Trump and Python Go Together Again — Brave, Brave, Sir Donald

Its hard not to see the Trump presidency as a full time Monty Python marketing campaign.

I feel particularly bad for the US Navy here, they have to do what they are told.

But I can not avoid combining the Washington Post headline below and the scene from the Holy Grail, that clearly references our national leadership, “Brave Sir Donald” — particularly the last 30 seconds or so.

Despite talk of a military strike, Trump’s ‘armada’ actually sailed away from Korea

Stoking Paranoia — Trump to Remove Head of DC National Guard at 12:01 on Inauguration Day

A key element of fascism is a loyal paramilitary gang, and the elimination of any opposition to such a gang.

So the announcement, without any reason, that the head of the DC National Guard is to be fired at 12:01 PM on inauguration day as soon as Trump takes power, has to be taken as a scary sign.  As the Washington Post Reports (above link)

“The timing is extremely unusual,” [Guard Commander] Schwartz said in an interview Friday morning, confirming a memo announcing his ouster that was obtained by The Washington Post. During the inauguration, Schwartz would command not only the members of the D.C. guard but also an additional 5,000 troops sent in from across the country to help. He also would oversee military air support protecting the nation’s capital during the inauguration.

One would hope that this would be investigated.  But, by whom?

Hopefully this is about folks throwing their power around, which is bad enough. I would guess that there have been arguments between the transition team and the private security force.  Is this just payback, or intimidation, or centralizing control?

But, there are, of course, other theories about what is now going to happen at 12:01 that are truly frightening.  See you at Guantanamo.

P.S.  Recent reporting includes the possibility that the acceptance of a routine pro forma resignation was part of a batch.  But when folks behave the way these do, the burden of proof is on them.

How do you ask someone to be the first American to die for a Putin policy?

Testifying against the Vietnam war in 1971, John Kerry famously asked “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Today, given Trumps’s conflicts and the likely illegitimacy of the election result, due to the events that led to the CIA hacking finding, we now have to ask:

How do you ask someone to be the first person to die for a Trump hotel?

How do you ask someone to be the first person to die for a Putin policy?

I do not know how to answer the question, but I do know that this country is heading towards the largest crisis of leadership legitimacy it has ever faced.

Will McCain Meet With Family of Muslim Soldier Trump Attacked by Trump? Will Hilary be at the Meeting?

So, now John McCain has very very strongly criticized Trump for his attacks on the Muslim soldier’s family.

Will he meet with the family? And will the family only agree if Hilary is there too?

By the way, what sense does this phrase of McCain’s make?

I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers or candidates.

Is this a problem with McCain’s grasp of reality, given that Trump is the most important Republican candidate right know. But that just makes no sense, since the statement as a whole is totally reality grounded.

Surely it has to mean that, notwithstanding the convention and the formal nomination,  and the integration with the party machine, McCain does not regard Trump as a Republican candidate. Note that McCain did not say:  “I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers or ITS OTHER candidates.”

If so, surely this means that this was decided at a far higher level, that there is now an effective release for all Republicans from any duty of loyalty.  If so, presumably W and H and Romney will be next, and anything can happen.  At a minimum, the election would be over.

Trump Takes on the Soldiers — Remember When a Demagogue Last Did That?

So, as reported by Politico,  Donald is taking on the soldiers now:

Donald Trump rang in the Army’s 241st birthday in unusual fashion on Tuesday — by calling attention to theft of government funds by American soldiers in Iraq.
“Iraq, crooked as hell. How about bringing baskets of money — millions and millions of dollars — and handing it out?,” Trump said at an evening rally. “I want to know who were the soldiers that had that job, because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be.”

Now, as Politico reports in the same story, there have been instances of theft by US military, and, of course, the campaign does claim that the reference was to Iraqi soldiers.

But, and its hard to forget this, it was only when fellow demagogue Joe McCarthy took on the military that he was finally held to account.

A salutary precedent.




Sorry Donald, The Only Response to Political Hacking is Transparency

We now hear that the Russan, presumably the intelligence services, have hacked into the DNC’s data, including the opposition research on Trump.

After getting beyond asking myself the question as to  who in Moscow I could contract to get my own copy of the file (or sharing here, of course,) I realized that the biggest issue is Trump’s susceptibility to blackmail.

Its not only what’s in the files Moscow got, its in what those might lead to for a investigator not constrained the way the DNC and its contractors.

It is terrifying to think that we could have a president susceptible to blackmail from Moscow for any of a number of reasons derived from his activities.

Once someone willing to use it for blackmail has harmful information, the only way to defang that possibiity is to release all the information.  This destroys the threat, which is much worse than whatever the information might be.  Makes you worry even more about those tax returns, and the wisdom of the suggestion that the RNC should pass a tax filing disclosure requirement for candidates to be considered at the convention.

Of course, the need to defang the information as soon as possible is greatest of all when the only credible retaliatory threat Trump might have would be military.




