Observations of an ex pat: Egos

Say what you like about Tricky Dicky Nixon. And you can say a lot. He was an egotistical, toilet-mouthed politician who abused the office of the presidency for his own personal political gain. He was also one smart cookie when it came to foreign policy.

His major saving grace, however, was that when faced with the inevitability of defeat, he resigned. For most of his five and a half years in office Nixon acted as if his personal interest and the national interest were one in the same. But in the end, he came to realise that the US constitution, the office of the presidency and the democratic values that underpinned both institutions were greater than any one individual. So to protect America from the trauma of a Senate trial which he knew he would lose, Nixon resigned.

There is no evidence that the current occupant of the White House has any intention of following the example of the 37th president of the United States. Donald J. Trump has proven himself determined to cling to power at all costs. He lies, obfuscates, obstructs, insults and issues outrageous claims which too often have no basis in fact.

However, Nixon and Trump have one thing in common: Massive egos.

Mind you, you need an Everest-sized ego to be a politician. It is a prerequisite for anyone selling policies and ideas to a crowd or broadcast audience. To be believed you have to believe that your policies are the right ones at the right time and that you are the right person to implement them.

But self-belief—and a belief in political policies— is different from conflating the national interest with the personal. The latter course runs the risk of placing political leaders above the rule of law. It enables them to use whatever means that they choose to justify the ends that they have determined.

That is why the United States has a First Amendment free press and a system of checks and balances in the form of Congress and the Supreme Court. But Donald Trump chooses to undermine these constitutional brakes by attacking the press as “enemies of the people” and purveyors of “fake news”; dismissing court rulings and ordering his staff to ignore subpoenas issued by Congress.

Let’s be honest, despite what a lot of my journalistic colleagues are saying, the impeachment hearings in the US House of Representatives have yet to establish a watertight case that would stand up in a court of law, let alone a Republican-controlled Senate. “Bombshell” witness Ambassador Gordon Sondland said in his opening statement that the president—via his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani—directed him to withhold military assistance to Ukraine unless President Volodmyr Zelensky publicly announced an investigation into a company with which Joe Biden’s son had been involved and possible Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. But under interrogation from Republican members of the committee, he qualified this to say that his conclusion was a “presumption” based on putting “two and two together and coming up with four.”

Presumptions—or assumptions—have no basis in law. Any unhatched legal eagle will tell you that they are inadmissible as hearsay or suppositions. The law must deal in facts.

The damning facts are almost certainly out there. They are just unavailable. They are being blocked by the president’s refusal to allow testimony from those with first-hand knowledge of who said what when to whom about Ukrainegate.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton, have all been subpoenaed to make an appearance and they have all refused by order of the president.

The White House has branded the hearings as a “witch hunt” riddled with lies. Well, if they are interested in the truth why not allow the president’s staff to speak it?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi could force them to honour the subpoenas. But this would take months of courtroom battles and delay the hearings until the height of the election campaign. This would be bad for the Democratic Party and bad for democracy. The result is, on the basis of the evidence so far, Trump may get away with it.

Oh, I almost, forgot, there is another difference between Nixon and Trump. Nixon believed he was acting in the national interest. He was wrong. But he believed it. Trump‘s actions have consistently shown that he acts in the interests of Donald J. Trump.

* Tom Arms is membership secretary for Tooting Lib Dems. He also broadcasts on foreign affairs for US Radio, regularly contributes to Lib Dem Voice, lectures and is working on a book on Anglo—American relations which is due to be published next year.

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3 Comments

  • The fact that the Republican Party was founded as an anti-slavery progressive party, with a large number of its founders being progressives and liberals, makes me feel really sad. During the 1850s-1870s, they were more like us. Now they are worse than the Tories. And, at least the Tories have always been the Tories, rather than a degenerated and hollowed-out progressive force.

  • Impeachment is a political, not a legal procedure, the difference between Water- and Ukraine-gate is not the character of the Presidents, but that of the Republican party, which removed its protective shield from Nixon, but will not do so in the case of Trump.

    Trump’s offence is much worse: he not only abuses his office for personal gain, he also puts a struggling ex-Soviet nation, and the overall credibility of US foreign policy in grave jeopardy.

    The Tories, btw. are no better. They are also unconditionally supporting a narcissistic serial lier with no regard for the national interest.

  • The issue of impeachment is a political one. If the electorate continue to support Trump then he is safe. If he is seen to be a liability then the Republicans will stop supporting him.
    To me the interesting question is whether President Trump can stand the increasing pressure. Stress does strange things to people.

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