Towards the end of the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, I wrote a biting piece entitled, “May Angal???” Literally, “Any complaints?” I wrote the piece out of sheer frustration over the way the Arroyo administration took liberties with the law and how the citizenry could only offer feeble protest.
It was like being pushed around — nay, abused — by a bully and being dared to complain — and simply swallowing one’s pride, sulking away, wordlessly like a dog with its tail between its legs.
But if it could happen in the Philippines in a political environment devoid of principles and where transgressors are never held accountable by an intimidated or uncaring citizenry, it couldn’t happen in the United States of America, the land of the brave and of the free.
Or couldn’t it?
President Donald Trump and some leaders of the Republican party have begun to test the limits of tolerance of a people who have historically taken pride in their consciousness of right and wrong and in their adherence to the rule of law.
Trump has begun to interpret provisions of the US Constitution in the manner of a despot, implying that he is above the law. And he has dared the media, the opposition and the entire country to do something about his abuses.
But what is alarming is the way Trump appears to be getting away with it. What is distressing is the way his voter base and the Republican leadership have tolerated and rationalized his lapses in manners, his use of uncouth language, his prostitution of presidential decorum, and his chaotic governance. They use justifications fit only for a juvenile delinquent.
“Trump is not really a politician and can be forgiven for his lapses,” the GOP leaders have reasoned.
“He is not familiar with all the provisions of the Constitution, so he’s not willfully violating them,” they have rationalized, as if ignorance of the Law can be invoked as an excuse for breaking it.
And when they are challenged, they pivot by blaming past administrations for the same missteps. And when they are cornered and have run out of reasons, they snap, “So what? Any complaints???”
Trump’s arrogance was in full display when he bragged that he could shoot someone in the middle of Manhattan and not lose a single supporter. What is scary is that he appears to be right. The public opinion polls, while they show a majority disapproval of Trump’s governance, have also shown an unbending support for him by the Republican grassroots.
And the more he is excoriated by the media and laughed at by international leaders, the more firm the support he seems to be getting from his base. Trump’s supporters seem to be saying, “He may be an idiot, but he’s OUR idiot. Any complaints???”
During the presidential campaign, Trump was exposed for his disrespect for women (“I can grab them by the pussy!”), his camp’s dirty tricks, and the support he was getting from the Russians. Yet he was elected by the electoral college, in spite of losing to Hillary Clinton by millions in the popular vote.
Since assuming the presidency, Trump has built a staggering record of telling outright lies, on top of exaggerating his achievements and unashamedly glorifying himself — yet he has had the gall to accuse the mainstream media of purveying fake news and telling lies about him. And he has criticized everyone else for the sins that he has been guilty of.
Yet his base keeps cheering him on.
His tactic is never to admit a mistake and to immediately turn the table on his accusers and pile the faults of them, plus more. His prime defense is offense, And he doesn’t hesitate to resort to low blows in his counter attack.
Privately, many Republicans have expressed dismay over Trump’s lack of principles but nearly all have kept from speaking publicly against him, much less contradicting him, for fear of a backlash from Trump’s rabid supporters.
Thus Trump keeps being emboldened, and even those who know him to be wrong have decided that it is politically safer to side with him.
Said Jim Jordan, a fast-talking GOP congressman from Ohio, and one of Trump’s fiercest defenders, “I don’t care how I’m remembered,” when asked by the media about his unbending defense of Trump, against all logic and truth.
Jordan was among the torpedoes that the Republicans harnessed to defend Trump during the hearings of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. Voting along party lines, the committees approved the Articles of Impeachment against Trump. He stands accused of calling on foreign governments to get involved in the US elections. In spite of this clear violation of the Constitution, Jordan had no qualms about stretching the truth in his defense of Trump. So did other Trump defenders, calling the hearings a scam and a witch hunt.
Any complaints??? “May angal???”
Trump has also shown no respect for the co-equal powers of the legislative branch, and his sycophants in the cabinet and on Capitol Hill have also implied that even the Supreme Court could go along with them.
One can almost hear Trump say, “May angal???”
In the ongoing congressional inquiries into allegations of wrong-doing by Trump and his supporters (several of whom have been found guilty by the courts and some have been jailed), Trump has ordered his cabinet and officials in the executive branch to stonewall and to refuse to cooperate.
He has dared those conducting the inquiries to go to court. The lower courts have generally ruled against Trump but his lawyers have simply elevated the cases to the Court of Appeals, knowing that if they lose in this chamber, they can still bring the case to the Supreme Court. The idea is to buy time until the 2020 presidential elections where Trump hopes to win a second term.
Refusing to take the bait, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives simply added a second Article of Impeachment, Obstruction of Congress. The impeachment process next goes to the full House for a vote by the entire membership. It is expected to pass, in spite of the possibility that some Democrats may vote against outright impeachment.
This will make Trump only the third US president to be impeached, the first being President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and the second being President Bill Clinton in 1998. President Richard Nixon would have been impeached but he was prevailed upon to resign before Congress could vote on the Articles of Impeachment.
Although Trumps hates a legacy of having been impeached, he is confident that he will be acquitted by the Republican-dominated Senate. It will require a two-thirds vote of the entire Senate to convict Trump — an unlikely occurrence.
As in the Philippines, while the House has the sole authority to impeach, it is the function of the Senate to conduct an impeachment trial, presided by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and to decide on acquittal or conviction.
The members of the Senate, who will act as jurors, are supposed to take an oath by which they will vow to judge the case fairly and according to the highest standards of justice — and yet, the Republican senators have already declared their readiness to violate that solemn oath — because they have already decided to acquit Trump.
It is a clear travesty in the making.
Any complaints??? May angal???
Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.