The authoritarian president stumbles bigly

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson briefs reporters about the Federal court ruling that temporarily ended President Trump's week old "travel ban."  

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson briefs reporters about the Federal court ruling that temporarily ended President Trump's week old "travel ban."  

San Francisco
February 5, 2017

By R.B. Scott

The arrival of major league baseball pitchers and catchers at their spring training homes next weekend traditionally marks the beginning of the end of winter. It is a workable metaphor for the emergence of fresh hopes and dreams.  

Could this year be the exception?  

There are few promising signs that the nation is about to emerge from this unprecedented winter of discontent. Most troubling is mounting evidence that the recently inaugurated chief executive officer of the United States has no intention whatsoever of honoring the laws of the land he was sworn to uphold a few weeks ago.  

With every impetuous, stumbling step he takes, he offends friends and foes alike, both foreign and domestic.

Last Monday (1/30/17) President Donald Trump summarily fired his acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, the nation’s chief legal officer, because she had the temerity to question the constitutionality of a presidential edict that was imposed on the world without any planning or forewarning. No surprise it disrupted virtually all international flights headed for the U.S. over last weekend and suspended visas of  thousands of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Five days later (2/3/17)  he disparaged James Robart, a Federal district court judge in Seattle appointed by former President George Bush, for suspending the presidential edict nationwide. Responding to compelling briefs from Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson and joined by Minnesota, Robart supported his decision with a seven-page written opinion indicating there was probable cause the presidential order was unconstitutional, as Acting Attorney General Yates had argued a week earlier.   

Predictably, the Tweet-happy  president countered with a series of disparaging missals beginning with "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!"

For now, the courts beg to differ.  Just last night (Saturday, 2/4/17)  the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected  hasty White House petitions for injunctive relief from the rulings of the "so called" judge in Seattle.  

The pressing question remains: when the courts rule finally against him, will Trump and his anarchist-in-chief, Steve Bannon, acknowledge the errors of their ways?  Probably not. It is more likely they will blame the media for the setback and find new ways to distract, disrupt and stretch the limits of the law, thereby testing the patience of a democracy that has thrived for 241 years. 

Rising authoritarianism in Washington can be staunched.  Here are some ideas.

Persuade Evan McMullin, the 11th-hour independent candidate for president and former CIA officer, to continue to carry-on.  He gets it. Today (Sunday 2/5/17) on CNN's Reliable Sources McMullin asserted that the country is witnessing the emergence of an authoritarian regime.  Paraphrasing: "As a CIA officer...I lived under authoritarian regimes...I can see them coming from a mile off...and it's happening here."

Insist that CNN correspondents (and others like them), particularly those who covered and commented on the mindless destructive riots Wednesday (2/2/17) night at the University of California and referred to Berkeley as the “birthplace of the free speech,” pass a basic American History test.  Beforehand, they should study-up on founders like Thomas Paine, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.  Include  contemporary thinkers who arrived on the scene generations before the advent of the alleged “free speech” movement of the late 1960s.

Fire Kellyanne Conway, the irritating Trump cheerleader who is comfortably anchored in her own little dizzying world of alternative facts, obfuscations and trite penchant for blaming the media for everything.   Enough is enough.  Sack her for deliberately perpetuating the colossal lie about a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Bench Democrat leaders like Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi who continue to numbly assert they can salve the wounds that led to Trump and Bernie Sanders.  They are the problem and have been for some time. Nothing has changed.  If they can’t fade away altogether, they should quietly withdraw to the wings. Please!

Listen carefully to Judge Neil Gorsuch, who has been nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Some of his approaches to personal rights are very conservative. So what? Supreme Court nominees must not be subjected to political litmus tests. The continued health of the nation depends on serious input from all sides of every issue. Gorsuch has demonstrated substantial intellectual depth, judicial and personal integrity and an admirable sense of humor.  Critically, the intensity of his arguments supporting the separation of powers in government suggest that he will not be easily whipsawed by Trump or his posturing surrogates. Recall that he praised and commiserated with the highly regarded and moderate Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated for the high court by President Obama but couldn’t even get a hearing because of obstructionist Republicans in the Senate.

Before Utah's seven-term  Seantor Orrin Hatch (the longest serving Republican in history) whines anon about shameless game-playing petulant Democrats, he should recall his own party's shoddy treatment of Garland. Side note: the 82-year-old Hatch is considering re-election in 2018.    

Compromise. Have "negotiate" and "reconcile" become obscene verbs in our polarized nation?  Here's a crazy idea: could obstreperous Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee finally agree to vet Garland and send his nomination to the full Senate in exchange for a similar pledge from Democrats when it is Gorsuch’s turn to rise? Or, vice versa. Unlikely? Obviously! Impossible? Perhaps.  

Would the nation benefit from such an approach?  Absolutely!

Any and all attempts to advance such a solution would be productive on many fronts.  For instance, evidence of renewed collegiality in Congress might persuade some tottering justices on the court to step aside before the Lord summons them home.

Reject Betsy DeVos. Summarily. Immediately. Her astonishing ignorance may be entertaining from time to time, but it is frighteningly obvious that she is tone deaf to the serious needs of public education. Clearly her nomination was payback for her family’s financial contributions to the Trump campaign. Qualified conservative candidates are plentiful.  Select one of them. Please!

Rethink public education alternatives completely.  Competition is good, generally. School choice is the foundation of viable program that could include vouchers. However, most American families cannot make-up the difference between the voucher stipend and real tuition costs at private schools.  A responsive formula could include: public school choice; income tax deductions for families with children in private schools; vouchers for every student, however, in return for tax deduction benefits, all per-pupil voucher-subsidies for students in private schools should be earmarked for needs-based scholarships.  

Challenge Trump often, bluntly and fairly. He’s way out of his depth.  Probably, he knows he is unqualified. While his authoritarian, manipulative approach seems to be faltering, it continues to play reasonably well with his base, for now.  Let the legal cases against him go forward.   Deal with outcomes appropriately.

Despite Trump’s promises to the contrary, there is mounting evidence that the president is still intricately involved in the family businesses.  Opportunities are rife for serious conflicts of interests.  And, then there’s the malingering issue of no tax returns.  Does anyone doubt they contain damning evidence that he considers himself to be above the law?

And, then there's Steve Bannon. What to do? Clearly he has Trump's ear. Mind too, and goodness knows what else. He is a master of disruption and destruction.  Bannon's avowed targets are both major political parties and the United States of America. So far he seems on target.

Capable Richard Nixon’s twisted, paranoid view of the world was very similar to Trump's. It was his Achilles heel. Who knows what will happen as Winter gives way to Spring?  Trump could disassemble before the first crack of the bat in April leaving the nation intact but in need of its own pinch hitter.

No wonder Melania is remaining in Manhattan.