Donald and Melania, awaiting the return of the mothership.
Today marks the first anniversary of this blog. Thank you all for reading, commenting, and forwarding.
In the tradition of summer reruns and greatest hits albums (two things no one under 30 has ever heard of), this week I offer a selection of material from this past year….
Beware a Better Demagogue (Part 1) – May 31, 2017
No serious person can now argue that we are living in normal times, but some have tried. In a recent Washington Post column, the conservative pundit and psychiatrist-turned-person-in-need-of-such-care Charles Krauthammer described Trump’s first hundred days as “well within the bounds of normalcy.” I would like some of whatever psychotropic drug Dr. K is clearly prescribing for himself.
Like the majority of Americans—even most Republicans—I was confident that Hillary Clinton would win the election. My chief fear in those days was that once Hillary was in office, the GOP would continue to engage in unconscionable McConnell-style obstructionism, refusing for example even to consider her nominee(s) for the Supreme Court. How innocent and naïve such worries now look.
My other big fear was that Donald Trump, despite being defeated, would have laid out a worrisome blueprint for the next Republican candidate to follow. For years—since Nixon’s Southern Strategy at the very least—the GOP had been dog-whistling to racists for the sake of electoral advantage. Shockingly, Trump showed there was no need to dog-whistle; a bullhorn worked even better. Who’da thunk that the party of Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms was actually being too timid in its cultivation of America’s racists and bigots?
But the way that Trump has most damaged American democracy, and the one that worries me most in terms of candidates to come, is by obliterating the common language that liberals and conservatives alike once used to carry out political discourse. That is to say, he has savagely devalued the currency of truth.
Sure, politics by its very nature is rife with falsehoods, half-truths, and distortions. But Trump has taken that routine kind of dishonesty to new and heretofore unthinkable levels. Let us not forget that Trump’s entire political career was launched on the back of one of the biggest lies of them all, birtherism.
The stream of self-serving nonsense that issues forth from his face bears no relationship to truth in any form. One might just as well argue that Trump is engaged in a post-modern Foucaultian deconstruction of the very concept of objective reality. He may be, but only in some future PhD thesis. I suspect Donny is as blissfully unaware of critical theory as he is of the components of the nuclear triad or the laws against sexual assault.
In abetting Trump’s Orwellian war on demonstrable reality, the Republican Party has exhibited a level of hypocrisy, spinelessness, and opportunism that is gobsmacking even by the conventional standards of politics. In the past, a politician who engaged in the sort of relentless mendacity that Trump does would have been shitcanned in short order. But the GOP has shrugged and rubbed its neck and essentially said, “Lies? What lies?” If the Republican “leadership” (sorry—just threw up in my mouth a little) stood up and denounced Trump at any of the many opportunities he has given them over the past two years, he would have been finished. You may have noticed that that has not happened.
Please try to stifle your yawns. Everyone who knows anything at all about politics in America is well aware of this. Trump is a soulless monster, but one so deranged that he seems not even to recognize the horrors he perpetrates as instinctively as breathing. (Which hardly excuses him, but still.) By contrast, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the rest of the Vichy Republicans are in some ways more culpable than the buffoon-in-chief, because they know what a grotesque and dangerous pretender to the throne Trump is. But McConnell, Ryan, et al are willing to enable and defend him so long as he gives them cover to implement their own appalling agenda, which boils down to the simplest of goals: further enriching the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the poor and the middle class.
At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, failing to call Trump out is a gross abdication of their duty as elected officials, of their alleged patriotism—about which they are always so quick to crow— and ultimately of sheer morality. But did we really expect any better from people whose lifelong dream is to take food out of the mouths of hungry children to give billionaires a tax cut?
There have been endless predictions that when Trump voters begin to feel the pain of the GOP policies for which they inexplicably voted, they will mutiny. They will, we are told, wake up to the fact that they’ve been conned and turn on their orangutan-hued standard bearer, taking to the streets (or at least the polls) with torches and pitchforks.
