Tuesday, November 24, 2020

<b>November 24, 2020</b> 

<u>Have we touched bottom?</u>

It would be pleasant, and soul-refreshing, to be able to think about something other than politics, other than Trump.  Unfortunately, that’s about like not thinking of wind in the midst of a hurricane.  Even after Trump is ushered out of the White House, he’ll hover over us, in person or through the destructive movement of which he became the symbol.

Twice before I have speculated as to how low Trumpism could go, reacting to the cruelty of the anti-immigration policy of separating children from parents, then the irresponsible arguments of his lawyers and the craven behavior of his Senate enablers during the impeachment trial.  Not surprisingly, Trump and his minions have set a third benchmark, this time undermining democratic government by refusing to accept the result of the election and disrupting the transition.

Donald Trump is such a pathetic figure that one could feel sorry for him if he didn’t cause so much suffering.  He cannot face having lost the election, in part because the Presidency protects him from some of his numerous legal challenges, but partly because he is afraid of being labeled a loser.  He may, at some depth, know that he is one.  His reputation for business success was partly an illusion, given multiple bankruptcies, and to the extent it was real, it depended on help from his father.  As the saying goes, he wasn’t really a tycoon; he just played one on television.  His real success was — as he would put it — as a star, in that sham, <i>The Apprentice</i>. Similarly, he wasn’t really a president; he just played that part, bragging about the ratings for his news conferences.  He was in his element at rallies, where he was a star again.  All of this reminds me of a book title, <i>President Reagan: the Role of a Lifetime</i>.1  However, Ronald Reagan, however one ranks him, was in an entirely different class from the incumbent player.

Trump won the Presidency four years ago only because of our anti-democratic electoral system.  He lost the popular vote by 2.8 million, an embarrassment so great that he was forced to dream up theories of fraud to explain it.  Now, having lost the electoral vote, and the popular by a larger margin, he again claims fraud and searches for ways to parlay that baseless claim into victory.

The most extreme gambit was described November 19 on Fox, by one of his attorneys, Sidney Powell: the election “in all the swing states should be overturned, and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for Trump.”2  His recent meeting with Michigan lawmakers may have been an attempt to push that plan.  If so, it failed.  It probably will fail in other states as well, but the mere fact that it has been considered marks another milestone on the road toward the destruction of democracy.

Consistency is not Ms. Powell’s strong suit (nor, to be fair to her, is it of the man she attempts to serve and protect).  Also on November 19, at a press conference with Rudy Giuliani, she asserted that “President Trump won by a landslide.”3  However, in that same meeting she  claimed this: “What we are really dealing with here and uncovering more by the day is the massive influence of communist money through Venezuela, Cuba and likely China and the interference with our elections here in the United States.”  If Trump won decisively, why demand that legislatures overturn the election and why trot out a nutty theory to explain how Biden won unfairly?  Perhaps she means that Trump would have won —of course by a landslide — if not for the massive conspiracy, a conspiracy so obviously imaginary that she must fall back on communists as the bad guys.

Giuliani added to the fun by seeming to assert that votes somehow were counted in Germany and Spain and by claiming that a truckload of (no doubt fraudulent) ballots mysteriously appeared at a Detroit election center at 4:30 a.m.

Ms. Powell’s comments, at the press conference and later, apparently crossed a line heretofore invisible in a campaign built on fantasy and falsehood.  Giuliani and  Jenna Ellis, Trump campaign “senior legal adviser,” disowned Ms. Powell on November 22.  She is, according to them, “not a member of the Trump Legal Team,4 even though she had been so described by Trump and was introduced as such by Giuliani, in Ms. Ellis’ presence, at the press conference.5  She is also “not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity;” she is merely “practicing law on her own,” but somehow was allowed to attend the press conference and speak at length.  True, Ms. Powell later attacked the Republican Governor of Georgia, but Trump also criticized his handling of the election.  Ms. Ellis is still on the team despite having called Trump an idiot and denounced his supporters for not caring that he was an "unethical, corrupt, lying, criminal, dirtbag."6  That was in 2016; perhaps there is a statute of limitations.

Trump’s refusal to admit defeat may soothe his bruised ego, but it led to his administration’s failure to cooperate in the transition.  That underscored the irresponsibility which has characterized his term of office by, among other effects, making it more difficult to combat the pandemic.

To the extent that he acknowledges his loss, his reaction is to lash out, firing officials who annoy him, and ordering or considering dangerous actions.  He sacked Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security, who had declared the election free of fraud, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.  Despite the turmoil that caused in the Defense Department, Trump considered an attack on Iran and ordered troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bowing to reality, Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, now has announced that the transition may begin.  Trump, still straddling his world and the real one, tweeted: “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”  Emily says it was her idea, not his.7

All of this thrashing about may be a challenge to the loyalty and gullibility of the base, but they probably are up to the task.  Even the Powell theories may survive her downfall.

Whatever tendency toward tribalism existed before 2016, however far the Republican Party had fallen  by then, the dire situation we now find ourselves in would not have developed, nor would disunion have reached its present dimensions, had it not been for Trump.  Perhaps he can console himself with that achievement as his legacy.


<br>1. Lou Cannon (1991)

<br>2. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/trump-election-overturn-biden_n_5fb73d38c5b618e45b46baca

<br>3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/11/19/fact-checking-craziest-news-conference-trump- presidency/?utm_campaign=wp_fact_checker&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_fact&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F2ce3707%2F5fb804409d2 fda0efb6e8504% 2F5b65de00ade4e 2779564ed94%2F31%2F45%2F285070d1b362510abc7aa221a64d66bc

<br>4 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/11/22/giuliani-releases-statement-distancing-trump- campaign-lawyer-sidney-powell/?utm_campaign=wp_politics_am&utm_medium=email&utm_source= newsletter&wpisrc=nl_politics

<br>5. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sidney-powell-trump-legal-team-disavows-association/

<br>6. https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/18/politics/kfile-jenna-ellis-2016-trump-comments/index.html

<br>7. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/11/23/us/joe-biden-trump#gsa-biden-emily-murphy


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