Exclusively Online | Spring 2019 Issue

“Lighter Look” — Threats

Rick Meyer's regularly appearing column takes a lighter look at politics and public affairs around the world. This month: Threats

By Richard E. Meyer

Many of his threats are empty. Some aren’t. But no president has ever made more threats, veiled or otherwise, than Donald Trump. He has even threatened Social Media, his venue of choice for making threats.

“Social Media,” he raged on Twitter. “Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

That’s called shooting yourself in the Twitter finger.

Jack Shafer, the senior media writer for Politico, has studied Trump’s threats. Over the past few months, there have been too many to count. “He has threatened to withhold wildfire aid to California, to fire government employees . . . and to close the Mexican border.

“He has threatened allies (South Korea; NATO) as well as adversaries (North Korea; Iran). He has threatened to investigate both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He threatened to release nonexistent tape recordings of his conversations with [fired] FBI Director James B. Comey. Once, he even threatened a Time magazine photographer with prison for taking a picture of a letter from Kim Jong Un that [Trump himself] was brandishing in the Oval Office. . . .

“As his former lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress, Trump directed him to make at least 500 threats to businesses and journalists over 10 years of representation.”

Here are some other presidential threats. With due respect, Jack, those in italics are ones you missed.

Trump said he told Mary Barra, chairman and chief executive of General Motors, to stop building cars in China and make them in Ohio. “They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly,” he said. “I told them, ‘You’re playing around with the wrong person.'”

Overheard in the Oval Office: “Hello, Scalia? What kind of a Labor secretary are you? All those unemployment numbers! Close down the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now! Tell them, ‘You’re playing around with the wrong person!'”

The day before his campaign-opening rally in Tulsa, Trump threatened “protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma. Please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!”

Overheard in the president’s limousine en route to Air Force One: “Damnit, Parscale. I told you to get out to Tulsa ahead of time! What kind of a campaign manager are you? Somebody has got to find some wagons and get them in a circle. It will be a much different scene.”

Before his speech in Tulsa, Trump stared at the only person sitting in a sea of empty blue seats. He yelled at aides.

Then he devoted long minutes of his oration to defending his tottery walk down a ramp the week before, during commencement at the U.S. Military Academy. “General, I’ve got myself a problem . . . because I’m wearing leather bottom shoes, which is good if you’re walking on flat surfaces. It’s not good for ramps. And if I fall down, look at all those press back there . . . ”

Overheard on the return flight: “Parscale! Find the guy who built that ramp. And find the photographer who took the pictures of those empty blue seats. Fire them both!”

         “But, sir, the photographer works for the Washington Post.”

         “Then fire Jeff Bezos.”

         At one point, the Treasury Department sent $1.4 billion in economic stimulus payments to people who had died.

Overheard in the office of Secretary Steven Mnuchin: “Tell the president I’m not here.”

         “The president says: “Make those dead people send the money back.”

At Mount Rushmore, to celebrate the Fourth of July, Trump threatened action against “a new far left fascism that demands absolute allegiance . . . [or] you will be censored. . . .

“We will not be silenced.”

Overheard on Marine One, leaving Mount Rushmore: “Parscale! Schedule more speeches. I’ll talk them to death.”

         To protect his special kind of patriotism, Trump threatened to put flag burners behind bars. “If you burn the American flag, you go to jail for one year!” This despite the Supreme Court, which, as a matter of free speech, has struck down laws protecting the flag from protesters.

Overheard in the Oval Office: “Get me John Roberts . . . “

         Because some players take a knee during the national anthem, Trump has threatened to punish the NFL by turning off its games. “If they don’t stand for our national anthem and our Great American Flag, I won’t be watching!!!”

Overheard in the office of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: “Is that a threat or a promise?”



The Last Laugh:

Donald Trump has stopped receiving intelligence briefings at the White House. “I can do my job,” he says, “without any intelligence at all.”

– By Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report

Richard E. Meyer

Richard E. Meyer

Meyer is the senior editor of Blueprint. He has been a White House correspondent and national news features writer for the Associated Press and a roving national correspondent and editor of long-form narratives at the Los Angeles Times.

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