The Arpaio Pardon: One More Shake of the Wobbly Pillars of our Republic

As you all probably know there is a huge storm lashing and flooding the Texas coast.  It is creating mass destruction but at least it will blow over in a few days.  What will remain are Donald Trump’s efforts to corrupt our political system, a growing storm of a different kind.

It would take a book to portray the numerous incidents whereby Trump has weakened the pillars of our political system, lambasting the press as fake, our intelligence agencies as politicized and/or incompetent, the judiciary as overreaching and the congress as impotent.  Of course,  many of us may share such sentiments as the public image of all of those institutions has suffered for some time now.  However, it is one thing to be critical of them and another to have no respect for them at all, to act with impunity as if the health of those institutions is not vitally important to the maintenance of our Republic.

Trump’s basic message is we cannot trust anyone but him.  The basic message of all demagogues.

The pardon Friday of Sherriff Joe Arpaio  exemplifies this attitude.   As described by Yahoo News, Arpaio, a Trump supporter, had  “been convicted of criminal contempt last month for failing to obey a federal judge’s order to stop targeting Latinos on the basis of their suspected immigration status.”

Trump’s position is Arpaio was just “doing his job.”   In other words, it is fine for law officers to ignore laws they find inconvenient.   Senator John McCain reacted by charging Trump with undermining the “law and order” emphasis of his campaign, but Trump has always emphasized order over law, contemptuous of legal niceties.

Arpaio’s tactics suit the Donald to a Tee.  That is really what the “president” has in mind by law and order.   I imagine police across the land have taken note.

Besides an ignoring-civil-rights tone to police work, the pardoning of Arpaio sends a message to all in Trump’s immediate orbit that the Donald is basically free to pardon any of them if they get in a tight spot.   How reassuring.

So often we hear of the wisdom of the founders in setting up the institutions of American government, but Trump may have found a loop hole.   The founders seem not to have imagined the possibility of a president pardoning with abandon.  Even using the pardon as a negotiating tool for his own self-protection.

I have heard some discussion as to whether the president can pardon himself.  I have no idea if the matter is clear cut.   Certainly if he thinks it might be of help, he’ll give it a try.

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What Does it Take for Some People to be Disgusted by Trump’s Amorality?

I watched FOX cable news this morning figuring I would see a defense of our “president’s” flipping back to the position yesterday that he espoused Saturday that there was blame on both sides for the violence in Charlotte.  And “fine people” on both sides, too.

I think it would take a major research project to find some of those fine people among the white supremacists who were shouting anti-Jewish and other threatening slogans.  I am just so sick of Trump and his B. S. and those who still act as if he is a normal person. Either by now you see what a weak moral compass he has spinning around like a broken top or you likely never will.

Still, I’m happy to report that while Trump friendly arguments were made on FOX, of course, they were challenged by other FOX guests.  (And, I might add, despite the frequent silliness, some good debates pop out there, something I’d like to see more of on the liberal mutual admiration society that is MSNBC .)

Those wanting to defend Trump’s equal blame theory can point to some violence on the left from a radical fringe we might loosely call Antifa (anti-fascists), but they weren’t there to spew racism and white supremacy.  They were there to protest it.

This captures the gist:   Former KKK Grand Wizzard David Duke, now calling himself a white nationalist, reflected many on the far right who praised Trump’s equal blame statement given Saturday as it essentially diluted their greater share of the blame.   But then Duke reviled Trump for the obviously phony shift Monday where he finally pointed to neo-nazi’s and white supremacists as being the primary culprits.

Hey, get this.  I agree with David Duke, the second statement was phony, or as Charles Krauthammer said on Fox:  “His heart wasn’t in it.”  That’s why Trump later reversed course, reportedly surprising his staff in the process.

Now that Trump has returned to reiterating the Saturday statement, Duke is ecstatic again.

How can anyone in their right mind view praise from David Duke to be a good thing?

At this point one wonders if any major Republican figure will make some major stand against Trump for this, as have a few members of his manufacturing council who have resigned in protest.

Love to see it, but I’m not holding my breath.   When you’ve been dancing with the devil it is tough to bow out.  Especially when you still believe he might do you some good despite much evidence to the contrary.


