Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Trump using lame duck period tonsettle old scores and force through a few more pet projects

Have you ever wondered why there is such an unconscionably long delay between an American presidential election and the new president's inauguration? The election was on November 3rd; Joe Biden's inauguration will not be until January 20th, a full ten weeks later.

To us non-Americans, it seems ridiculous, and a recipe for potential disaster as the old president plays out his "lame duck" period, still with full presidential powers. Of course, the US Constitution was not designed with a spiteful and unpredictable character like Donald Trump in mind, but why is it even like that?

Well, supposedly, the period was instituted as a deliberate measure to allow a smooth changeover to occur (ha!), at a time when communications were poor in a large and still developing country. In fact, the very first election, in 1789, allowed for SIX MONTHS from election to official inauguration. It was rapidly realized that this was too long, so it was changed to four months. This period continued until 1932, when Herbert Hoover's dithering at the height of the Great Depression persuaded Congress that even that was too long, and it was changed to the current two-and-a-half months, through the passing of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, so that President-Elect Franklin Roosevelt could come in and actually do something.

Fast forward to 2020, and Trump is using the period to sow doubt and mistrust, doing his level best to stage a coup. as well as to pass a bunch of measures that will only have to be reversed by the new president. 

He has already started, including firing a bunch of people in Homeland Security, FBI and CIA and installing his own people, selling off oil drilling leases in the protected lands of the Arctic National Refuge, cutting military troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and continuing to undo as many key environmental regulations and safeguards as he can. He is known to be planning to make a slew of ill-advised judicial pardons (as all presidents tend to do). There are rumours he is even planning a military strike against Iran, which could foment all-out war. Given that even he must know that he only has a limited period in power now, this could prove to be the scariest part of his whole administration.

And it's not only Trump that is abusing the system. Israel's Benjamin Natanyahu (something of a lame duck Prime Minister himself) is using the interim period while he still has an ally in the White House to push through more (many more) illegal settlements on the Palestinian lands of the West Bank and Golan Heights, as well as agressively attacking Iranian military targets in Syria. It's anyone's guess what others among Trump's dictator and populist friends (Putin, Erdoğan, Kim, López Obrador, name your favourite unpleasant leader here) may be planning.

Time for a new Amendment to the 20th Amendment?

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