“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A force unto itself - A military Leviathan has emerged as America’s 51st and most powerful State

A force unto itself

22 MARCH, by William J. Astore TOMDISPATCH

In the decades since the draft ended in 1973, a strange new military has emerged in the United States. Think of it, if you will, as a post-democratic force that prides itself on its warrior ethos rather than the old-fashioned citizen-soldier ideal. As such, it’s a military increasingly divorced from the people, with a way of life ever more foreign to most Americans (adulatory as they may feel toward its troops). Abroad, it’s now regularly put to purposes foreign to any traditional idea of national defense. In Washington, it has become a force unto itself, following its own priorities, pursuing its own agendas, increasingly unaccountable to either the president or Congress.

Three areas highlight the post-democratic transformation of this military with striking clarity: the blending of military professionals with privatized mercenaries in prosecuting unending “limited” wars; the way senior military commanders are cashing in on retirement; and finally the emergence of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) as a quasi-missionary imperial force with a presence in at least 135 countries a year (and counting).

The all-volunteer military and mercenaries: an undemocratic amalgam

I’m a product of the all-volunteer military. In 1973, the Nixon administration ended the draft, which also marked the end of a citizen-soldier tradition that had served the nation for two centuries. At the time, neither the top brass nor the president wanted to face a future in which, in the style of the Vietnam era just then winding up, a force of citizen-soldiers could vote with their feet and their mouths in the kinds of protest that had only recently left the Army in significant disarray. The new military was to be all volunteers and a thoroughly professional force. (Think: no dissenters, no protesters, no antiwar sentiments; in short, no repeats of what had just happened.) And so it has remained for more than 40 years.

Most Americans were happy to see the draft abolished. (Although young men still register for selective service at age 18, there are neither popular calls for its return, nor serious plans to revive it.) Yet its end was not celebrated by all. At the time, some military men advised against it, convinced that what, in fact, did happen would happen: that an all-volunteer force would become more prone to military adventurism enabled by civilian leaders who no longer had to consider the sort of opposition draft call-ups might create for undeclared and unpopular wars.

In 1982, historian Joseph Ellis summed up such sentiments in a prophetic passage in an essay titled “Learning Military Lessons from Vietnam” (from the book Men at War):

“[V]irtually all studies of the all-volunteer army have indicated that it is likely to be less representative of and responsive to popular opinion, more expensive, more jealous of its own prerogatives, more xenophobic — in other words, more likely to repeat some of the most grievous mistakes of Vietnam … Perhaps the most worrisome feature of the all-volunteer army is that it encourages soldiers to insulate themselves from civilian society and allows them to cling tenaciously to outmoded visions of the profession of arms. It certainly puts an increased burden of responsibility on civilian officials to impose restraints on military operations, restraints which the soldiers will surely perceive as unjustified.”

Ellis wrote this more than 30 years ago — before Desert Storm, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, or the launching of the War on Terror. These wars (and other U.S. military interventions of the last decades) have provided vivid evidence that civilian officials have felt emboldened in wielding a military freed from the constraints of the old citizen army. Indeed, it says something of our twenty-first-century moment that military officers have from time to time felt the need to restrain civilian officials rather than vice versa. Consider, for instance, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki’s warning early in 2003 that a post-invasion Iraq would need to be occupied by “several hundred thousand” troops. Shinseki clearly hoped that his (all-too-realistic) estimate would tamp down the heady optimism of top Bush administration officials that any such war would be a “cakewalk,” that the Iraqis would strew “bouquets” of flowers in the path of the invaders, and that the U.S. would be able to garrison an American-style Iraq in the fashion of South Korea until hell froze over. Prophetic Shinseki was, but not successful. His advice was dismissed out of hand, as was he.

