I am old enough to remember the utopian hopes for the internet. Sadly, the era of friendly little chat rooms (I exaggerate a bit) has given way to the era of dystopian fears: of Big Social Media, of the Deep State, and of our semi-voluntary servitude to the cookies and trackers.
I have a fine solution to all of our problems! Bring back the sumptuary laws that served for many centuries and on multiple continents to enforce norms and hierarchies and proper social behavior. If we had held onto rigorous sumptuary laws, Facebook’s motto, “move fast and break things,” would have put Zuckerberg in the stocks years ago. Would that have been a bad thing?
Do not be fooled by whatever damage control statements Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg put out today and in the coming days. They can raise the trifling objection that what happened with Cambridge Analytica was not technically a data breach. They can promise to work closely with regulatory agencies. They can abase themselves all they like. Actually, their self-abasement is a sort of voluntary admission that some kind of sumptuary law to control their behavior is needed.
The hard part of this is that we need to regulate not only the destructively transgressive behaviors of Silicon Valley elites. It’s not just that the people who are indulging themselves by consuming “cartons of multi-colored eggs pooped out of rare, expensive chickens who have been raised on diets of organic watermelon and steak” (according to Willamette Week and Washington Post) need to be shamed and then imprisoned. The really hard part is that we, the people–we the relatively privileged people–need to accept that we cannot control ourselves. We must impose binding regulations on ourselves. This may be particularly difficult with a President who desperately needs and even more desperately resists sumptuary restrictions on his very own self. Not to mention a Congress in thrall to the fantasy that deregulation always and everywhere means true freedom. The way forward is clear. As distasteful as it may be to many, we need a new leader right away. A leader who understands the true value of sumptuary regulations. A man who feels deeply the evils of bad habits and the danger of ruffles and silks and extravagance and deviance. I refer of course to our next president, Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions. Or Mike Pence, if you like.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis (I don’t say “General” because he has retired from active duty and is a civilian employee of the U.S. government) has done a better job of maintaining his dignity than most other Cabinet officers this past year. Mattis has said more than once that his job is to “protect the Constitution and our way of life.” Well, he is likely to get a chance to prove himself soon, if reports that the president is about to get rid of Attorney General Sessions are true. Trump is apparently starting to realize that he actually can ignore the so-called adults in the room and do all kinds of not-normal and very likely illegal and unconstitutional things that he has been itching to do. The Constitution, as Trump may be realizing, is a dead letter if it isn’t enforced by Congress or the courts. And if pushback from free assembly and free speech aren’t enough to convince those other branches to restrain the president, the Constitution won’t save us.
If the president removes Sessions, installs (for example) Scott Pruitt, and Pruitt removes Mueller, then we are on the edge of constitutional crisis (I say “edge” advisedly because I don’t believe a president can succeed in trashing our freedoms unless we acquiesce). Congress could intervene by passing, with veto-proof majorities, a new independent counsel statute; alternatively, Congressional committees could actually get serious about enforcing subpoenas against Trump and his minions; or, of course, the House could impeach. What does Mattis have to do with any of this? If Trump does move to shut down Mueller’s investigation, Mattis’s only honorable move, in my opinion, will be to resign and furthermore tell us why he will not be a party to subversion of our Constitution and our traditions of freedom. If Mattis can’t move the needle of public opinion among Trump supporters and on-the-fence Americans, we are in trouble. But he will have done what he can to preserve what he says he cares about most.
President Trump immediately fired back today at Attorney General Sessions, who praised sheriffs this morning for upholding the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.” The president, walking toward his Official Presidential Limousine en route to give a lecture at the failing Newseum on “Macht, Herrschaft, and the Greatness of The Rule of Trump,” demanded that General Sessions apologize for his comments and acknowledge the greatness of his favorite traditions of sheriffing and policing, namely the Germanic and Prussian. At first blush the president’s rebuke of Sessions seemed to contradict his tweet over the weekend in support of “due process.” Trump derided that objection as picayune and also treasonous, saying “I don’t need no stinking Magna Carta.” At last check CNN, the AP, and the failing NY Times and fake-Amazon-Washington Post were all seeking writs of habeas corpus for their imprisoned reporters.
A president, even a very unpopular one like #45, always possesses a great deal of power to initiate events. He is already trying hard to distract us from the indictments coming his way. Trump is not cool, calm, and collected; nor does he have any respect for our constitutional republic, or for liberty, or for limited government, or for checks and balances. He may have the complicity of Republican politicians and big-money donors, and I am not counting on Trump to show any restraint this week as he reacts to Mueller. But his power of initiative should not and won’t go unanswered. I do expect protests in the streets of Washington if he starts firing people in the Justice Department to get at Mueller. Protests need to remain pro-, not just anti-, and that can happen if we all remember what is worth defending: the freedoms promised by the Bill of Rights. They need defending again. That’s pro-liberty. Liberty has been a big talking point of the political and religious right wing, but it needs to be the focus of those who cannot abide what this government is doing now. Facts and science matter; freedom is the precondition that matters even more. The fight against what many now see as Trump’s thuggish agitprop is a fight for liberty and freedom. There are many non-liberal, non-progressive people who are offended by Trump and who may be willing to protest for freedom and liberty. This is not the time for progressive, liberal-minded people to pick fights with them unless there is a compelling reason. I am not expecting to see Jeff Sessions or Mitt Romney or Chris Christie marching against the president, but let’s keep the door open for people like them, take a positive approach, and persuade people with positive arguments.
Really, Mr. Attorney General? You give a speech about free speech, in Georgetown, D.C., and you shut out students who signed up to see you speak? That is disrespectful of the republic, and very disrespectful of the principles for which the flag stands.
Could not have happened to a more deserving, or innocent, victim, depending on your POV. Just as soon as Attorney General Sessions announced his plan to reinstate civil asset forfeitures on the grand scale he has been dreaming of since he was an Eagle Scout, President Trump turned the tables on Jefferson Beauregard Sessions by seizing his dignity.
It’s nice that Sen. Lindsay Graham has tweeted a persuasive defense of Attorney General Sessions. But if Sen. McConnell allows the Senate to go into recess, enabling Trump to make a recess appointment who will fire Mueller, McConnell will be remembered for that cowardly act as much or more than anything else in his long Senate career. And it’s nice that Rush Limbaugh finds the way Trump is treating Sessions to be “discomforting” and “unseemly.” But Rush, is that all you got? Are you really “sending your best” against Trump’s attack on our constitutional republic? Rush, why not man up and call out Trump for the unpresidential and un-American tyrant he is? Trump is no friend of principled, limited-government conservatism. Wake up and smell the tyranny, Rush, before it’s too late. When Trump comes for you, will you have any legs to stand on? By the way, if this were just about warfare between Democrats and Republicans, enabling Trump would be less odious and cowardly. But Trump could care less about loyalty to a political party or a governing philosophy or an ideology. It’s all about him and his money and his glory and his vengeful self. Enabling a person like that has little upside, to say the least.
Of course Attorney General Sessions, while obfuscating, didn’t invoke executive privilege while testifying today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, because of course President Trump (whose name it is an honor and blessing simply to be allowed to mention, as we all learned yesterday) did not and will not invoke executive privilege. That is because Trump is no mere ordinary U.S. President. His grandiloquent eminence precludes any stooping to invocation of privilege. More to the point, Trump already knows all the details, all the Russian connections. No need to inquire or investigate as far as he cares. David Simon’s June 8 Twitter thread lays out the case for Trump’s guilt as well as anything I have read or heard. When an innocent person would look toward the door in expectation, Trump looks only at his nails, never at the door…
You would think that a little dude from Baja Alabama who became Attorney General of the whole dang United States would have just a little bit of inkling that in our beautiful constitutional republic we have judicial review of executive and legislative actions. You are maybe not ready for the new world of 2017 in which some states and some federal circuit courts are more equal than others. Would federal judicial review be less surprising if it came from a big ol’ judge in Texas? Or Alaska? Would that be big enough?
Update: Not gonna give you a break, Mr. Pepe Beauregard Dingleberry Sessions. Lost my sense of humor a while back. How about you? Sativa got you all riled up, little dude? Try some mellow indica next time.