Thursday, December 15, 2016

Something (Democratic) lost, something (Autocratic) gained

There are signs that Trump is likely to behave increasingly as a dictator after December 19th. There is little time to do anything about it, and the key players who might do anything have cut their own deal with The Donald. The evidence and reasoning is reported by New Yorker’s John Cassidy in Trump’s brazen dodge to avoid dealing with his conflicts of interest. Select snippets follow.

The key development is that Trump, after promising for weeks that he’d hold a press conference on Thursday to explain how he plans to deal with the blatant conflicts of interest he will face as both the President and the owner of far-flung business interests, has postponed the event until the New Year.

The official explanation for this delay was a bit garbled. In an e-mail on Monday night, a Trump spokesman, Sean Spicer, told the Washington Post, “With so many iconic properties and successful entities, moving the announcement to January ensures the legal team has ample time to ensure the proper protocols are put in place so his sole focus will remain on the country and achieving his ambitious agenda.” In other words, Trump’s lawyers need more time.

The real reason for Trump’s stalling tactics may well be the political calendar. Next Monday, the five hundred and thirty-eight members of the Electoral College will vote to select the next President. Having accumulated three hundred and six votes to Hillary Clinton’s two hundred and thirty-two, it would take something unprecedented to deny Trump his victory. But why leave anything to chance?

By postponing the event, Trump insured that the Electoral College will have already cast its votes when he announces that he intends to tell the ethics lawyers to go and jump in the Potomac. In a pair of tweets on Monday night, he confirmed that the most he is willing to do is hand day-to-day management of the Trump Organization over to his two eldest sons, Donald, Jr., and Eric, while still retaining ownership control. Which means, for example, that any foreign government that checks its diplomats into Trump’s fancy new hotel in Washington will be contributing directly to the President’s coffers.

And the Senate, under Mitch McConnell, and the House, under Paul Ryan, are perfectly content with this autocratic arrangement because they get to pursue their agenda of poverty, pestilence, and death. There is no “indication that McConnell intends to take seriously the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which bars a President from receiving any money or gifts from foreign governments.” Ryan said: "Trump should be allowed to address his conflicts of interest “however he wants to.” Ryan added “This is not what I’m concerned about in Congress… . I’m focussed on getting this agenda passed so that we can turn around and tackle this country’s big problems before they tackle us.”

Could it be any clearer what is going on? As I wrote last week, Trump appears to have made a deal, at least an implicit one, with the Republican leaders in which they get their way on many of the big policy issues—taxes, education, the environment, regulation of finance and the labor market—and he gets to keep hold of his businesses, and his personal brand, the value of which, as he freely admitted a few weeks ago, has been greatly enhanced by his election victory.

If Trump had gone ahead with his press conference, these questions, and many others hanging over the new Administration, could have been put to him. Not that he’d have had any reassuring answers to offer. It’s been clear since the election that he intends to brazen it out and do what he likes. And, right now, it doesn’t look like anyone is going to stop him.

Who is there to stop Dictator Donald when he comes for you?

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