Events since Desert Storm in 1991 suggest that the all-volunteer military has been more curse than blessing. Partially to blame: a new dynamic in modern American history, the creation of a massive military force that is not of the people, by the people, or for the people. It is, of course, a dynamic hardly new to history. Writing in the eighteenth century about the decline and fall of Rome, the historian Edward Gibbon noted that:

“In the purer ages of the commonwealth [of Rome], the use of arms was reserved for those ranks of citizens who had a country to love, a property to defend, and some share in enacting those laws, which it was their interest, as well as duty, to maintain. But in proportion as the public freedom was lost in extent of conquest, war was gradually improved into an art, and degraded into a trade.”

As the U.S. has become more authoritarian and more expansive, its military has come to serve the needs of others, among them elites driven by dreams of profit and power. Some will argue that this is nothing new. I’ve read my Smedley Butler and I’m well aware that historically the U.S. military was often used in un-democratic ways to protect and advance various business interests. In General Butler’s day, however, that military was a small quasi-professional force with a limited reach. Today’s version is enormous, garrisoning roughly 800 foreign bases across the globe, capable of sending its Hellfire missile-armed drones on killing missions into country after country across the Greater Middle East and Africa, and possessing a vision of what it likes to call “full-spectrum dominance” meant to facilitate “global reach, global power.” In sum, the U.S. military is far more powerful, far less accountable — and far more dangerous.

As a post-democratic military has arisen in this country, so have a set of “warrior corporations” — that is, private, for-profit mercenary outfits that now regularly accompany American forces in essentially equal numbers into any war zone. In the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Blackwater was the most notorious of these, but other mercenary outfits like Triple Canopy and DynCorp were also deeply involved. This rise of privatized militaries and mercenaries naturally contributes to actions that are inherently un-democratic and divorced from the will and wishes of the people. It is also inherently a less accountable form of war, since no one even bothers to count the for-profit dead, nor do their bodies come home in flag-draped coffins for solemn burial in military cemeteries; and Americans don’t approach such mercenaries to thank them for their service. All of which allows for the further development of a significantly under-the-radar form of war making.
The phrase “limited war,” applied to European conflicts from the close of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 to the French Revolution in 1789, and later to conventional wars in the nuclear age, has fresh meaning in twenty-first-century America. These days, the limits of limited war, such as they are, fall less on the warriors and more on the American people who are increasingly cut out of the process. They are, for instance, purposely never mobilized for battle, but encouraged to act as though they were living in a war-less land. American war efforts, which invariably take place in distant lands, are not supposed to interfere with business as usual in the “homeland,” which, of course, means consumerism and consumption. You will find no rationing in today’s America, nor calls for common sacrifice of any sort. If anything, wars have simply become another consumable item on the American menu. They consume fuel and resources, money, and intellect, all in staggering amounts. In a sense, they are themselves a for-profit consumable, often with tie-ins to video gamesmovies, and other forms of entertainment.

In the rush for money and in the name of patriotism, the horrors of wars, faced squarely by many Americans in the Vietnam War era, are now largely disregarded. One question that this election season has raised: What if our post-democratic military is driven by an autocrat who insists that it must obey his whims in the cause of “making America great again”?

Come 2017, we may find out.


Senior military men: checking out and cashing in

There was a time when old soldiers like Douglas MacArthur talked wistfully about fading away in retirement. Not so for today’s senior military officers. Like so many politicians, they regularly go in search of the millionaires’ club on leaving public service, even as they accept six-figure pensions and other retirement benefits from the government. In the post-military years, being John Q. Public isn’t enough. One must be General Johannes Q. Publicus (ret.), a future financial wizard, powerful CEO, or educator supreme. Heck, maybe all three.

Consider General David Petraeus, America’s “surge” general in Iraq and later head of U.S. Central Command. He left the directorship of the CIA in disgrace after an adulterous affair with his biographer-mistress, with whom he illegally shared classified information. Petraeus has since found teaching gigs at the University of Southern California, the City University of New York, and Harvard’s Kennedy School while being appointed chairman of the investment firm KKR Global Institute. Another retired general who cashed in with an investment firm is Ray Odierno, the former Army chief of staff, who became a special adviser to JP Morgan Chase, the financial giant. (Indeed, the oddness of Odierno, an ex-football player known for his total dedication to the Army, being hired by a financial firm inspired this spoof at a military humor site.)

