Thursday, October 12, 2017

Uncorked: Republicans Count on Coup Rather than Constitution

It was 55 years ago this month that the United States of America was in the darkest hours of the Cuban Missile Crisis – an interesting context in which to consider Senator Bob Corker’s stunning assertion that most Republicans share his concern that Donald Trump’s temperament and incendiary rhetoric could trigger World War III. Steve addresses a cowardly abdication of responsibility by leading Republican legislators.

All the wicked snickering and snooty giggling at the liberal cocktail parties this past week has been about the torrent of belittling insults hurled at the President of the United States from the most senior members of his own party and indeed his own cabinet. 

First came Rex Tillerson’s clumsy evasive maneuvers when reporters ask him to confirm The New York Times’ story that he had labeled his boss a moron.  Apparently the only real question about the validity of the reporting was whether T-Rex had called Trump simply “a moron,” or had actually indulged in the richer, more textured characterization that Trump was actually “a fucking moron.”  

Those who sniffed an impending Rex-it then learned that Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had supposedly forged what they called a “suicide pact,” which absolutely thrilled liberals until they learned this was merely a figure of speech. The pact sounded more like a NATO Article Five Mutual Defense Alliance, in that it supposedly codified that if Trump fired any one of them, the other two would quit.

To round out the weekend, the President made Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee the target of his Sunday morning ritual projectile tweeting.  Corker, liberated by his decision to not stand for re-election, had allowed himself to be conspicuously quoted saying that Tillerson, Mattis, and General John Kelly were the three people “that help separate our country from chaos.” Frontally dissed, Trump retaliated with his own unique blend of lies, insults, and scurrilous allegations, concluding that Corker “didn’t have the guts to run for re-election.” The kindergarten food fight concluded, appropriately, with Corker uncorking the most demeaning insult to the President yet launched from a fellow Republican, matching the anti-social media maven twit for twat. "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center... someone obviously missed their shift this morning,” Corker popped, not needing anywhere near the full 144 characters to eviscerate the toddler-in-chief.

There you have it: the President of the United States and one of our most senior legislators, locked in Romper Room, prattling on about the twitter-twatter of little feats.
Yes, it was all glorious for liberals to watch Republican establishment figures slowly coming to terms with the fact that the President they so ferociously fought to elect is actually both a baby and a moron. But the revelations about Corker and the Four Horsemen Preventing the Apocalypse (Tillerson, Mattis, Kelly, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo) should actually be a screaming, urgent wake-up call to all Americans. 

Receiving less play relative to the juicier insults and revelations of personal loathing was Senator Corker’s earnest assessment that Trump’s irresponsible behavior could set the United States “on the path to World War III.” In an interview with The New York Times, Corker actually spelled out what he meant by the “adult day care center at the White House.” He asserted that he knows “for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.” Corker portrayed a White House in which a small group of grim and disciplined patriots stand ever at the ready to intervene and stop the President from triggering Armageddon.

Perhaps most alarming of all was the fact that Corker confidently asserted to The New York Times that his views are commonly held by virtually all senior party leaders. The Times reported quoted Corker as saying, “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here. Of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Senator Corker thereby publicly declared that the vast majority of Republican leaders now believe that the only thing that is standing between Donald Trump and Armageddon’s trigger is a thin line of patriots who may have to defy constitutional law to serve the even higher cause of saving our species.

When we put all of this reporting together into a nice, tight summary, it looks like this:
  • Bob Corker believes that he is speaking for the majority of Republican legislators.
  • Corker (and, we are to therefore infer, the others) believe that the President of the United States is oblivious to the potential consequences of his bellicose threats, and fully capable of irrational and impulsive action that could lead to global nuclear war.
  • Corker -- and the Republicans whose views he claims to be channeling -- believe that the only thing standing between the White House and “chaos” (which appears to be code for nuclear war) is the willingness of key cabinet officers to overtly block the President’s most dangerous impulses.
  • This means that the Republicans are counting on two career military officers and the Secretary of State to, if necessary, refuse to act on and even actively repulse a direct order of the President of the United States.
In short, our Republican leaders seem to believe that the fail-safe to the constant danger caused by having Donald Trump in the White House is the knowledge that the leaders of our armed services will refuse to act on an order from the President. That they will commit treason. Indeed, when military leaders refuse to follow the orders of their civilian commander-in-chief, that is what is conventionally known as a military coup.

Pause for a moment and think about it. It seems extremely likely that Kelly, Mattis, and Tillerson have conversed sotto voce about what they would do if Donald Trump woke up one morning and ordered, as he warned to the United Nations, “the complete destruction of North Korea.”

To be crystal clear: we are not talking about a scenario in which North Korea has actually fired a missile at one of our allies. Then, all bets are off, and we can justify a declaration of war and a counter-attack.  No, the scenario we are examining is if nothing were different from how things stand today, with Kim Jong-un shooting test missiles into the Pacific, executing nuclear tests on his own soil, and never once directly attacking the United States or any of its allies. If nothing were different than things are today, and Donald Trump decided to order “the complete destruction of North Korea,” what would happen?

