Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Unpresidentable

Republicans and Democrats have always gone to amazing lengths to block and derail each other’s policies. There is nothing new here. This is how this country has operated since the foundation the Republic. To keep reminding each other of the times when Nancy Pelosi did this and Mitch McConnell did that is to distract ourselves from the real issues, and dangers, at hand.

The issue of Russia’s dabbling in the elections is real. The overall impact of it might be exaggerated by some and the whole affair might indeed backfire against Putin, but these considerations do not make the phenomenon itself less real. There is a pattern here that we cannot ignore: contacts between Trump advisers and Russian officials which the Trump Campaign and now the Trump Administration have insistently tried to deny until the mainstream media broke the story wide open, and the fact that Russia is doing the same thing in France and Germany as well in a more overt manner. It’s this latter point should particularly alarm us, as it shows that Russia’s leaders are actively waging war against democracy and the liberal democratic order on a global scale.

Moreover, the growing concerns over Trump’s business interests and temperament are quite legitimate. He is the first entrepreneur ever to be elected into office, and he brings with him a set of unique challenges that the system has never faced. The president has been clearly unwilling to disassociate himself from his business interests, the result: taxpayers now have to pay Mr. Trump’s businesses millions of dollars in order to protect the President and his family. There is no precedent for that on this scale, and scale does matter when the discrepancy is so big. More importantly, and as officials and businessmen from other countries begin to invest in Mr. Trump’s businesses, as they have already begun doing, concerns over the possibility of quid-pro-quo arrangements down the road should not be underestimated. After all, these foreign officials and businessmen have embarked on this course exactly in hope and anticipation of such arrangements. The appearance of impropriety here is by itself quite damaging to America’s image and interests. The fact that Mr. Trump himself doesn’t seem to be bothered by any of this is troubling.

Indeed, it’s Mr. Trump’s temperament that is the most problematic thing of all. Keeping track of his lies, his wild accusations and his silly and petulant rants against celebrities have a deleterious effect on public trust and on America’s standing in the world.

We now have an American President who, while in office, is claiming that the elections are rigged, that America is not innocent when it comes to dealing with political opponents and that an American president actually can spy on his opponents, a president who, by his own actions, shows that it’s OK for political leaders to use their public position to enrich themselves and their families.

The world is watching, and corrupt elite and autocratic leaders all over the world can now point to President Trump is doing to support their claim that democracy is a sham.

Those who are ignoring this or are making light of it, be they members of Congress, policy circles or the media, and who want us to do the same, are allowing their partisan belonging to cloud their judgment. Trump should be opposed not because he is a Republican, but because he is Trump – a banal, narcissistic man-child who believes that his own wants, needs and desires are inherently compatible with national interests and should, therefore, never be questioned. The fact that he managed to get away with behaving like an entitled brat for so long has made him impervious to any advice that conflicts with his opinions, and unwilling to admit wrong or to being corrected. Trump needs to be opposed because the future of American democracy is what’s at stake.

No one is calling for a coup d’├ętat here or for denying the results of the elections. The checks and balances already in place are more than off to do the job of saving this country from the danger posed by this man and some of his advisers. But first we need to agree to take off the ideological visors through which we keep examining everything, and see the man for what he truly is, and the dangers and stakes for what they truly are: it’s the future of the entire country that’s at stake here, and that of democracy itself, not that of a particular political party.