Following the November presidential elections, we offered you our column “Prepare to Fight Fascism: 2017 and Beyond”. Within it, we gave you Donald Trump’s modus operandi throughout his decades of business life:
Trump, in his youth, was weaned by a real-estate father to be a business “killer” (his father’s term), and a winner and not a loser, according to PBS Frontline. In young adulthood, he was trained by the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn. Cohn made his name as a legal henchman for Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the notorious ’50s “Red-Scare” politician. Cohn represented Trump in business for years, pushing him to (1) never admit to anything negative, (2) propagandize every negative into a positive, and (3) if anybody sues you, countersue. That’s not what you would call an honest life, but it is a way to help protect yourself legally.
During his brief presidency, you’ve seen Trump stay with these three Cohn Core Principles. Let’s look at how he’s done this with two of the major issues he’s faced in his first weeks:
- From his court-failed, seven-Muslim-country immigration ban to the in-out dash of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Trump continues, and will continue, to see no fault or flaw in his own choices or actions. He never admits to anything negative.
- He immediately propagandized both the legally failed immigration ban and Flynn’s departure. Rather than admitting to a Constitutional problem with the ban, he blamed the federal judge for ineptness, referring to him as “this so-called judge”. In his rambling, ego-filled press conference last week, he refused to say Flynn lied to Vice-President Pence and the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Trump said, “Mike Flynn is a fine person…What he did wasn’t wrong — what he did in terms of the information he saw. What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves [the press] in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally. That’s the real problem.”
Trump relies on his Cohn Core Principles
- So, you see, this is Trump’s way of “countersuing”. When the federal judge says your presidential order is at fault, Trump responds: Well, you’re not even really a judge; you’re a “so-called judge”. When his national security advisor lies, he’s not a bad guy. It’s the fault of whoever leaked the info, and the press for revealing it.
You will see him stay with the Cohn Core Principles – the denial of truth and propagandizing of untruths — throughout his presidency, however long that may be, because they have helped him get whatever he’s wanted for decades.
The Bill Clinton Future Keys
Bill Clinton, when governor of Arkansas, gave us the three keys to simplifying Trump’s future as president.
Clinton would sometimes start a speech by telling this joke: He had just moved into the governor’s office, replacing David Pryor, who had been elected to the U.S. Senate. Clinton discovered in his desk three sealed letters which Pryor had written him. Attached was a note advising him to open one letter whenever he really ran into trouble. Clinton explained he did just that at three different trouble spots:
The first letter read, “Dear Bill: Blame it on the legislature.” The second letter said, “Dear Bill: Blame it on the press.” The third letter advised, “Dear Bill: Write three letters.”
Trump hasn’t really sent any significant legislation to Congress in these first weeks, so he has yet to fume at the lawmakers. But he will. After he’s eased his volley of presidential executive orders.
Trump instead has concentrated on warring with the press, which worked for him during his presidential campaign. It’s a propaganda onslaught based on – as most of his arguments are – generalities with no specific data to back them up. He believes repeating terms like “fake news” and journalistic “lies” – verbalized over and over and over – will lead the public to believe him and not the press. Same with the federal courts: hammer away that they are incompetent judges while he is the competent president.
Of course, Trump’s supporters – the 46 percent of voters who checked his name – already believe him. The question: How many will continue to when they see that his approach works for political campaigns, but not for governing.
The press and the courts will not go away. He’ll try to make them. So, now more than ever, the citizens of the United States need to follow President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s charge:
Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
“Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” can protect the nation and world from a president who refuses to acknowledge accountability, relies on propaganda rather than truth, and who practices “countersuing” rather than cooperation and compromise.
Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can force a person in power to honor the Constitution; or else open that third letter, and then write three letters of his own…or maybe just three tweets.