Terry H. Schwadron
May 25, 2019
Sometimes you need to roll a news item around a couple of times in your head before it finds a context that makes sense.
A few seemingly independent actions yesterday feel that way:
After all, the decision by British Prime Minister to step down over paralysis in that country over Brexit, a move by Donald Trump to give some sweeping powers to Atty. Gen. William P. Barr in disclosing classified secrets and a move by the Trump administration to circumvent Congress altogether to sell more serious weapons to Saudi Arabia would all seem to have nothing to do with one another.
But on reflection, we have governmental paralysis here, yet rather than resign or consider compromising on dealings with Congress, Donald Trump is resorting to ridicule, fake, insulting videos of opponents and day-is-night defense of his own bad behaviors. He is willing, eager even, to keep the spotlight on his own adulation rather than acknowledge that he needs to work with Congress on behalf of progress for the American public he is supposed to serve.
Trump is giving Barr powers that he should be leaving to the intelligence agencies in declassifying information from those agencies in a not-well-hidden attempt to embarrass and perhaps prosecute those who started the all-things-Russia investigation. Barr was already working jointly with the intelligence agencies, so what was the purpose of the move other than to further weaponize the Justice Department for partisan political purpose. Within hours, it was clear that there was conflict between the CIA and Justice.
And Trump — and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — are bound to anger Congress members and senators from both parties for using an “emergency” mechanism to sidestep bringing the weapons sale for the Saudis before the Congress. Members of Congress from both parties have been clear in seeking to withhold such sales unless the Saudis fess up with more details about the murder of American writer Jamal Khashoggi this year in its Turkish embassy.
What ties all this together is the incredibly untamable ego of Donald Trump, whose view of leadership is more king-like than presidential, whose desire for authoritarianism is so vast as to see no issue with democracy in seeking to crush any political opponent or dissent.
The Brexit discord in Britain obviously is quite layered by now, with the original separation vote from Europe having given birth to subordinate political groupings of people who want or don’t want a redo, with people who want an orderly separation or not, with splits among the traditional parties over the weirdness of the reality of a fully removed Britain. Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision follows multiple failures to get any majority in Parliament to agree on any aspect of carrying out the plebiscite for separation.
It is noteworthy both that Trump is a supporter of Brexit and complete separation and that Parliament has dis-invited him from speaking before British lawmakers when he makes a visit to Britain in coming weeks.
Were it Trump rather than May in the leader’s chair, even acknowledging different political systems, one would have to conclude that our leader would simply declare an “emergency” and bypass Parliament altogether, just as his has on tariffs policies against China and Europe, on withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, on spending on the Wall and so many other issues. Why is it that the need for personal views of strength need result in undermining the systems of governance?
So, too, then, it is the Trump self-view that says that he knows better than Congress or the intelligence agencies about what is needed or not, about violating their longstanding rituals about examining treaties or weapons sales or protocols to declassify secret documents. The powers for an attorney general who openly says he is in his job to protect the president is a dangerous development when applied towards individuals who have been seen as opposing the president. In an increasingly volatile Middle East, sidestepping public debate in Congress is a total reflection of Trump egoism, not of good policy making.
What is important to Trump is Trump. If a change in policies can help Trump, it is a good change, regardless of whether it is a slap in the face of the Constitution or the traditional roles for Congress or 17 different intelligence agencies. Having won a narrow edge in the Mueller Report conclusions that no criminal charges of conspiracy or obstruction of justice be filed, Trump is now on a tear to prove that originators of the Russia probe were “treasonous” people who were trying to pursue of coup of a Trump government.
Along the way, we see Trump spending his time in public insults, in tweeting out purposely slowed video edited to make Speaker Nancy Pelosi look drunk or impaired, calling out “treason” without apparently knowing its actual meaning.
Yes, those were independent news items yesterday. But the dominance of the Trump ego redefines even these to fit within the narrative that Trump trumps all.