Three political daggers are aimed at America's democracy and security. Whether these are stiletto- thin, stealthy and precise, or footlong Bowie knives to hack, cut and maim makes little difference. The ultimate effect could be deadly.
The first dagger threatens truthfulness; the second the Constitution; and the third the nation's most important alliance. Former Sen. and Vice President Joe Biden has been accused of making certain women "uncomfortable" by violating their "personal" space. In today's "#MeToo" age, one wonders if "uncomfortable" will rise to the definition of torture under the Geneva Conventions or become grounds for a political and possibly legal hanging offense.
It is highly ironic that Donald Trump (accused by dozens of women of sexual harassment far worse than those against the former VP and by his attorney of making "hush money payments" to a porn actress and mistress) mocked Biden's plight and with a straight face denied these charges. Perhaps for someone who told the world his New York-born father was actually birthed in Germany and Barack Obama in Kenya or that the government sent $91 billion to Puerto Rico, this can be attributed to a bizarre sense of reality. However, all is not fair in politics or love.
Lying and fabricating are inherent to politics. Often, the "big lie" wins. But are social trends making mendacity even more politically essential? Trump lies and avoids the truth. He probably has done so vis a vis these allegations. Biden forthrightly admits unintentional culpability and promises to mend his ways. In so doing, Biden could jeopardize his candidacy. One conclusion: Is truthfulness now DOA in American politics?
More ironic is that special counsel Robert Mueller, the icon of integrity, may have inadvertently shredded the Constitution. The cause is the gap between clarity and ambiguity in his report. If the evidence does not rise to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, the president and Republicans will claim exoneration, citing Attorney General William Barr's benign summary of the 400-page investigation. If the evidence, however, approaches that standard, Democrats will demand action, including possible impeachment despite the near impossibility of getting two-thirds of the Senate to convict.
The matter is further complicated by Democratic subpoenas for the unredacted report and what will be released to the public. While there are reasons regarding classified material and grand jury-privileged testimony to withhold the full report, Democrats will further argue that did not apply to hearings on Hillary Clinton's email accounts and Benghazi.
The White House and the AG will object to releasing the full report. If that occurs, this is one element of what could become a constitutional crisis. More dangerous is the divide between what Democrats see as clarity of evidence and Republicans as ambiguity and hence exoneration. This divide has the potential for being more explosive than a bungled burglary of Democratic Party campaign headquarters in 1972.
Tough cases, it is said, make for bad law. Given intense mutual animosity and hostility between Republicans, Democrats and the president, a constitutional crisis over determining presidential guilt or innocence may arise as a very unintended consequence of determining Russian interference in our elections and with 2020 clearly in mind.
Finally, last week marked the 70th anniversary of a very troubled NATO alliance. NATO will expand to 30, an unworkable number for taking decisive action absent strong American leadership. Brexit, huge divisions over Russia and its unchecked efforts to unravel the alliance and authoritarian rule in several members are dangerous symptoms of NATO's health.
President Donald Trump once viewed NATO as obsolete and was kept well clear of the ceremonies. In his place, Vice President Mike Pence gave a keynote address at NATO Engage, a large public event sponsored by three major think tanks. The speech rated a political F.
This was not because of Pence's excessive and exuberant praise of the president or unnecessarily strong castigation of Turkey for buying Russian S-400 missiles and Germany for not honoring the pledge to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense made at the Wales 2014 NATO summit. It was more fundamental.
Article 5 of Washington Treaty creating NATO states that "an attack against one is an attack against all." Article 5 was only invoked once, on Sept. 12, 2001, following the Twin Towers attack. Its absence from the vice president's remarks was intentional and unmistakable. No matter the unwavering support of Congress, NATO's members realize this president is a non-resident member of the alliance. How long NATO can tolerate an absentee leader is indeed a dagger pointed at its heart.
Last week, truthfulness, the Constitution and the nation's key alliance were placed at great risk. Yet, is anyone noticing?