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Donald Trump and the Art of the Lie

By Andrew Sullivan

A tyrant’s path to power is not a straight line, it’s dynamic. Each concession is instantly banked, past vices are turned into virtues, and then the ante is upped once again. The threat rises exponentially with time. If we can’t see this in front of our own eyes, and impeach this man now, even if he will not be convicted, we are flirting with the very stability of our political system. It is not impregnable. Why is Putin the only person who seems to grasp this?

“I like the truth. I’m actually a very honest guy,” President Trump told a slightly incredulous George Stephanopoulos this week. Like almost everything Trump says, it was, of course, a lie. But it was a particularly Trumpish kind of lie. It was so staggeringly, self-evidently untrue, and so confidently, breezily said, it was less a statement of nonfact than an expression of pure power.

For Trump, lying is central to his disturbed psyche, and to his success. The brazenness of it unbalances and stupefies sane and adjusted people, thereby constantly giving him an edge and a little breathing space while we try to absorb it, during which he proceeds to the next lie. And on it goes. It’s like swimming in choppy water. Just when you get to the surface to breathe, another wave crashes into you.

This particular lie was in the context of a report from the New York Times this week, independently confirmed by ABC News, that Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio had found Trump lagging Joe Biden in most of the states he needed to win — even in Texas. The Times reported that Trump had instructed his staff to lie about this polling. When asked about it by Stephanopoulos, Trump simply followed his own advice. “No, my polls show that I’m winning everywhere,” he said blithely. And when you hear him, it sounds as if he is telling the truth. He’s gooood.

In Michael Wolff’s new book, Siege, Steve Bannon recounts on the record several bald-faced lies Trump told him to his face. About Trump’s trip to Moscow, where the alleged and likely chimeric pee tape was supposedly made, Trump insisted repeatedly that he had spent only a day there, and hadn’t stayed overnight, so couldn’t have employed any prostitutes at all. “This story was told to me a dozen times, maybe more, and the details never changed,” Bannon noted, even as evidence emerged that Trump had indeed spent two days and two nights there.

On the affair with Stormy Daniels: “Never happened,” he told Bannon. And when Trump insisted on these things, he was in the moment believable. This preternatural capacity to lie convincingly even when the truth is obvious is a very rare skill. Which is why it works, of course. You simply assume that a grown man with real responsibility wouldn’t behave that way. And you would be wrong. Bannon, Wolff writes, came to understand that the lies were “compulsive, persistent and without even a minimal grounding in reality.” This is not to deceive the public. This is simply the way Trump behaves — in private and public. It’s why I have long believed he is mentally unwell.

It is not true that all presidents lie in this fashion. Take that famous liar, Bill Clinton. Bubba’s lies were infamous —  but he was always calibrating them to avoid telling an outright whopper. A ridiculous parsing of the definition of “sexual relations” or “is” is different than outright denying reality and daring people to correct you. Clinton accepted reality and tried, in lawyerly fashion, to spin his way out of it.

In retrospect, the presidency of George W. Bush was a Trump harbinger of sorts. Recall this famous passage from Ron Suskind, reporting on the Bush White House for the Times:

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about Enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create reality. And while you are studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

The joke, in the end, of course, was on them. Reality destroyed them, as it often does. In that time period, however, it also destroyed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.

No, Trump’s only rival in this department — denying what everyone can see is true — was Sarah Palin, the lipsticked John the Baptist of the Trump cult. During the 2008 campaign, gobsmacked that this lunatic could be in line for the presidency, I began to keep track of everything she said out loud that was provably, empirically untrue. In the two months she was running to be vice-president, I catalogued 34 demonstrably untrue statements, which she refused to correct. She compiled nowhere near Trump’s volume of lies — it’s close to inhuman to lie the way he does — but her capacity to move swiftly on from them, along with the press’s supine failure to keep up, was very Trumpy. The short attention span of digital media has made this worse. And she got away with it. The base didn’t care; the media couldn’t cope.

Trump, too stupid to ape Clinton, and far more accomplished a liar than Palin, combines the sinister Bush-era kind of lie — “We do not torture” — with the Palin compulsion to just make things up all the time to avoid any sense of vulnerability. What Trump adds is a level of salesmanship that is truly a wonder to behold. He is a con man of surpassing brilliance and conviction, and every time he survives the fallout of a con, he gets more confident about the next one.

