This Wood Stork was drying its wings on my dock, but it looks like a dirty old man exposing himself to the swamp, doesn’t it?
Speaking of exposure, dirty old men and swamps in another context, Josh Marshall argues that the Biden campaign should commit now to exposing Trump’s cover-ups and corruption if Biden wins in November. Marshall says it needn’t necessarily involve prosecutions (another kettle of fish), but he argues that Biden should warn the administration now not to destroy any evidence and make it clear that wherever possible, all evidence of Trump’s cover-ups will be made public if Biden is elected. I think Marshall makes a good case. Here’s an excerpt:
Review and exposure is something we can and must insist on now. There is no tyranny or injustice in simply having your bad acts revealed. If Trump is driven from office, Trumpism won’t end in January 2021. We’ll still have a whole political party devoted to him and his politics. We will still have the machinery of government which it uses to govern through minority rule. But none of these obstacles to and targets of reform will be surmountable without accountability and exposure for the public catastrophe of the last four years. No standards of public service or resistance to public corruption and abuse can be restored without it.
Airing what happened is critical on the domestic front. It is even more critical on the international front. How many elements of our bilateral ties with other countries are based on corrupt acts or transactions? How many actions of state are based on corrupt bargains or betrayals. These relationships or the integrity of American foreign policy cannot be restored without such bad acts being revealed and expunged. We will not otherwise know if corrupt sources of personal or familial enrichment have been engineered to survive his presidency.
If Joe Biden wins the election in November he will immediately be confronted with a broken country and a host of public crises – a pandemic, a wrecked economy, a longterm need to restabilize a sputtering global order. There will be great pressure to turn on the page on the story and simply move on, if only for lack of time. So Biden’s supporters should begin insisting now on a commitment to an orderly process of clearing the executive stables of the dung of Trumpism. This should include, starting now, a warning to all those in power not to destroy any documents or records – in the broadest sense of the term – and that any officials will be held liable for destroying records and evidence which are all the property of the United States government and not any transient officeholder. It’s the one act that should ensure prosecution.
Trumpism has been an historic assault on our civic and democratic order. We cannot simply have it become a normal part of our history. A chief part of the President’s corruption has been abusing his powers to hide his wrongdoing. We can’t move forward without undoing those crimes and unwinding the lies.
“Restoring the soul of the nation” is part of Biden’s campaign pitch, and restoring behavioral norms is part of that. Review and exposure of Trump’s cover-ups would go a long way toward strengthening institutional traditions that the honor system failed to enforce.
One of the knocks on Biden early in the campaign was his instinct toward comity, but there’s reason to hope he wouldn’t insist on turning the page and letting bygones be bygones. His joint op-ed with Senator Warren on ferreting out corruption in the coronavirus relief package is one such sign.
Trump wasn’t the first corrupt president, and he’s certainly not the only one who dabbled in criminality, but he’s also engaged in wrongdoing that deserves to be exposed whether or not it violated the law. Because of the presidency’s unique powers, not every conceivable wrongdoing has been codified — for all their foresight, the Founders didn’t envision a federal government controlled by a low-rent Borgia clan empowered by spineless greedheads in pursuit of eternal minority rule.
Marshall notes the limitations of criminal investigations (see Mueller, Robert) and says Trump and Trumpsters should be criminally prosecuted where appropriate. But here he makes the case that public exposure is an effective remedy in its own right — that fear of public exposure and the resulting risk to enablers of voter sanction/public shame can and should be on the table. I think that’s true.