What to do about Trump?

Lots and lots of good stuff.  I’m still just trying to process the presumed obstruction of justice regarding Comey’s memo, so I’ll wait a bit on that.  For now, lots of good stuff on Trump and the classified intel and what it all means.

1) Eliot Cohen on the damage done:

To a remarkable degree, the United States relies on liaison relationships with other powers with whom it shares information. If Trump has indeed compromised a source of information, it is not merely a betrayal of an ally’s trust: It is an act that will jeopardize a whole range of relationships. After all, the Director of Central Intelligence cannot very well say, “Don’t worry, we won’t share that with the president.” So now everybody—even our closest allies like the United Kingdom—would be well-advised to be careful with what they share with us. That is a potential intelligence debacle for us, but the danger goes beyond that. If any foreign government harbored lingering illusions about the administration’s ability to protect any information, including sensitive but non-intelligence matters like future foreign-policy initiatives or military deployments, they no longer do. They will be even more apprehensive about sharing sensitive information of any kind because…

Quite apart from making himself and the country a laughingstock around the world, the president has now practically begged Vladimir Putin to toy with him, tantalize him, tease him, flatter him, manipulate him. He has shown the Russians (and others, who are watching just as closely) just how easy that is to do, and he has shown the rest of us that his vanity and impulsiveness have not been tempered by the highest responsibilities.

2) Jamelle Bouie with a really good piece– this is a stress-test for our democracy, and we’re currently failing it:

It’s not shocking that Donald Trump—a reality television star and poster boy for crude excess—is manifestly unsuited for an office that even at its least challenging, requires unusual patience and ability. That much was apparent throughout the presidential contest, from the moment he announced his campaign to his eventual triumph in the general election. What is shocking is how little the Republican Party seems interested in reining this in. Despite the weight of Trump’s transgression—a dangerous contempt for discretion, on the heels of an authoritarian push against the independence of federal law enforcement—GOP lawmakers are largely silent, frustrated with the “drama“ but unwilling to challenge the president’s grossly abusive behavior…

With Trump, it failed. And that failure—like the present failure to hold the president accountable for his actions—belongs primarily to the GOP, which offered Trump as a choice to the nation at large. At every turn during the presidential primary, Republican lawmakers and elites sought to accommodate or pacify Trump, giving him the legitimacy he craved. Outlets like Fox News boosted Trump as much as possible, and his competitors saw him as a wild card to use, not a legitimate threat for the nomination. After he captured the prize, those leaders and lawmakers acquiesced and endorsed, sending a key signal to Republican voters; that Trump was mainstream, that Trump was safe, that Trump could be president. By the time he reached the general election, Trump was just another nominee; a major-party candidate who, by the law of averages, had a chance to win the White House. The same dysfunction and myopia that led Republicans to stick by a nominee who all but confessed sexual assault has led them to a similar place with a president who divulges sensitive information on a whim.

3) Yglesias on how Republicans need to stop hoping Trump will change.  And the fact, that something being “legal” is an extraordinarily low bar for a president:

Normal people do learn and change over time, of course, but it’s extremely difficult to change your fundamental nature. But what’s more, people don’t generally learn and change at the age of 70. The fact that Trump managed to win an election that pretty much everybody — him included — thought he was going to lose only reinforces the problem.

Trump not changing isn’t the story here. The story is whether GOP leaders will finally accept that Trump won’t change and adjust accordingly…

Throughout Trump’s brief presidency, Republicans in Congress have acted like lawyers for him, noting that it’s perfectly legal for him to maintain huge financial conflicts of interest or can Comey or say whatever he wants to Sergei Lavrov. The legality of Trump’s actions is precisely the problem. If it were illegal for Trump to do these things, then he could be stopped by the courts and the country wouldn’t have to worry.

