The end of the Special Counsel’s investigation last week was a watershed in presidential politics. A watershed not just for the parties, but for the president, who characteristically if indecorously referred to it as “ridiculous bullshit.” In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs explains why, to put it simply, it isn’t.
The nerve of this guy. The shamelessness. The gall.
Twice so far, since the Special Counsel concluded his investigation, Donald Trump has called his adversaries “treasonous.” Their crime? Supporting the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump campaign’s willing role as an accomplice.
Unless you don’t think that encouraging Russia to sway the election your way makes you an accomplice. Maybe in the eyes of the law — especially in the eyes of prosecutors who would have to take a case to trial — it’s not conspiracy, maybe it’s not collusion. But it’s inarguably impermissible and immoral. All those convicted senior Trump associates weren’t just lying about connections to Russia for the fun of it.
But who’s surprised any more when Trump turns the tables on his detractors and says they’re the ones who committed treason? After more than two years of pomposity from this president, we know that his bombast plays to his base. Now, after mindlessly mouthing “lock her up” since before the election without quite knowing what it is that Hillary Clinton did to merit a stretch behind bars, his acolytes probably will start chanting “lock ‘em up” about everyone who found any reason to look closely at Trump and his ties to Russia.
What Trump is playing is the patriot card … as if his Putin-patronizing patriotism is beyond reproach. The indictment is, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Where have we heard that before? As if opposing your elected leader and his policies means you oppose your nation. I’ve lost count of the number of authoritarian governments I’ve covered around the world where loyalty to the leader was the only definition of patriotism.
It’s not supposed to work that way here.
But in Trump’s world of alternative facts, we also have alternative definitions. If you go looking for the dictionary definition of treason, you’ll find several, but they all amount to this: treason is the betrayal of your nation by giving aid and comfort to its enemies, or by waging war yourself against it. And that’s not just what dictionaries say; it is the essence of treason as defined in the United States Constitution.
What treason doesn’t include is questioning your government, distrusting your government, investigating your government. One of the very reasons the Founding Fathers defined treason the way they did was to protect us— you and me— when we want to criticize our government. Or the people who lead it. That isn’t treason; it is democracy.
Yet look at Donald Trump’s dark warnings last week: “There are people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things— I would say treasonous things— against our country. And hopefully the people that have done such harm to our country— we’ve gone through a period of really bad things happening— those people will certainly be looked at.”
If those final words don’t send a cold chill down your spine, nothing will. I won’t utter the names of the 20th Century’s worst fascists, because to compare anyone today to the likes of those mass murderers — including a would-be autocrat like our president — is an injustice to the victims of history’s worst. But suffice to say, Trump’s language mirrors theirs.
Late last week at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan — home town to a decent if not dazzling president named Gerald Ford — this indecent man dropped the word “treason” but called the Special Counsel’s investigation a “sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people.”
Trump forgets so much. About history, and about the people’s will. It’s odd, in fact, that this man considers his presidency a mandate at all. What he forgets is, most voters two years ago voted against him. Most voters didn’t want him in the White House. Yes, because of the Electoral College he won the election fair and square… well, square, anyway, because the original need for the Electoral College seems quaintly unfair when twice in 16 years the majority of Americans have been disenfranchised and a president has been elected with a minority of popular votes. That is hardly “the will of the American people.”
President George W. Bush had the grace at least not to speak of a mandate when he served in the White House. He did what presidents do with the power they inherit, but he didn’t act as if the majority of Americans were behind him every step of the way.
Donald Trump does. Which is one more reason why his words, let alone his actions, are unbefitting the presidency. And why he’s got some nerve calling his opponents treasonous.