Charles P. Pierce on the level of corruption in the Trump world.
The important part about dealing with epidemics is to deal with them early. Just like the fire department would really rather come into a building when there was smoke coming out of one window instead of when there are flames coming out of every window, because it’s a lot easier to control the fire early on, it’s much easier to control an epidemic early on.
—Dr. Don Francis, AIDS researcher, 2006.
It’s almost as though the entire bureaucratic immune system of the government is reacting to an invading virus. The worst thing any of us can do is assume that the ascent of El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago was not the sui generis event that it clearly was, and that he, himself, is not the sui generis occupant of the White House that he clearly is, and that he has not surrounded himself with dubious quacks and hacks that are sui generis in their approach to government as they clearly are.
There is a level of intellectual—and, perhaps, literal—corruption that is unprecedented in the modern history of the presidency and that is a genuine and unique threat to democratic institutions that are the objects of destructive contempt. The man ran on chaos. He won on chaos. And now he’s governing on chaos. The checks and balances and safety valves of the Constitution—the things that, well, constitute—the immune system of this self-governing republic are facing a threat that is as different as it is lethal.
The latest manifestation of this phenomenon is the sudden firing of U.S. Attorneys all over the country—specifically, those appointed by the previous administration. It is true that every president can do what this president did, and that most have. But the people who said all through the campaign that the rules changed with the elevation of Donald Trump cannot say that the rules are back now that he’s president. In addition, what he did on Friday was precipitous in the extreme and so much so that it seems to have been improvised on the spot, and that it might have been prompted by a virulent paranoia at the White House about “deep-state” saboteurs, a feeling encouraged by the hardbar caucus in Congress and pimped heavily by the conservative media auxiliaries.
There has been corruption in the White House before this present administration — the historians will note that one of the unique aspects about the term of Barack Obama is that there wasn’t any — and there will be corruption after this present administration. (I well remember how after Watergate it was said that now we will be able to spot and excise corruption before it starts. Ah, good times.) But what makes this particular administration unique is that corruption, shady deals, tax evasion, lack of transparency, foreign influence peddling and manipulation, and other various crimes and questionable connections is not only acceptable in the eyes of certain elements of the electorate and members of Congress, it is what was needed to “shake things up.”
There are two questions that come to mind. First, at what point will this house of cards collapse and bring down the central core of the current executive branch and who will be the ones to do it? Certainly not the enablers in Congress; they are either too afraid of midnight tweets and the riling of the pitchfork-and-torches constituency to do anything but meekly go along, or they are in on it and are finally making something from being in office. No help there.
The second question is who’s running the joint? The current administration has left hundreds of federal office positions unfilled. It may be some aspect of conservative political philosophy to shrink the size of government, but emptying whole offices and leaving statutory and policy positions vacant means that work that keeps the country running is not getting done. You can’t run a Wal Mart outlet with two shelf-stockers and a cashier, and if this is the way Trump ran his businesses, no wonder he filed for bankruptcy so often.
We have recently been told to accept this situation as the way things will be for the foreseeable future and that we should “settle in” and ride it out. At some point, though, the level of outright corruption and sand in the gears of the machinery will bring it to a halt, perhaps so slowly that we don’t even notice it as it happens. Just as the sniffles turn into a cold that becomes pneumonia, this is happening now and by the time you start taking the aspirin and the Cold-Eze, it’s too late.