I read the following quotation from Donald Trump’s New York Times interview with something like horror: “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” he said. The whole interview is more like a nightmare where you imagine yourself in a public place spouting derogatory, egotistical nonsense and you can’t stop. But this wasn’t a report of a nightmare. It was an interview with the current President of the United States.
The sentence I quoted above is particularly disturbing because I just returned in November from a trip to Germany, Portugal and Spain, where three men in the 1930s assumed power more or less legitimately only to become dictators. Hitler was deposed by a world war (although half of Germany remained under another dictatorship until 1990), but Salazar and Franco ruled for c. 30 years. It has taken c. 40 years since their passing to undo the damage they did to Portugal and Spain, and even now, our guide’s family has not been able to recover her grandfather’s body from Spain’s bloody civil war.
The price of Trump’s claim to absolute power is too high, and we do not need to pay it. There is no reason for a president of a democracy to have the right to do whatever he wants to any department of government and especially to the department that oversees our system of laws and justice. We know what happens when one man assumes such power from the history of monarchies, ruling parties and dictatorships all over the world. The American Revolution was fought against the kind of rule whereby a king could rig a tax system to advantage one set of merchants over another and fill his own coffers at the same time. There is nothing in our Constitution that gives Mr. Trump the right to absolute power. Even his power as Commander in Chief is limited by the history of precedents. He should withdraw this statement, and we should let him, his party and the world know that we will not stand for a president who claims to have the power of a king.
As an aside, I must say that it was wonderful to be in spaces for three whole weeks where the newscasters, even on English-speaking stations, were not preoccupied with every word our president utters and every move he makes. His trip to China coincided with ours, but it was not much remarked in the news there. When his words and deeds were reported, however, we noticed that they had a chilling effect. Our European allies know their history.