At some point, the law usually catches up with this kind of con artist, and Trump has had quite a few close calls over the years (and paid out a lot in settlements). But a presidential con man at this level of talent, legitimized by public opinion, enlarged and enhanced by the office and its trappings, is far harder to catch. It seems to me we had one shot of doing this definitively —the Mueller investigation — and we failed. Trump’s lies about the report, and his attorney general’s genius move of lying about its conclusion before the rest of us could check it out fully, helped. So did conservative media’s blackout of the actual substance of the report. Trump’s Roy Cohn tactic of accusing his accusers of the same flaw — it was Hillary who colluded with the Russians! — was another masterstroke of distraction. But it’s hard to deny at this point that in the battle between Trump and Mueller, Trump just won.

Wolff’s analysis is that Trump actually intimidated Mueller, who refused to enter the public fray out of a sense of responsibility but also because no sane person who isn’t in elected office wants to become the next piñata. And battling Trump is very hard for sane people, with a solid reputation, to sustain. You never come out okay. For Mueller to fight back would have dragged him into an insufferably vulgar mire. He demurred, assuming that Congress would immediately spring into action.

No such luck. Speaker Pelosi is convinced impeachment would be counterproductive, and fruitless, given the Senate’s tribal backing of Trump, and so she keeps punting. I see her political point but not her constitutional one. Accusing a president of a criminal cover-up and obstruction of justice and not impeaching him smacks of weakness — and Trump smells weakness like a beagle can smell that treat in your pocket. The Democratic congressional leadership is thereby, it seems to me, guilty of appeasement, of putting politics ahead of the more fundamental duty to protect the Constitution. For the Congress to do nothing about proof of a president’s repeated obstruction of justice — not even a vote of censure — is an abdication of constitutional duty. Pelosi took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to win the next election.

A tyrant’s path to power is not a straight line, it’s dynamic. Each concession is instantly banked, past vices are turned into virtues, and then the ante is upped once again. The threat rises exponentially with time. If we can’t see this in front of our own eyes, and impeach this man now, even if he will not be convicted, we are flirting with the very stability of our political system. It is not impregnable. Why is Putin the only person who seems to grasp this?

So, of course, Trump has upped the ante again. Why wouldn’t he? He has proven that he can obstruct justice and get away with it, so now he is not only refusing to comply with any subpoenas and barring critical witnesses from testifying, but claiming, through his lawyers, that the only branch of government that can investigate the president’s compliance with the law is the executive branch itself, over which the president has total control: “Congress is simply not allowed to conduct law-enforcement investigations of the president.” Congressional oversight of possible crimes by the president “improperly impinges upon and hence interferes with the independence that is imperative to the functioning of the executive branch.” The president, they argue, is the only person who can determine if the president breaks the law. The only possible exception, Trump’s lawyers grudgingly concede, is in an impeachment proceeding — which they well know Pelosi doesn’t have the guts to invoke.

If the president is judge and jury in his own case, he is a monarch, not a president. To add to this, we also have both Trump and his Botoxed dauphin, Jared Kushner, recently express the belief that they did nothing wrong in inviting, welcoming, and encouraging a foreign enemy of the United States to interfere in an American election. Trump, contradicting his own FBI director, told Stephanopoulos this week he’d be open to receiving dirt on a political opponent from a foreign power again in 2020. Hey, why not? “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it,” the president said. He might tell the FBI, or he might not. I know we’re used to this kind of thing — he openly invited Russia to intervene in 2016, after all, and they did — but it is vital to repeat that this is about as impeachable a statement as could be uttered by any president.

The worry about a president receiving assistance from a foreign country, let alone inviting it, was one of the central concerns of the Founders when they came up with the mechanism of impeachment. It need not be a conspiracy or a crime. It was about violating the integrity of the American political system — to the advantage of another country. They were thinking of Britain and France, their equivalent of Russia and China. And they were understandably paranoid about it. “He might betray his trust to foreign powers,” Madison worried about waiting for the next election to call a president to account. Combine the blithe ease with which Trump considers this impeachable offense with his now-demonstrated attempts to obstruct justice, and now add a legal claim that the Congress cannot oversee what might be presidential criminality … well, you have a situation that impeachment was specifically designed for.

