Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Trump and Boris Johnson on the Brink

Johnson with Trump - two liars and utterly unfit leaders.
It is somewhat ironic that in the same week Donald Trump and the UK's Boris Johnson - each of whom has political sought power by pandering to the ugliest elements and racist bigotries of their respective country's populace -  have hit a potential brick wall this week.  For Johnson, it was the British Supreme Court's ruling that his suspension of Parliament was illegal and that Johnson had lied to the Queen, and for Trump it was the launching of a formal impeachment inquiry trigger by Trump's apparent withholding of military aid approved by Congress as a lever to extort that nation into launch a bogus investigation of one of Trump's biggest rivals, Democrat 2020 nominee front runner Joe Biden.  Trump's behavior was akin to that of a crime boss making threats a piece at MSN looks ate Trump's willing accomplices - while Johnson's was that of a proliferate liar (a trait Trump shares) which has triggered growing calls for his resignation.  In both cases, the ultimate test is whether the rule of law will prevail or, instead, whether lying bullies prevail and both countries in turn slide towards authoritarianism.  A column in the New York Times looks at this aligning of the stars to see two unfit leaders face serious blow-back.  Here are excerpts:
To see them together in New York, the two charlatans, after all their nationalist-revival shenanigans, encountering the quiet force of the law was an exquisite thing. I am not sure I have ever experienced Schadenfreude in purer form.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying President Trump had “seriously violated the Constitution” and a formal impeachment inquiry would therefore begin. Lady Hale, the president of Britain’s highest court, telling Prime Minister Boris Johnson that his advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was “unlawful, void and of no effect.”
That two dignified women delivered the messages on the same day to these brothers in boorishness — men-children who have made a mockery of the special relationship between Britain and the United States — seemed particularly apt.
Trump, according to the reconstructed transcript of a July 25 call, tried to get the Ukrainian president “to do us a favor” by speaking with his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, along with Attorney General William Barr over potential dirt that might sully Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate in the 2020 election. Johnson maneuvered to railroad through a British exit from the European Union on Oct. 31 via the suspension of Parliament for several weeks. The machinations were of a piece with the manipulative habits of the two egos in chief.
The law is not malleable or optional. It is what stands between civilization and barbarism, democracy and despotism. Just ask the youth of Hong Kong, who know what extradition into the lawlessness of dictatorial China would mean.
President Trump’s bluntest expression of his view of the Constitution to which he swore an oath was this: “Article II allows me to do whatever I want.”
It does no such thing. The framers, through checks and balances, were intent on limiting power, not unfettering it. They knew that absolute power corrupts absolutely. America did not go through a revolution to recreate in the new world the monarchical diktat of the old.
Richard Nixon took a similar view of the powers of his office. “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal,” he said. Things did not end up too well for Dick.
Trump has never understood what his oath of office meant. How could he? This man was the product of two things: his family business, where no constraint on his authority existed, and contractors were there to be stiffed; and a reality TV show that prized outrage, indulged his megalomania, and gave viewers a high by mainlining cruelty. Accordingly, Trump chose to play Chicago politics with Ukraine, as if a sovereign nation at war on its eastern border with Vladimir Putin’s Russia was there mainly to be squeezed for his re-election campaign. He has trashed the press, judges, the Federal Reserve, members of Congress — anyone or anything that stood up to him. He has set up operations at the White House as a shambolic exercise in terror. His cabinet fawns, as Saddam Hussein’s once did, scrambling to find loftier expressions of adulation that might delay execution. I don’t know if the impeachment inquiry serves what must be the fundamental goal of Democrats: to remove Donald Trump from office as soon as possible. . . . It has little chance of leading to his removal because, even if the House charges Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors, the Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely to vote to convict him.
All of this worries me, but in the end I don’t care. The balance has been tipped. Nobody can accuse Pelosi of rashness. She has been deliberate. She said, “No one is above the law.” That principle must be cardinal.
Trump’s assault on truth, the press, institutions, civility, and the law has been relentless. His unfitness for office has been so glaring as to be breathtaking. As Stephen Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, wrote, “There comes a time when strategic political calculations must yield to principle if pragmatism is not to entail complicity.” He continued, “The impeachment process is integral to the architecture our founders created for the preservation of democracy.” For Congress to ignore what Trump has done would be to set a dangerous example for future generations.
On both sides of the Atlantic, we have witnessed two men making audacious claims to power and suffering resounding rebukes from two separate but equal branches of government that made clear the executive is not above the law — in Britain from its highest court applying an unwritten constitution, in the United States from Congress exercising its constitutional prerogatives.
An important lesson is this: It takes independent institutions to make the law meaningful and hold the executive to account. That is why dictatorships, or illiberal systems like Hungary’s, seek to suppress them.
Let's hope that if the House issues articles of impeachment an adequate number of Republicans will put the Constitution and democracy over Trump and their own re-election desires. 

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