Presidential Accountability?

We all know of Donald Trump’s demeaning of the office of the president, the many ways in which he has shattered norms and broken nearly every rule in the book.  But more than his own demonic behaviour, has he set the course for the future of the presidency?  Yesterday’s column by Robert Reich examines the ‘legacy’, such as it is, of the Reign of Trump.

Americans’ acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted to reelect Donald Trump – 46.8 percent of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election – don’t hold Trump accountable for what he’s done to America. Their acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy.

Nearly forty years ago, political scientist James Q. Wilson and criminologist George Kelling observed that a broken window left unattended in a community signals that no one cares if windows are broken there. The broken window is thereby an invitation to throw more stones and break more windows. The message: Do whatever you want here because others have done it and got away with it.

The broken window theory has led to picayune and arbitrary law enforcement in poor communities. But America’s most privileged and powerful have been breaking big windows with impunity.

In 2008, Wall Street nearly destroyed the economy. The Street got bailed out while millions of Americans lost their jobs, savings, and homes. Yet not no major Wall Street executive ever went to jail.

In more recent years, top executives of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, along with the members of the Sackler family who own it, knew the dangers of OxyContin but did nothing. Executives at Wells Fargo Bank pushed bank employees to defraud customers. Executives at Boeing hid the results of tests showing its 737 Max Jetliner was unsafe. Police chiefs across America looked the other way as police under their command repeatedly killed innocent Black Americans.

Here, too, they’ve got away with it. These windows remain broken.

Trump has brought impunity to the highest office in the land, wielding a wrecking ball to the most precious windowpane of all – American democracy.

The message? A president can obstruct special counsels’ investigations of his wrongdoing, push foreign officials to dig up dirt on political rivals, fire inspectors general who find corruption, order the entire executive branch to refuse congressional subpoenas, flood the Internet with fake information about his opponents, refuse to release his tax returns, accuse the press of being “fake media” and “enemies of the people,” and make money off his presidency.

And he can get away with it. Almost half of the electorate will even vote for his reelection.

A president can also lie about the results of an election without a shred of evidence — and yet, according to polls, be believed by the vast majority of those who voted for him.

Trump’s recent pardons have broken double-paned windows.

Not only has he shattered the norm for presidential pardons – usually granted because of a petitioner’s good conduct after conviction and service of sentence – but he’s pardoned people who themselves shattered windows. By pardoning them, he has rendered them unaccountable for their acts.

They include aides convicted of lying to the FBI and threatening potential witnesses in order to protect him; his son-in-law’s father, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions, and lying to the Federal Election Commission; Blackwater security guards convicted of murdering Iraqi civilians, including women and children; Border Patrol agents convicted of assaulting or shooting unarmed suspects; and Republican lawmakers and their aides found guilty of fraud, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations.

It’s not simply the size of the broken window that undermines standards, according to Wilson and Kelling. It’s the willingness of society to look the other way. If no one is held accountable, norms collapse.

Trump may face a barrage of lawsuits when he leaves office, possibly including criminal charges. But it’s unlikely he’ll go to jail. Presidential immunity or a self-pardon will protect him. Prosecutorial discretion would almost certainly argue against indictment, in any event. No former president has ever been convicted of a crime. The mere possibility of a criminal trial for Trump would ignite a partisan brawl across the nation.

Congress may try to limit the power of future presidents — strengthening congressional oversight, fortifying the independence of inspectors general, demanding more financial disclosure, increasing penalties on presidential aides who break laws, restricting the pardon process, and so on.

But Congress – a co-equal branch of government under the Constitution — cannot rein in rogue presidents. And the courts don’t want to weigh in on political questions.

The appalling reality is that Trump may get away with it. And in getting away with it he will have changed and degraded the norms governing American presidents. The giant windows he’s broken are invitations to a future president to break even more.

Nothing will correct this unless or until an overwhelming majority of Americans recognize and condemn what has occurred.

45 thoughts on “Presidential Accountability?

  1. Pingback: Presidential Accountability? — Filosofa’s Word – Mindfulness from Bob

      • It is WordPress — Hitandrun1964, Rethinking Life. I couldn’t find the entire address, but scrolled down to yesterday and found the site again. I hope you can find it, just keep scrolling from yesterday, or go to my post from yesterday and go down from there. It’s not too far below. I sure with I knew more about computers and how to figure them out. That would make me kinda smart then, or would it? Good luck. How do I send a link? The only link I have ever been able to send is usually from Utube, and they have a share button. Hey! Maybe that’s the way. I’ll try a few things and if nothing works just toss the computer out the window. I hate having

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        • Got it!!! She/he followed my blog for a long time, re-blogged many of my posts, and usually commented, but in the past 2 months or so, I haven’t seen him/her. You are smart, silly lady! To send a link, you go up to the top of your screen while on that post … see where there is a box with the link address to the site, usually beginning with https:// … simply right click your mouse on that link, then select ‘copy’, go to the email or comment where you wish to place the link, right click again, select paste, and BINGO! But never mind on this one, for I have found the blog! Now, if only I can remember what I was looking for on her/his blog!