It is worth adding to this, for good measure, that, all the while, the president has been attempting to buttress Republican — and essentially white — power, by rigging the census to deny Democrats future seats, and thereby resources. We now have incontrovertible proof that this was the intention behind adding a citizenship question to the Census — thanks to a leaked hard drive. Put all this together and you begin to get a sense of how contested the result of the next election could be. Trump is deliberately undermining public confidence in its integrity. He did this rhetorically as a candidate. Doing it as an incumbent president is an even graver assault on our liberal democracy. Imagine Bush v. Gore, but with an incumbent president who controls the executive branch and has the Supreme Court in his pocket, and you begin to see the risk we are taking by leaving him in place.

He will do anything, we have to understand, to protect his psychic attachment to his own self-interest. Anything. I’ll repeat what I believe: He will not leave his office if he narrowly loses in 2020. He’ll fight — and rally his supporters to fight with him. He’s not Nixon. He’s Erdoğan. When, since becoming president, has Trump conceded anything?

A tyrant’s path to power is not a straight line, it’s dynamic. Each concession is instantly banked, past vices are turned into virtues, and then the ante is upped once again. The threat rises exponentially with time. If we can’t see this in front of our own eyes, and impeach this man now, even if he will not be convicted, we are flirting with the very stability of our political system. It is not impregnable. Why is Putin the only person who seems to grasp this?

