It's not always easy to go high when President Donald Trump goes low, which is why I'm not going to hold anything against Tammy Duckworth for slamming Trump and calling him "Cadet Bone Spurs" after he made a dangerous statement about his State of the Union address. Romper's request for comment from the White House was not immediately returned.
This wasn't the first time Duckworth, a retired Army helicopter pilot who lost both of her legs in the Iraq war, has called the president by this nickname and it likely won't be the last. (The name, ICYMI, is a reference to the fact that Trump said he couldn't serve in the military because he had bone spurs in his feet, according to the New York Times. ) This time, the Illinois senator sent out a flurry of tweets, prompted by a speech Trump gave on Monday in Ohio.
During a speech on tax reform, the president went off on a wild tangent and complained that Democrats didn't clap for the "positive news" about the country during the State of the Union, according to video from the event shared by CNN.
He said, "Even on positive news like that, really positive news like that, they were like death and un-American." Trump added, "Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Shall we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.” The White House told the Washington Post in a statement that the president was speaking tongue in cheek.
Duckworth and other Democrats such as Senators Jeff Flake and Nancy Pelosi were not having it, according to Politico. But Duckworth was the one who really went in. She tweeted, "We don't live in a dictatorship or a monarchy." The vet added, "I swore an oath — in the military and in the Senate — to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap."
In another tweet she posted the article of treason from the Constitution, just to drive the point home. Then, she added a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican who, she added, "earned the applause" he enjoyed and encouraged criticism of the president. Ouch, right?
Duckworth and other Democrats are taking this seriously, for good reason. There are so many things that are messed up about Trump's "joke."
For one, as Pelosi pointed out in her own tweet, equating loyalty to him as loyalty to the country is not something leaders in Democratic countries do. The president cannot demand people agree with him. That's what dictators do. According to the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank dedicated to studying governance:
When a leader invokes loyalty — if you’re loyal, you’ll do this — it’s likely because that leader cannot rely on other sources of legitimacy. Indeed, if the statement were true, if the decision were legal, or if the order were moral, the leader could defend it as such. When unable to do so, leaders resort to claims of loyalty.
Trump's remarks this week is not a good look.
Apart from being a really bad personality trait and leadership strategy, Trump's offhand remarks that Democrats are treasonous is dangerous in other ways. Just so we're clear, not clapping during the SOTU is not treason and is usually seen as a very acceptable form of partisan protest. Treason is also punishable by death.
That's not something to joke around about — you wouldn't want someone going vigilante and try to take care of punishing the Democrats, as "enemies of the state," themselves. It happened this summer when a man opened fire on a group of Republican senators playing baseball, and Trump supporters have punched counter-protestors and reporters at 2016 campaign rallies, as reported by CNN. They listen to him and somehow believe every single word he says.
Trump encouraged this kind of behavior, ramped up by his incessant accusations that political opponents and the media were enemies of the state, too. (He once said that he would pay people's legal fees if they were arrested for violence, according to the New York Times.) Two of his supporters who were charged with violence at a rally are actually suing the president, claiming that he incited them to do it, according to the Times. The case is still in court.
Of course, Trump didn't incite violence on Monday. But his meandering outbursts accusing Democrats of being treasonous or actively conspiring to bring down the foundations of the country, is terrifying. Because it's not true that not clapping is treason, but his supporters might never know that.
Knowing what we know about the spread of fake news and that Trump supporters are more "susceptible" to it, according to a new study the Guardian reported on this week, it's up to Democrats like Duckworth to stand up and correct him. Because the president is spreading dangerous, fake news that could have very real consequences.
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