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On the Nexus between Crime and Power: How Will the Caligula Presidency End? On the Nexus between Crime and Power: How Will the Caligula Presidency End?
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-07-18 10:22:46
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“The criminal path is long and complicated and unpredictable”
--John Q. Barrett, St. Johns University law professor
(Independent Council Office during Iran-Contra)

Sometimes crime families aim at the highest seat of power. Sometimes they succeed;  sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they almost succeed.

It goes without mention that most political families in America and elsewhere are perfectly honorable families who render great services to their country. But if we begin with the premise that all power pursued for its own sake is already initially illegitimate, that the greatest of crimes is always power, mitigated only by responsibility, we can easily arrive at the conclusion that many, if not all, so called political-legacy families are ipso facto crime families. But it is more complicated than that. Let’s untangle this Gordian knot.

In the famous movie, The Godfather, based on a novel by Mario Puzo with the same title, we follow the career of a crime family, the Corleones from rags to riches, followed by the aspiration and ascendancy to political power. The one being groomed for such a role is the younger son, who has done all the right honorable things to attempt the task. He has even served honorably in the US army and has befriended senators and presidents.

But life is unpredictable. The older brother who is in line to take over the crime family criminal empire, is killed by a rival crime family; the father (the godfather) eventually dies of natural causes after an attempt on his life. The younger brother (played by Al Pacino in the movie version) is thus forced to take over the reigns of power in the family, abandon his honest ways, ending up a worse, more cruel criminal than his father. The dream of junior becoming president evaporates. To become president, at least the appearance of honesty and propriety needs to be held.

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The Corleones father and son

The contrary happened with the Kennedys. The grandfather had been a wheeler-dealing corrupt mayor of Boston who climbed the social ladder and made his family a respectable middle class family. The father ran a boot-legging operation during Prohibition and Depression which made the family rich. He eventually began eying the presidency and was appointed ambassador to England by FDR before World War II. He made the mistake of sympathizing with the Nazi regime in Germany and was recalled as ambassador. The aspiration to the presidency fell on Joe’s shoulders who however was killed during the war. By default, the onus then fell on Jack who first became US senator and then president of the US. The family had in some way arrived. But not quite. We know well the rest of the story.

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The Kennedys father and sons

At the beginning of the American republic we see two Adams, father and son becoming presidents. In this century we have the Bushes, father and son, still alive today.

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The Adams, father and son              The Bushes, father and son

What is going on, as we speak, is the reign of what I have dubbed from the outset “the Caligula presidency” which can already be characterized as one of the most dramatic political stories in modern American history. Donald Trump’s grandfather was a German immigrant who had to run away from Bavaria because he had evaded the draft and was sought by the police. His father was real-estate man who became a Brooklyn real estate magnate and taught his son to be “a lion and a killer” in the field. His philosophy was that of social Darwinism. He gifted his son with a million dollars to start-up his own business empire in Manhattan. The son did not disappoint those hopes and eventually more than surpassed his father. We know the rest. He is now president  of the US sitting in the White House. This is considered by Trump and many others a sure sign of tremendous success; it’s integral part of the American dream. But is it really? We have already seen with the two other families, briefly surveyed above, that sometimes it ends in a tragic nightmare.

There are other examples, Neil Bush, the oilman son of President George H.W. Bush, was accused of violating conflict of interest regulations by serving on the board of directors for Silverado Banking Savings and Loan Association in Denver, which went bankrupt in 1988 and received a billion-dollar bail-out from taxpayers. The scandal blew up during his father’s presidency in 1990, when a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation lawsuit claimed “gross negligence” and blamed Bush and several other directors for not stopping the institutions’ questionable loans practice. Observers questioned whether Bush’s access to the White House was why he got the gig, and whether his connection had helped the company during the proceedings.

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Bush father and son Neil

A $49 million settlement was agreed to in 1991 and Bush denied wrongdoing, but the headlines embarrassed the Republican Party and his father, who described him as the “perfect” child to People magazine.

“I worried about the impact on Dad and my role in this thing,” Neil Bush told TIME in a July 23, 1990, interview. He also sought to set the record straight on the conflict of interest claims, adding. “I would be naive if I were to sit here and deny that the Bush name didn’t have something to do with it. But I want to make it very, very clear: I was never asked, and I made it clear before joining the board that I never would intervene for Silverado in the regulatory process.”

Another example comes from the other side of the aisle, with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who — like Trump —relied heavily on his children for political counsel and assistance. One of his sons, Jimmy, had only recently resigned from being an executive in the insurance business to go work in the White House, assisting his father, when a scandal broke.

In 1938, the Saturday Evening Post wondered why Roosevelt’s son Jimmy was reported to be making millions in the insurance business, possibly building up his Boston firm by “‘twisting’ accounts away from other agents by political leverage” so that “fortunes of [FDR’s] lanky eldest flowered like the lilies in paradise,” as cheekly political commentary in  TIME summed up the uproar in 1938.

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Just as Neil Bush’s qualifications to serve as a Silverado director were questioned, Jimmy Roosevelt’s success “startled” the insurance community, according to TIME’s characterization. Experts were as surprised, the magazine noted, “as the medical fraternity would be if a youngster who had never attended a medical school suddenly turned out to be America’s greatest specialist in the eye, ear, nose and throat, in abdominal and pulmonary surgery, in obstetrics, pediatrics and chiropody.”

