I don’t usually attempt to publish my own holiday thoughts; not because I don’t share the tidings of joy and well wishes, I simply feel that there are better, more poetic voices out there to take up the call. I am thankful, of course, and my wife and I had dinner here at home. No one came to take our turkey as suggested by some famous paranoiacs. Also, if there are grinches and trolls trying to do away with Christmas they are well hidden. I am not one of them, so I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Now for what the Grateful Dead called “the days in between.”
First, even I can’t say I am thankful for the results of the recent election. Every voter, or non-voter, has her/his reasons for their actions. The fact that the current president garnered over 70 million votes suggests that our political stalemate will continue. I wish that I could give thanks that COVID-19 disappeared on Nov. 4, but it did not. Contrary to semi-popular belief, the Democrats have little control over the pandemic, and it has gotten worse. With its death as a political ploy, the administration has turned its vitriol on the election process with dozens of frivolous lawsuits and ignores the suffering of millions of families who haven’t been lucky or rich enough for a cocktail of possible remedies.
What will be left for the new administration to clean up? That a huge percentage of our population still characterize both the pandemic and the unfavorable election results as “hoaxes” will be a huge speedbump for the “We-are-in-this-together” bus to get over or around.
One item that likely won’t overlap into the new year is presidential pardons. This devious, dubious activity has an expiration date and I do feel compelled to comment on this holiday’s tweener. I can’t gloat because our national security is not a sporting event where one fan gains bragging rights over another. Some will say that pardons are a well-established trend for outgoing presidents. True. But pardoning co-conspirators to keep them quiet is not. Like so many things about the last four years, the truth will come out in the wash cycle in the judicial laundry.
To be granted a presidential pardon one must have been convicted of a crime. Roger Stone, a Trump ally, asked to have his sentence commuted because he knew that accepting a pardon also meant that he was admitting his guilt. A presidential self-pardon was hinted at earlier in Trump’s reign. He can only pardon federal crimes so what was he tacitly admitting to? And will his myriad of supporters acknowledge those crimes took place if owned up to?
It is not a matter of semantics that the framers of our most sacred document, the Constitution, allowed for the granting of pardons. The verb “grant” was used for several reasons, all very prosaic: one can’t be a judge of their own trial; one can’t grant oneself anything because that act involves two people, the grantor and the grantee; the U.S. Constitution itself was drawn up to stop the person who would be king from ever gaining power. By its very definition, a king is above the common law. Allowing a president to self-pardon would mean exactly that, a ruler elevating his/herself above the law of the land. It also demands an admission of guilt.
So, in the interregnum known to us plebians as the lame duck season in a current president’s existence, in between this period between giving thanks and giving presents, we wait for the next pardon decree to flutter out of the Oval Office’s window. A bookend to this process is the rush by the Department of Justice to conduct federal executions. In keeping with the solemnity of the two seasons bracketing this column, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Only Donald Trump is not the Lord, and neither is William Barr. They are elected or confirmed politicians.
2020 has been daunting. We are standing at a fork in the road. Some of us want to turn left and others veer to the right. Many travelers will stop at the fork and look back over their shoulders at the good old days. Some poor stalled folks will not be around to choose. That is the sad fact of pandemics; whether the victims want to believe that they have lost their last breath to a virus or a hoax it doesn’t matter, the virus gets the last say. I believe that to survive we need a bulldozer to scrape a road straight ahead. Each reader is welcome to come up with their own personal street name. I’m going to call it “Survival Way.”