It is now far beyond policy disagreements. It is beyond rudeness, crudeness, anti-democratic behavior, even racism. It is even beyond reckless pronouncements that lead to the death and illness of thousands of people.
Large, crowded gatherings on the White House lawn without masks. Indoor receptions without masks and social distancing. Attending a debate and having your entire party refuse to wear masks. Attending a fundraiser knowing that you have been exposed and could very well have the virus.
This is unconscionable, irresponsible behavior that predictably led the President and many others in the White House and in key positions, including vital military positions, to become infected with Covid-19.
But it goes beyond that. Once infected, the President knowingly and intentionally endangered Secret Service personnel by taking a totally unnecessary joyride while a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, all for the purpose of being photographed waving at some fans from an airtight vehicle.
Then he left the hospital, when still obviously seriously ill, and returned to the White House, again needlessly endangering staff. In a display that would have made Pinochet or Mussolini salivate, his breathing lumbered, he gave his followers exactly the wrong message: Do not be afraid of covid, do not take it seriously, a mask is not essential. He dramatically ripped off his mask, and walked inside.
Still contagious, he has returned to “work” in the Oval Office, endangering whatever staff not already ill. He said he intended to attend the next debate, and now says that he will only participate if it is in person. We do not know for certain whether the President is contagious because he will not disclose when he last tested negative for the disease.
Combining my law degree with 20 years of faithful viewing of Law and Order, I conclude that it is quite possible that a case could be made, either civilly or criminally, that this kind of behavior amounts to reckless or negligent infliction of harm or endangerment or reckless or negligent homicide. Possibly both civil and criminal actions.
It would depend on state law, specific facts, and creative and persistent lawyers. And, of course, it would depend on whether the President is currently in full possession of his faculties and responsible for his behavior.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in psychology to understand that this impetuous, irresponsible behavior is beyond the usual even for President Trump. Either the disease, or the steroids, or a combination of the steroids and other medications he is taking, is clearly affecting his behavior and judgement, which were not exactly great to begin with.
Something is seriously wrong. And it is dangerous. Are these the actions of a man who should be controlling America’s nuclear arsenal? Is this the judgement of a man who should decide where and when America should go to war?
It is such bizarre behavior, and so dangerous, that reports are that even Donald Jr. proposed a family intervention but that he could not get Ivanka, Jared, or Eric to join him. Donald Jr. apparently was not brave or dumb enough to go it alone.
The behavior of the people who attended the gatherings, or who have facilitated them, the behavior of those Republican members of the Senate and Congress who continue to defend or remain silent in the fact of this behavior, and the behavior of the Vice-President and the cabinet members who will not invoke the 25th Amendment when it is clearly necessary, are a clear illustration of the behaviors that Anne Applebaum writes about when she examines why supposedly intelligent, knowledgeable people go along with dictators even when they know it is totally wrong and dangerous.
People knowingly endangered themselves and their families in order to engage in behavior that would please or appease the powerful leader that they either fear or think they need for protection or advancement. As Applebaum showed in her book Iron Curtain and in other writings, for many people it doesn’t take much to get them to ignore knowledge, safety morals, and ethics.
So much is happening so quickly, news that would normally have noteworthy have hardly garnered attention. Here are a few items that should have gotten more attention, or should have gotten it longer, than they did:
–A few months ago President Trump’s praise of Henry Ford, Hitler’s favorite American, raised the specter of eugenics when he said that Ford had “good genes.” On a visit to Minnesota about a week ago he confirmed his beliefs, citing the racehorse theory:
“You have good genes, you know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn’t it, don’t you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we’re so different? You have good genes in Minnesota.”
From Steve Silberman:
“As a historian who has written about the Holocaust, I’ll say bluntly: This is indistinguishable from the Nazi rhetoric that led to Jews, disabled people, LGBTQ, Romani and others being exterminated. This is America 2020. This is where the GOP has taken us.”
Many on the right who oppose Planned Parenthood apparently feel it is a knock against the current organization to point out that its founder, who died 54 years ago, was a supporter of eugenics. Yet they apparently have no problem with the current President being a fan.
–The President has a history of comments about Jews that employ centuries-old canards historically used to demonize Jews. Comments about Jews and money, about Jews wanting to control him as president, about Jews and their loyalty to their country. He recently continued the string of defamatory comments with a comment about Jews allegedly only caring about themselves.
–The President was recently asked if he would commit to abiding by the election results and having a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. He wouldn’t. “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.” Further, “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”
–Pressed to condemn white supremacy, President Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
–The President paid $750 taxes a year several times, and apparently nothing in other years. While shockingly unfair to those who struggle to pay their fair share on much lower incomes, this is not the most crucial aspect of the disclosures. The fact that the President owes more than $400 million to unidentified lenders, and that the loans come due in the next four years, is much more important because it could impact American security.
It is common knowledge that virtually no bank would loan money to businessman Trump, who filed bankruptcy five or six times and was well-known for stiffing contractors and others. He was left with Germany’s Deutsche Bank, which has had myriad regulatory issues and is known to have been a conduit for some shady dealers moving money around, including Russian oligarchs. But, then, we don’t have to speculate whether the Trumps have relied on Russian money. It’s been well reported, including by Eric Trump.
—Nearly 500 national security experts, former employees of the State and Defense Departments, former four-star generals, former top advisors to President Trump, people on the left and the right, Republican and Democrat and independents, have come out in support of Joe Biden. Many of these people disagree strongly with Biden on some policies. But they fear for the security and health of the United States under President Trump.
All of which raises the questions: Is this good for the United States? For the world? For Israel? Or, as Jews used to ask: Is it good for the Jews?