by Justin Rosario
There are two groups of very stupid people braying like demented hounds for Hillary Clinton to be arrested: Trump supporters and the Purity Left. Republicans, sensing an easy distraction from their own internal divisions and a chance to divide the left, are egging them on in what can best be described as Olympic level short-sightedness.
Politically motivated prosecutions are the stuff of terminal stage democracies. Once the party in power starts putting its opponents in jail, even for legitimate reasons, the temptation to keep going becomes almost irresistible. And even if it is resisted, the perception of abuse of power may linger and that can be just as damaging.
This is why, after the 2008 election, Barack Obama refused to investigate the Bush administration for war crimes and the series of lies used to justify the Iraq War. At the cost of thousands of dead American troops, tens of thousands wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed and trillions squandered, not to mention the corruption, torture, and war profiteering, Obama could have put Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and dozens of others in prison for the rest of their lives.
But he didn’t even though the base was screaming for blood. Obama knew that going down that path, despite the grave, legitimate criminal acts that had been committed, would set a dangerous precedent; a Pandora’s Box that Trump is stupid enough to open and Republicans have lost enough perspective to encourage:
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Monday that prosecutors were looking into whether a special counsel should be appointed to investigate political rivals President Trump has singled out for scrutiny, including Hillary Clinton.
The department, in a letter sent to the House Judiciary Committee, said the prosecutors would examine allegations that donations to the Clinton Foundation were tied to a 2010 decision by the Obama administration to allow a Russian nuclear agency to buy Uranium One, a company that owned access to uranium in the United States, and other issues.
The letter appeared to be a direct response to Mr. Trump’s statement on Nov. 3, when he said he was disappointed with his beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and that longstanding unproven allegations about the Clintons and the Obama administration should be investigated.
You can already hear the lusty chants of “Lock her up!” from both the Breitbart and Bernie or Bust idiots (but not Bernie himself because he’s not a crazy person). It doesn’t matter that the entire Uranium One story can be debunked in under three minutes (and has been by Joy Reid), they hate Hillary so who cares if it’s true or not? Lock her up…for something!
Put aside the question of the Department of Justice’s independence from the White House. Should Hillary Clinton be arrested on, ahem, Trumped up charges, we can safely assume any such independence is gone and the DoJ is little more than a weapon in the hands of Donald Trump. What, exactly, do Republicans, the Purity Left and Breitbart crowd think will happen next?
Hillary Clinton is convicted by Trump appointed judges and, at long last, locked up, just like her enemies have wanted all these years. Trump, enjoying both the cheers from the right and Purity Left, and basking in the rage of the Democrats, will find more targets to go after like, for instance, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and anyone else both Breitbart and the Purity Left hate.
Once the country’s gotten used to politically motivated arrests, maybe it’ll be time to round up a few “crooked” Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, another perennial villain of the Purity Left. But sooner or later, it will be Bernie’s turn. And Keith Ellison. And Nina Turner. And that’s before moving on to journalists like Cenk Uygur, David Sirota, and Shaun King.
What? Is that surprising? It shouldn’t be to anyone who’s ever read a single history book about authoritarian regimes in their entire life. That’s the problem with arresting your political opponents: Unless you’re the one deciding who gets arrested, you’ll eventually be the victim. And sometimes even then you’re not safe. Just ask Maximilien Robespierre.
Which brings us to the the stupidity of Republicans. Republican voters don’t know any better because they love the idea of authoritarian strongmen running roughshod over the rule of law. But Republicans are not normally as ill-informed as the base they’ve cultivated. Their problems are obvious and twofold.
First, sitting back and letting Executive Branch turn the Department of Justice into a weapon is like giving nukes to Donald Trump, something they’ve already foolishly done. The man has the self-control of a 5-year-old with ADD on a sugar high and can barely stop himself from using them. Given the opportunity, he will absolutely abuse the DoJ to arrest anyone and everyone that angers him, including Republicans.
Remember, Trump had Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke contact Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and threaten her state if she didn’t vote the way Trump wanted. It was a blatantly illegal move and the only reason Zinke was not investigated was because Murkowski decided not to pursue the matter. Trump has spent a lifetime threatening reprisals against his enemies and if he can start having them arrested, there’s zero reason to believe that won’t include members of his own party if they’re not “loyal” enough to the throne.
The second problem for Republicans is what comes after Trump. Assuming that Republicans can’t rig the ballot box to stop the wave elections they know are coming, they will not be in control of Congress or the White House come 2020 and people are going to be very angry at the smoking ruin Republicans have left behind (again). With political prosecutions normalized, Republicans will not have the protections the Bush administration enjoyed. Further, as a party steeped in corruption, even Republicans not directly involved in the Trump administration’s antics will find themselves in danger of being investigated and arrested. Why not? It’s what we do now, isn’t it?
A lot of what Republicans get away with, they can only do so as long as the political norms and traditions are preserved. By meekly allowing Trump to trample over what little they themselves haven’t already smashed, Republicans are stripping away the very thing they need to operate as a rogue political party. Letting Trump go after Hillary sounds like the perfect distraction but the long term consequences may be more than they’re willing to bear.
Once they make a habit of arresting their opponents on fake charges, it’s only a matter of time before they find themselves arrested for the very real crimes they were once allowed to commit with impunity and all the crocodile tears on Fox News won’t close Pandora’s Box again