A bear lashing out at whatever’s around him

Rebecca Solnit sees Trump as an enraged bear:

The chaos takes so many forms. Innumerable stories have made it clear that even the president’s own aides and cabinet members treat him like a captive bear or a person having a psychotic breakdown – like someone unstable who must be kept from harming himself and others. They have done that by heaping on the flattery, and by warping and limiting the information he receives, and often by doing their best to prevent his directives from being realized.

The New York Times recently reported on a March meeting about the border. According to aides, Trump “suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down”. When he was told that wasn’t allowed, he ordered that the border be closed. That set off a “frenzied week of presidential rages, round-the-clock staff panic and far more White House turmoil than was known at the time. By the end of the week, the seat-of-the-pants president had backed off his threat but had retaliated with the beginning of a purge of the aides who had tried to contain him.”

This is the kind of story we’ve become used to – outrages and viciousness and inanity and all – but it’s worth reading another way, as a story about a bear lashing out at whatever’s around him and gobbling up the scraps they feed him while he is still chained to the wall.

Oh that’s pretty much how I’ve read it all along. I’m just holding my breath hoping he doesn’t break the chains before he dies of thwarted rage. That won’t be soon, because far too many people are enabling Trump rather than containing him.

William Barr is supposed to be this nation’s attorney general, whose job the Judiciary Act of 1789 defined as “to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the president of the United States.” But Barr has been bouncing all over the globe pushing the president’s self-serving conspiracy theories and smears of rival candidates, a stunning violation of his role.

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, took an oath to “support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and has since become one of those enemies in service of others. He was on the July phone call in which Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 rival Joe Biden and discredit the story of the Russian intervention in the 2016 election. The leverage for this request seems to have been the hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid – taxpayer dollars – withheld by President Trump at the time.

The Guardian reported a few days ago that Pompeo “dismissed summonses from Democratic committee chairmen in the House of Representatives for five current and former state department officials to testify on the president’s attempts to push Ukraine to dig up dirt on his leading political rival.” And Tuesday, Pompeo’s State Department blocked former ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who’s implicated in the Ukrainian shakedown, from testifying to Congress, a clear and open obstruction of justice.

Pompeo didn’t mean the oath.

The Federal Election Commission normally has six members and needs four to have a quorum; it is currently at three with no sign of a new appointment in sight. “Without the quorum,” the New York Times reports, “the FEC can’t investigate complaints, issue opinions, or fine violators.” I didn’t formerly think of myself as a big fan of rule of law, since those laws have always been applied harshly to the most vulnerable and most marginalized and were often written to embed racism, misogyny, and homophobia into law. But we now face something worse: the corruption and decay of rule of law in the service of billionaires and misogynistic white supremacists, a system in which the most powerful gain power and shed accountability.

Same here. “The rule of law” used to function as code for cracking down on all those crazy lefties, and now it’s something that could end Trump’s crime spree if only we had it.

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