Yeah, those people may eventually turn on Trump. But millions of Americans have been voting against their own economic self-interest for decades, at least since the Southern Strategy brought them into the GOP in droves. Generally speaking, human beings are loath to admit they’ve been conned, especially when a huge chunk of their core self-image is invested in the scam. These otherwise decent people have been sold so much snake oil over the past fifty years that they practically hiss. They have been voting for policies that hurt them and benefit millionaires and billionaires for so long—taking food out of the mouths of their children to further line the pockets of the already obscenely rich—that it no longer even registers. In that regard, Trump is nothing new, just the latest and most extreme example of supply side trickle down economics taken to its most immeasurably cruel extreme. And there is less reason than ever to believe that the victims of that Robin Hood-in-reverse scheme will suddenly wake up now and challenge it.
Anyone with brainwave activity ought to be shitting their pants that a man like Trump is in possession of the nuclear codes. We have a president (I’m using the term loosely) who, while running for office, recklessly advocated war crimes like torture, killing the family members of suspected terrorists, and wantonly stealing the resources of conquered enemies…..who openly pondered why we have nuclear weapons if we never get to use them….who suggested that it might be a good idea to have more, not less, nuclear proliferation, to include encouraging Saudi Arabia and Japan to acquire their own nuclear arsenals…..and who since taking office has done more damage to US security and global stability than most of our enemies could have hoped to cause themselves. So it is a rich irony that politically progressive Americans now find themselves thanking god for Mattis and McMaster as stabilizing influences on this monstrous head of state.
When a man whose nickname is “Mad Dog” is seen as the sanest dude in the administration, you know you’re in uncharted waters.
But a few events on the geopolitical front in the past six months have caused a cold chill to go down my spine, and I’m not even talking about when Trump gave top secret codeword intel to the Russians on a silver platter. One was when Donald Trump nonchalantly ordered a commando raid in Yemen that the Obama administration had deemed too risky, a raid that resulted in the deaths of a US Navy SEAL and numerous innocent children. Another was when he ordered a Tomahawk missile strike on Syria, the exact kind of largely symbolic, operationally ineffectual reaction for which he used to excoriate Barack Obama. A third was when Trump—by delegating the authority to the local ground commander—effectively assented to dropping a MOAB, the largest non-nuclear piece of ordnance in the US arsenal, on ISIS elements in Afghanistan. I don’t object to the use of that weapon in principle, or even to that delegation of authority. But in light of Trump’s overall jingoism, it speaks to his casualness with regard to the use of force, the slippery slope of escalation, and a worrying reinforcement of the dumbass mentality that all we need is bigger bombs. Not to mention the despicable glee of his supporters over its use.
All of these occasions made me stop in my tracks and remember that Donald J. Trump is now legally allowed to order the killing of human beings virtually at will, a privilege that he exercises on a regular basis, and apparently with no more introspection than he tweets. That is a stunning and deeply depressing reality of the Twilight Zone in which we now live.
Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, Bashar al-Assad, and Robert Mugabe are at least proper villains: formidable, serious individuals who had earned their place as despots to be reckoned with. Trump, by contrast, is an unmitigated buffoon. The mere fact that this bozo is our head of state, commander-in-chief , and in control of the nuclear codes is gobsmacking. When I look into my heart, that is the thing about Trump that hits me on a very visceral level, in a way that far more capable and accomplished villains never have or ever could.
I am enraged that we have to devote so much time and energy to this blithering nincompoop. “What does Donald Trump think about the Paris Accord?….What does Donald Trump think about healthcare?…..What does Donald Trump’s latest tweet mean?” It makes me furious on a daily basis that I have to worry what Donald fucking Trump thinks about ANYTHING. And yet that is what the collective brainpower of the entire American punditocracy—indeed, the thinking class of much of the world—is forced to do. We have willingly saddled ourselves with a deranged toddler king, and thus spend much of our time desperately parsing and predicting and wringing our hands over what His Royal Fatuousness believes at any given moment.
