Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Literary Corner: The Defense Rests

Jean Arthur and Jack Holt in Lambert Hillyer's The Defense Rests (1934).

Rampant in January

by Counselor Bruce Castor

Article one, section three says,
“Judgements in cases of impeachment
shall not extend further than
to removal from office, and
disqualification to hold any
office of honor, trust, profit
under the United States: but
the party convicted shall
nevertheless be liable and subject,
to indictment, trial, judgment,
and punishment according to the law.”

So this idea of a January amnesty is
nonsense. If my colleagues on this side
of the chamber actually think that President
Trump committed a criminal offense, and
let’s understand, a high crime is a felony,
and a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor. The
words haven’t changed that much over time.
After he’s out of office, you go and arrest him.
So there is no opportunity where
the President of the United States
can run rampant in January at the end
of his term and just go away scot-free.
The Department of Justice does know
what to do with such people, and so far,
I haven’t seen any activity in that
direction. Not only that, the people
who stormed this building and
breached it were not accused
of conspiring with the President.
But the section I read, judgment,
in other words, the bad thing that
can happen, the judgment, in cases
of impeachment, i.e., what we are
doing, shall not extend further
further than removal from office
What is so hard about that? Which of
those words are unclear, ”Shall not
extend further than removal from office?"
President Trump no longer is in office.
The object of the Constitution has been
achieved. He was removed by the voters.

What's unclear is how Castor forgot "and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, Trust, or Profit under the United States," the object of the Constitution that the current impeachment trial is actually about, though he'd read it aloud, or rather recited it from memory (missing a couple of crucial words), less than two minutes earlier. That was some performance, altogether: as if the lawyers had on the one hand despaired of making any case at all, or at least any case that the client could live with, and realized on the other hand that they can't lose the case, since the Republican senators won't allow that, and decided in the end to go with pure improv, perhaps in the hope of getting themselves TV gigs.

You have to give them points for novelty: "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm not saying my client is guilty, I'm just saying if he is you can't lock him up, so please, turn the case over to somebody who can."

I'm not sure whether Mr. Trump is really going to thank him for that, or for his insistence here that Trump lost the November election. Perhaps that was what brought on the "borderline screaming"

Multiple sources familiar with the former president's reactions told CNN that Trump was "borderline screaming" over his defense attorneys' performance Tuesday — the trial's first day — particularly taking issue with his attorney Bruce Castor Jr.'s rambling opening remarks.

Is that a technical use of "borderline" to refer to Borderline Personality Disorder?

One study examined anger in people with BPD compared to those without BPD in response to an anger-producing story. This study found that people with BPD reported the same level of anger as the healthy controls (in response to the story). But, the healthy controls reported that their anger decreased more quickly over time than the people with BPD reported.1

So it may not be that people with BPD have a stronger anger reaction, but that their anger has a much longer duration than other people experience.

Furthermore, other research shows that anger in BPD may trigger rumination (when someone thinks over and over about their angry experience). This repetitive thinking creates a vicious emotional cycle that worsens the person's anger and increases its duration (as supported by the study mentioned above). Eventually, the prolonged and intense anger triggers aggressive behavior, which a person engages in to relieve their rage.

BPD, says my source, often co-occurs with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which complicates things:

The relationships of individuals with BPD are often quite dysfunctional. However, adding NPD into the mix can create even more disordered conditions.

In addition to the chaotic emotional life and fears of abandonment associated with BPD, a person with co-occurring NPD may also take advantage of or manipulate others while having little empathy for others' concerns. This combination can be incredibly destructive in relationships.

Jim Acosta on CNN is telling me that Trump still isn't sorry that he almost got Mike Pence killed and doesn't even see why he should be. And they "still haven't patched up the relationship." As ever, I hate the personalization of politics by our media, as a gossipy distraction from the actual issues, but in Trump's case it is an issue in its own right, raised continually by his own emperor pathology. 

This is such a big part of the horror of 6 January, too, and I really think it's not getting enough attention: the coup attempt is clearly an outcome of Trump's curious condition. The delusional belief that he might actually succeed in keeping himself in the White House, effectively emperor-for-real, as opposed to merely causing a lot of pointless carnage, is grounded in the narcissism, an inability to understand that anybody else entirely exists, alongside the ignorance shown in his failure to plan better—to understand that you can't successfully make a move like that unless you have a commitment from the military—you can't just stage a coup because you really really want to. And then the revenge character, based on long rumination, because he's never had any real interest in ruling anything, only in punishing those he feels have disrespected him, from Clinton and Obama through, apparently, that idiot Pence. 

The horrible things that could have happened and didn't, the deaths of Pence and Pelosi and the other members and staffers the rioters couldn't get to, though they came terrifyingly close, wouldn't have made a difference to the outcome, though they'd have made it much worse for Trump. He was crazy to think they might, and so were his enablers, from Stone and Flynn through Miller and Meadows, and that's really all there is to it; as I've been saying for a while, the person who establishes a dictatorship in the United States is going to have a 12-year plan like Putin and will do it, like him, without openly breaking a single law. (Be warned!) Indeed, the lesson we should be drawing from the 1923 Munich putsch is not that Trump may win in the next years, but that he won't, because unlike Hitler he can't learn from his mistakes (what Hitler learned, precisely, was that it would only work if he stayed within the law, which is what he did in 1933).

More interesting is the condition of Congress, and the difference congressional Republicans could make, especially if the Georgia special election had turned out differently (you can't tell me Trump's coup plotting didn't help Georgian Democrats up their turnout from November by 200,000 votes or whatever it was). Republican loyalty to their emperor is pretty extreme, and there are some major structural factors in there, which require some separate examination.

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