Monday, December 5, 2016

M.N.: "Give him a chance", and also, "Trust, but verify", as R. Reagan liked to say..."We cannot allow Mr. Trump to normalize the idea that he is the ultimate arbiter of our rights." - Trump’s Threat to the Constitution - The New York Times


"In our nation, power is shared, checked and balanced precisely to thwart would-be autocrats. But as we become desensitized to the notion that Mr. Trump is the ultimate authority, we may attribute less importance to the laws, norms and principles that uphold our system of government, which protects our rights. Most dangerously, we devalue our own worth and that of our fellow Americans...
We cannot allow Mr. Trump to normalize the idea that he is the ultimate arbiter of our rights. 
Those who can will need to speak out boldly and suffer possible retaliation. Others will need to offer hands of kindness and friendship across the traditional political divide, as well as to those who may become targets because of who they are or what they believe. Those who understand the cause are called to the work, which I hope will unify and bless our nation in time." 
Evan McMullin, a former C.I.A. officer

Trump’s Threat to the Constitution - The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — On July 7, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, met privately with House Republicans near the Capitol. I was present as chief policy director of the House Republican Conference. Mr. Trump’s purpose was to persuade the representatives to unite around him, a pitch he delivered in a subdued version of his stream-of-consciousness style. A congresswoman asked him about his plans to protect Article I of the Constitution, which assigns all federal lawmaking power to Congress.
Mr. Trump interrupted her to declare his commitment to the Constitution — even to parts of it that do not exist, such as “Article XII.” Shock swept through the room as Mr. Trump confirmed one of our chief concerns about him: He lacked a basic knowledge of the Constitution.
There is still deeper cause for concern. Mr. Trump’s erroneous proclamation also suggested that he lacked even an interest in the Constitution. Worse, his campaign rhetoric had demonstrated authoritarian tendencies.
He had questioned judicial independence, threatened the freedom of the press, called for violating Muslims’ equal protection under the law, promised the use of torture and attacked Americans based on their gender, race and religion. He had also undermined critical democratic norms including peaceful debate and transitions of power, commitment to truth, freedom from foreign interference and abstention from the use of executive power for political retribution.
There is little indication that anything has changed since Election Day. Last week, Mr. Trump commented on Twitter that flag-burning should be punished by jailing and revocation of citizenship. As someone who has served this country, I carry no brief for flag-burners, but I defend their free-speech right to protest — a right guaranteed under the First Amendment. Although I suspect that Mr. Trump’s chief purpose was to provoke his opponents, his action was consistent with the authoritarian playbook he uses.
Mr. Trump also recently inflated his election performance, claiming — without evidence — that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This, too, is nothing new. Authoritarians often exaggerate their popular support to increase the perception of their legitimacy. But the deeper objective is to weaken the democratic institutions that limit their power. Eroding confidence in voting, elections and representative bodies gives them a freer hand to wield more power.
As a C.I.A. officer, I saw firsthand authoritarians’ use of these tactics around the world. Their profound appetite for absolute power drives their intolerance for any restraint — whether by people, organizations, the law, cultural norms, principles or even the expectation of consistency. For a despot, all of these checks on power must be ignored, undermined or destroyed so that he is all that matters.
Mr. Trump has said that he prefers to be unpredictable because it maximizes his power. During his recent interview with The New York Times, he casually abandoned his fiery calls during the campaign for torture, prosecuting Hillary Clinton and changing libel laws. Mr. Trump’s inconsistencies and provocative proposals are a strategy; they are intended to elevate his importance above all else — and to place him beyond democratic norms, beyond even the Constitution.
In our nation, power is shared, checked and balanced precisely to thwart would-be autocrats. But as we become desensitized to the notion that Mr. Trump is the ultimate authority, we may attribute less importance to the laws, norms and principles that uphold our system of government, which protects our rights. Most dangerously, we devalue our own worth and that of our fellow Americans.
We must never forget that we are born equal, with basic, natural rights, including those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights are inherent in us because we are humans, not because they are granted by government. Government, indeed, exists primarily to protect those natural rights; the only legitimate power it has is that which we grant to it.
We can no longer assume that all Americans understand the origins of their rights and the importance of liberal democracy. We need a new era of civic engagement that will reawaken us to the cause of liberty and equality. That engagement must extend to ensuring that our elected representatives uphold the Constitution, in deed and discourse — even if doing so puts them at odds with their party.
We cannot allow Mr. Trump to normalize the idea that he is the ultimate arbiter of our rights. Those who can will need to speak out boldly and suffer possible retaliation. Others will need to offer hands of kindness and friendship across the traditional political divide, as well as to those who may become targets because of who they are or what they believe. Those who understand the cause are called to the work, which I hope will unify and bless our nation in time.
M.N.: In this country, people will never allow Mr. Trump, or any other "Trum-pics", big and small, to trample on their rights and their democracy, be it imperfect as it is. I think, Mr. Trump should pay attention to these opinions, and if he really wants to unify the country, to make it strong again, and the first again, he should make some adjustments in his rhetoric and political attitudes. 

I have the impression, although very early and the preliminary one, that these necessary adjustments started to take place, and under the beneficial influence of the GOP's collective leadership. We have to remember, that there is a wise tradition of the bi-partisan, or the non-partisan approach to the National Security and related issues, including the personnel appointments, in this country. Mr. Trump's and the Republican's approach in selecting the new leadership figures, so far, is solid and prudent, the appointment of Gen. J. Mattis as DOD Secretary is the good illustration of this point. 

Maybe, as I mentioned earlier, Mr. Trump does have a deep psychological need to be closely influenced, and indeed, to be "reformed" by the military-political establishment, just like he went through this process in his youth, in the Military School. There is nothing wrong with that. This establishment reformed many people, to its, and to their own benefit. They have the sufficient knowledge, skills, and traditions in this respect, it is a part of their craft. It is also a part of their job, in a way, to help the others to become better human beings.

 "Theirs not to make reply,
 Theirs not to reason why,
 Theirs but to do and die."

- Alfred Lord Tennyson 

This process of mutual adjustment and accommodation, in the broadest and best senses, has to continue. The President, the free and unbound Spirit of the Nation (as it appears to be, tilting somewhat to the far end of the scale in Mr. Trump's case) and the great, rock solid, unshakable, live and working, traditional governing and cultural Institutions of the country, form the single indivisible whole, creative, productive, and efficient in their historical Symbiosis. 

No one, not only the civil libertarians but the broad spectrum of the political, military, National Security, and the other establishments and elites, who will watch Mr. Trump 24/7, like hawks, ever awake, sensitive, perceptive, and ready to react; no one will allow any risks to the civil liberties. Thank you, Mr. McMullin, for this timely reminder. 

Hopefully, the complex process of the mutual adjustment of the Spirit and the Institutions will resolve itself naturally, productively, and to the benefits of all: the country, first of all, and its very heterogeneous in many ways and respects, but united in their benevolent good will and the love for the country, swaths of citizenship groups.

As Hillary Clinton said, "Give him a chance", this is the very American thing to do. And also, "Trust, but verify", as R. Reagan liked to say, quoting the Russian proverb. 

Michael Novakhov 

12.5.16