With Charlie Harper
BE honest. What do you really think about government?
Is it a collective elected agent for the common good, chosen at its top levels no less frequently than every five years? Are those who toil in government offices our best and brightest, dedicated to public service and improving the lives of all of us?
Or is government at its senior elected levels simply a device for securing power and financial advantage for its leaders? Are government workers, often less well compensated than their comparably responsible private sector counterparts, really dedicated to our well-being, or are they looking for grift and graft to supplement incomes they know are not competitive?
Perhaps your view is somewhere in between, taking account of both the best and the brightest in government on one hand, and its lesser lights on the other.
By now, it has become abundantly clear into which camp US ex-President Donald Trump, his cronies, sycophants, allies and supporters fall.
They’re firmly in the grift and graft camp.
Trump has said repeatedly that he made generous campaign contributions to American politicians of both parties over the course of many years. Saying so makes him feel important, of course, but it also reveals his profound lack of distrust in the honesty, integrity or efficiency of government. He clearly felt he needed to pay off officials and politicians in order to get done what he wanted to get done.
Like many thousands and millions of voters in The Bahamas, the US and everywhere else, Trump values money above everything else. Money makes the world go ‘round. It buys for those who possess it everything they want and need. It’s what is important.
For others, money is necessary to live a responsible life, but not paramount.
Some 75 million voters cast their ballots in America’s November election for Trump. The guess here is that almost all of them feel they know Trump. They know who he is. They know what he stands for. They admire his apparent business success. And perhaps most of all, they respect the fact that he seems to be largely without pretence.
He has never pretended to be someone other than who he is.
Remember when he said – well before he was elected President – that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City in broad daylight and get away with it?
Trump said it because he believed it.
And now, with his shameful pardons and grants of executive clemency, he is revealing anew how little regard he has for government and its potential for good, or, as revealed in the Fifth Avenue remark, for its potential for equal justice and administration or accountability.
He thinks government influence and assistance can be purchased. Indeed, he believes it must be purchased, in order for it to be useful.
It is no great distance from that admittedly cynical notion to his reported present policy of selling pardons to the highest bidder.
There are rumours swirling around of former presidential lawyer John Dowd offering pardons in exchange for either cash or silence about information that might hurt the President.
And America’s one-time hero, Rudy Giuliani, has been linked with reports that he would need $2 million to secure a pardon for one supplicant. It also emerged in recent days that Rudy’s claims for salary and expenses totalled a whopping $20,000 per day.
It all seems to originate from a jaundiced, cynical and doubtless sometimes justified view of government as a tool to be manipulated rather than a force for good.
Imagine for a moment that you are a farmer in western Kansas or a machinist in central Pennsylvania or a rancher in eastern Oregon. Or even a retiree in southwest Florida.
You live hundreds or even thousands of miles from the seat of the central American government. You may never have had the means or opportunity to visit Washington, DC.
Why would you necessarily have any faith in the positive power of the government? Why would you have any feeling of being connected to government in some way, other than the annoyance of having to pay federal, state and local taxes that may have become much more onerous in the dozen years since the Great Recession from which you and your family have not recovered?
Chances are good that Trump’s view of things corresponds pretty closely to your own view. And he’s honest and up front about expressing those views.
So, it’s no surprise that the polls tell us the now ex-US President still enjoys strong support from his base of fans and from the Republican Party. Hopeful liberal pundits point to some evidence that Republican support for Trump is eroding, but the continuing silence of many GOP officials indicates they feel the party’s core is still with the President.
Mitch played his own game - and won
One place support for Trump is clearly waning, though, is the office of now former Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
It was never a secret that the wily, experienced senior senator from Kentucky knowingly made a deal with the Devil (Trump) in order to continue a pattern of behaviour he revealed with his refusal to grant a Senate hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court in 2016.
McConnell’s grand plan has been to make significantly more conservative the federal American judiciary. In many respects, it has worked. That was McConnell’s end of the Devil’s Deal. Trump in exchange got a compliant US Senate Republican majority for the full four years of his White House tenure.
Now, though, Trump is headed for the exit door. He is also clearly implicated in the January 6 riots that threatened the personal security of every US senator and congressperson in attendance at the Capitol that day.
On Tuesday, McConnell spoke as the Senate returned to Washington after a brief recess and prepared for yesterday’s inauguration of Joe Biden.
McConnell said: “The mob (that stormed the Capitol) was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
McConnell has clearly had enough. Stories are circulating that he quietly favours the rapid House impeachment of Trump, and is quite open to supporting the effort when a Senate trial is held. He has reportedly said privately he believes Trump committed impeachable offences.
The obvious objective is then, after impeachment of a President who has left office, to schedule a further vote to preclude Trump from ever running for elective office in the US again.
That would be some revenge for all the rudeness, disregard, insensitivity and disloyalty Trump has so often displayed toward his Republican “colleagues” in the Senate. One can easily imagine Mitch McConnell smiling.
Thank God that’s over
While pardons and revenge are high on the agenda behind the scenes in Washington, the central downtown area of the city was transformed into an armed camp reminiscent to some of the “Green Zone” in downtown Baghdad around the US Embassy there. National Guard troops, police and federal agents were visible everywhere from the Lincoln Memorial at the western edge of the city to Capitol Hill and beyond.
While the law enforcement response to the riots of January 6 was obviously inadequate and tardy, the US Secret Service, Department of Defence and a myriad of other military and law enforcement agencies were clearly determined to avert anything similar on Inauguration Day.
There is plenty of evidence that images of this transformation are profoundly jarring and unsettling to almost all Americans. Responsibility for the situation is assigned according to whether or not a person still supports ex-President Trump. His supporters continue to complain to pollsters that fault for the present circumstances lies with Antifa, Black Lives Matter or the radical, socialist left.
Most Americans see the situation in a different light, and it is difficult to recall a situation in which a sitting President was held in such low regard by so many commentators and editorialists. And no President has ever earned such low overall approval ratings as he left office.
As Air Force One finally removed him from Washington yesterday, the sense of relief was palpable.