Saturday, June 03, 2017

Using Up My June anti-Trump Rant Early

Is a Crime Against Humanity an Impeachable Offense? 
It's a serious question, though in the current context of Trump's stupefying announcement that he intends to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, one that is somewhat idle.

His action, though criminal in its intent towards the health and prosperity of the world's population (and even our own), and criminally stupid and ill-informed as well, does not violate any laws.  He clearly has the authority to take the action, and the accord itself specifies the timing of how a withdrawal (some three years down the road) would come into effect.  Trump will not be impeached for this, because impeachment--especially of a President--is entirely a function of political support, and for this wrongheaded move he will clearly have sufficient support from his party to preclude that.

With regard to the question, the identification of an impeachable offense is left entirely up to Congress. The two precedents of Presidential impeachment being voted by the House are the cases of Andrew Johnson, charged with exceeding his authority for firing a Federal official (clearly not a crime, nor even a fair reading of the limit of his authority), and Bill Clinton, charged with lying in a deposition about something that was not a crime nor related to the conduct of his office.  Of course, neither was convicted in the Senate (Johnson nearly so, Clinton not very close), but the point is that impeachable is solely in the collective eye of the beholding House and Senate.

As for a "crime against humanity", the fact that an action is legal in domestic law has no relation to that culpability.  The Germans convicted of those crimes at the Nuremberg trial generally were scrupulously following the direction of governmental authority; the same may be said of some other tinpot dictators convicted in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.  Though the US is not a party to the Court, that only means the US would not surrender its citizens for trial; Trump could be arrested outside the country and subjected to trial, something I would love to see but will never happen.  And make no mistake, whether or not his folly leads directly or indirectly to death and destruction, his action is criminal in its disregard for the opinion of the world, for the fate of people all over the world, or even the well-being of his own nation's citizens.

I get it that there is a principle of sovereignty, wrong-headed though it is expressed here, or that Trump's primary responsibility is to look after the interests of Americans.  Trump's alliterative talking point that he was "elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris" does not hold water, as PBS NewsHour commenter Mark Shields pointed out:  Pittsburgh is one of the greenest cities and it supported Hillary Clinton--if he thinks he is representing Pittsburgh, he's not doing it well.  And the sovereignty principle is wrong because his decision ignores the fact that the precise reductions each country commits to make are and have always been voluntary, not imposed in any way:  rather than withdraw from the accord, Trump could have merely changed the targets to address his supposed concern for American jobs that would be lost by restricting greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump's action is solely about politics: It is almost certain that jobs are being gained through reduction in emissions, particularly in the green energy fields, while very few are at risk from it.   And even the politics of the move are highly doubtful; while climate change is rarely named as a top concern by Americans in polls, this is a move that will backfire on the US in a hundred ways, domestically and internationally, and once again shows the limited breadth of his policies' appeal and the severe limitations of his vision for America.  He gets to claim a campaign promise fulfilled, but there would have been more honor in the breach of that promise.

Granted, America has not always been a leader in the world; only in the period since World War II ended has the national policy proactively acted outside the Western Hemisphere (with slight exceptions noted for the naval incursions in Japan in 1853 and in Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War).  Otherwise,  the US has generally chosen to remain apart from the projects of Europe, Africa, and Asia, and this policy is generally popular domestically. Trump is making good on a promise to withdraw from leadership in the world, through this unnecessary retreat from a near-universal, urgent global consensus. One can compare it to the US refusal to enter the League of Nations after World War I, rather than trying to help lead in its mission of preserving the peace.  That decision didn't turn out well at all.

In particular, the move is a snub at European allies like France and Germany, who are committed to the cause, and is a very unwise stance with regard to nations like China and India, who have been pulled into the cause but now could easily take the easy path and follow Trump's example. It is practically an act of war against nations like Bangladesh, the Maldives, the Pacific Island nations, and desertifying African nations, who will suffer directly and massively from continued global warming. It will reinforce the anti-American narrative that we are selfish, materialistic hypocrites.

Time to Mention the Russia Thing, Finally
I haven't been too keen on the allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.  I never thought the Wikileaks disclosures were that damaging; while the Russians clearly used fake news to distract and create false rumors, there was plenty of real news and true rumors for voters to make their decisions.  The evidence that Trump is owned (pwned?) by the Russians is more convincing, though difficult to make into a case.  Trump claims he has no conflict of interests; my response is, there's no conflict, just interests. Though he likes to say he owns nothing in Russia, they own plenty of him, and the pattern of his behavior in favoring Russian interests is extremely disturbing.

I really don't believe there is a route to impeachment through this subject, unless history repeats itself from the Nixon era and Trump is forced to yield self-damning taped conversations from White House discussions.  Comey's notes from private conversations in which Trump asks him to go easy on the investigation are not likely to be admissible; either Trump may emulate Nixon (yet again) and claim executive privilege, which he could plausibly do to block such testimony, or (again, unless there are recordings to the contrary) simply deny they are factual, as he has already done.

Unfriendly elements in Congress will be able to make much of the fact that several high-placed individuals from the campaign, transition team, and administration held conversations with Russian spies that they did not voluntary disclose.  Some may end up having to lean on their figurative swords, and resign or withdraw, as General Flynn did soon after he became national security chief, but these are precisely the people who will protect Trump until the end.

I have come to believe there is value here, though.  Continual harassment of the Trump administration will keep them from getting anything done.  There could even be a big payoff if the stresses take a toll on the President--I have decided that our best hope for him to leave before 2021 would be due to health reasons, real or ascribed.  It's somethng, anyway, we can hope for--i'll even willingly take Mike Pence over Trump; at least he would be predictable.

Kathy Griffin
The comedienne suffered a major setback this week after coming out with a video featuring Donald Trump's severed, bloody head.  Gruesome and distasteful, yes, but most Trump images are that.  She  did stipulate that she was not advocating violence against Trump, and she apologized profusely after the blowback, but she has not been forgiven.  She was fired from her regular CNN New Year's Eve gig with Anderson Cooper--if one has ever seen that, they would know that extreme provocation and silliness are her two stocks in trade, and that she's always lived pretty close to the edge of outrage--and she has even had all the venues in a standup comedy tour cancel upon her.

I think that she has suffered enough.  Mel Gibson made a comeback and got an Oscar nomination, didn't he? Now, her talent may be very limited, but I don't believe she should be blackballed, unable to practice her "profession", and since there is no actual threat to his person, the Secret Service should back off.

While many of us wish him ill (see above), it is actually the wish-fulfillment nature of her fantasy, one that some of us might even share, which makes the whole thing uncomfortable.  We shouldn't be thinking about improper means of disposal of this hazardous material. I'm not talking about Donald's personal discomfort; I welcome that.

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