January 10, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Incompetent, Criminally Minded, Fascist
In Trump's shutdown, a conclusion based on the evidence of our senses.
Let’s be honest about what’s going on in the 20-day shutdown of the government.
The president is incompetent, criminally minded and fascist.
These traits might be tolerable in places like Russia, Turkey or the Philippines. In America, power must be shared, more or less. It can’t be hoarded, and attempts to hoard it are usually met with hell-raising. The American people won’t stand for it.
You don’t walk away from negotiations, as Donald Trump did Wednesday, when you have less bargaining power than the other side. But it is what you might do when you have convinced yourself that you have more bargaining power than the other side.
Trump does not have the advantage, because his party took a beating in November’s elections, and the GOP took a beating, because Americans voted against the president and his impractical, immoral wall. The wall’s unpopularity, I hasten to add, was clearly evident when the Republicans controlled Congress. Only an incompetent would believe he can get a wall from the Democrats when he couldn’t get it from his party.
An incompetent grows frustrated, moreover, when his efforts to lie his way to an advantage are thwarted by people who know what they’re talking about. During that famous meeting in the Oval Office, in which he said he would take responsibility for the government shutdown, Trump implied that he had the advantage. Then Nancy Pelosi humiliated him in front of TV cameras. She said: “What the president is representing in terms of his cards over there is not factual” (my italics).
“Criminally minded”—sounds harsh, but there’s no other credible conclusion to draw from Wednesday’s White House meeting. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that he asked the president: “Why won’t you open the government and stop hurting people?” Trump said: “Because then you won’t give me what I want.”
This is not something you do when negotiating in good-faith. When negotiating in good-faith, you offer something that the other side wants, not something that the other side does not want. Unnoticed in almost all reporting about the 20-day shutdown is the Democrats offering more than $1 billion in “border security” while Trump is offering nothing but not doing what the Democrats have said they do not want.
In other words, the president is confusing ransom with leverage, because the president is criminally minded. He thinks that by doing something that the Democrats have said they do not want, he can force them into giving him what he wants. But in offering nothing in return for giving him something, he is deepening already deep distrust in the president. In a very real sense, even if the Democrats caved to his demands, they don’t have reason to believe Trump will reopen the government. This is why police have policies against negotiating with hostage takers. In meeting hostage-takers’ demands, police could end up undermining efforts to save the hostages.
Because no reasonable person can negotiate with a criminally minded incompetent, everyone must face the possibility of this criminally minded incompetent abusing the powers of his office. Specifically, we must face the growing likelihood that the president will invoke emergency powers, allowing him to bypass the Congress, reroute money allocated for the military, and start building a wall on the southern border. In doing so, he would make a mockery of separated powers and the US Constitution.
Make no mistake that if he does this, he will do it not because there is an actual emergency, but because the Democrats are holding him responsible, and encouraging all Americans to hold him responsible, for the pain he caused by his own actions. He wants to end the standoff without looking weak. He’s ready to commit an impeachable offense, because there’s no alternative for a criminally minded incompetent.
Yesterday, Trump said: “I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want.” Reporter: “What determines if you declare it a national emergency?”
Trump: “If I can’t make a deal.”
Incompetent, criminally minded and fascist—this is a conclusion based on the evidence of our senses. This is a conclusion our news media should make clear.
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The Editorial Board
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.
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