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Dennis Marek: The coming year will feature a more isolated president

December 27, 2018

As I write this column, Congress has refused to give the president money for a border wall.

When the vote was approaching, he threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get the money. He also said he would take full responsibility for its shutdown. Not so fast. Now he is again blaming the Democratic Party for his actions, even though many Republicans were a part of the vote that defeated the inclusion of wall money.

Then, there is the story of his arranging, through others, the payoff of women with whom he had sexual relations. He denied every bit of it and called Michael Cohen an outright liar for saving himself prison time. When the facts disputed his claim, his own lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, defended his client not by denying the allegations, but by stating that since he wasn’t president yet, it wasn’t against the law.

Perhaps it is time for the president to unload his lawyer as he has so many staffers. After the president openly denied any deal with Russia on a proposed Trump Tower there, Giuliani confirmed the denial. Then, the “fake news” people came up with a signed contract with the president’s garish signature at the bottom.

Upon this disclosure, Giuliani only could mutter the same lame excuse again, “If I said it, I made a mistake. There’s nothing wrong with his signing it. When he did it, he wasn’t president yet.”

Heavens, he already had announced his White House bid, Mr. Giuliani. Mr. Cohen already has been convicted and will be sentenced to prison for lying about the deal, and he wasn’t running for anything.

Now, the president is withdrawing troops from Syria against the advice of his secretary of defense and the military. Then, the secretary of defense, Gen. James Mattis, and the envoy to Syria, Brett McGurk, in charge of the coalition forces fighting ISIS, both resigned as the week drew to a close.

Where does it all stop? He opted us out of the international climate control groups. He has been constantly bashing NATO. He does not like our courts ruling that his acts are unconstitutional. He abhors that he now no longer has Republicans in the majority of both houses of Congress. Even old stalwarts, such as Mitch McConnell, have come out in wonder about his actions. Sure, many politicians lie, but we are so far over the edge at this point.

Last summer, Time magazine ran an article debating whether democracy will survive or authoritarianism will prevail over rule by and for the people. Our president wants control. He wants to be the authoritarian force without a bridle from courts or legislative parties. He got where he is because many of our citizens felt abused by immigration issues, terrorism and economic woes.

When the president’s direction is thwarted, he calls such dissent “fake news.” What is fake about later admissions that the very acts that he denied are proven again and again to be true?

But America is not alone in the world with the diminishment of democracy. Some other countries are drifting away from this form of government as well. Venezuela — under Nicolas Maduro — manipulated its elections and is headed for an autocratic regime. In China, President Xi Jinping has lifted term limits along with continued suppression of free speech and controlling the press. He even has limited social media transmissions. Poland’s ruling party was recently condemned by the EU regarding its justice system and its president’s actions forcing many of it its Supreme Court justices to “retire.”

No doubt, democracy is a bit inefficient. Group decisions take more time. Perhaps it becomes the belief of many that a single decider of our future could do it more quickly. Our president has tried individual decree again and again, be it the withdrawal of troops, building a wall or forgiving Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Although the majority does not approve of his actions, they continue.

He wants to run our country his way, and alone. So did Adolph Hitler, and economic hard times in post-war Germany found enough support to have him assume power. It just became impossible to control the man after that, in spite of coups and assassination attempts. We surely do not need that chaos.

Did not our forefathers enact our three branches of government to steer us away from such single-handed decision-making? Yet, when there is a change in some world position, be it dealing with NATO or Mexico and Canada, he does it alone. He takes credit for success with his plans but never acknowledges his failures. The recent massive fall of the stock market, for whose gain last year he took full credit, never will be his fault.

This doesn’t even start to talk about the federal investigation into his acts. He decries that the departure of his staff in numbers is a healthy turnover with fresh ideas. In truth, they just can no longer abide by his actions.

As two analysts surmised, “He does not feel the ordinary human emotions most of us do. For example, he’s free of shame because he has no conscience, nor any self-awareness. So, while his behavior certainly suggests he feels increasing fear (of prosecution) and isolation, he would be the last one to know it.” So wrote Chris Megerian and Eli Stokols, of the Los Angeles Times.

If and when we have the evidence, I believe the government should do as they did with Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Have him resign, and we will dismiss the charges without congressional impeachment. Perhaps, then, we can work our way back to a united country and our beloved democracy in the coming new year.

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