Two Small Steps in the Right Direction

Alan Zendell, March 31, 2023

During a week in which I focused on getting home from a winter in Florida, I still checked the news (as opposed to rabid political rhetoric) every day. It made me feel like the fabric that keeps our civilization intact was unraveling. Valdimir Putin announced that he would position tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which shares Ukraine’s northern border. He also begged Xi Jing Pin for support for his underperforming military, while Xi treaded the line between economic aid and weaponry, seeking leverage against America’s support for Taiwan.

There was another mass shooting, in Nashville, in which a lunatic with an assault weapon killed three nine-year-old children. Tennessee is a very red state whose right wing politicians constantly play on the Second Amendment to court voters. Thus, instead of a of reasonable response to President Biden’s appeal to re-enact the ban on assault weapons, all we got from them was condolences and advice to mourning family members to pray. There were deadly tornadoes in Mississippi, clearly exacerbated by climate change, which the crazy wing of the Republican Party thinks requires no government action.

Finally, there’s the two-ring circus of Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu dancing to avoid criminal prosecution. We learned throughout Trump’s presidency that Netanyahu has no more respect for truth and the rule of law than Trump does. Both attempted to subvert their nation’s legal system, placing their constitutions and democracies in serious jeopardy. Whether you love or hate their politics, the ego-driven lust for power that drives their behaviors makes both men unfit to lead nuclear armed countries that spend every day on the brink of hostilities. It was easy to imagine all of us slipping downhill toward catastrophe and powerless to do anything to stop it.

And then – we saw evidence that we might have passed one of the inflection points President Biden likes to refer to. (An inflection point occurs when negative trends turn positive, or vice versa.) In response to Netanyahu’s attempt to undermine Israel’s judiciary by granting the legislature full power to overrule court decisions on elections, Israeli citizens staged massive protests across the country. Both Israel and the United States have constitutions that assure a separation of powers to prevent democracy from turning into autocracy. If successful, Netanyahu’s action would nullify a critical lynchpin of Israel’s democratic political system in the same way Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election would have. Israelis have made it clear they won’t let that happen.

And then – a long awaited shoe dropped. The New York District Attorney’s grand jury voted to indict Donald Trump on thirty criminal charges. That indictment came down yesterday, to predictable reactions. All of Trump’s closest supporters, mostly people who would profit if Trump defeats all charges, are screaming about political persecution and weaponizing the legal system.

Richard Nixon famously asserted that anything a President does is legal by definition. That didn’t shield Nixon from justice, and it shouldn’t shield Trump. No one is above the law, and the legal system must be allowed to proceed. Two weeks ago, anticipating his arrest and indictment, Trump flooded his social media outlets with appeals to his supporters to come to New York and hold massive protests. He predicted that his arrest would result in death and destruction, a delusional attempt to re-enact the January 6th insurrection at the New York courthouse.

It’s striking that not a single Senate Republican has said anything about Trump’s indictment, and not one of Trump’s outraged supporters says a word about whether Trump actually committed the crimes he’s accused of, not a single word proclaiming his innocence. Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax all know the source of their revenue is hard core Trumpers. As usual, it’s greed and power over the rule of law.

Long-time Conservative S. E. Cupp summed it up perfectly. Addressing the outrage of Trump’s supporters, she said they were not outraged by Trump’s attempt to overturn a legal election, by the violence and death at the Capitol that resulted from Trump calling his supporters to arms, by the illegal phone calls to Georgia election officials, or his illegal attempt to extort political assistance against Joe Biden from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. They weren’t outraged by the shocking number of accusations by women of sexual harassment and assault, by Trump’s sexist, bigoted, homophobic, xenophobic behavior, or his white nationalism, his defense of antisemitism and support for neo-Nazi groups.

When he pre-emptively pardoned Richard Nixon for crimes he committed while serving as president, former President Gerald Ford said he did so to avoid exactly what we are seeing concerning Trump. Nixon had already been declared guilty by his own supporters led by Senator Barry Goldwater. Nixon’s former White House counsel John Dean said, however, that Ford didn’t act out of compassion or to aid Nixon as much as to protect his ability to govern and maintain order. While I believe that President Biden should pardon Trump if he is convicted and faces potential prison time, the nation’s long-term health depends on the legal process proceeding to a conclusion so we can all see the evidence.

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