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Politics & Policy

‘If I Say Do It, They’re Going To Do It. That’s What Leadership Is All About.’

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

‘If I Say Do  It, They’re Going To Do It. That’s What Leadership Is All About.’

A lot of people will be talking about this exchange, and with good reason:

BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists’ families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders. So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they’re illegal.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They’re chopping off heads. They’re chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They’re drowning people in steel cages. And he — now we’re talking about waterboarding.

A few moments later:

BAIER: But targeting terrorists’ families?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And — and — and — I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.

BAIER: Even targeting terrorists’ families?

If this argument feels familiar, it’s because we’ve seen this before. It was on 24, season two:

Jack Bauer held Asad, his younger brother Fareed, and his mother hostage and used them as leverage against Syed Ali to find the location of the nuclear weapon. Jack said he had no other choice but to use Syed Ali’s family, as Ali willing to take his own life. Jack gave the order to kill Asad and a masked man was seen pushing over the boy’s chair and firing on him. When Jack ordered Fareed to be killed also, Ali broke. It was later seen that the shooting was faked; the family was untied and Asad hugged his mother.

The sudden reveal that Jack Bauer wasn’t willing to kill an 11-year-old in order to extract information, was one of the most important moments of the show; to have the protagonist, who we’re supposed to root for, kill a child would be passing the moral event horizon. Jack Bauer might be the most relentless and ruthless fictional federal agent in history, a man willing to behead a murderous child pornographer who’s a federal witness – “I’m gonna need a hacksaw” –  but he always has enough moral clarity to recognize that certain acts can never be morally justified. That’s not what the heroes do, that’s not what the good guys do. And, the show’s creators were telling us, that’s not what Americans do.

Presumably, had Trump watched that episode, he would have been shouting at the screen, “Kill the kid!”

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