This is from the Sunday New York Times:
“At [national security advisor John] Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran . . .”
Let’s put this into perspective.
Gen. Colin Powell warned us against doing military stupid stuff in his Powell Doctrine decades ago. It’s grounded in the painful lessons of Vietnam and, while it has weathered criticism for being incomplete, it’s hard to disagree with Powell’s cautionary message. Sadly, we’ve pretty much ignored it time and again.
Not stated in the Powell Doctrine is another of his admonitions, the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. And so we do in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest wars in our history. Now John Bolton, always eager to flex US muscle, has asked for plans to strike Iran.
Can you imagine Donald Trump being a calming voice of reason to tether John Bolton to reality? Neither can I. If Bolton gets his way we will break yet another country where we will then be in perpetual war. And this story gets worse.
We are mired in the longest government shutdown in US history. The president is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to overpower Congress and get his useless wall. You need to understand what such a declaration can mean.
In a time of declared national emergency the president has vast powers. Here’s a partial list:
Suspend the Constitution – yes, SUSPEND THE CONSTITUTION!
Redirect money in blatant conflict with Congressional intent
Declare martial law
Deploy our military in-country
Seize control of the internet
Shut down communications (telephone, radio, television, etc.)
Freeze bank accounts – including yours
Suspend habeas corpus (i.e. imprison Americans without charge and without due process of law – Think: Guantanamo in Des Moines, IA)
Control the states’ voter databases
Sanction Americans without charge and leave them without recourse
Effectively, the president can become a monarch. Perhaps Trump will prefer autocrat or generalissimo or kommisar or general secretary or chairman. Regardless of the label, it will be the end of American democracy.
This president has repeatedly shown that he has no regard for Constitutional limits, much less respect for legislative and cultural norms. He’s given us no reason to believe that he would refrain from outrageous behavior following his declaring a national emergency. And with the help of Mitch McConnell for the past two years, Trump has packed the courts and his cabinet with people who likely would refuse to stand up to him.
A declaration of national emergency, whether for his fantasy claims of crisis at our southern border or for a pending or hot conflict with Iran or Argentina would be just the thing for Trump to consolidate power. Beyond fulfilling Trump’s bottomless ego needs, such a declaration will completely divert attention from his conspiracies with Russia. It’s the ultimate distraction and, perhaps, the negation of any investigation into his possible criminal activity.
Did I mention that this story gets worse? It does.
We never vote leaders out of office during war time and very rarely during any other national emergency. The only contrary example I can think of is Herbert Hoover, who lost the 1932 election to Franklin Roosevelt for his mishandling of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the point for us now is to be clear that a declaration of national emergency, regardless of the justification Trump uses, would likely ensure Trump’s reelection in 2020, if, indeed, we even have another election.
And that will make Vladimir Putin very happy. His only regret will be that he won’t have any more kompromat on Trump, because exposing Trump’s money laundering, his tax fraud, his obstruction of justice and his treason will no longer matter.
Wag the dog.
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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