Monday, January 30, 2017

A Coup Dress Rehearsal?

That's what this article suggests about the events of the past few days and the first week or two of the Trump era.  For me the most frightening of the many frightening developments is the new National Security Council.

A National Security Council where the head of the national intelligence or the armed forces are NOT permanent members, but a white-Christian-male supremacist  provocateur is?  What does that mean for the safety and security of all Americans?

And what does this mean?

Facing growing criticism for failing to mention Jews in a statement marking the Holocaust, the Trump administration on Sunday doubled down on the controversial decision.
In a statement on Friday, President Donald Trump broke with the bipartisan practice of past presidents by failing to include any mention of the anti-Semitic views that fueled the Holocaust and left 6 million Jews and millions of others dead.
"I don't regret the words," said White House chief of staff Reince Priebus when asked to defend the statement on NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
"Everyone's suffering (in) the Holocaust including obviously all of the Jewish people affected and miserable genocide that occurs - it's something that we consider to be extraordinarily sad," Priebus added.

A White  House spokeswoman confirmed that the omission of any mention of anti-Semitic views in the context of the Holocaust was not a mistake but a purposeful move by the Trump administration.

Note, also, that the Muslim ban was timed to roughly coincide with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  What does that mean?

So what do I think?

It is extremely hard to arrive at firm conclusions when everything is chaotic, when every morning the sun rises with some new atrocity that was previously unimaginable, when one desperately tries to choose between pure incompetence and pure evil or greed or all of them, and when the government acts now are more opaque than the kind of morning porridge I make.

But these things I know:  I believe in democracy, in freedom of speech, in equal rights and equal respect for men and women and for individuals in different racial and ethnic groups.  I also believe in equal rights for sexual minorities. 

Democracy, in turn, is not possible without constitutional protections for minorities and the use of basic democratic rules in institutional decision-making.  The different branches of the US government, for instance, are all crucial.  An executive branch which spits in the face of the judicial branch, to pick one example, is a possible symptom of the wheels coming off this democracy experiment.  Finally, a free press is crucial for the functioning of democracies.

Are the signs I fret over caused simply by Trump's incompetence and his inability to actually govern, or are they intentional aspects of a coup attempt by the far-right white nationalists?  Or both?   What is happening to the flawed and limping but still surviving democracy in this country?

Take the timing of the travel ban.  It was timed so that individuals didn't get sufficient warning, so that they were caught by it while already traveling, so that individuals who had left the US to visit, say, family, elsewhere couldn't come back.  In short, it was timed to create the maximum havoc and chaos, and also the maximum negative consequences for the detained individuals.

Was this because of incompetence or because of some vile plan?  I can no longer tell.

Why were the usual steps that are taken in creating such executive orders simply ignored?

The malevolence of President Trump’s Executive Order on visas and refugees is mitigated chiefly—and perhaps only—by the astonishing incompetence of its drafting and construction.
NBC is reporting that the document was not reviewed by DHS, the Justice Department, the State Department, or the Department of Defense, and that National Security Council lawyers were prevented from evaluating it. Moreover, the New York Times writes that Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the agencies tasked with carrying out the policy, were only given a briefing call while Trump was actually signing the order itself. Yesterday, the Department of Justice gave a “no comment” when asked whether the Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed Trump’s executive orders—including the order at hand. (OLC normally reviews every executive order.)
This order reads to me, frankly, as though it was not reviewed by competent counsel at all.

But this could be caused by the boundless arrogance of Donald Trump and his henchmen (and henchwomen). I have learned that Trump believes he innately knows everything worth knowing, and because that is unlikely to include the manner in which presidents make executive orders, he would simply ignore those traditions.

At the same time, this whole debacle can be a sign of the New Way the government will be run from now on:  As a dictatorship, where all old rules are ignored.

This not-knowing leaves me in an awkward place.  But one thing is clear, whether the Trump administration tips toward non-democracy because of cluelessness or because of intent:  We must not normalize this administration and we must continue to resist its efforts.