I’d like to remind everyone that two short years ago, when Trump descended the royal escalator at his gold-plated castle on Fifth Avenue, he was an utter joke, and had been for three decades. He was a D-list reality TV celebrity, which was itself a surprising second act in a life of fraud, failure, and malfeasance.
He wasn’t a real estate mogul, but he played one on TV. His primary business was licensing his name to crap: apartment buildings, casinos, and golf courses, but also steaks, vodka, neckties made in China, second-rate pro football leagues, fake universities, and a string of ridiculous, ghostwritten autobiographies. He was a walking punchline for the New York press that rightly knew him as a pompous windbag and shameless wannabe desperate to be allowed into the club with the cool kids. He crowed endlessly about his financial acumen, but as many economic experts have pointed out, if Donald had merely taken the millions he inherited from his father and parked it in the S&P 500 he would have made more money than he did with his numerous, oft-disastrous business ventures. He was a Richie Rich cartoon come to life….a poor person’s comically distorted idea of a rich person. Late night talk show hosts openly praised the comedy gods for putting Trump in the presidential race, and pleaded with him on camera not to drop out, and deprive them of A-plus comedic material.
Who’s laughing now, as they say. Now we are all enrolled in Trump University.
The Helicopter Parent from Hell – August 7, 2017
Somehow I doubt Donald Trump spent a lot of time helping his kids with their homework when they were growing up. But he sure went full blown helicopter parent in ghostwriting Donny Jr.’s specious explanation of why he eagerly met with Russian agents offering allegedly compromising info on Hillary Clinton. (And by “specious explanation” I mean “bald-faced lie.”)
Since the first allegations of collusion with the Kremlin arose, the Trump camp has howled in sanctimonious outrage at the very thought. How dare anyone suggest such a thing! Yet every time we turn around there are new meetings and new phone calls and other contacts between Trump’s minions and Mother Russia that the Trumpkins mysteriously “forgot” until some intrepid journalist found proof and cornered them. Flynn, Page, Sessions, Kushner, Junior: all of them have been forced to confess to meetings with the Russians—multiple meetings, in some cases—that somehow slipped their minds.
The Trump Tower meeting was the most damning evidence yetof real skullduggery, and the first in which the Trump campaign’s eagerness to work with the Russian government to defeat Clinton has come out. It’s hard to imagine it will be the last. Time and time again on the subject of Russia, our so-called president and his administration have hidden the truth, dissembled, spread disinformation and distractions, and just flat out lied, doing everything they possibly can to stop any honest inquiry into their activities. At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, if there is nothing to hide, why do they keep lying?????? What are they covering up????
Bob Mueller will damn sure ask that.
An End to Nuclear Fairytales – September 14, 2017
From the very dawn of the Atomic Age, American chauvinists—giddy at the idea of our possession of an all-powerful “Doomsday Weapon”—fantasized that somehow the US could maintain its nuclear monopoly forever. Drunk on the notion of this god-like power, they imagined that the Bomb was, in the scathing critique of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, like a pistol the United States could wave at the rest of the world and get whatever we wanted. The absurd conviction that no other nation had any right to such a weapon was twinned with the delusion that the United States could somehow prevent other nations from acquiring it. The appeal of this ”‘Doomsday Weapon” was so alluring that it overwhelmed reason.
Even today it is an irrational article of faith in much of America—to say nothing of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue—that no other country has any right to nuclear weapons except those that already have it. Setting aside the issue of “rights,” this attitude is sometimes cogently framed as a moral or practical point about the dangers of nuclear proliferation. But more often it is presented in Biblical tones of outrage and sanctimony, flowing from the belief that Almighty God entrusted America and America alone with the stewardship of this terrifying weapon. (Exceptions are made for our British, French, and Israeli allies; Russian and Chinese possession of the Bomb is still viewed as a travesty we are forced to live with, while the Indian and Pakistani arsenals are treated as a regional problem at best.) Countries with nuclear ambitions are branded “rogue states” simply by virtue of those ambitions, raising the question: rogue by whose measure? To the citizens of Iran or North Korea, or Brazil or Costa Rica for that matter, why shouldn’t they too have the Bomb? For ambitious tyrants like Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong-un, the strategic value of a nuclear arsenal is self-evident, both for regional leverage against their enemies and for self-preservation against Western intervention. Indeed, it would almost be foolish not to seek it.