Donald Trump and the Art of the Lie
By Andrew Sullivan

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
“I like the truth. I’m actually a very honest guy,” President Trump told a slightly incredulous George Stephanopoulos this week. Like almost everything Trump says, it was, of course, a lie. But it was a particularly Trumpish kind of lie. It was so staggeringly, self-evidently untrue, and so confidently, breezily said, it was less a statement of nonfact than an expression of pure power.
For Trump, lying is central to his disturbed psyche, and to his success. The brazenness of it unbalances and stupefies sane and adjusted people, thereby constantly giving him an edge and a little breathing space while we try to absorb it, during which he proceeds to the next lie. And on it goes. It’s like swimming in choppy water. Just when you get to the surface to breathe, another wave crashes into you.
This particular lie was in the context of a report from the New York Times this week, independently confirmed by ABC News, that Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio had found Trump lagging Joe Biden in most of the states he needed to win — even in Texas. The Times reported that Trump had instructed his staff to lie about this polling. When asked about it by Stephanopoulos, Trump simply followed his own advice. “No, my polls show that I’m winning everywhere,” he said blithely. And when you hear him, it sounds as if he is telling the truth. He’s gooood.
In Michael Wolff’s new book, Siege, Steve Bannon recounts on the record several bald-faced lies Trump told him to his face. About Trump’s trip to Moscow, where the alleged and likely chimeric pee tape was supposedly made, Trump insisted repeatedly that he had spent only a day there, and hadn’t stayed overnight, so couldn’t have employed any prostitutes at all. “This story was told to me a dozen times, maybe more, and the details never changed,” Bannon noted, even as evidence emerged that Trump had indeed spent two days and two nights there.
On the affair with Stormy Daniels: “Never happened,” he told Bannon. And when Trump insisted on these things, he was in the moment believable. This preternatural capacity to lie convincingly even when the truth is obvious is a very rare skill. Which is why it works, of course. You simply assume that a grown man with real responsibility wouldn’t behave that way. And you would be wrong. Bannon, Wolff writes, came to understand that the lies were “compulsive, persistent and without even a minimal grounding in reality.” This is not to deceive the public. This is simply the way Trump behaves — in private and public. It’s why I have long believed he is mentally unwell.
It is not true that all presidents lie in this fashion. Take that famous liar, Bill Clinton. Bubba’s lies were infamous — but he was always calibrating them to avoid telling an outright whopper. A ridiculous parsing of the definition of “sexual relations” or “is” is different than outright denying reality and daring people to correct you. Clinton accepted reality and tried, in lawyerly fashion, to spin his way out of it.
In retrospect, the presidency of George W. Bush was a Trump harbinger of sorts. Recall this famous passage from Ron Suskind, reporting on the Bush White House for the Times:
The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about Enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create reality. And while you are studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’
The joke, in the end, of course, was on them. Reality destroyed them, as it often does. In that time period, however, it also destroyed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.
No, Trump’s only rival in this department — denying what everyone can see is true — was Sarah Palin, the lipsticked John the Baptist of the Trump cult. During the 2008 campaign, gobsmacked that this lunatic could be in line for the presidency, I began to keep track of everything she said out loud that was provably, empirically untrue. In the two months she was running to be vice-president, I catalogued 34 demonstrably untrue statements, which she refused to correct. She compiled nowhere near Trump’s volume of lies — it’s close to inhuman to lie the way he does — but her capacity to move swiftly on from them, along with the press’s supine failure to keep up, was very Trumpy. The short attention span of digital media has made this worse. And she got away with it. The base didn’t care; the media couldn’t cope.
Trump, too stupid to ape Clinton, and far more accomplished a liar than Palin, combines the sinister Bush-era kind of lie — “We do not torture” — with the Palin compulsion to just make things up all the time to avoid any sense of vulnerability. What Trump adds is a level of salesmanship that is truly a wonder to behold. He is a con man of surpassing brilliance and conviction, and every time he survives the fallout of a con, he gets more confident about the next one.
At some point, the law usually catches up with this kind of con artist, and Trump has had quite a few close calls over the years (and paid out a lot in settlements). But a presidential con man at this level of talent, legitimized by public opinion, enlarged and enhanced by the office and its trappings, is far harder to catch. It seems to me we had one shot of doing this definitively —the Mueller investigation — and we failed. Trump’s lies about the report, and his attorney general’s genius move of lying about its conclusion before the rest of us could check it out fully, helped. So did conservative media’s blackout of the actual substance of the report. Trump’s Roy Cohn tactic of accusing his accusers of the same flaw — it was Hillary who colluded with the Russians! — was another masterstroke of distraction. But it’s hard to deny at this point that in the battle between Trump and Mueller, Trump just won.
Wolff’s analysis is that Trump actually intimidated Mueller, who refused to enter the public fray out of a sense of responsibility but also because no sane person who isn’t in elected office wants to become the next piñata. And battling Trump is very hard for sane people, with a solid reputation, to sustain. You never come out okay. For Mueller to fight back would have dragged him into an insufferably vulgar mire. He demurred, assuming that Congress would immediately spring into action.
No such luck. Speaker Pelosi is convinced impeachment would be counterproductive, and fruitless, given the Senate’s tribal backing of Trump, and so she keeps punting. I see her political point but not her constitutional one. Accusing a president of a criminal cover-up and obstruction of justice and not impeaching him smacks of weakness — and Trump smells weakness like a beagle can smell that treat in your pocket. The Democratic congressional leadership is thereby, it seems to me, guilty of appeasement, of putting politics ahead of the more fundamental duty to protect the Constitution. For the Congress to do nothing about proof of a president’s repeated obstruction of justice — not even a vote of censure — is an abdication of constitutional duty. Pelosi took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to win the next election.
So, of course, Trump has upped the ante again. Why wouldn’t he? He has proven that he can obstruct justice and get away with it, so now he is not only refusing to comply with any subpoenas and barring critical witnesses from testifying, but claiming, through his lawyers, that the only branch of government that can investigate the president’s compliance with the law is the executive branch itself, over which the president has total control: “Congress is simply not allowed to conduct law-enforcement investigations of the president.” Congressional oversight of possible crimes by the president “improperly impinges upon and hence interferes with the independence that is imperative to the functioning of the executive branch.” The president, they argue, is the only person who can determine if the president breaks the law. The only possible exception, Trump’s lawyers grudgingly concede, is in an impeachment proceeding — which they well know Pelosi doesn’t have the guts to invoke.
If the president is judge and jury in his own case, he is a monarch, not a president. To add to this, we also have both Trump and his Botoxed dauphin, Jared Kushner, recently express the belief that they did nothing wrong in inviting, welcoming, and encouraging a foreign enemy of the United States to interfere in an American election. Trump, contradicting his own FBI director, told Stephanopoulos this week he’d be open to receiving dirt on a political opponent from a foreign power again in 2020. Hey, why not? “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it,” the president said. He might tell the FBI, or he might not. I know we’re used to this kind of thing — he openly invited Russia to intervene in 2016, after all, and they did — but it is vital to repeat that this is about as impeachable a statement as could be uttered by any president.
The worry about a president receiving assistance from a foreign country, let alone inviting it, was one of the central concerns of the Founders when they came up with the mechanism of impeachment. It need not be a conspiracy or a crime. It was about violating the integrity of the American political system — to the advantage of another country. They were thinking of Britain and France, their equivalent of Russia and China. And they were understandably paranoid about it. “He might betray his trust to foreign powers,” Madison worried about waiting for the next election to call a president to account. Combine the blithe ease with which Trump considers this impeachable offense with his now-demonstrated attempts to obstruct justice, and now add a legal claim that the Congress cannot oversee what might be presidential criminality … well, you have a situation that impeachment was specifically designed for.
It is worth adding to this, for good measure, that, all the while, the president has been attempting to buttress Republican — and essentially white — power, by rigging the census to deny Democrats future seats, and thereby resources. We now have incontrovertible proof that this was the intention behind adding a citizenship question to the Census — thanks to a leaked hard drive. Put all this together and you begin to get a sense of how contested the result of the next election could be. Trump is deliberately undermining public confidence in its integrity. He did this rhetorically as a candidate. Doing it as an incumbent president is an even graver assault on our liberal democracy. Imagine Bush v. Gore, but with an incumbent president who controls the executive branch and has the Supreme Court in his pocket, and you begin to see the risk we are taking by leaving him in place.
He will do anything, we have to understand, to protect his psychic attachment to his own self-interest. Anything. I’ll repeat what I believe: He will not leave his office if he narrowly loses in 2020. He’ll fight — and rally his supporters to fight with him. He’s not Nixon. He’s Erdoğan. When, since becoming president, has Trump conceded anything?
A tyrant’s path to power is not a straight line, it’s dynamic. Each concession is instantly banked, past vices are turned into virtues, and then the ante is upped once again. The threat rises exponentially with time. If we can’t see this in front of our own eyes, and impeach this man now, even if he will not be convicted, we are flirting with the very stability of our political system. It is not impregnable. Why is Putin the only person who seems to grasp this?

