This is very not normal, and it shouldn’t be forgotten.
Trumps baseless accusations of unprecedented high crimes, and the way the government was forced to contort themselves to his rage-filled lunacy, is a clear demonstration of being unable to discharge his duties.
There’s a story about Omar al-Bashir, the longtime warlord/President of Sudan and absolute war criminal, from when he first came into power in the early 90s. This was after the Afghan jihad, and when returning fighters were being either used or cracked down on by their local governments, and about the time when Osama bin Laden and a nascent al-Qaeda wanted to use Sudan as a base. Bashir wasn’t very religious, but saw that he could use a heightened sense of religion to appeal to jihadis who could potentially serve as protection for him.
He was talking to foreign reporters about his love for Islam and all things Muslim, and told them that he was thinking of passing a law requiring all Sudanese to pray three times a day, in observance of sacred ritual. The reporters confusedly pointed out that the actual requirements are five times a day, at which Bashir brightened and said “The more the better!”
(Note: I read this story a long time ago and can’t remember where, so his quote isn’t exact, but it is along those lines.)
That to me was always a very telling story about madness and power. There was zero actual principle other than how he could manipulate emotions, which all politicians do, but only a select few use the power of the state to enforce those heightened emotions. Authoritarians and dictators do that. Lunatics do that. The two often intersect.
Donald Trump isn’t a dictator, but he is an authoritarian, and is more than happy to use the wheels of his office as the most powerful man in the world to serve as an outlet for his rage, endless quest for vindication, and inability to let go of any grudges and slights (and anything short of praise is, for him, a slight). It’s a terrifying combination, and was shown to be so when he accused Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him.
Here’s the thing: that happened over the weekend. Since then, the GOP has pushed their already-hated Repeal Obamacare bill and the administration released a less-shaky but still abhorrent Muslim Ban. That’s a lot of things–a lot of terrible, terrible, things–and they are front page news. But by god, they shouldn’t be.
Look at what is happening in his administration. Sean Spicer is basically saying he shouldn’t have to answer any questions about the wiretapping, because what’s done is done and it is up to Congress now. Everyone else in the admin, from Sessions to Kelly, dodges the questions with “no comments”. Trump–the President!–hasn’t even asked James Comey if the allegations are true, with the excuse that it’s in Congress’s court.
The entire wheels of government underneath Trump are trying to avoid talking about the fact that less than five days ago the President accused his predecessor of one of the biggest political crimes in American history.
They are doing so by asking Congress to investigate something that came up in the toxic swamps of wingnut central and was filtered through the empty and rageful mind of the President, with zero evidence, and without anyone even pretending that there is evidence. They are hoping that by passing the buck to Congress the whole thing can be forgotten in the murk of further investigations.
Essentially, they want everyone to pretend that this didn’t happen. There are other things to talk about. It’s yesterday’s news!
Think about that: they want–no, they need–everyone to pretend that the President didn’t read something on a site that traffics entirely in mendacity and outrage, in racism and bile, and, because he was mad about other things, decided to use the power of his office to make open accusations. The entirety of the “unified government” has to hope that by calling for “investigations” they can briefly placate the leader and hope he forgets. And they want us all to go along.
Trump knows as much about wiretapping as Bashir knew about praying, and his administration is already at the stage where they are cowering in fear about what his next whim will be. Because he governs and speaks entirely on whims, and no one knows what tomorrow’s will be.
Right now, there aren’t any solid grounds for impeachment (though there may be some coming soon). However, there are clearly grounds for removal under Section 4 of Article 25, an obscure clause much-discussed since January 20th, about 5900 years ago.
The amendment states that if, for whatever reason, the vice president and a majority of sitting Cabinet secretaries decide that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” they can simply put that down in writing and send it to two people — the speaker of the House and the Senate’s president pro tem.
Then the vice president would immediately become “Acting President,” and take over all the president’s powers.
Let that sink in — one vice president and any eight Cabinet officers can, theoretically, decide to knock the president out of power at any time.
Needless to say, as long as Trump remains popular with GOP voters, this won’t happen. I’m not saying help is on the way, here. But I am saying that I think the wiretapping accusations provide a clear enough case for this, and the failure to act should be seen and called out as a dereliction of duty.
Because it isn’t that Trump is acting like a dictator: it’s that he is acting like a dictator in a very specific way. He runs on groin-driven ignorance, and the machinery of the government is forced to react to that. He burbles with spite regurgitated from tabloid agitprop, and an entire political party is forced to contort themselves around that unreality. He doesn’t care to govern, but to rule, and when he can’t, he reacts with madness.
He doesn’t know anything about government or democracy, and that, combined with his whim driven style, makes him entirely “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It’s plain as day. The man woke up one morning and baselessly accused his predecessor in a public forum of high crimes. That’s madness, but the way the madness affected the rest of the administration–in reality, the running of which are his “powers and duties”–demonstrates unfitness.
Trump could tell you to pray three times a day, and the government would have to rewrite the Holy Books to agree. That’s not America. Goddamn, that’s not even the Sudan.