But few men have surpassed retired Air Force General John Jumper. He cashed in by joining many corporate boards, including the board of directors for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a major defense contractor. After five years he became its CEO with a seven-figure salary. Then you have retired general officers who pull down more than $300 an hour (no $7.25 federal minimum wage for them) advising their former subordinates at the Pentagon as “senior mentors.”

No one expects generals to take vows of poverty upon retirement. Indeed, those hefty government pensions and assorted other benefits would preclude such vows. But in the post-democratic military world, duty, honor, country has become duty, honor, cash.

For today’s crop of retiree generals, no Cincinnatus need apply. Of course, there’s long been a revolving door between Pentagon offices and corporate boardrooms, but that door seems to be spinning ever faster in the twenty-first century.
The peril of all this should be obvious: the prospect of cashing-in big time upon retirement can’t help but affect the judgment of generals while they’re still wearing the uniform. When you reach high rank, it’s already one big boys’ club where everyone knows everyone else’s reputation. Get one for being an outspoken critic of a contractor’s performance, or someone who refuses to play ball or think by the usual rules of Washington, and chances are you’re not going to be hired to lucrative positions on various corporate boards in retirement.

Such an insular, even incestuous system of pay-offs naturally reinforces conventional thinking. Generals go along to get along, embracing prevailing thinking on interventionism, adventurism, and dominance. Especially troublesome is the continued push for foreign military sales (arms exports) to some of the world’s most active war zones. In this way, weaponry and wars are increasingly the business of America, a “growth” industry that is only reinforced when retired generals are hired to lead companies, to advise financial institutes, or even to teach young adults in prestigious schools.

For Petraeus is not the only retired general to lecture at such places. General Stanley McChrystal, who infamously was fired by President Obama for allowing a command climate that was disrespectful to the nation’s civilian chain of command, is now a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute at Yale University. Admiral William McRaven, former head of U.S. Special Operations Command during the era of black sites and deaths by torture, is now the chancellor of the entire University of Texas system. McRaven had no prior background in education, just as Odierno had no background in finance before being hired to a top-tier position of authority. Both of them were, however, the military version of “company men” who, on retirement, possessed a wealth of contacts, which helped make them highly marketable commodities.

If you’re wearing three or four stars in the military, you’ve already been carefully vetted as a “company man,” since the promotion process screens out mavericks. Independent thinkers tend to retire or separate from the military long before they reach eligibility for flag rank. The most persistent and often the most political officers rise to the top, not the brightest and the best.

Special operations: the American military’s jesuits

As Nick Turse has documented at TomDispatch, post-9/11 America has seen the rapid growth of U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, a secretive military within the military that now numbers almost 70,000 operatives. The scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson used to refer to that Agency as the president’s private army. Now, the commander-in-chief quite literally has such an army (as, in a sense, he also now has a private robotic air force of drone assassins dispatchable more or less anywhere). The expansion of SOCOM from a modest number of elite military units (like the Green Berets or SEAL Team 6) into a force larger than significant numbers of national armies is an underreported and under-considered development of our post-democratic military moment. It has now become the regular go-to force in the war on terror from Iraq to AfghanistanSyria to Cameroon, Libya to Somalia.

As Gregory Foster, a Vietnam veteran and professor at the National Defense University noted recently, this now-massive force “provides an almost infinite amount of potential space for meddling and ‘mission creep’ abroad and at home due, in part, to the increasingly blurred lines between military, intelligence, police, and internal security functions… [T]he very nature of [special ops] missions fosters a military culture that is particularly destructive to accountability and proper lines of responsibility… the temptation to employ forces that can circumvent oversight without objection is almost irresistible.”

