There’s no end it seems to Donald Trump’s perfidy. That also means there’s no end to the perfidy of Republicans—virtually all Republicans in the Senate and House who consciously participate in his guilt. In varying degrees, it testifies to the civic carelessness and appalling judgment of us all. Let me be clear. I am not referring to policies I don’t like, nor to the usual to and fro of government decisions, such as budgets, DACA, or building a wall. Those are important, of course, but by perfidy I mean no less than (borrowing from Word®!) deceit, betrayal, treachery, duplicity, and in general, crimes against America.
Each of those crimes is part of a repetitive failure of empathy, ethics, and law. It is far overdue to hold him accountable for his brazen behaviors, including damage to Constitutional checks and balances along with America’s encroaching autocracy. Trump is de facto a criminal, though as yet unindicted. Moreover, his conduct in office is so devastatingly extreme it has increasingly made clear that he is more than America’s worst president. Donald Trump is the only dangerously anti-American president in United States history.
Further revelations of Trump’s political life came out this week in John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened. Pundits quickly brought our attention to those with access similar to Bolton’s, but who—with some exceptions—have not shared any guilty knowledge. I understand why broader scrutiny makes sense, surely more can be learned from others at least as convincing as Bolton. Still, despite what you may think about Bolton himself, his book deserves undelayed, undiluted scrutiny.
Many might think it more fair to believe the president’s denials or, in respect to his position, give him the benefit of the doubt. With this president’s long record of lying, however, assuming he is telling the truth about anything is not just risky but reckless. Nevertheless, the caution that Bolton’s book might compromise classified information seems reasonable, but isn’t. There has long been a federal process in place to scrub submitted books and articles to prevent that jeopardy. Apparently, this process is used frequently and is not done by political appointees.
However, there seems to have been a Trump appointee’s reversal of the first approval in this case. The president’s warnings that this book should not be published because it is so sensitive were made as if that system had not been operating smoothly for a long time. Trump’s objection is to protect himself from embarrassment, not to protect national security. Interestingly, Trump’s superficial care about classification showed up recently when he made the ridiculous claim that any conversation with him is automatically classified material! Like a child, our president needs constant babysitting.
Alas, saving Trump from his own behavior did work in the case of the Mueller Report. Two factors turned that matter into justice delayed: First, the Justice Department had previously decided a sitting president could not be indicted while in office no matter the justification for charges. Hence, his lawbreaking, obvious as it was (I read all 448 pages) conceals Trump’s criminality only temporarily. Second, Attorney General William Barr—whose commitment is more to political protection of Trump than law enforcement for the country—shamelessly misrepresented the Mueller Report, thereby rendering the meticulous fact-finding moot since Republicans had already decided to let the damning report die from inattention.
And yesterday came news of Trump’s latest attack on America’s judicial system. He fired the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman. Berman, highly respected for competence and straight-arrow demeanor, has been instrumental in actions against a number of Trump’s cohorts, e.g., Giuliani. This is just one more blatant example of our banana republic president’s disregard for the safeguards so important to American jurisprudence.
As I have asked in previous posts, is there anything Trump could do that would cause his Republican accomplices finally to stop coddling him? They’ve been remarkably longsuffering and as a result have indicted themselves. The Senate has been willing to fail in its Constitutional duty, thereby opening a path toward autocracy for Trump. Senator McConnell led the Senate in flagrantly violating norms and arguably the Constitutional intent by refusing to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nomination from President Obama. A plethora of House-passed bills unacceptable to Trump have been refused even a vote in the Senate. On occasion even matters related to the coronavirus pandemic were given lessened consideration due to protecting Trump from his bungling. But most glaring of the Senate’s actions was its disgracefully slipshod impeachment trial in which without calling a single witness it acquitted Trump of behavior that the ethics of pre-Trump Republicans might well have demanded his removal from office.
Americans have been willing to risk their democratic country by all-too-casually electing presidents with minimal and often slapdash consideration. Some of that is due to not really understanding what a president is needed to accomplish; what skills and understanding are called for, what the Constitution has to say about the job’s relationship to Congress and other actors, how able he or she should be in grasping the difference between speaking as an individual and as president, and how thorough should be a president’s understanding of science, philosophy, strategy, and management through many layers of organization. As candidate, then as president, this hollow man fails in all regards. American and the world will pay the price for years to come.