Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Total Authority - Another chapter in The Mad King Chronicles.

In Monday’s press briefing, aka Trump campaign rally, the totally mad wannabe king asserted total absolute power - in this case to force governors to reopen for business. My fear is that Trump will take advantage of referential validity - the more something is said, the more it is believed. He blared his assertion multiple times just in that one 2-hour span. So, watch for what will be asserted during the next days. If he does not return to that theme, we can regard his Monday claims as another instance of Trumpian lutefisk - take something smelly, throw it at the wall, and see if it sticks. But if he starts repeating that theme, then look for AG Bill Barr to rewrite the 10th amendment in order to move us further toward monarchy. Let’s start with the 10th.

The Founding Fathers Wrote the Tenth Amendment to Protect America From Donald Trump writes Sophia Nelson at The daily Beast. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The president has substantial powers, but:

What the president does not have is the power to “reopen America,” just as he lacked the power to close it. The closures we have now were done by the governors of individual, sovereign states in accordance with the powers granted to them under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, simply, that The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Here’s the reality after Monday’s authoritarian display: The president of the United States of America is delusional. The vice president of the United States is complicit as he claimed, sheepishly and wrongly, that the president’s power particularly in times of national crisis is “plenary.” Then he offered to “brief it” out for reporters.

There’s nothing here to brief. The founders of this great republic, the framers of our great Constitution understood tyranny. They understood oppression. And they understood that America had to be greater than any one man or woman. That America was about the many of us, never the one of us. That is why they instituted a system of checks and balances. That is why we do not have dictators here. We do not follow strongmen.

That is a mild rebuke relative to what Rick Wilson thinks (also at The Daily Beast, most of it included here). Trump the Narcissistic Authoritarian Statist Declares He Has ‘Total’ Authority. When authority is total, so too is the madness of the man who declares it.

If you watched President Donald Trump’s daily press briefing Monday, you know that even by his abysmal standards this was the loudest siren yet, a warning that the man occupying the Oval Office is more suited to a very long, involuntary stay in an inpatient mental-health facility than the presidency of the United States.

It wasn’t presidential leadership. It wasn’t executive power made manifest. It wasn’t a grown-ass adult facing a serious crisis. It was an angry, needy man not looking outward to the needs of a nation in crisis but inward, and downward.

It was a manic, gibbering, squint-eyed ragefest by America’s Worst President, a petty display by a failed man who long ago passed the limits of his competence and knowledge. It left little to cling to for even his most fervent lackeys but the grunting media animus that replaced conservatism as the motivating force of the Republican Party.

Trump just gave the nation a performance that was so manic, so furious, and so utterly unhinged that anyone watching it walked away thinking the 25th Amendment has been too long unexercised and the proof is behind the podium every damn day.

What you saw was the real Trump, unbound by facts, reason, logic, the law, or the Constitution, a petty bitch picking petty fights with reporters, a bard of his own songs of grievance and anger.

It wasn’t just the campaign video the White House tried to air—kudos to the networks who cut away—in a desperate attempt to rewrite the history of his delays, deceptions, and denials in the wake of COVID–19. That alone would have been remarkable in some other era. It wasn’t the fake-heroic narrative rewrite that only he saw the danger coming.

There were two big reveals Monday. First, Trump’s sweeping—and by sweeping I mean in the same way that a meteor the size of Texas once smacked into the Gulf of Mexico and killed all life on Earth above the cellular level—claim of absolute, total, super-duper extra-strong bigly executive power.

The second reveal is driven by the first. Trump is determined to ignore not only federalism and the 10th Amendment but also expertise, medical science, epidemiology, virology, and common fucking sense in his race to “reopen” the economy. His lineup of lackeys, has-beens, and economic edge cases will likely not be remembered for their bold plan to get the economy out of the ditch into which Trump plunged it, but rather for their utter inability to do, well, anything.

Looking like a low-rent strip-mall law firm—Dullard, Trifle & Mook, perhaps—Trump’s economic recovery squad isn’t a team of rivals but a team of trivials with the baseline understanding that Washington and New York media still fall for the trappings of normalcy even though every decision is still predicated on L’Etat c’est Trump.

Had President Barack Obama said “If somebody is president of the United States, their authority is total,” I can assure you that every conservative in America would have lost their goddamn mind. Pitchforks. Torches. Hot and cold running impeachment trials.

This would have led to an explosion of so much fury that entire forests would have been felled to produce the newsprint for millions of words of bloody-eyed indignation. Nuclear-power plants would have to be opened up and down the coast to power the outrage machine.

What was once a fundamental tenet of conservatism—that executive power must be bounded, limited, and prevented from expansion even for seemingly meritorious reasons—will of course now be thrown into the shitter of history by the Trump propaganda machine. Very few “conservatives” will say a damn thing about it. The very same people who consistently decried Obama’s executive overreach will be utterly silent—or even more predictably will be out there shaking their pom poms and swishing their pleated skirts cheering on Trump’s wild overreach on the powers of the executive.

This is of course par for the course of what Trump really is. I’ve said it from the start. He’s not a conservative, he’s a narcissistic authoritarian statist, and Monday was a big fat QED for even the slow children in the class. Nothing about this man was ever conservative.

What Trump described Monday was a lot closer to monarchy than a representative democracy. We know this about the man: He fetishizes royalty, strongmen, dictators, kings, warlords, and others who don’t have to work within the bounds of a representative democracy or a republican form of government bound by a constitution and laws.

Burn this truth into your mind: The best-case scenario from Monday’s press conference is that Trump is out of his damn mind, wrong on the law, wrong on the Constitution, and wrong on the intent of the Founders as to the power of the chief executive. The best case will mean his insistence that he can “reopen the economy” will be smothered by one crisis after the next, a victim of the pace of events and a staff that realizes he’s crazier than a shithouse rat.

The worst-case scenario—and in this administration, always plan for the worst-case scenario—is not only that Trump really believes what he said about executive power but his supine attorney general will immediately work with the White House counsel to codify it and make Trump’s dream of unchecked power a reality. In that case, expect the Senate Republicans to grow a spine and demand … almost had you there, didn’t I?

It’s a common trope among conservatives to talk about the intent of the Founders. Monday should be a reminder that those Founders approached executive power with enormous caution and were diligent in the creation of a constitutional system in which no branch held “absolute authority.”

“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total” would have left them wondering just why we threw off the yoke of monarchy in the first place, and whether today’s leaders remembered and understood the intent of their creation.

When authority is total, so too is the madness of the man who declares it, and the potential for abuse of power.

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