The Signs to Look For Dictatorship In a Trump Presidency

While it is easy to be glib about Hitler-Trump comparisons, it is also totally appropriate to think about what the signs might be that a Trump Presidency was turning into a dictatorship.  (See NYT articles on constitutional scholars’ concerns.)  Moreover, it would also be appropriate to look for, and publicize the things he is already doing or saying that might indicate a willingness to take those steps.  Also of interest, whether these things were previously being done by other politicians.  More importantly, perhaps, is the question whether a US president could do those things, or rather what checks and balances would have to be overcome.

I have to admit that I started this list expecting to reassure myself how far even a Trump Presidency would be from such a situation.  Actually, however, he seems, at least rhetorically, to have taken first steps on almost all these paths.  To be a bit less frightening, I have therefore split them into two classes: “First Signs” and “Tipping Points.”

“Tipping Points” being the ones from which there is no return.  Most of them represent fundamental destruction of our system of checks and balances.  “Tipping points” usually require governmental as well as political power.

Sadly, we are already seeing most of the “first signs,” most of which do not require governmental power.

I.  First Signs

Attempts to Intimidate the Media

Obviously, a truly free media is critical to a democracy.  While some would argue that he does not really intend to intimidate the media, that in fact he wants and needs what can be perceived as their hostility, it is unarguable that he engages in behavior that is objectively intimidating.  Perhaps worst is the encouraging of physical fear in journalists, and the control over credentials (not limited, sadly to the Trump campaign, but very different in his overall context)

Ignoring of Legislative Mandates and Conditions

I am not sure that this one should not be listed as a “tipping point,” except that so far he has no executive power.  He has certainly threatened Paul Ryan.  I would think that counts. (No comment on what kind of protector of the Constitution Ryan has proved to be here.)

Demonization/Dehumanizarion of Political Opponents

No doubt about this one.  From ncknames to insults, to threats (e.g on sending Clinton to jail.)

Failure to Protect Minorities/Freedom of Speech

Deportation and exclusions, racial derogation of judges, threats on Washington Post owner, the list is endless.

Blaming Problems on Unpopular Groups

The analytic problem here is that he blames problems on almost everyone, even majority groups (like women), but his pattern is to attack those against there is already a pattern of public hostility.  Fanning those flames is the essence of demagoguery.

Attacks on the Legal Profession?

Interestingly, we seemed not to attract his ire, even though we are unpopular.  He focuses on judges, and the laws, not lawyers.  It may have something to do with how many he must rely on given the massive number of law suits he has been involved with.  So, lawyers are powerful and unpopular, and he leaves us alone.  What does that mean?

Does it have anything to do with our profession’s relative silence on Trump?  (Interestingly, it appears that the legal profession did not take on Hitler’s rise to power, although there was heroic resistance from some after the event. I am no expert on this, so would welcome correction.) It may be that the above linked NYT article is the beginning of a change.  It will be interesting to see if we are now honored with attacks.

II.  Potential Tipping Points

Establishing Personal Paramilitary Outside the Chain of Command

This is truly a frightening possibility, which if achieved, essentially could put him beyond control by all  the other institutions of our society.

We do know that he has a far tougher internal security system that most candidates, and is totally used to getting his way.  Moreover, his contempt for recognized constitutional limitations on the military has to be seen as a strong warning sign.

Use of Systematic Violence by Supporters

We see this already, as well as a willingness to encourage it.  If nothing else, it shows an absence of any kind of limits or constraints.  Watch for this for the warning that he sees social disintegration as an acceptable price (or perhaps benefit) of his keeping power and getting his way.

Use of IRS and Other Government Institutions to Intimidate and Punish

We saw this under Nixon, and I think that is the real reason that the system ultimately moved against him.  Particularly unacceptable to the corporate elite was the contribution shakedown.  Interestingly, it may have been this that resulted in limited corporate opposition to 1970s campaign finance reform.  The reform was a protection for corporations.  That lesson is lost.

Given the already explicit threats to people like Bezos, he has already make clear his willingness on this one, and maybe thats why so much of the non-party corporate elite is getting nervous.

Extra-Judicial Arrests

Game over, with the foundation set by W.

There is, of course, a difference between fighting against writs of habeas corpus in court, and actually refusing to obey them when granted.

Ignoring Court Orders

Again, there’s a difference between a “signing statement,” and an ultimate refusal to obey a court order that such a statement is invalid in context.  But its hard to imagine a President Trump not at least flirting with the threat of not obeying court orders, given his record of trying to de-legitimate courts.  Even the threat would be damaging beyond imagining.  Contrast Nixon: “This President obeys the law.”  (Look at this article by, of all people Robert Bork (who fired Cox) talking about Nixon Counsel Wright: “Nor was Haig thrilled with Wright’s flamboyant statement to the district court in handing over the subpoenaed tapes, when he asserted, “This president obeys the law,” leaving the question of which president didn’t obey the law unanswered.”  I hope we never get our answer to that question.

Supreme Court Packed With Personal Allies

OMG.  Do you really feel comfortable relying on Mitch McConnell to prevent this?  Such a full switch would mean the end of all the protections implicitly relied upon in the above analysis.

Its good to see that in the last few days there has started to be serious attention to these threats.

p.s.  The Guardian has and article with a number of historian views on issues related to this.