Congressman Adam Smith discusses concerns with authoritarianism

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith released a video statement on Feb. 7 in reaction to President Trump’s actions attacking the freedom of press, the FBI, and the Department of Justice. The full video can be found at www.facebook.com/RepAdamSmith/videos/2037207609639073 and the transcript is below.

Last year at a town meeting, I had a constituent ask me a very blunt and straightforward question. He asked me if I thought Donald Trump was a fascist. And at the time, I said no. I said look, I disagree with him on policy and just about everything he does and says, but we are a nation of laws, not of individuals. We have a Constitution, we have institutions around that. He was elected president, but no I don’t think he is a fascist. I feel to a certain degree that I owe that constituent an apology. Because while Donald Trump may not be a fascist, he certainly seems like he is aspiring to that level of authoritarianism.

I make this video to ask everybody to stand up for the institutions of our democracy however you feel about Donald Trump’s policies. I oppose just about every single one of them; I can’t think of a thing I agree with him on. Mostly I oppose the insulting and belittling way he talks about absolutely everybody. I think it’s not just beneath the office of the Presidency, but it also sends a horrific example for how we should conduct ourselves in public life. But even if you support him, even if you support the tax cut, or if you support some other aspect of his policy, please stand up for the institutions of our country and for the Constitution and don’t let him push us toward an authoritarian government. Now what am I talking about? It’s a whole bunch of different things. First of all, when he came out and said that Democrats that didn’t applaud him at the State of the Union were un-American and even treasonous as if we’re all supposed to bow down in front of our king. That’s not the way this country works. We have free speech. Republicans didn’t clap, didn’t stand up when President Obama spoke. We have the right to express our own opinion, not to simply worship the person who happens to be our leader at the moment.

And then there’s the fact that came to my attention as the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee that the president wants the military to essentially give him a parade – to have a parade of military might down Pennsylvania Avenue. This is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to get through them all. To begin with, civilian control of the military is a bedrock principle of this county. We don’t want the military running the country. President George Washington, a military man himself, was very focused on the notion that the military far too often took over and ruined republics and democracies, going all the way back to Julius Caesar for that matter. We wanted to be a nation of civilian control and we love our military and the service that they provide for us, but one of the things that they fought and died for in all those wars is freedom and opportunity for all and for Donald Trump to want the military to march down and salute him is like North Korea or Russia. It’s what authoritarian regimes do. It’s not what liberal democracies do.

And there are also his attacks on the media, the FBI and the Justice Department. He right now is systematically trying to completely trash two of our most important institutions, the FBI and the Justice Department, all because the FBI and the Justice Department are rightly looking into Russian interference into our election. That’s their job. But the president is trying to tear them down and demanding loyalty from members of the Justice Department and members of the FBI. They are supposed to be loyal to the law, not to a single person.

The narcissistic egomania of President Trump is definitely bleeding over into a thought in his head that this is all about him. It’s not. It’s about the country. It’s about the Constitution. Again, we are a nation of laws, not of people.

And then there are his constant attacks on the media, constantly calling them fake news and attacking any media outlet that dares criticize him and going so far as to say that they’re not legitimate and that they’re fake news. As he travels and as his cabinet people travel, they’re banning the media from following what they do. Now look, I am a politician and I have been doing this for a while. There have been many critical things written about me in the media. I don’t like it when it happens, but I do like the fact that I live in a country where the media is free to do that. President Trump doesn’t seem to. He seems to want to banish the media. If you look around the world and you see how authoritarian regimes spread, that’s always their first step – silence the critics, silence the opposition, shut down the media. Putin does it in Russia, we’ve seen it happening in Turkey and in the Philippians, in countries in Eastern Europe right now. And certainly we’ve seen it in long ranging authoritarian regimes in other parts of the world. We don’t want to see it here.

Again, I have disagreements with President Trump on policy, on immigration, on healthcare. I’ve said earlier that if you support his policies, I get that, but this is about more than that. Where healthcare is concerned, of course, he doesn’t actually have a policy. That’s one of my biggest concerns. But beyond all of that, regardless of how you feel about the policies, the Constitution, the institutions that make us a free and democratic society are what we should cherish the most. Donald Trump is president right now, I’m a Congressman right now. In years to follow, neither one of us will be here. There will be people that will follow us. That’s the way this country is set up – that we are a nation of laws, not of people. Donald Trump seems to want to make it all about him, and is creeping toward authoritarianism in America, no place in the democracy that was set up so long ago and that has worked so well for us. Again, now I understand if people support him on his policies, but please stand up for the institutions that make us a free society and don’t let President Trump make this all about him. Don’t let his ego drag us into an authoritarian government. We don’t need that; we need the freedom of the democracy that has served us so well for so long.

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