Like the Jesuit order of priests who, beginning in the sixteenth century, took the fight to heretical Protestants and spread the Catholic faith from Europe and Asia in the Old World to nearly everywhere in the New World, today’s SOCOM operators crusade globally on the part of America. They slay evildoers while advancing U.S. foreign policy and business goals in at least 150 countries. Indeed, the head of SOCOM, General Joseph Votel III, West Point grad and Army Ranger, put it plainly when he said that America is witnessing “a golden age for special operations.”

A military force effectively unaccountable to the people tears at the very fabric of the Constitution, which is at pains to mandate firm and complete control over the military by Congress, acting in the people’s name. Combine such a military with a range of undeclared wars and other conflicts and a Congress for which cheerleading, not control, is the order of the day, and you have a recipe for a force unto itself.

It used to be said of Prussia that it was a military with a state attached to it. America’s post-democratic military, combined with the proliferation of intelligence outfits and the growth of the country’s second defense department, the Department of Homeland Security, could increasingly be considered something like an emerging proto-state. Call it America’s 51st state, except that instead of having two senators and a few representatives based on its size, it has all the senators and all the representatives based on its power, budget, and grip on American culture.

It is, in other words, a post-democratic leviathan to be reckoned with. And not a single Democratic or Republican candidate for commander-in-chief has spent a day in uniform. Prediction for November: another overwhelming victory at the polls for America’s 51st state.

William Astore
William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), is a TomDispatch regular. He has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, and now teaches History at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He can be reached at


  1. The US military has become The Hessians that US citizen soldiers fought in The American Revolutionary War. No citizen soldier marched through US airports traveling from one American city to another dressed in battle fatigues. People don’t know any better but citizen veterans that has serial numbers that began with “US” do.

    These mercenary OOrah showboats publicly flaunt their warrior ethos and people forgot what a citizen soldier was. It is unfortunate and it is dangerous, very, very dangerous.

  2. Donald Trump attacking the wife of Ted Cruz shows him to be a disgusting uncouth, uncultured bully of the worst sort. If it turns out to be his undoing, it will have been a gift from him to just have him disappear.

  3. Only a man of Trump’s talents could succeed in making Ted Cruz look to be an object of sympathy.

    1. What, did Trump, in his pimple stage, get teased at summer camp?

    2. Back on topic: Ostensibly, for budget reasons, we need to cut the amount of generals by half and restore the military draft. We need to prohibit active duty cops and firemen from being eligible for military service in the National Guard or the Reserves.

    3. Good Grief -

      It was a Cruz super PAC that put up a nude photo of Trump's wife in the first place.

      And right before UTAH voted, too.

      You can't tell me Cruz wasn't behind this crap, after what he did to Dr. Ben Carson.

      Cruz is the guilty party here, regardless that Trump's response could have been a little more sophisticated.

      A NUDE photo of an opponents wife....right before UTAH ?....give me a break....Cruz is the guilty party.

    4. No wonder that nobody that really knows Cruz doesn't like him.....he's creepy, disgusting, vain, and dishonest....a sleaze.

    5. No wonder that nobody that really knows Cruz likes him......of course.

      I was steaming...

      I can't stand the guy....I will vote for him only because of Hillary.

  4. The US needs to grow up and quit worshipping uniforms.

    1. You would have loved my Aunt's dog, a white Spitz named Pella.

      Dog would automatically attack any human in a uniform...mailman, service station attendant (in those days), police, firemen, ROTC name it....certainly a General or Admiral if he'd ever have had the chance....


    2. Hell, I had a beagle that attacked me on my first leave home. She thought I was the mailman and went for my leg. Although the dog was not that bright. She could never quite get the concept of flushing out a pheasant without going insane and scaring up birds out of range.

  5. Okay, sorry about the O/T, but this is just too damned good.

    Microsoft Chat Bot Goes On Racist, Genocidal Twitter Rampage

    Seriously? Seriously.

    Here’s a clear example of artificial intelligence gone wrong.