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          • I think irs a her, and you were looking for the post about possible visuals to point out how many people have died of COVID for those who still think it[‘s a hoax.

            Thanks for the info of copy and paste, but it doesn’t always work with this compluter. I think it has something to do with the fact that Im kicked back in my recliner and hitting so many wrong things while my mouse gets tossed around like a baseball. Not the best way to do things, but with the sewing machine in front of my chair I don’t have the space for another table. Maybe if I can find a new apartment soon I’ll have space enough to put them each on different tables and the problem will be resolved.

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            • Ah yes … thanks for the reminder! I seem to have put too much into my small brain and it periodically regurgitates everything!

              It sounds like you really do need a new apartment! I wish you the best of luck finding one that will be convenient, roomier, and affordable. We have outgrown ours, too, but every time I think about packing up these 22 years of accumulated ‘stuff’, it defeats me.

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              • I only have half of a brain cell remaining and wonder what is going to happen when the myelin on that one is completely gone. And I have copies of some MRI’s with large white spots in place of the brain cells to prove they are going fast. MS is so much fun!!!

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                • When that one is gone, you replace your brain cell with niggles … or so David tells me! Sigh. MS is not any fun, my friend. I have three friends, including yourself, who have MS and I know it is absolutely no fun. Hang in, my friend. You are much loved by many, and I have no words of wisdom, but … I care.

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                  • On the other hand, MS has helped lessen pain that sends others screaming to doctors for meds. I don’t need meds for pain most of the time since it just doesn’t hurt longer than a few seconds. The burned hand was about 2 seconds of pain and then nothing but me standing there looking at it, all covered with cinnamon sugar mixed with hot butter straight out of the oven. Pretty dangerous when you don’t realize you have been injured.

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      • Aaaarrrggghhh! It sent before I hit the button. I hate electronics! Especially computers that have the idea they are smarter than I am and try to prove it by doing their own thing. I’m gonna stop before I begin a tirade about smart ass electronics that don’t realize they need people to make them work. Hugs.

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          • I still tease him about the one to the person in Australia! I have also been known to fall asleep at the keyboard, but in this case the screen jumps around and it goes someplace before I have a chance to finish. At one time I had almost a dozen unfinished notes in my drafts file.

            Happy New Year, Jill

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            • Ahhhh … that would be Andrea! I’ve fallen asleep while writing before, but never actually hit the ‘send’ button. However, one of our kitties, Boo, sent an email that I was only half finished with to a friend in the Netherlands once! Happy and Peaceful New Year to you also, my friend!

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              • I had the problem of the cats sending out things at one time also. Now I have no pets at all because they kinda endanger my progress when walking. I miss them, but it is nice to have the keyboard to myself — it I could stop it from being attacked by my poltergeist!


  2. To me the worst thing he has done is condemn millions of Americans to death by COVID-19 by his refusal to accept responsibility early on. He turned down aid by China in how to prevent it from getting a foothold, allowed people to come in after visiting other countries without being tested, send most of our PPG’s to China to help the sick ones there and deprived our own First Responders of their right to be protected. I wish I could remember the name of the blog I visited tonight. She mentioned something visual to let people see the number of deaths from COVID, like putting up windmills. I tried to repost that on FaceBook and they refused to allow it because some idiots have called it irresponsible. I’m going to cancel my FaceBook account due to my irresponsible request that I wanted to post an article asking people to put up windmills. Tomorrow (or later today I guess) I’ll call the District Health Department and ask them to help me find an area and some funding so we can put up a visual display of windmills for every person in this county who has died of COVID. Maybe for every one who has had it and recovered as well — different colors to show death and survival. It only takes one person in each community to start something like this. How about it Jill. Are you in?

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    • On a personal level, I’m 100% with you that the worst thing he has done was lying to the people of this nation about the virus, refusing to take it seriously, and refusing to embrace simple precautions such as mask-wearing and urging people to stay home. He could have done so much more, but instead he refused for his own selfish purposes and now we have the highest death rate of any nation, while having just over 4% of the world’s population. On a global scale, however, he has caused damage to our international relations and in the area of climate change that may ultimately take even more lives than the pandemic has, and will take decades to fix, for there is no vaccine for the destruction of the environment or of our relations with other countries. I’ll have to give the windmill idea some thought … not sure where or how that would work, but I’ll definitely look into it. Hugs, my friend!

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      • During the Great Depression they had camps that were called Hoovervilles all over the country, so if we can get something started like the windmills (and I’m talking about those toy plastic things on a stick) we could call the areas Trump Park. Even he would like that as long as no one tells him what the real significance is. Unless of course, he would brag that he is the worst mass murderer since Hitler. The sad fact is that it will never be over in my lifetime and the next generations will be jaded by what’s happening now that they will think it’s all normal. For them I guess it will be, but a lifetime having to wear a face mask is a lousy legacy for them.