I am not arguing that it is desirable or wise for more nations to acquire the Bomb, let alone those two. Very much the contrary. The DPRK is particularly terrifying, for obvious reasons. But the self-righteous claim that no developing country has any “right” to the Bomb is patently irrational and hypocritical, and the fantasy that the US can permanently prevent such efforts by force is precisely that.
The Hubris of the Lemmings – August 22, 2017
It ought to be clear to all by now that we have a deranged psychopath in the White House who is jawdroppingly unfit for the job and doing massive, possibly permanent damage to the United States of America. Right wingers (they have forfeited their claim to the term “conservatives”) may scoff and dismiss this assessment as partisan, or hysterical, but I suspect future historians will view it as objective reality, and those denying it now as either fools or accomplices or both.
Perhaps the most galling part of all this is the arrogance of those on the right who keep assuring us that they are clear-eyed and courageous enough to protect the country from the very leader they have foisted upon us. Acknowledging the dangers Trump poses with his hard-on for authoritarianism, contempt for the rule of law, and utter disregard for the truth, lots of Republicans have repeatedly said from the very earliest days of his rise: “If he goes too far, I’ll be the first to stand up and stop him.” They keep insisting that they will stand up if he crosses some imaginary line in the sand.
But if he hasn’t already done so, where could that line possibly be….and why should we believe them?
Needless to say, if Hillary Clinton had done even a fraction of the things Trump has done—even a fraction!—Fox Nation would be out in the streets with torches and pitchforks howling for her guts on a stick. Hell, they were practically doing that over made-up shit like Benghazi, and the mere possibilityof accidentalcompromise of classified information on an email server. It’s been said a lot, but please, just imagine if Hillary appointed wildly unqualified family members to top level advisory positions, refused to divest herself of businesses that were blatant conflicts of interest, shamelessly used the office of the presidency to enrich herself and her children, refused to release her tax returns, and then fired the FBI director to stop a criminal investigation of her actions. Which is only beginning to scratch the surface of the things Trump has done.
The Nature of the Person….and the Nature of the Threat – September 20, 2017
This president’s pathological dishonesty is so extreme it seems to exist in a realm of its own beyond ordinary deceit. In the Bush years, Karl Rove famously scorned the “reality-based community.” But that was child’s play compared to what we are facing now.
(Pausing now for a deep, cleansing breath as I contemplate the fact that, not ten years after leaving public life, Karl Rove has already been made to seem not that bad.)
Trump seems to live in an eternal present, and I don’t mean in an admirable Zen-like way. He is transactional in the extreme, making ad hoc choices improvised on the spot regardless of any history, context, or consequences. No rational person could say one thing, often on camera, then turn around—sometimes in the same interview—and with a straight face deny he said any such thing and say the exact opposite. The same goes for his reversals on policy, like the Wall that Mexico was absolutely going to pay for (until they weren’t), or the war in Iraq that he was for before he was against, or even something as petty as blasting Obama for playing too much golf and then playing exponentially more himself.
If Trump were a venal, mustache-twirling villain who had the common decency to recognize the con job he is perpetrating on the American people, it would at least be understandable. But he genuinely does not ever seem to register that he is doing anything hypocritical. (His diehard dead-enders have this same affliction.) It’s a kind of malignant solipsism that is almost beyond human comprehension. Whether that absolves him of moral responsibility is a question for the philosophers and Almighty God, if one is inclined to believe in His existence. (After November 8th, I am not.)
