Buenos Aires Times

opinion and analysis FROM WHERE I STAND

Where are the Republicans with a conscience?

It was thanks to the intensive press coverage of the summit in Helsinki that President Trump was revealed as a doting admirer of Big Brother and all that he stands for.

Saturday 21 July, 2018
Trump as the Statue of Liberty transformed into a concrete wall.
Trump as the Statue of Liberty transformed into a concrete wall. Foto:PABLO TEMES

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Commenting on that spectacular performance by Donald J. Trump in Helsinki, John Brennan – who previously served as CIA chief from March 2013 to January 2017 – posted on Twitter that the behaviour of the US president “rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours.’

“It was nothing short of treasonous,” he continued. “Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

It reminded me of another even darker time when, at the height of the military dictatorship in Argentina, my colleague James Neilson asked “Where are the conservatives with a conscience?”

In Argentina then as in the United States today, most conservatives, far from consulting their consciences, were looking the other way. It suited otherwise reasonable people to refuse to see that the military, backed by the Argentine establishment, had chosen political genocide as a method to suppress a youthful insurgency.

I have been bothered ever since by situations in which democracy has broken down because people have become blinded by ideology, have been misled and as a result lose their essential humanity.

During the dictatorship, the sinister silence of the press was a major cause of the failure to hold the military to account. The media, however, deserve credit for refusing to be silenced when democracy was under attack from the beginning to the end of the Kirchnerite years.

Faced with the advent of Mr. Trump, a man supremely ill-equipped for the presidency of a nation committed to the democratic ideals of equality and freedom, the US media has, by and large, risen to the challenge posed by someone who represents the worst, or at leasts very far from the best, aspects of the American way of life. It was thanks to the intensive press coverage of the summit in Helsinki (despite his later bungled attempts to roll back his fawning remarks) that President Trump was revealed as a doting admirer of Big Brother and all that he stands for. He prefers to take the word of Putin, a ruthless killer, over that of his own intelligence experts.

Another, reassuring, difference between Argentina under the military dictatorship and the United States under Trump is that there are conservatives with conscience here, and they are speaking out. Once again, Republican Senator John McCain, came to the rescue of real American values. He issued this chiding statement: “It is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are – a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.”

I was also struck by the heartfelt words of former US Defence Secretary Ash Carter, who has served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. He said that seeing Trump on television during the press conference with Putin was “like watching the destruction of a cathedral. In my almost four decades with national defence, starting in the Pentagon under Ronald Reagan, I never saw or imagined so uneven a handover of American security interests and principles, with nothing in return at a meeting.”

Former director of US national intelligence James Clapper, who served under the Barack Obama administration and briefed Mr. Trump on Russian interference when the Republican was president-elect, said: “On the world’s stage, in front of the entire globe, the president of the United States essentially capitulated and seems intimidated by Vladimir Putin. So it was amazing and very, very disturbing.”

In the light of a warning from Dan Coats – Trump’s own director of national intelligence – only a few days before the president left Washington for his destructive tour to the United Kingdom and Europe, President Trump’s embrace of Putin is incomprehensible. Mr. Coats warned that Russia is preparing a cyber-attack on the United States, comparing it to the warnings picked up before the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

He said CIA Director George Tenet had reported “the system was blinking red. And here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”

In response to President Trump’s “on-again, off-again, on-again” claim that there has been no Russian interference, Mr. Coats later issued a statement without clearing it with the White House: “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”

Coming top of multiple indictments of Russian agents, the exposure of a sophisticated espionage campaign aimed at achieving the result (Trump’s election) that Putin wanted, Mr. Coats’ statement should have been enough to put a stop to President Trump’s treacherous, if not treasonous behaviour.

To be on the safe side, I think that there are grounds to justify impeachment proceedings by the House of Representatives. My opinion is based on common sense and my experience as a journalist. I think that Trump, like Perón and the Kirchners, is antidemocratic.

Impeachment is a political process. Gerald Ford, who became president when president Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment said that “an impeachable offence is whatever a majority of the House … considers it to be at a given moment in history.”

The quasi-legal reasons for the impeachment of president Bill Clinton were lying under oath and obstruction of justice, but the real reasons were Republican antipathy and concerns about his character flaws. Today’s Republicans have no qualms about Trump’s inveterate lying, never mind scabrous, character.

The case for impeachment has been made succently by Mort Rosenblum, a legendary journalist. Mr, Rosenblum, who describes himself as “an old-crocodile reporter, ” called the Trump trip, “the most ignominious five days the United States has seen since the Civil War.”

Here are his five conclusions:

–Trump has committed treason by failing to defend the United States against what, in a modern frame of reference, amounts to an act of war. Protecting elections from hostile foreign interference is fundamental to any democracy.

– He has put America in peril by not only confounding its allies but also blunting its defensive deterrent. Nuclear warfare is not possible without destroying the planet. And it is now blindingly clear that Trump is no match for Vladimir Putin at Armageddon poker.

– He has abandoned the basic tenets of American values: defence of human rights, succour for refugees in flight, opposition to tyrannical rule. Syria is just one egregious example. Bashar al-Assad, now fortified by Russia, can gas his dissidents at will.

– He has removed the underpinnings of world commerce, exposing America to strong possibility of economic meltdown. His closed-border policy, worsened by racist rhetoric that inflames terrorism, reverses a world trend toward free and secure travel.

– He has driven a wedge into American society with bald appeals to a jingoist minority cult that follows him blindly. The majority, poorly informed and apathetic to a dangerous degree, might not be able to coalesce in time to stop an entrenched new reality.

 

You can read his blistering, highly entertaining and enlightening column at mortrosenblum.net.

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