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        • Ahhhh … the little toy windmills! I thought you meant we should build actual windmills!!! Sigh … my mind is a dangerous place these days. Yes, I think this will not end in our lifetimes, and the lifetimes of future generations will be changed from what we knew. Maybe for the better — who knows?

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          • I’ve probably read too many science fiction novels in the past but it feels like we are heading toward the loss of our names and being known by numbers.

            I’m going to experiment with windmill making, using different materials and sizes to see what I can come up with. Just have to make a trip to sprawlmart to find the plastic and some poles to attach them to.

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            • I could probably remember numbers more easily than names! But no, I don’t foresee that happening … ever. Of course, to Uncle Sam we have never been anything but a social security number, but to the rest of the world we are Angie & Jill.

              I’ll be looking forward to seeing pictures of your efforts!

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              • I think it makes me think we will be numbers because numbers give me a headache and the future probably holds a lot of headaches in store for us. Can’t wait to find some suitable kinds of materials for the windmills. They are easy enough to construct (she says confidently knowing she has just jinxed herself!). I think there will be a lot of headaches in the future. Oh, we are also numbers to insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, credit companies, cable company, well, you get the picture. Each time I report my cable out they want a number, not a name. Same with my bank, my doctor, nurses, everyone wanting my birthdate for identification!

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                • Ha ha … you are so much like me … I try to bite my tongue before I say those sort of things that will surely doom my efforts to failure, but I’m usually too late … or too stubborn and my mouth just runs ahead of my brain! You are right, but I usually tell them I don’t have the number handy, and then I spell my name so they can look it up. I’m a stubborn wench. 😉


  3. Surely after January 20th there will be no more Presidential Immunity for Trump.No reason at all he can’t be convicted of a crime. It’ll be a case of ‘take your pick’ there are so many. His pardons have carried on showing what little disregard he has for people. That’s not just people in your country but everywhere. Iraq is one to have taken a slap in the face. Other people have to try and deal with Trump’s messes.Most everything Robert Reich says are correct but maybe the Repubs will also want to curtail the Presidents as they may not be able to control the next one.

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    • Right, but we have to traverse these next 22 days to get to that safety net. Sigh. I truly don’t know … cannot even imagine … what atrocities will be attempted over those 22 days. But yes, at that point, the chips will fall where they may for Trump and frankly, I don’t care if he jumps off a tall building or is struck by a train. His pardons … are an abomination. He has pardoned child-killers and others who should spend the rest of their days in a prison, far away from society. I’m planning a post, as per your suggestion, but it’s going to take a few days, for there is just so damn much abuse of the pardon pen in the current month alone!

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  4. Jill, it goes beyond what Robert Reich has written. I don’t mind people being more conservative or liberal than I am on certain issues. What I don’t like is being lied to by people in leadership positons. And, I don’t like people covering up or looking the other way when they lie.

    Donald Trump is the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime including Richard Nixon who was a crook and resigned in disgrace. Geraldo said Trump was acting like an “entitled frat boy,” but then mentioned all the witch hunts against Trump. Trump was found untruthful, obstructing and unwise by the Mueller report. The Senate Intelligence Committee went further in August saying (the recently pardoned) Paul Manafort had routine contact with a former KGB agent during the campaign. And, if the Senate actually called witnesses, they could have found Trump guilty of extorting Ukraine.

    It troubles me that 74 million voted for this person who has such a hard time with the truth. They blame the media and Democrats, but the guilty one is the one who says everyone else is lying. Keith

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    • PS – By the way, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, the outgoing president’s favorite paper has taken Trump to task asking him to stop the madness and concede. The echoes are reverberating. Keith

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    • That 74 million people couldn’t see what he was doing to this country and voted for him again is beyond disturbing, for even though he will leave, one way or another, those 74 million will remain. What is it they seek? What sort of country do they want? I don’t understand at all, and I fear that in four years, they will re-group and find yet another person of no conscience, no values, to lead the nation into … what? Sigh. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I hope I don’t live to see the day.


  5. I don’t believe in prayer, but if I did, I’d be praying overtime that the two Georgia Democrats running for the Senate win on Jan. 5. If they don’t, Republicans will continue to control the Senate, and Trump’s vile legacy will almost surely be little diminished as a force in America’s culture for the foreseeable future.

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  6. He is so spot on Jill. All those things he listed; I’ll bet you a buck that the majority of his followers don’t even know about. They’ve never read about it, and if they have, they think it’s nothing but fake news or they go into “whataboutism.” And he’s also right that he’ll probably get away with most, if not all of it. What a complete disgrace.

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    • Ohhhhhh … my aching head! I am so sick of the ‘whataboutism’ … can they not let the past be in the past, and address what is happening today??? They say that ‘ignorance is bliss’ … but for whom??? The ignorant might be blissful, but the rest of us are pulling our hair out! Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

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