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Trump creates conditions in which dissent is not welcome

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters in his office in Trump Tower, in the Manhattan borough of New York, N.Y., May 17, 2016. (Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters in his office in Trump Tower, in the Manhattan borough of New York, N.Y., May 17, 2016.
President Obama was in Tampa last week, recapping his record on national security with a speech at MacDill Air Force Base, and there was one line in particular that received hearty applause."We're a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it," the president explained. "The universal right to speak your mind and to protest against authority, to live in a society that's open and free, that can criticize a president without retribution."His successor probably wasn't listening. Poltiico noted this morning:

President-elect Donald Trump took aim at a new media target Thursday morning, writing on Twitter that Vanity Fair magazine is "dead" and its editor has "no talent."The magazine has been regularly critical of Trump throughout his candidacy and into his transition, publishing stories this week headlined "someone has finally agreed to perform at Donald Trump inauguration" and "Trump Grill could be the worst restaurant in America."

It's an eerily familiar pattern: Trump sees criticism, Trump resents criticism, and Trump lashes out at those responsible for the criticism. In this case, Vanity Fair published a piece late yesterday with unkind words about the restaurant at Trump Tower, leading the president-elect to put aside the work he's supposed to be doing, fire up Twitter, and announce his contempt for the publication that's slighted him.This obviously isn't how U.S. leaders are supposed to conduct themselves -- especially in public -- and it's not how Trump should be spending his time. But even more jarring is the frequency of these incidents.Indeed, the list of tantrum targets keeps growing: Boeing, "Saturday Night Live," a union leader in Indianapolis whom Trump saw on TV, the cast of "Hamilton" on Broadway, etc. Trump and his team even got into a spat with Twitter over a campaign emoji, which by one account, led to the company's exclusion at a tech confab yesterday at Trump Tower.The common thread isn't subtle: those who cross Trump should expect to face consequences.The New Republic's Brian Beutler had a good piece on this yesterday, noting the chilling effect the president-elect may be creating through intimidation tactics.

The less tangible threat ... is to the willingness of dissidents to criticize the Trump government, out of fear that Trump will harm their businesses, or that his unhinged supporters will harm their families. How many people will see what happened to [Chuck Jones, the president of the local steelworkers' union that represents employees of Carrier] and others and decide raising objections isn't worth it?[W]e can't know what effect Trump's press intimidation is having and will have on the kind of coverage he receives, or whether judges will treat him more leniently going forward out of fear of retribution. It's not only that cowed people won't admit to being cowed, but many of these targets may never even realize they're inhibiting themselves in the interest of self-preservation.

It's quite likely that this is Trump's intended goal. He is, after all, a man whose authoritarian instincts, and praise for international dictators, is well documented. Is it any wonder Trump, knowingly or unknowingly, is creating conditions in which dissent is unwelcome?