The outpouring of affection and respect for Sen. John McCain and Aretha Franklin have greatly overshadowed the flawed mechanics of the Donald Trump presidency and the growing danger to our political system and our national well-being.
The contrast between Trump, the New York draft-dodging tycoon, and McCain, the heroic naval aviator, could not be missed by anyone, and the outpouring of grief and respect over the singer’s life and career were also in stark contrast to the behavior of our current president.
On top of all that, the ongoing trials and convictions and admissions of guilt by a string of close Trump associates — former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his personal attorney Michael Cohen and several more — create an unmistakable picture of a White House racked with incompetence and corruption. We have not seen the last of it, either.
A new Washington Post-ABC News Poll shows 60 percent of Americans disapprove of his actions as president. Sixty-three percent of voters are solidly behind the investigation into Russian corruption and collaboration; only 29 percent disapprove of the investigation. Fifty-three percent say Trump’s actions amount to obstruction of justice, while only 35 percent say no.
Finally, a slim 49 to 46 percent of voters already think Congress should commence impeachment proceedings.
The more Trump fights the idea of an investigation, the more guilty he sounds. This will have a continuing negative impact. Many share this writer’s view that this will result in major Democratic gains, perhaps enough to bring about Democratic control of both houses.
Moreover, in the view of the Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, this could bring about GOP challengers to the president in 2020.
The danger in all this to all of America is that a prolonged struggle over presidential power will strongly diminish America’s role for good in the world, hurt our economy and depress our national life.
The last time this happened, in 1973 during Watergate, I was on home leave from my Foreign Service posting and watched as my former boss, at the State Department Elliot Richardson, then attorney general, refused to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Richardson’s courage and forced resignation triggered the collapse of the Richard Nixon presidency.
The world was a quieter place in 1974, and there was no Russian president Vladimir Putin and his shadowy circus lurking around the edges. The American president was not crazy enough to fight a losing battle when the truth came out that his miscreants had broken into the Democratic headquarters.
Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford became president, and the world moved on.
Unless we hold Trump’s feet to the fire, and elect a Democratic Congress which will challenge his deviations from the norms of American politics, we will be in much worse trouble than we are now.
Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, take note: History and the Kentucky electorate will not treat you kindly if you don’t do your duty to your country, rather than aid and abet your corrupt and infantile president.
John D. Stempel is a former Navy officer, 25-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service and then director and now professor emeritus of the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School Diplomacy and International Commerce.