Former GOP ethics lawyer Richard Painter asserts that President Donald Trump is “America’s Nero”. Painter was the White House’s chief ethics counsel under George W. Bush and a frequent guest on MSNBC and CNN. A professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota, Painter’s list of accolades is long. A journalist at Salon spoke with Painter, specifically about one of his books: "American Nero: The History of the Destruction of the Rule of Law, and Why Trump is the Worst Offender."
Salon asks Painter about Trump’s impeachment trial, and whether or not his slipping the noose made Trump a “de-facto king”.
“There are Republicans in the Senate who, in order to get judges or other things they want in terms of policy, are willing to give Trump a pass and let him violate the Constitution. The voters need to punish the senators for making that choice. The president should also be punished by the voters as well for that behavior. The message in the near term to Trump is clear: Right now, he can get away with an awful lot because the vast majority of Republican senators won't stand up to him.” Painter responded. American representatives have failed the people, and the people must take the power to force change.
Salon then asks about Article II of the Constitution, which Trump uses to manipulate the law and do whatever he wants. On July 23rd, the president was quoted saying "I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president."
These terrifying words. Though the Article really explains the president’s responsibilities and the terms of his removal, the fact that Trump would utter such a statement shows his frame of mind.
“Donald Trump is going to grab as much power as he possibly can, because Congress is not going to stop him. He's going to use that power to advance himself and his own political agenda and to protect his friends. For example, people like Roger Stone are protected. Trump and his allies can go after their enemies. This is a very dangerous situation. And to make matters even worse, the practical implications of Trump's power change every day because he is breaking norms every single day.” Painter responded.
Comparing Trump to Nero doesn’t seem a stretch to some. Nero had expanded his power as far as it could go, ousted (or killed) people who threatened his power, drove the empire to the brink of bankruptcy to pursue building projects in his name (ahem, border wall). Painter's book and subsequent interview delves into the specifics; Trump's authoritarian leanings, his "Nazi-like" speech, his purge of government employees. Stepping back from the daily news cycle and putting the pieces into a whole puzzle shows you the similarities.
America was the superpower -- much like Rome -- but it has almost lost its pedestal among first-world nations because of it's leader.
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump, in essence, does the same while American democracy breaks down, Americans die by the thousands, and the economy falls flat.
History certainly does repeat itself.