Starr

No Rationalizing Allowed


Reading time – 4:05  .  .  .

Arguments abound about whether to prosecute Donald Trump once he’s out of office for his alleged extensive and nefarious lawbreaking both before and since becoming President. He may be Dear Leader to his MAGA nation followers, but in the eyes of the law he is, at best, a suspect in numerous felonious activities. What are we to do with this?

If Trump is indicted and prosecuted for his many crimes like extortion, multiple counts of obstruction of justice, money laundering, tax fraud, bank fraud and so much more, his angry followers will become yet more enraged and our national divide will surely widen. Some of the hot heads may commit violent acts including vandalism and maybe murder. After all, they are well armed and many believe that the Second Amendment is their Constitutional protection against the evils of government encroachment and is the right tool to use when they feel aggrieved. They may believe it’s their patriotic duty to violently overthrow the government, having been told repeatedly that anything that looks different from Trump World is unpatriotic. Use your own imagination to conjure what red-faced angry people might do if their cult leader is indicted. Preventing such dangerous events is a strong argument against prosecuting Trump. I think, though, that it fails to persuade and is, in fact, negotiating against ourselves. Here’s why.

Richard Nixon was clearly guilty of obstruction of justice of the congressional investigation into the Watergate “Plumbers,” the burglars who broke into the Democratic National Headquarters in what was labeled a “third rate burglary.” Nixon finally left office when Republican senators told him the jig was up and he had to resign or he would be impeached and removed from office. In other words, he was so plainly guilty of having broken laws that even Republicans couldn’t or wouldn’t protect him, so he resigned. That was good. It was also the beginning of a lot of bad.

In a tortured piece of logic that flew in the face of the rule of law, Gerald Ford granted a “full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in  .  .  .  ” That logic was:

”  .  .  .  the tranquility to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost by the prospects of bringing to trial a former President of the United States. The prospects of such trial will cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.”

In other words, jeez, some people might become upset over Nixon being held to account for his criminal acts, so we should simply do nothing. So much for accountability.

Do you really want Presidents to have one of these?

Ford took a lot of heat for that pardon and was defeated in the next election, but Nixon went on a tour to rehabilitate his public image so that he could be seen as an elder statesman, rather than the felon he truly was. And that surely cranked up the get-out-of-jail-free card that we’ve issued to all tenants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since then.

Reagan negotiated with the Iranians before his 1980 election and persuaded them not to release our people who were being held hostage. He convinced the Ayatollah with promises favorable to Iran, to hold the hostages until after the election so that Reagan would more easily defeat Carter. That’s illegal, but there was no accountability.

Reagan had his fingerprints all over the Iran-Contra crimes. As close as he got to being held accountable was a reporter calling out to him as he and Nancy walked across the White House lawn from Marine 1. He cupped his hand to his ear and mouthed, “I can’t hear you,” and the scandal slipped off him as though he were coated with Teflon. No accountability.

When he was president, H.W. Bush pardoned the Iran-Contra criminals, which was doubly interesting because Bush was part of the criminal conspiracy and the cover up, so he benefited from those pardons and escaped accountability.

Clinton lied to a grand jury and got away with it. Of course, the circumstances were muddy because Ken Starr had spent 4.5 years looking under every rock for anything Clinton had ever done that might be indictable and found nothing but illicit sex in the Oval Office, which isn’t a crime. So, Starr set up Clinton by forcing him to embarrass himself by telling the truth or lying.

W. Bush got away with the torture of prisoners and lying us into 2 wars. Torturing was and is illegal. I don’t know if lying to Congress to get us into wars is illegal. It sure ought to be.

W. Bush and Cheney got away with awarding massive, no-bid contracts to Halliburton.

Obama got away with refusing to prosecute CIA people who did Bush’s torturing.

And now we have Trump violating the law over and over.

The point is that none of the perps has been held accountable , resulting in violations becoming so ordinary that we no longer expect anything to be done, other than some partisan gnashing of teeth. Refusing to hold wrong-doers accountable guarantees we’ll have more and worse wrong-doing in the future. As horrid as Trump is, I fear the felon who follows him even more.

If Trump is allowed to get away with his noxious crime spree, we can be certain that some future President will do far worse, safe in the knowledge that there will be no accountability. And in our refusing to act properly and hold leaders accountable, invoking any of our rationalized reasons in the manner of Gerald Ford, we are eliminating – demolishing – the rule of law and our very democracy that we say we hold dear.

Caving into threats from MAGA cultists would amount to that very thing. In fact, it amounts to caving in to terrorists. Absurdly, any argument against holding Trump accountable now is caving into the fears of our imagination.

Perhaps you share my preference not to have terrorists running our country. Perhaps you agree with the Founders who refused the divine right of kings and declared that this nation will never have a king. It’s why they set us up with presidents instead. Indeed, read the Declaration of Independence, specifically to review the list of abuses of power of King George III, who was never held to account except by losing a colony. That’s what we will have and perhaps far worse if we neuter the rule of law.

If we want accountability from our leaders, we must hold them accountable. No rationalizing allowed.

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Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Double Standard


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Reading time – 4:56  .  .  .

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, there have been many times when it was the reverse. But this is how it is today.

Newt Gingrich was giddy in his self-righteous moralizing in pursuit of bringing down Bill Clinton following the 1994 mid-term election that put Republicans in charge of Congress. He was thrilled that Ken Starr was investigating the Clintons, looking for anything  indictable. You know – witch hunting.

Starr investigated the suicide death of Vince Foster, deputy White House counsel, and found no wrongdoing by the Clintons. He looked into the Whitewater land deal in Arkansas and found a dumb investment, but found no wrongdoing. This pattern persisted through the investigation of the White House travel office, accusations of tampering with FBI files, the Rose law firm, Paula Jones, Madison Guarantee Savings & Loan and hints they didn’t believe in the Easter bunny. No criminal wrongdoing was found. None.

Then, quite apart from Starr’s efforts, Bill Clinton’s sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky dropped into Starr’s lap. Starr managed to set Clinton up in an embarrassing way and Clinton lied to avoid embarrassment. Presto! Something indictable. The relentless, pointless, moralizing pursuit by Starr and a very aggressive Republican Congress had paid off.

Later Barack Obama was elected president and the games began anew. On the night of Obama’s electoral victory Mitch McConnell and a handful of Republican vigilantes sat in a DC restaurant scheming about what they would do to bring Obama down. Their plan was to oppose anything Obama supported, regardless of merit or value to the public or even whether the issue had previously been championed by Republicans. McConnell even went public, declaring the new Republican holy mantra that Job #1 was to ensure that Barack Obama would be a 1-term president. Jobs for Americans wasn’t number 1. Neither was the stabilizing of our economy that was cratering and in peril of free-falling into a terrible economic depression. Not even national security was number one.

When Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled, “You lie!” at Obama during a speech to a joint session of Congress in September 2009, most Republicans were eerily silent or mealy mouthed about Wilson’s violation of Congressional decorum and his galactic stupidity. To be fair, he did get censured.

The Affordable Care Act passed on a straight party-line vote in March 2010 when Democrats controlled Congress and had just enough votes to prevent a Republican filibuster.

Then the 2010 mid-term election put control of Congress back in the hands of Republicans and the wheels of government immediately ground to a halt in accordance with the dictum of the McConnell vigilantes. That was okay for the Republicans and they took great joy in criticizing Obama for failure to accomplish anything except what was done by executive order. The Republicans loved to bray that the EOs were unconstitutional, yet it was their own obstruction that made them necessary.

And all the while the Republicans were deafeningly silent when the Birther lies began and have largely stayed that way even to the present.

Another outfall of the 2010 mid-term election was that Darrell Issa (R-CA) became chair of the House Oversight committee. He promised to hold hundreds of investigations into the Obama administration. Likely you remember his investigation into the birth control requirements of the ACA, a hearing at which he refused to allow any women – including Sandra Fluke – to testify before the all male committee. This is the same Darrell Issa who wouldn’t allow Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to make a statement – he cut off his microphone.

The Republicans held 7 investigations into the Benghazi tragedy in failed attempts to lay blame on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They didn’t hold those hearings to learn the truth – the facts were already well known. They held them to sustain a smear campaign into the 2016 election.

This is the post-truth Republican world, where accusation has the weight of fact and where Rudy Giuliani is free to tell us that, “Truth isn’t truth.”

Their Through the Looking Glass untruths, all of that brutal obstruction, the false allegations, the relentless smears and the rest were okay for the Republicans.

Now, things have changed. Democrats are in control of the House and will be able to do the investigations that should have already happened. Impeachment over obstruction of justice and repeated violations of the Emoluments Clause screams for attention. And in this environment of obvious Trump felonious activities, combined with two years of Republican led protection of Trump and their refusal to dig for truth, Republicans are now telling Democrats to play nice!

They musn’t overreach. Don’t pile on. Don’t start impeachment proceedings  because the Republicans will spray paint cable news with moralized pronouncements of Democratic excess and meanness.

Clearly, it’s okay for Republicans to thump bibles of righteousness and do any mean spirited thing in pursuit of their advantage. That’s somehow good and right. Now, if we’re to believe them, Democrats have to play nice like little girls at a make believe luncheon for their dolls.

Get ready for this moralizing double standard. It’s already started.

I’ll say it again: There have been times when party positions and practices were the reverse of this. To pretend that’s what matters now, though, is to ignore the dire reality before us.

We have entered a time when majorities of our citizenry willfully believe patently false things all the time. They have been fed a steady diet of lying propaganda for so long that they no longer question anything. It is the triumph of the Big Lie.

Our responsibility right now is to call it out – to fight the fraud. If instead we sit on our hands, we will welcome George Orwell’s dystopian future.

This time it falls to the Democrats to unmask the Big Lie. And it’s up to you and me to make certain that they do. To get started, click here.

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Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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