Polman: Trump hits new low attacking judge

Dick Polman
Dick Polman

Predictably, America's Troll is still attacking the federal judge who's handling the lawsuit against Trump University.

On Memorial Day, Donald Trump twice tweeted that the judge he derided last week as "Mexican" (Gonzalo Curiel was born, raised, and educated in Indiana) is "totally biased" against the inherent greatness of Der Leader.

All because Judge Curiel has declined to dismiss the lawsuit and thinks the students who paid up to $35,000 for tuition, and got nothing in return, should at least have their day in court. As an officer of an independent branch of government, Curiel simply wants the judicial process to play out. In Trump's words, all this is "negative, negative, negative."

There's something way worse going on here than just tagging Curiel as "Mexican" (the latest of Trump's serial lies). If you read the full text of Trump's remarks on the stump (courtesy of Josh Blackman, an assistant law professor), you'll get the full flavor of his authoritarian spirit and his utter contempt for constitutional democracy and the separation of powers. Especially this:

"I am getting railroaded by a legal system, and frankly they should be ashamed. ... It is a disgrace. It is a rigged system. ... This court system, the judges in this court system, federal court."

Attacking the credibility and legitimacy of the judiciary is a tyrant's timeworn tactic. It is designed to erode checks and balances, and is an open invitation to mob intimidation. As legal ethics expert Charles Geyh tells Reuters, "He has impugned the honesty of the judge in a pending case, and has done so in the context of a political rally that seems (a) calculation to intimidate by inciting anger among his supporters."

What aspiring tyrant Trump instinctively believes (if he believes anything) is that he is the law. And that if a public servant in an independent branch of government dares suggest otherwise, then clearly the system is "rigged," and any public servant who refuses to bow down should be investigated.

Or, as Trump put it on the stump, the system "ought to look into Judge Curiel."

So are Trump's followers so deaf and blind that they truly don't realize what is happening here? Has their faith in our democratic institutions eroded to the point that they're happy to feed a junkyard dog who would treat our institutions as his personal chew toy? Are they so ignorant of world history that they can't see the danger of a leader cult? And can the complicit Republican party sink any lower?

David Frum, the conservative analyst and former George W. Bush speechwriter (who coined the term "axis of evil"), has nothing but contempt for the voters and leaders in his party who are indulging Trump's trampling of democracy.

"They knew that Trump was ignorant, and coarse, and boastful, and cruel. They knew he habitually sympathized with dictators and kleptocrats — and that his instinct when confronted with criticism of himself was to attack, vilify, and suppress," Frum wrote recently in The Atlantic. "They knew his disrespect for women, the disabled, and ethnic and religious minorities. They knew that he wished to unravel NATO and other U.S.-led alliances, and that he speculated aloud about partial default on American financial obligations. None of that dissuaded or deterred them..."

According to Frum, regardless of the outcome of the election, "conservatives and Republicans will have brought a catastrophe upon themselves, in violation of their own stated principles and best judgment."

I can't say I disagree.

The real question for November, prompted anew by Trump's attack on the courts, is whether there will be enough voters — patriots with common sense — to save this constitutional democracy from what the Republicans have so disgracefully wrought.

Dick Polman is a national political columnist and a "Writer in Residence" at the University of Pennsylvania.