By Tom Toles – The Washington Post.
Some of the norms that are rapidly vanishing from government were ones that we never really thought about.
Such as the idea that the Oval Office would never be simply another CEO suite for a private family firm. Now we see what candidate Donald Trump meant when he threatened to run government like a business. His business. There are currently so many transgressions that they will never all be run down and corrected. They obscure each other and, in the eyes of the ever-distractible media, tend to cancel each other out. And therefore rampant conflicts, vanishing transparency and personal gain become a new norm. Did we vote on this?
When Trump announced that the law is on his side, that the president can’t have a conflict, is was a total inversion of the prior norm. The idea had been that the president just wouldn’t have a conflict, and because of this presumption, shouldn’t be subject to endless harassment about nits. Now it is being reimagined, as license. The government is no longer simply influenced by corporate money — there is no longer any line between the two at all. Officeholders now have integrated personal business dealings and interests into one seamless continuum between private dealings and public ones. A new norm.
But all this is not the worst of the norms that Trump is creating. His presidency comes against a backdrop of eight years of trying to delegitimize the presidency of the duly (twice) elected Barack Obama with hallucinatory accusations about birth certificates, citizenship and secret religion. It comes on the heels of a campaign with near-hysterical concern about (it’s almost impossible now to reconstruct the rationale) the type of email server Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state.
These charges were ginned up out of a now-obviously completely insincere concern about ethics and propriety in government. The GOP watchdogs, who had already pre-announced plans for unending persecution of another Democratic president on ethics grounds, have gone AWOL when it comes to Trump’s manifest ethics transgressions.
And what is this new norm?
Hypocrisy. Rank, total and mercilessly cynical hypocrisy. It is a norm of dishonesty, an outcome-at-any-cost pursuit of rawest power and personal privilege in the most ruthless, dishonest manner. There is no other way to read this, and once this is established as a norm, neither will there be any limits to its extent.
And every day that Trump is president, this invasive species grows roots deeper into our democracy.
And just like the norm of a stable climate, which Trump is also ruthlessly undermining, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.