a strong leader. Spock's reply is telling: "Unify, sir? Like a team of animals under one whip?"
Khan then waxes about the wonders of one-man rule, eventually blurting out, "We offered the world order!" The Donald, today's version of Khan, offers to make America great again.
Trump has the makings of a tyrant. His approach to the presidency is fundamentally undemocratic. His statements and behavior suggest if he becomes president he'll do what he wants and expect others to fall into line, even the U.S. military, which swears its oath to the U.S. Constitution and not to any one leader. At a time when Congress has abdicated its responsibility to declare war or to check executive warmaking prerogatives, a tyrant like Trump is an especially dangerous prospect as president.
Because of this, Trump is truly an awful choice for president.
A retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and history professor, Astore blogs at Bracing Views.