Tuesday Reads: We’re Approaching a Constitutional CrisisPosted: November 22, 2016
It’s been two weeks since the election, and I think we’re already very close to a constitutional crisis. Each day we wake up to new insanity from the “president elect.” And yes, I do believe that he is insane. Something needs to be done very quickly and I’m not sure anyone in authority is going to act. As Matthew Yglesias wrote recently, we only have until noon on January 20, 2017 to stop Donald Trump from systemically corrupting our institutions. We’ve posted this article before, but everyone should save it and refer to it often.
The legal responsibilities of what is a body corporate do not change with the appointment of a manager. The corporation must still have a Presiding Officer, a Secretary and a Treasurer, who must all be members of the corporation, and it is still legally liable for decisions made on its behalf.
The country has entered a dangerous period. The president-elect is the least qualified man to ever hold high office. He also operated the least transparent campaign of the modern era. He gave succor and voice to bigoted elements on a scale not seen in two generations. He openly praised dictators — not as allies but as dictators — and threatened to use the powers of his office to discipline the media.
He also has a long history of corrupt behavior, and his business holdings pose staggering conflicts of interest that are exacerbated by his lack of financial disclosure. But while most journalists and members of the opposition party think they understand the threat of Trump-era corruption, they are in fact drastically underestimating it. When we talk about corruption in the modern United States, we have in mind what Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishnydefine as “the sale by government officials of government property for personal gain.”
This is the classic worry about campaign contributions or revolving doors — the fear that wealthy interests can give money to public officials and in exchange receive favorable treatment from the political system. But in a classic essay on “The Concept of Systemic Corruption in American History,” the economist John Joseph Wallis repminds us that in the Revolutionary Era and during the founding of the republic, Americans worried about something different. Not the venal corruption we are accustomed to thinking about, but what he calls systemic corruption. He writes that 18th-century thinkers “worried much more that the king and his ministers were manipulating grants of economic privileges to secure political support for a corrupt and unconstitutional usurpation of government powers.”
We are used to corruption in which the rich buy political favor. What we need to learn to fear is corruption in which political favor becomes the primary driver of economic success.
Donald Trump is more dangerous than any potential president in history, because he is a sociopath with zero empathy for anyone but himself and he seems to be incapable of feeling shame.
Past presidents have been restrained from behaving in such a manner by institutional checks and balances that are eroding under the pressure of rising partisan polarization.
But most of all, past presidents have simply been restrained by restraint. By a belief that there are certain things one simply cannot try or do. Yet Trump has repeatedly triumphed in circumstances that most predicted were impossible. As Ezra Klein has written, he operates entirely without shame:
It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.
Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.
Trump lives by the reality television trope that he’s not here to make friends. But the reason reality television villains always say they’re not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch. “I’m not here to make friends” is another way of saying, “I’m not bound by the social conventions of normal people.” The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.
Trump does not care if normally conservative newspapers’ editorial pages denounce him, if media fact-checkers slam him, if GOP operatives furiously tweet against him, or anything else.
Since the publication of that piece on November 17, the situation has gotten more and more grave. It seems Trump does care what newspapers and TV networks say about him, but his response will be to try to control what they write and broadcast, not reverse his own corrupt behavior. As we all know, Trump called some broadcast media representatives into an off-the-record meeting yesterday. These craven executives and reporters attended the meeting and were treated to a “dressing down” by a screaming Trump. The story first leaked out to the right-wing, Trump-favoring New York Post.
“It was like a f−−−ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.
“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.
“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down,” the source added.
A second source confirmed the fireworks.
“The meeting took place in a big boardroom and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.
“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room, calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.
“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate — which was Martha Raddatz, who was also in the room.”
I guess it wasn’t enough that CNN paid multiple Trump supporters to defend him against any criticism. Here’s a more staid version of the story from The New York Times. And there’s this one from David Remnick at The New Yorker: Donald Trump Personally Blasts the Press.
