Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 17, 2020
Coincidental timing, maybe, but the underlying themes are disturbing.
On the same day that the House sent to the Senate impeachment charges seeking to restrain Donald Trump from doing whatever he wants in office — Constitutional limits notwithstanding — Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was reforming his government to assure Tsar-like powers beyond his prescribed term in office.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi underscored the point that the impeachment proceedings are meant to assure that Trump is not a king.
In Russia, Putin himself made sure all would recognize his regal role. In Washington, there was an abundance of pomp. Still, in both cases, the outcome of circumstances is all-but-assured by personality-based cults of party followers.
Quite apart from the mounting “evidence” of presidential wrongdoing in pressuring the Ukrainian leader into throwing dirt on Joe Biden — not actual evidence because some of what has emerged in recent days has not been entered into formal proceedings — what remains here are raw politics on all sides.
We have substituted the tyranny of temporary House and Senate majorities for any agreement to find out, hear from, even look at the emerging paper trail and witnesses to abuse of the Oval Office.
If you believe in Donald Trump, everything that was said under oath in House committee testimony, everything portending from hearing from John Bolton and representatives of the executive’s Management and Budget Office, everything underscored by written materials submitted voluntarily by Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s sidekick in the “shakedown scheme,” as Democrats call it, should simply be trashed.
Apparently you don’t care that the Governmnent Accountability Office has labeled the presidential decision to withhold Congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine as illegal. You are not curious about the continuing amassing of documents and voluntary testimony even since the impeachment vote.
Trump is to be revered say his fans — and Trump himself, not held to account, particularly by a opponent-dominated House review of his actions.
Even in the final House vote, Republican defenders of Trump said almost nothing about the president’s behavior, and, instead, aimed venom at those who would challenge the president, accusing Democrats of partisan fault-finding.
We’re all adults. We understand that there are more Republican senators than Democratic, and that the outcome of an impeachment trial requiring three-quarters of the body to vote to convict is unlikely to do much beyond dismissal of all charges.
And then Bolton, the would-be next witness, can collect upwards of $2 million from publishers who stand ready to publish his account in a forthcoming book. Lev Parnas and Giuliani and the rest of their team can continue to worry about possible federal charges against them. Joe Biden can run for president against a relieved and renewed Donald Trump. Even the Ukrainians can go on to deal with the crisis over the missile downing of their unarmed, commercial, civilian, jet by Iran in Iranian territory.
The Senate Republican majority can feel proud of standing by the president, right or wrong, so long as none of them come to my house. The insistence of sticking their investigatory heads in the sand, especially when new damning material — evidence — is being pushed right before their eyes, is at once perfidious and a huge disappointment.
But, coincidence or not, what keeps ringing in my head is what happens to Trump when the impeachment charges are wiped away by the Republican majority.
Is he, like his hero Putin, going to move to spread his powers yet further? Is he going to now totally ignore Congress as a Constitutionally equal partner in government? Is he going to reshape the narrative, as is his wont, to turn his own bad behavior into neutral, “perfect,” totally reasonable actions?
In Russia, a government-shakeup followed Putin’s annual address to Russian lawmakers. Putin proposed major constitutional changes that included transferring more power to parliament, including the ability to name the country’s prime minister. Currently, the post is selected by the president. Putin also called for “enshrining” the state council, which advises the president, in what could be a path for him to maintain significant influence in a different capacity once this six-year presidential term ends in four years.
Various experts noted that Putin may be looking to copy other strongmen, in retaining power after normal terms offer. In Kazakhstan last March, for example, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s long-serving president, stepped down but became of the Security Council for life — making him the effective power broker. In China, Xi Jinping has declared himself leader of both country and party organizations for life. Meanwhile, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, Turkey’s Tacep Recip Erdogan, Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte and others are brutal in their leadership, often stepping hard and violently on anyone challenging the authoritarian leaders.
What I find most concerning about the continuing disdain for the impeachment process is the hastening pace with which Trump is moving his own powers toward unchallenged authoritarianism.
Put that on a hat.