The Republican Party has demonstrated a taste for authoritarianism that history says is hard to shake.
It Is Time for Donald Trump to Leave the White House
The government cannot pass any stress test with this president* in office.
The other day, Michelle Goldberg, writing in Slate, made this excellent point: In response to the argument that ridding the country of President* Donald Trump only would worsen the political polarization in the country, perhaps to the point of actual widespread violence, Goldberg argued that, if we're making decisions of national policy based on that criterion, then we're already very far down a long, dark road that leads, inevitably, to a beer hall in Munich.
Already, Republicans are trying to normalize the idea that even if collusion between Trump and Russia is found, it doesn't discredit the administration. If they succeed—if any sort of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence is found but doesn't end his presidency—it will be a betrayal of the American voting public. You think impeachment threatens America's civic fabric? Try telling the majority of American citizens that even if their hated rulers are revealed as traitors, there's nothing they can do about it.
It really is time for him to go.
I've spent five months dodging the notion that the Trump presidency* is something with which the Republic should dispense itself. The only legitimate mechanisms for doing so—impeachment and the implementation of the 25th amendment—seemed to me to be clunky and inadequate and, anyway, the Republicans in Washington clearly had no stomach for either one of them, since they seemed eager to bargain away an adequate national government in exchange for the retrograde plutocracy of their dreams.
Consider that, while all these Russian bombshells were bursting with monotonous regularity, the Republicans in the Senate seem poised to ram through the destruction of the Affordable Care Act, and the Republicans in the House are preparing to wreck the Dodd-Frank regulations by passing what I believe is called the Let's Have Another Global Financial Disaster Act of 2017. This doesn't mean that the Russia investigations are "distractions." It means that threats to a self-governing democratic republic are coming from several directions. There's no rule that says that can't happen.
But the last couple of weeks have convinced me that, as long as the current president* remains the current president*, the government of the United States would fail any stress test you sought to apply to it. His ignorance is matched only by his incompetence, which is matched only by his obvious instability. My god, he's even feuding with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III now. I didn't think that was possible. His election was allegedly corrupted by Russian money and Russian influence, probably because his business empire is allegedly corrupted by Russian money and Russian influence. In turn, his government was allegedly corrupted by its attempt to cover up Russian money and Russian influence.
The federal law enforcement community and the intelligence apparatus, are in open—if largely anonymous—revolt. An FBI director begs the attorney general not to leave him alone with the president*. The director of national intelligence reportedly has said that the president* directed him to step between the FBI director and the investigation of the Russian money and Russian influence, the exact obstruction of justice that hung Richard Nixon. Pretty soon, the administration will be staffed only by exiles from the wingnut media apparatus and his own insufferable spalpeens, who have ethical problems of their own. And this is only what's happened in this country over the past three days.
It really is time for him to go.
Overseas, he has managed to bungle the United States into the middle of an intractable 700-year-old religious conflict because his new best friends, the Saudis, told him what a great man he was and let him fondle the orb. Meanwhile, the Arabian peninsula is beginning to look like the Balkans in 1914, and the reach of the Sunni-led Islamic State has extended into Shia Iran, which the current United States government has posited as the repository of all evil in the region. And, if you still have any doubts about this being a religious war, consider that one of the prime targets in Wednesday's attacks was the mausoleum holding the body of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The region is a tinderbox, and it has been ever since the last Republican president decided to "kick over the hornet's nest" or whatever other idiotic metaphor his advisers suggested to him. From The Atlantic:
Iran's recent ascent began following the ouster of Saddam Hussein in Iraq by U.S.-led forces. This resulted in a Shia-dominated government that has friendly relations with Iran—much to the annoyance of Iraq's Arab neighbors. Many of the biggest regional conflicts are seen to be proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Nowhere is this more true than in Yemen where Iran-backed Houthi militia, who are nominally Shia, overthrew the country's Saudi-backed government, plunging the region's poorest nation into a bloody civil war. In Syria, Iranian fighters and Shia militia fight alongside troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran is also accused of fomenting unrest among minority Shia populations in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other countries. The Trump administration has not hidden its view that Iran is behind much of the regional instability. But while all this is true, it is also equally true that Iranian fighters have been among the most potent forces against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Iran troops and generals have fought against ISIS on the front lines, and more than 1,000 fighters are believed to have been killed in the operations in Syria alone.
Complicated, right? A tangled, bloody mess in which we probably never should have involved ourselves. Do you honestly think that the president* understands even the most fundamental things about it?
In addition, he's refused to staff the State Department fully—and his apparent desire to leave hundreds of important government positions vacant, including half of the U.S. Attorney slots, is the most undercovered story of his administration. His national security advisers seem to be willing to tank their own careers and their own reputations in order to pretend the president* knows what he's talking about. He corrupts, and destroys, anything and anyone with whom he comes in contact. He appointed a new FBI director on Wednesday. I wish the guy luck. Where do you set the over/under on when Christopher Wray's position becomes untenable? I say three months, tops.
It really is time for him to go.
Fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson sent General Maxwell Taylor and Clark Clifford, then one of LBJ's top advisers, on a fact-finding mission to Vietnam. The facts he found shook Clifford to his core. In March of 1968, Clifford was named to replace Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense. Clifford, an untouchable Washington grandee, had sufficient credibility in the power circles of the capital to tell Johnson that the war was a horrible mistake, that it was unwinnable at any cost, and that the best thing Johnson could do would be to seek a negotiated end to the conflict as quickly as possible.
As Clifford told PBS documentarian Stanley Karnow:
So…I then decided that what I must do would be to get all of the strength that I could, because the mere fact that I had reached the conclusion was not very significant, because the decision really lay with President Johnson. I remember talking with Harry McPherson, I talked to people in the state like, in State Department, like Nick Katzenbach. We began to develop a group and I know that after a while the question would be very secretly, "is he with us?" That means is he part of this group that is ah organized and dedicated to changing Lyndon Johnson's mind? It was almost like ah some very similar expression used in the French Revolution, is he with us, do you see. And, we finally worked together that way. Ah. I think I bore the brunt of it because it was appropriate that I should. And, starting in then, within a month or five weeks after I landed in the Pentagon, our major aim then began to change the policy of our country in Vietnam.
The stakes are infinitely higher now. Johnson, for all his faults and for all the disarray his White House was in at the beginning of 1968, was still capable of being convinced and, as such, was still capable of doing the job. (That October, when LBJ was the lamest of lame ducks, abandoned even by a huge slice of his own party, he still was sharp enough to get a gun control bill passed.) The current president* is not even that competent, nor does he apparently care much about learning on the job, preferring instead to marinate in Fox News updates and undermine his own aides on the electric Twitter machine.
The point is that there is no Clark Clifford on the horizon, no one man willing to stand up and tell the president* that he's been elevated to a position for which he is unfit and in which he is a positive danger to the American system of government. Not that the president* would listen to him, mind you, but it would help everyone out in the country who believe it is currently led by practically nobody to have a champion.
The Trump presidency is not an accident of history. Conservative politics has been moving toward something like it ever since Ronald Reagan declared that the national government was the problem. It has been enabled by a consistent trend toward civic disengagement, some of which was encouraged by ambitious men in the wake of Reagan's success. And the genuine danger going forward is that the next ambitious American authoritarian will not be a half-bright bungler dancing on strings held by god-knows-which foreign autocrat or banker. The next one might be better at it. After all, the template has been established, and the Republican Party has demonstrated a taste for authoritarianism that history says is hard to shake. The Trump political template has to be crushed to dust so that it never rises again. Until it is, it remains a cancer on the republic that's only in the most fragile remission.
It is time for all of them to go: Steve Bannon and his dreams of being the king of chaos, Reince Priebus and the other hapless throne-sniffers, the children with their many scams and their clearly unresolved Daddy issues—all of them. But, most of all, it is time for him to go. The anger of the marks whom he conned last November cannot be used to dodge the obligations that fall on politicians that know what their duty is, but still fail to do it. History demands a bit of courage every now and again.