*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
If any American ever wondered what life is like in an oppressive authoritarian regime like Iran, North Korea, Communist China, Nazi Germany, Iraq under Saddam or Russia under Putin where dissent and criticism are dealt with harshly, they just need to look at Republicans and the new Trump-era government. And yes, it is a new kind of government exactly as the preponderance of political commenters warned the Republican administration would enact. It is their collective attempt at making America great by making it over in North Korea and Russia’s image.
Since the November election, there have been several indications that the concept of free speech, free expression, or a free press are no longer guaranteed regardless they are basic rights in the Constitution. In fact, over the past month Republicans in Congress and tyrant Trump have signaled that they will not tolerate dissent or criticism and have, and are currently, threatening to use the authority of the federal government to silence any of Trump’s detractors as well as federal employees who fail to embrace the new government’s ideological agenda in its entirety.
The latest outrage in an alleged free democratic society is the House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz’ very real threat against the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) for doing its job by commenting on Trump’s monumental conflicts of interest as he prepares to move in the White House. As noted by Bloomberg News’ Toluse Olorunnipa; Chaffetz is “threatening to shut down the office of the guy who is doing the job that Jason Chaffetz himself is refusing to do.”
After Chaffetz took a little heat for threatening Trump-style retribution against the OGE Director Walter M. Shaub Jr. for his comments on Trump’s refusal to divest his vast business empire, the Utah Mormon lied and claimed the threatening letter was just regular House Oversight Committee business to reauthorize the OGE. Chaffetz said, “We want to talk to them because they’re up for reauthorization and the oversight committee has jurisdiction on that. We’ve been trying to talk to him. We invited him to come and just meet with us. He refuses to meet with Congress.” That is a blatant lie and Chaffetz knows damn well he was lying. And he wasn’t lying for the lord he was lying to cover his threat because it was made public.
The letter Chaffetz sent Mr. Shaub summoned him to an interrogation for doing his job; what Chaffetz framed as “blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance.” Unlike a regular public appearance before the Oversight Committee, Chaffetz’ summons is for a closed-door “transcribed interview” without House Democrats in attendance. The Republicans would also have complete control of the transcript of the interview afterward, and would release selective portions of it to the public.
The Republican threat against the OGE incited plenty of outrage from Democrats, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi summed up best why this incoming Republican government with a tyrant-in-chief is setting the stage for an oppressive regime to rival Iran, North Korea, or Russia. Ms. Pelosi said:
“House Republicans’ agenda is clear: intimidate and silence anyone who would raise questions about the President-elect’s vast conflicts of interest. Instead of honoring his committee’s responsibility to hold the Administration accountable, Chairman Chaffetz has appointed himself President-elect Trump’s chief strongman and enforcer. Republicans’ accelerating contempt for ethics should alarm every American.” (Author bold)
Ms. Pelosi certainly offered a most accurate assessment of why Americans should be terrified at this truly dangerous Republican trend of attempting to silence dissent and exact retribution for accurate news reports. Remember that Trump has called on both chambers of Congress to investigate NBC News for reporting on the Russian-Trump connection and hacking story. He threatened to change libel laws to give him and Republicans power to silence the free press. And Republicans revived the Holman rule that empowers Congress or individual legislators to summon, interrogate, terminate or reduce a salary to $1 of any federal employee that does not hew closely to the Republican ideological agenda.
Although Republicans are just getting into the tyranny game in earnest after their happy fascist won the election, it is noteworthy that they are jumping in with both feet. They may not be openly calling for censorship of the press and media, at least not yet, but they were silent when Trump demanded a list of the names of Energy Department employees who worked on or around the Paris Climate Accord or State Department employees involved in gender equality issues. Obviously, because there was no pushback against Trump’s witch hunts targeting dissenting opinions, the Republicans are now emboldened to publicly pursue the director of the Office of Government Ethics for daring to do his job and comment on Trump’s unethical plan to profit from his position as president.
Some Americans may errantly believe that Trump and Republicans are only pursuing the media and federal employees that disagree with their agenda, but that is a monumental mistake. If they are willing to target federal agency employees, private contractors, individual journalists and entire news outlets for retribution in violation of the 1st Amendment, they will go after any group that is critical of their agenda.
It happens in Iran, North Korea, China and Russia and apparently Republicans want to make it happen in America. With an oppressive authoritarian going to the White House and a Republican Congress apparently unfettered by the Constitution, Supreme Court rulings and long-established laws, every American should be horrified that when Trump and Republicans say their intent is making America great, they really mean making America like North Korea, Communist China, or Russia where dissent is non-existent because the dissenters are either imprisoned, dead or too terrified to speak.