What can presidents be investigated for?

CALEB STEKL, Opinion Columnist

Robert Mueller’s 22-month long investigation into potential criminal activity by President Trump yielded what few political commentator’s expected: Pretty much nothing. The hysteria surrounding Russian influence into the election was peddled mainly by those identifying with the Democratic Party. CNN and MSNBC, the Democrats most industrious propaganda machines, spent countless hours propagating vague and often times false “developments” in the Russia investigation. However, external enemies often turn into internal ones and the Russia investigation was no exception; who can forget the labeling of Bernie Sanders as a Russian agent because some ads supporting him were paid for with Russian rubles and, just recently, President Trump labeling those who investigated his ties to Russia “traitors.”

Trump’s corruption and scandal-ridden two years in office are often juxtaposed to former President Obama’s eight-year tenure. Obama is lauded as the “cleanest” President in history without a single internal scandal or personal scuff, in contrast to Trump’s aggressive handshakes and misogynistic comments. Of course, when this statement is made there are generous negations taking place: Obama’s brutal record of whistleblower crackdowns, transferring over 100 percent of black wealth to the banking industry post-2008 or his personal admittance that his economic and social policies led to the rise of white supremacy and nationalism. When “scandal” remains at the level of appearances, Obama justifiably remains “cleaner.”

“Scandals” such as these can be reduced to policy mistakes or pragmatism in the face of the largest recession since 1929 and an expected racist reaction to the first Black president in history: Perhaps, perhaps not.

There is, however, one category of scandal common to nearly every president in U.S. history. A scandal that, if it were investigated, would make every “Leader of the Free World” implicated in crimes against humanity. The crime we are speaking of here is not the petty theft of an election or breaking unwritten rules of the presidency. This crime is one motivated not by reputation, libido or “national security.” A crime so massive and immoral that, if its full effects were admitted, would reveal American values to be that which they are: A fraud. We are all accessories in this crime; we all benefit from its devastation. The crime we are speaking of is none other than imperialism.

And yet, an investigation of this kind remains an utter impossibility. For, if presidents were to legitimize investigations into their predecessors, that would necessitate an investigation into the war crimes they are currently committing. Obama refused to demand answers for Bush’s drone program and targeting of innocent civilians only to then increase the practice of said crimes. Our polemical target here is not conservatives or democrats, not Obama nor Bush, but the system itself, the system of “democracy” under capitalism. Those defenders of liberal democracy who, with juvenile haste, proclaim the injustices of past show that we must with greater energy participate, protest and above all vote, fail to recognize the unfreedom they are promoting. To these tools of capital, I say, “Have you ever gotten to vote on imperialism?”

The Mueller spectacle revealed the disavowed truth of American democracy. It showed us that aspect which we all know but constantly deny: American democracy is a theatre, a sham, a spectacle. But this we all readily admit: We all tacitly accept Trump’s aphorism of “the Swamp.” We laugh at our politicians; we mock their idiosyncratic tendencies; we call imperialist dogs like Bush “a family man” and Obama “cultured.” And when these theatrics are disturbed by political dissonance we, with orgasmic jubilation, affirm this to be the very mark of our civilized existence. We call ourselves civilized against the backdrop of third-world barbarism, a barbarism we created and only because of it can we enjoy our “civilization.” When a generation comes around that demands greater Democracy from our political system, they are called “socialists,” “communists” and “radicals.” They are boycotted, blacklisted and called traitors. Why is it that those who want to make politicians accountable to their voters, who want to make bosses respect their workers, who demand equality and justice from their government, are marginalized? Here is revealed the Reality of American Democracy: It is not Washington that is the theatre, it is us, the majority. We are the puppets, politicians are the directors. We with exuberant jubilee placed our highest hopes for Democracy in Robert Mueller. Even if Mueller discovered that Russia handed Trump the election, Hillary Clinton would be imperialism with a human face. To paraphrase the indomitable German communist playwright Bertolt Brecht: What is the theft of an election compared to the invasion of Iraq/Vietnam/Korea/Afghanistan/etc.?