Sunday, August 20, 2017

A New Hope...

Mitt Romney released a statement yesterday calling out Donald Trump by name and forcefully denouncing his shameful response to recent Nazi events in the US. Romney's position is correct and his statement hit all the right notes.

Was it politically expedient for Romney to release such a statement? Possibly, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Strategic skills are important in a leader.

The problem with Trump goes far beyond the question of ideology. I disagree with Romney's ideology. I'm bringing up Romney to illustrate that -- ideology aside -- there's a big difference between someone who is qualified to be president and someone who, fundamentally, is not.

The endless stream of verbal diarrhea spewing out of Trump's mouth and Twitter feed is, unfortunately, one of his selling points in the eyes of some (very stupid) voters. Because he speaks his mind; he doesn't play games like a politician. But those supposedly positive qualities are just symptoms of Trump's underlying problem:

He's an idiot.

Trump does not have the faintest clue how the government works, and he is, frankly, too stupid to learn it. His skill level is not in the same universe with competence.

Both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush unfortunately convinced the American people that it's not important for the president to be a smart person; that as long as he shares your ideology, it's OK for him to be a drooling moron -- because he can always delegate all that "knowing stuff" and "running the country" to underlings. This is a deadly belief because it has led the country to elect a man who is a full order of magnitude stupider than either Reagan or GWB (astonishing as that is).

At least Reagan and GWB recognized the need to delegate tasks to more competent people. Trump is so dumb that he believes his own bullshit. He sincerely, Dunning-Krugerly believes that he is a smart, savvy guy.

And now we are seeing the entirely predictable consequences of this deadly mistake. Hostile authoritarian regimes easily manipulate Trump with flattery. Crucial allies are at a loss as to how (and whether) to continue working with the US. Homegrown violent extremists receive encouragement from the highest level of government. Decades of delicate diplomacy over nuclear arms have been undone -- we're now one tantrum away from seeing millions of innocent people get killed by a nuclear bomb. In the space of a few months we've gone from relative stability (for those in the global North, at least...) to the most dangerously precarious situation we've seen in half a century.

Fortunately, the quality that makes Trump so dangerous may be his undoing.

Serious political commentators are finally starting to predict that Trump will be removed from office soon. Up until last week, it was still reasonable to dismiss that idea as wishful thinking, but the whole Nazi straw finally broke the camel's back. It's not just the that the statements themselves were so much more horrible than all of the other shit he's done -- it's also the weight of the accumulation, plus the fact that he has alienated essentially all of his allies.

The critical point is that the Republicans in Congress are finally starting to turn on him. Trump doesn't seem to understand that those Republicans in the House and Senate are currently the only people standing between him and jail. And he is just too. damn. stupid. to do a bare minimum of maintenance on those alliances that are so critical to his survival. Instead he has repeatedly demonstrated that teaming up with him is the fast track to finding yourself under a bus.

The thing is that -- regardless of what Muller's investigation turns up -- the things Trump has already done out in the open are sufficient to convict him. He is openly profiting from foreign governments through his hotels and other businesses, and he has admitted to firing James Comey for the express purpose of stopping an investigation of his campaign's ties to Russia. Muller's investigation will almost certainly turn up extensive money laundering and other crimes, but it's kind of the icing on the cake. The Republicans in Congress have more than enough evidence already to put him in jail -- the minute they decide it's in their interest to do so.

A Facebook friend recently made the astonishing claim that people have been trying to link Trump to Russia for nine months and have yet to turn up any "real evidence." In reality, the fact that Trump isn't standing before a court of law (yet) has nothing to do with lack of evidence. You've heard the expression "possession is nine-tenths of ownership"...? Well, we need a similar expression for the law. Nine-tenths of it is what those in power choose to enforce.

The Constitution of the USA does not automatically enforce itself. It is not going to magically come to life, jump out of its display-case, and snatch those foreign emoluments out of Donald Trump's thieving hands. People have to enforce it. And if Trump leaves office without facing justice for his crimes, then the United States of America will have a new precedent: the USA will simply become a country where the president is allowed to openly abuse his office to line his own pockets. This is why it is so critical for Trump to be impeached rather than simply voted out of office at the end of his term. The USA needs to establish a clear legal precedent regarding this type of corruption.

As an example of what I mean, consider the USA's current informal precedent with respect to torture. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are known to have had a hand in it. Torture, BTW, is a war crime, and they still need to stand trial for it. But instead of pursuing justice, Obama chose to merely issue an executive order that his administration would not torture people.

The problem with that choice is that Obama transformed torture from a crime to a choice that a president is at liberty to make. Thanks to that precedent, Republican candidates (including Romney) have promised to bring torture back. Naturally Bush/Cheney's choice to torture is worlds worse that Obama's choice to look the other way, but Obama's choice was nonetheless unacceptable. Torture is not an issue where it is OK to be the "compromise guy."

My hope for the United States is that Trump's flame-out will be so spectacular that the mainstream of US society will finally insist on fixing that legion of grotesque problems with the current American electoral system: gerrymandering, Citizens United (and all other legalized bribery), voter suppression, the Electoral College, electronic voting machines, unequal representation among the states and territories, etc., etc.

The only thing that could possibly redeem this monstrous nightmare reality show we've been living since January would be if the country learns something from it. And I mean really learns something.