    Microsoft launched a smart chat bot Wednesday called “Tay.” It looks like a photograph of a teenage girl rendered on a broken computer monitor, and it can communicate with people via Twitter, Kik and GroupMe. It’s supposed to talk like a millennial teenage girl.

    Less than 24 hours after the program was launched, Tay reportedly began to spew racist, genocidal and misogynistic messages to users.

    “Hitler was right I hate the jews [sic],” Tay reportedly tweeted at one user, as you can see above. Another post said feminists “should all die and burn in hell.”

    To be clear, Tay learned these phrases from humans on the Internet. As Microsoft puts it on Tay’s website, “The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you.” Trolls taught Tay these words and phrases, and then Tay repeated that stuff to other people.

    Microsoft has been deleting the most problematic tweets, forcing media to rely on screenshots from Twitter users.

    “Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways,” a Microsoft spokesman told The Huffington Post in an email.

    “As a result, we have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments,” he added.

    In addition to general racism and misogyny, Tay was also used to harass Zoe Quinn, the woman most famously targeted by GamerGate.

    As Quinn herself pointed out on Twitter, the big problem here is that Microsoft apparently failed to set up any meaningful filters on what Tay can tell users. It’s cool that the AI can learn from people “to experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding,” but maybe the bot could’ve been set up with filters that would have prevented it from deploying the n-word or saying that the Holocaust was “made up.”

    Microsoft apparently didn’t consider the abuse people suffer online, much as it failed to consider how half-naked dancing women at a press event last week might’ve been perceived.

    Then again, if an AI has restraints put into place by people to help code specific behaviors, that kind of defeats the entire purpose of allowing an artificial mind to train itself.

    It’s a sticky wicket that raises ethical questions with broader implications — maybe a dumb chat bot isn’t a huge deal, but when we start talking about software that can similarly ingest data to interact with humans and sway their votes, for example, we’ve got bigger problems.

    Of course, we talked with Tay on Kik and found it had problems with pretty simple conversation cues, so maybe we don’t need to worry about the robot takeover just yet.

    Huff Post


    In 1945, the United States Navy had 3,400,000 sailors, 6,700 vessels of war and 18 admirals.

    In 2011, the United States Navy had 330,000 sailors, 286 vessels, and 216 highly paid admirals.

    That is ONE admiral for each 1.3 ships.

    OOrah Assholes, OOrah.

  7. And, our one poor little old, ragtag Marine Artillery Company, out in the middle of Indian Country, Iraq, doesn't have an indirect attack defense.

    1. Please tell this Army Nuclear Missileer what an indirect attack defense. is.

    2. anti-mortar, rocket, etc. In Israel they call it "Iron Dome."

    3. I guess our Sergeant Rockets wouldn't qualify.
      Might be useful if they still had nukes, though.

  8. Money For Nothing (2 Military Defense Contractors)
    Two US Army defense contractors met me in a secret location in America to discuss what it’s like to go work for the government on foreign soils. They both work as contractors in stations all over the world and they gave a first hand account of how much waste goes into our imperialism. It was an interesting look into the life of a hired grunt in the middle of a war zone.

    One of the examples I remember was long rows of 800 Thousand Dollar MRAPS when they arrived that were still there, covered with dust, when they left.

    Reminded me of some WWII Vets from my home town talking about driving CATs off the decks into the seas off Alaska when the war was over.

  9. Sometimes the people in uniform are the good guys -

    Will There Be a Coup Against Erdogan in Turkey?

    By Michael Rubin

    Kurdish people display a picture of Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a protest outside an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on March 7. Turks—and the Turkish military—increasingly recognize that Erdogan is taking the country to the precipice.


    The situation in Turkey is bad and getting worse.

    It’s not just the deterioration in security amidst a wave of terrorism. Public debt might be stable, but private debt is out of control, the tourism sector is in free-fall and the decline in the currency has impacted every citizen’s buying power.

