Guest Editorial: Trump on Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Donald Trump’s supporters sometimes express bafflement at the harsh criticism he faces from across the political spectrum. How can the same man be loathed by George Will and Paul Krugman alike? How can President Obama and both of the Bush presidents see him as awful?
On Thursday night, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee showed why. Appearing on Fox News, Trump once again signaled his intention to use his power as president to punish Jeff Bezos, president of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, saying Bezos is using the Post “for political purposes to save Amazon in terms of taxes and in terms of anti-trust.”
“Every hour we’re getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions. And I will tell you, this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder tax-wise,” Trump told Fox host Sean Hannity. “He’s using The Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed. … He’s using that as a tool for political power against me and against other people, and I’ll tell you what, we can’t let him get away with it.”
Republicans seethed over the Internal Revenue Service’s May 2013 admission that it had targeted groups with “tea party” and “patriot” in their names, among others, for additional scrutiny in the run-up to the 2012 election. That forced the IRS to apologize for its “absolutely inappropriate” behavior and prompted the acting IRS commissioner to resign soon after in a bid to “restore public trust” in the agency. Unless they are hypocrites or fans of fascist rhetoric, these same Republicans should be appalled at any politician openly proclaiming his intent to use the presidency to punish his critics. Yes, President Richard Nixon had an enemies list, but it was secret — he didn’t publicize it because he realized that most Americans would think it was a grotesque abuse of power.
Of course Trump and any politician should push back at coverage they feel is inaccurate, incomplete or unfair by presenting additional information that provides context to their claims of being mistreated. But in explicitly linking his unhappiness with the Post’s coverage to actions he can take as president, Trump has embraced a belligerent form of authoritarianism that should have no place in a healthy democracy. No wonder foreign leaders are mortified at the prospects of his winning. No wonder some financial analysts fear a market meltdown.
We have written on several occasions that Trump’s ascendance is built on frustration with economic stagnation, not simply racism and nativism. We’ve expressed sympathy for those who feel as if the American dream is dying. We understand the yearning for an outsider free of Washington’s complacence about a status quo in which so many people feel unheard and unappreciated.
But Donald Trump is not some noble figure coming forth to revive democracy and restore the primacy of “we the people” in a cocooned capital. He is a toxic avenger, full of grievances and eager to act upon them, mocking and bullying anyone who gets in his way, bellowing threats at other nations, and expressing contempt for both democratic norms and norms of personal behavior.
We hope enough Americans figure this out before Nixon-on-steroids occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.