Rudy Fillinger | Is History Repeating Itself?

The presidential oath of office is as follows: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

In a recent New York Times op-ed (Jan. 5) written by Pulitzer Prize winning author David Leonhardt, he lays out the arguments that Donald J. Trump has violated the presidential oath of office from the moment he was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. Leonhardt argues Trump has used the presidency to promote his business, accept financial gifts from foreign governments while lying to the American people about his relationship with a hostile foreign government. Moreover, Leonhardt points out the numerous ethical violations committed by Trump’s former cabinet members with his approval and consent. 

Leonhardt argues, “He has already shown, repeatedly, that he will hurt the country in order to help himself. He will damage American interests around the world and damage vital parts of our constitutional system at home.” 

In my opinion, Trump, with the consent of congressional Republicans and support of right-wing talk show hosts such as Ann Coulter, Laura Ingram and Rush Limbaugh, has already done considerable damage to our democracy while fanning the flames of fear and hatred.

Donald J. Trump continues to wage war against the institutions of our democracy. Trump has continually attempted to undermine our democracy, eroding the powers of the Congress, the Department of Justice, and the Office of Special Counsel, for the purpose of avoiding responsibility and accountability. With the aid and duplicity of congressional Republicans, Donald Trump has waged a war of hate, bigotry and division similar to the campaigns of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Moreover, Trump lavishes praise on brutal dictators such as Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin. 

To quote Madeleine Albright in her bestseller, “Fascism: A Warning,” she wrote: “To my mind, a fascist is someone who identifies strongly with and claims to speak for a whole nation of group, is unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use whatever means are necessary — including violence — to achieve his or her goals.”

Donald J. Trump believes he speaks for the American people regarding any and all matters pertaining to the foreign and domestic affairs of the United States. Trump is unconcerned with the rights and well-being of Americans as exhibited by his disdain for federal workers during the shutdown. When asked if he could relate to “the pain (of) federal workers who can’t pay their bills after they were furloughed,” Trump said he could. “And I’m sure that people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments.”

While Trump has not explicitly used violence to achieve his goals, Trump has urged his supporters to silence detractors at numerous rallies. While one would expect that Americans would reject today’s leaders if their ideologies align with those of Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin or Stalin, Madeleine Albright questions that very premise in “Fascism: A Warning.”

So what’s next? As Leonhardt states, “The easy answer is to wait — to allow the various investigations of Trump to run their course and ask voters to deliver a verdict in 2020,” an option suggested by former FBI Director James Comey in a December interview with Nicole Wallace at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Comey argued that impeachment would let the American people off the proverbial hook. That notion sparked my memory of an interview former Supreme Court Justice David Souter gave while in New Hampshire in 2012. When asked what he thought was the greatest threat to our American democracy, Justice Souter replied, “The greatest threat to our democracy is the ignorance of the American electorate.”  

I agree that waiting for the 2020 election would avoid the messy process of impeachment. However, I also agree with Leonhardt: “Ultimately, however, waiting is too dangerous. The cost of removing a president from office is smaller than the cost of allowing this president to remain.”

Moreover, I share Justice Souter’s criticism of the American electorate. So what’s next? Do we heed the warnings of Madeleine Albright or do we sit back and allow history to repeat itself?

Rudy Fillinger

Santa Clarita

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