Sunday, May 14, 2017


Countries have written constitutions to serve as a brake against idiocy. But constitutions rely on time honoured conventions. And, because Donald Trump is utterly shameless, he completely trashes those conventions. Jonathan Freeland writes:

Take what he has done this week alone. In firing Comey, he was clearly breaching the wall that’s meant to separate law enforcement from political meddling. But he was not violating the constitution. Technically, a president does have the power to sack an FBI director. It’s just that the unwritten rules have always said a president shouldn’t. Trump saw those unwritten rules and walked all over them.

That’s how he operates. On Friday morning, Trump mused on Twitter that perhaps he should abandon the daily press briefing, long seen as an essential requirement of basic transparency. It’s not in the constitution, but every previous administration has regarded it as fundamental democratic practice.

The same is true of naked profiteering from public office. Past presidents have divested themselves of any business ties, or at least placed their holdings in a blind trust, lest there be even a hint of a conflict of interest. Not Trump. He says the law is on his side and “the president can’t have a conflict of interest”. Legal experts say that, strictly speaking, he might be right. But in the past, the strict technicalities were not the point. The unwritten norm was clear: no president should have his or her judgment clouded by the prospect of personal financial gain.

A similar rule has applied to the nepotistic hiring of unqualified relatives: not done. Trump has done it anyway. He’s appointed his daughter Ivanka to a senior, if vague, White House role while putting his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in charge of such footling matters as restructuring the US government and negotiating Middle East peace.
Trump has paid no attention to conventions -- starting with the simple one that says you have to pay your bills. Lots of people thought  that, once Trump was elected, he'd have to abide by convention. Fear of public shame might have caused him to do that. But Trump knows no shame.

And that is why, Freeland concludes, Trump is so dangerous.

Image: Carlo Allegri/Reuters


Steve said...

Nothing new under the sun. What is new is Wikileaks and the sun shining on sacred institutions. Where is the integrity?

Owen Gray said...

A good question, Steve.

Anonymous said...

"The unwritten norm was clear: no president should have his or her judgment clouded by the prospect of personal financial gain."

Like Obama getting $400k for speeches to various industries he represented instead of the people? Why isn't the FBI investigating that?

If Trump stopped Deep State fascists from reviving the Cold War with Russia because he thought he could profit from it, then I say give him a Nobel Peace Prize. Because this is nothing compared to the pay-for-play corruption we see going on all over the place.

Take ON Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne. She privatized the electricity system for chump change and payola. Now it turns out hydro bills will be $100 a month higher by 2028. If Trump were running in the next ON election, he would have my vote. Because as bad as he is, establishment politicians are much much worse.


Owen Gray said...

I agree that there are plenty of politicians who are allies of the wealthy. What is different with Trump is the scale of the corruption. Recognizing corruption elsewhere is no excuse for letting Trump off the hook, CC.

Anonymous said...

That's Jonathan Freedland, not Freeland.

Part of the ongoing disintegration of The Guardian from a paper with independent views to just being a member of the establishment pack in Blighty, my home country a half-century ago. If ever there was a press corps with a single outlook, the UK's current mob of papers makes America's look the work of free and independent thinkers. Which is why the useless Theresa May will win this current UK election, since the Brits have hoodwinked themselves into believing that Corbyn is an idiot. The Blairite section of Labour have vilified the man, and the papers and the Beeb have followed suit in wholly unjustified terms. They're in crisis mode following Brexit.

Of course what Freedland's saying regarding Trump is true, but hardly a revelation, eh? Trump is a lout from beginning to end, and any semi-intelligent non-US citizen worked this out well over a year ago. Do we need some journalist to advise us on a matter so obvious?


Owen Gray said...

That's an error I didn't pick up on, BM. I don't claim to know a great deal about British politics. But I did note that Gerry Caplan, in the Globe and Mail, did not feel good about either May or Corbyn.