President Trump is Twittering away democracy

By Harlan Ullman, Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist  |  Nov. 6, 2017 at 8:23 AM
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Nov. 6 (UPI) -- The combination of the metastasization of political correctness and 140-character tweets are fast becoming unwitting threats to society. To quote Lenin, the combination has become the equivalent of a "useful idiot."

The term political correctness is decades old. The original intent was to expand inclusiveness for minorities based on race, gender, sexuality or other preferences and impose a certain standard of societal behavior deemed "politically correct" but without a satisfactory definition of what that meant. Rather like pornography, you would know it when you saw it.

Predictably, political correctness metastasized. In the process, an equally evil twin of political incorrectness was bred in part as an antidote to limit the spread of what some believed was a social infection. Today, this metastasization is being exploited and exacerbated by an American president's weaponization of Twitter. With 140 characters, Donald Trump is deepening the divisions that are bitterly fragmenting the nation as a means of maintaining his political base. As result, democracy and the Constitution are under great and grave threat.

Take two very different examples of this effect: a flood of allegations of sexual misconduct and near national paranoia over Islamist-inspired terrorism. The first is negating constitutional guarantees of due process. The second is sparking fear-mongering that only exacerbates the difficulties in confronting Islamist-inspired terror.

Harvey Weinstein's scandalous sexual behavior opened the floodgates that so far have brought down many of the high, low, mighty and others over allegations of harassment and worse. Kevin Spacey, a world-class actor and star of House of Cards, was accused of committing unwanted advances beginning several decades ago and alleged to be still ongoing. The series, in its sixth and final year, and is likely to be canceled. This has spread abroad. Sir Michael Fallon, MP, suddenly resigned as Britain's minister of defense over allegations that his conduct had not always befitted his rank.

Ironically, while Weinstein's conduct is reprehensible, Trump faced numerous allegations of improper sexual behavior possibly more damaging then those leveled against Fallon and perhaps Spacey. Those charges went nowhere. Worse, in America, despite what Trump may think and tweet, the Constitution guarantees that citizens are innocent until proven guilty.

At the same time, the truck-cum-weapon in New York that killed eight, five of whom were not Americans, has stoked near paranoia over Islamic State- and al-Qaida-induced terror. This has led the president to accuse the American judicial and legal system of being weak and responsible for much of this violence. But the fact is that death by terrorist in America is only a tiny percentage of people killed by terrorist attacks worldwide. Far greater dangers threaten the well-being of Americans, no matter how much headlines are ablaze with the word terror.

The same day eight were killed in New York, about 200 Americans died of drug overdose and gunshot wounds or about 25 times as many. Yet, it is terror that captures our attention and not gun violence or comprehensive understanding of the drug problem despite a "national emergency" being declared over the latter. This persistent fear and sense of panic over terror are not matched by the actual danger posed to society.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to demean democracy by tweet purposely using political incorrectness to goad his base while greatly exaggerating the dangers posed by Islamist-inspired terrorists at home. In fact, it is beyond our shores where we need to be most worried about these dangers.

Presidential disregard for the Constitution is ubiquitous, from calling for the death penalty for the Uzbek-born Sayfullo Saipov who perpetrated the New York attack prior to trial, to demanding "crooked Hillary" be investigated -- "lock her up" was the campaign cry -- and labeling the sentencing of Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl without jail time "a disgrace."

Where is this headed?

One recalls the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland proclaiming "sentence before verdict." While guilt by allegation may remain largely restricted to sexual misconduct, it has spread to other societal norms. Charges of "racism," whether valid or not, have claimed more than a few. And as long as Trump views these societal divisions as opportunities to consolidate his power base, a better balance between rational and objective and emotional and irrational responses seems to grow more distant.

That is not good for this nation or for democracy.

Harlan Ullman has served on the Senior Advisory Group for Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2004-16) and is a senior adviser at Washington, D.C.'s Atlantic Council, chairman of two private companies and principal author of the doctrine of shock and awe. A former naval person, he commanded a destroyer in the Persian Gulf and led over 150 missions and operations in Vietnam as a Swift Boat skipper. His next book, "Anatomy of Failure: Why America has Lost Every War it Starts," will be published in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @harlankullman.

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