Banana Republicans: Trump and his party take America hostage
The news that President Donald Trump has not attended a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting in five months recalled satirist Dorothy Parker's reaction upon hearing that Calvin Coolidge had died. "How could they tell?" she asked. It is not quite accurate to say that the president has checked out when it comes to the deadly surge of coronavirus cases consuming America, because he never checked in. Even Trump's admission that he had downplayed the virus because he did not want America to panic was dishonest; he had not "downplayed" the virus so much as he had deliberately lied about it. And he did so not because he was afraid Americans would panic but because he was afraid they would hold him accountable. After all, avoiding accountability has been Trump's life mission.
Until American voters rejected him on Nov. 3, Trump was able to declare mission accomplished. Once stripped of presidential immunity and the services of an attorney general functioning as a one-man, two-legged protection racket, ex-President Trump may find himself subject to accountability on steroids: foreclosure proceedings, IRS penalties, lawsuits arising from alleged sexual assaults and criminal investigations based on the compendium of obstruction of justice evidence assembled by Bob Mueller and the fraud buffet currently being examined by New York prosecutors.
Trump presently occupies himself by tweeting untethered drivel about how the election he resoundingly lost was "rigged" and "fraudulent," how he won it and all the other deceitful gibberish for which history will remember him. None of this is true, and Trump's fellow Republicans know it. That, however, doesn't translate into the minimal courage necessary to state publicly that Trump lost and Joe Biden won.
Judge after judge, disinclined to permit smoke to be blown up their robes, has thrown out the empty post-election lawsuits filed by Trump. As for Trump's sci-fi contrivance that there has been some sort of chicanery in the vote tabulation, that was promptly debunked by his own Department of Homeland Security. "There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised," it stated.
Naturally, the facts have had little impact on those who comprise the Republican Party and are too terrified by Trump to place country over party. They are repeating the blather that he won the election and remaining silent about his refusal to cooperate in the presidential transition. "President Trump won this election, so everyone who's listening, do not be quiet," proclaimed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, despite the obvious reality that Trump had lost. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, tasked with promoting the rule of law abroad, refused to do so at home. When asked whether the refusal to cooperate in the transition could harm America, he said, "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."
The respectful acceptance of the peoples' will and full cooperation with an incoming administration is, of course, a democratic tradition that helps us heal wounds and binds us to one another as a single nation.
But it is more. Even in ordinary times, it is also crucial to discouraging hostile foreign powers and actors from exploiting confusion or gaps in our defenses. But when a riven nation is ravaged by an out-of-control pandemic, the national security imperative of a peaceful transition is greater still. Any president who gave a fig about his country would appreciate this.
"I did not believe how easily the Republican establishment, people who had been in Washington for a long time and had professed a belief in certain constitutional values and norms, would just cave," observed former President Barack Obama. Donald Trump and his party do not appear to care that we have taken on not just the appearance of a banana republic but some of its attributes. They have made a sad period in America's history even sadder.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.