A Civil Discussion of Trump’s Character
In the heat of the passions generated by the grave political crisis our nation presently finds itself in, many – including this author — often resort to less-than-elegant rhetoric to make a point.
My dear sister, who is a faithful reader and critic of both my political rants and of my more sedate human interest writings, often has some good advice for me, especially when I use the Spanish word “pend***” to describe the present occupant of the people’s house.
She tells me that one can be just as persuasive and passionate – perhaps even more effective — without being uncivil.
Reflecting on her advice, I re-read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham City Jail, written by a man who had every reason to be angry, combative and “inelegant.”
Yet the civil rights icon did not succumb to such temptation and his Letter became one of the most eloquent and powerful manifestoes for the American Civil Rights Movement and is now a permanent and important part of that anthology.
I had never heard of Samuel Benjamin Harris, an American philosopher, author and neuroscientist, until a couple of days ago when it was recommended to me that I listen to his latest podcast.
In his Thursday podcast, “The Path to Impeachment” (recorded before the latest Trump investigation bombshells exploded), Harris speaks with American journalist, Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Anne Applebaum and with another American author, assistant secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration and national security analyst for CNN, Juliette Kayyem.
In their conversation, they discuss the exploding “Russian thing” and other ethics and obstruction of justice scandals engulfing the White House.
While Harris may be controversial in the eyes of some due to his views on religion, and while he has some very strong opinions on the Trump presidency, listening to his two guests I learned once again of the power of strong, informed yet polite and balanced commentary.
The podcast is long, one hour and twenty minutes, but worth every minute of one’s time.
Please listen to it here.
The following are a few highlights of the podcast – somewhat paraphrased:
Applebaum worries that Americans are becoming so overwhelmed and discouraged by the daily — sometimes hourly — scandals coming out of this White House that they may just give up, become apolitical, retreat into their private world…so typical in countries with authoritarian regimes.
Even more concerning, the true admiration Trump has for rich powerful people…for a political leader such as Putin and for an autocratic political system, including the disdain for a free press…the closeness Trump feels to Russia’s style of oligarchy and plutocracy. The fact that Trump feels “very comfortable with the Russians.”
She highlights Trump’s apparent inability to see the connection between events such as his impulsive firing of Comey because of the “Russian thing” and his cozy meeting with the Russians in the Oval Office the very next day. “He lives each event as if he was in that particular moment and he doesn’t see what its relationship is to other things.”
On possible impeachment, Applebaum has the same views as Kayyem: Impeachment is strictly a political process and decision. Trump will only be impeached if and when Congress feels he has become a political liability.
In her segment, Kayyem also addresses impeachment possibilities and scenarios. She emphasizes that impeachment is a political process, not a criminal one and that articles of impeachment can include conduct not befitting a president, psychological instability, failure to take care of our foreign policy because of Russian connections…it does not require intent, but does require Congress “to get a backbone.”
While Kayyem hopes that some of our democratic “purposes” (especially regarding our intelligence agencies) will “rightsize” themselves after Trump, she asks:
However this all ends…will those systems that have been stretched, avoided, challenged, undermined, criticized, violated by the Trump White House, will they be able to get back to the checks and balances that we deserve…?
A good question, and like you, MS. Kayyem, we fervently hope the answer is “yes.”
Finally, to my sister, thanks for your sound advice.
Lead image: Courtesy donkeyhotey.com