Wednesday, November 27, 2019

We Can't Just Let The Next Election Decide


The evidence is clear that Donald Trump extorted a foreign government, not for any old sort of personal gain, such as vulgar lucre, but instead with a turpitude that cracks a cornerstone of our essential way of life:  the electoral system.

Alarmingly, GOP leaders have produced an absurd and grotesque defense, remonstrating with crude tactics that struggle to even qualify as guile.  From behind a slapdash barricade of featherweight theories and evasive accusations, they toss out a dismissive claim:  that whatever Trump did, or didn't do, it wasn't so bad.  Let the voters decide.

Given the temptations of power and the frailties of the human psyche, some might tend to forgive such flip-the-script mendacity from the GOP, disheartening and benighted though it is. 

And yet we should not accept such a facile excuse for their behavior, nor does it dilute their timeless condemnation.

Humor me.  Assume, even if you balk, that the president did the deed.  Granted, this could be difficult, even though it is evident.  The implications are beyond tremendous.  Let's see why it would be utterly nation-changing.

If you dare the assumption of extortion--that is, if you go with the body of evidence--then the fig leaf for the Republicans, their 'shady politics as normal' claim, gives way to a bottomless trench. 

First of all, if Trump can seek dirt on a rival candidate using foreign muscle--and get away with calling it "perfect," which he did--what 's to stop him from doing it again and again, until multiple countries or international agencies pour their efforts into a psy ops crusade on his behalf?

Realize that the kind of shock smear roused by such grift has already been dreadfully effective.  Birtherism, Pizzagate, West Coast voter fraud, these and others have found much serious traction to energize blinkered outrage. 

Right now, the Republicans are peddling what could be called Crowdstrike mania, which pins 2016 election interference on Ukraine.  US intelligence agencies have assiduously established the culprit as Russia. 

A terrible revelation emerges:  If the US intelligence community is powerless to blunt Trump's big lies, who can?  If the failsafes in the Constitution cannot prevent the president from turning other countries into his personal Monopoly cards, what will?

The next link in the above chain of reasoning merits a full precautious seriousness.  Namely, if left unchecked, Trump will likely win the 2020 election.  Not through democratic struggle, not through legitimate debate, but rather because he has already succeeded in becoming the tyrannous king that our Founders feared.

The proposition, then, that we should 'let the election decide' cannot be accepted.  We should not hang the fateful choice between two inimical types of governance--crown jewels versus common vote--on a process overlorded by an impervious president, who with invisible conscience suborns foreign meddling. 

Meddling, actually, is a euphemism.  Psy ops, originating in foreign lands and hence beyond the reach of our laws, will seed the populace with slanderous fear, hate, and disgust.  It is a design intended to prejudice the vote, yes, and yet also to cripple and rupture whatever remains of our national comity.

Our very country, in other words, totters on the brink.  That's why Republicans cannot be forgiven for their shameless anti-truthism.  There are cliffs, even in the twisted odysseys of politics, that, once crossed, plunge a people into a depths from which their 'city on a hill' can never be regained.

Understandably our sensibilities shy from such painful matters.  And yet when you accept the obvious, the extortion, and draw reasonable conclusions, the abstract picture, ominous enough at a distance, takes form and flesh.

It's certainly true that Trump might not win.  Even copious underhanded support, which Senate Republicans are poised to allow, might not be determinative. 

But the magnitude of the gamble urges us--urges us-- not to stake our democracy on the roll of such weighted dice.  The words "Let the Election Decide" are happy morsels for a hungry narcissist, one ready to sully the mightiest office in the world to win at all costs, and thereby ensure his mass and continuous praise.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

The L'Etat C'est Moi Defense

The impeachment hearings mark a titanic event in our nation's history.  Can a sitting president coerce a foreign government to publicly investigate a political rival for personal benefit?  The implications are unimaginable for those of us raised on the sacrosanct principle of free elections, that is, the integrity of the United States.

The GOP has said that no such attempt took place. But testimony given behind closed doors undercuts that claim.  The testimony came from non-political career officials, many of whom possess outstanding, bipartisan reputations.   Their statements reveal a shadow operation that circumvented official channels.  The players in this secretive process include Rudy Giuliani, president Trump's fixer-lawyer, the apparent replacement of his previous one, who is now incarcerated for illegal campaign hush payments. 

The public hearings, if at all like the closed-door sessions, will be dramatic.  They will overwhelming show a calculated extortion of Ukraine, one that involved withholding vital military aid--aid already approved by Congress--even while Ukranian citizens were dying in an ongoing war with Russia.

Republicans claim the military aid wasn't withheld in the end.  No harm, no foul.  First of all, there was harm:  the death of Ukrainian citizens while the aid was delayed.  Second, aid was only released because of the now famous whistleblower, still tenuously anonymous, who followed the letter of the law and who, in consequence, has been maligned virulently and incessantly.

Republicans have shuffled through a bunch of defenses for Trump, a confused parade of prevarications.  The president merely wanted to root out corruption.  He had no bad intent.  The situation is unethical, perhaps, but not impeachable. 

All these, however, have been countermanded by Trump's own tweets.  His vociferous defense is that his behavior was "perfect."  He demands that congressional Republicans, who have already exhibited extraordinary toadyism and spinelessness, fall into line.

Trump has always claimed, without evidence, that his actions are the biggest, the bravest, the boldest, the best.  Only he can save the country.  Only he is always right.  Among many notable narcissists, both pompous and grandiose, perhaps the most comparable is Louis XIV.  L'etat c'est moi.  I am the state.

Mir a lago becomes Versailles.  Monarchic intrigue becomes the golden T of Trumpian Truth, which stands for "alternate facts" that call out for absolute devotion and faith.

And so we reach a dangerous, pivotal moment in the 243-year-old lifespan of our nation.  If a president can subvert our elections by inducing foreign nationals, even an entire government, to become a propaganda arm for his purposes, and get away with calling it "perfect," what remains of our freedom?  What is left of our values to cherish?

What is to stop such a president from targeting any citizen of the United States, via foreign agents, for harassment or worse?

This is a unique time.  It tests the mettle of every citizen, and the decency of our United States.  Will we accept the imposition of a national loyalty test, one that requires us to ardently believe the claims of one man, even if those claims are lies?  One that requires us to subject ourselves with devotion, however capricious and wicked the dictates? 

Or will we defend the Constitution and the Declaration, which have always been mighty, stalwart trees; and yet, as the Founders warned, quite vulnerable unless watered with bravery and vigilance.