Donald Trump and the Art of the Lie
By Andrew Sullivan

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
“I like the truth. I’m actually a very honest guy,” President Trump told a slightly incredulous George Stephanopoulos this week. Like almost everything Trump says, it was, of course, a lie. But it was a particularly Trumpish kind of lie. It was so staggeringly, self-evidently untrue, and so confidently, breezily said, it was less a statement of nonfact than an expression of pure power.
For Trump, lying is central to his disturbed psyche, and to his success. The brazenness of it unbalances and stupefies sane and adjusted people, thereby constantly giving him an edge and a little breathing space while we try to absorb it, during which he proceeds to the next lie. And on it goes. It’s like swimming in choppy water. Just when you get to the surface to breathe, another wave crashes into you.
This particular lie was in the context of a report from the New York Times this week, independently confirmed by ABC News, that Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio had found Trump lagging Joe Biden in most of the states he needed to win — even in Texas. The Times reported that Trump had instructed his staff to lie about this polling. When asked about it by Stephanopoulos, Trump simply followed his own advice. “No, my polls show that I’m winning everywhere,” he said blithely. And when you hear him, it sounds as if he is telling the truth. He’s gooood.
In Michael Wolff’s new book, Siege, Steve Bannon recounts on the record several bald-faced lies Trump told him to his face. About Trump’s trip to Moscow, where the alleged and likely chimeric pee tape was supposedly made, Trump insisted repeatedly that he had spent only a day there, and hadn’t stayed overnight, so couldn’t have employed any prostitutes at all. “This story was told to me a dozen times, maybe more, and the details never changed,” Bannon noted, even as evidence emerged that Trump had indeed spent two days and two nights there.
On the affair with Stormy Daniels: “Never happened,” he told Bannon. And when Trump insisted on these things, he was in the moment believable. This preternatural capacity to lie convincingly even when the truth is obvious is a very rare skill. Which is why it works, of course. You simply assume that a grown man with real responsibility wouldn’t behave that way. And you would be wrong. Bannon, Wolff writes, came to understand that the lies were “compulsive, persistent and without even a minimal grounding in reality.” This is not to deceive the public. This is simply the way Trump behaves — in private and public. It’s why I have long believed he is mentally unwell.
It is not true that all presidents lie in this fashion. Take that famous liar, Bill Clinton. Bubba’s lies were infamous — but he was always calibrating them to avoid telling an outright whopper. A ridiculous parsing of the definition of “sexual relations” or “is” is different than outright denying reality and daring people to correct you. Clinton accepted reality and tried, in lawyerly fashion, to spin his way out of it.
In retrospect, the presidency of George W. Bush was a Trump harbinger of sorts. Recall this famous passage from Ron Suskind, reporting on the Bush White House for the Times:
The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about Enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create reality. And while you are studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’
The joke, in the end, of course, was on them. Reality destroyed them, as it often does. In that time period, however, it also destroyed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.
No, Trump’s only rival in this department — denying what everyone can see is true — was Sarah Palin, the lipsticked John the Baptist of the Trump cult. During the 2008 campaign, gobsmacked that this lunatic could be in line for the presidency, I began to keep track of everything she said out loud that was provably, empirically untrue. In the two months she was running to be vice-president, I catalogued 34 demonstrably untrue statements, which she refused to correct. She compiled nowhere near Trump’s volume of lies — it’s close to inhuman to lie the way he does — but her capacity to move swiftly on from them, along with the press’s supine failure to keep up, was very Trumpy. The short attention span of digital media has made this worse. And she got away with it. The base didn’t care; the media couldn’t cope.
Trump, too stupid to ape Clinton, and far more accomplished a liar than Palin, combines the sinister Bush-era kind of lie — “We do not torture” — with the Palin compulsion to just make things up all the time to avoid any sense of vulnerability. What Trump adds is a level of salesmanship that is truly a wonder to behold. He is a con man of surpassing brilliance and conviction, and every time he survives the fallout of a con, he gets more confident about the next one.
At some point, the law usually catches up with this kind of con artist, and Trump has had quite a few close calls over the years (and paid out a lot in settlements). But a presidential con man at this level of talent, legitimized by public opinion, enlarged and enhanced by the office and its trappings, is far harder to catch. It seems to me we had one shot of doing this definitively —the Mueller investigation — and we failed. Trump’s lies about the report, and his attorney general’s genius move of lying about its conclusion before the rest of us could check it out fully, helped. So did conservative media’s blackout of the actual substance of the report. Trump’s Roy Cohn tactic of accusing his accusers of the same flaw — it was Hillary who colluded with the Russians! — was another masterstroke of distraction. But it’s hard to deny at this point that in the battle between Trump and Mueller, Trump just won.