    There is a broad sense, election results notwithstanding, that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is out of control. He is imprisoning opponents, seizing newspapers left and right and building palaces at the rate of a mad sultan or aspiring caliph. In recent weeks, he has once again threatened to dissolve the constitutional court.

    Corruption is rife. His son Bilal reportedly fled Italy on a forged Saudi diplomatic passport as the Italian police closed in on him in an alleged money laundering scandal.

    His outbursts are raising eyebrows both in Turkey and abroad. Even members of his ruling party whisper about his increasing paranoia which, according to some Turkish officials, has gotten so bad that he seeks to install anti-aircraft missiles at his palace to prevent airborne men-in-black from targeting him in a snatch-and-grab operation.

    Turks—and the Turkish military—increasingly recognize that Erdogan is taking Turkey to the precipice. By first bestowing legitimacy upon imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan with renewed negotiations and then precipitating renewed conflict, he has taken Turkey down a path in which there is no chance of victory and a high chance of de facto partition.

    1. After all, if civil war renews as in the 1980s and early 1990s, Turkey’s Kurds will be hard-pressed to settle for anything less, all the more so given the precedent now established by their brethren in Iraq and Syria.

      Erdogan long ago sought to kneecap the Turkish military. For the first decade of his rule, both the U.S. government and European Union cheered him on. But that was before even Erdogan’s most ardent foreign apologists recognized the depth of his descent into madness and autocracy.

      So if the Turkish military moves to oust Erdogan and place his inner circle behind bars, could they get away with it?

      In the realm of analysis rather than advocacy, the answer is yes. At this point in election season, it is doubtful that the Obama administration would do more than castigate any coup leaders, especially if they immediately laid out a clear path to the restoration of democracy.

      Nor would Erdogan engender the type of sympathy that Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi did. When Morsi was ousted, his commitment to democracy was still subject to debate.

      That debate is now moot when it comes to the Turkish strongman. Neither the Republican nor Democratic front-runners would put U.S. prestige on the line to seek a return to the status quo ante. They might offer lip service against a coup, but they would work with the new regime.

      Coup leaders might moot European and American human rights and civil society criticism and that of journalists by immediately freeing all detained journalists and academics and by returning seized newspapers and television stations to their rightful owners.

      Turkey’s NATO membership is no deterrent to action: Neither Turkey nor Greece lost their NATO membership after previous coups. Should a new leadership engage sincerely with Turkey’s Kurds, Kurds might come onboard.

      Neither European nor American public opinion would likely be sympathetic to the execution of Erdogan, his son and son-in-law, or key aides like Egemen Bağış and Cüneyd Zapsu, although they would accept a trial for corruption and long incarceration.

      Erdoğan might hope friends would rally to his side, but most of his friends—both internationally and inside Turkey—are attracted to his power. Once out of his palace, he may find himself very much alone, a shriveled and confused figure like Saddam Hussein at his own trial.

      I make no predictions, but given rising discord in Turkey as well as the likelihood that the Turkish military would suffer no significant consequence should it imitate Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s game plan in Egypt, no one should be surprised if Turkey’s rocky politics soon get rockier.

      Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A former Pentagon official, his major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy.


  10. Argentinian Poontang is hot!

    1. :)

      heh heh

      I watched a video of that dance.

      I can tell you this.....Obama can't dance.

    2. He looks uncomfortable in a way that women find charming. What ever works.

    3. Before you wrote that, that's how I saw it.

      Now I see him looking down at her pit as though she has B.O.


    God she's ugly. See pic.

    I know this is devastating news to galopin2.

  12. "...cap on out of pocket expenses. This was part of my mom's original plan back in '93 and '94, as well as premium costs. We can either do that directly or through tax credits. And, kind of figuring out whether she could do that through executive action, or she would need to do that through tax credits working with Congress.

    She thinks either of those will help solve the challenge of kind of the crushing costs that still exist for too many people, who even are part of the Affordable Care Act and buying insurance..."