Seven Trump Outrages This Week (But Who’s Counting?) – October 5, 2017
Patriotism is not only the last refuge of a scoundrel but often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles, and Trump’s shameless pandering betrays his moral bankruptcy. He never served his country in any way, or indeed anything other than himself; to hear him pontificate about patriotism and disrespecting the flag is the height of hypocrisy. The ways in which he personally disgraces our country are legion, from spewing racism and hate (as he did in that very speech), to denigrating a free press, to obstructing justice, to colluding with a foreign power. A man who pre-emptively pardons Joe Arpaio even before he is sentenced and calls him “a great American patriot” while labeling Colin Kaepernick a “son-of-a-bitch” is a man beneath contempt.
Still, it may be true that his appalling behavior does delight his base (and the more appalling the better). The question is: how long will the United States allow itself to be held hostage by this minority of mouth-breathing neo-fascists and the fatuous bully they worship? It’s a question that only the GOP can answer.
Things Trump Supporters Have Taught Me – October 14, 2017
Far and away the thing that animates these folks the most is their absolute, unequivocal, white-hot hatred of Hillary Clinton. It comes up over and over, even now, long after the election is behind us and we ought to have moved on. She is a bête noireto whom they cling with almost suspicious fervor.
The other thing worth noting is that none of these people believe there is a whit of truth to the allegations that Russia interfered with the election.
Let me be clear about that. Not only don’t they believe that Trump or his associates colluded with Russia, they don’t even believe that the Russians on their owntried to influence the election. And let us remember that in order to maintain that position, they have to wantonly disregard the conclusion of all 17 US intelligence agencies, preferring instead the word of Vladimir Putin.
Needless to say—as I regularly point out to these folks—if Hillary had won the presidency and there was even a fraction as much evidence of Russian involvement—even unilaterally, let alone the proven hanky panky between her team and the Kremlin that we’ve seen from Team Trump—she would already be in shackles on her way up the steps to the guillotine.
More alarming, more than a few of these folks have said to me that even if there wasproof that Russia meddled with the election, they wouldn’t care. “If that’s what it took to keep Hillary out of the White House, that’s fine with me.”
This of course is a jawdropping admission—not only as evidence of the depths of their pathological hatred of Hillary, but as a proclamation that flies in the face of the traditional right wing claim that theirs is the party of patriotism, strong defense, and rock-ribbed national security. These people have irrevocably forfeited the high ground on that count—not that that claim was ever legitimate, but they have voluntarily exposed it for the cruel charade that it is.
The Return of Voodoo Economics – October 19, 2017
The Republican tax plan is clearly a brazen betrayal of the patently fake populism and alleged concern for working people that were a chief part of Trump’s demagogic presidential campaign. No surprise there.
It should likewise shock no one that Trump has presented this tax cut with (spoiler alert) a blizzard of lies impressive even by his standards. In that regard, given that all of Republican tax policy is founded on deceit in the first place, McConnell and Ryan are fortunate to have on their team the greatest pathological liar of all time.
Trump is lying about the cut helping anyone but the rich, lying about what its impact will be on the economy and the deficit, and he is damn sure lying—above all—when he says that he and his family wouldn’t benefit. The New York Times estimates the Trump clan stands to save about a billion dollars over the next ten years thanks to this cut. Of course we can’t be entirely sure because—oh yeah—he won’t release his tax returns.
But as I wrote last week, what I have learned in my encounters with Trump fans is that they are fanatically resistant to facts like these. They are so in thrall to tribalism, and so convinced of the bias of the legitimate media, that none of these undeniable facts will penetrate their bubble. Therefore do not look for a large uprising of popular opposition to this almost unfathomably venal Republican plan. Much of our nation is comprised of marionettes who love their strings, and the plutocrat puppeteers who engineered it that way are about to reap the fruits of that long campaign.
