By John W. Whitehead
“When a man unprincipled in private life[,]
desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper . .
. despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to
have scoffed in private at the principles of
liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the
hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry
of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity
of embarrassing the General Government &
bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and
fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of
the day —
It may justly be suspected that his object is to
throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride
the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”—Alexander
November 19, 2019 "Information
Clearing House" -
By all means, let’s talk
To allow the President or any rogue government
agency or individual to disregard the rule of law
whenever, wherever and however it chooses and
operate “above the law” is exactly how a nation of
sheep gives rise to a government of wolves.
To be clear: this is not about Donald Trump. Or
at least it shouldn’t be just about Trump.
This is a condemnation of every government toady
at every point along the political
spectrum—right, left and center—who has conspired to
expand the federal government’s powers at the
expense of the citizenry.
For too long now, the American people have played
politics with their principles and turned a blind
eye to all manner of wrongdoing when it was
politically expedient, allowing Congress, the White
House and the Judiciary to wreak havoc with their
freedoms and act in violation of the rule of law.
“We the people” are paying the price for it now.
We are paying the price every day that we allow
the government to continue to wage its war on the
American People, a war that is being fought on many
fronts: with bullets and tasers, with surveillance
cameras and license readers, with intimidation and
propaganda, with court rulings and legislation, with
the collusion of every bureaucrat who dances to the
tune of corporate handouts while on the government’s
payroll, and most effectively of all, with the
complicity of the American people, who continue to
allow themselves to be easily manipulated by their
politics, distracted by their pastimes, and
acclimated to a world in which government corruption
is the norm.
Don’t keep falling for the Deep State’s ploys.
This entire impeachment process is a manufactured
political circus—a shell game—aimed at distracting
the public from the devious treachery of the
American police state, which continues to lock down
the nation and strip the citizenry of every last
vestige of constitutional safeguards that have
historically served as a bulwark against tyranny.
Has President Trump overstepped his authority and
abused his powers?
Without a doubt.
Then again, so did Presidents Obama, Bush,
Clinton, and almost every president before them.
Trump is not the first president to
weaken the system of checks and balances,
sidestep the rule of law, and expand the
power of the president. He is just the most
If we were being honest and consistent in holding
government officials accountable, you’d have to
impeach almost every president in recent years for
operating “above the law,” unbound by the
legislative or judicial branches of the government.
When we refer to the “rule of law,” that’s
constitutional shorthand for the idea that everyone
is treated the same under the law, everyone is held
equally accountable to abiding by the law, and no
one is given a free pass based on their politics,
their connections, their wealth, their status or any
other bright line test used to confer special
treatment on the elite.
When the government and its agents no longer
respect the rule of law—the Constitution—or believe
that it applies to them, then the very contract on
which this relationship is based becomes invalid.
Although the Constitution requires a separation
of powers between the executive, legislative and
judicial branches of government in order to ensure
accountability so that no one government agency
becomes all-powerful, each successive president over
the past 30 years has, through the negligence of
Congress and the courts,
expanded the reach and power of the presidency
by adding to his office’s list of extraordinary
orders, directives and special privileges.
All of the imperial
powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to
kill American citizens without due process, to
detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of
their citizenship rights, to carry out mass
surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to
suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with
which he might disagree, to conduct secret wars and
convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to
sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive
orders and signing statements, to direct the
military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to
operate a shadow government, and to act as a
dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any
real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump.
These presidential powers—acquired through the
use of executive
orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations,
national security directives and legislative signing
statements and which can be activated by any
sitting president—enable past, president and future
presidents to act as a dictator by operating above
the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.
Yet in operating above the law, it’s not just the
president who has become a law unto himself.
The government itself has become an imperial
dictator, an overlord, a king.
This is what you might call a stealthy, creeping,
silent, slow-motion coup d’état.
This abuse of power
has been going on for so long that it has become
the norm, the Constitution be damned.
There are hundreds—make that thousands—of
government bureaucrats who are getting away with
murder (in many cases, literally) simply because the
legislatures, courts and the citizenry can’t be
bothered to make them play by the rules of the
Unless something changes in the way we deal with
these ongoing, egregious abuses of power, the
predators of the police state will continue to wreak
havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our
It’s the nature of the beast: power corrupts.
Worse, as 19th-century historian Lord Acton
absolute power corrupts absolutely.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a
politician, an entertainment mogul, a
corporate CEO or a police officer: give any one
person (or government agency) too much power and
allow him or her or it to believe that they are
entitled, untouchable and will not be held
accountable for their actions, and those powers will
eventually be abused.
We’re seeing this dynamic play out every day in
communities across America.
A cop shoots an unarmed citizen for no credible
reason and gets away with it. A president employs
executive orders to sidestep the Constitution and
gets away with it. A government agency spies on its
citizens’ communications and gets away with it. An
entertainment mogul sexually harasses actors and
actresses and gets away with it. The U.S. military
bombs civilian targets and gets away with it.
Abuse of power—and the ambition-fueled hypocrisy
and deliberate disregard for misconduct that make
those abuses possible—works the same whether you’re
talking about sexual harassment, government
corruption, or the rule of law.
Twenty years ago, I was a lawyer for Paula Jones,
who sued then-President Clinton for dropping his
pants and propositioning her for sex when he was
governor of Arkansas. That lawsuit gave rise to
Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, a
21-year-old intern at the White House, and his
eventual impeachment for lying about it under oath.
As Dana Milbank writes for The Washington
We didn’t know it at the time, of course.
