On the heels of his epic warning to America following the debate last night, legendary journalist Dan Rather again took to Facebook this morning to write a scathing and controversial critique of Donald Trump and his totalitarian tendencies. Rather damningly concludes that “at a fundamental level,” Trump “does not understand what it means to be an American.”
This is a weighty accusation but Trump’s own words and actions throughout this campaign back it up. For all the partisan mud-slinging and false equivalencies that have defined this election, Rather once again reminds us with his cool rational analysis what journalism can and should be.
As Donald Trump paced menacingly last night on stage, as he threatened Hillary Clinton with imprisonment even though her actions have already been subjected to the arm of justice, as he batted away concerns over the leaked audio of him boasting of sexual assault as mere “locker room talk”, the cumulative image for millions of votes, I suspect, is that this is a man who, at a fundamental level, does not understand what it means to be an American. And thus, by logical extension, he has no business being president.
Teddy Roosevelt famously stated: “No man is above the law and no man is below it, nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it.” That is our national creed. I can hear the Trump partisans howling that Clinton has subverted the law on multiple occasions. It is their right to do so, but it must be pointed out that she has never been found guilty of anything. You can then resort to conspiracy theories as to why that may be the case. But those too have never been proven by fact.
Trump by contrast boasts of how the law should not apply to him. As crude as the nouns were in that leaked audio tape, what was most offensive was the relish with which he outlined a host of actions – the verbs – for which the rule of law says he does not have the right to act without consent. Yet his voice reeked of the privilege of a man who believed his celebrity removed any such constraints. When he told Hillary Clinton in the debate she would “be in jail” if he were president, those are the threats of a despot, tyrant, or monarch – not a president governed by our Constitution.
It was John Adams who penned the phrase, “a government of laws, and not of men.” This is how our Founding Fathers saw our national destiny. This is the spirit that our citizens, over the ages, have demanded of our political leaders follow. I suspect it is something most Americans still believe.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.