Discover more from Letters from an American
November 12, 2019
I have spent the day madly checking footnotes and making final corrections on the manuscript of my forthcoming book, and I emerged at about 8:00 to look at the news. It hit like a firehose: we have separated almost 70,000 children from their parents under the Trump administration; White House advisor Steve Miller wrote more than 900 emails to a Breitbart reporter advocating white nationalism; Turkey's president Erdogan, the dictator whose troops allegedly committed war crimes when they pushed into northern Syria last month, is visiting the White House tomorrow; Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's associate Rick Gates said at Trump advisor Roger Stone's trial for lying to Congress that Trump knew about the Wikileaks dumps of DNC emails that had been done by Russia; the Department of Justice is trying to finish a report on the attacks on the 2016 election before Attorney General William Barr presents the alternative one he's working on with John Durham...
and I thought: how on earth will I ever make sense of this tonight?
And then I hit upon a Washington Post article outlining the different approaches Democrats and Republicans are taking toward the public impeachment testimony that starts tomorrow: Democrats want "a serious and somber process of publicly exposing Trump’s misconduct, narrated by career diplomats who were alarmed by the president’s push to have Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, as well as a debunked theory concerning the 2016 election, in exchange for military aid and a White House visit coveted by Ukraine’s new leader." Meanwhile "Republicans prepared to fervently defend Trump while painting the impeachment probe as a thinly veiled show trial designed to take down a president who did nothing wrong."
And then it hit me. The story for tonight, and indeed for this administration, and for the last several years of the once great Republican Party, is clear. The people in charge of this country right now have abandoned democracy. They are giving Trump a pass for things that they would never have tolerated in a Democrat because they cannot stand to chance another Democratic president; they think they are our country's only legitimate rulers. The world people like Steven Miller wants is a world in which a few leaders, "only the best people," people like Erdogan and Putin and Trump arrange matters in such a way that they control all the wealth and power, since lesser people-- people of color and women-- cannot be trusted to exercise it. We would demand fairer laws that prevent the concentration of wealth and power, and thus we would hurt the ability of our leaders to, well, solve the Middle East crisis singlehandedly, for example, or win an "easy" trade war, or get Kim Jong Un to abandon his nuclear ambitions.
With that stark division in mind, the day's news falls neatly into place: The bombshell news from Roger Stone's trial is that Trump appears to have misled Special Counsel Robert Mueller about his knowledge of the Wikileaks dumps before the 2016 election. Wikileaks had access to files from the Democratic National Committee that had been stolen by Russian intelligence, and it dumped them in such a way as to injure the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and help Trump. Trump's associate Roger Stone was apparently the campaign's contact with Wikileaks, and today Rick Gates (I know, I know, we all need scorecards), said he heard Trump talking about the dumps as early as June 2016, suggesting that he was in on the fix. And, for that matter, Gates claims Stone was talking about the stolen emails as early as April, before the DNC had admitted it had been hacked. In his written answers to questions (because he refused to testify in person), Trump told Mueller that he had no recollection of such conversations. (Pundits are saying this means he lied, but it seems to me saying he couldn't remember is hard to challenge, even if it seems a pretty obvious dodge. Still, in 1998, congressional Republicans were nearly unanimous in thinking that lying under oath was an impeachable offense.)
If staying in power is more important than defending the rule of law, it only makes sense for Barr to be rushing to produce a damning report from an investigation into conspiracy theories about Ukraine's complicity in attacking the 2016 election that his man John Durham has undertaken outside of the normal channels of the Department of Justice, and, in turn, for the DOJ Inspector General to try to get out his report first.
It also makes sense to traumatize migrant children to try keep their families out of the country, because letting such refugees in will add voices to the popular dislike of the current regime. And if they are traumatized, what of it? They are really not children like white kids are, immature and needing nurture well into their adult lives, the same as a 17 year old Black Trayvon Martin buying Skittles was really not a child with a sweet tooth, but rather a dangerous thug in a hoodie. All of those people endanger the world's true leaders... just ask Stephen Miller. Or, rather, read his emails warning that immigration and dark skinned people will destroy the white race.
And as for impeachment, it matters not at all that the Democrats have deliberately invited the initial public testimony, starting tomorrow, to be from former Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor, a former military man appointed by George W. Bush, and the State Department official who oversees Ukraine, George Kent, career diplomats both, who have testified carefully and clearly behind closed doors about the rule of law and the undermining of our national interests in Ukraine. Republicans are already jockeying to make the somber hearings a circus.
Why does this all matter? Because this apparent worldview is antithetical to the principles on which America was founded, the principles which once made us great. At a time when the rest of the Western world was based on the idea that some people were better than others, and that noblemen should rule while the peasants labored, our Founders threw off that idea to insist that all men were created equal and could create an even-handed government in which all men were equal under the rule of law. For all that the Founders excluded women and people of color from their vision of the world, they embraced a principle of equality that stood against the idea of a natural hierarchy. It was a principle that could be, and has been, expanded. If we lose that principle to the idea that some men are better than others, and that it's okay for the current regime to cheat to stay in power, we will have lost what made us great. We will have lost democracy.
So what do you look for tomorrow? Taylor and Kent probably won't say much they didn't say already. Tomorrow is less about substance than about performance art, and whether or not the Republicans can muddy the waters enough to so confuse people they give up trying to understand what happened.
What happened is an attack on our nation. The president tried to extort a foreign leader to say he was investigating one of Trump's main opponents, a poisoning of the media conversation that would've hurt Biden much as the announced investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails hurt her candidacy in 2016. It would've helped to rig the election in Trump's favor. And Republican leaders are looking the other way at this fundamental attack on our democracy because they would rather have a dictator in the White House than a Democrat.
No matter what your political affiliation is, you have to see that stance as fundamentally unAmerican.