Opinion | Muftic: Mutiny in the Oval Office
September 12, 2018
History can be the stuff of fiction and fiction can become the stuff played out in history.
This past week, the pre-release of a book by Bob Woodward, an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times and the Senate committee's hearing/grilling of the president's nominee for Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh, read like fiction, but all were far too disquieting. This was not movies like "Mutiny on the Bounty" or "The Caine Mutiny." It was real life in real time unfolding before our very eyes, except the final scene has not been written. Like one of those computer games where you can choose among storyline options, the Congress, the media and the American people still have a chance to rewrite the ending.
A Senate hearing about whether to approve Kavanaugh to the highest court unveiled a candidate who once opined a view of the Constitution that could save the current captain from walking the proverbial plank. He refused to comment on past stated beliefs that no president in office should be subject to a criminal investigation while in office, leaving us wondering how he would vote should Mueller investigation issues be challenged before the highest court. Kavanaugh in the past has also advocated giving the executive branch greater power in executing laws and regulations, weakening the concept of checks and balances and separation of powers. His view appears to be the three branches of government are equal except the executive branch is more equal than others. Granting more power to an anti-democratic, imperial wannabe president like Donald Trump is a scary idea.
Both the pre-release excerpts of the Woodward book and The New York Times anonymous op-ed painted a picture of an Oval Office in chaos by a "senior official" who observed that Trump "continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic" and saw it was a duty to protect the country from an "the president's leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective." Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., commenting on the op-ed: "This is what all of us have understood to be the situation from day one." For the public not to be privy to such beltway cloak room whispers, what was chilling was learning how close we came to war, or damaging our ally, by removing a trade treaty with South Korea or the issuance of an assassination order on the Syrian president, which the staff "resistance" said it thwarted.
As predicted, the president called the Woodward book "a total piece of fiction," and tweeted king-like about the op-ed as "TREASON?" … "If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!" and demanded the Justice Department find the disloyal author. Nevermind the writer had not committed a crime and did not conspire with a foreign power. Trump launched a hunt for the writer with obsessed rage like the deranged captains of the "Bounty" and the "Caine" who were determined to find who stole their cheese or strawberries. With an NBC/you gov poll showing 60 percent of Americans considering him usually dishonest, his credibility carries little weight compared to the track record of Bob Woodward's meticulous documentation and reputation from Watergate until the current era.
That the GOP-controlled Congress would take any action to be a check on this executive's abuse of powers is wishful fantasy.
If anyone is gutless, it is the GOP Congress. It was their inaction that left the in-White House "resistance" as a last resort to check what they saw as an out-of-control president.
The last remaining voice in all this is the court of public opinion expressed in the ballot box this November that could give a backbone for Congress to perform a check on executive power as our founders envisioned. Voters in November will have the ability to shape the final chapter and set our democracy sailing on a corrected course.
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