Donald Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty last month of criminal contempt of court, reminds me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”
The president can grant clemency to anyone, but Trump’s predecessors used this power carefully.
David Frum writes in The Atlantic that Barack Obama only issued his first round of pardons two years into his presidency. George W. Bush waited until May 2004, six months before his reelection.
Trump, by contrast, appears to have put no formal deliberation into Arpaio’s pardon. He didn’t even wait until the former sheriff could be sentenced! Read more
Considering pardons for himself and his family, calling on soldiers to support his political agenda and using a scout jamboree to trash his opponents — Donald Trump looks more like the head of a banana republic, as Phillip Carter puts it, than the president of the United States.
This weekend, Trump urged sailors attending the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford to discard centuries of military ethics as well as the armed forces’ own rules to lobby their congressmen and senators to approve his health and spending plans.
It wasn’t Trump’s first breach of republican norms and it wouldn’t be his last. Read more
Larry Summers, a top economic advisor to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, tells Axios that today’s economic challenges — artificial intelligence, automation, globalization — require a leader on the scale of Germany’s Otto von Bismarck, England’s William Gladstone or America’s Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt:
I think it would be a gross misreading of history to think that a laissez-faire, preserve-what-is and don’t-add-anything-new in terms of public institutions and public programs will be sufficient to enable our societies to deal with these trends, which are very much under way.
But that assumes transformational leadership is a condition for transformational change, which is doubtful.
And Summers should be careful what he wishes for. Clamoring for a strongman can open the door to less benign figures. Just look at Donald “I-alone-can-fix-it” Trump. Read more
When you yearn for a caesar, you more often than not get it. Such now is the price being paid by the people of the Philippines, who swept to power a man whose harsh authoritarianism was clear as day. As the southern island of Mindanao slips into chaos, Rodrigo Duterte’s not-so-subtle desire for absolute power has become all too obvious. Read more
What is the essence of Donald Trump? Is he an aspiring strongman? Or is he just a plain old bumbler?
These two schools of thought have been in competition ever since we started to take Trump seriously. Of course he’s narcissistic, duplicitous, misogynistic, bigoted and so forth. But what is at the heart of Donald Trump? Does he intend to emulate Mussolini? Or is he primarily an uncurious incompetent?
The answer: He’s both. And after the firing of FBI director James Comey on Tuesday evening, this has been made astoundingly clear. Read more
And “to” seems the right word, because this was done to Turkey by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his political machine. International electoral monitors cite fraud; so too does the powerful Republican People’s Party. That hardly matters, it seems. Turkish election officials will not allow a recount.
And so even if cheated, it is a victory for Erdoğan. It has been a long road for a critical Middle Eastern nation. The geopolitical trajectory of Turkey is now set. Read more
Turks will be asked on Sunday if they trust Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to run the country on his own or want to preserve at least a pretense of democracy.
Of course, that’s not how it’s put on the ballot paper. Nominally, Turks will be asked to approve or reject constitutional changes that would transform the country from a parliamentary into a presidential republic.
With the compliance of his party men in the cabinet and parliament, Erdoğan has already turned what what used to be a ceremonial post into a de facto executive presidency.
Should the referendum go his way, Erdoğan would also get the power to suspend parliament and appoint prosecutors and judges. Read more