Sunday, October 13, 2019

The absolute right of kings absolutely corrupts this presidency

Dana Milbank (Washington Post) makes the case for Donald Trump, absolutely corrupted.

President Trump has proved to the 21st century that Lord Acton’s 19th-century maxim still holds: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Trump began staking his title to absolute power in his first weeks in office. “The whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” White House adviser Stephen Miller announced.

When I first heard/saw Miller’s remark on a morning news show I dismissed him as a blusterous bullsh!tter. I shouldn’t have. Subsequent actions by the absolutely corrupt president proved me wrong. As Milbank wrote about Miller, “He wasn’t kidding.”

Consider the list of “absolute right” claims by Trump.

  • Trump soon stated that “I have the absolute right” to fire FBI Director James Comey.
  • He subsequently proclaimed the “absolute right” to provide Russia with an ally’s highly classified intelligence;
  • the “absolute right” to pardon himself;
  • the “absolute right” to shut down the southern border;
  • the “absolute right” to fire special counsel Robert Mueller;
  • the “absolute right” to sign an executive order removing the Constitution’s birthright-citizenship provision;
  • the “absolute right” to contrive a national emergency to deny Congress the power of the purse;
  • the “absolute right” to order U.S. businesses out of China;
  • the “absolute right” to release apparent spy-satellite imagery of Iran; and, most recently,
  • the “absolute right” to ask other countries to furnish evidence that Joe Biden is corrupt.

And on top of all that:

  • Kellyanne Conway asserted Trump’s “absolute right” to give his son-in-law a security clearance over security professionals’ objections.
  • White House counsel Pat Cipollone said current and former White House officials are “absolutely immune” from testifying before Congress.
  • As others have noted, Trump has repeatedly said the Constitution’s Article II empowers him “to do whatever I want” and bestows on him “all of these rights at a level nobody has ever seen before.”

Now Trump is exercising his “absolute right” to do things that most sensible folks are finding appalling. Among them is the absolute right over life and death.

Without troubling himself to engage in the usual consultations with lawmakers, allies and military leaders, he ordered a pullout of U.S. troops from northern Syria, setting off a Turkish invasion as well as fears of a massacre of our Kurdish allies and religious minorities (including some 50,000 Christians) and of a revival of the Islamic State. He did it at the request of the repressive leader of Turkey, where Trump has boasted of his extensive business interests.

Now that is “absolutely corrupted.” You would think that will dislodge Trump’s supporters, like the evangelical right.

Belatedly, the Syrian situation led some of Trump’s biggest champions to recognize something has gone awry. “The president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,” Pat Robertson warned on his Christian Broadcasting Network.

Calling all right-wing Christians: Trump lost the “mandate of heaven” with the exposure of the Hollywood Access tapes and the hush money he paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. You just chose to look the other way. See what turning the other cheek got you.

Maybe the Kurdish tragedy will finally make more principled evangelicals rethink their Faustian bargain. Maybe they, and other Trump backers, will begin to see that absolute power, though tempting when wielded for things they like, becomes alarming when used against their wishes.

The test for these and other Trumpublicans is coming in November 2020, sooner if articles of impeachment go to the Senate. Milbank reminds us that “The highest moral obligation for all who favor a democratic future is to stop an absolutely corrupted man.”

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