P. S. – The white supremacist activities figure to blossom and I think it useful to read this portrait of what I think of as the new white far right.   They aren’t just your grandfather’s KKK or even neo-Nazi’s but various new groups of largely young men, usually clean cut and at times well spoken and well organized.   More attractive white supremacists.

Also, Antifa will undoubtedly be showing up at these white supremacist rallies and unfortunately provide a foil for the likes of Donald Trump to point to as say….  “see, they’re to blame, too.”   Take a glance at them.

Does Trump Yearn to be back in Military School?

It has often been noted that the Donald, a.k.a President Trump, likes operating in chaos.  Well then, he must have loved last week.   Sure, he denied the chaos, but really, at this point does anyone other than his brain washed base believe anything he says?

At least this week began with the hope for more order in the White House in the form of General Kelly, the new Chief of Staff selected to replace Reince Priebus whom I had some sympathy for until he praised little Donnie’s unmatched “political instincts” on his way out the door.

What is wrong with you, Reince?  He buried you totally with the help of his mud slinging “id”, Anthony Scaramucci, the new (oops, gone) director of White House communications.  And you walk out the door emphasizing Trump’s bright side?

Yes, Trump’s instincts got him the presidency, I’ll give him that.   But his primary instinct is to keep feeding his base alone, and distorting the truth regularly to do so, as if their opinion alone will constitute a great presidency.

Given his stellar record of competency and integrity,  General Kelly may bring some order to the chaos, but only if the Donald will be willing to abide by some discipline for a change.  That possibility usually provokes smiles and titters.  How do you get a guy who loves chaos to embrace discipline?

Well, maybe he surrounds himself with military figures and he comes to accept them reining him in.  That’s not likely, but it seemed to work when he was a kid.   And, as I think of him as around 13 in stunted emotional growth, it might work again….for awhile.  Trump wrote years ago that  “As an adolescent, I was mostly interested in creating mischief.”  Seems to me he still has some of that, but he straightened out after his father sent him to a military academy when he was 13.   Though rebellious at first, he later thrived under the discipline there.

I’m going to play penny psychologist and theorize that because it worked to his benefit once, subconsciously the Donnie might actually want to be constrained as he was in military school, as it led to success.   Note all the generals he has accumulated at the top.   General Mattis as Secretary of Defense, General McMasters as security adviser, and now General Kelly, formerly head of Homeland Security, as his chief of staff.  I wonder whether he will replace Kelly with another General, or at least one with a military background such as CIA Director Mike Pompeo has.

Maybe at some deep level, below all the braggadocio and blaming of others Trump knows his presidency is sinking.   Perhaps Trump actually realizes that things have gotten out of hand at the White House and like in his early teens he needs some discipline to set things right.   Certainly Kelly has started off on the right foot in getting the foul mouthed, just hired Scaramucci fired. Unlike Priebus, Kelly is the kind of guy that will push back on the president in the way his teachers and commanders did at the military school.  I think we will see some more order in the White House for awhile.

But there are three flies in my theoretical ointment.  One is the habit of Trump and his spokes people to lie.  I don’t know how Kelly can control that.  Also, unlike at the military school, Trump can fire Kelly or other commanders once he gets tired of feeling hemmed in.  And even if Kelly produces a miracle of organization, there are the conclusions of the Mueller investigation laying dead ahead some months in the future, an iceberg that looks impossible to avoid.

If Mueller comes up with a bevy of unsavory business and political activities of the Trump clan – like many of us think he will – no amount of discipline in the White House will save the president.

 


P. S. – By the way, the military flavor of the Trump administration goes well beyond the top picks, as described in this article.   Also, Trump’s version of military school is he was an unblemished success.  Others there differ about that as discussed here.   

If you want a brief bio of General Kelly read this.  Besides his decades of highly regarded service and sense of integrity two points stick out:  “Kelly has taken a hard stance on border security and support for the military. He has supported Trump’s plan to construct a wall along the United States border with Mexico.”   However, I would add Kelly’s version of a “wall” is not a wall per se but various measures to increase border security, including hiring more border agents.