Attacking the judiciary is a tyrant’s tactic

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    Oh so predictably, America’s Troll is still attacking the federal judge who’s handling the lawsuit against Trump University. On Memorial Day, Trump twice tweeted that the judge he derided on Friday as “Mexican” (Gonzalo Curiel was born, raised, and educated in Indiana) is “totally biased” against the inherent greatness of Der Leader.

    All because Judge Curiel has declined to dismiss the lawsuit. All because, as I wrote yesterday, Judge Curiel has this wild and crazy idea that the students who paid up to $35,000 for tuition, and got nothing in return, should at least have their day in court. All because Judge Curiel, as an officer of an independent branch of government, wants the judicial process to play out. In Trump’s words, all this is “negative, negative, negative.”

    I’m sticking with this story for a second day because there’s something way worse going on here than just tagging Curiel as “Mexican” (the latest of Trump’s serial lies). If you read the full text of Trump’s Friday remarks on the stump (courtesy of Josh Blackman, an assistant law professor), you’ll get the full flavor of his authoritarian spirit; his belief that the rule of law is trumped by the Rule of Trump; his utter contempt for constitutional democracy and the separation of powers. Especially this: 

    I am getting railroaded by a legal system, and frankly they should be ashamed …. It is a disgrace. It is a rigged system …. This court system, the judges in this court system, federal court.

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    Attacking the credibility and legitimacy of the judiciary is a tyrant’s timeworn tactic. It is designed to erode checks and balances. It is an open invitation to mob intimidation. As legal ethics expert Charles Geyh tells Reuters, “He has impugned the honesty of the judge in a pending case, and has done so in the context of a political rally that seems calculated to intimidate by inciting anger among his supporters.”

    What aspiring tyrant Trump instinctively believes (if he believes anything) is that he is the law. And that if a public servant in an independent branch of government dares suggest otherwise, then clearly the system is “rigged,” and any public servant who refuses to bow down should be investigated. (Trump on the stump last Friday: The system “ought to look into Judge Curiel.”)

    So, a few questions. Are Trump’s followers so deaf and blind that they truly don’t realize what is happening here? Has their faith in our democratic institutions eroded to the point that they’re happy to feed a junkyard dog who would treat our institutions as his personal chew toy? Are they so ignorant of world history that they can’t see the danger of a leader cult? And can the complicit Republican party sink any lower?

    David Frum, the conservative analyst and former George W. Bush speechwriter (who coined “axis of evil”), has nothing but contempt for those in his party who are indulging Trump’s trampling of democracy:

    … the primary voters who elevated him; the politicians who eventually surrendered to him; the intellectuals who argued for him, and the donors who, however grudgingly, wrote checks to him — all of them knew, by the time they made their decisions, that Trump lied all the time, about everything. They knew that Trump was ignorant, and coarse, and boastful, and cruel. They knew he habitually sympathized with dictators and kleptocrats — and that his instinct when confronted with criticism of himself was to attack, vilify, and suppress. They knew his disrespect for women, the disabled, and ethnic and religious minorities. They knew that he wished to unravel NATO and other U.S.-led alliances, and that he speculated aloud about partial default on American financial obligations. None of that dissuaded or deterred them ….

    Whatever happens in November, conservatives and Republicans will have brought a catastrophe upon themselves, in violation of their own stated principles and best judgment.

    True that. So the real question for November, prompted anew by Trump’s attack on the courts, is whether there will be enough voters — patriots with common sense — to save this constitutional democracy from what the Republicans have so disgracefully wrought.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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