Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.
As far as courtroom procedure is concerned, this was quite unprecedented – even bizarre. In the middle of the closing statements by writer E. Jean Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan’s closing arguments in her defamation suit against former President Donald Trump, he angrily stormed out of the courtroom, causing chaos and commotion. Was he not aware that such behaviour would only serve to alienate the jury that was determining the punitive damages in a civil suit, thus add to the penalty? And sure enough it did. The jury returned with a whopping US$83 million penalty – far exceeding the $10 million Carrol had been asking for initially.
As far as record damages are concerned, this exceeds only the $148 million that a previous jury had imposed upon Trump’s former campaign attorney Rudy Giuliani for $148 million penalty for falsely accusing a mother-daughter pair of Georgia election workers of manipulating ballots in 2020. In addition to his civil cases, Trump has four upcoming criminal cases related to claims he orchestrated the payment of hush money to a pornographic actress; mishandled classified documents; and broke the law attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election result, both nationwide and in the state of Georgia specifically. But he doesn’t care because he considers himself above the law.
And this is a man who is once again running for President and who – believe it or not – stands a good chance of winning. As far as the Republicans are concerned, he has already been nominated. In fact, the Republican National Committee had declared him the presumptive nominee after only two primaries, only to reverse that decision when the sheer absurdity of it became apparent.
Nevertheless, only former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, stands between Trump and the nomination as other candidates dropped off by the wayside and – except for former New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie — jumped on the Trump bandwagon. What drives them is fear – fear of Trump and his influence upon the Republican rank and file. They are afraid to stand up to this spiteful bully because they may lose their own comfortable positions to a Trump acolyte in the primary. John F. Kennedy once wrote a book entitled “Profiles in Courage”, a volume of short biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States senators who defied the opinions of their party and constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity as a result. Today a most appropriate book would be one that describes virtually the entire Republican congressional contingent. Its title – “Profiles in Cowardice”.
This disgraceful cowardice is having a very detrimental effect upon the courageous struggle the Armed Forces and the people of Ukraine are conducting in the face of the genocidal war the Russian Federation is waging against their homeland. After months of haggling over a funding package that would include $61 billion in badly needed aid for Ukraine as it is rapidly running out of weaponry and ammunition Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson met with White House officials to finally make a deal that would include the comprehensive border reform Republicans wanted in return for approving aid to Ukraine. Within hours Trump ordered his supporters to kill the deal until they get even more. Meanwhile more Ukrainian soldiers and civilians continue to die, more prisoners are tortured or killed, more homes, hospitals, schools, power stations and other components of civilian infrastructure are destroyed, more agricultural fields are saturated with landmines. Ukraine is defending itself, but even more importantly, the world against a rapacious and expansionist Russia and what used to be the world’s bastion of democracy can’t even provide the money to fight their war for them – even though most of that money will be spent in the United States in the first place.
One would think that because of his countless civil and criminal charges, his bombastic rhetoric, his undisciplined ravings, his blatant lies, his obvious megalomania, his threats of dictatorial rule, his total disregard for the Constitution of the United States, his refusal to accept the will of the voters, his incitement to violence and insurrection against the government on January 6, 2021, he would not stand a chance for re-election. But that is not the case. Incumbent President Joe Biden has been trailing Trump in the polls since September 2023. An analysis of recent polling by the website Real Clear Polling (RCP) released on January 27, gives Trump a 4.3 percent lead on Joe Biden — 47.3 percent of the vote versus 43 percent.
Many pundits still deny the possibility of a Trump victory. They point out to polls that say that a significant number of Trump supporters would desert him should he be convicted. They also note that fully 43 percent of Nikki Haley supporters said they would back President Joe Biden over Trump. But many wrote him off in the 2016 election and Biden’s 2020 victory was too close for comfort. Unbelievable as it may seem, the possibility of a second Trump term is very real and very dangerous. Let us not forget that, at least in theory, Adolph Hitler was democratically elected as well. And his attraction in 1933 was similar to Trump’s today. It was based on brazen demagoguery, the scapegoating of minorities, the continuous repetition of outrageous lies and the appeal to people’s basest instincts.
That’s why it’s so important to deny him that victory. Much as we admire Biden as a man of integrity, he has to take the polls into consideration. If he has to step aside for a younger person in order to stop Trump, then that’s what he must do. With Trump on the ballot, this will not be a contest between a liberal or conservative approach to governing under a constitutional framework. This will be a choice between democracy and dictatorship.