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Saturday, July 22, 2017


Tin-pots and pans

by Tom Sullivan

Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk opens this weekend. Reading a review evoked the same dizzying sense that the world is coming apart that has been a feature of the nightly news for weeks. It is as if we are on "some barren, foam-whipped stretch of alien terrain," "merely a handful of the countless individuals suffering this nightmare—random spokes on a wheel spinning furiously out of control." Okay, maybe Trumpworld is not a "conceptual assault of thunderous intensity and emotion," but still a lot of us are asking ourselves, How do we get the hell off this beach?

Dahlia Lithwick summarizes just a few of the other unresolved questions posed by Donald Trump's asymmetrical warfare against the United States Constitution and the rule of law:

Can the president truly continue to enrich himself and his family by leveraging his office to benefit from foreigners? Can the president really fire the FBI director and admit he was thinking about the Russia probe while doing it? Can the president leak classified information to the Russians in the Oval Office? Can the president’s son take a meeting with Russians who are promising dirt on Hillary Clinton? Can he do that with multiple campaign advisers in the room? Can the president’s son-in-law attend such a meeting and still retain his security clearance?

Today, we have a new set of questions to toss on the pile: Can the president really pardon himself and all his friends, family, neighbors, and pets, plus fire Robert Mueller, plus threaten his attorney general?
Answers to those questions are in short supply, Lithwick writes. The system was not designed for a Trump.
The Framers erected an edifice of law intended to constrain power, and the president believes that framework is made of spun sugar and cobwebs. The United States is a nation built upon, as John Adams told us, “a government of laws and not of men.” The Trump administration adheres to no law, and whatever men or women keep faith with the law rather than him are discredited as biased against the president. This only goes one way: Norms are for losers, and laws are for poor people. And now Trump has his dream team of mob lawyers and mad dogs hard at work proving that the only lawyer without a disabling conflict of interest is the one pledging fealty to him.
We are in this fix precisely because — and Lithwick includes herself — Americans indulge in magical thinking about our laws and constitution, believing the system will always right itself, that the ACLU's and other watchdogs' lawyers will fix it. But don't bet your retirement on it. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Especially now.

"The rule of law is precisely as robust as our willingness to fight for it, Lithwick writes. "And to fight for it is not quite the same thing as to ask, 'Isn’t there a law?'” She doesn't exactly call for people to take to the streets, but the suggestion that it might be necessary is perched at the end of her post like a raven.

As Digby mentioned yesterday, should Trump fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Resistance groups are laying plans for just that. It it comes to that, remember to bring pots and pans. They made an impression in Iceland.

A new study issued by the Pentagon suggests that the post-war order "is not merely fraying but may, in fact, be collapsing," and the United States' preeminence in world affairs with it. Alternet summarizes:
Danger comes not just from great power rivals like Russia and China, both portrayed as rapidly growing threats to American interests, but also from the increasing risk of “Arab Spring”-style events. These will erupt not just in the Middle East, but all over the world, potentially undermining trust in incumbent governments for the foreseeable future.
Probably, our own was not one of the incumbent governments the Pentagon had in mind.

Don't forget the wooden spoons.