Pity Donald Trump.
In the days since his acquittal by Republican senators, the president of the United States has gone, as always, off the rhetorical deep end.
At a national prayer breakfast the morning after his political salvation, Trump confirmed, once more, that he is unfamiliar – to put it charitably – with many of the 10 Commandments, particularly the one that implores believers not to “bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
Instead, Trump launched into a grievance-ridden diatribe against the “neighbours” in Washington, DC and beyond he holds responsible for his impeachment in the House on two counts – obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.
“As everybody knows, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said. “They have done everything possible to destroy us and, by so doing, very badly hurt our nation.”
Trump’s at times incoherent “speech” was, arguably, a classic expression of what psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud recognised as “projection” – “assigning undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings.”
Although he would be loath to admit it, I suspect Trump’s already fragile ego endured an infuriating beating before and after his impeachment and the subsequent Senate “show trial” as Hamid Dabashi aptly put it recently in another Al Jazeera opinion piece.
So rather than continue to attack Trump and his mercurial psyche, I am inclined these days to thank him. Yes, thank him, for what his impeachment and acquittal have now established beyond any reasonable doubt about the presidency, the US constitution, Congress, and America.
Apparently, Trump is proof the sentimental trope that anyone can become president of the United States is no sentimental trope.
American boys and girls now know that if they grow up to be narcissists and racists without a scintilla of introspection, remorse or empathy, they too can become the leader of the “free world.”
Oh, and Trump’s trajectory from a human “brand” to the Oval Office has made it plain to those same plucky kids that if they learn to lie as easily as they breathe while flouting the law and decency to amass a fortune as a reality-TV star, chances are they may be called Mr or Madame President one day.
Indeed, future presidents taking the oath of office should say: “Thank you, Mr President,” for finally and emphatically making obsolete the solemn pledge “to … preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States”.
The US constitution has been on life-support for decades. Richard Nixon bombed Cambodia illegally. Former US President George W Bush invaded Iraq and spied on Americans illegally. Then, Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney let loose the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the US military to torture “detainees” illegally.
Barack Obama, an ex law professor and former US president, said he would do something about all the illegality as president, but did not. In time, he compounded the illegality by keeping open the dungeons of Guantanamo Bay and killing lots of innocent people with drones in the legally-dubious name of the perpetual “war on terror.”
Trump’s naked quid pro quo with Ukraine – making military aid contingent on publicly announcing a criminal probe of the Biden family – was certainly in keeping with his predecessors’ self-serving and malleable attitude towards the constitution’s supposed supremacy.
One of Trump’s lawyers during the Senate’s faux trial, the emeritus Harvard law professor-turned-cable TV darling, Alan Dershowitz, told senators: “If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
Dershowitz argued, in effect, that Trump and any other president for that matter, can do whatever they want to, whenever they want to, to whomever they want to, for whatever reason they want to and there is nothing Congress can or ought to do to stop it.
The implicit, if not explicit, legacy of Trump’s acquittal is that the president must be considered the legal embodiment of the state and, as such, whatever the president does, for whatever reason the president does it, it is, de facto, always in the interests of the state.
Emboldened, Trump expelled his perceived enemies who testified during the House impeachment hearings that the president’s Ukraine gambit was “improper” and constituted a quid pro quo.
The huffing and puffing over Trump’s purge of Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Lt Col Alexander Vindman (and his twin brother, a National Security Council lawyer) lasted a little longer than a news cycle before yielding to the horse-race coverage of the Democratic caucus in Iowa and the New Hampshire primary.
After it quickly faded, two facts emerged: Dershowitz was right about the president’s impunity and the so-called leader of the “free world” is as eager to conduct enemy-cleansing purges as any “tin-pot dictator” the US corporate media has, for so long, been fond of deriding.
I am pleased that Trump and complicit company have extinguished any more silly, discredited talk of US “exceptionalism.”
Happily, another risible myth that imploded during Trump’s impeachment was the notion that the US enjoys three “co-equal” branches of government.
Sure, House Democrats impeached him, but Trump knew he would be acquitted by his loyal Republican subjects who were content to mimic the proverbial see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil monkeys.
Chief Justice John Roberts gave the whole, sorry charade the imprimatur of judicial probity and seriousness by “presiding over the trial with stoic restraint,” as the New York Times gushed. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell awarded Roberts the “Golden Gavel” for mock services rendered.)
There was no “trial.” There were no witnesses. It was a “show” designed to demonstrate the Senate and Supreme Court had not devolved into a transparent racket in the service of the potentate, but were performing their constitutionally protected “duties.”
Still, I am grateful to Trump for laying bare this pitiful pantomime.
Finally, what to make of the reaction of Americans to Trump’s non-impeachment impeachment?
His supporters, blinded by their unwavering, cult-like fidelity, remain convinced of his innocence and devotion to “make America great again” – whatever that gibberish means. His opponents, depressed, angry and aggrieved, largely take to Twitter or MSNBC to vent.
Perhaps it is time for an American spring. Perhaps it is time for Americans who claim to detest how Trump has transformed and disfigured America to get off Twitter and TV and take, en masse, to the streets – or preferably the voting booth – and get rid of him.
I may be thankful, but I am not optimistic.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
Pity Donald Trump. In the days since his acquittal by Republican senators, the president of the United States has gone, as always, off the rhetorical deep end. At a national prayer breakfast the morning after his political salvation, Trump confirmed, once more, that he is unfamiliar – to put it charitably – with many of the 10 Commandments, particularly the one that implores believers not to “bear false witness against thy neighbour.”