The Space Between Impeachment and Loyalty.
Now that the Democrats have pulled the trigger on a formal Impeachment investigation the nation turns toward the Republicans, and most specifically the Republicans in the Senate. What will they do? Will they place loyalty to the President — or loyalty to their own interests, which they believe can be achieved through this president ? — above the Constitutional duty to try the Impeachment of Donald Trump?
For whom do they work? Or, better yet to say, to whom are they working…?
In the summer, after a redacted version of the Mueller Report had been released to the public many a Republican closed ranks around the President. The report did provide enough of the facts and allegations to contrast, glaringly, with the four-page summary quickly issued by Attorney General Barr in the immediate aftermath of the completion of Mueller’s work. Indeed, Mueller himself had written to the Attorney General detailing misgivings about the four-page summary.
Long simmering questions came to the fore about individual actions and not just those of the President. Between the Attorney Generals’ obsequious deference to the President and the revelations that several people obstructed President Trump’s efforts at obstruction, an emerging picture clarified a shambles of an administration in which individuals variously decide to follow or ignore Trump’s leadership. the question that arises is, apparently, did they do this as it aligns or not with their own agenda? Or for other reasons?
Now it seems, with the Ukraine call, the script was the same: the President attempts to bully the Ukrainians into collusion for the upcoming 2020 elections and the Republicans will, first, say nothing, then close ranks around him. The number of people, at the least, aware of the Ukrainian call who did nothing about it is frighteningly large. It was a whistleblower, once removed, who brought it to the attention of the nation, This is worth repeating: There was a very large number of people who knew about the call, what it contained and who either tried to prevent the transcript from reaching Congress, or acquiesced in silence as others tried to prevent disclosure.
Why did they do it? What do they get out of protecting Donald Trump?
Although comparisons have been made to how the Mueller investigation was similar to the 1990’s Starr independent counsel investigations into the Clinton administration, a stronger parallel is between the actions of the Trump Administration and the Reagan-era ‘Iran-Contra’ affair.
In both the Mueller investigation and in ‘Iran-Contra’ an administration was placed under a microscope and, stemming from the investigation, a host of lower level persons were indicted while the President was not. In the Iran-Contra affair, we still do not know with complete certainty, who directed, orchestrated, and later tried to cover-up, the arms-for-hostages deal. We do know, however, that President Ronald Reagan, in just about every sense of the word, was completely clueless, and may, in fact, have been largely innocent: A cadre of dedicated middle-men somehow took it upon themselves to run guns to one of our enemies to fund another of our adversaries.
Like Ronald Reagan, Trump is similarly clueless, though perhaps much less innocent: Inside the White House his competence and acumen of are both viewed with a jaundiced eye and mitigated with subterfuge. We know this thanks to an anonymous September 2018 Op-Ed in the New York Times, as well as revelations in the redacted Mueller Report. If, as the Op-Ed alleges, administration officials are easily able to steal important documentation off the desk of the President, apparently without his awareness, and orders are quietly countermanded, is it that much of a stretch to think that in 2016, campaign underlings would have their own agenda with respect to Russia of which the Candidate was unaware?
While some of us might be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief at the so-called ‘adults in the room’ working to mitigate the worst of the Presidents impulses, there is no evidence those same adults are similarly working to mitigate the worst impulses of the amoral who may be driving their own agenda through the Trump Administration. In short, the problem may not be Trump, because he may not be in charge: it may be an unelected cohort of competing middlemen in charge.
It is entirely possible that the Mueller report was nothing more than official confirmation of the 2016 Candidates suspected, completely clueless, nature. Such cluelessness would also meet with an explanation of Trumps clumsy, heedless, attempts to obstruct the investigation while in office and his various and competing explanations for his actions, both in the campaign and with respect to Ukraine. The questions become much more dire: did anyone who may have actively blocked Trump’s efforts at obstruction baulk, at all, at the idea that many of the people from the campaign were entirely willing to jump in bed with the Russians?
Both the circumstances of the Trump 2016 campaign and the Iran-Contra scandal display, to a marked degree, a lazy leadership unwilling or unable to deal with details and minutia and a cadre of the amoral willing to fill in their own details and keep the leadership largely in the dark.
Writing about a similar organizational slide between the paucity of detail and a strong drive to deliver, the historian Sir Ian Kershaw described a general attitude of Germans, during the Nazi ascendancy, who were ’working towards the Fuhrer.’ Adolf Hitler was a famously ’hands off’ administrator describing only vague wishes or stating a desire for a specific outcome without a clear path of delivery: From the notorious inner circle of Himmler, Goring, Goebbels, et al, all the way to the famously efficient Nazi bureaucracy, the Fuhrer’s underlings would have to fill in the details to achieve something that would satisfy Hitler. How much of this dynamic is at play in the present White House? How much of the administration is ‘working towards the Donald’?
This is not a direct comparison of Trump to Hitler. Rather, this is an attempt to understand parallel behavior in organizations comprised of lazy intellects at the top and driven, amoral, people in the middle.
In some ways, the Trump administration and the Nazi hierarchy are opposites: whereas the Nazi underlings were working to fulfill a vision that was repeatedly articulated in speeches and books, Trump’s underlings sometimes have only tweets to go by. That’s a whole lot of detail to fill in. Or a lot of room to fill with one’s own agenda.
In Nazi Germany, by the end, such vaguery and unfocused impetus produced two kind of men: hollowed out shells like Adolf Eichmann, completely subsumed in the details, and lacking any initiative of their own — That was Eichmann’s defense, at least, and which may someday be Lindsay Grahams — and rapacious thieves like Herman Goering, who labored long and hard to steal anything that wasn’t nailed down and worked even harder to un-nail the rest. ‘Working towards the Fuhrer’ was a way of aligning one’s one interests with Nazi ideology under the protection of the Fuhrers viciousness. ‘Working towards the Donald,’ may be a manner of enacting ones own agenda under the protection of Trump’s cluelessness… much like the previous administration of Ronald Reagan. The end result of all, it seems, is a ruthless race to the amoral bottom.
It is striking that, in the present instance of Ukraine bullying, and from the results of the Mueller investigation, the crimes are similar to the Iran-Contra affair: men who had sworn oaths to protect the country worked with avowed enemies of the state: the Reagan Administration working with the Iranians and the Contras; the Trump Campaign and Administration working with Russia and often in direct contravention to specific laws.
The truly stunning thing is that they seem to have done this in broad daylight right alongside men and women who would otherwise take ostensibly principled stands in direct contravention of others of Trump’s commands. Why pick and chose? What heuristics do some administration officials use on whether or no to obstruct? Where were (are) those principled few in relation, not to the President, but to those feckless, reckless, and amoral few alongside them who were (are) strenuously breaking the law?