Friday, January 17, 2020

And So It Begins

So, Trump has been impeached, and, as Nancy Pelosi argues, the Senate trial does nothing to alter that fact. There are two issues: 1) the Impeachment, and 2) the Trial in the Senate. Only if he is convicted by 2/3 of the sitting senators will he be removed from office. But he will always be known as the fourth sitting president to be impeached. That stain can never be removed.

Now, does that matter in any real way? My sense is, No, it does not matter. Why? Well, Donald Trump does not now and will not ever in the future acknowledge the legitimacy of the House Impeachment hearing and outcome. He is treating it as he did the Mueller inquiry, in his words, as a “witch Hunt”.  In the unlikely event the Senate actually voted to convict him, I imagine he might treat such an event as momentous.  But, we think that will never happen. And that is the core of our problem as a nation.

It seems to me fairly clear that Trump violates the very concept of the Office of the Presidency, every time he opens his mouth. He lies about almost everything. The Ukraine affair seems now beyond question—he did in fact hold military aid funds hostage, illegally, to get the head of the Ukraine government to carry out a public investigation of the Biden family’s Ukraine activities.  It is really a form of blackmail. This all to further his political campaign in 2020.

He has also forbidden his administration to cooperate with Congress in any aspect of these investigations.  Rather than portraying his innocence by actively cooperating, he has done the opposite—obstruct Congress in its work.

He acts almost daily more like a member of an organized crime mob boss than the President of the United States. But then, this is the way he has conducted himself throughout his entire career.  His refusal to release his tax returns seems heavy evidence that he has much to hide in that regard. His Trump University scam, and his Trump Foundation scam both provide evidence that Donald Trump does not believe any rules or laws apply to him.

The most recent issue that we are still learning about seems potentially more disturbing. That issue involved the US Ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. A recent article by Dahlia Lithwick describes the potential threat posed by Trump’s thuggish behavior:

“In a previous deposition, Yovanovitch described how Ukrainian officials had warned her that the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had been in touch with a former Ukrainian prosecutor general, “and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me.” At the time of that October deposition, she understood “things” to mean her eventual ouster. She couldn’t have known, as was revealed in new documents turned over to the Intelligence Committee by indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, that the “things” the president’s men had in mind might have been darker. According to Parnas’ WhatsApp exchanges, someone appears to have had the ambassador under physical and electronic surveillance last March, as Giuliani was making his moves against her position in Ukraine. Most ominously, the exchanges include cryptic messages that more could be done toward the ambassador for “a price.” It’s now an open question if the president’s goons had hired other goons to stalk a U.S. ambassador.

Whether Trump had openly suggested an eventual “hit” on his ambassador we may never know.  But that it seems within the realm of possibility for this president is the most disturbing aspect.  Even the “assassination” of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, of Iran seems to have crossed a line drawn on two definitions of the term — one legal, one colloquial (see article by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub in the New York Times January 7,2020). Whether in fact the murder crossed the line into “assassination” or remains within the realm of discretionary presidential authority to deter attacks on the US is the central debate issue. But at the least, the Sueimani killing raises troubling issues regarding Trump’s view of his war powers authority, and whether he can be trusted with such inherent authority.

It would seem that on an almost daily basis Trump treats us to yet another instance of his total disdain for the notion of formal checks on his authority. The only people Trump seems to admire are the autocratic dictators around the world—Putin, Kim Jung Un, Saudi's MBS, et al. He has been busily trashing our relations with our actual allies around the world, to the point that I begin to wonder whether we have any actual allies left.

And so now this record of discord and likely illegal doings by Trump is on trial within the Senate.  And in large part, this trial within the Senate is also playing out throughout the sorry landscape of our nation.  That I fail to understand what I view almost daily in this country is to state the obvious. However awful are people like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, I at least understand that they are dealing from positions of perceived power and are acting so as to protect or even amplify their power. What I do not understand is the ordinary people I observe almost daily, wearing shirts that pronounce their support for Trump in the 2020 election.  They largely have no power to protect. They are simply ordinary folks, like me. Our only real power lies in our ability and willingness to use the power of the ballot box to pronounce publically our support for one candidate or another.  But these folks are openly advertising support for Trump, in the face of his daily predations. 

Trump seems to me to represent the face of EVIL in America.  He is not benign. However stupid and uninformed he is about worldly affairs, he goes way beyond by moving always in the direction of EVIL.  In a recent article in the New York Times, Timothy Egan advises, “On any given day, Trump is vindictive, ignorant, narcissistic, a fraud — well, his pathologies are well known. But it’s time to apply the same word to him as the brave Navy man did to the renegade in his unit. Under Trump, the United States is a confederacy of corruption, driven by a thousand points of evil. And that evil is contagious.” And that is the greatest worry regarding Trump; that he has unleashed actual evil, and that his actions continue to be normalized, such that we are daily changing the nature of what we expect from the highest official in our land.  

So, how can ordinary folks openly advertise their support for the Face of Evil in America? Apparently, they are able to rationalize their support by focusing on perhaps one thing they like about Trump—his openly racist commentaries, his fake support for anti-abortion, his now equally fake support for Evangelical issues, including prayer in the schools, his willingness to blow off any adverse commentary in what he calls the Fake News media (by which he means anyone but Fox).  His supporters are not frequent readers of the NY Times. They do not watch CNN, or MSNBC. They in fact seem utterly powerless and act on that premise to oppose any organizations that wish to tell them what to do (the wonder to me is that they choose to even obey traffic laws, but perhaps they don’t).  This behavior towards Trump seems to me a form of anarchy that trump has seized on to forge a sort of cult—the MAGAHead Cult.

And that cult may not disappear should America succeed in ridding itself of Donald Trump. He has empowered this cult and they will remain a force to be reckoned with. They are even a force that could yet destroy America as a global force for Peace and Good. I remain uncertain how this cult can be transformed into a force for good. That requires intelligence far beyond my own limited capacity. I hope our upcoming election moves us in that direction. I fear that the upcoming Senate trial may well exacerbate the issues now being fought within our nation. 

But let us hope.  I am sorry that the Senate has declared itself immune to our laws, and our system of government. And I am especially distressed that one of our two political parties, that GOP, has declared itself dead. What will arise in its wake should be an interesting tale.

Stay tuned.

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