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The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 13
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-09-09 11:09:17
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Week 13 - Columns 85-91 (September 9-15)
On the subjects of: intellectual deficiency, removal from office, conflicts of interest, Russian ties and FBI director’s firing, Russian ties self-exoneration, retroactive tax discosure, Comin’s firing and impeachment.


Column 85

A Critique of the Caligula Presidency’s Intellectual Deficiencies


Famed journalist George F. Will has recently levelled a devastating critique of Trump’s intellectual abilities. He has charged that the current president cannot think or speak clearly and he has called this flaw not a mere disinclination due to intellectual sloth, but a veritable disability due to an untrained mind syntactically challenged and bereft of information coupled with a narcissistic self-confidence. In this daily column I have opted to call it “the Caligula Presidency,” a throw-back to the deranged reign of emperor Caligula during the era of the Roman Empire.

In other words we are dealing with an epistemological tragedy of the first order. For example, Trump has instructed us that Andrew Jackson was angry about the Civil War that began 16 years after Jackson's death. What does a sentence such as this one mean: "People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"

A mountain of scholarly books have been written on the causes of the civil war, so who are those people who don't ask the questions that Trump evidently thinks have occurred to him uniquely? Perhaps the same people that according to Trump declared his speech to Congress in February “the single best speech ever made in that chamber.”

What is most alarming according to Will is not so much that he does not know this or that historical fact but that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know much of anything about the nation’s history. Not to know what it means to know something is to live in Plato’s cave, as Plato well illustrated in his famous “myth of the cave” of ignorance and mere appearances.

We are rightly worried about North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in the hands of a slightly unhinged leader. But should we also worry about somebody allegedly with a college degree who speak sophomorically of the solution to Middle Eastern terrorism in those terms: "I would bomb the shit out of them. ... I'd blow up the pipes, I'd blow up the refineries, I'd blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left."

As a candidate, Trump did not know what the nuclear triad is. Asked about it, he said: "We have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame." Invited to elaborate, he said: "I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me."

At his age, as per Will, it is already late to rectify this glaring defect. As he puts it: “He lacks what T.S. Eliot called a sense not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence. His fathomless lack of interest in America's path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.”

It is almost scary to contemplate the fact that vast military powers are now at the discretion of this mind, largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances.

So, what is to be done in a democracy, if indeed there is still a viable one around? The current name of a mitigating solution is “resistance.” It is the public as a whole which must quarantine this presidency, in as much as possible, by communicating concern and apprehension to its sycophantic elected representative about a man who combines a naïve credulity, worthy of an eight year old juvenile, and an impulsive, even deranged streak, having amply demonstrated his unfitness to lead the nation into a major military conflict. As the saying goes: let’s keep our fingers crossed, for the omens are not very good at the moment.


Column 86

Ongoing Secret Conversations about Removing Donald Trump from Office


Members of the US Congress are holding “private conversations” about whether Donald Trump should be removed from office. The New Yorker has published a lengthy analysis of the two ways he could be removed from office: either through impeachment by Congress or via the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution, which allows for a president to be removed if he is considered to be mentally unfit.

 “The truth is that there are people having an active conversation about whether or not he’ll last” Mr. Osnos has written in the New Yorker who also wrote that Trump could provoke a constitutional crisis if he decides not to cooperate with congressional investigations into his links with Russia.

William Kristol, who worked as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle under the presidency of George H W Bush, told the magazine there was a reasonable change of Mr. Trump being removed. He also said that the 25th Amendment, added in 1967, allows a president to be removed if he is deemed to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.

That judgement can be made either by the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet, or by a separate body, such as a panel of medical experts, appointed by Congress. If the president objects, a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress is needed to remove him or her.

“I believe that invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment is no fantasy but an entirely plausible tool - not immediately, but well before 2020,” Laurence Tribe, a prominent US law professor who works at Harvard University, also told The New Yorker.


Column 87

Donald Trump’s Impeachable Conflicts of Interest


Trump has been criticized regularly for the cost of his visits to his own properties. The group Judicial Watch received an estimate of the cost to shuttle Trump to and from Mar-a-Lago for two weekends — about $1.3 million. That excludes the costs of added security, etc.; it’s just the air travel.

For the 14th weekend in a row, President Trump will spend time at one of the properties that bears his name as part of his private business empire. Recently he arrived at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. That was the first time he had visited the club since his Jan. 20 inauguration, but Bedminster was where he conducted interviews during the transition, using it to host potential Cabinet picks and to introduce them to the waiting media.

The visit to Bedminster marks the 33rd visit to a Trump-branded property since he took office, counting his arrivals at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, each visit to his D.C. hotel or a golf course separately. He will have visited one of his properties on 36 occasions within his first 108 days in office, a perfect one-third of the time by then.

He’s played an estimated 18 rounds of golf. On four days since he took office, he’s visited Trump properties that have golf courses without playing. On three occasions, we know who joined Trump on the golf course. In February, he golfed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and professional golfer Ernie Els. Later that month, he golfed with Rory McIlroy, also of the pro tour. In early April, he golfed with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Despite the White House’s insistence that Trump is working while he’s at his golf clubs, there’s no evidence that he’s golfed with anyone else with whom he needed to meet. He has golfed once every 5.4 days as president.

It is interesting to note that the president, repeatedly excoriated former president Barack Obama for taking time off and playing golf, but is now  fond of heading to his own properties on  weekends. It appears that in the bizarre world of Donald Trump what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander and there is no such thing as a conflict of interest. The question arises: is impeachment far behind?


Column 88

The Cover-up of Trump's Business Ties to Russia may be the Real
Reason for the Firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9


Of course there is nothing wrong to do business with Russia sub-committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham has declared at a hearing on May 8th. The problem is that Trump has always adamantly denied it. On January 11 2017 Trump tweeted that "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me, I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"

But there is a different version on this matter coming from his own sons Eric and Donald Jr. Trump junior, who in 2008, said that “the Trump Organization sees a lot of money pouring in from Russia. Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets."

Moreover, golf writer James Dodson has revealed to WBUR that Trump's son Eric bragged in 2014 that the Trump family had secured access to $100 million from Russian lenders to fund their golf courses. Dodson has said that  "He just sort of tossed off that he had access to $100 million,  and I said, 'Eric, who's funding? I know no banks — because of the Great Recession — that have touched a golf course. ... It's dead in the water the last four or five years.' And he replied, 'Well, we don't rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.' I then said, 'Really?' And he said, 'Oh, yeah. We've got some guys that really, really love golf, and they're really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.'"

Those wouldn’t be the only instances when Trump's sons have boasted of ties to Russia. So, obviously somebody is lying big time. It’s either Trump, or his sons, or Dodson. Or it’s all “fake news” as Trump claims. Or perhaps the intelligence agencies are conducting a “witch hunt.” Readers can of course conjecture on the matter but Intelligence agencies are looking into the matter too and gathering facts which will eventually be surface. What is still needed an independent investigator with power to subpoena and prosecute. Congress may soon demand it. 

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appears to have signaled during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday the 8th of May that the intelligence community is currently scrutinizing President Donald Trump's business ties to Russia.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terror, asked Clapper if he ever found "a situation where a Trump business interest in Russia" gave him "concern." "Not in the course of the preparation of the intelligence community's assessment," Clapper said. Graham pressed Clapper on whether he had ever come across such a situation, to which Clapper replied, "I can't comment on that because that impacts an investigation."

In other words, Clapper could not comment in an open forum without revealing classified information, but the hint is clear: the investigation into the Russia connection is ongoing and will not be put to rest any time soon. That may explain the attempt on May 9th to squash it by unceremoniously firing the FBI director conducting the investigation. The plot thickens.


Column 89

Trump Exonerates Himself three times
from the FBI Investigation on the Russia-Trump Connection


One of the most bizarre parts of President Trump's short letter informing FBI Director  Comey that he'd been "terminated"  is when Trump notes his appreciation that Comey had informed him "on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation."

