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Republicans: “We are only following the people’s orders!


In the argument over whether the Democratic candidates for president should focus on issues or on Trump’s aberrant character, I think it’s not either-or. It’s both. But I certainly think Trump’s character should be a major part of the candidates’ speeches.

While it’s true that there are plenty of issues to focus on—immigration, healthcare, the environment, global warming, LGBTQ discrimination, taxes, women’s reproductive rights, nuclear proliferation—the main thing Democrats have going for them is a generalized understanding in the electorate, including many Republicans, that there’s something deeply, morally corrupt about Trump as a person. Parents may envy his money, they may like his judicial appointments, but they would never ask their children to view him as a role model, nor would they allow their daughters to be left alone with him if they’re his “type”–and we all know what that is.

I routinely come under attack from rightwing extremist websites like Breitbart for calling for Nuremberg-style Trials for Republican leadership, from Trump on down to cockroaches like Devin Nunes. The thing to understand about Nuremberg is that those trials were not so much criminal in nature as political. It’s true that the Allies charged the Nazi defendants with crimes, including war crimes. That decision was controversial then, and remains controversial today in legal-jurisprudential circles, because the indicted “crimes” were in large measure invented by the victors in the War—the Allies Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. The Germans argued, with some credibility, that the “crimes against humanity” for which they were indicted were more or less the same kinds of “crimes” the Allies committed, the difference being that the victors got to define the terms of the game. Was the mass murder of Jews different in essence from the mass murder of Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

I don’t propose to wade into that thicket. My point is the political nature of Nuremberg. The Germans were correct in stating that the victors always get to define the terms imposed upon the vanquished. Had Germany won, Hitler might well have arrested Eisenhower, Montgomery, Averell Harriman, Harry Hopkins and Anthony Eden—not to mention FDR and Churchill, if they could catch them—and tried them for war crimes and crimes against humanity. That didn’t happen, of course, but Nuremberg did represent political payback for German leaders who had caused so much distress and death in the world. That’s the nature of politics: “to the victor go the spoils” or, put another way, “elections have consequences.”

This is what I mean by Nuremberg-style trials for Republicans. Their underlying crime is destruction of the domestic tranquility of the United States. That isn’t a crime you’ll find listed in any official Code, like tax fraud, arson or espionage. But it is a crime because it has caused so many Americans and others to suffer needlessly, and it is additionally a crime because it violates the norms of American history, which are the guardrails that protect our freedoms. What Trump has done is a thing Republicans did not have to do. What Republicans have done is a crime they well understood was wrong. It is a crime for which I’m sure they came under intense criticism even from their own families and inner circles. It is a crime they did with malice aforethought. It is a crime they did out of vengeance against Democrats and elected Democratic leaders, out of resentment for tens of millions of Americans whom they hate, and out of sheer political and financial opportunism. It is a crime which violated their own self-professed moral beliefs.

Why did they commit it? Because they blindly and obediently followed an evil man, Donald J. Trump, whom they knew to be unfit to govern—a man whom their own religions defined as wicked. This is not a defense, of course; it is an explanation. For what Republicans have done and continue to do, there can be no defense, and this is why we require Nuremberg-style trials. Somebody has to be blamed; somebody has to accept responsibility for this catastrophe into which America has been plunged.

The Nazis at Nuremberg argued along the ridiculous lines: “To begin with, nothing bad happened in Europe under our watch. And if it did, nobody here knew anything about it. And if we did know about it, we were simply following orders.” They expected the Justices to buy that nonsense! Obviously, the Justices didn’t, and as a final result, many Germans were hung by the neck until dead.

Now we have Republicans offering similar defenses. “We did nothing wrong! The American people elected Trump; we are simply carrying out their will!” Well, we—the American people—aren’t buying it. Senior Republicans will be made to pay the penalty for what they have done: the most destructive attack on our founding values since the South seceded. Republicans must, in the name of everything America has ever stood for, be brought to justice. Decency and morality will settle for nothing less!

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