BY SUSAN ESTRICH
The president’s formal personal lawyer is pleading guilty and cooperating.
No one is above the law but the president. And with his help, all his friends are, too. What does that sound like? Not the rule of law.
This week, his top advisers are taking to the press to try to persuade him not to pardon his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose convictions to date don’t even relate the management of the campaign. Other presidents had pardon attorneys who assured, or tried to, that this absolute power was used fairly. Sanely. In recognition of changes in a person or in the law. Not on the recommendation of Kim Kardashian. Or her liberal counterpart.
All the smart Republicans on the planet are out there begging him not to sink the party, and at the same time, they acknowledge that actually, they don’t expect him to listen to them. This massive, uniform campaign to try to stop him is their Hail Mary Pass. He listens to no one. He humiliates callously, starting with his far classier wife.
And former Sen. John McCain, respected by everyone but him? Of all Trump’s tasteless, disgraceful, divisive cuts, his reported rejection of his wife’s advice that he say something more than what you say when gang members get shot is the ugliest by far.
No one is particularly outraged. No one is even surprised.
Almost half of us expect no better, and the other almost half expects no worse.
This administration is dangerously transparent. The president does not censor himself. No one has ever seen such leaks, the last desperate hope of a staff whose loyalty is tested on a moment-by-moment basis. I don’t think anyone has any illusions about who this man is.
A president who cares about his party wouldn’t force his colleagues to face disaster so he could show off his absolute power. But he doesn’t care about his wife, doesn’t care about NATO or immigrant children, and doesn’t care about the rule of law.
Why should he care about a bunch of folks who are celebrating the guy who stopped him from taking health insurance away from millions of Americans, with nothing to replace it?
What have you done for me lately? I don’t know too many people who haven’t already taken sides and dug in. The 2020 election, the one that he does care about, will be decided by some combination of the people who aren’t paying attention and the people who change their minds, people who treat politics like I do football until the Super Bowl.
It will not be decided by people who don’t vote.
And in general, people don’t change their minds by being attacked. I love Sacha Baron Cohen. How it plays politically is a lot more complicated. Living in our own bubbles only makes it look easy. Trump has changed politics to suit him.
Campaign managers everywhere, on every side, groaned when Mr. Donald Guilfoyle Trump Jr. suggested that taking meetings with agents of our enemies is common course in any negative research effort. Actually, it isn’t. I can’t imagine James Baker sitting down with the Kremlin to discuss Michael Dukakis. It is simply unthinkable. But then, I can’t imagine James Baker doing almost any of the things that Trump’s men do.
The problem is not just that a man who doesn’t respect the presidency is holding that office. He is changing us, changing our expectations of civility and bipartisanship, of courage and patriotism, of democracy in the daylight. And it happens so often, so routinely, that the best we can do is stand up for the attorney general when he – radically – stands up for the rule of law.
We may all be working, but our souls are another matter. Let the death of an American hero remind us of who we can be.
– Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer