Subscribe for 33¢ / day
Palestinian leader calls for peace conference by mid-2018 (copy)

American Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, center, Jared Kushner, left, and Jason Greenblatt listen as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Palestine on Feb. 20 at United Nations headquarters. 

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Dire warnings are coming from all sides: Republican lawmakers who aren’t running for re-election; conservative columnists, authors and talk show hosts; former heads of federal agencies; and many other concerned citizens. They’re telling us the survival of our democratic republic is threatened by the president and his enablers.

I’ve lived under many presidents of both political parties, but never before witnessed the surge of fear, dismay and anger by such a large number of Americans from both parties. Their concerns stem from the words and actions of the president and those enabling and using him to further their self-serving agendas.

There are frightening similarities of fascism to what’s happening in present-day America. These changes to our democracy didn’t start with President Donald Trump, but he has enhanced and accelerated their implementation.

I’ve previously referred to the 2003 writings of political scholar Lawrence Britt, who listed the 14 characteristics of fascism. After studying all fascist governments, he summarized the characteristics that are common to them all.

One is, “Rampant cronyism and corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.”

The Trump administration is a perfect example. President Trump has hired and appointed more members of his family to his administration than any president in recent history. Dozens of his staff and administration officials haven’t yet received permanent security clearance from the FBI.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, recently had his interim security clearance downgraded, several media outlets reported on Tuesday.

According to a Feb. 16 Washington Post article, “Kushner has maintained an interim clearance that gives him access to top-secret and sensitive compartmented information — a rare level of access to hold for a long period of time, experts said. His elite position has allowed him to meet with foreign officials around the world and read the classified intelligence prepared daily for the president.”

Even more concerning, the article states, “And apart from staff on the National Security Council, he issues more requests for information to the intelligence community than any White House employee.”

While the president said he’d hire only “the best people,” several of those he’s appointed to head federal departments have no education or experience in the areas they’re leading. Many of them have even fought against their departments’ existence.

One of them is wealthy Republican donor Betsy DeVos, Trump’s secretary of Education, who has no experience with public schools, but profited greatly from her investments in private, for-profit schools. With her new authority, she’s pushing to give more taxpayer voucher money to private schools while diverting it from our public schools.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has no formal education in the medical field. However, he was president of Eli Lilly when the company more than doubled the price of its most popular insulin medication.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Montana representative, is now responsible for all federal lands, including a half-billion offshore acres, natural treasures and resources. His campaigns profited largely from the oil and gas industry and, immediately after being appointed, he opened our national parks, other federal lands and offshore acreage to those same industries. On March 21, the government will auction off 77.3 million acres of offshore property to the highest bidders.

He’s also shrinking Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument by 1.1 million acres. Why? Because Energy Fuels Resources lobbied to mine uranium there. Uranium mines have proven to be a source of dangerous water pollution, but that’s of no concern to them. Under President Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency will let mining companies do almost anything they want.

That’s because the EPA is headed by Scott Pruitt, who has been fighting against protections for our air and water for years. An Oct. 23, 2017, article in The New Yorker states, “Scott Pruitt, the militantly anti-regulatory attorney general of Oklahoma, who had been heavily supported by the Kochs, was appointed director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, in turn, placed Patrick Traylor, a lawyer for Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies, in charge of the E.P.A.’s enforcement of key anti-pollution laws.”

They’re going to protect our air and water? It would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening.

So is this: Gary Cohn, Trump’s pick to head the National Economic Council, said in an interview that with $1,000, Americans could remodel their kitchens or buy a new car. Isn’t it comforting that someone this delusional has a say in our country’s economic policies?

These appointees all were approved by a Republican-dominated Senate. Savvy voters will remember that in November.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 30 years. Contact her at