WASHINGTON — Keep telling yourself: We do not live in a dictatorship. We do NOT live in a dictatorship.
Even though President Donald Trump gave his daughter and son-in-law top White House jobs, ensuring they get richer, and promised visas to rich investors.
Even though Trump is running roughshod over consumer protection laws, environmental protection laws, civil rights laws, long-standing treaties and relationships with allies.
Even though Trump’s proposed tax code changes would benefit him personally by millions. And even though he’s getting richer by boosting his business brand, spending taxpayer dollars to visit his properties and doing favors for foreigners who control licenses for future business expansion.
Hey, if his good friend, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who murders political opponents, can amass billions during government service, why shouldn’t Trump do it?
And, oh yes, even though Trump fired FBI director James Comey, who was ramping up a criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
And guess who arrived in the Oval Office the day after the firing? Yes! Russia’s wily foreign minister. (Russian “news” service was permitted to cover the meeting, not U.S. media.)
This was only the second presidential firing of an FBI director (supposed to be independent) in U.S. history, the first being William Sessions fired by President Clinton for misuse of government funds.
It’s so reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre — Nixon kept firing people to try to cover-up the Watergate scandal — that it’s unsettling. But then again, Trump does not read books or newspapers and seems to care nothing about history. He was surprised to learn Abraham Lincoln was a Republican and that slavery was a major factor in the Civil War. Isn’t there an Edmund Burke bromide that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it?
If you are a Trump supporter, or a Republican legislator desperate to keep the party’s power structure, you may not care about any of this. You support your man. Who wants to admit he made a terrible mistake Nov. 8?
But don’t you owe it to your country to keep an open mind?
This is not about politics. This is about a sworn enemy of America influencing its politics and policies and getting to the bottom of how it happened. The integrity of that investigation, which will inevitably be delayed, is now questionable.
This is not about politics. It is about a crisis in government. How we handle it may determine the future of our democracy. Democracy is not a sturdy weed but a delicate flower that needs constant tending.
This is not about politics. It is about character. What kind of man fires the FBI director (whom Trump lavishly praised last year and blew a kiss toward just a few weeks ago) without telling him face to face or informing him first? The firing letter arrived at the FBI office, seven blocks from the White House, after the news was on TV.
This is not about politics. Despite being told that his national security adviser (the most sensitive White House job) Mike Flynn was blackmailable by Russia, Trump was reluctant to fire him for almost three weeks. But he quickly fired the acting attorney general, most of the U.S. attorneys and the FBI director.
And then there is Trump’s weird thanking of Comey for allegedly telling the president “three” times he was not under investigation. As is so much of what Trump says, that is not necessarily true.
This president rules by distraction. Allegations of colluding with Russia? Send more soldiers to Afghanistan. Spotlight on no major accomplishments in the first 100 days? Get the House Republicans to pass an atrocious health care bill that would deny insurance to millions, including employer-provided insurance. The FBI director seeks more resources to investigate Trump associates’ Russian ties? Fire him.
Comey was incompetent in his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, but the handling of the far more serious question of possible collusion with Russia now falls to people entirely appointed by Trump.
Relax. We don’t live in a dictatorship. Not yet. Unless we don’t care.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected].