Paul Krugman Performs a Frightening Hypothetical Exercise That Could Come All Too True
Paul Krugman looks closely at a very frightening but very real possibility in Friday's column, asking, "What will you do when terrorists attack, or U.S. friction with some foreign power turns into a military confrontation?"
He's just asking because, "The fate of the republic may depend on your answer."
The likelihood, alas, is that some awful event is likely to happen in the next few years, like a terrorist attack, some hostilities in the South China Sea. Will the country rally around its leader as it did with Bush after 9/11? For a lot of Americans in 2001, it was a matter of patriotic duty, and doubts about Bush's legitimacy after the Supreme Court gave him his victory immediately disappeared. Lest we forget, Krugman reminds:
The truth was that even then the urge toward national unity was one-sided, with Republican exploitation of the atrocity for political gain beginning almost immediately. But people didn’t want to hear about it; I got angry mail, not just from Republicans but from Democrats, whenever I pointed out what was going on.
Unfortunately, the suspension of critical thinking ended as such suspensions usually do — badly. The Bush administration exploited the post-9/11 rush of patriotism to take America into an unrelated war, then used the initial illusion of success in that war to ram through huge tax cuts for the wealthy.
As horrendous as that was, just imagine what Trump would do if he is similarly empowered. It is already abundantly clear that Trump has no intention of rising to the occasion and impressing everyone with his ability to set aside personal gain in order to solemnly perform his duties for the country. The recent Nordstrom dustup is a case in point, and by no means trivial.
"Until now it would have been inconceivable that a sitting president would attack a private company for decisions that hurt his family’s business interests," Krugman points out. But just because it's new, does not mean it is normal. "What’s even worse is the way Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump’s spokesman, framed the issue: Nordstrom’s business decision was a 'direct attack' on the president’s policies. L’Ã©tat, c’est moi," Krugman continues.
More uncharted territory comes with Trump's attack on the first judge to stay the immigration ban, an attack that was not just merely a disagreement, but included the accusation that the judge had no right to rule against the almighty president. It gets even worse, as Krugman points out. "The really striking thing about Mr. Trump’s Twitter tirade, however, was his eagerness to see an attack on America, which would show everyone the folly of constraining his power." Essentially, Trump has blatantly announced "his intention to use national misfortune to grab even more power. And the question becomes, who will stop him."
Good question, Mr. Krugman. We'd also add that rooting for such an attack as Trump appears to do borders on treason, and is reminding a lot of people of Hitler's heinous Reichstag Fire.
Trump's inner circle won't constrain him. Jeff Sessions? Don't make us laugh. Nor should anyone rely on Congress to step up. There's just no sign of that happening.
There's just us. Not rallying around the president even if there is the kind of attack he appears to be rooting for.