I want it to be clear that, in my administration, wiretaps without court orders have not been and will not be done.
Take the president at his word, but…
Panamanians are jaded. We have every right to be. However, “they all do it” is actually not true with respect to many annoying things that politicians do. When advanced as an excuse by someone who appears to have been caught, that’s especially annoying.
So Ricardo Martinelli tried to minimize the offenses against people’s privacy during his years in the presidency with that sort of excuse, and Laurentino Cortizo bluntly denied it. Take how bad our judiciary can be, and find reason for discomfort in the president’s word, if you wish. A politicized judiciary might issue a warrant for anything. However, there is no special reason to believe that Nito lied to us about his administration’s policy on this matter.
So, why don’t people believe him?
Some of us do. But some of us see what goes on with his party’s caucus in the National Assembly, or in local governments, and take the president’s silence to be approval of things that ought to be disapproved. It leads to questions about motives and conspiracy theories about ideas and policies that have certain merit. It reinforces the “everybody in politics is a crook” stereotype.
Take legislator Raúl Pineda’s example. He wants to eliminate that part of the Penal Code that allows for the suspension of somebody’s political rights — to hold office, or even to vote — as part of a sentence after conviction for a crime. He also wants to end public access to the criminal records of individuals.
In a situation with lots of discrimination and one-sided repression, citizens’ right to elect somebody who lives in a prison cell can be one of the deepest possible political statements. The election of IRA prisoner and hunger striker Bobby Sands to the British Parliament not only thwarted one of Maggie Thatcher’s worst abuses, it set in motion a process that ended a war in Northern Ireland. There are a number of jurisdictions that allow prisoners to vote and run for office, and these aren’t particularly more corrupt than other places that prohibit this. Pineda’s idea reeks of an open door for Martinelli to be president again, but the better solution to that possibility is for voters to just reject the “he stole but he got things done” narrative.
There is a lot of discrimination against the formerly incarcerated, and that costs society some of its productivity. It also protects a lot of people and institutions from being looted by the sticky-fingered. The closure of criminal records is an idea that has been debated before, and perhaps the discussion ought to be taken up again.
But then it turns out that some foundation that Pineda created and controlled received four cars that had been seized in drug raids. Among these rides are a Lexus with a double bottom and a Mercedes Benz.
So how are we to take Pineda and what he proposes at face value — even if he proffers a reasonable explanation for the cars?
Multiply that many times in the legislature, and in local governments and national institutions throughout the land, and you begin to understand the president’s credibility problem.
Donald Trump Jr. speaking to right-wing students last year. Photo by Gage Skimore.
Drip, drip, drip…
Now the US Attorney for the District of Columbia is investigating Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump about alleged misappropriation of 2017 inaugural funds, said to have been diverted to one or more Trump companies. Meanwhile in New York, the state’s prosecutors have turned the heat on The Trump Organization’s long-time treasurer, under suspicion of tax fraud. One of Donald Trump’s personal attorneys long since turned state’s evidence, and a more recent one, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, has had his law license suspended. There are other legal battles, civil or criminal, looming for Donald Trump and his entourage on several fronts.
Yes, we will hear more complaints about haters who are persecuting the former US president, his family, his friends and his current or former employees.
Then there are the cases against the January 6 Capitol rioters, plus the congressional hearings that just started. So many lies have been told about that, and the attempt to shut down Congress to stop the certification of the 2020 election, that it’s important to put all the evidence out in front of the American people and the world.
Democrats should not overdo it, though. Donald Trump will not be on the ballot in 2022, even if a lot of his more deranged acolytes will be. What to do about a US economy that has been eroding for decades, an ongoing epidemic or if the world is lucky its aftermath, a changed climate that will change yet more and the resurgence of all sorts of bigotry will be key substantive issues. The ability to have a credible election is and will be front and center, and not because the result of the 2020 election was in any way falsified.
The trials and scandals of the past administration will be in the background and are likely to affect elections over the next few years. They should not be allowed to distract too much from the issues of peace, prosperity and social justice as affect the lives of the not rich and not famous.
You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.
Bear in mind…
Genius, like humanity, rusts for want of use.
I went to collect the few personal belongings which, at that time, I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
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