But the president has a lot of legal authority. Authority that can be abused or misused. Trump could, for example, have his enemies killed and then pardon the killers, and it would be perfectly legal. [emphasis mine]

4) On that very point, excellent piece that democracies slide into autocracies without explicitly breaking the law:

One lesson is that the road away from democracy is rarely characterized by overt violations of the formal rule of law. To the contrary, the contemporary path away from democracy under the rule of law typically relies on actions within the law. Central among these legal measures is the early disabling of internal monitors of governmental illegality by the aggressive exercise of (legal) personnel powers. Often, there are related changes to the designs of institutions, which might be brought about through legislation. Ironically, the law is deployed to undermine legality and the rule of law more generally…

These examples, and there are many more, suggest that the legality of a measure is not a good index of its corrosive effect on democratic practices. Rather, as the Princeton political scientist Kim Lane Scheppele has explained, it is more often the case that democracy is dismantled through an opportunistic patchwork of reforms that are legal, and which might even seem innocuous in isolation. Factions, or individual officeholders, steadily tweak the design of governing institutions in ways that insulate them from challenge.

5) Brian Beutler:

To chase a partisan agenda, Republicans in Congress have abetted a compromised, paranoid, and erratic president. Until four months ago, the party tossed around words like “lawless” and “tyrannical” to describe a Democratic president who promulgated policies they disagreed with; they now absolve a Republican president with vast financial conflicts of interest, who obstructed an FBI investigation of his campaign, and breached national security to impress Russian government officials, on the grounds that at the presidential level, conflicts of interest, firing the FBI director and disclosing classified information aren’t technically illegal. The degree of special pleading we’ve witnessed since Trump secured the GOP nomination would be laughable if a country, and international stability, weren’t at stake…

It is possible to imagine Trump losing the support of congressional Republicans by announcing he won’t approve a tax cut, or losing support of his core supporters through unexpected leniency to ethnic minorities. But it is worth remembering that the backdrop of Trump’s presidency is an anti-majoritarian electoral college victory, which he won with the help of extraordinary interference by both Russian intelligence and now-fired FBI Director James Comey.

The constitutional remedy for an unfit president who violates his oath of office and lacks a popular mandate is impeachment, but impeachment would almost certainly derail the Republican legislative agenda and redound to Democrats’ benefit in coming elections. It is thus off the table.

6) And, last for now, Chait, “The Law Can’t Stop Trump. Only Impeachment Can.”

The president has a massive amount of leeway because the system is set up with the unstated presumption that the president is a responsible person who will act in a broadly legitimate, competent fashion. Trump’s brief tenure in office so far has supplied a constant stream of evidence that this reasoning does not apply…

One of the oddities of the moment is that Republican officials who work closely with Trump almost uniformly regard him as wildly unfit for office. Trump’s gross unsuitability for office is the subtext of the constant stream of leaks that have emanated from his administration (and, before that, his campaign). James Comey told associates he found the president “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy,” reported the New York Times recently. A Republican close to the White House told the Washington Post Trump is “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.” A friend of Trump, trying to spin the latest debacle in the most forgiving way, tellsPolitico, “He doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think in those terms … He doesn’t sometimes realize the implications of what he’s saying. I don’t think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn’t want to do that.” (This was offered as an alternative to the suspicion that Trump is deliberately undermining U.S. intelligence to benefit his Russian friends.)…

And so, at the moment, Congress remains in the hands of a party that conceives of its role as Trump’s junior partner. His erratic behavior is disconcerting to them, but their pain is mostly private, and mostly confined to the risks it implies to their domestic agenda. The system is designed so that the only remedy for a president who cannot faithfully act in the public interest is impeachment. For the moment, that course of action — the only one that can save the country from the dire risk of its man-child president — is unfathomable to the Republicans who have a hammerlock on government.

Okay, so that’s all stuff written pre Comey memo.  Maybe that will start to change things.

Advertisements

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to What to do about Trump?

  1. Autumn Cote says:

    Would it be OK if I cross-posted this artic6le to WriterBeat.com? I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. There is no fee; I’m simply trying to add more content diversity for our community and I liked what you wrote. If “OK” please let me know via email.

    Autumn
    AutumnCote@WriterBeat.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: