Sifting Through The Swamp - Earlier this year, we rolled out our Weekly Primers — 500 word briefings for Prime subscribers on the topics TPM...
1 hour ago
It is perfectly obvious that President Trump’s long run of personal attacks on Andrew McCabe weren’t driven by his possible unfairness to Hillary Clinton or possible misleading testimony about those actions. Trump’s attacks on McCabe are part of his efforts to attack the FBI in order to discredit the investigation into his campaign’s collusion with Russia and related crimes. McCabe has been a useful target since his wife earlier ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the state legislature in Virginia. That is useful in identifying him as an anti-Trump deep state zealot. Full stop.
The fact that the FBI is an imperfect institution, ran ConIntelPro, surveilled Martin Luther King and a million other things is beside the point. And confusing the point by raising these issues is either dishonest or blinkered. President Trump isn’t trying to even the scales for these past misdeeds. He’s trying to create a system that is dramatically worse.
It is equally clear that low wage warehouse jobs, upending of retail businesses, disintermediation of publishers or tax avoidance are not things Donald Trump cares anything about. Indeed, the one thing he really focuses on with Amazon – Amazon ripping off the Post Office – seems pretty clearly not to be true. Amazon is Trump’s target because of The Washington Post.
Amazon doesn’t own The Washington Post. But it is owned by Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. So close enough. President Trump’s attacks on Amazon are entirely part of his attacks on independent and even mildly critical media. Full stop. ...
But the bigger point is that it’s not really about McCabe or Amazon. Having a sitting President launching scaling [scathing?] personal attacks on a federal law enforcement officer and demanding his firing or imprisonment for personal and political motives is wildly outside the norms that govern the American system. Similarly, a President who routinely threatens prosecutorial or regulatory vengeance against private companies because they are not sufficiently politically subservient to the President personally is entirely outside of our system of governance. At present, Donald Trump is an autocrat without an autocracy. The system mostly resists his demands because it’s not designed to operate that way and we have centuries worth of norms that are remarkably resilient. But systems change. And it’s clear that ours is already starting to change under his malign influence.
When an autocrat imprisons or kills people on his own arbitrary authority, no doubt some of the people are really bad folks. I have zero doubt, for instance, that a lot of the people Saddam Hussein had tortured or killed were just as vicious and awful as he was. We don’t say these were the cases where Saddam actually ‘got it right’ because we are or should be against autocracy and judicial murder in general and on principle. Obviously the stakes at present are less severe for us. But principle is the same. And the stakes are quite high. And putting it this way captures the idiocy of this mindset.
As The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson noted yesterday on Twitter: “Countries in which companies succeed or fail because of their relationship with the leader are poorer, more violent and unstable, more unequal. More everything bad. The U.S. and all nations have always, of course, had some degree of corruption. But not like this.”
The same applies to a President who so commonly disregards the rule of law in regards to individuals or government agencies. Preserving a rule of law political system from sliding into one that is corrupt and autocratic is much more important than the specifics of whether any one company is monopolistic or nefarious or the individual rights and wrongs of what some high level executive at the FBI may or may not have done.