Opinion Trump must be held to account to restore America’s democratic luster

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
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By Max Boot
Columnist |
August 29, 2022 at 7:00 a.m. EDT

I’ve been critical of President Biden for not doing more for Ukraine, but the United States is sending more aid than any other country — by far. America’s total commitment to Ukraine — $44.3 billion — is nearly seven times greater than the No. 2 donor, Britain. Without U.S. help, Ukraine would likely have lost the war already.
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This is a reminder that the United States remains, as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had called it, the “indispensable nation.” But how long can we continue defending democracy abroad while enduring a democratic crisis at home?
Biden was all too accurate in his blistering denunciation last week of “MAGA Republicans” who pose “a threat to our very democracy” and flirt with “semi-fascism.” The same conclusion has been reached by independent researchers who have found the GOP has more in common with authoritarian political parties in countries such as Hungary and Turkey than it does with center-right parties in Western Europe.
That’s a big problem because the GOP is not some fringe third party. As recently as 2018, it controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, and it is still on pace to take back control of the House in November, notwithstanding some encouraging political trends for Democrats.


And yet, no matter how much damaging information comes out about Donald Trump, the GOP remains a cult of personality for the disgraced former president. Even though the House Jan. 6 committee showed that the storming of the Capitol was part of an attempted coup d’etat by Trump, he is still viewed favorably by 80 percent of Republicans. It is the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who is the GOP pariah — not Trump.
Even Trump’s unauthorized removal of classified information — he kept more than 700 pages of classified material at Mar-a-Lago — has not dented his standing among Republicans. Just the opposite: The number of Republicans expressing a “very positive” view of Trump actually increased (from 45 percent to 57 percent) after a court-ordered FBI search of his property. The very same right-wingers who called for Hillary Clinton to be prosecuted for using a private email server for official emails are rushing to excuse Trump’s handling of mere “documents,” even if those documents have the potential to compromise highly sensitive intelligence-gathering methods or get human sources killed.
Just imagine how this looks when viewed from abroad. As Axios notes: “In at least 76 countries, leaders who left office since 2000 have been jailed or prosecuted — including in democracies like France, Israel and South Korea.” Yet the de facto Republican position appears to be that their supreme leader should be above the law — just like Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping.
Trump has already gotten away with numerous offenses, including likely obstruction of justice in the probe of his campaign’s dealings with Russia, his attempted use of military aid to extort Ukraine into helping him politically, and of course his instigation of a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. Now the GOP seems to think he should get away with the mishandling of classified information.
This simply adds to the perception that America is becoming a banana republic. We are the country, lest we forget, that had more confirmed covid-19 deaths — more than a million — than any other. The number of deaths per 100,000 population was nearly three times higher in the United States than in Canada.
Since the worst of the covid pandemic has passed, our international reputation has been rocked not only by the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising but also by our inability to deal with soaring gun violence. It is a tribute to American perversity that we are tightening our abortion laws while loosening our gun laws.
Little wonder that, although America’s international reputation has rebounded since Trump left office, few people in the world see our democracy as a model to emulate. In a Pew Research Center survey of 16 countries last year, 57 percent of respondents said that U.S. democracy used to be a good example but no longer. A more recent Pew poll finds that 66 percent of respondents across 19 countries say that China’s influence is getting stronger while just 32 percent say the same about the United States.
This brings us to the momentous decision that Attorney General Merrick Garland may soon have to make about whether to charge Trump with possible offenses such as obstruction of justice and violations of the Espionage Act.
Some suggest that Garland should lay off for fear of a Republican backlash that would only strengthen Trump. Those concerns are real; violence will likely erupt if Trump is arrested. But, if there is sufficient evidence to charge the former president with a crime and the Justice Department refuses to do so, that would send a dangerous message of impunity for high-level wrongdoing that will further undermine U.S. democracy at home and U.S. influence abroad.
The United States must champion the rule of law not only in Ukraine but also in Florida, come what may. The Justice Department cannot bow to political intimidation from American fascists.