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Trump Has Waged War on America. What Price Should He Pay?

October 21, 2020

By Joe Rothstein

Donald Trump promised to “make America great again.” Instead, he has been waging war on America.

Refusing to obey the nation’s laws and undermining the law itself.

Unconstitutionally assuming powers not delegated to the presidency.

Promoting the incarceration of his domestic political rivals.

Using public resources for his personal financial gain.

Attacking the fundamental basis for our democracy---our right to vote, our system of peaceful transition of power, his call for his followers to take up arms against political opponents, his attacks on the media as “enemies of the people” for merely exercising their First Amendment rights.

It's likely that the majority of Americans will see Trump’s actions for what they are and vote him out of office November 3. But he has yet to agree to accept that judgement. It is no idle concern that thousands of his heavily armed supporters could be encouraged to try to thwart that result on election day or in the days after.

What price should Trump pay for this assault on America? Is election defeat sufficient?

Numerous civil and criminal actions are on pause, waiting to resume once Trump loses presidential immunity. But is even that sufficient?

No, it’s not. We’ve tried looking away from assaults on our democracy before and that has only resulted in more and more dangerous attacks. After Vietnam, Watergate. After Watergate Iraq. After Iraq, Trump.

There should have been an accounting for Vietnam. We know from the Defense Department’s own Pentagon Papers and a bookshelf of other historical works that two Presidents of the United States, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, their Defense Secretaries and Secretaries of State, and their military leaders lied us into that war and kept us there for more than a decade. More than 50,000 Americans in our nation’s uniform died fighting a war they were told needed to be fought to defend America. More than a million southeast Asians, most of them innocent civilians, died in the crossfire.

Yet, no one was held accountable. No one went to jail, or even to trial. Nixon compounded his criminality with Watergate, but was pardoned and went on to live comfortably at a California beach resort.

When George W. Bush and Dick Chaney and Donald Rumsfeld decided to use 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq, they went ahead confident there would be no personal price to pay if things went badly. If lying our way into Vietnam was not a crime, lying our way into Iraq would not be either. And they were right, even though thousands of American troops and local innocents have died or been permanently injured, U.S. taxpayers have paid trillions for their misadventure, millions of war refugees were created, and 18 years later, our troops are still there.

What’s wrong with this live-and-let-live approach is that neither Vietnam nor Iraq were simply errors in judgement. They were frauds. Lies. Ego trips by those in authority.

And now we have Trump. Trump’s crime is not illegally sending U.S. troops into battle. Rather, it’s a war on the beating heart of America itself. It may be the most difficult war of all for the nation to emerge from.

Some argue that as destructive as Trump has been, his departure from office should be met with a time of healing, for looking ahead, not revisiting past sins.

Let’s not fall into that trap again. Let’s not confuse grossly incompetent governing, such as we are experiencing with the pandemic, with outright defiance of our laws and Constitution. If those responsible for Vietnam had been called to account, there may well have been no Iraq. If Trump is not called to account, a smarter, more skilled, more dangerous Trump-like con man would find it easier to lie his way into authority with even more disastrous results.

So, what’s the remedy?

The first step should be a bi-partisan congressional commission of inquiry to secure all the information Trump has kept hidden by defying subpoenas and valid freedom of information requests. Next, that commission should root out all Trump era agency files and interview his appointees and public employees, under oath if need be, to discover evidence of the law-breaking, criminality and self-dealing that surely is there. The project to tell the whole story of Trump’s presidency should be done openly. The public deserves to know, and needs to know. And where laws have been broken and oaths have been violated, lawbreakers and violators should be charged and tried, even where guilty verdicts result in prison sentences.

Finally, and equally important, a summation is needed to explain how close America has come to losing what can rightly be called our family jewels—the way we select our leaders, the way we create our laws, the way those laws are enforced, the checks and balances that have worked so well for 230 years to keep an authoritarian like Donald Trump from gaining absolute power, as he has claimed he has done. Our form of government is only as strong as our willingness to defend it.

Our defense now requires us to vote Trump out of the White House and to see that he actually leaves. But given the wreckage he leaves behind, that’s hardly enough. We must tally the whole price once we have discovered the whole truth.

(Joe Rothstein can be contacted at

Joe Rothstein is editor of U.S. Politics Today. His career in politics spans 35 years, as a strategist and media producer in more than 200 campaigns for political office and for many political causes. He was a pioneer in professional political consulting and one of the founding members of the American Association of Political Consultants. During his career Mr. Rothstein has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA.