The president has declared that he has “complete power to pardon,” which may be almost true in a narrow legal sense (asserting power to judge his own case is dubious). He may yet pardon his son, son-in-law, and who knows who else. He may be able to remove Robert Mueller, and that would be a major crisis if Congress did not respond forcefully. But the larger issue for a democratic republic in which consent of the governed is inalienable is this: what’s our next move as citizens? We who are citizens and voters have the final power to grant reprieves and pardons in the larger sense. Some of us, perhaps clinging to a confirmation bias, believe the president is trying to make things better, if only it weren’t for the swamp-dweller lobbyists/Democrats/leftists/snowflake slackers/deep state. Some of us, that is, are not yet ready to let go of our pleasant fantasy of victimhood, even when our political party controls the presidency, the House and Senate, and the highest court. Others of us, suffering from unpacified forgetting, are still fighting over the 2016 Democratic primaries. My hope is that most of us, who are hoping above all that the government will be focused on serving, protecting, and increasing opportunities for as many Americans as possible, will bother to let our representatives know how we feel, and then vote at every opportunity to renew and refresh our government, showing no reprieve and no pardon for those who have unrepentantly abused the public trust.
“We write symphonies,” said President Trump today in Poland. Some headlines said he was “defending Western values.” He began his “defense” of Western values by saying he was proud that so many Polish-Americans have enriched the United States and voted for him in 2016. He named “radical Islamic terrorism” as a threat, as well as the “destabilizing activities” of Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere (is he afraid to just come out and say the Russians invaded Ukraine? why not have the courage to call things by their right names, Mr. Trump?). He noted the “new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare.” All true enough, and one can only hope Trump has paid attention to his aides when they tried to prepare him for his meeting with Putin. The survival of Western civilization certainly depends partly on willpower, as Trump asserted, but maybe as much or more on the hard work of planning, the diligence it takes to study one’s adversaries as well as understand and promote values broader and deeper than one’s own advantage. Western values, contra Trump, are not just the values of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic.
According to Mr. Trump, “Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty.” That might sound like boilerplate, but if you think about it for a few seconds there is an unresolved puzzle–what is in between individual freedom and sovereignty? In classical terms, there is a “one and many” problem that I fear Trump, in his innermost tyrannical being, doesn’t really get. Western values and Western civilization have an uncertain future, for sure; and they have a complicated history. How do the “few” (our representatives) mediate between the one (monarch or executive) and the many (“the people”)? Tough questions! Back to Trump’s speech: “If we don’t forget who we are, we just can’t be beaten. Americans will never forget…. We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies…We celebrate our ancient heroes…We reward brilliance…We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success…And we debate everything. We challenge everything.”
He may be onto something. In fact I would be happier if Mr. Trump would devote himself to writing a symphony. I would very strongly consider paying to download his first, second, and third symphonies, which will almost certainly take lots of time and undivided attention to write. Mr. Trump, you possess the brilliance to write the greatest symphonies ever, symphonies that will defend Western civilization more than anything else you could possibly do. I really mean that, believe me. Do not let any Russian tricks and maskirovka fool you into doing anything else for the next three and a half years. The time is gonna fly by.
There are several ways the Trump presidency may end, and not one of them is likely to be remotely normal. How citizens should deal with a problem like him without becoming dragged down into his mess is a challenge. Impeachment seems to me much too good for the 45th president. Beyond that it gets complicated.
Some people of good will (but who may not be paying close attention, perhaps because they have lives to live and problems to solve) may still say, give him a chance. Yeah, I did that. It has not gone well. With his low-class tweets about the Morning Joe hosts, he may or may not have been trying to distract us from his voter suppression commission and the apparent flameout of the Senate tax-cut/repeal of Obamacare bill. Or maybe he had no four-dimensional plan, and just flew into a rage at another rebellious, uppity woman on TV. Whatever was in the president’s mind, it is hard to imagine that he is anywhere near prepared to represent the United States of America properly next week when he is scheduled to meet with Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit in Germany. Trump seems far more interested in being a king or a czar than in serving the sovereign people of our country as the head of an executive branch constrained by checks and balances in our constitutional republic. Whose interests is he going to be serving next week? Has he any clue that he is standing up for values and traditions any different than, for examples, those of the Russian or Ottoman Empires, or is just going to act naturally and channel Caligula or Elagabulus?
Corruption of blood was outlawed by the United States Constitution over 200 years ago. Bills of attainder were specifically forbidden. We have a president who swore an oath to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution. But he seems to inhabit a mental world where corruption of blood is more real than any fluffed-up enlightened notion of liberty and equality before the law. Trump’s defenders, when he goes way off the deep end, resort to saying that he is a “counterpuncher” who “fights fire with fire.” Maybe Trump should be given a taste of his own preferred medicine. That is, maybe we should bring back the bill of attainder to restrain and neutralize the damage he has been doing. Trump’s stance toward people in his way who are US citizens but whose ancestors were darker than his skin is often to attack them with attaint of otherness. He has little to no feel for the spirit of the 14th Amendment, which granted equal citizenship rights to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. Trump’s voter suppression commission looks to me much like a backdoor weapon to “attaint” voters who were disloyal and disobedient to the “I alone can fix it” man now occupying the presidency. Why not resist his attainder with a “people’s attainder”? How else can we restrain the entire Trump family from continuing to violate the clear words of the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution? Fancy word, emoluments, but to break it down, it means corruption. If you violate it over and over it means you are not a public servant but no better than a gangster and a thug. In Blackstone’s Commentaries On The Laws Of England, we read (Chapter 7, Of The King’s Prerogative, section 241) that “in the king also can be no stain or corruption of blood; for if the heir to the crown were attained of treason or felony, and afterwards the crown should descend to him, this would purge the attainder ipso facto. And therefore when Henry VII, who as Earl of Richmond stood attainted, came to the crown, it was not thought necessary to pass an act of parliament to reverse this attainder.” Can we agree that our 45th president came to the presidency deeply attainted, and that he seems to have expected that ascending to the presidency should absolve him and purge him and make him clean; but that to many of us who live here the presidency feels horribly tainted and polluted? Also that a minority of Americans, though many millions, feel that the president hasn’t been given a fair shot? (May they take a closer look at what he is doing against much that has made America as great as it is?) And by the way, Blackstone also comments (7:241) that “the law determines that in the king can be no negligence….Nullum tempus occurrit regi [no time runs against the king] is the standing maxim upon all occasions; for the law intends that the king is always busied for the good.” If only! If only we could recognize in Mr. Trump even a little fragment of this idealized picture of the monarch.
Is President Donald Trump guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors? That is a political question more than a strictly legal question. Should he be removed under the 25th Amendment? That is also primarily a political question, though medical, psychological, and psychiatric expertise could be brought to bear. I am ready to cry uncle and say I am ready for President Pence, rightwing meathead though he may be. But first, why not ask the question, is our president guilty of misprision of treason if not treason itself? I agree there is no conclusive proof of this now, but there are tantalizing hints and clues and circumstantial evidence all over the place. Again, this is not a strictly legal question. And we are not, thank goodness, at war with Russia today (though the climate is worse in several ways than during the Cold War). But if misprision of treason is on the table as a live possibility, as I think it should be, no effort should be spared to purify our country of the taint of corruption.
I seem to have woken up from a bad dream. Was I really thinking that bringing back “bills of attainder” makes any sense at all? Could bringing back accusations of “corruption of blood” serve any good purpose? Confiscate President Trump’s property without judicial trial, and leave his wife, children, and grandchildren without any inheritance? Seems crazy. But crazier than a Trump-sponsored “voter fraud” commission getting states to hand over private information about 200 million voters? Crazier than casual suggestions that if 22 million people can’t be tossed off their healthcare plans, why not strip 33 million of health insurance?
This thought experiment is not meant to draw any firm conclusions. It is a snapshot of just how ominous the political situation in Washington seems to be today.
Contrary to our president’s assertion in a Sirius XM/Washington Examiner interview, Andrew Jackson was not “really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.'” And Frederick Douglass, who really is becoming better and better recognized, explained this to the president in a previously secret briefing, just search for it and you’ll surely find it under “causes of U.S. Civil War, real,” as opposed to “theories of the Civil War, fake and gratuitously offensive.” Jackson died 16 years before the war began.
Hey Trump, why all the farting and cursing? Why didn’t you just cut to the chase on day one? Made us wait almost 99 and one half days before you dropped the big one on Canada. I coulda told you years ago how rough they are on Americans. The least you can do, because you made us wait so long, is give your loyal base the “thumbs up, thumbs down” thrill of deciding whether to let Canada survive or not. After the bears and lions (I mean the milk inspectors and the softwood inspectors) tear them up a little, that is.
BTW do the Canadians have nukes or not? I think the French do, but not real sure. Better ask Xi Jinping for the true historical history before you make any sudden moves.
As President Trump rightly noted, “the first 100 days” is a ridiculous standard. Nobody with any sense could possibly expect somebody like Trump to measure up to FDR. I don’t feel any fake urgency for Trump to notch “successes” that might blow up my world or make my health insurance unmanageable. Stay strong, Trump, don’t let anybody gaslight you into reaching for transient “wins” that will boomerang on your sorry rump come next election day–unless you think you can suppress 24.1 million votes. So relax, you will burn in hell soon enough, don’t rush it. You did say that the only way you could ever possibly make it to heaven was to become president. What exactly is your plan now? Because you seem to have forgotten about getting into heaven. Keep your eyes on the prize, or suffer the fate of slobbering for eternity in the lowest circle. Maybe if you joined your good buddy Bill-O in Rome it would help you FOCUS.
Congressional Republicans eager to “walk the plank” and vote for the House repeal-and-rejoice health bill should take note: Trump did never wrong. Trump will never do or be wrong. You will be sacrificed. Many of your constituents will be sacrificed. Trump will always act with just cause. You may or may not be a loser. But Trump will not and cannot ever be blamed. Paul Ryan may say whatever he wants, on tape or not. Trump doth not wrong but with just cause.
Didn’t you promise you were going to help us make it through the night, Mr. President Trump?
“I am going to take care of everybody.”
“There will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid. Huckabee copied me.”
“Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”
I don’t care who’s right or wrong, Mr. Trump. You could even copy Huckabee and put a squirrel in your White House microwave and if you liked it a lot I would not judge you for that. But keep your promises. Or at least try. Don’t complain about how complicated healthcare is. That’s a precious snowflake excuse. And don’t listen to Paul Ryan. He’s a zombie moocher who lived off Social Security for two years after his daddy died when Paul was just sixteen. He is probably still ashamed of it. Don’t mind him, and for heaven’s sake don’t think he’s a “policy wonk.” He doesn’t even understand insurance at all if he doesn’t realize it’s about healthy people paying for sick ones. Because even you, Mr. Trump, are going to get old and sick and dependent and vulnerable. So let the devil take tomorrow, Mr. Trump.
P.S. So glad your man on health care, Dr. Tom Price, said yesterday “no one will be worse off financially” when Trumpcare kicks in. I am making a note of how much I paid in premiums in 2016 and putting it in a safe place, and you can be sure that I will not pay any more while you are president, sir. And I know you won’t put me in debtors’ prison. Plus I can keep thinking what I’m thinking and drinking what I’m drinking–no more no less so I won’t be any worse off. Feeling pretty good now. Would hate to see you mess up my good feeling.
New President Trump’s first day included an executive order to “ease the…burdens” of the Affordable Care Act. I hope journalists will ask “for whom.” The reality is, easing a burden somewhere probably places a burden on some “forgotten men and women” without lobbyists to smooth their path. Easing regulatory burdens sounds great if you do not weigh the costs and benefits. Journalists, could you ease up on rehashing every tweet and every impediment to your access. The real issue is, where will the burdens shift with the new regime. None of us really knows yet where they will shift, but let’s focus on explaining real issues that are going to help or hurt real people. Trump’s first executive order is about “incidence,” which in economics refers to where burdens lie–who pays? “Cutting red tape”–that’s gaslighting. Let’s dig deeper. Trump is getting ready to rebrand the health care system. Real journalism will not take any of it at face value, in fact really real journalism will cut out Trump’s propagandizing middlemen/salespeople/gaslighters and go straight to explaining who benefits (Cui Bono) and who gets it on the nose.