Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Even David Frum is getting in on the action, though his piece has all the signs of having been written a few weeks ago, for the print edition.

How to build an Autocracy

Skip the gag-inducing first couple of paragraphs, and it gets good.

Donald Trump will not set out to build an authoritarian state. His immediate priority seems likely to be to use the presidency to enrich himself. But as he does so, he will need to protect himself from legal risk. Being Trump, he will also inevitably wish to inflict payback on his critics. Construction of an apparatus of impunity and revenge will begin haphazardly and opportunistically. But it will accelerate. It will have to.

If Congress is quiescent, what can Trump do? A better question, perhaps, is what can't he do?

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who often articulates Trumpist ideas more candidly than Trump himself might think prudent, offered a sharp lesson in how difficult it will be to enforce laws against an uncooperative president. During a radio roundtable in December, on the topic of whether it would violate anti-nepotism laws to bring Trump's daughter and son-in-law onto the White House staff, Gingrich said: The president "has, frankly, the power of the pardon. It is a totally open power, and he could simply say, `Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anybody finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period.' And technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority."

That statement is true, and it points to a deeper truth: The United States may be a nation of laws, but the proper functioning of the law depends upon the competence and integrity of those charged with executing it. A president determined to thwart the law in order to protect himself and those in his circle has many means to do so.

by Zwackus on Tue Jan 31st, 2017 at 06:07:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A couple of thinkgs leapt out at me.

"Civil unrest will not be a problem for the Trump presidency. It will be a resource. Trump will likely want not to repress it, but to publicize it--and the conservative entertainment-outrage complex will eagerly assist him. Immigration protesters marching with Mexican flags; Black Lives Matter demonstrators bearing antipolice slogans--these are the images of the opposition that Trump will wish his supporters to see. The more offensively the protesters behave, the more pleased Trump will be."

In an online article for The New York Review of Books, the Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen brilliantly noted a commonality between Donald Trump and the man Trump admires so much, Vladimir Putin. "Lying is the message," she wrote. "It's not just that both Putin and Trump lie, it is that they lie in the same way and for the same purpose: blatantly, to assert power over truth itself."

Gil Scott Heron was wrong; the revolution was televised. It's just that it's not the revolution we were expecting. I remember a communist boasting to me that the Constitution of the USSR was far more open and democratic than that of the US, what he failed to note was that you can have the most rigorous systems of over-sight in the world, but if there is no will to enforce the rules or hold people to account, then it's meaningless.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 31st, 2017 at 04:09:27 PM EST
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Occasional Series