Monday, June 12, 2017

Trump's Big CON: He Thinks He is King (or Godfather)

UPDATE IV:  "From a former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell:

All In w/Chris Hayes

Lawrence Wilkerson: Trump admin. is "like a mafia family... That's the way I view Pres. Trump now - as a godfather"
7:24 PM - 7 Jun 2017"

UPDATE III:  "Succeeding in politics in a democratic nation is different from making a go of it in a business centered on one person — or in an autocracy. Almost all of President Trump’s problems can be traced to his failure to grasp this. It explains why he now has such a big problem with former FBI director James B. Comey.

It’s not surprising that Trump’s warmest words have been reserved for autocrats. They run things the way he likes to run things. No obnoxious media. No annoying political opposition. No independent judiciary. No need to show any concern about the people who work for you. Despots can make them disappear. It’s no accident that “You’re fired” is the phrase that made Trump famous.

In Trump world, everything is a deal, everything is transactional, everything is about personal loyalty — to him. What can I give you to make you do what I want? What can I threaten you with to force you to do what I want? Will you be with me no matter what?

In constitutional democracies, rules and norms get in the way of this sort of thing. Other institutions in government have autonomy and derive their authority from being at least partly independent of politics. The boss does not have absolute power.

This is how we should understand Comey’s extraordinary prepared testimony released on Wednesday in advance of his Thursday appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. . .

There has been a lively debate among Trump critics about whether he’s dangerous because he’s inclined toward authoritarianism or because he’s incompetent. The Comey episode allows us to reach a higher synthesis in this discussion: Trump is incompetent precisely because he believes he can act like an autocrat in a constitutional democracy. This doesn’t work, and it makes him do stupid things.

Trump operates as if he were still running the Trump Organization, as if the rules that worked fine when nobody challenged him are the rules he’s under now. His worst mistakes flow from this profound misunderstanding.

As a democratic leader, Trump is an apprentice with little desire to learn. And his role models teach him the wrong lessons."

Read the Washington Post, Trump doesn’t understand how to be president. The Comey story shows why.

UPDATE II:  "Democracy isn’t possible without the rule of law — the idea that consistent principles, rather than a ruler’s whims, govern society.

You can read Aristotle, Montesquieu, John Locke or the Declaration of Independence on this point. You can also look at decades of American history. Even amid bitter fights over what the law should say, both Democrats and Republicans have generally accepted the rule of law.

President Trump does not. His rejection of it distinguishes him from any other modern American leader. He has instead flirted with Louis XIV’s notion of 'L’├ętat, c’est moi': The state is me — and I’ll decide which laws to follow."

Read The New York Times, The Lawless Presidency.

UPDATE:  "Trump’s seething anger at Sessions is disconcertingly similar to the anger that led him to fire Comey. As the Times previously reported, Trump privately 'burned' as he watched Comey testify to Congress about Russia’s efforts to tip the election to Trump, and was 'particularly irked' when Comey conceded his own intervention, via a letter about Clinton’s emails, may have influenced the outcome, which Trump 'took to demean his own role in history.' The Post added that Trump was 'infuriated' at the FBI’s failure to investigate and stop leaks, which have led to news accounts detailing what the Russia probe was finding.

Both Comey and Sessions enraged Trump because in some manner or other, they failed to show a level of loyalty to Trump that would have trumped (as it were) legitimate processes. Comey kept publicly validating the Russia investigation (which Trump dismisses as nothing but Fake News) and would not make it disappear by stopping leaks about it. Sessions recused himself to display (nominal) independence, which Trump somehow interpreted as a lapse into weakness that led to the special counsel, further affirming the probe’s weightiness. . .

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history at New York University who writes extensively on authoritarianism and Italian fascism, told me that a discernible trait of authoritarian and autocratic rulers is ongoing 'frustration' with the 'inability to make others do their bidding' and with 'institutional and bureaucratic procedures and checks and balances.'"

Read the Washington Post, Trump is now raging at Jeff Sessions. This hints at a deeply unsettling pattern.

"President Trump is used to being a king.

For decades, his word was the final word in his domain. His advisers, princes and princess might offer their insights, but the decision of what would happen in the Trump Organization was his alone, if he chose to weigh in. No board of directors, no stockholders, just Donald Trump, unchecked.

On the campaign trail, it seemed pretty clear that he assumed that the presidency worked the same way. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he said during his speech at the Republican convention in July, a marked break from the traditional appeal to getting Congress to unite behind an agenda. He repeatedly dismissed endemic problems as being easy — and, if he had the authority of a chief executive, of a king, perhaps they would have been.

Unfortunately for Trump’s ambitions, that’s not how the American government works. . .

[Congressinal oversight] is only one example of Trump’s bristling at the formal and informal checks that exist on his power. Others include:

Investigations. . .

Information. . .

The judiciary. . .

The filibuster. . .

Approval of his Cabinet. . .

Executive orders. . .

The media. . .

In the old days, high in his castle on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, such insolence could be waved away.

Now, as a president bound by rules, law and custom, his authority is not so sweeping and the opposition more robust — even as he scrambles to constrain it."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s war against the checks on his power keeps expanding.