This is not the happiest of Christmases for America. Wherever one looks, the news ranges from bad to very bad. Indeed, aside from the stock markets and American businesses and corporations, joy is a very scarce commodity.
The House fled town, preferring to let the aid bill for Israel and Ukraine, along with vital action needed to staunch the bleeding of thousands crossing the southern border into America, die. The Senate stayed in session a bit longer but with no success.
One reason is that many congressional Republicans, fearing the wrath of Trump, found inaction on the border useful, as it can serve as a critical election issue to attack the president and thus leave no reason for compromising with Democrats.
As cynical as this sounds, this is the nature of politics today. Consider how several states disqualified the former president from appearing on the ballot in November based on fomenting an insurrection, which made him constitutionally ineligible. The Supreme Court will likely reverse that. However, how the Supreme Court will rule on presidential immunity is a separate issue.
The ideological majority of the court accepts originalism for interpreting the Constitution. Only impeachment and conviction are specified for trying and punishing a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Hence, a 6-3 or 5-4 ruling for immunity — which would provoke outrage far worse than over the Dobbs case that ended Roe v. Wade — should not surprise anyone.
Such a ruling would not invalidate the classified document case. That occurred after Trump left office. However, one wonders if that will be brought to trial in these circumstances. The consequences of placing future presidents above the law would be profound because impeachments are now partisan tools that have lost credibility resulting in no convictions. How then will presidents be held accountable?
It is redundant to repeat that three-quarters of Americans do not want to see a rerun of the 2020 election. If elected, the leading Republican candidate is viewed by the opposition as a dictator and the Democrat as too old and infirm to carry out the duties of the presidency. No historical precedents for this can be found and for good reason: None existed.
War has turned Gaza into a humanitarian catastrophe. Despite promises of minimizing civilian Palestinian casualties, Hamas has trapped Israel into destroying Gaza in its attempts to eradicate them. This has turned Israel into the villain when it had genuine grounds for victimhood after the heinous attacks of Oct. 7. And any notion of applying selectivity and discrete targeting in urban war is nonsense.
Ukraine is engaged in a deadlock that it has little chance of “winning” by ejecting Russia from Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. The West is suffering from war fatigue and is running out of weapons and ammunition to send to Kyiv. Vladimir Putin, observing what is happening in America, must conclude that Russia is now in a strong position to advance its interests given the U.S. in political gridlock.
Yemen’s Houthis are not only attacking ships in the Red Sea with drones and missiles, but their politicians are also challenging the West to bring it on, raising the stakes. While a task force with the extraordinary name of Operation Prosperity Guardian has been formed, will it be allowed to take the offensive and strike back rather than only shooting down Houthi drones?
On the lighter side, depending on how one views the world, former Trump attorney and once “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani had to declare bankruptcy to avoid a judge’s order to immediately pay $148 million in damages awarded to two Georgia election workers. Indeed, one wonders today if the reindeer who called poor young Rudolph nasty names would be sued or arrested for abuse. Such is the bizarre nature of American culture.
Is there an upside? Yes, but only if we make it happen.
Americans must grow a metaphorical backbone. Rejecting this nonsense is crucial. Offering legitimate criticism must overcome ridicule and social ostracism. One wishes Santa Claus could be the surgeon to implant this backbone as the best Christmas present the nation could receive.
That effort must start on Capitol Hill. Ending frivolous behavior that has become destructive is a good beginning. Outrages such as blocking bills to win elections and preventing the confirmation of hundreds of admirals and generals have become standard and intolerable operating procedures that both parties must stop.
What to do? If millions of Americans sent members of Congress Christmas cards inscribed “Do your jobs or resign!” that might work.
But that is really only a New Year’s resolution.
Harlan Ullman Ph.D. is a senior advisor at the Atlantic Council and the prime author of the “shock and awe” military doctrine. His 12th book, “The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD: How Massive Attacks of Disruption Became the Looming Existential Danger to a Divided Nation and the World at Large,” is available at Amazon. He can be reached on Twitter @harlankullman.
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