That in itself would have been a valid reason for establishing an independent commission on Russia's role in the 2016 election. As comedian Stephen Colbert commented, it was "like carving your alibi on the murder weapon."

Informing Trump about an ongoing criminal investigation involving him and his associates would violate longstanding Justice Department policies. The Washington Post reports. A Comey associate was quite specific to the Wall Street Journal: “Comey was careful not to release information to the president about the ongoing probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election because he believed doing so would cross ethical and legal boundaries.”

Mr. Comey told associates before the election and in December that he knew he could be fired but wouldn't let such fears affect his decision-making. He also urged agents investigating Russia's meddling in the election not to worry about politics or how their probe might affect those in power.

According to several reports — including one in The Washington Post based on "the private accounts of more than 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI, and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants and other senior Republicans" — Trump fired Comey because he was tired of seeing him on TV talking about Russia and the Trump campaign.

Sooner or later, it will all come out in the wash. Stay tuned, more follies are sure to follow.


Column 90

Retroactive Justice?
Tax Disclosure Promised by Trump after he is out of Office


As reported in the Economist, Donald Trump has speculated that he might release his tax returns  after he leaves office, without however committing himself to that promise. He also reiterated that “nobody cares about my tax returns except for reporters.”

An IRS rule mandates presidents are audited every year, and previous presidents have released their returns anyway. Before Trump, all major party nominees in modern political history have also released their tax returns. Trump while initially indicating that he would follow precedent, eventually reversed himself.

Repeating his assertion that his tax returns are important only to newspaper and TV reporters, the Economist interviewer pressed Trump, pointing out the Democratic lawmakers have also called for their release arguing that the documents are needed to see Trump’s potential conflicts of interest abroad. Moreover, polls also show that the public broadly supports such a disclosure. To which Trump answered: “Well, don’t forget I got elected without it, look where I am.”

Perfectly clear: the results are what counts and a winner gets away with it because in his mind he is smart enough to do so. As Machiavelli implied “Might makes right”. 

In any case, the plot continues to thicken. Now there are a total of three impeachable offenses at the ready: obstruction of justice for asking the FBI director to desist from an investigation, treason for revealing classified information channeled by an allied country to a rival country, and conflict of interests. Those offenses challenge the so called patriotism of those who have put party loyalty ahead of loyalty to one’s country.


Column 91

Will Comey’s Sacking eventually Result in
Impeachment Proceedings?


Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that President Donald Trump's decision to fire his FBI director could lead to possible impeachment proceedings in Congress. "It may well produce another United States vs. Nixon on a subpoena that went to United States Supreme Court," the Connecticut Democrat said on "Anderson Cooper 360." "It may well produce impeachment proceedings, although we're very far from that possibility."

His comments come a day after Trump shocked Washington by firing FBI Director James Comey. Blumenthal has called Trump's decision "a looming constitutional crisis."

As is his custom, the reply from Trump came fast and furious via tweet: "Watching Senator Richard Blumenthal speak of Comey is a joke. Richie devised one of the greatest military frauds in U.S. history. For years, as a pol in Connecticut, Blumenthal would talk of his great bravery and conquests in Vietnam - except he was never there. When caught, he cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness...and now he is judge & jury. He should be the one who is investigated for his acts."

Blumenthal admitted in 2010 to misrepresenting his military service after saying he had been "in" Vietnam. Blumenthal served in the Marine Reserves in Washington, not Vietnam. "I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that, and I take full responsibility," Blumenthal said in 2010.

Those are the facts but they are nowhere to be seen in Trump’s selective tweets. Trump’s military service, on the other hand, is that of band’s marching leader in the military High School he attended in New York, something of which he is very proud…; to his mind it provides the competency to order four star generals around. Indeed it’s a grand circus, worthy of a Fellini movie.


End of Week 13



Week 1 -Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4 - Week 5 - Week 6 - Week 7 - Week 8 - Week 9 - Week 10 - Week 11 - Week 12 - Week 13 -


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!



Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!

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