Even with no provocation whatsoever, Donald Trump has the complete right and the uncontested authority to order the U.S. military to launch one hundred nuclear warheads into a land area pretty much exactly the size of Ohio, most likely incinerating every living creature in North Korea, including 25,000,000 human beings.  This, just for a sense of scale, is more people than live in the top ten cities in the United States combined.

Yeah, we elected that guy and handed him that power. Just imagine him showing up one morning in the Oval Office, and he’s pissed off because of negative press in cable programs, furious that McConnell can’t get a single piece of legislation through the Senate, fuming because Steve Bannon’s candidates are beating his, raging because his approval numbers are anemic compared to those of Barack Obama, apoplectic because members of his own party are calling him a baby and a moron, and seething to a boil because deep down he knows that every day Robert Mueller is getting closer to the evidence that will utterly humiliate him.

What does he do? He decides that this is the day he will show that little prick in North Korea who gets to say “you’re fired.” He pulls out the plan that’s been developed for a full-scale retaliation in the event Kim Jong-un launches a nuclear warhead at Seoul or Tokyo. He calls in General Kelly and asks for the launch codes. It’s go time.

Would the leaders of our military even dream of refusing a direct order from the United States of America?

The answer?  Well, for starters, they already did that two months ago. When Donald Trump decided that transgender personnel should no longer be allowed to serve in the military, the leaders of our military did not exactly race out to get that order implemented.  They hedged, stalled, dodged, and delayed, pretty much assured that the President would forget about his order shortly after naptime.

So if the military brass was willing to brazenly ignore the President about the rights of transgender citizens, the Republican bet is that they would be perfectly willing to gum up the launch code sequence long enough for either cooler heads to prevail, long enough to talk him out of it, or maybe even long enough for Kelly, Mattis, and Tillerson to convince Mike Pence to muster the signatures needed to activate the conditions of the 4th Section of the 25th Amendment that relieves the President of his authority.  And, yes, that is the famous clause that Glenn Close is pressured to invoke when Harrison Ford is taken prisoner on “Air Force One.”

But the overall implication of Bob Corker’s shocking candor is actually hard to miss: the leaders of the Republican Party are counting on generals to execute a de facto emergency military coup rather than following their conscience to the legal steps that are already built into the Constitution: an orderly process of impeachment, or Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.

If we are to believe the esteemed Senator from Tennessee, our Republican leaders privately acknowledge that Donald Trump is sufficiently unstable that there is a very real chance that he could – impulsively, childishly, and psychotically – initiate the first global nuclear war because he was having a temper tantrum.

We have commented repeatedly at the cowardice of Republican leadership. The cowardice to strip away healthcare coverage from millions of people to score political points. The cowardice to stand on the sidelines as their leader defends the violence of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and anti-Semites. The cowardice to pretend that global warming is not real. The cowardice to not explode in outrage when their leader arbitrarily bars transgender persons from serving in the military. The cowardice to enable their leader to spew endless lies. The cowardice to stigmatize and castigate people because of their faith. The cowardice to be intimidated into inaction by the gun lobby.  The cowardice to stand behind a leader who is a brazen misogynist and a serial sexual assailant.

And now, the cowardice to hope that a military coup will save them from needing to face the inconvenient reality that they, too, have already concluded that Donald Trump is unfit to be President of the United States.

Many people admire Bob Corker for finally speaking the truth and putting voice to the giant, ugly elephant in the room. But it is a pity that in the United States of America, our highest elected leaders only feel free to speak the truth when they have already decided to not seek re-election.  Bob Corker only spoke truth to power when he got himself uncorked. And Senator, you’re not the first guy named Bob to figure out that when you’ve got nothing, you got nothing to lose.

But still, give this man credit.

He is telling us that most Republicans in Congress know that with Donald Trump in the White House, a global nuclear war triggered by a pre-emptive American attack on North Korea is a very real possibility.

If Republicans really believe that is true, how can they stand by, turn up their hands, and secretly hope that military generals are ready to commit treason to prevent disaster?

Mitch? Marco? Orrin? John? Roy? Cory? Keeping that seat in the Senate won’t do you much good in a dystopian landscape of post-thermonuclear carnage.

Go ahead, Bob showed you the way. Get uncorked. It will feel good to say it out loud: Donald J. Trump is not fit enough, qualified enough, or learned enough to be sitting in the White House. It was all a big mistake. It is time to fix it.

The truth is that until Mueller is ready to pounce, only Republicans can take that man’s hand and keep it away from the launch codes.

Your oath is to defend the Constitution of the United States, not to pray every night for a military coup that undermines it.

It’s time to fulfill your oath. It is time to do your job.

Because if you don't, a whole lot more than a Senator from Tennessee is going to get uncorked.

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