Sunday, February 19, 2017

"If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy" (George Packer)


by Ken

The question of President Trump's mental fitness for the office dates back at least to some of his wilder ravings during the campaign, and less than a month into his tenure is being discussed more widely. As noted, the above graphic, for example, is filched from a January 28 post of that title by Gregory Johnson on the Resources for Life blog.

Now, in a "Comment" piece in the February 27 New Yorker, "Holding Trump Accountable," George Packer offers a stark portrait of our moment in time, proceeding from the proposition that, a month into his tenure,
Donald Trump has already proved himself unable to discharge his duties. The disability isn’t laziness or inattention. It expresses itself in paranoid rants, non-stop feuds carried out in public, and impulsive acts that can only damage his government and himself. Last week, at a White House press conference, the President behaved like the unhinged leader of an unstable and barely democratic republic.
George gives a graphic portrayal of a White House "isolate[d] in power struggles" and an administration "in nearly open revolt," and foreign leaders looking on either:

• "with disbelieving alarm":
Allies such as Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau, of Canada, and Shinzo Abe, of Japan, flatter the President in order to avoid the fate of Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull, whom Trump first berated and then hung up on during their get-to-know-you phone call."
• or "with calculating interest":
Vladimir Putin is already testing Trump, by sending Russian fighter jets to buzz a U.S. Navy ship. Xi Jinping is positioning China to fill the void in the Pacific Rim which will be left by Trump’s policy of America First. Pragmatists in Iran are trying to judge whether the new American government can be counted on to act rationally—exactly what U.S. officials always wondered about the fractured leadership of the Islamic Republic.


As George explains, Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which has still never been used (though he notes that the new team appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987, on the advice of the outgoing team, checked it out), "empowers the Vice-President, along with 'a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide,' to declare the President unfit and to install the Vice-President as Acting President."

The blurb atop George's piece reads: "After a month in office, [President Trump] has already proved himself unable to discharge his duties. But the only people with real leverage over him won’t use it." And after setting forth the current situation, George says starkly: "It won’t get better."
The notion that, at some point, Trump would start behaving “Presidential” was always a fantasy that has the truth backward: the pressure of the Presidency is making him worse. He’s insulated by sycophants and by family members, and he can still ride a long way on his popular following. Though the surge of civic opposition, the independence of the courts, and the reinvigoration of the press are heartening, the only real leverage over Trump lies in the hands of Republicans. But Section 4 won’t be invoked. Vice-President Mike Pence is not going to face the truth in the private back room of a Washington restaurant with Secretaries Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Wilbur Ross, or in the offices of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republican leaders have opted instead for unconstrained power.

They need Trump to pass their agenda of rewriting the tax code in favor of the rich and of gutting regulations that protect the public and the planet—an agenda that a majority of Americans never supported—so they are looking the other way. Even the prospect of Russian influence over our elections and our government leaves these American patriots unmoved. Senator John Cornyn, of Texas, the Republican whip, made it plain: Trump can go on being Trump “as long as we’re able to get things done.” Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, explained, “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans.”

The growing Russian scandal will challenge the willingness of the Party to hold the President accountable. So far, the situation is not encouraging. The heads of the key House and Senate committees are partisans who are doing as little as possible to expose corruption and possible treason in the White House. The few critical Republican voices—Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins, and Representative Mark Sanford—are ineffective. Perhaps Party leaders are privately searching their souls; perhaps, as with the old Bolshevik Rubashov, in Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon,” ideology and power have rendered them incapable of independent moral judgment. Whatever the case, history won’t be kind to them.

An authoritarian and erratic leader, a chaotic Presidency, a supine legislature, a resistant permanent bureaucracy, street demonstrations, fear abroad: this is what illiberal regimes look like. If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy.
Obviously if those Republicans George accuses of delinquency were to rouse themselves to action, we would be left in the hardly more attractive clutches of a President Pence. Eventually it may come to that, but at least for now, as George points out, "they need Trump to pass their agenda" -- in their present situation of "unconstrained power." So pick your poison -- heads they win, tails the country loses.

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At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, maybe. But I'm of the opinion that as of 2010, we really didn't have any FEDERAL democracy to speak of left.

Between 1980 and 2000, the same money had bought both "so-called" parties and all their FEDERAL candidates and staffs. The money's federal and local governments have been dumbing down education from K-12 (which then slows down everything above) since the mid-'60s. Money had created "so-called" think tanks to convince the ever-dumbing populace that subtraction is addition (tax cuts, trickle-down, etc), that the collapsing soviet union is a bigger threat than since '45, and that all earth's oil should be taken by us/US out of patriotic manifest destiny, and besides, the natives will thank us to do it.

And americans bought it all. Vote fraud was overt, the supreme court in 2000 found that counting votes should be avoided because it would harm the loser who was mistakenly declared the winner and American voters jerked off. A veep, declared he was a previously undiscovered 4th branch of government, started 2 undeclared wars, tortured, killed a million or more, failed to steal all the oil and failed to win the wars, then contemplated his navel as housing crashed taking 9 million jobs and 11 million homes with it... and americans jerked off. We freed our right hands long enough to elect a gimmick (blackish) prez who did nothing much to remedy any of it and did much to make it worse... and americans jerked off.
Then the vote fraud thing again in '16, both parties ran unelectable (in any other era anywhere) shitstains, the worser one won (allegedly)... and americans jerked off.

You axe me, it's already destroyed... long gone. And we are as much to blame as the shitstains the money calls our "leaders" cuz we keep affirming them all every 2/4 years.

At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, here's a classic, US-media-like, context-less contribution to the unending innuendo on Putin: "sending Russian fighter jets to buzz a U.S. Navy ship."

That US ship was in the Black Sea, the location of the (yes, Crimean!) base of the Russian navy. If Russia had a ship in the equivalently close proximity to the San Diego Naval base, for example, you can be sure THAT would be characterized a grave international incident.

But, here, US is causing the problem, so it's just standard meddling, for the Victim Empire ... along with its exceptional whining about the easily predicted result.

For a slightly different analysis see:
The case is made that the incident was manufactured by the US navy, itself, as part of the ongoing, concerted neo-(con+liberal) program to pressure Herr Hair away from his non-confrontational policy towards Russia.

Note: ditto on comment above @ 4:12PM

John Puma

At 5:08 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

And how long is this horror show going to go on before a real horror occurs? Make no mistake, the biggest threat of all is Trump's finger on that nuke button. His extreme impulsivity, irrationality, ignorance, vindictiveness, unwillingness to listen to others and historic lack of concern about the consequences of his actions are alarming. He surrounds himself with sycophants fearful of uttering a word of criticism, reality or God forbid, thought. He prides himself on exhibiting feats of strength. Would being the first leader to push the button make him wary? Likely not, for him it would be a feat of strength.

Bring on the Festivus pole! We are in a pseudo television show anyway. Why not immerse ourselves in Seinfeld and laugh a little? Instead of feeling sick to our stomach on a daily basis.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone... nice comment on farce becoming reality.

The first act of festivus is the airing of grievances (drumpf's twitter-bitching brain farts and antimedia hysteria).
The second act is the "feats of strength".

If Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld had known... would they still have done that episode?


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