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Rampage

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2021 - 12:00am

The good news is that in two weeks Donald Trump will no longer be US president. He served a destructive four years at the helm denying climate change, calling the pandemic a hoax and politicizing the response to it, undermining American democratic institutions and abetting a toxic political discourse where truth matters little.

The bad news is that Trump will be in office for yet another two weeks. He could pull one insane stunt after another, obsessed with stealing the elections from President-elect Joe Biden. The institutional and cultural destruction he could still cause might take many years to repair.

One former British prime minister once famously quipped that a week is a long time in politics. Trump has two weeks left. One of his own advisers warned the madman is out to burn the presidency to the ground.

During the presidential campaign, over a hundred former senior national security officials issued a letter warning about what Trump can still do to undermine the intelligence services of the superpower. After the elections won by Biden, Trump remained strangely silent about the massive hack of computer systems used by a large number of US agencies.

For that matter, Trump remained silent about the explosive growth in COVID-19 infections, even suggesting the death toll was exaggerated. Consumed by his own obsession to steal the elections and keep himself in power, he has done nothing to support the vaccination program that has delivered way below target the past weeks.

Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll kept breaking records daily, breaching 4,000 last Tuesday for a 24-hour period. In California, hospitals have run out of beds and ambulance crews were instructed not to bring to hospitals patients with scarce chances of survival. Army engineers in Southern California have been called in to support bedraggled hospital staff.

Donald Trump so glaringly failed the presidency. He was in it for the glamor and not the work. As the body count rises alarmingly, this is a man with blood on his hands.

A few days ago, all the living former US secretaries of defense put out an op-ed warning against using the nation’s military for partisan purposes. This is unprecedented.

About 170 CEOs of American corporations issued a letter calling on American leaders to move on from the last elections and pull together to meet the severe challenges facing the country. The political uncertainty Trump is creating by making thoroughly unfounded claims is surely bad for business.

Lifelong Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, former California governor, issued a rare comment urging his party mates to stop Trump. Many other prominent Republicans have issued the same call.

Last weekend, after 18 attempts, Trump finally got a phone call through to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger. Alternately cajoling and threatening the elected state official in the course of a call that stretched for over an hour, Trump demanded they produce the votes he needed to reverse the outcome for Georgia. That call was clearly beyond all bounds of decency and possibly of a criminal nature. More than underscoring Trump’s reckless obsession, it illustrates the dangerous mindset he seems to have fallen into.

Things come to an inflection point today (Manila time), as the US Congress convenes in joint session to perform the ceremonial role of tabulating Electoral College votes.

A few pro-Trump Republicans in the Senate and a significant minority in the House announced they were going to object to the certification of the electoral votes purely on “allegations” mostly emanating from conspiracy theorists and Trump himself. The Trump campaign, we will recall, lost about 50 cases they filed across the states for sheer lack of evidence.

Trump has been exerting tremendous pressure on his Vice President, Mike Pence, to exercise powers he does not possess. Pence presides over the joint session as it performs its highly ceremonial role proclaiming the results of November’s presidential contest. Trump wants him to delay proclamation of the results or even to disqualify the results in the most important swing states.

As part of this blatant effort to pressure the US Congress to perform the unconstitutional acts Trump wants, the lame duck president called on his most fanatical supporters to assemble in Washington DC. This event will include the right-wing militias who turn up at political rallies fully armed. The potential for violence is high.

As a precaution, the Washington DC mayor requested the deployment of National Guard units. Shop owners have boarded up their storefronts in anticipation of a riot.

Violence could break out if the US Congress, keeping within its constitutional parameters, performs its strictly ministerial role and accepts the Electoral College count. It is not in the province of the legislators to quibble about that count.

After the legislators dispose of their constitutional duties, all doors are now closed to Trump’s insane effort to mount a coup against his government. But given his state of mind, there are other ways he can still foment trouble.

He can, for instance, resort to executive issuances to stymie his successor. The nightmare scenario, of course, is that he could initiate wars just to liven up the mess he leaves behind. It is shuddering to think this totally unhinged person controls the nuclear buttons of a superpower.

If a week is a long time in politics, Trump’s last two weeks in office could prove to be an eternity.

It baffles the rest of the world that a third of Americans take this man’s wild delusions as truth.

CLIMATE CHANGE DONALD TRUMP
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