Raising Fear

Photograph Source: dryhead – CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump and some of his loyal sycophants are getting hysterical, trying to frighten everyone with fantasy tales of insurrections and martial law in the event he loses re-election. They’re doing it purposely, a desperate ploy to counter his sagging polls.

The Trump team’s defamation of the president’s election opponent Joe Biden and its depiction of what a tumultuous life Americans would be heir to if “Sleepy Joe” were elected creates a fictional scenario  akin to living in another time and planet – maybe dusty Tatooine – with the former vice president as the evil Darth Vader leading his “radical Democrats.” All that’s missing is the Death Star. (Though Trump has bragged about a new weapon.)

Coward Trump certainly is no Luke Skywalker with the Force behind him. Instead, he orders his empire to strike back at those who disagree with him, striving to induce fear.

The warning from Trump that there will be “insurrection” if he loses the election, echoed by senior administration official Michael Caputo, now on medical leave, and his convicted ally Roger Stone serving notice the president should impose “martial law” if Biden wins is desperation scare talk in the absolute extreme. It’s all nonsense superimposed on the president’s baloney about voter fraud connected with mail-in balloting and his repeated admonitions about a rigged election.

It’s a con man’s set up, a deliberate attempt to prepare the public for his taking a presumed election loss to the courts so as to maintain post-election chaos, perhaps hoping a conservative Supreme Court will throw the election to Trump as a similar court did for George W. Bush Dec. 12, 2000.

“The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” Trump said on a visit to Wisconsin. “Remember that. It’s the only way we’re going to lose this election, so we have to be very careful.” What about losing legitimately?

Caputo, 58, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, now on an ordered 60-day medical leave, said on a 26-minute Facebook video Sept. 13 that “the shooting will begin” if Biden refuses to concede the election. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.” What drills? The shootings in Portland and Kenosha, Wis.?

This alternate reality Trump TV show (See Republican convention) with him as the star, members of his administration and allies as the cast and tens of millions of voters as extras, is playing nonstop while the West is burning, parts of the Southwest are suffering renewed drought, the Gulf states are flooded because of unusually heavy rains up to two feet in some areas and the coronavirus is very much alive, with the death toll nearing 200,000 and more than 6 million infected.

And what’s Trump doing about these natural disasters? Nothing.

He ignored the burgeoning wildfires in Oregon, California and Washington state – perhaps because they’re run by Democrats and aren’t Trump territory – until he recently stopped at Sacramento’s airport for two hours. He blamed bad forest management, not climate change, for the fires even though California Gov. Gavin Newsome later told him 3 percent of the land is under state control and 57 percent in federal hands. So it’s the Feds who are responsible for more than half the forests.

“When trees fall down after a short period of time,” the president said, “they become very dry – really like a matchstick. And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires.” Uh-huh.

When told that climate change is at least partly responsible for the fires and that science cannot be ignored, Trump rejected that and said, “It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch,” The New York Times reported.

“I wish science agreed with you,” said Wade Crawford, the state’s natural resources secretary.

“Well, I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump retorted. So much for climate change in this man’s mind. The absolutely wrong president at the absolutely wrong time.

Stone called the online Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones Sept. 10 and offered some remarkable advice: Trump should think about invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act to arrest the Clintons, Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook and “anybody else who can be proven to be involved in illegal activity,” according to The Guardian newspaper.

Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress and witness tampering.

The Insurrection Act, which last was invoked by President George H.W. Bush to quell the Los Angeles riots, permits the president to deploy military or federalized troops against civilians. Trump considered invoking it during demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the spring. It’s been used many times.

Stone also called for “forming an Election Day operation using the FBI, federal marshals and Republican state officials across the country to be prepared to file legal objections [to election results] and if necessary to physically stand in the way of criminal activity,” The Guardian reported.

These are dark times and Trump and his cohorts are instilling fear during his campaign for re-election to make them darker.

But remember the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his inaugural address March 4, 1933 during the Great  Depression: “So, first of all, let me  assert my firm belief that the only thing we  have to fear is . . . fear itself — nameless,  unreasoning, unjustified terror which  paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.