Wittingly or Unwittingly, or Does Intent Matter?

“I never had sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky”, sounds a bit like a 2017 tweet. Recall that the grounds for Clinton’s impeachment had to have been that his conduct constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

What if he had unwittingly committed treason, another of the impeachment-worthy offenses? (Recall that bribery is the other.) Would not knowing, for example, that he had given “aid and comfort” to the enemies of the United States—part of the Constitutional definition of treason—have meant he was innocent of treason?

What Clinton did undoubtedly delighted the Kremlin. Did it rise to the giving “aid and comfort” to the enemies of the United States level spelled out in the Constitution? Was there intent to provide aid and comfort? If so, the Senate may have failed when it did not convict Clinton based on potential treason. As with so many other things, the Constitution’s authors did not define what might be included in giving “aid and comfort”.

Fast forward about twenty years. Candidate Trump harped incessantly about the “crooked media”, dishonest journalists, and “fake news”. Those attacks came from a man who, rightly or not, had a lot of credibility once he became the republican nominee. They have continued since the inauguration, and, as President, his credibility has arguably risen.

What difference does it make whether the comments of the President discredit the media? Keep in mind that his comments never cease, and the media was believed by Thomas Jefferson to be indispensable to a democracy. One has to assume that most who understand what it takes to make a democracy work would agree on the importance of a free press to a functioning republic, hence the protection of press freedom included in the very First Amendment.

Dangerous attacks on the judiciary have waned, but President Trump’s baseless allegations and outrageous assertions about election fraud continue relatively unabated. Anyone who has paid a modicum of attention—and is not a serial denier– knows it. Does anyone with an understanding of republican government think it doesn’t matter? Today, Mr. Trump has the influence of the office he sought as a candidate.

Public confidence in their sources of information is essential in a democracy. Once the bulk of the American public loses confidence in those it must depend on for information upon which to act and no longer trusts the outcome of elections—thinks that they may not be legitimate, and cannot be accepted—the grand republican (representative democratic) experiment is in trouble.

There is no doubt that relentless attacks on the foundations of our republic by the President of the United States are pleasing to Vladimir Putin, who once was the world’s disinformation champion. Is it possible that President Trump fails to grasp the significance to our democracy of a President’s relentless expression of distrust in the institutions essential to its existence? Perhaps the most positive conclusion one can hope for is that he does not, i.e. the President did not intend to provide aid and comfort to the Russians.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent
Albion, NY

Comments on Chris Collins and Donald Trump

When only 40% of the American public approve of Donald Trump and the job he is not doing as President, it is somewhat confounding to see someone defend Congressman Chris Collins. Mr. Collins was the first elected official in the US to endorse Trump. Despite the female genital grabbing, the lies about releasing his tax returns, the treason he committed with Russia in hacking our election, the promises to do away with Affordable Health Care, the EPA, the Department of Energy, Education and Meals on Wheels; Mr. Collins said Trump was going to make America great. Trump has gathered the most corrupt cabinet in US history, who are hell bent on destroying the very agencies they direct. Big money ties influence every decision they make. Massive tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the middle class are looming again. Collins is in the hip pocket of big oil, coal and big pharma. So, you won’t see him advocating for fair drug prices, and renewable energy. Collins has been a strong advocate of destroying our national wildlife refuges in the pursuit of fossil fuels so his corporate buddies can get rich. A living wage? You won’t see Collins pushing for that either. Collins is part and parcel of the do-nothing Congress. An elected body which has done nothing to help middle class Americans.

As conservatives like to do when they run out of quasi-arguments, they resort to bashing Liberals, leftists and Democrats, as if they are the same thing. The historian in me cannot resist educating folks like Kimberly Kennedy:
1. Liberal means possessing or manifesting a free and generous heart; bountiful. Appropriate and fitting for a broad and enlightened mind. Free from narrowness, bigotry or bondage to authority or creed. Any person who advocates liberty of thought, speech or action.
2. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are Liberal concepts.
3. A Liberal wrote the wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.
4. Jesus healed the sick and helped the poor, for free.
5. Reagan raised taxes eleven times as President, legalized abortion as Governor of California, and supported gun control.
6. Nixon created the EPA

And one more thing about Chris Collins. If he is so brave, why doesn’t he come to the town halls and speak directly to his constituents? Why is he hiding? Maybe he dreads answering to why he supports a President who is under FBI investigation for colluding with Russia to fix an election.

Thank you for your attention.

Al Capurso
Gaines