Are We a Third World Country Now?
It has always been a bedrock principle of our country that everyone is equal before the law and that we are a nation of laws and not of men. True, there have been innumerable instances in our history of falling short of this lofty goal, but our national conscience, our national sense of right and wrong, has been based upon this fundamental concept.
We now have a President and “his” Attorney General who are blatantly disregarding and manipulating the law to reward their allies and friends on the one hand and punish their perceived enemies on the other. What is so astounding is that they are doing it right out in the open. It is every bit as brazen as Trump’s boast that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Main Street and his supporters wouldn’t care (or, words to that effect).
Trump has granted pardons to his friends, business associates, celebrities and even the friends of his pals. Trump has openly interfered or tried to interfere with the prosecutions of friends and allies such as Michael Cohen, Roger Stone and now, Michael Flynn. He has threatened investigations of the FBI, CIA, Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and many others. He has dangled pardons as a reward for the “loyalty” of witnesses and criminal defendants who withhold knowledge damaging to him. He has fired, demoted, reassigned or banished ambassadors, inspectors general, agency heads and government employees, including whistle blowers, who dare to speak the truth. He has nominated and appointed many people who are clearly unqualified for service simply because of their fealty to him. It’s really quite amazing how the public, or at least his part of the public, has been willing to tolerate, even applaud, this outrageous conduct. We are accustomed, even expect, this type of behavior from dictators or the leaders of third world countries, but we are fast taking our place among them. This has and will have bad repercussions for us.
First, there is the warning of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis spoken in the case of Olmstead, et al v. United States (1928): “If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself, it invites anarchy.”
Second, the rest of the world looks to the U.S. to set an example. We want to set the standard and we, perhaps in vanity or what we now call “American exceptionalism,” believe we have and boast about having the best and most honest system of law in the world. Everything Trump has done undermines our reputation for honesty, fair dealing, and integrity. Everything he has done says to the world that we are really no different than the third world governments that openly operate on the basis of personal loyalty to a leader, cronyism, graft and pay to play rules. If you think our reputation in the world makes no difference, keep in mind that we are able to attract favorable economic activity, investment, the best and brightest talent, financing for our national debt, and maintain a leadership position in the highest councils of the world based upon our reputation for the rule of law and consistency.
In short, if we don’t want to be treated as a third world country, we have to stop Trump from acting like we are one.