First came the obsessive Twitter rants directed at “Hamilton” and “Saturday Night Live.” Then came Monday’s astonishing aria of invective and resentment aimed at the media, delivered in a conference room on the twenty-fifth floor of Trump Tower. In the presence of television executives and anchors, Trump whined about everything from NBC News reporter Katy Tur’s coverage of him to a photograph the news network has used that shows him with a double chin. Why didn’t they use “nicer” pictures?
For more than twenty minutes, Trump railed about “outrageous” and “dishonest” coverage. When he was asked about the sort of “fake news” that now clogs social media, Trump replied that it was the networks that were guilty of spreading fake news. The “worst,” he said, were CNN (“liars!”) and NBC.
This is where we are. The President-elect does not care who knows how unforgiving or vain or distracted he is. This is who he is, and this is who will be running the executive branch of the United States government for four years.
The overall impression of the meeting from the attendees I spoke with was that Trump showed no signs of having been sobered or changed by his elevation to the country’s highest office. Rather, said one, “He is the same kind of blustering, bluffing, blowhard as he was during the campaign.”
Another participant at the meeting said that Trump’s behavior was “totally inappropriate” and “fucking outrageous.” The television people thought that they were being summoned to ask questions; Trump has not held a press conference since late July. Instead, they were subjected to a stream of insults and complaints—and not everyone absorbed it with pleasure.
“I have to tell you, I am emotionally fucking pissed,” another participant said. “How can this not influence coverage? I am being totally honest with you. Toward the end of the campaign, it got to a point where I thought that the coverage was all about [Trump’s] flaws and problems. And that’s legit. But, I thought, O.K., let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. After the meeting today, though—and I am being human with you here—I think, Fuck him! I know I am being emotional about it. And I know I will get over it in a couple of days after Thanksgiving. But I really am offended. This was unprecedented. Outrageous!”
Let’s hope none of them “get over it.”
This morning Trump cancelled a scheduled meeting with The New York Times, claiming the newspaper tried to “change the ground rules.” The New York Times responded that that did not happen.
Supposedly the meet has been rescheduled now.
This is all so unbelievable, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg of Trump insanity this country is going to be dealing with. In just a few days we’ve seen that the level of storage facilities westminster co is comparable to what has happened in the worst dictatorships around the globe. Dakinikat wrote about this yesterday, and there’s already more corruption in the news today.
The New York Times: With a Meeting, Trump Renewed a British Wind Farm Fight.
When President-elect Donald J. Trumpmet with the British politician Nigel Farage in recent days, he encouraged Mr. Farage and his entourage to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses, according to one person present.
The meeting, held shortly after the presidential election, raises new questions about Mr. Trump’s willingness to use the power of the presidency to advance his business interests. Mr. Trump has long opposed a wind farm planned near his course in Aberdeenshire, and he previously fought unsuccessfully all the way to Britain’s highest court to block it.
The group that met with Mr. Trump in New York was led by Mr. Farage, the head of the U.K. Independence Party and a member of the European Parliament. Mr. Farage, who was a leading voice advocating Britain’s exit from the European Union, or Brexit, campaigned with Mr. Trump during the election. Arron Banks, an insurance executive who was a major financier of the Brexit campaign, was also in attendance.
“He did not say he hated wind farms as a concept; he just did not like them spoiling the views,” said Andy Wigmore, the media consultant who was present at the meeting and was photographed with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Wigmore headed communications for Leave.EU, one of the two groups that led the Brexit effort. He said in an email that he and Mr. Banks would be “campaigning against wind farms in England, Scotland and Wales.”
This morning Trump tweeted that he wants Great Britain to appoint Nigel Farage as ambassador to the U.S.!
British Prime Minister Teresa May told CNN that’s not going to happen. But this is just one more breach of protocol by the out-of-control “president elect.”
I haven’t even scratched the surface of this morning’s shocking news. I have an important appointment this afternoon, but I’ll post more links when I can.
Now it’s your turn. Have at it.