"Trump found guilty is hush money trial" and other newspaper headlines

Newspapers, featuring front page coverage of the guilty verdict in former US President Donald Trump's hush money trial, are displayed outside a newsagents on May 31, 2024 in Walton-on-Thames, England.

(Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Rule of Law: From Donald Trump to the Gaza Strip

Just as surely as contempt for the Rule of Law degrades a society internally, so, too, does such contempt degrade an international order, globally.

There will be supertankers of ink, and server farms of electrons expended to divine the meaning of Trump’s criminal conviction Thursday on 34 felony counts. Here are three thematic queries the nation needs to make in order to gain the clarity about the event that the matter demands.

First, it is clear that Trump won the presidency in 2016 by committing a massive fraud on the country. That was one of the prosecutor’s main closing arguments. And Trump obviously believes it, or he wouldn’t have paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 and Michael Cohen several multiples of that. He wouldn’t have elevated the misdemeanors of falsifying business records into the felonies of election interference if he didn’t know that that is what it would take to win.

But that means that Trump’s claims for unqualified immunity for all the other crimes he may have committed are bootstrapped from the criminal behavior by which he won the 2016 election. No sensible person can claim that a convicted criminal should be able to be immune from the very criminality that made possible his claims of immunity in the first place. It would be insanity.

It is impossible to create a composite character with more demonstrated, repellent traits than are embodied in Donald Trump. So, why does our society—or at least a significant portion of it—idolize him as it does?

The Supreme Court should stop its sick, fetid dalliance with Trump’s self-dealing claims, the claims of a convicted felon, and allow the other trials of his likely even greater criminality to proceed. The people of the United States are entitled to know the rest of the extent of Trump’s criminality, and before the election in November.

The second thing we need to come to grips with is the fact that three times—in the E. Jean Carroll trial, the subsequent defamation trial, and now in this trial—simple people have looked at the facts and unanimously declared Trump guilty of notorious transgressions against others, and the law.

But why has so much of the country, led by a fawning, deceitful, and self-interested media, not been able to see this? How can we, as a society, have elevated such an egregiously flawed character, a scumbag, to such a critical position of leadership of the country, and the world?

Let’s put the turds on the table. Trump is a rapist. He’s a convicted felon. He’s a convicted fraud. He’s a bully, a racist, a misogynist, a six-time bankrupt business failure, a cowardly five-time draft dodger, a twice-divorced, thrice-married philanderer, an attempted insurrectionist. A loser.

What is it in our society that prefers celebrity over substance, grievance over gravitas, salaciousness over civility, venom over vision? It is impossible to create a composite character with more demonstrated, repellent traits than are embodied in Donald Trump. So, why does our society—or at least a significant portion of it—idolize him as it does?

Why does the entire upper echelon of the Republican Party—from governors, to senators, to House members, to former staffers—grovel at this guy’s feet, humiliate themselves to suck up to one of the most vile public figures the nation has ever produced? And what does that say about them, and their party?

There’s an old axiom that a democracy gets the leaders it deserves. One recent poll said that 17% of voters would be less likely to vote for Trump if he were convicted. But the same poll said that 15% would be more likely to vote for him. A statistical wash. How can that be?

What sickness is it in the American body politic that is attracted to Trump’s compulsion to befoul, to tear down, to smear, to demonize, to denigrate, to debase, to destroy? Because those are the essences of his appeal, and it is we who give them/him their power. We have a lot of self-searching to do.

Finally, it sounds like a cliché, but it is not. Trump’s conviction is a vindication for the Rule of Law. That is one of the cornerstones of a civilized society, certainly, of any democracy. Criminality must be extirpated lest the society die from the cancer of self-dealt impunity, and the usurping licentiousness that such impunity imparts. The Rule of Law might have saved the country.

In Greek mythology, Zeus became the head God because he had demonstrated great wisdom in winning the Cosmic battle between the Olympians and the Titans. He had promised special domains in heaven for those Titans who came over to fight on the side of the Olympians.

The Olympians won that battle and Zeus kept those promises. Ever after, Order was maintained in the universe only so long as Honor was kept and Justice prevailed. When they did not, Chaos broke out. It could only be subdued by the reinvigoration of Honor and the reimposition of Justice.

Justice, embodied as the working of the Rule of Law, is the inner ligature by which an Orderly society is held together. It is as true today as it was 3,000 years ago for the ancient Greeks.

But you cannot be selective about the Rule of Law. It’s not a buffet, where you get to pick and choose those Laws you deign to obey. It is a Rule, an overarching, all-or-nothing thing.

It may not be top of mind, but adherence to the Rule of Law is a deeply essential to the character of the U.S.—a nation now in flagrant violation of those principles when it comes to the genocide Israel is carrying out in Gaza, with the full-throated support of the U.S. government.

The Israelis have murdered tens of thousands of innocent, defenseless men, women, and children since October 7, something on the order of 130 every day. There is no legitimate judicial or moral construct in the world that makes that anything but genocide, which is a first-order violation of all standards of International Law.

The International Criminal Court—the highest criminal court in the world—is considering arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu for his collective punishment of innocents, for intentionally targeting civilians, for starving 2.3 million Palestinians. All are violations of International Law. The U.S. is directly complicit in all of those crimes.

The International Court of Justice—the highest judicial tribunal in the world—has ruled that Israel is plausibly committing genocide, and has ordered it to stop its apocalyptic predations on the Palestinian people. The U.S. is complicit in all of it.

Through all of this, Joe Biden has proven himself the Susan Collins of global leaders. He’s concerned about it. He’s very concerned about it. He’s very very concerned about it. Then, he votes for as many weapons as the Israelis say they need to finish the job. Not the behavior of a leader, rather, that of a bought sycophant.

Biden is welcome to humiliate himself, as Trump’s VP picks do in their servile obeisance to his noxious lies. But he is not welcome to humiliate the U.S., as a perpetrator of the most conspicuous genocide since the Holocaust.

The violations of International Law by the U.S. in the matter of Gaza have caused incalculable damage to its reputation in the world. It will never be recovered. Never again will it be able to credibly claim that it is a champion of human rights, of a Rules Based International Order. Never again will it be able to credibly admonish other nations for their violations of international norms or laws. Never again will it be able to claim that its model of global governance is one worthy of praise, or emulation.

Just as surely as contempt for the Rule of Law degrades a society internally, so, too, does such contempt degrade an international order, globally. The U.S. is the primary desecrator of the Rule of Law internationally, and all the nations and people of the world see it.

If we are intellectually honest and morally consistent, then our contempt for Donald Trump and his violations of the Rule of Law must apply equally to our government's violation of the Rule of Law internationally. It’s not a buffet, where we can pick and choose the Laws we want to obey. We either defend Honor and Justice, or we do not. And in our choice will lie the future course of the world, be it Order or Chaos.

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