From the beginning, Donald Trump has unceasingly attacked the media. Now he has attacked the intelligence agencies. As Evan McMullen, former CIA officer and recent presidential candidate, pointed out on MSNBC last week, these are the classic first moves of a dictator, i.e. discrediting the forces that might criticize his behavior. MSNBC Lawrence O'Donnell - Intel agencies could disprove.
Should we be in a panic about Trump? Is he really set on being a nuclear-wielding dictator and is now taking the first steps toward that goal? Or is he merely a rich spoiled brat like my cousin Harold, who never in his long life outgrew throwing tantrums?
How dangerous is Trump really?
Well, even a three-year-old is dangerous if he gets hold of matches. Theoretically so is a 70-year-old brat who gets hold of a government and all its powers, including nuclear weapons.
Let's take that big worry off the table first. Even though Trump will get the nuclear codes, the U.S. military will stand between him and launch. You don't believe that? Look back at Watergate: Nixon is alone in the White House, deep in depression and drinking heavily as he faces impeachment, Pat Nixon is long-estranged and of no comfort, and Nixon's trusted top aides and friends Haldeman and Erlichman are on the way to jail. On his way out of the White House Erlichman has pulled an Army general into the White House—Alexander Haig— as Nixon's keeper. No one has ever asked why an Army general was pulled in. But it seems obvious: to be certain that Nixon—increasingly drunk and unstable— didn't launch missiles. The military doesn't want a nuclear war, partly because there's no "la gloire" about it, no one around afterwards to hand out medals. The military will find a way to block an unjustified launch by Trump.
Second worry: Trump will wipe out the planet, not with nuclear winter, but with causing a global hot box. No, he won't. I already discussed that a couple of days after the election. What Can Trump REALLY Do? First of all, state environmental laws replicate many federal laws and are in many cases tougher and more nimble. Also, even executive orders (a principle environmental tool of President Obama) can't be reversed legally without a court-acceptable rationale. And the election outcome has driven many milions in contributions into the coffers of the environmental groups. Any changes Trump seeks to weaken environmental protection will be tied up in the courts for years and years.
Third big worry: repeal of Obamacare. The GOP Congress has no replacement plan so it's going to lie. Its current tactic will be to vote the repeal of Obamacare on the first day but the repeal's effect will be set for down the road by two years (or even four). Thus the GOP Congress could say it "kept the promise" of "voting immediate repeal" without really doing immediate repeal. It will have bought itself a couple of years to solve a problem it has had six years to solve but failed to do so. As for those who thus lose their Obamacare, most of them voted for Trump!
Fourth big worry: destruction of bank regulations and other financial measures, terminating consumer protections, etc. Pretty tough to do when there will be a piercing scream from the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. In the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession, the public would be justifiably outraged with letting the banks go back to wildly speculating, shafting the public, and then needing bailouts again.
Fifth big worry: Trump will reduce the CIA and make us vulnerable to another 9-11. That makes a good anti-Trump slogan for now but it won't happen. I'll explain why in my next blog.
Sixth big worry: we will be tromped by Russia. This is a non-starter. Trump and his crony, the president of Exxon, have lots to gain financially by snuggling up to Russia on oil deals. But the USA has nothing to gain that justifies being cozy with Russia, short of each agreeing to destroy its own nuclear arsenal. Such will never happen under Putin. Nuclear weapons are all Russia has to be pseudo-big-time. (We might join forces with Russia against ISIS, but we are actually decimating them pretty well on our own.) Russia exports nothing we need. It exports nothing anybody needs except some energy to some Eastern European countries.
In the global scheme of things, it's just not much of a player except to be a mischief-maker. And it can't use the nukes! The real threat Russia poses is hacking, as we now know. But we can out-hack Russia. We can shut it down. It may be able to do the same to us. Yet—as with nuclear war—everybody loses in such a contest. We just need to smarten up and spend some fed money on cyber protections. Such funds should now flow readily from Congress because of Russia's attempt to interfere in the election.
The subject of Russia really focuses us on Congress. The biggest barrier between Trump and Russia is the Republican Congressional majority. The GOP is a party based on half a century of hate-and-fear-Russia. As well as hating Russia, the GOP Congressmen also are not Trump's friends. All through the campaign he spat on the GOP Congressmen and they spat back. Now he needs them and they don't need him. They would gladly be rid of him. He's an embarrassment. If he gets too cozy with Russia they will pounce, possibly finding in such conduct an impeachable offense of aiding and giving comfort to an enemy. Many in Congress are likely also to be now giving a fond look at the Espionage Act of 1917.
Keep in mind that if they impeach Trump they get something they really want: Pence, the v.p. to-be. Whereas Trump is an erratic wild card with no sense of party, Pence is one of the GOP good old boys. He's one of their own. They can work with him. I think he's awful, but we're talking here about why the GOP would impeach Trump.
We are in for an interesting ride through all this. But it seems that this ride is more perilous for Trump than it is for us. Rather than be a dictator, more likely than not he actually just wants to make a lot of money off his presidency. His son-in-law is already trying to cut deals for hotels in China and a major New York City project financed by a Chinese corporation. But Trump and his family will be scrutinized by the media for just such activity. The irony is that Trump's attacks on the Clintons for their greedy grabs have heightened the media's attention to such possible activity by him.
Trump stands in great risk of impeachment if he goes over the line on anything. GOP members of the Senate are already making threatening noises. Remember the old saying: "Everybody you kick on the way up is waiting to kick you on the way down." Right now the GOP is keeping a relatively low profile and not bucking Trump much. I imagine they are letting him have a lot of rope to do you-know-what.
And the Democrats are wisely being very quiet too. Senator Chuck Schumer has vowed not to allow a bad Supreme Court appointment to get through, but otherwise the Democrats are also letting Trump cut his own throat for now and letting the GOP hold the basin. The Democrats will not tarnish any GOP pouncing with a premature Democratic demand of impeachment that can be labeled "partisan attack by Democrats" and make the removal of Trump less credible to the public.
"Let the GOP do its own dirty laundry." That was the Democratic motto in the beginning re Watergate and the Nixon impeachment.
And it worked just fine.