MADISON, Wis. - It is hard to keep up with President Donald Trump's dizzying stream of pronouncements, but they add up to what I believe is the first commandment of all authoritarian rulers: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
You can see that commandment buttressing virtually every dictator in history. Most of them pay lip service to some extraneous deity, but they reserve for themselves the obedience required of the gods.
That is the underlying message of most of Trump's tweets and public messaging as well.
Cross him and he will try to destroy you.
In the past few days he has accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of "treason" because she has called for his impeachment. He has launched a furious attack on Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. He has insisted that the whistleblower who exposed his attempts to coerce Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden be forced to testify in public — and that those who spoke to the whistleblower are "spies."
He has destroyed the careers of most of the top leadership in the FBI and driven from government the generals and respected politicians who once offered his administration a veneer of respectability.
Those who support the president call this "counterpunching." It is not counterpunching. It is threat-making.
It has been pretty successful, too. A good part of the Republican Party has been willing to just toss overboard the party's historic values in order to appease their new god.
If the president says the moon is made of green cheese, his minions go on Sunday talk shows and insist the moon is made of green cheese. But, even as they speak, the president sends a tweet saying the moon is actually made of blue cheese and those minions return to the airwaves to explain they now believe the moon is made of blue cheese.
Witness Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday and shouted that he trusts neither the FBI nor the CIA because the agencies have looked into ties between the president and Russia.
Johnson is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. He is saying the American people should not trust the agencies charged with protecting our nation.
This is simply insane. But it is what is required of Republicans in the age of Trump. Johnson had previously suggested, albeit meekly, that he "winced" when he read reports of the president tying military aid to Ukraine with willingness to investigate Biden. By Sunday, he was saying he now believes — and has always believed — that the moon is made of blue cheese.
Or, look at a good part of the leadership of the white evangelical Christian movement, the Jerry Falwells and the Franklin Grahams of the faith. They keep telling us the president has been sent by God to clean up our morals.
Trump needs this kind of blind loyalty because, like all authoritarians, he knows he is not up to the job and is fearful that others will find out. So he has to destroy anyone who challenges him.
But it works only so long as the minions fear the leader. To use a Trump phrase, we will see how long that continues.
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