From A Bubbling Cauldron to an Insurrection: A Nation on the Brink

Howard-Beale.jpg

300+ mass shootings in 2018. 320+ dead and 1,250+ injured from gun violence this year. 14 pipe bombs intended to kill politicians and outspoken advocates.

A president that has lied or misled over 6,000 times since his inauguration, asserting the free press is the enemy of the people.

A "blue wave" of new House members readying to take office.

A president’s roadblock of 5,900 deployed soldiers to protect the nation from a caravan of migrants fleeing for their lives and a threatened denial of birthright citizenship, disappearing from the nation's memory once the election was over.

California experiencing its worst forest fires in state history over the last several days, with a threat to withhold funding via a Presidential tweet.

And the administration pulling the press pass of Jim Acosta due to the manner of that reporter's supposed attitude while questioning the President.

 

These events – certainly the ones in the last 10 days or so – collectively constitute a helter-skelter snapshot of our country and its leader, as if a microcosm to a more disastrous problem. At its helm, a bubbling cauldron of combustible materials ready to spill over onto the streets of American civilization and democracy, creating an insurrection for which words alone will not be the salve to soothe the savage beast we have become. It’s scary, treacherous, and debilitating to be sure. In a Socratic way, what should we do? Let’s do some dissecting before attempting any guidance.

Let’s first start with Matthew Whitaker as the appointed acting Attorney General after Trump fired Sessions. The stench is strong and unsavory.

Trump’s selection leapfrogged Rod Rosenstein, the current DOJ Deputy Attorney General. With Whitaker’s openly declared bias against the Mueller investigation and having publicly declared there was no collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, Whitaker’s conflict of interest – even an overwhelming appearance of it – in overseeing the Mueller investigation is blinding. He has openly admitted that an appearance of a conflict should automatically shell a lawyer from serving in a role to which such a conflict or its appearance exists. Every well-grounded, bar-licensed lawyer knows and respects this ethical theorem. What more do we need to witness with Whitaker’s self-defeating declarations against Russian collusion before knowing all the facts uncovered by Mueller’s team? Constitutional scholars have with rare exception similarly opined, but Whitaker so far won’t step aside.

More adroitly described on this appointment is an op-ed piece published last week in the New York Times by Neal Katyal and George Conway. They advance with considerable moxie and clarity that federal law – starting with the Constitution’s Appointments Clause – precludes someone to perform the duties of acting attorney general without that individual having first been vetted by the Senate. Whitaker has never undergone such scrutiny. They write:

Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in a position of such grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is Mr. Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation.

The President would no doubt disagree. As with prior declarations informed by his view of legal requirements as well as judicial or policy interpretations, his glass is never half empty but half full. This including that his language instructs our will, though the outcome of the just completed midterms results would convincingly challenge that. Think also of Whitaker’s allegiance to Trump, regardless of his lacking in a Senate confirmation or ethical constraints, as someone from whom the genre of sci-fi vampire movies depicts those bitten by a Count Dracula.

The most telling sign that such a person is a reflection of Trump is that a majority of voters chose Democrats over Republicans this election cycle. They elected more Democratic House members than the days of Watergate.

The Whitaker appointment also spawned nationwide attention, protesting that the Mueller investigation must be preserved to its conclusion. Such protests seemingly have become commonplace since Trump took office – a reflection of the divided nation spawned over the last nearly two years now.

Recently, the DOJ issued its own opinion, finding the Whitaker appointment permissible.  Just before that, the state of Maryland filed its own legal challenge in federal district court, claiming the appointment is "illegal and unconstitutional."

Our bubbling caldron also includes the gun violence going unabated. Those on the right assert common sense regulations need not be enacted; this includes regulating the sale and use of semi-automatic firearms that have no place in our society except for use by our military in war zones. Even hunters and recreational users of guns supporting the Second Amendment have voiced concerns about not legislating out of existence bump stocks or not mandating background checks.

While the Second Amendment is not without limits, gun control remains a hot-button issue. After we lost the lives of those precious children at Sandy Hook, I had published an opinion piece for the Huffington Post. An overwhelming number of comments flowed in, more than one so vociferous in its language that I must have been preaching taking their first born when I added my voice to the chorus for common sense gun safety measures. Yet death and injury from the use of firearms continue without a meaningful and substantive federal response, signaling permission that hatred, religious intolerance, and bigotry of others not of our own kind is tolerable.

As a grieving mother cried out in sorrow during a cable news interview after the Thousand Oaks shooting last week, she yelled that she has had enough prayers; gun laws are desperately needed.

Throw into the caldron attempted murder in the recent pipe bombs incident and the killings of eleven Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and it makes the elixir that much more toxic.  The administration seems to advocate in response that mental illness is the cause, so we need to improve ways to treat the mental health of killers whose acts arose from being so challenged. Again, guns kill.

What makes the caldron bubble out of control is our exhaustion in having to listen to the President’s words of how he views reality. Witness again his attitude about the so-called caravan of migrants – more so war refugees – coming to “invade” our southern border for a better and more secure life. Trump heightened that fear by calling up 5,900 active military personnel to defend our land. Considering they were ordered to string barbed wire, protect the border (per the NY Times) without electricity or hot meals and spending the Thanksgiving holiday away from their families, it certainly is not worth the effort or cost for an event that might not even occur as projected in several weeks.

With the election over, his silence on these subjects is deafening. What happened? Absolutely nothing, since they were never a threat from the outset, just fearmongering to get votes. It didn’t work. If proof is in the pudding, his words were the reasons that millions voted for a blue wave to take over in the lower chamber of Congress and turned the latest Senate seat from red to blue with the election of Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona.

Our nation is on the brink, with the cauldron ready to boil over. It is up to us, the electorate, to cool this tempest.

Remember the 1976 Academy Award-winning movie Network. Down-and-out TV anchor Howard Beale shouts, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” The character continues yelling at his audience, stressing that they are human beings with feelings. The outcome of the midterm elections characterizes what Beale urged his listeners to heed and shout from their rooftops.

It is high time we add ice to the bubbling cauldron in order to avoid an insurrection and save us from the brink.