By the time “the report” comes out in the adaptation of true events in The Report (2019) starring Adam Driver, the case had already been made. “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” were barred from use by Barack Obama in his first week in office with an executive order. The CIA had been publicly embarrassed by allegations that several men had broken into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s facility and taken documents to implicate Daniel Jones (Driver) for a criminal offense. Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm), White House Chief of Staff, is flummoxed. “Why bother releasing this document? The damage has been done.”
The speech given by Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) at the end of the movie is why. To paraphrase: the purpose of releasing such a document is to be self-critical of the democracy which is always a work in progress, and although many other countries may hold up the document as a sure sign of the weaknesses of our nation, to have produced such a report at all is the goal of a transparent and accountable government.
It is such a powerful moment that it reminds me of the benefits sought after by Enlightenment thinkers and our forefathers long ago, and in a world where two powerful empires right now (USA and China) have the choice to take different routes towards popular sovereignty or totalitarianism, I am glad that at some points in our history we have chosen to analyze our own policies with rigor.
Not so with China, who is so desperate for control, as they have been for their history over thousands of years, that they are even now taking measures drawn up because of coronavirus to patch up overflows of democratic movements like that in Hong Kong. It makes me less worried than people typically are about China. The trend towards democratic nationhood around the world, with a big spike at the end of the Cold War, reminds me that for China to buck the trend is to go against history. To doubt the power of human rights is to signal one’s blind spots.
Just because there is a trend towards democratization, does not imply that it has to be a straight line forever.
Israel has taken unprecedented steps towards surveillance in the era of coronavirus.
And recently leadership in the United States has been sorely lacking in promoting self-governance and transparency.
Apparently the White House is so scared of the implications of the economy, it will not release projections regularly as it has done…since the 1970s.
Donald Trump is so unwilling to relinquish his version of the story that he is now going after Twitter, his meal of choice for social media.
Here’s the deal with Donald Trump, and it is a very fundamental problem. He does not know how to form relationships.
Just look at the people who have left or have been fired.
It is hardly surprising when you consider the methods of removal and “draining” he wanted to do in his campaign leading up to the presidency. The irony of course is that he is so desperate to hold onto the presidency when he really never thought he would get elected in the first place.
But now he’s here, and ever since then he has been removing or excising those around him and the policies put in place by previous presidents ad nauseum. He has signed executive orders preventing foreigners from Middle Eastern countries. He’s left the Paris Climate Accords. He’s leaving the Open Skies’s Treaty, though whether that happens or not remains for me to find out. He’s opted for withdrawing funding for the WHO during a pandemic, and he’s opted for withdrawing funding for the state of Michigan during a pandemic and a once in 500 years flood due to a breaking dam. And why? Mail-in voting.
And perhaps this is what it takes to run a business, but ever since the Marshall Plan in 1948, this is not how to run a country.
America did not single-handedly win the Cold War. Yes, Nikita Khrushchev hated that he couldn’t get into Disney Land, but America fostered economic relationships and created globalized innovation that won out peaceably to discredit the Soviet Union’s command and control economy. Without firing a shot*, we built something together in the westernized world that we hoped would spread ideologically to the globe.
*Of course I am glazing over so many smaller mishaps and profound corner cuttings, including…I don’t know…the Vietnam War.
But the benefit of the institution of democracy in the United States is the pressure from checks and balances in the form of oversight is abundantly clear.
Compare that to the Chernobyl disaster where the “official” death toll remains…54.
It is not only that Donald Trump is ill-equipped to form and maintain relationships. Yes he has alienated our allies and emboldened our enemies. It is that he is incapable of forming and maintaining relationships with ideas that he has not entertained himself.
So when after all these years, Twitter finally steps in, he plans to shut it down, barely thinking of the ramifications of walking into a nation predicated on free speech with the intention of shutting down one of its major platforms.
Are there double-standards of fact-checking? Yes! Always. But equally, the leader of a nation cannot intentionally spread disinformation. Hydroxychloroquine is dangerous to take.
While also being a leader for the American people, a president must be a cipher of information coming in, and must be willing to make difficult decisions based on facts and evidence that he may or may not agree with, or at the very least have little understanding of. Yet our president has been none of these things, and rather than embrace humility and trust experts, he has taken to removing anyone around him who could inform him effectively of positive decisions on behalf of the American people.
I wish I lived in a time where I didn’t have to be political.