But in Bill Clinton were the seeds of Donald
Trump. With 20 years of hindsight, it is
clear… Clinton’s handling of the Monica Lewinsky
affair was a precursor of the monstrosity we now
have in the White House: dismissing unpleasant
facts as “fake news,” self-righteously claiming
victimhood, attacking the press and cloaking
personal misbehavior in claims to be upholding
the Constitution…. Clinton set us on the path,
or at least accelerated us down the path, that
led to today.
It doesn’t matter what starts us down this path,
whether it’s a president insisting that he get a
free pass for sexually harassing employees, or
waging wars based on invented facts, or attempting
to derail an investigation into official misconduct.
If we continue down this road, there can be no
surprise about what awaits us at the end.
After all, it is a tale that has been told time
and again throughout history about how easy it is
for freedom to fall and tyranny to rise, and it
often begins with one small, seemingly
inconsequential willingness on the part of the
people to compromise their principles and undermine
the rule of law in exchange for a dubious assurance
of safety, prosperity and a life without care.
For example, 86 years ago, the citizens of
another democratic world power elected a leader who
promised to protect them from all dangers. In return
for this protection, and under the auspice of
fighting terrorism, he was given absolute power.
This leader went to great lengths to make his
rise to power appear both legal and necessary,
masterfully manipulating much of the citizenry and
their government leaders.
Unnerved by threats of domestic terrorism and
foreign invaders, the people had little idea that
the domestic turmoil of the times—such as street
rioting and the fear of Communism taking over the
country—was staged by the leader in an effort to
create fear and later capitalize on it.
In the ensuing months, this charismatic leader
ushered in a series of legislative measures that
suspended civil liberties and habeas corpus rights
and empowered him as a dictator.
On March 23, 1933, the nation’s legislative body
passed the Enabling Act, formally referred to as the
“Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the
Nation,” which appeared benign and allowed the
leader to pass laws by decree in times of emergency.
What it succeeded in doing, however, was ensuring
that the leader became a law unto himself.
The leader’s name was
Adolf Hitler, and the rest, as they say, is
Yet history has a way of repeating itself.
Hitler’s rise to power should serve as a stark
lesson to always be leery of granting any government
leader sweeping powers.
Clearly, we are not heeding that lesson.
“How lucky it is for rulers,” Adolf Hitler once
said, “that men cannot think.”
The horrors that followed in Nazi Germany might
have been easier to explain if Hitler had been
right. But the problem is not so much that people
cannot think but that they do
not think. Or if they do think, as in the case
of the German people, that thinking becomes muddled
and easily led.
Hitler’s meteoric rise to power, with the support
of the German people, is a case in point.
On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed
chancellor of Germany in full accordance with the
country’s legal and constitutional principles. When
President Paul von Hindenburg died the following
year, Hitler assumed the office of president, as
well as that of chancellor, but he preferred to use
the title Der Füehrer (the leader) to describe
himself. This new move was approved in a general
election in which Hitler garnered 88 percent of the
It cannot be said that the German people were
ignorant of Hitler’s agenda or his Nazi ideology.
Nazi literature, including statements of the Nazi
plans for the future, had papered the country for a
decade before Hitler came to power. In fact,
Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, which was his
blueprint for totalitarianism, sold more than
200,000 copies between 1925 and 1932.
Clearly, the problem was not that the German
people did not think but that their thinking was
poisoned by the enveloping climate of ideas that
they came to accept as important.
At a certain point, the trivial became important,
and obedience to the government in pursuit of
security over freedom became predominant.
As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal
book on Hitler’s rise to power,
They Thought They Were Free, “Most of
us did not want to think about fundamental things
and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us
some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we
were decent people‑—and kept us so busy with
continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated,
yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the
‘national enemies’, without and within, that we had
no time to think about these dreadful things that
were growing, little by little, all around us.”
The German people were not oblivious to the
horrors taking place around them. As historian
Robert Gellately points out, “[A]nyone in Nazi
Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo,
the concentration camps, and the campaigns of
discrimination and persecutions need only read the
The warning signs were definitely there, blinking
incessantly like large neon signs.
“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority
voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they
could read in the press and hear by word of mouth
about the secret police, the concentration camps,
official anti-Semitism, and so on. . . . [T]here is
no getting away from the fact that at that moment,
‘the vast majority of the German people backed
Half a century later, the wife of a prominent
German historian, neither of whom were members of
the Nazi party, opined: “[O]n the whole, everyone
felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty
percent who lived productively and positively
throughout the time. . . . We also had good years.
We had wonderful years.”
In other words, as long as their
creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as
their bank accounts remained flush, as long
as they weren’t being discriminated
against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot,
stripped, jailed and turned into slave labor, life
This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.
The American kleptocracy (a government ruled by
thieves) has sucked the American people down a
rabbit hole into a parallel universe in which the
Constitution is meaningless, the government is
all-powerful, and the citizenry is powerless to
defend itself against government agents who steal,
spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict
mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in
This dissolution of that sacred covenant between
the citizenry and the government—establishing “we
the people” as the masters and the government as the
servant—didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen
because of one particular incident or one particular
president. It is a process, one that began long ago
and continues in the present day, aided and abetted
by politicians who have mastered the polarizing art
of how to “divide and conquer.”
Unfortunately, there is no magic spell to
transport us back to a place and time where “we the
people” weren’t merely fodder for a corporate
gristmill, operated by government hired hands, whose
priorities are money and power.
As I make clear in my book
Battlefield America: The War on the American
People, our freedoms have become casualties
in an all-out war on the American people.
So yes, let’s talk about impeachment, but don’t
fall for the partisan shell game that sets Trump up
as the fall guy for the Deep State’s high crimes and
Set your sights higher: impeach the government
for overstepping its authority, abusing its power,
and disregarding the rule of law.
Constitutional attorney and author John W.
Whitehead is founder and president of The
Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield
America: The War on the American People
is available at
www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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