This is the week that pushed me over the edge of being merely concerned about our democracy surviving, to freaking out about the fact that it truly seems threatened by Trump.
Which is scary.
Being as old as I am -- 70 -- I've lived through Richard Nixon (Watergate), Ronald Reagan (Iran/Contra), Bill Clinton (blow job, yawn), George W. Bush (no Iraq weapons of mass destruction), and various other WTF-is-going-on scandalous presidential behavior.
But Donald Trump is in a league of his own. And that's not a compliment. He's the only president who has refused to abide by norms of generally decent behavior that have allowed our country to remain a vibrant democracy through good times and bad.
Until now I've read books that disturbed me with the possibilities they raised of what could happen to the United States in these Trumpian times. How Democracies Die. The Monarchy of Fear. An Uncivil War.
After this week's events, my brain has jumped from possibility mode to holy shit we're in deep trouble mode.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope our national institutions -- Congress, courts, public opinion, elections -- are up to the job of keeping Trump from becoming the dictator president he clearly wants to be.
At the moment things don't look very encouraging, though. Let's count some of the reasons I feel this way.
(1) Most Republicans are willing to let Trump do whatever the hell he wants. His Gallup approval rating has jumped six points to 45% recently. Trump's approval among Republicans is 89%, among Democrats 8%, among Independents 39%. But Trump only considers himself president of his base, not the whole country. So he feels entitled and emboldened.
(2) William Barr, his Attorney General, seems determined to be Trump's personal lawyer rather than an impartial dispenser of justice. He unilaterally determined that Trump didn't obstruct justice after Mueller said evidence of this was equivocal. This week Barr claimed that the Trump campaign was "spied" on even though there's no evidence of this. A hit job on people considers to be his enemies seems to be Barr's goal. And Barr is doing his best to keep the Mueller report as hidden as possible.
(3) Trump wanted Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, to close the border with Mexico, even though Nielsen told him this would be illegal. Nielsen then resigned. Now Trump is putting his cronies in charge of immigration policies. Rather than being embarrassed by reporting that a plan to move migrant detainees to sanctuary cities had been considered, but rejected, Trump now is saying he is seriously considering doing this -- an atrocious and likely also illegal move.
(4) The Mueller investigation was treasonous, according to Trump. He's used that term 26 times. Greg Sargent writes, "Because Trump knows the seriousness of the charge, he therefore must be interpreting treason the way King Henry VIII did, in the lèse-majesté sense: Treason is anything that offends the dignity of the sovereign. Disagreement with Trump is an offense against the state, just as Henry executed unfaithful wives for treason."
(5) Trump reportedly offered to pardon the acting Homeland Security director if he violated the law and was arrested for blocking entry into the U.S. along the border with Mexico. That's obstruction of justice, but since his Attorney General believes it is impossible for a president to obstruct justice, Trump feels free to indulge his dictatorial tendencies.
Maybe this is a low point for American democracy and an upswing is coming. If so, it can't come soon enough for me. We can't wait for the 2020 election to make things right.
And I've got to say that while until now I've scoffed at Bill Maher's contention that if Trump loses the election he won't leave office willingly, that possibility is starting to seem a lot more likely to me.