Monday, July 24, 2017

Danger, Democracy In Danger, Will Robinson

It is hard to look away from the train wreck that comprised Trump's interview with the New York Times last week.  It is hard not to feel both fear and loathing from the now familiar Trump cocktail of one part ignorance, one part delusion and one part abuse of power. When taken together with a chaser that includes Trump tweets boasting of the "complete power to pardon," as well as his aggressive efforts to manufacture a case that Special Counsel Mueller and staff are impaired by conflicts of interest, we are getting pretty close to a constitutional crisis.

First there is the 25th Amendment aspect of it all.  The word salad and #fake history.  Trump's remarkable inability to string coherent sentences together, particularly when it comes to policy.  The dude not only doesn't understand the differences between Obamacare and Trumpcare -- he doesn't understand how health insurance works at all.  Then there are his nonsensical forays into history -- like claiming that Napoleon designed the Paris grid.  He sounds like a school boy bluffing his way through a book report without having done the reading, not the so-called leader of the free world.  As satirist Andy Borowitz has put it before, "every time Trump does [an] interview it's like an infomercial for the 25th Amendment" -- and that's no joke.  

But the truly bone-chilling segment of the Times interview was Trump's rage at the Special Counsel's investigation as it homes in on the Trump family's Russian entanglements -- political and financial.  First there was Trump's unrestrained fury at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation when Trump assumed that Sessions would act as his personal consigliere.

Worse are Trump's efforts to circumscribe the scope of the Special Counsel's investigation, that come pretty close to obstruction of justice.  In the Times interview, Trump stated that he would consider it a breach of his actual charge if Mueller were looking into the finances of Trump and his family (which is reportedly already happening)  -- strongly implying that he would fire Mueller for such a breach.

It has become trite to use the Watergate phrase, "follow the money," but it has become pretty clear that this is a fruitful path for determining the nature and extent of Trump's relationship with Russia -- and for uncovering likely financial crimes committed by the Trumps.  And Trump well knows that if he is forced to hand over his tax returns and open his books, he's toast.  Hence, his inquiries into preemptive pardons, aggressive PR aimed at the Special Counsel's investigation and implied threats to fire Mueller if he crosses the line.

This is where checks and balances should come in.  It is where the Republicans should be forcefully and unequivocally asserting that Trump must not impede the Special Counsel's investigation -- and that firing Mueller is not an option.  But the only prominent Republican suggesting that Republicans should stand up to Trump is Jeb Bush.  That is not encouraging.  In fact, it is frightening.

Most Americans -- conservatives and liberals -- have an abiding faith in the strength of our government, a core belief that tyranny cannot overcome the barriers to authoritarianism put in place by the Constitution.  Wasn't that the overarching lesson of Watergate?  Well, perhaps the overarching lesson of Watergate was that our Democracy relies on the good faith of government officials.  Would Nixon have resigned under threat of impeachment if Republicans held majorities in Congress?  Back then, probably, because there were ultimately enough Republicans that put the interests of the country over their party.  Now?  That, unfortunately, is the question on which our system of government hangs.

If it wasn't clear before, it is now undeniably apparent that our government depends not just on the rule of law and the Constitution, but on basic ethics and norms.  Senate Republicans showed how by ignoring ethics and norms they could steal a seat on the Supreme Court when they refused to hold confirmation hearings on Obama's nominee to replace Justice Scalia with almost a year left in his presidency.  And the malevolent orange shit-gibbon has taken this to extremes -- declining to release his tax returns, refusing to divest himself of his business entanglements, lashing out at any negative press as "fake news," lying repeatedly and almost daily, and threatening to impede the Special Counsel's investigation.  And if the majority in Congress refuses to stop him, there is nothing to stop him.

Still, we keep hearing that if Trump gets Sessions or some Bork-like apparatchik in the Justice Department to fire Mueller or begins issuing pardons to his family that Republicans will finally rise up to condemn him and that will be the end of the Trump presidency.  Or, if they continue to look the other way in the hope that they can squeeze out a tax cut and another Supreme Court justice before Trump inevitably implodes, then Democrats will easily take back the House in the midterms and crush the Republican Party for a generation.

Maybe.  But with Republican gerrymandering well secured and Trump's Voter Suppression Commission in full swing, taking back the House is far from a sure thing.  And unless there is a miracle wave election, the Senate will remain firmly in Republican hands.  Democrats need a majority in at least one house to control Congressional investigations and get all important subpoena power.  A majority of the House is needed to impeach, and 2/3 of the Senate to remove.  Do the math.  It isn't promising

The notion that our Democracy is dependent on principled Republicans should keep us awake at night.  And while we're awake, we might as well work on getting more Democrats elected so we don't have to.


scott said...

The Trumplicans malevolent incompetence is what gives me hope and scares the shit out of me. With or without Trump.

John Fike said...

Great piece (as per usual) Andy. I'd add, though, that waiting for "principled" Democrats thus far has been less than satisfying. On the wake of The Orange Shit Gibbon's "speech" yesterday to the Boy Scouts, I think Schumer, Harris,Warren, Sanders et al should be staging a sit-in at the Rotunda demanding and invoking the 25th Amendment.

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