And, though no official accusation was made that Roosevelt had specifically used his access to benefit his clients, it was observed that, as the Post put it, “some corporations which have given Jimmy insurance have been lucky; some corporations which have denied him insurance have been unlucky.”

The stress of the bad press exacerbated a stomach ulcer condition, and Roosevelt eventually had to stop working for his father’s White House.

Given the conflict-of-interests questions that can arise for the children of presidents who work in the business world, Wead says they often gravitate toward industries at the very opposite end of the spectrum.

That may be why some presidential children — like Jimmy Roosevelt, who had a second career as a Hollywood producer — gravitate toward the arts. At least that’s the theory that Wead tells TIME he once heard from one of President Ford’s children: When you’re given a script, he said, is the one time you don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing.

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The Clintons, husband and wife

Donald Trump has been in the White House for the last six months or so and we have been following in some detail some of the events of his presidency via articles and columns. Lately there have been bombshell revelations and multiplying scandals in the press. A special counsel has been appointed by the Justice Department to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, of which, as per US intelligence agencies, there is little doubt, which includes ties to the Trump campaign. There are also two congressional committee investigating the matter. Which in effect means that we can safely bet that the election was fraudulent and illegal, and the presidency now in place is illegitimate. For the foreseeable future the White House will remain in the grip of crisis and controversy, given the pugnacious narcissistic bullying temper of this president worthy of a Caligula of old. At this point the fate of this presidency is most uncertain and the question naturally arises: how will it end?

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Trump father and son

It is an open question. Let’s look at three possible alternatives, keeping in mind Trump’s track record in public life. If one pursued the question in a logical rational mode, there are three possible outcomes.

Possibility 1: Nothing happens the presidency goes on for three more years and perhaps Trump is even re-elected and Trump is president for 7 more years. My own grandchildren will be teen-agers by that time and will have grown up under such a presidency. That in itself is a nightmare, but it remains a possibility.

Perhaps Trump’s scandals will play out in a more banal way than Nixon’s explosive, epoch-defining resignation. Iran-Contra during the Regan years, for example, did not ultimately sink the presidency. Trump’s base might stick to him despite his twitting about and his fake news. After all congressional Republicans have so far shown little appetite for getting serious about their oversight role. They will simply shift that responsibility to the special prosecutor. So Trump may survive, after all. However, I am convinced that such a scenario, although possible, is the least likely of the possible outcomes.

Moreover Trump may pivot and rebound and reform his ways. Most psychologists would predict that such is almost an impossibility, at 70 one’s personality is cemented in place. Does that mean that the presidency is unsalvageable? Has Trump not shown an ability to rally after a disastrous event. May he not institute more discipline, more structure, more schedule. May he not be able to overcome his obsession over leaks and focus instead on cohesion and unity in his staff? Didn’t Clinton do just that after the Lewinsky’s disaster? Are we still underestimating Trump? Perhaps, but unlikely. He may have already have done too much damage to be able to recover, especially with the firing of the FBI director. In any case, it all remains to be seen.

Possibility 2: Trump resigns. Consider this statement uttered by Trump not so long ago as he celebrated his first 100 days in office: “I loved my previous life, I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.” Does it mean that Trump is already bored and miserable in the White House? That may be wishful thinking on the part of those who wish him see go. Nevertheless it has not escaped notice that he is generally furious over media coverage, is bored during briefings, doesn’t like reading memos that are more than one page and have no pictures, runs to Mari-Lago and gulf courses at every opportunity. People have begun asking whether or not he really wants to be president?

But the more crucial question is this: will he seek an early exit on his own terms rather than double down and face impeachment or a messy investigation? Those who know Trump reply that his ego and narcissism are too huge to ever contemplate resignation and make it look as if he were surrendering or being chased out of office. His victimization posture and his desire for revenge on what he considers his detractors would be too powerful for him to overcome. While he may hate his job, he hates his haters much more.

Possibility 3: Trump gets impeached and possibly ends up in jail with many of his associates, not excluding his children. This is a Constitutional tool in the hands of Congress; but as long as Congress is controlled by Republicans this may remain a fantasy of Democrats. The only president impeached by lawmakers of his own party was Andrew Johnson in 1867. However, considering the latest scandals on collusion with Russia in the campaign, conflict of interests, the firing of the FBI director, the obstruction of justice, Republicans are now feeling besieged and worried about their prospects for re-election. They seem to be fatigued and exasperated. As senator Susan Collins put it recently: “ Can we have a crisis-free day?” And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell grumbled: “I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda.”

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The end of Trump’s Presidency? Who else will follow him?

If the controversies surrounding Trump derail this year’s legislative agenda, Republicans may well begin to wonder why they’re still putting up with this kind of deranged president. But of course, most of them have not yet reached the point of considering impeachment a viable option. They are probably waiting for the dirt to emerge from the ongoing Russia investigation. Moreover, if Democrats take back the House in 2018, then perhaps the GOP leadership may decide that it is in their best interests to bring articles of impeachment during the lame-duck session, in an attempt at redeeming their sullied reputation.

Of course the Trump family continues to take great pride in a world-stunning story of political rise. But let’s not forget the end of the story of the Nixons or the Corleones. They are paradigmatic. How it will finally end for Trump and family is perhaps already largely dependent on forces beyond their control. They are still unpredictable but they will bring the drama to a conclusion eventually. Stay tuned!

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Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them for FREE HERE!
 
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Lawrence2017-07-18 22:56:33
Mr. Trump is a shallow, grasping Calvinist, but hardly a Caligula.


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