Nick Kristof adds to the chorus | THE POLITICUS

Nick Kristof adds to the chorus

The New York TImes  columnist is not yet calling for impeachment.

But in his column for this morning’s paper, he asks

After reminding us that Washington refused more august titles than Mr. President, and quoting Ron Chernow’s observation that “the president was merely the servant of the people,” Kristof opines

That primacy of our country’s institutions over even the greatest of leaders has been a decisive thread in American history, and it’s one reason President Trump is so unnerving. His firing of James Comey can be seen as simply one element of a systematic campaign to undermine the rule of law and democratic norms.

Stop for a moment.  That is a very blunt, and accusatory, statementa SYSTEMATIC CAMPAIGN to undermine the rule of law and democratic norms.  In other words, not just the occasional emotional outbursts of a man clearly unqualified for and thus perhaps overwhelmed by the demands of the office.

Kristof repeats many of the incidents that are part of a pattern we have seen, for example:

This goes way beyond Comey. When judges block presidential orders, Trump denounces the courts. When the opposition criticizes him, Trump savages individual Democrats. When journalists embarrass him, Trump threatens to tighten libel laws and describes the press as “the enemy of the people.”

Trump has also challenged and evaded the ethics rules that traditionally constrain administration officials. He has breached the four-decade norm that presidential candidates release their taxes. And — how else to put this? — he has waged war on truth. These days, any relationship between White House statements and accuracy seems coincidental.

In case you were reading too fast, allow me to repeat that last sentence:

These days, any relationship between White House statements and accuracy seems coincidental.

After another paragraph, which covers  the firings of Yates and Bhara, Kristof writes

Trump challenges the legitimacy of checks on his governance, bullies critics and obfuscates everything. Trump reminds me less of past American presidents than of the “big men” rulers I covered in Asia and Africa, who saw laws simply as instruments with which to punish rivals.

As to the notion of Trump requiring a personal loyalty pledge, Kristof reminds us that Thomas More’s loyalty to God over king is what got him beheaded, then adds that

in a nation of laws, we must be loyal to laws, norms and institutions, not to a passing autocrat.

He reminds us that

George Washington  that we need checks on leaders because of the “love of power and the proneness to abuse it.” 

and goes on to recount how there were Republicans who stood up to Nixon during Watergate, listing  Howard Baker, Lowell Weicker, Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus as choosing to stand up for country

rather than for a corrupt president of their own party. Partly because of them, our institutions triumphed.

You should by now see where Kristof is going with this.  Before he gets there, he offers a Latin phrase which he translates:

fiat justitia, ruat caelum. Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.

Then comes Kristof’s two closing paragraphs.  The first is brief, and very much to the point:

Now that principle is tested again, and so are we, all of us — politicians, journalists, judges and citizens.

But given Republican control of both chambers of Congress, figures from that party are even more important than they were during Watergate. And thus this closing paragraph:

In particular, this is the moment of truth for G.O.P. moderates like Senators Susan Collins, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who may hold decisive power. Will they align with George Washington’s vision of presidents as servants of the people or with Trump’s specter of His Sacred Majesty, the Big Man of America? Will they stand for justice, or for obstruction of it?

Will they stand for justice, or for obstruction of it?

If you are a constituent o these Senators, perhaps you should send Kristof’s column to them, with those words highlighted.

Hell, who knows?  Perhaps there are some conservatives in the House and Senate who still have a shred of integrity, to whom we should also send these words.

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