The Imperial Presidency

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

There is a video lecture from the 1970s in which the late, great Russell Ackoff speaks about democracy and Iran, at the time a hot topic: “In most countries of the world you have God at the top, then the Constitution, and then the Head of State. But in Iran you have God, then the Shah, and then the Constitution. So when the Shah has made a decision the only appeal is prayer, and that is not very effective.” Trump must have had something similar in mind when he had his lawyer declare that the president cannot obstruct justice, because he is the chief executive of the country and therefore ultimately in charge of law enforcement.  Other sources of inspiration may have been Papal infallibility and Richard Nixon’s ‘when the president does it that means that it’s not illegal,’ but Iran seems an appropriate model because Trump also expressed a desire to have his own, presidential secret service, operating independently from the CIA, FBI and NSA.  Hitler of course had the Gestapo and Stalin the NKVD, and considering Trump’s habit to only compare himself with the truly historic greats and to try and outdo them they may have been on his mind too.

The issue came up when Trump released a tweet saying that he knew Michael Flynn had lied to both the vice-president and the FBI when he fired him.  Since Flynn was fired one day before Trump asked James Comey ‘whether he could see his way to letting Flynn go,’ the president’s attempt to obstruct justice was fairly obvious.  The White House’s defense was as old as it was lame.  In a new version of ‘the butler did it’ Trump’s personal lawyer fell on the sword with a public statement that he had written the tweet, and mistakenly mentioned Flynn’s lying to the FBI. Not even a dimwit like Sarah Palin would believe that a lawyer would write a tweet like that, and things got worse when Paul Manafort violated the terms of his bail by contacting one of his Russian associates and was put back on house arrest, while Billy Bush wrote in an Op-Ed that the voice on the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape was indeed Trump’s.  The president tried to regain his mental balance by opening up two national parks in Utah for industrial destruction and going all in for Alabama child molester Roy Moore, forcing the Republican National Committee to follow suit.

Subsequently, by way of an early Hanukkah present, Trump gave a speech announcing that the US was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would start preparations to move the embassy there.  This was as much a gesture towards Evangelicals in the bible belt as towards Israel, but Trump probably doesn’t know that the former support Israel only because its existence is a condition of the prophesy that all Jews must ultimately convert to Christianity or else perish.

During the speech Trump began slurring his words, which led to speculation about his mental health. Answering questions from reporters Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump had just been thirsty, but also that he would have a complete physical at Walter Reed Hospital early next year.  The good news for Trump is that commercial real estate is the industry that benefits the most from the new tax bill.

The low point of the week came when Sarah Sanders lectured Congressman John Lewis, who had his skull broken when he marched with Dr. King in Selma, for not honoring the sacrifice of civil rights leaders by not attending an event in Mississippi where Trump will also be present.  For that alone she’ll go to hell, if there is one.


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