New York, Oct 11 : A combative White House has vowed to defy what it calls an "illegitimate" impeachment inquiry opened for only the fourth time in US political history.
As White House defiance grows, Democrats turn up the heat and polls find support for impeachment, we turned to Princeton professor, Time magazine columnist and MSNBC TV commentator Eddie Glaude for his views on the US political scene that's on the boil.
"I think one of the interesting things about our moment is that those of us who are committed to process and those conservatives who are committed to process and institutions are actually playing into Donald Trump's hands.
"He actually presupposes that we're going to be held by in accordance to standard norms and processes. And because we're beholden to those processes, he gets to act out, because he's not. And then if we decide to act differently, he'll say we're not acting according to norms and processes. Trump's strategy, as I see it, presupposes our faith in the process," Glaude told IANS.
Below are the highlights from the conversation:
IANS: Beyond the "he said, she said" and the sense of deja vu when you see the contents of the eight-page White House letter, what's going on? Where are we now?
Eddie Glaude: What's clear is that we're on the cusp of a constitutional crisis in the United States. There has been ongoing criticism of expansion of executive power, which was there during the Obama years, the Bush years and even the Clinton years. With the President of the US engaging in alleged criminal behaviour, at least at the level of high crimes and misdemeanours, it triggers the constitutional oversight by House of Representatives.
And so the fact that the Donald Trump administration is refusing to hand over documents, choosing not to participate in the impeachment inquiry -- all that brings things to a head. One is that we have a constitutional problem, a certain understanding of executive power is being exercised and being challenged, and we have to figure out how that's going to play.
Another problem is Donald Trump himself. He has broken every standing rule for an American President and has done it in the name of what many people see as a kind of populist uprising, where he's exploring economic and cultural anxieties of White America. The level of disregard for basic norms and principles of American democracy, that he widens just by his behaviour.
This leads us to the third part. So you have the constitutional issue of executive branch and the House of Representatives in the Congress, you have the issue of Donald Trump himself. And then you have those Republicans and those Americans, the ~30 per cent who support him no matter what.
These are the folks who get to watch the carnage, the deconstruction of the administrative state. They are content in some ways to witness what I take to be the dismantling of American democratic life. And so it's those two elements, economic institutions, at the level of the individual actor, and at the level of the collective, that I will say is a significant problem.
IANS: Trump's anti-impeachment offensive is a mix of legal, political and personal attacks and it's usually been some combination of these. Nearly three years into Trump's presidency, lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to respond. Are they getting closer? Eddie Glaude: Trump is the gift that keeps on giving with his comments in public. What he said about Ukraine, what he said about China. You know, when you think about it in terms of Trump's own life, and his own family... I think one of the interesting things about our moment is that those of us who are committed to process and those conservatives who are committed to process and institutions are actually playing into Donald Trump's hands.
He actually presupposes that we're going to be held by, in accordance to standard norms and processes. And because we're beholden to those processes, he gets to act out, because he's not. And then if we decide to act differently, he'll say we're not acting according to norms and processes. Trump's strategy, as I see it, presupposes our faith in process.
IANS: In the past, after violence rocked different towns in America, you had talked about how the US President was sparking the "darker angels and deepest fears of white people" and exploiting cultural insecurities daily. This time, it's different. It's about a lone whistleblower versus the US President. What's the power of a whistleblower in today's America? Eddie Glaude: I thought that we would see more people in the Trump administration come out. I'm really interested in whether or not General Mattis, General McMaster, Secretary Nielsen have anything to say. All these folks have been a part of what, by all accounts, is a disastrous administration. So I'm not sure, the man (Trump) seems to be like teflon.
And then we have a lot of our politicians who lack courage. It's not just simply the disaster that is Trump in the White House. When we look around, look at our representatives in the Congress and in the House of Representatives and the Senate... So I don't know what the effects of the whistleblower may be, but it has triggered an impeachment inquiry, which may very well be a rebranding of what was already happening.
Trump sits at the sweet spot of two things in the US. Its intersection of greed, self interest and racism. And he sits right in between, exploiting them. So we have a large number of folks who may reject his racist opinions, but they love his policies, because, in fact, over the course of the last two years, the oligarchs have been robbing the nation's coffers by the tax cut and what we've been seeing in terms of deregulation.
They have literally been filling their pockets on the backs of everyday ordinary Americans. And so you would think that those who have left office, who don't have to run for re-election, who have really no skin in the game, would come out and say something, but many of them are institutionalists. And ironically, Trump banks on them being this way. Their commitment to the institution allows him to be the carnival barker here.
(Nikhila Natarajan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)