Sunday, February 19, 2017

President Trump's Excursion Into Substance

There is no way to beat President Trump on Style. Look at those two Neanderthals standing behind him, visible over his left shoulder,  during his speech at Melbourne, Florida yesterday, and you will know exactly what kind of person Mr. Trump is appealing to and how impossible it will ever be to appeal to those simpletons with a message of substance, unless you capable of equal style, unless you are willing to become a Trump, or maybe an angry Bernie Sanders type.

You've got to be carefully taught

But, every once in a while Mr. Trump actually tries to dally in substance, as he did yesterday, when he read from the Immigration Act of 1952, which he claimed any bad high school student could see gave him the power to exclude Muslims from the United States if he wants to. Any group "detrimental to the United States," in the opinion of the President, can be excluded. This is not a part of the Constitution,  but a law passed at the height of the Red Scare and the McCarthy era, which Harry Truman vetoed as unconstitutional and undemocratic and anti immigrant, but which the Republican Congress passed over his veto. It was a time of dread, paranoia and phobia.

Reading that law now as if it trumps all consideration of the Constitution, Mr. Trump threw it over his shoulder, as if to say, "Open and shut case;" any bad high school student can see, no contest, and yet the "judges just talk and talk," those liberal obstructionists who do not have the best interests of the country at heart.

So, the substance of the argument is this is just a law, like any other, which can be judged against the requirements of the Constitution and it can be found unconstitutional.

If you read about the law, you can see immediately its connection to the Alien Act passed under John Adams, which allowed Adams similar discretion to exclude people, individuals, he decided were a risk to the country. Along with the Alien Act Congress passed the Sedition Act which gave  President Adams the right to jail people who publicly disagreed with him. Adams jailed editors  for publishing "malicious" stories about him. Another Sedition Act was passed by Congress in 1917, which outlawed protest and opposition to America's entry and involvement in World War I.

The smeller's the fella
The 1782 law was passed by a Congress fearful of the French and eager to consolidate power in the federal government. The 1917 law was passed by a Congress fearful of descent when Congress wanted war. 

The 1952 act was passed during the Red Scare when Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy's lawyer and counsel, claimed the United States was in imminent peril from Russian Communists intent on destroying the United States, and Cohn prosecuted the Rosenbergs who stole the secrets of the atomic bomb for Russia. Oh, what a scary time it was: These traitors had put the entire country in the cross hairs of Russian nuclear annihilation, or so Cohn claimed.  

Mr. Cohn knew how to light the fire of fear and how to use that fear, how to make himself important using that fear.

When Mr. Trump holds up that paper, he is really reading from the script provided by Mr. Cohn.

If you want to get really titillated, there is much more to the Roy Cohn/Donald Trump story, and it's a corker. 
Roy Cohn was something of a mentor to Donald Trump. Roy Cohn made his career stoking fear and he obviously taught his young Trump acolyte how to play with this sort of fire.
Cohn was more than a mentor; he was Trump's lawyer and he defended Trump against Federal charges that Trump violated the Fair Housing Act, refusing to rent to Negroes. 
Cohn himself, was a piquant blend of sleaze,opportunism, hypocrisy and nastiness, and Donald revered him.  Cohn made headlines with the following story:  Homosexuals, closeted homosexuals in the US government, were giving away vital national secrets to the Russians, who threatened to expose their homosexuality, the vilest of dark secrets in the 1950's.

Of course, J. Edgar Hoover was also hot on the trail of homosexuals in hiding who were stabbing their country in the back. (You remember J. Edgar and you know about his own sexual preferences.)

 Being homosexual in 1952 was just about the worst thing you could be, next to being a Commie. 

The most astonishing part of the story is that Roy Cohn tried to prevent the Army from drafting his own homosexual lover, David Shine, and once in the Army, Cohn tried to pull strings to give Shine extended leave, so Cohn could have his lover.
Cohn ultimately died of AIDS, insisting to his dying day he was dying of liver cancer.

So, the substance of the case about the President's power to exclude immigrants is this 1952 law, which may be clear in its intent to exclude classes of people, but which is clearly unconstitutional, violating due process  among other rights, and which sprung from the fertile soil of a witch hunting lawyer who used the threat of exposing homosexuality in others, while he secretly kept a homosexual lover.

The style, or emotional background connected to the paper President Trump held up, read from and then tossed to the crowd is worthy of an Indiana Jones movie--its provenance drawing the President back to a world of intrigue, treachery and manipulation of public opinion.

And there is the history lesson:  There have been times in American history where fear of the "foreign" has justified all sorts of malevolent acts by our government--the arrest of editors for criticizing the President, the punishment of free speech by opponents of a war, the herding up of Japanese Americans and imprisoning them in concentration camps, the establishment of off shore prisons and torture chambers by the United States government and now, the exclusion of Muslims for being from "terrorist" and "dangerous" countries, guilt by association, fellow travelers, assassins in a Trojan horse, suspicious for looking like those we fear, while assuring Americans that Christians from those countries will be offered refuge from the storm.
It's not a Muslim ban, simply a ban on some Muslims (but not Christians) from countries we fear. It's like we say no Blacks from Detroit, Chicago or Baltimore can travel anywhere in our country. Other Blacks are free to travel, just not suspicious Blacks who are suspicious because they are starting from those particular cities. 
Make sense now?

No comments:

Post a Comment