Wolff’s analysis is that Trump actually intimidated Mueller, who refused to enter the public fray out of a sense of responsibility but also because no sane person who isn’t in elected office wants to become the next piñata. And battling Trump is very hard for sane people, with a solid reputation, to sustain. You never come out okay. For Mueller to fight back would have dragged him into an insufferably vulgar mire. He demurred, assuming that Congress would immediately spring into action.
No such luck. Speaker Pelosi is convinced impeachment would be counterproductive, and fruitless, given the Senate’s tribal backing of Trump, and so she keeps punting. I see her political point but not her constitutional one. Accusing a president of a criminal cover-up and obstruction of justice and not impeaching him smacks of weakness — and Trump smells weakness like a beagle can smell that treat in your pocket. The Democratic congressional leadership is thereby, it seems to me, guilty of appeasement, of putting politics ahead of the more fundamental duty to protect the Constitution. For the Congress to do nothing about proof of a president’s repeated obstruction of justice — not even a vote of censure — is an abdication of constitutional duty. Pelosi took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to win the next election.
So, of course, Trump has upped the ante again. Why wouldn’t he? He has proven that he can obstruct justice and get away with it, so now he is not only refusing to comply with any subpoenas and barring critical witnesses from testifying, but claiming, through his lawyers, that the only branch of government that can investigate the president’s compliance with the law is the executive branch itself, over which the president has total control: “Congress is simply not allowed to conduct law-enforcement investigations of the president.” Congressional oversight of possible crimes by the president “improperly impinges upon and hence interferes with the independence that is imperative to the functioning of the executive branch.” The president, they argue, is the only person who can determine if the president breaks the law. The only possible exception, Trump’s lawyers grudgingly concede, is in an impeachment proceeding — which they well know Pelosi doesn’t have the guts to invoke.
If the president is judge and jury in his own case, he is a monarch, not a president. To add to this, we also have both Trump and his Botoxed dauphin, Jared Kushner, recently express the belief that they did nothing wrong in inviting, welcoming, and encouraging a foreign enemy of the United States to interfere in an American election. Trump, contradicting his own FBI director, told Stephanopoulos this week he’d be open to receiving dirt on a political opponent from a foreign power again in 2020. Hey, why not? “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it,” the president said. He might tell the FBI, or he might not. I know we’re used to this kind of thing — he openly invited Russia to intervene in 2016, after all, and they did — but it is vital to repeat that this is about as impeachable a statement as could be uttered by any president.
The worry about a president receiving assistance from a foreign country, let alone inviting it, was one of the central concerns of the Founders when they came up with the mechanism of impeachment. It need not be a conspiracy or a crime. It was about violating the integrity of the American political system — to the advantage of another country. They were thinking of Britain and France, their equivalent of Russia and China. And they were understandably paranoid about it. “He might betray his trust to foreign powers,” Madison worried about waiting for the next election to call a president to account. Combine the blithe ease with which Trump considers this impeachable offense with his now-demonstrated attempts to obstruct justice, and now add a legal claim that the Congress cannot oversee what might be presidential criminality … well, you have a situation that impeachment was specifically designed for.
It is worth adding to this, for good measure, that, all the while, the president has been attempting to buttress Republican — and essentially white — power, by rigging the census to deny Democrats future seats, and thereby resources. We now have incontrovertible proof that this was the intention behind adding a citizenship question to the Census — thanks to a leaked hard drive. Put all this together and you begin to get a sense of how contested the result of the next election could be. Trump is deliberately undermining public confidence in its integrity. He did this rhetorically as a candidate. Doing it as an incumbent president is an even graver assault on our liberal democracy. Imagine Bush v. Gore, but with an incumbent president who controls the executive branch and has the Supreme Court in his pocket, and you begin to see the risk we are taking by leaving him in place.
He will do anything, we have to understand, to protect his psychic attachment to his own self-interest. Anything. I’ll repeat what I believe: He will not leave his office if he narrowly loses in 2020. He’ll fight — and rally his supporters to fight with him. He’s not Nixon. He’s Erdoğan. When, since becoming president, has Trump conceded anything?
A tyrant’s path to power is not a straight line, it’s dynamic. Each concession is instantly banked, past vices are turned into virtues, and then the ante is upped once again. The threat rises exponentially with time. If we can’t see this in front of our own eyes, and impeach this man now, even if he will not be convicted, we are flirting with the very stability of our political system. It is not impregnable. Why is Putin the only person who seems to grasp this?

