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Trump’s scorched-earth strategy

Jordan Barkin is a columnist who has been published by Hearst, Gannett, The Hill, McClatchy, and US News & World Report. He is a former associate editor of Hearst Magazines

Donald Trump is on the warpath. His narcissistic rage is aimed not at America's traditional enemies — such as Russia or North Korea — but rather at Washington. Even though the President clearly lost the electoral vote and Inauguration Day is little more than two months away, his wounded ego is causing him to cross institutional boundaries.

The White House under most presidents is free of overt campaign events. But Trump and his spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, have turned some briefings into explanations about how fraud and illegal voting affected the election. Most sitting presidents urge calm in times of uncertainty — Trump urges supporters to take to the streets in his defence.

In the past, vengeful leaders would invade enemy territory and then “scorch the earth” by destroying fields, water supplies, arsenals, homes, and anything else of value. In ancient times, fire was used and legend spread of conquerors salting the earth of the vanquished to damage crops and to curse the sanctity of the land. In the Civil War, General William T. Sherman not only occupied Atlanta but also burnt a large portion of Georgia, leaving the terra, or Tara, barren.

Like the power-drunk warriors of yore, Donald Trump overreacted. After the election, Trump fired Defence Secretary Mark Esper and other Pentagon officials. He has stated that he may fire Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, despite Dr Fauci's good record.The former reality star seems oblivious that federal officials serve the Government, not the President personally.

Trump's manic fury reminds one of the Vietnam War, when misguided American commanders burnt villages by indiscriminately dropping napalm, which scorched civilian flesh so deeply that it could not grow back. When a reporter asked about the excessive use of force, one officer supposedly stated: “We had to burn the village in order to save it.” Of course, he cared more about winning than about long-term consequences.

On Election Night, while results were still being tabulated, Trump had a right to request more time to gather information. He even had a right to pursue certain legal remedies to ensure a fair vote, as senator Mitt Romney noted. But Trump overreacted when he questioned the validity of the entire election.

The electoral process, despite its flaws, is a cornerstone of our democracy. Mail-in ballots can be slow to count, but they have been used successfully since the Civil War. At this point, Trump is acting irresponsibly by continuing to fight after it is clear that he has lost by a significant margin. Even if Trump campaign attorneys were to find some ballots or invalidate others, the Republican candidate is too far behind to win.

Donald Trump needs to look to the future, to a time after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Hopefully, Trump's fury will mellow into acceptance or wisdom. After his losses, Richard Nixon found some respectability as an elder statesman — perhaps Trump will, too. One thing is clear: he needs to leave.

As former Republican presidential candidate Romney said on Meet the Press: “In a setting like this, we want to preserve something which is far more important than ourself or even our party — and that is preserve the cause of freedom and democracy here and around the world.”

Jordan Barkin is a columnist who has been published by Hearst, Gannett, The Hill, McClatchy, and US News & World Report. He is a former associate editor of Hearst Magazines

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Published November 17, 2020 at 1:00 pm (Updated November 16, 2020 at 7:57 pm)

Trump’s scorched-earth strategy

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