I used to think that referred to politicians who achieved a frightening level of leverage over their societies. No holds barred, no limits to their authority. Chancellor Hitler, Prime Minister Mussolini, President Vladimir Putin. Dictators.
But given the nightmare that is the Trump regime, I have revisited that interpretation of the cliche. It is getting clearer by the day that power also corrupts those who see the benefit of serving any regime, no matter how dark it may be.
Remember what Rick Perry said when he was running against Donald Trump for the Republican Party presidential nomination?
“Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.”
A year and a half later, Perry accepted the job as Trump’s energy secretary. Power corrupts.
And it corrupts absolutely, the way Fox News has been corrupted. The network has sold its soul for the odd meal with the president and his regular appearances on the Sean Hannity Pravda Hour.
Every interview is like an indecent act performed by people pretending to be journalists. What they really are is toadies, hypocrites and enablers of a wannabe fascist and his string of phony narratives.
I use the word fascist advisedly. If we are to square up to the facts, what other way is there to describe Trump? Mussolini, whom Trump unabashedly quoted during the presidential election campaign, said that “fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”
Could there be a better description of the Trump cabinet than that? A collection of billionaires representing the corporate elite in the United States, who now also control the levers of political power – often without relinquishing their business conflicts?
Donald Trump has also taken a fascist approach to the constitutional powers of the courts, and even the House of Representatives and the Senate.
He recently asserted that he could “make better deals” than Congress, that he might break up the 9th District Court after repeated rulings against him and that the Senate had to get rid of the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation “NOW,” as he put it in a tweet.
Someone has apparently forgotten to tell the president that under the system of checks and balances in U.S. governance, the Senate is “co-equal” with the executive branch. But then fascists don’t lose much sleep violating the constitution.
Nor did Trump hesitate to violate the independence of the Department of Justice. The president lambasted his own attorney general for not undertaking criminal investigations into government leaks and the alleged crimes of Hillary Clinton. It is not the president’s job to direct criminal prosecutions.
And it is certainly not Trump’s job to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller what he may or may not investigate when it comes to the Trump campaign/Russia connection. There is an old saying in law: you can’t be judge in your own cause, something fascists specialize in.
Fascists in Germany and Italy used brute force to intimidate and silence their critics. Trump recently encouraged police to manhandle suspects, a cringe-worthy attempt to connect with that part of his base that doesn’t see much value in due process or professional policing; the hang ‘em high crowd. It was the same “punch him in the face” rhetoric that sent Trump followers into a frenzy during the election campaign.
Like all good fascists, Trump has been virulent in his attempt to vilify and intimidate the free press. He has declared war on that part of the U.S. media that continues to vigorously assert its First Amendment rights. In fact, the president has called the “fake news” media – including The Washington Post and The New York Times, the “enemy” of the people.
As I write these words, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a tripling of investigations into leaks of administration information, much of it coming from the White House itself. Worse, Sessions says that the Department of Justice is “reviewing” its power to subpoena journalists who publish unauthorized leaks.
If acted upon, that can only mean one thing, given the foundational journalistic principle of protecting sources: jail for those who publish leaked information. Never mind that journalists have the right, even the obligation, to publish classified information that is in the public interest. The real point here is that leaks are the alternative to official lies. Americans have to decide which they would rather have.
One thing is beyond dispute: This is the Liar White House. Trump said that the president of Mexico called him to say what a great job the Donald was doing on securing the U.S.-Mexican border and on immigration policy.
The president also claimed that the Boy Scouts of America called to congratulate him for the “greatest” speech that organization had ever heard – even though his ignorant political screed was roundly trashed at the time.
The reality check? Neither of these phone calls took place, as the White House itself was forced to admit after Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and the Boy Scouts of America firmly denied Trump’s fictional claims.
Just like his claim that he witnessed thousands of people in New Jersey celebrating when the Twin Towers went down in the 9/11 terrorist attack. You know, Arabs.
Just like his claim that he won the popular vote because Hillary Clinton received millions of illegal votes.
And just like Trump’s outrageous lie, repeated knowingly or unknowingly by his attorney Jay Sekulow, that he had nothing to do with Donald Trump Jr.’s false statement about the damning meeting in the Trump Tower. You know, the one where the Trump campaign brain trust met with Russians promising to supply dirt that would incriminate Clinton, then a presidential rival.
According to leaked information, Trump dictated Jr.’s misleading account, a fact the White House has at least partially acknowledged. There has been no credible explanation for Trump’s executive mendacity.
It is also worth considering his unfailing preference for hobnobbing with dictators. His bromance with Putin was just the beginning. Trump invited President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House. The leader of the Philippines is best known for the extra-judicial murders of more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers in his country and for arresting political rivals for speaking out against him.
Trump was quick to send his congratulations to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for gutting that country’s democracy after assuming “sweeping executive powers” sanctioned by a dubious referendum.
Trump also put out the red carpet at the White House for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi overthrew the democratically elected government of President Mohammed Morsi in a military coup. Like Trump’s admiration for the Chinese government’s brutal actions in Tiananmen Square, he no doubt saw el-Sisi’s usurpation of power as a sign of “strength”. Like all fascists.
But here is a question all those Trump supporters should consider after the president’s most damning contradictory behaviour to date. Why would he sign into law new sanctions against Russia, as he did this week, if the entire Russia story is fake news and a witch hunt?
Americans won’t be getting the answer from Trump stooge Kayleigh McEnany. McEnany moved from CNN, where she toed the Trump line, to “anchor” a show called ‘News of the Week’, a true fake news show actually being broadcast from Trump Tower. State TV, anyone?
Talk about a fascist dream come true.
Author: Michael Harris