Tracking Trump, Week 4: Feb 12-18 2017

It’s been a weird, wild, week in Trump kingdom. For those accusing Trump of fascism, here’s a week of indications, although whether these point to fascism, authoritarianism, or populism is disputable.

Sunday

On FACE THE NATION, Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller said the following about Trump’s intended executive order on immigration:

We’re considering new and further executive actions that will enhance the security posture of the United States. I don’t have any news to date to make on it. But I think the point, John, is that the president has enormous powers, both delegated to him by Congress and under the Constitution, his Article 2 foreign affairs power, to control the entry of aliens into our country and he’s going to use that authority to keep us safe.

The gist of this is that Miller attributed almost superhuman powers to his boss.

Now, the President is known as “the most powerful man in the world”, but according to the US Constitution, the U.S. presidency, which is the “Executive Branch”, has to harmonize with the other two: the “Legislative”  (i.e.,  Congress) and the “Judicial” branch (i.e., Supreme Court and subordinate federal courts). Moreover, the Constitution gave overarching control to the Congress (including the power to remove the President under circumstances which Congress itself defines). The President, too, is answerable in all his actions to Congress.

Miller overlooked that.  More critically, Miller continued:

We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many case a supreme branch of government.

Since when – and who decides – that the “judiciary that has taken far too much power”? Regardless, Miller says:

Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

“Our opponents”?  Leaders of fascist and authoritarian regimes tend to furnish themselves with a panoply of real and purported enemies. Trump’s enemies are “the whole world”. Also in dictatorial fashion, Trump declares that “his powers…will not be questioned.”

Fascism is dangerous to host country and to the world. That same day:

Hezbollah terror leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech in Lebanon and addressed US President Donald Trump, whom he called a “fool.”  According to him, “We need to thank Trump for exposing the true face of American society which is racist, criminal and sheds blood while contriving plots against our nations here in the Middle East.”

Monday

Vice President Mike Pence, the vice-president who was supposed to stand in for Trump’s political deficiency and provide logical stability, seems to lack Trump’s confidence and to be isolated from Trump’s shadow cabinet that is headed by chief strategist, Bannon. A NY Times investigation revealed that national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, lied to Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States about the lifting of sanctions imposed in the last days of the Obama administration. Worse still, most of Trump’s inner circle seem to be incriminated in the Russian mess, with the trail leading to the President himself. So what does Pence do? The Washington Street Journal reported that Trump sent him to the statue of Douglas MacArthur at West Point to mime how to polish shoes.

An overlooked snippet described a White House atmosphere of overt partisanship – conditions that existed under no other Administration:

At an all-hands meeting about two weeks into the new administration, Ms. McFarland told the group it needed to “make America great again,” numerous staff members who were there said. New Trump appointees are carrying coffee mugs with that Trump campaign slogan into meetings with foreign counterparts, one staff member said. Nervous staff members recently met late at night at a bar a few blocks from the White House and talked about purging their social media accounts of any suggestion of anti-Trump sentiments.

Trump’s regime, University News wrote, mirrors the rise of European fascism. That same day, Geert Wilders, a controversial far-right Dutch politician reiterated his pledge to de-Islamize the Netherlands. Massoud Shadjareh, head of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, associated rise of such sentiments to “fascist ideology” that is being promoted and allowed to become legitimized in the world:

The reality is that we are seeing the rise of fascism on the back of Islamophobia and hatred of Muslims and this is extremely worrying because this level of demonization always leads to genocide and ethnic cleansing

Wednesday

Conway tweeted another message indicating she parrots Trump: “I serve at the pleasure of [Trump]. His message is my message.” She broke the rules and gave what she called a “free commercial” on Fox News for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line: “Go buy it today, everybody.” Spicer said she had been “counseled.” How? Trump okayed her actions.

Note how both she and Miller (as well as Spicer among other members of his shadow cabinet) assign absolute power to Trump.

Thursday

The New York Times:

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election”

Again, one wonders where Vice President Pence is on all of this. Poor guy! Supposed to lead the government, and seemingly ousted from Trump’s confidence.

Meanwhile, the American law enforcement and intelligence agencies give Trump a tough time, so what does the leader do?

President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview. (NY Times)

In short, the President aims to stifle their independence – or, put another way, their unbridled autonomy.

That same day, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations and reported:

The number of hate groups in the United States rose for a second year in a row in 2016 as the radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Friday

Is Trump’s regime authoritarian? At the end of one week, John Sidney McCain had this to say:

  • “[The founders of the Munich conference] would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants and refugees and minority groups — especially Muslims.”
  • “They would be alarmed by the growing inability — and even unwillingness — to separate truth from lies.”
  • “They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”

McCain is Republican. His party runs the country. He reported what he saw.

The media, whether objectively or otherwise, has time and again put the Donald in his place. On Friday, Trump called the Times and several other media organisations “not my enemies [but] enemies of the American people”.

Granted that the media dislikes Donald, but why is it then the Nation’s enemy? (shouldn’t it be peculiarly Donald’s)? Or does the President think of himself as the United States of America? Alternately, does he want his supporters – and maybe the country as a whole – to pillory the press?

He made a similar claim at a rally in Florida telling supporters the media was “part of the corrupt system”: “When the media lies to the people I will never let them get away with it”, he added.

Again, the man seems to think he has super-President powers.

Conclusion

 

So, in this fourth week of his Presidency, Mr. Trump has declared war on the intelligence agencies and the media. It looks like the judicial branch may be next.