Political Grammar

October 20, 2018

pile of benjamins

Spend two minutes online and you’re sure to find something inane. For instance, I ran across a bizarre boast the other day which the poster, after having tweeted, threw onto his Himalayan pile of former boasts. This latest had to do with grammar, of all things.

It said; “When referring to the USA, I will always capitalize the word Country.” Of course if you read through the heap of our boaster’s reeking tweets you’ll find he clearly does not. Considering the source, that he’s lying goes without saying. Yet ironically, this Trump boast is, in a manner of speaking, a sad truth because as he continues to invulnerably ignore the constitution’s emolument clause he is in fact capitalizing on country. Trump capitalizes on anything he can suck a buck from, no matter how cruelly or unethically. A quick google of how this man and family profit from his office brings up dozens of links with statements like this: 

” In their recent financial disclosure forms, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner reported more than $500 million in income (which) came from their hotels, golf courses, clubs and merchandise sales (and) from long-established businesses and newly formed ones. No modern president has profited this way during his time in office.” —John Harwood, CNBC.  What’s more, many of those links indicate tax fraud as a major contributor to their wealth. The record of Trump’s emolument-denying “capitalizations” include his oligarchic Russian ties and, through his daughter and son-in-law Jared, those with the Saudis. Facts tend to suggest that if the president could bleed the country dry by capitalizing it straight into his tax fraud account he would. He’s made it clear there are no ethical rules that bind him. No moral leashes hold him down. And no chump sense of decency blinds him as he strips his country down.

Our constitution’s emolument clause, intended to thwart the very practices Donald Trump employs, was inserted into that document probably because, back in the late 18th century, either James Madison or Thomas Jefferson, its two main authors, had a prescient nightmare of some future president who would have no moral core. Maybe they both had such dreams.  Maybe they discussed them over tea and biscuits. I can hear them now:

Jefferson: It was extremely disturbing. In my dream this president was an absolute narcissist. He was much like King George! He thought he knew everything and that everything belonged to him. And he fancied himself an intellect. But by some strange aspect of my dream having to do with chirping or tweeting birds, I received an impression that made it abundantly clear this president was no intellect.

Madison: Yes! In my dream… but shouldn’t we really call them nightmares, Tom? —regardless, in my nightmare the president was very disreputable. He cheated in business and relied upon frauds and chronic mendacity to make a fortune. He really had no qualms about using his office to increase his wealth —no moral compass, I’m afraid. How could it possibly come to that after the bloody revolution and all? No! We will not go back there! We must do something to avert such an outcome!

Jefferson: Of course! How about this: Let us include in our constitution a clause that will prevent such a man from profiting on the power of his office. A statement something like this: no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state that might influence his policies. How about that?

Madison: Yes! Well done! No emoluments! Brilliant, Tom! We will call it the emoluments clause. And, fortunately, the way we have structured our constitution, wisely and prudently creating a government of three co-equal branches, each checking the others, should any reprehensible person ever gain the presidency by, let us say, foreign interference in elections or domestic suppression of a man’s right to vote, we’ll have a congress that will step in to check such blatant corruption and abuses!

Jefferson. Precisely. You and I are very, very clever, aren’t we, James?

Madison: Yes, only we can do it.

Jefferson: Oh, and James, one more thing: did your dream happen to suggest another character… with a name that sounded …Gaelic?  Conaill, perhaps, or some similar appellation prefixed with “son of” in that tongue:  you know, mac, mac… hmm, —mac Conaill … that’s it!

Madison: No, Tom, there was no such person in my nightmare.

Jefferson: Thank God! because throughout my awful vision such a character’s shadow loomed dark and Machiavellian over our senate floor and seemed to catch our brilliant constitution up short… bigtime.


Jim Culleny
10/20/18

 


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