None dare call it treason

  • 19 February 2017
  • NormanL
The Duce would be proud of Mr. Kristof

The press as official opposition party is fast becomming an unavoidable fact. We noted the phenomenon last week. But in the Sunday New York Times, the concept of opposition took on a much more ominous tinge, as Nicholas Kristof ran through various scenarios to get rid of Donald Trump. Included on the list -- using the 25th Amendment to have the cabinet do the heavy lifting:

...the cleanest and quickest way to remove a president involves Section 4 of the 25th Amendment and has never been attempted. It provides that the cabinet can, by a simple majority vote, strip the president of his powers and immediately hand power to the vice president. The catch is that the ousted president can object, and in that case Congress must approve the ouster by a two-thirds vote in each chamber, or the president regains office.

The 25th Amendment route is to be used when a president is “unable” to carry out his duties. I asked Laurence Tribe, the Harvard professor of constitutional law, whether that could mean not just physical incapacity, but also mental instability. Or, say, the taint of having secretly colluded with Russia to steal an election?

Tribe said that he believed Section 4 could be used in such a situation.

“In the unlikely event that Pence and a majority of Trump’s bizarre cabinet were to grow the spine needed to do the right thing with the process set up by that provision, we would surely be in a situation where a very large majority of the public, including a very substantial percentage of Trump’s supporters, would back if not insist upon such a move,” Tribe said. “In that circumstance, I can’t imagine Trump and his lawyers succeeding in getting the federal courts to interfere.”

Or there's old fashioned impeachment, which depends upon Republicans abandoning Trump in droves, or Democrats making historic gains in the 2018 mid term elections. As unlikely as those two items seem right now, there's still hope for those who pine for a Trump-free White House:

“The only incentive for Republicans to act — with or without the cabinet — is the same incentive Republicans had in 1974 to insist on Nixon’s resignation,” Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told me. “The incentive is survival.”

Trump does have one weakness, and it’s parallel to Nixon’s. Republicans in Congress were willing to oust Nixon partly because they vastly preferred his vice president, Gerald Ford — just as congressional Republicans prefer Mike Pence today.

If I were betting, I’d say we’re stuck with Trump for four years. But as Sabato says: “Lots of things about Donald Trump’s election and early presidency have been shocking. Why should it stop now?”

And what does it say about a presidency that, just one month into it, we’re already discussing whether it can be ended early?

What does it say? It says to the millions who voted for Trump that the left is rapidly moving beyond opposition, and transcending even the cute term "resistance."

Instead, the left, and its true believers in the press, are talking out loud about what could easily be mistaken for a coup. 

Oh...they already went there?

The fourth possibility is one that until recently I would have said was unthinkable in the United States of America: a military coup, or at least a refusal by military leaders to obey certain orders.

The principle of civilian control of the military has been deeply internalized by the U.S. military, which prides itself on its nonpartisan professionalism. What’s more, we know that a high-ranking lawbreaker with even a little subtlety can run rings around the uniformed military. During the first years of the George W. Bush administration, for instance, formal protests from the nation’s senior-most military lawyers didn’t stop the use of torture. When military leaders objected to tactics such as waterboarding, the Bush administration simply bypassed the military, getting the CIA and private contractors to do their dirty work.

But Trump isn’t subtle or sophisticated: He sets policy through rants and late-night tweets, not through quiet hints to aides and lawyers. He’s thin-skinned, erratic, and unconstrained — and his unexpected, self-indulgent pronouncements are reportedly sending shivers through even his closest aides.

What would top U.S. military leaders do if given an order that struck them as not merely ill-advised, but dangerously unhinged? An order that wasn’t along the lines of “Prepare a plan to invade Iraq if Congress authorizes it based on questionable intelligence,” but “Prepare to invade Mexico tomorrow!” or “Start rounding up Muslim Americans and sending them to Guantánamo!” or “I’m going to teach China a lesson — with nukes!”

It’s impossible to say, of course. The prospect of American military leaders responding to a presidential order with open defiance is frightening — but so, too, is the prospect of military obedience to an insane order. After all, military officers swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the president. For the first time in my life, I can imagine plausible scenarios in which senior military officials might simply tell the president: “No, sir. We’re not doing that,” to thunderous applause from the New York Times editorial board.

Our political system needs a vibrant, effective, loyal oppostion -- "loyal" being the key word. The left may think it is being loyal to some pupose or principle. They may even kid themselves they are being loyal to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. 

But their true loyalty has always been power. Their access to power has been fundamentally disrupted. So thye default to overthrowing, by whatever means necessary, the duly elected president because he gives them the willies.

This is not oppostion, nor is it resistance. It is a thirst for power that would make even the most hardened fascist blush.

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