Point of View Columns

Stop in the Name of the Law

By now we have been bludgeoned by reality and accept that there is no rule, law or moral norm that means anything to Donald Trump. Whether its discriminating against black men and women trying to rent apartments in Cincinnati, or buying the silence of former lovers and porn stars (in Trump’s case they are the same), or not paying hundreds of workers and contractors doing work on his failed casinos, or simply swindling thousands of aspiring dreamers who thought they could learn something from attending Trump University (spoiler alert – they learned that Donald Trump cannot be trusted), Donald Trump has found that he can get away with anything if he is willing to pay some money. But there are limits – even for Trump.

Ever since the Trump-induced government shutdown ended, Trump has loudly hinted that he might declare a national emergency and siphon funds from various federal agencies to build his hallowed wall if Congress won’t give him what he wants. Somehow his bullet head advisors like Steven Miller and John Bolton have Trump believing that all he has to do is to say “emergency powers” like some sort of magical incantation and presto – he will have the power to build his wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. But Trump and his enablers are making a huge misstep because (a) they don’t read or (b) they can’t read or (c) they don’t care what the laws and the Constitution say. For those keeping score at home (c) is the correct answer.

Clearly Trump and his minions haven’t read, can’t read and don’t care about the National Emergencies Act of 1976. If they did they would know that it was enacted for the specific purpose of limiting the use of emergency powers by the President of the United States. If they were willing to peruse modern history, they would see that national emergencies have been declared by presidents as the result of hurricanes, tornadoes, 9/11, earthquakes and the like.

The National Emergencies Act in its language and in its application was never meant to give the President an option if he/she could not reach an agreement with Congress. As they roast slowly in Hell, true fascist dictators like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin must watch Trump with some admiration as he tries to be a dictator in a government with a Constitution that was specifically designed to block dictators. Trump’s dilemma probably makes them chuckle as they are basted by Satan.

A bit of history – when the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787 there were some basic concerns that needed to be addressed. First, since the Articles of Confederation had resulted in near total governmental chaos, it was important to establish a government structure that could work.

A close second however, was the almost universal belief of the delegates (Alexander Hamilton notwithstanding) that the power to govern could not and would not reside in one person or even one branch of government. And that is how three co-equal branches of government – executive, judicial and legislative – were established with a system of checks and balances so that no one person could control or direct the government. It turns out that the delegates were really serious about sovereign power resting with the people.

And now Trump threatens Congress with his supposed emergency powers somehow believing that the legislative branch (Congress) and the judicial branch (Supreme Court) will simply go along with this unprecedented grab for power. Trump will meet Nancy in Court and my money is on Nancy and the Court.

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Point of View Columns

No Fun and No Popcorn at This Circus

From the time that Donald Trump oozed into the public consciousness of New Yorkers who were addicted to lite news, he has been the master of distraction. Even as his multiple business ventures lumbered and careened into failure (remember Trump Airlines? Trump University? Trump Casinos?) he proclaimed himself to be one of the wealthiest men in the world. And some of the world believed it and rest of the world didn’t care (except for his ex-wives and legions of debtors who have not, and will never be paid). His ability to dangle bright shiny objects of controversy, publicity or just noise are reminiscent of the basic protocols for a three ring circus.

Even though Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, there are still enough circuses around for the analogy to have meaning in these days and times. The basic principle being that whether the circus has one, two or three rings, there are enough attractions and distractions so that the audience cannot really focus on the fact that the lady on the flying trapeze is barely flying through the air and the lions and elephants parading around are long past their prime and, in many instances, are seriously sedated. But with multiple distractions and attractions spinning, flying, marching and clowning around, the audience goes home entertained and satisfied.

And it clear that Trump has brought his well-worn and perfectly polished circus act to the White House. And that is how the nation focused upon the profound insult visited upon American and Allied soldiers who died in World War I by Trump while plans were in place to replace the despicable Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a wannabe hack nobody named Mark Whitaker.

And while we focused on the expectedly abrupt departure of Sessions and wondered and the incredible lack of qualification that can best describe Whitaker, in his last and final dastardly act as Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the Obama era policy that called for the Justice Department to investigate police shootings of unarmed civilians. This was the policy that was the basis for supervision and consent decrees to control and eliminate racist police policies in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri.

But while we were watching this particular high wire act we learned that the senior deputy to John Bolton (a Neanderthal Cold Warrior if there ever was one), the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States was fired by Donald Trump because his wife did not like the deputy. And because our senses are virtually overwhelmed by the spinning plates and dancing clowns and piano-playing monkeys in the Trump circus, we actually lose sight of the fact that the individuals who are supposed to be responsible for national security policy in a world that includes ISIS, North Korea and Russia are subject to the piques and tantrums of the wife of the President of the United States despite the fact that her knowledge of foreign affairs and foreign policy would not overflow a thimble similar in size to the one that contains Trump’s foreign policy expertise.

And while we are distracted by that bit of business Trump embarks on an historic attack on the American press and the First Amendment, banning a reporter from the White House because he does not like Jim Acosta, while seeming to single out black female reporters for extra insult and opprobrium. His assault on the Fourth Estate has been so dangerous and the seeming prelude to even more dictatorial actions, that Trump has managed to get CNN and Fox News to join forces in a lawsuit against him creating such an impossible union that Americans are search the sky for pigs flying past a blue moon.

And while a Trump-appointed federal judge presides over what may be an historic test of the strength of the First Amendment and the Constitution (and with a Trump majority on the Supreme Court waiting in the wings), Trump is stomping one tweet closer to ending the Robert Mueller Russia investigation. That singular rash act would seem to bring about a constitutional crisis that would make the Nixon era seem like a dispute over parking tickets. And the brief and sordid history of the Trump presidency tells us that not only is Trump’s naked obstruction of justice possible – it is probable.

And what that same history also tells us is that another circus act is waiting in the wings – it might be military action in Venezuela, it might be a much needed reform of the criminal justice system it might be the firing of his Chief of Staff John Kelly, or it could just be another Trump insultathon at the upcoming G-20 Summit. What we do know is that is that as long as Trump is president the circus will continue.

All that is missing is a calliope.

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