Category Archives: Rule of Law

More Disturbing Stuff About Trump

Published / by stevec

Share This:

Two new pieces this week from critics of Donald Trump.

Krugman published an editorial, Wrecking The Ship of State. To motivate folks to read the editorial, here are some exerts :

But can we now admit that he really is as bad as — or worse than — his harshest critics predicted he would be? And it’s not just his contempt for the rule of law, which came through so clearly in the James Comey testimony: As the legal scholar Jeffrey Toobin says, if this isn’t obstruction of justice, what is? There’s also the way Trump’s character, his combination of petty vindictiveness with sheer laziness, leaves him clearly not up to doing the job.

Take health care. It’s still unclear whether Republicans will ever be able to pass a replacement for Obamacare (although it is clear that if they do, it will take coverage away from tens of millions). But whatever happens on the legislative front, there are big problems developing in the insurance markets as we speak: companies pulling out, leaving some parts of the country unserved, or asking for large increases in premiums.

…insurance markets were clearly stabilizing last fall. Instead, as insurers themselves have been explaining, the problem is the uncertainty created by Trump and company, especially the failure to make clear whether crucial subsidies will be maintained.

Or take the remarkable decision to take Saudi Arabia’s side in its dispute with Qatar, a small nation that houses a huge U.S. military base. There are no good guys in this quarrel, but every reason for the U.S. to stay out of the middle.

And consider his refusal to endorse the central principle of NATO, the obligation to come to our allies’ defense — a refusal that came as a shock and surprise to his own foreign policy team. What was that about? Nobody knows, but it’s worth considering that Trump apparently ranted to European Union leaders about the difficulty of setting up golf courses in their nations. So maybe it was sheer petulance.

Another shocking piece is Graydon Carter’s Editor’s Letter in the latest Vanity Fair A Farce To Be Reckoned With. Again some exerts:

The thing is, you cannot rise above Donald Trump, you cannot go under him, and you cannot engage him in a conventional way. Before he became president, you could basically ignore him—he was a local joke, after all. Now that he’s commander in chief, you must resist him, with everything that is in you and in every way you can. As anyone who has followed his jerry-rigged career from the 1980s onward will tell you, Trump just drags you to the bottom of the pond every time. Decades ago, he was a short-fingered vulgarian tooling around town in a mauve stretch limo, reeking of Brut.

With Trump, everything past is prologue. On the day after his inauguration, while millions in the U.S. and around the world protested his improbable election, Trump went to C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia. The ostensible purpose of the visit was to patch things up after he had repeatedly trashed the intelligence community in the weeks leading up to his swearing-in. Trump’s speech was short, just 15 minutes, but even here, after paying lip service to the C.I.A. and its heritage, he went off piste, claiming that his beef with the intelligence community was a figment of the media’s imagination—as was the slim size of the crowd at his inaugural. These complete fabrications were made despite all printed, oral, and visual evidence to the contrary. That he spoke these words standing before the marble wall of 117 stars representing the lives of the men and women from the agency who had died in the line of duty was troubling enough. Across the hall from him, however—and in plain sight—was another marble wall, with a clearly visible quote from John 8:32 put there by former C.I.A. director Allen Dulles: AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.

Had Trump heeded those words, his presidency wouldn’t be so trussed up in the Gordian knot of his appalling lies, contradictions, and deceptions. His presidency is effectively doomed—it’s only a question now of how and when it will end. Treason? Impeachment? Incapacity? Until that day, you should be forgiven if you think you are suffering from extreme, full-blown P.T.S.D.—President Trump Stress Disorder. You are not alone. A serial liar in the office or home is one thing—and stressful enough. But a serial liar in the highest office in the land is something else altogether. Couple that with an erratically fragile ego, a severely diminished mental capacity, a lacerating temper, and access to the nuclear codes, and it’s going to get a whole lot hotter in here.

Far and away the most unfit man ever to hold the nation’s highest office, Trump has crammed so much into his first few months that most of us have trouble keeping track of the quotidian acts of executive mayhem. He has no foreign or domestic policy to speak of—he bases most of his decisions on what will play best to his base out there among the Twitterati. He cozies up to dictators and fellow strongmen, flattering them and giving them unwarranted credibility, while running roughshod over traditional allies. He has signed executive orders that attempt to slash decades of advancement in educational, medical, and environmental protections. The torrent of hate that Trump has so cavalierly unleashed has moved attacks against Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, and African-Americans from the margins toward the mainstream. Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center report spikes in hate crimes and bias-related incidents since Trump’s election

As an executive, Trump is a shambles. Can you imagine a company in America that would hire Trump as its C.E.O.? (Enron doesn’t count: it’s no longer in business.) He’s not a true leader in any proper sense of the word; he’s a ringmaster of a heaving, leaking White House that is much closer to the Circus Maximus or a traveling carny show than any traditional government operation. When he told NBC News that Comey was “a showboat” and “a grandstander,” what he really meant was that there was room for only one of those in this town.

Trump has spoken of the media’s trying to muddy his message of unifying the country. With his brazen attempts to gut government entities like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the State Department, as well as his plans to roll back financial legislation such as Dodd-Frank, among so many others, about the only people he is uniting are scientists, economists, environmentalists, health-care professionals, diplomats, career civil servants, parents, children, educators, and other afflicted groups. They have come together in historic droves as they resist the rules of engagement and the reign of terror of the petulant man-child in the Oval Office. And in the end, they will win the day.

 

 

The Lawless Presidency

Published / by stevec

Share This:

David Leonhardt speaks to Trump’s disrespect for The Rule of Law in an editorial in today’s New York Times. Below are exerts:

Democracy isn’t possible without the rule of law — the idea that consistent principles, rather than a ruler’s whims, govern society. …Even amid bitter fights over what the law should say, both Democrats and Republicans have generally accepted the rule of law. President Trump does not. His rejection of it distinguishes him from any other modern American leader. He has instead flirted with Louis XIV’s notion of “L’état, c’est moi”: The state is me — and I’ll decide which laws to follow.

Let’s walk through the major themes:

LAW ENFORCEMENT, POLITICIZED. People in federal law enforcement take pride in trying to remain apart from politics. I’ve been talking lately with past Justice Department appointees, from both parties, and they speak in almost identical terms. …Trump has erased this distinction. …He pressured Comey to drop the investigation of Trump’s campaign and fired Comey when he refused. …The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is part of the problem. He is supposed to be the nation’s head law-enforcement official, but acts as a Trump loyalist.

COURTS, UNDERMINED. Past administrations have respected the judiciary as having the final word on the law. Trump has tried to delegitimize almost any judge who disagrees with him.

TEAM TRUMP, ABOVE THE LAW. Foreign governments speed up trademark applications from Trump businesses. Foreign officials curry favor by staying at his hotel. A senior administration official urges people to buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing. The president violates bipartisan tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, thus shrouding his conflicts. …The behavior has no precedent. “Trump and his administration are flagrantly violating ethics laws,” the former top ethics advisers to George W. Bush and Barack Obama have written. …Their attitude is clear: If we’re doing it, it’s O.K.

CITIZENS, UNEQUAL. Trump and his circle treat themselves as having a privileged status under the law. And not everyone else is equal, either. In a frightening echo of despots, Trump has signaled that he accepts democracy only when it suits him. Remember when he said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win”?

TRUTH, MONOPOLIZED. The consistent application of laws requires a consistent set of facts on which a society can agree. The Trump administration is trying to undermine the very idea of facts. It has harshly criticized one independent source of information after another. The Congressional Budget Office. The Bureau of Labor Statistics. The C.I.A. Scientists. And, of course, the news media.