Joe Biden wants to heal America after four years of vicious and deadly governance by Donald Trump. But he will fail in this task, risking both his presidency and his party’s assets, if he refuses to hold Trump and his makers accountable. A policy of “forgiving and forgetting” will not unite the nation – it will only ensure that the Democrats lose control of Congress in 2022 and the presidency in 2024.
It’s no secret that Biden is most comfortable in the role of the arbitrator. But in order to rule and shape the future, he cannot afford to ask Americans to imagine that Trump was simply breaking norms when the facts tell us that he and his staff are repeatedly, wantonly and destructively against have broken the law.
The new president should never hesitate to support the work of federal, state or local prosecutors pursuing the necessary cases against Trump and others who engage in an orgy of proprietary trafficking, attacking the rule of law and democracy, and deliberately negligent Responding to a pandemic that killed (and count) over 300,000 Americans. Philip Allen Lacovara, former attorney for the Special Prosecutor of Watergate, reminds us: “If a person who succeeds in attaining the presidency can break the law with impunity, we have made our republic unrecognizable to the founders and dangerous to our descendants . “
It’s not about being vengeful, it’s about being effective. Courageous policy proposals are much harder to reject when they are phrased in the language of necessity and accountability. When employing executive orders, laws, and legal strategies to restore ethical standards, protect voting rights, secure American elections, and limit the influence of corporate interests by increasing transparency and accountability on pandemic issues, Biden can say, “These are the things that we must do to repair the damage caused by four years of maliciously destructive actions by Donald Trump and a destructive occupation that cared more about their own enrichment than the health, safety and prosperity of the American people. ”
However, this is about more than just reforming a broken process. A steady focus on accountability isolates and diminishes the critics who will question important initiatives to regenerate the economy, save the planet, and fight structural racism as Trump and his enablers of Congress become identified with the crises that run on theirs Clock are metastatic.
It will not be easy to set this standard of necessity and accountability. There will be an outcry from the commentary on Sunday morning desperately wanting Biden to hand over the commander in chief’s coat for that of the healer in command. Nothing excites the political and media elites more than the prospect of a Kumbaya moment in which “the mystical chords of memory will swell when they are touched again by the better angels of our nature, no matter how sure they are”. The poetic appeal of these words from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address is undeniable. But also their context. Lincoln spoke on the eve of a civil war that exposed divisions so deeply and permanently that the United States is still arguing over whether to dismantle the flags and statues of traitors who tore the country apart.
A far better touchstone for a new president who wants to unite the majority of Americans behind a bold political agenda is the president who did just that: Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR knew that in order to accumulate the political power required to achieve transformational change, it would have to finger guilt, arouse just outrage, and prosecute wrongdoers. He cheered the investigation into bankers and speculators who took advantage of the misery of a nation sunk in the Great Depression. He called out war profiteers and linked his republican rivals with the dreaded economic royalists who thwarted not only progress but democracy as well. And when the merchants of greed objected, the FDR exclaimed, “I applaud your hatred.”
The American people have given Biden a mandate to fight the political and economic corruption of our time: a head start of over 7 million votes and a higher level of support than any challenger to a sitting president since Roosevelt turned Herbert Hoover on his head in 1932 as morally obnoxious and lawless as Trump, but the FDR’s approach is illuminating. Like his democratic predecessor, Biden must not just claim his mandate, but defend it, and the road to it leads with a steely determination to assign blame and strict accountability.
That may sound petty, and Biden will certainly be attacked as such. But he is under attack no matter what he does by Republicans who have developed a strategy to undermine and ultimately disempower newly elected Democratic presidents. If you play nicely and market the false hope for unity in a divided nation, you can win praise from the editorial staff and the big old party of Lincoln Project grifter and Never Trump commentators who want to tell Democrats how they like the mess the Republicans are supposed to eliminate. But it is a recipe for political disaster.
The only way to prevent bipartisan and hyper-strategic Republicans from derailing another Democratic government is to make it clear that Republicans created the crises they are now trying to exploit. Biden doesn’t have to be the attorney general. But he must understand why law enforcement is just and necessary, and openly acknowledge and explain their need to the American people. He can repeat Andrew Weissmann, a senior prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s special investigation into the President’s wrongdoing, who argued that “Mr. Trump’s criminal exposure is clear, “saying the next attorney general should investigate Trump and, if warranted, prosecute Trump with the understanding that” being president means you are more accountable to the rule of law, not less. “Weissmann admits:” We do not want to transform ourselves into an autocratic state in which law enforcement agencies are political weapons of the ruling party. But that’s not enough reason to let Mr. Trump off the hook. ”
Weissmann expects Trump to try to apologize to himself, his family members and his companies. This will create an outcry, legal and constitutional battle, and pressure on New York Attorney General Letitia James and other state and local attorneys to assume the cloak of accountability. “The president’s pardon cannot be used to: (1) pardon state crimes, (2) eliminate civil liability of the federal government, (3) pardon impeachment, or (4) pardon crimes that have not yet occurred “says Jill Wine-Banks. a former Assistant District Attorney for Watergate and Executive Vice President of the American Bar Association. “I supported indicting Nixon in office and then after his resignation. The case for applying normal law enforcement standards to Trump is even stronger. ”
While state and local investigations are outside his remit as president, Biden has a duty to defend them. That duty covers the rule of law, history, and reforms his administration should drive to address Trump’s grifting and ownership, refusal to cooperate with federal investigations, abuse of office, and the conspiracy to overthrow his election crash.
Biden needs to recognize that one of the best ways to make good policies – and retain authority to do so – is to maintain an ongoing accountability that calls on those who promoted the bad policies that need to be replaced. This is a lesson from Roosevelt who never gave up accountability, and in particular never lost his Congressional majority or re-election bids. Joe Biden has to take that lesson and run with it.