19 Jul 2018
The New York Times International Edition
By Roger Cohen
A precursor to American martial law?
For Putin, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving. Republicans may grumble, but they are Trump’s enablers.
This time, Trump’s crossed the line! He’s done! He’s finished! He’s toast! How many times do I remember this refrain, all the way back to the Mexican “rapists” remark more than three years ago that established Trump to the right of all his Republican rivals on immigration and so launched his campaign? Yet he’s not finished. Since then we’ve had Trump’s talk of “some form of punishment” for women having an abortion; and “grab ’em by the pussy” as his approach to women; and African nations as “shithole countries”; and his moral equivocation over the Charlottesville neo-Nazis who were not so bad really; and his Administration’s sadistic treatment of immigrant children; and the European Union as “foe”; and thousands of false or misleading statements since taking office; and now the disgusting spectacle of the American president kowtowing in Helsinki to Vladimir Putin, whose denial of Russian interference in the 2016 election he credits over the findings of United States intelligence agencies! Yet he’s not done. Trump claims he misspoke in Helsinki when, alluding to his director of National Intelligence, he said: “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Now, Trump wants us to believe he wished to deploy a double negative, no less. A double negative! What he meant to say was: “I don’t see any reason why it WOULDN’T be Russia.” This is nonsense. Simple declarative sentences are also available, as in: “I believe that, in an act of aggression, Russian interfered in the 2016 election.” They have particular impact when the Russian president is standing next to you. No, Trump was in full Putin-pandering mode. He said that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” Besides, Russia is a place where Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails “wouldn’t be gone so easily.” Yuck. Yet Trump’s not finished. Even if he does daily damage to America’s standing in the world, conducts “diplomacy” with no preparation and no coordination with allies, believes he can wing it on the world stage with his rabble-rousing rally shtick, and, as William Burns, the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, put it to me, “leaves Putin looking bemused at this gift that keeps on giving.” Yet the lines Trump crosses — the endless indications that, as James Fallows put it in The Atlantic, he is either Russia’s “conscious tool” or “useful idiot” — never bring about his downfall. That is, above all, due to the corruption and debasement of the Republican Party, which has turned into the Trump party, roared on by the right-wing talk machine honed over many years now through Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest. The machine that says that Democrats are evil and want to blow up the American way of life — guns, God and all. The machine that said Barack Obama was a Kenyan socialist. “Republicans in Congress have responded in a spineless and morally vacant way to this president who is a horrible embarrassment,” Norman Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, told me. “They know that, other than on immigration and trade, Trump has no policy views. Their attitude is, ‘anything we can pass, he’ll sign, we can manipulate him, get the judges we want.’ But they’re trapped in a culture that’s almost cultlike and know that if they challenge Trump, the base will turn on them.” Most Republicans stuck with Nixon well after indications of wrongdoing emerged. But as the Watergate evidence piled up, they did begin to desert him. Still, with the exception of Senator John McCain, Ornstein does not see the likes today of Hugh Scott, John Rhodes, Howard Baker, Barry Goldwater, William Cohen and other leading Republicans who broke with Nixon. And so Trump is not done, not yet, not by any means. “The framers were very much aware that we could end up with an immoral demagogue,” Ornstein said. “They built in safeguards, the most significant being an independent Congress, with power of the purse, oversight, confirmation, impeachment. But at every level, this Congress has failed miserably. Republicans have done nothing but try and protect Trump, despite outrageous ineptitude, cabinet offices being manipulated to make money, children treated in criminal fashion — no oversight hearings, nothing! This is the biggest abdication I have ever seen.” Yes, some Republican lawmakers did raise their voices to denounce Trump’s interactions with Putin, or at least express confidence in American intelligence agencies. But these were mere words — too little, too late. They are complicit in Trump’s Russian complicity, his base, possibly criminal, flirtation. The president is not done. Soon, there may be indictments from Robert Mueller, the special counsel, of high officials or members of Trump’s family. What then? Ornstein’s nightmare scenario: Trump fires Mueller, pardons himself and everyone else, sends his followers into the street, and, after the inevitable bloodshed, declares martial law. Not yet. Not yet.
السلام علیکم و رحمۃ اللہ و برکاتہ!
محمّد عبد الحمید
ٖFollow me on Twitter @Mahameed40
مصنف، "غربت کیسے مٹ سکتی ہے" (کلاسیک پبلشرز، لاہور)