This Level of Corruption Is Unprecedented in the Modern History of the Presidency
And it's threatening our democracy.
By Charles P. Pierce | Mar 12, 2017 | Esquire
The important part about dealing with epidemics is to deal with them early. Just like the fire department would really rather come into a building when there was smoke coming out of one window instead of when there are flames coming out of every window, because it's a lot easier to control the fire early on, it's much easier to control an epidemic early on.
—Dr. Don Francis, AIDS researcher, 2006.
It's almost as though the entire bureaucratic immune system of the government is reacting to an invading virus. The worst thing any of us can do is assume that the ascent of El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago was not the sui generis event that it clearly was, and that he, himself, is not the sui generis occupant of the White House that he clearly is, and that he has not surrounded himself with dubious quacks and hacks that are sui generis in their approach to government as they clearly are.
There is a level of intellectual—and, perhaps, literal—corruption that is unprecedented in the modern history of the presidency and that is a genuine and unique threat to democratic institutions that are the objects of destructive contempt. The man ran on chaos. He won on chaos. And now he's governing on chaos. The checks and balances and safety valves of the Constitution—the things that, well, constitute—the immune system of this self-governing republic are facing a threat that is as different as it is lethal.
The latest manifestation of this phenomenon is the sudden firing of U.S. Attorneys all over the country—specifically, those appointed by the previous administration. It is true that every president can do what this president did, and that most have. But the people who said all through the campaign that the rules changed with the elevation of Donald Trump cannot say that the rules are back now that he's president. In addition, what he did on Friday was precipitous in the extreme and so much so that it seems to have been improvised on the spot, and that it might have been prompted by a virulent paranoia at the White House about "deep-state" saboteurs, a feeling encouraged by the hardbar caucus in Congress and pimped heavily by the conservative media auxiliaries.
By contrast, in 2009, the newly elected Barack Obama put his U.S. Attorneys in place, but he didn't fire all of the incumbent ones all at once without having the faintest idea who their replacements might be. And this was in the wake of the naked politicization of the DOJ during the Bush Administration. From Tiger Beat On The Potomac:
But, as we are relentlessly told by people who are whistling past a considerable graveyard, Donald Trump is different. He certainly is. Already, there are serious questions about his violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, about how and where he got his money, about how seriously we should take his claim to have divorced himself from his business interests, and about the precise relationship he has with kleptocrats the world over, especially in Russia. In that context, his decision all at once to decapitate the Justice Department at the local level takes on a more sinister character.
And then there's the case of Preet Bhahara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the scourge of the money power in New York City, which definitely includes the current president* of the United States. The man was the swamp-drainer supreme. The situation with Bharhara already is stranger than usual. In the first place, a week ago, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III had asked Bhahara to stay on. Also, Bhahara has a number of investigations that may or may not hit too close to home at the White House, including one involving Fox News. And, as has become customary with this administration, the whole matter was handled with the delicacy of a monkey trying to fck a football. From The Washington Post:
He's shaking up Washington! He's exploding political norms! He's also lighting his own pants on fire. By forcing the administration to fire him, Bharara managed to maneuver the World's Greatest Dealmaker into elevating Bharara's profile even higher, and to draw the spotlight down on what Bhahara's investigations, past and present. He also set up Bhahara as a free radical in our politics; the defrocked U.S. Attorney already is talking about his "absolute independence," which ought to freeze the bowels of a lot of people with plans for the future. If, one day, we're all talking about Senator Preet Bhahara, then the current president* will get a big assist.
There's a kind of momentum building inside and outside the government right now. For a long time, I thought the Republicans in Congress could hold out against the encroaching chaos long enough to pass their wish list, which the president* would sign, because that beats working and he doesn't know anything. But the way they've botched health-care makes the congressional majorities look as though they've both been hit in the head with a hammer. (The mischief out in the states, however, is still ongoing, and as strong as ever.)
It's possible that too many things are coming from too many directions for that strategy to work any more. The way you'll know if that situation reaches a tipping point will be if the various legislative intelligence committees of the Congress looking into the Russia business give up the job either to a special prosecutor or to some sort of blue-ribbon 9/11-type commission. You want chaos? That will be chaos, and the patient may flat-line.