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Jim Crawford: Risking the republic

It is difficult to pinpoint a particular moment in time when the American project began to falter. We came out of World War II as the world’s superpower, but more, the nation that helped re-build a world devastated by war. We were genuinely compassionate people serving others.

But in the face of the rise of communism, our compassion was tested with nuclear armament, and with the conscious development of spheres of influence all over the globe, often partnering with despots instead of patriots. With the McCarthy era, our politics became more coarse and much more dishonest and destructive.

As we entered war after war in the passing decades, our politics became more cynical, our politicians more willing to bridge ethics with personal advantage and moral shortcomings. As a people, our distrust grew in our leaders from all fields and professions. President Bill Clinton damaged the perceptions of our president with his moral shortcomings; Catholic priests violated their vows; business leaders broke the trust of their employees for the benefit of greater personal gain.

Then our Supreme Court, where we had for so long placed our hope that the laws of the land were more influenced by our constitution than petty politics, voted along party lines to name George W. Bush as president. Since that decision, year after year, the trust in the court has fallen.

When we invaded Iraq, in what was called a pre-emptive strike, and discovered that there were no weapons pointed at the U.S., as a people we divided into tribes, one supporting the war, another de-crying the war.

Those camps have only hardened in their opposition since that time.

And now we have the added tribe mentality of “fake news,” the incredible fiction that if you do not like the news you hear you may simply discard it and listen to news you prefer. The fake news has given us a president who lies to us as easily as speaking, and just about as often as he speaks.

Currently, a president who is pushing a tax cut that likely benefits him as much or more than almost anyone else is shouting that he will not gain at all in the tax cut. Donald Trump’s claim is laughably absurd as eliminating the estate tax alone could benefit his heirs over a billion dollars.

But the damage of the lies goes so much deeper than the laughable false claims. The president undermines our relationships with our allies, who cannot trust the word of the United States when offered by a president known to treat the truth as little more than a minor inconvenience, and lies as friendly as an old sweater.

Beneath Trump’s claims of fact facts are his deeper lies…like the claim that he knows no Russians, his campaign knew no Russians, or that there was no attempt at collusion with the Russians. So far, at least in the public sphere it is known that at least 31 contacts with the Russians occurred during the Trump campaign. It is known that representatives of the Russian government offered cooperation to help Trump and hurt Clinton. It is known that Donald Trump Jr. had contact with Wikileaks, who revealed e-mails that damaged the Clinton campaign. And of course, it is public knowledge that Trump fired Comey for investigating the Trump campaign.

Whether a congress will impeach a president for working with a foreign government that is an adversary of the United States remains to be seen, but there now can be little doubt that the Republic will soon face a crisis that demands tribes be set aside to protect the American experiment.

Is there enough goodness left among us to do the right thing when the time comes?

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.