Vladimir Putin became President of Russia almost 20 years ago. And it is interesting to note that it wasn’t as if he swept in, immediately threw out parliament, muzzled the press, activated the military and shot his enemies to become a dictator.
Russia, in 1991, was created as a western-style democracy directly after the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Putin campaigned for his job and won the presidency relatively fair and square. There was an opposition, free speech and a lively press. But as time went on, Putin tightened the screws and tightened the screws until democracy collapsed finally into a shambles. Disagree with Putin and you get locked up or killed. Poison or a shot to the back of the head is his preferred method. Today there is hardly a vestige left of what was created in 1991.
I bring this up because I feel it is a waste of time to comment any further on Donald Trump’s flawed personality. This country has had all sorts of flawed individuals come to the office of the president. Richard Nixon, a scheming opportunist, was one. But others had serious mental problems. John Adams, our second president, was so severely paranoid that he spent nearly of all his time worrying about and writing about all of those who were out to get him. Warren Harding was corrupt and got caught at it. Calvin Coolidge was clueless, hardly ever spoke in public, and quit after one term. Woodrow Wilson was a romantic and a racist. Martin Van Buren just wanted to please everybody. John Tyler enjoyed angering everybody. James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce lacked moral fiber. Jimmy Carter couldn’t stand up for himself.
But all these presidents worked within the framework of the Constitution, leaving it pretty much as it was when they came to power.
My concern with our new president is that everyone is focusing on his very flawed personality, noting every time he exhibits his narcissistic, uncaring, stubborn and uninformed sides. There is never anything new in this. And he is not going to change. I think it is a waste of time to keep bringing it up.
As for the decisions he is making, it is worth criticizing, but I think that is not a primary concern. Conservatives are conservative. Liberals are liberal. We go back and forth from election to election.
What really matters with Donald Trump is his quietly taking us farther down the long road to the collapse of democracy.
Here is what he did just this last week.
He authorized the giving of modern weaponry to our police forces around the country. This had been done before, briefly. But the practice was stopped. It is a start down that wrong road.
He discovered he can pardon anybody he wants. These pardons in the past have been used when a president is about to leave office. But he used it to pardon a man convicted in Arizona shortly after his trial. The ramifications of this are stunning. No one has done this before. Nobody ever thought to use it like this. But it’s legal. If Trump wants to, he can overturn what judges decide at the time they decide it.
He ordered the physical destruction of criminal records involving mistreatment of illegal aliens. It was overstated by the press. It was not all records. It was records more than 10 years old for rape. It was records more than three years old for crimes committed against inmates during solitary confinement. But it starts a trend. You give encouragement to brutal officers who want to do what they want to do.
He began the financial punishment of “sanctuary” cities, withholding federal funds from them.
Add this to his attacks on the judiciary, the media, Congress and his encouragement of bigots, then mix with the resignation of numerous public officials because they couldn’t stand where he is taking this country—so he gets the opportunity to replace them with yes men—and, well, it’s quite a cocktail.
This mirrors the patient, effective and unrelenting road that, after four years, took Vladimir Putin from a president to a dictator.
This cannot be allowed to continue.