Saturday, February 15, 2020

An Unhinged And Unbound President

"...a president is fully above the law in the most dangerous kind of way. This is how democracies die.”

- Former U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance

Those who have been reading this blog over the years will have noticed that I post far less than I used to. The reason is a simple one: my disenchantment with the world and its politics has reached new depths. Consequently, I do wonder if writing about this broken world is the best use of whatever time remains to me, given that if I am very fortunate, I likely have little more than two decades left.

Nonetheless, like a moth drawn to a flame, I read things that erode what little faith I have left in this world but also sometimes demand a catharsis that only writing about them can on occasion provide.

Case in point: Edward Keenan writes about how, post-impeachment, the unhinged Donald Trump is now also unbound, using the levers of power to punish all who have crossed him:
Trump has always had strongman tendencies — the grandiose rallies and military parades, proclaimed admiration for dictators, declarations that his actions are beyond scrutiny — but his actions this week amplified that affinity in ways that could do lasting damage. Jason Stanley, a Yale University professor and the author of “How Fascism Works” told Business Insider that the tactics employed by the president and his Republican Party are “straight from the literature on authoritarianism.”

First there was the punishment of his perceived enemies: Trump dismissed his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and marched decorated war veteran Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman out of the White House — along with Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, who also worked in the White House but played no role in the impeachment trial.
His chilling message of retribution is a clear warning of the consequences of crossing him in any way, something only worthy of the world's worst dictators.

And it's not just to individuals that this message is directed:
More explicit was Trump’s proclamation that he would use policy to punish New York unless it dropped investigations and lawsuits into his taxes. New York’s attorney general has been investigating several matters related to Trump and his businesses; recently, the Department of Homeland Security suspended the state’s access to trusted traveller programs that speed entry at border crossings. Trump appeared to connect the two when he tweeted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to understand, in the context of the “national security” issues, that “New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harassment.”
Then there is the special attention directed toward those who Trump perceives as his loyalists:
On Monday, the U.S. attorneys who successfully prosecuted former Trump adviser Roger Stone for crimes related to Trump’s 2016 campaign suggested a prison sentence of seven to nine years, which was in line with the standards set out in federal guidelines. On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that the recommendation was “horrible and unfair,” and insisted that “the real crimes were on the other side.”

Hours later, the Justice Department intervened to overrule its own staff and suggest leniency for Stone. In response, all four prosecutors withdrew from the case, with one even resigning from the department.
So much for the rule of law and the independence of the Justice Depart, a tradition that dates back to the Watergate era.

Perhaps Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown sums it up best:
Trump’s “retribution tour” shows he has indeed learned something from acquittal: “The lesson is he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.”
After the election of Trump, I made a pledge not to visit the U.S. as long as he was in office. I am beginning to think that that pledge will wind up being a long-term one, not just because of the very real possibility that he will be re-elected in November, but also because under his presidency, he may in fact be making changes to the very complexion and nature of American politics and society that his successors will either be unwilling or unable to reverse.

Truly, the United States is a nation in precipitous and likely irreversible decline.


  1. Don't despair Lorne! I appreciate your views and I frequently forward them to both those that either agree or disagree with your points of view. My daily blog readings include yours, Owen's and Mound's. You all provide facts and sage advice, and your words are not just preaching to the choir.


    1. Thank you for your kind words, RG. They mean a lot.

  2. Not just on this topic: well said.

    I am retreating to Wodehouse, surely he can save the situation.

    I am imbibing earlier in the day ... because ... Jeeves <-> kids ...I am not seeing a deus ex machna coming ... hence . .. I am imbibe earlier in the day. It's out of our hands Lorne.

    More's the pity ... saw it coming.

    j a m e s

    1. It is indeed hard to maintain any kind of hope these days, James, even though I know that despair and a sense of powerlessness are exactly what people like Trump and those who support him and his ilk want.