Having first secured control of public broadcasting and other media outlets, Meciar was extremely effective in keeping his core group of supporters energized, but not much else. For other voters his frequent outbursts became increasingly off-putting. Even apathetic segments of the electorate were alarmed when, under Meciar’s watch, the secret service cameunder suspicion for kidnapping and nonfatally electrocuting the son of the Slovak president, Michal Kovac, who was Meciar’s political nemesis. The key witness in the case was later killed in a car bombing. These crimes were later amnestied by Meciar during his brief stint as acting president in 1998.
.. Second, Meciar’s demise was precipitated by the emergence of an effective opposition that coalesced around the questions that mattered the most: rule of law and Slovakia’s place among European democracies. Like Trump, Meciar first rose to power by sidelining rivals in his own party and staging a flurry of media stunts that left his opponents paralyzed and divided.
.. if Trumpism is to be defeated, it will require politicians on the center-right and the center-left to get organized around questions that matter — most importantly, the defense of the liberal democratic character of the U.S. government.
.. In defending himself, he tried to sell his voters a grotesque idea of an international conspiracy directed against Slovakia. His domestic critics, too, were smeared as paid agents of anti-Slovak forces abroad. That message resonated with Meciar’s core supporters, but more and more Slovaks saw that their country’s growing isolation was purely of their own government’s making.
.. Corruption, which reached gigantic proportions under Meciar, has never gone away. Meciar took pride in his crony privatization, which created what he called a “Slovak capital-owning class,” loyal to him. Today, politically connected businesses are enriched through overpriced procurement tenders or tax fraud.
.. Meciar’s infamous amnesties for what were widely believed to be acts of political violence have left a traumatic legacy too, creating an ominous sense of impunity for those in power. His years also entrenched a generation of communist-era judges, many of them in cahoots with the political class. According to a recent survey, only a third of Slovaks trust the court system.
.. nurturing the institutions of liberal democracy requires much more work than simply keeping aspiring authoritarians at bay. It requires ensuring that liberal democratic governments are seen as legitimate and effective at delivering key public goods, including justice and security.
What stands out in the package of pseudo “relief” policies is the commitment to wage all-out war on labor standards and on the public sphere — which is ironic because the failure of public infrastructure is what turned Katrina into a human catastrophe. Also notable is the determination to use any opportunity to strengthen the hand of the oil and gas industry.
The first three items on the RSC list are “automatically suspend Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws in disaster areas,” a reference to the law that required federal contractors to pay a living wage; “make the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone”; and “make the entire region an economic competitiveness zone (comprehensive tax incentives and waiving of regulations).”
.. All these measures are a surefire way to drive up greenhouse gas emissions, the major human contributor to climate change, yet they were immediately championed by the president under the guise of responding to a devastating storm.
.. The companies that snatched up the biggest contracts were the familiar gang from the invasion of Iraq: Halliburton’s KBR unit won a $60 million gig to reconstruct military bases along the coast. Blackwater was hired to protect FEMA employees from looters. Parsons, infamous for its sloppy Iraq work, was brought in for a major bridge construction project in Mississippi. Fluor, Shaw, Bechtel, CH2M Hill — all top contractors in Iraq — were hired by the government to provide mobile homes to evacuees just 10 days after the levees broke. Their contracts ended up totaling $3.4 billion, no open bidding required.
.. After all the layers of subcontractors had taken their cut, there was next to nothing left for the people doing the work. For instance, the author Mike Davis tracked the way FEMA paid Shaw $175 a square foot to install blue tarps on damaged roofs, even though the tarps themselves were provided by the government. Once all the subcontractors took their share, the workers who actually hammered in the tarps were paid as little as $2 a square foot. “Every level of the contracting food chain, in other words, is grotesquely overfed except the bottom rung,” Davis wrote, “where the actual work is carried out.”
.. This corruption and abuse is particularly relevant because of Trump’s stated plan to contract out much of his infrastructure spending to private players in so-called public-private partnerships.
Mr. Trump’s response was something altogether different. He didn’t condemn these Republicans for defying and undermining his drain-the-swamp pledge. He asked them to address more urgent business first, like destroying health care reform and passing tax cuts for the rich. Indeed, while he was tweeting on Tuesday morning, Kellyanne Conway, the incoming counselor to the president, had already been on television supporting Mr. Goodlatte and his gang, saying House Republicans had a “mandate” to curb “overzealousness” over ethics.
Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader — who, along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, had opposed the proposal — lobbed a pointed question at his fellow Republicans, according to two people present: Had they campaigned on repealing the Affordable Care Act, or tinkering with an ethics office?
.. House Republicans, led by Representative Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, had sought on Monday to prevent the office from pursuing investigations that might result in criminal charges. Instead, they wanted to allow lawmakers on the more powerful House Ethics Committee to shut down inquiries. They even sought to block the small staff at the Office of Congressional Ethics, which would have been renamed and put under the oversight of House lawmakers, from speaking to the news media.
“It has damaged or destroyed a lot of political careers in this place, and it’s cost members of Congress millions of dollars to defend themselves against anonymous allegations,” Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, said Tuesday, still defending the move.
.. Mr. McCarthy told his fellow Republicans that they needed to reverse themselves quickly, or potentially face an even more embarrassing revolt on the House floor. By his estimation, he told them, the provision was going to be removed one way or another.
.. Perhaps most prominently, in 2011, Representative Melvin Watt, a North Carolina Democrat who later left Congress to join the Obama administration, tried to cut the agency’s budget by 40 percent, a proposal that failed on a 302-102 vote.
.. But Mr. Goodlatte’s critics said he had simply been caught trying to sneak through a favor to help protect his fellow lawmakers.