A Republican majority thought it was fine to blow fifty million dollars in a worthless investigation of that cheesy little real-estate development in Arkansas called Whitewater. But they have not shown any interest in learning whether another real-estate developer named Trump has basically been running a money-laundering machine for Russian billionaire oligarchs. Worse, they have yet to appropriate even fifty cents to beef up the staffs of the House and Senate intelligence committees investigating Russia’s corruption of the United States of America’s 2016 election. And not even this week’s revelations of egregious actions by President Trump have bestirred them to accelerated action.
Meanwhile, the most capable investigation team—the FBI—has been castrated by President Trump because it asked the Executive Branch for more money to get at the truth behind all this corruption. The firing of James Comey would easily have been justified if done by President Obama on Trump’s stated grounds (mishandling of Hillary Clinton). Obama sadly-but-properly failed to do so because it would have been tantamount to a partisan and self-serving move at the time–perhaps even obstruction of an ongoing investigation, which is what Trump may have just done. This instinct for restraint is utterly foreign to Trump whose actions amount to a contemptuously blatant effort to squelch an investigation getting too close to home for him. His crooked actions keep on coming: yesterday we learn that Trump may have asked Comey to squelch his further pursuit of Flynn’s possible wrongdoing.
Hard to imagine, isn’t it. With “their” president wreaking havoc on both the processes and principles of democracy, the Republicans in Congress are hiding in the bushes along with Sean Whatshisname, Meanwhile, the senior management of our Department of Justice is mocking its very name by trashing self-recusals, crafting poison-pen post-hoc rationales for Comey’s firing, resisting appointment of an independent counsel, and casting a depressing (and possibly suppressing) pall over the non-political professionals at DOJ who work tirelessly and expertly to protect our cherished rule of law.
In a rare truthful statement, Richard Nixon famously declared, “[P]eople have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”
He was right about our need to know the truth about our Presidents. He was also right about not enriching himself. In those regards, he was stands in nearly noble contrast to Donald J. Trump.
Where they are joined at the hip is in their cunning corruption of our precious but fragile processes of democratic government that we take for granted every day. But they differ once again in what makes their corruption so cunning. Nixon was a stealth burglar who under cover of darkness and secrecy quietly short-circuited the integrity of government officials (think: using J. Edgar Hoover to investigate and intimidate those on his “enemies list”).
By contrast, Trump continues his march down Fifth Avenue seeking someone he can shoot in broad daylight to prove that he’s unstoppable and beyond the law. And the Republican majority in Congress has cravenly joined him in this parade, proving his thesis that bullies will almost always have their way because courage among others is so rare.
Our present moment has my mind awhirl with timeless axioms:
- Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely
- Silence may be golden, but sometimes it’s just plain yellow
- Now is the time for all good [persons] to come to the aid of their country
- All that is required for the triumph of evil is for [persons] of good will to do nothing
As someone who wishes no one ill, I am genuinely saddened to witness the self-evisceration of the Republicans in Congress. It’s one thing to blithely glance away from what they may deem a vague, airy-fairy obligation to “defend the Constitution”. It’s quite another to know, deep in their hearts, that they are colluding with the corruption of our democracy right this very second, that they are running scared and losing self-respect, that they are trading in their birthright for a mess of pottage that will turn rancid in their later years when their grandchildren ask or wonder why they ran away and hid when it came time to stand up and be counted.
So we can not count on Congress to provide any balance of power. As for the Executive Branch, in the firing of Comey we lost the one person who (despite his egregious errors that may have cost Hillary Clinton the presidency) seemed capable of speaking truth to the powerful corrupter in the Oval Office. We look in vain for the equivalents of Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus who publicly resisted Nixon’s improper orders to fire special counsel Archibald Cox when his investigation threatened to unmask Nixon.
And so at a moment like this, I am unspeakably grateful for that Trumpily declared “enemy of the people”, the Fourth Estate. I am reminded that without the brilliant and tireless work of Woodward and Bernstein and the principled leaking and guidance of “Deep Throat”, our democracy would have suffered devastating damage. So, too, today. Without the relentless investment of time and money by truly independent investigators, the quest for truth would already have slipped off to the sidelines while our flamboyant congenital liar of a President skillfully changes the subject hour by hour, deflecting and diluting any concentration on what damage he and his lackeys may be perpetrating through their astounding mashup of avarice, ignorance, and cowardice.
The Congressional cowards who are complicit in Trump’s trashing of principle and process are unlikely to suddenly have a change of heart and take the risk of being true to themselves and the American people who elected them. As when Trump called for the Russians to intervene in the life of Hillary Clinton, I’m now calling—begging, really—for a latter-day Deep Throat to take it upon him/herself to provide the Fourth Estate with what it needs to do the job Congress and the DOJ should do but won’t. Leaking Donald J. Trump’s income tax returns might be a fine place to begin…