What Happens When Top Rival American Politicians Compete to Jail Each Other?

It's been more than two years since the Belmont Club article predicting a political showdown after the election of Donald Trump was written. Since then, its scenario of top rival American politicians trying to jail each other has become an actual possibility. "Will impeaching Trump lead to indictments of Obama and Biden over Ukraine?" says an article in the Spectator. Rudy Giuliani asks: 'Shouldn't Biden be investigated over Ukraine if Trump can be impeached over it?' Hillary's in the mix too:

As President Donald Trump's presidency is threatened by an impeachment inquiry, the Republican chairmen of two Senate committees, Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley, are asking Attorney General William Barr to investigate any ties between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

To use a World War II analogy there are torpedoes in the water going in opposite directions at each fleet's battlewagons. If all strike home, a lot of damage will ensue as the different parts of the bureaucracy act against rival leaders. Not surprisingly, the term "civil war" actually began trending on Twitter. CBS News reported: "'Civil War 2' trends on Twitter after Trump quotes speculation that impeachment would spark 'civil war.'"

The very mention of the term is itself an impeachable offense according to Harvard Law professor John Coates. "This tweet is itself an independent basis for impeachment - a sitting president threatening civil war if Congress exercises its constitutionally authorized power." The fact that it was Pastor Robert Jeffress who said the offending words on a TV program -- Trump was merely quoting him -- is of no moment. The impeachment devil who no one professed to believe in has appeared at Nancy Pelosi's prayers.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that she is heartbroken and prayerful as House Democrats move forward with their impeachment inquiry and that President Donald Trump's actions left her no other choice.

There is frank hostility. "Joe Biden's campaign wrote to executives at ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News to 'demand' that Rudy Giuliani not be invited on the air to discuss Ukraine and President Trump because of what they called his misleading comments about the Biden family," according to the New York Times. Giuliani responded indignantly: "Think of the Biden arrogance and entitlement to protection. They believe they own the media and they are demanding that they silence me. They know I have incriminating facts, not hearsay, because they know what they did in selling Joe’s office to a Ukrainian crook."

Politicians could be psyching themselves into the very thing they purport to abhor. If they sincerely want to step back from the brink now's the time. Otherwise, their actions may at some point unleash a runaway train. As a Harvard symposium noted, World War I started by miscalculation.

None of the leaders of Europe in 1914 would have chosen the war they caused—and in the end all lost. By 1918, the Kaiser had been dismissed, the AustroHungarian Empire dissolved, the czar overthrown by the Bolsheviks, France bled for a generation, and England shorn of the flower of its youth and treasure. Given a chance for a do-over, none of the leaders would have made the choices he did. Combinations of assertiveness and ignorance, risk-taking, overconfidence, and conceit produced an outcome so devastating that it required historians to create a new category: world war -- Graham Allison

A salient lesson of World War I for decision-makers should be humility about predicting consequences in a transitional epoch. The leaders of the era were wrong about almost everything – the effectiveness of ultimatums, the value of the alliance system, the duration of the conflict, the tactics and strategy required in a new industrialized war, the social and cultural impact of mass death and the stability of empire. -- Ben Heineman

Perhaps the worst illusion of politicians is that they are in control; that we can determine the climate or we can create an end to history. But often we cannot. Human affairs will remain vulnerable to external events whether it is from a disaster such as a meteor arriving undetected from outer space or unlooked-for salvation from people like Stanislav Petrov, who saved the world during the Cold War by ignoring a faulty Soviet missile alert. The future is an alien signal. It's bound to surprise us.

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ALSO: My opinion piece at the Wall Street Journal on what lights up the soul. Well it's a surprise. Man does not live by 5 year plans alone.


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Books:

The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, by Kevin Williamson. The author takes a flamethrower to mob politics, the “beast with many heads” that haunts social media and what currently passes for real life. He believes it's destroying our capacity for individualism and dragging us down “the Road to Smurfdom, the place where the deracinated demos of the Twitter age finds itself feeling small and blue.”

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, by Joseph J. Ellis. This is a gripping portrait of one of the most crucial and misconstrued periods in American history - the years between the end of the Revolution and the formation of the federal government - and the men most responsible for this second American founding: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, by Jonathan Haidt. This is a book about ten Great Ideas. Haidt draws on philosophical wisdom and scientific research to show how the meaningful life is closer than you think.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

Open Curtains by George Spix and Richard Fernandez. Technology represents both unlimited promise and menace. Which transpires depends on whether people can claim ownership over their knowledge or whether human informational capital continues to suffer the Tragedy of the Commons.

The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific.