Robert Rotberg is the founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Intrastate Conflict, a former senior fellow at CIGI and president emeritus of the World Peace Foundation.
President Donald Trump should have been been found guilty at his impeachment trial. The U.S. House of Representatives should have expanded its indictment charge well beyond Ukrainian corruption, high crimes and misdemeanours to include asking President Xi Jinping of China to help him get reelected (and approving of Mr. Xi’s Uyghur concentration camps in Xinjiang region), running down NATO, pulling out of Syria in order to cut a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey (and betraying Kurdish allies), and generally running amok with foreign policy errors. Those are among the many critiques of the Trump presidency by John Bolton, his diehard conservative national security advisor, in a book being distributed this week.
Mr. Bolton’s charges are barbed. But even if voters are numbed by the sheer number of accusations, compounded by 19,000 already uttered presidential falsehoods counted by a Washington Post tally, Mr. Bolton’s indictment will remind a weary electorate not to forget. Truth and authenticity are the bedrock of leadership. Americans should expect no less of their presidents. Moreover, even though Congress has no appetite for another impeachment, nailing Mr. Trump’s offences to the proverbial church door tells him, and the American people, that this is a president truly unfit for office – an echo as well of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows cabinet and Congress to end a presidency because of “incapacity.”
The cascade of impeachable offences includes:
· Dividing rather than uniting these United States and their disparate citizens. Putting narcissistic and electoral needs ahead of serving the nation.
· Creating a series of “thems” rather than one “us.” Presidents should be drawing people into an “us” rather than creating an “us versus them.” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did so successfully after a mosque massacre and now keeps her country largely free of coronavirus deaths. South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela dined with his enemies and brought all of South Africa together at a time when Black and white were dangerously unreconciled.
· Demeaning the presidency and the very essence of the nation. Emerging from a White House bunker to attack peaceful protestors in order to accomplish a photo-op is but one example. Brendan Buck, a Republican operative, called those actions “singularly immoral.” Mr. Buck said that the President used force against citizens “not to protect property, but to soothe his own insecurities.”
· Racist remarks threatening the very lives of Black Americans protesting. Conniving, too, with the stain of the Confederate memorabilia and names on military bases.
· Falsely saying that presidents have authority to do whatever they want. “I alone can fix it.”
· Facilitating the deaths of coronavirus victims. By sending wrong signals, first of reassurance and then of false remedies, and finally by encouraging the opening up for business prematurely and arrogantly, he caused the unnecessary deaths of thousands of Americans.
Mr. Trump’s missteps in foreign policy are also piling up:
· Massively undermining the carefully constructed world order for which all previous American presidents and secretaries of state have fought valiantly and vigilantly since the Second World War.
· Pulling out of the Paris climate accord, the Iranian nuclear deal and trashing the World Health Organization, thereby endangering the health and safety of the world.
· Losing the trust of the world in the fundamental moral decency of U.S. policy.
· Making the word of the United States unreliable in world affairs.
· Forfeiting the U.S. role as a global setter and articulator of moral and legal guidelines and giving those roles (imagine!) to China and Russia.
· Putting Russia’s interests in security and human rights matters ahead of our own. Cosseting President Vladimir Putin, over and over. Condoning the invasion of Crimea.
· Picking unnecessary fights with China, causing pain and trouble for Canadians and other Americans.
· Calling African countries unspeakable names and being derogatory about their peoples.
· Separating children from parents at the Mexican border.
· Illegally denying the possibility of asylum to persons fleeing from Central America and beyond.
· Embodying profound ignorance (refusing to read briefing books) in ways that endanger the nation and the world. And getting his information off a TV screen or from Twitter.
· Being a bully (and a coward).
· Making the United States the laughingstock of the world – no trivial crime.
This is hardly an exhaustive list. Nor is there space for more than bullet points. Realistically, there will be no second impeachment, no matter how deserved. Nor will his cabinet invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment and declare him unfit for office. But the mental exercise of impeaching him again may contribute to America’s reckoning with itself in a desperate time when authentic and principled leadership matters more than ever. It is past time to call out the creator of America’s discontent.
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