The Caligula Presidency’s Rampant Corruption: A Threat to American Democracy

H
ere is a pundit’s interesting comment regarding the ongoing Trump presidency: “The man ran on chaos. He won on chaos. And now he’s governing on chaos… He’s shaking up Washington! He’s exploding political norms! He’s also lighting his own pants on fire.”

Indeed. All one needs to do is substitute the word “corruption” to “chaos” and one will understand why the bureaucratic immune system of the entire American government is reacting as if it were being attacked by an invading virus. It can be identified as corruption. We’d be making a big mistake in treating it as a normal event of American history. It is not. It is unprecedented and highly perilous.

In the first place the man has surrounded himself with quacks and hacks that are unique in their approach to government and their disdain for democratic institutions. Take for example the sudden firing of US attorneys, specifically those appointed by the previous administration, considered integral part of what is egregiously dubbed “Deep State.” They are mere civil servants and bureaucrats suddenly accused of being the enemies and betrayers of the country. Steve Bannon, the strategist and puppet master in the White House wants to dismantle the very institutions which have well served the government logistics of the country for decades, simply to consolidate the power of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative and judicial. He calls it “deconstruction” which sounds esoteric and academic but it’s only another Machiavellian ploy based on the assumption that might is right and the ends justify the means.

It’s all coming to a head. The question now is this: can the Republican majority in Congress hold out against this encroaching chaos till they pass their wish list for the president to sign? Considering how they have messed up Obama’s health care, it appears doubtful.

There are now serious questions about Trump’s violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. How serious is his claim that he has divorced himself from business interests? What about his relationship with kleptocrats all over the world, especially Russia. The sudden decapitation of the Justice Department makes one suspect a sinister motive for these flagrant violations.

Then there is the case of the swamp-drainer Preet Bhahara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where Trump’s business interests, including Trump Tower, are located. He has a number of investigations going, including one of Fox News. He was fired after he failed to return a call from Trump citing violation of Justice Department protocol and not wishing to give the impression of political interference. Obviously Bhahara was a bit too independent-minded and corrupt- free for Trump’s comfort.

It now remains to be seen if the various legislative intelligence committees of Congress investigating the Russia-Trump affair hand in that complex job to a special prosecutor where it properly belongs. Stay tuned, the reality show goes on, and the best is still to come.

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Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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