My next column in The Everett Herald. Things are happening so fast it's nearly impossible to keep up, much less condense it into a weekly column. So, apologies for a jumbled mess:
Remember when Republicans screamed about abuse of power because President Barack Obama’s IRS was making its legally-required determinations of non-profits’ legitimacy? And they mostly turned down liberal ones? Such innocent times. Remembering nostalgia can be painful.
But now it’s serious. Trump’s childish name calling? Ho hum. Lying all the time? Goes in one ear… Hiring then firing unethical incompetents, not to mention people who won’t kow to his tow? Common as breathing. But the last couple of weeks have been exceptional, even for Trump. Anyone who sees what he’s doing and doesn’t care or, worse, defends it, is complicit in the destruction of constitutional governance. We’re no longer approaching autocratic abuse of power: it’s upon us. In the era of Trump, things that go without saying need saying, over and over; even to people plugging their ears.
Separation of powers and checks and balances, especially oversight of the executive by Congress, is fundamental to our form of government. It’s not magic, though. It requires willingness of representatives and citizens to buy in. Traffic lights are meaningless if everyone ignores them. (An increasing problem in these parts, but I digress.)
Those who watched Trump’s campaign manager Lewandowsky’s non-testimony saw an arrogant, condescending, disrespectful creep, who’d not have answered questions whether or not he’d been ordered to stay mum. But there are other witnesses to Trump’s malefactions. Trump and his consigliere Mr. Barr are silencing those people, too; every one of them. Under such conditions, checks bounce.
The oversight dereliction by national Republicans, and, till now, aimless tut-tutting by Democratic leadership, was not, presumably, what our founders had in mind. They believed they’d built safeguards to prevent exactly the sort of executive overreach we’re seeing from Trump; and they assumed elected officials would commit to protecting the republic. They had put country above personal advantage, so they believed future generations would, too. How wrong they were.
Which brings us to the roiling whistleblower/Ukraine mess, about which, as details ooze out, we already know enough to recognize behavior grievously inconsistent with original intent.
If on nothing else, can Republicans agree that an open, democratic society must encourage and protect people willing to call out dangerous and/or illegal governmental actions? That a system allowing fair evaluation of their allegations is vital, and that efforts to prevent it, especially by an accused president, are dangerous? Before taking a position, perhaps Trumpists could pretend we’re talking about Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama. It’s a useful exercise.
Because Trump has never denied doing things which later were proved true and because we know he’d immediately quash foreign intervention in our elections, Republicans are confident … oh, wait. A conversation was confirmed. Then we learned someone heard something in that conversation which they found alarming; and we know the Inspector General of intelligence operations deemed it a “credible” and “urgent” threat to national security.
Trump denied pressuring Zelensky to investigate (a fake scandal involving) Joe Biden by withholding US taxpayer funds designated for military aid, although another Ukrainian official, Anton Geraschenko, has confirmed it, and their foreign minister has said they were “totally surprised” when the money was withheld.
Now there’s a five-page “memorandum” of the thirty-minute call, full of smarmy flattery of Trump, touted as showing no offer of a quid pro quo. There are several intriguing ellipses in the pages, however, and a bit of “nice little country you’ve got there. Be a shame…” Trump now admits withholding those funds. They were released right after the lid blew off.
Most recently, the actual complaint was released, with, of course, redactions. And, predictable as rain, Trump has called the people involved traitors, with not-so-veiled threats. So far, Republican leaders haven’t called him on it.
Some combination of Trump, his osculating Attorney General, and “acting” DNI Maguire ordered Inspector General Atkinson to stonewall. Giuliani said it was “the State Department” that asked him to contact Zelensky; the “transcript” shows it was Trump, with AG Barr in the mix. Barr and Pompeo soliciting foreign influence on Trump’s behalf? The IRS “scandal” pales.
Trump encouraged a foreign government to seek dirt on his political opponent, directly and using departments of justice and state. One would hope for an Inspector General having integrity to report fully, even risking charges. It’s that important.
There isn’t a Republican anywhere who wouldn’t be screaming for impeachment if this were President Barack Obama, and they know it. Their silence now says everything.