One thought on “Do you have old children? Read this and cry, our beloved land”

  1. ‘The Art of The Lie’? Oh my fg, ‘using’ the word art and RumputiN/vlad-the-impaler in the same sentence should have cracked the foundation of Mount Olympus in two, bringing down the God’s wrath on you; yet, apparently it didn’t. Our king-kong sized terrible two is the worst liar I’ve ever heard, if you had suggested a mechanic in the science of lying, your hubraic assertions about his as lies might have held a candle- alas, that wasn’t the case. Yet, what you say about impeachment is spot on. Not only is it necessary for the struggle for the hearts and minds, neigh souls, of every American, South, Central and North, it’s central to the only hope humanity has to even exist; Turtle Island informing the populace to a point where not only is their self-actuation actuated, but, rather, they evolve to meet the needs of truth that outs, based on reality that’s evident- and rise to the occasions of the needs of their community, constitution and country, and be this day what it is to be this day. . Indeed, Nancy ‘chamberlain’ Pelosi is on thin ice, “…we(e),…” must have impeachment done no later than 10-2020; and it could easily take 18 months- Nadler should start the investigatory committee for impeachment NOW! As well, I guesstimate that the non-repubs will need at least 6 % more votes to actually win; remember, Hillary had going on 4 % more votes and still lost (if you didn’t vote Hillary you voted for RumputiN/vlad-the-impaler to be installed into the Blackhouse). With RumputiN/vlad-the-impaler being ensconced in the Blackhouse it’s going to be exponentially harder to defeat them. Especially since our king-kong sized terrible two is stopping our gov’t from preventing the hacking of the 2020 elections; not that the intelligence, military, police industrial complexes actually want to prevent that either. Even the only announced repub candidate running against Trump, Weld, states that impeachment is indicated by the evidence, etc.. Thanx for all you do, copy, share as you will- All my writings 🙂 reality

    Liked by 1 person

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