    Seems reasonable to me.

  13. I got tired of this guy bothering people on the train.

    - Viking Doug

    1. The trains ?

      No place for old men, these days.

      Only the fit survive.

  14. It's a hell of a way to start a marriage - but perhaps worldly and realistic if you've been through two before -

    March 25, 2016

    Would President Trump dump Melania?

    By Paul Kengor

    Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are in a spat right now involving their wives, prompted by a super PAC’s ad that Trump didn’t like. “MEET MELANIA TRUMP,” beams the ad, sporting an eye-opening photo of an unclothed Melania in GQ magazine. “YOUR NEXT FIRST LADY.”

    In response, Trump was incensed, immediately blaming Ted Cruz.

    “Lyin' Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad,” barked Trump from his prolific Twitter account. “Be careful, Lyin' Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

    It was the usual Trump, though absent the usual threat of a lawsuit. Frankly, I was surprised by Trump’s vehemence. I figured he would brag about Melania’s photo-shoot. He has never been shy in boasting about bagging women (married or unmarried) or expressing vivid verbal admiration of their body parts. The casino-mogul/strip-club-owner-turned-“conservative” surely would normally take pride in Melania’s GQ spread. Why so angry all of a sudden?

    Once again, “Lying Ted” seems to have gotten under the Donald’s skin.

    But if you want to hear a genuine outrage involving Trump and Melania, go to Trump’s own words. In fact, check out a short Trump audio clip from 2004, one of his syndicated “Money, Money, Money” radio broadcasts. It’s on the importance of having a prenuptial agreement—that is, before he tied the knot with Melania.

    "My fiancée Melania and I recently set the big date. We're going to get married in January, probably January 22nd and probably at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. Some people may be surprised that I'm getting married again, but the fact is that Melania is an amazing woman. I know what they say: 'If you want to ruin a relationship with your girlfriend, just marry her,' but I don't believe in that. I have very little doubt that my marriage to Melania will be over; it'll end and I've said that before. And then people say, 'Well if that's the case, do you need a prenuptial agreement?' And I look at them and I say, 'You bet I do.' A prenuptial agreement is a modern day necessity, no matter how good your relationship, no matter whether you're getting along. It's a lot easier to have one than to not have one. And by the way, it helps to buy your very significant other a gift when you're handing over those prenups to sign."

    1. No, I’m not making this up. How could I? Only Donald Trump is capable of this kind of thing. This was the brash deal-maker on the art of the pre-nup.

      Really, it’s classic Donald Trump, spoken with the buffoonishness we’d expect from a sitcom character, not a serious candidate for president of the United States. Could you imagine such sentiment expressed by a Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan? This is the kind of spectacle we’re supposed to laugh at while watching Al Bundy on old episodes of “Married with Children.” We’re not supposed to elect it president.

      What’s worse, of course, is that this is hardly an isolated outrage from the political carnival that is Donald Trump. No, this is standard operating procedure—and yet it’s the brand-spanking-new standard that millions of new “conservatives” apparently expect and accept.

      So much for that family-values stuff we used to toss at Bill Clinton, eh? The Democrats will be informing us that that was a bunch of stinking hypocrisy.

      I know that Trump’s defenders will defend this latest Trumpism—and excoriate me for bringing it to their attention—but I find it hard to be sympathetic to the Donald’s rage at “Lying Ted” and his threats against Heidi Cruz when I read statements like this from the Donald himself.

      In fact, it makes me wonder about Melania’s status as our possible next first lady. How assured can we be that Melania would remain first lady? Could the Donald pull the plug, ending the marriage during a Trump presidency? He said he’s certain their marriage “will be over.” Again, his own words: “I have very little doubt that my marriage to Melania will be over; it'll end and I've said that before.”

      Okay, when? That would be scandalous. Or should we simply not take Trump’s words seriously?

      Melania might need to be more worried about the Donald’s words than anything that “Lying Ted” or some super PAC might say.

      Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage. His other books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.