Notes on the Niger Ambush – October 20, 2017
In my parents’ generation, when I was a boy, the notification of a combat death was not treated with the same delicacy as it is today. The military had not yet developed the “casualty assistance officer” program it now has. When my father was shot up in Vietnam in 1965, no one called my mother. In those days the Army just gave telegrams to anonymous taxi drivers to deliver to unsuspecting Gold Star wives and mothers. On Army posts like Ft. Benning, Georgia, the sight of a taxicab turning down your street and creeping along while its driver checked curbside address numbers was enough to make hearts drops into stomachs as families peered out anxiously from behind drawn curtains, waiting to see at whose quarters that yellow angel of death would stop.
As chance would have it, on those particular days in the fall of 1965, my mother had been painting the interior of my grandparents’ home in New Jersey where we were staying and had taken a respite from her usual grim ritual of watching the evening news. So she didn’t even know about the battle that my father’s unit had been in, or the terrible death toll on both sides, or that all the officers in his rifle company were reported casualties and the company effectively wiped out. Not until mourners and well-wishers turned up at our front door to offer their condolences.
For days my mother thought my father was dead until she got a call from the Red Cross telling her, “We have your husband here at McGuire Air Force Base.” She thought they meant the body. When my mother, numb, didn’t reply, the Red Cross woman said, “Well, do you want to talk to him?”
My father survived his wounds and went back to Vietnam a second time. Plenty of others weren’t so lucky.
Donald Trump of course didn’t serve in Vietnam—arggg, those pesky bones spurs!—or in uniform at all, or really serve his country or anything other than himself in any way his entire life, so perhaps it is unfair to expect him to have any empathy or understanding or even simple human compassion for people like the Johnsons. No, that would require what is usually called a “soul.” (He is on record, however, as suggesting that the posh military boarding school he attended was tougher than most actual military training, and musing that avoiding VD was his “personal Vietnam.”) But none of that has stopped Trump from proclaiming his genius as a field marshal or the supremacy of his own patriotism.
Little evidence of either was on display this week.
It’s hard to imagine that as Mueller tightens the vise there will not come a point at which Trump simply can’t stand it any more and lashes out by trying to fire him, or engaging in other efforts to neuter him. In fact it has already begun with the aforementioned propaganda campaign to discredit the special counsel, ludicrous as it is. If and when that happens, we will be squarely in the middle of the kind of constitutional crisis that many observers have been predicting from the very moment of Trump’s ascension to the White House. And if that happens, what will the citizens of the United States do?
Of course, no reasonable person expects Trump’s base—that 30% or so of the country that is in unforgivably blind thrall to him—to care. Hell, they’ll cheer it. But what about the rest of us, that 70% of relatively sane Americans who know a crook and a con man and a traitor when we see one? Will we take to the streets in outrage, demanding removal of this cretin who presumes to call himself our leader? Will the Democratic Party stand up and fight? And most germane of all, will the Republican leadership at long last discover its testicles (sorry for the sexist metaphor), put country above party, and exercise its constitutional duty?
These are men and women who undeniably know what a dangerously unfit troglodyte is in the White House and the extent of the damage he can do, whether it’s by starting a nuclear with the North Korea, or by wantonly laying waste to treasured norms of American democracy, or by recklessly undoing the meticulously built accomplishments of seventy years of US diplomacy. They hold the power to stop this madness in its tracks, right now, never mind if it comes to a constitutional crisis. But thus far from the GOP leadership, with a few outlier exceptions, we have heard nothing but crickets. If Trump moves against Mueller they will have their final chance to do so, or be forever damned as quislings and collaborators.
Republican cooperation will almost certainly be necessary to bring Trump down, whether it’s by legal procedure or sheer political pressure. That is not a fact that warms the cockles of my heart or makes me very optimistic about how this is going to end.
Sic Semper Tyrannis: The Lessons (and Limits) of Virginia – November 10, 2017
Both polling and election results from last week reveal that Trump’s base remains undiminished in its (blind) support for him and its willingness to turn out and vote. Predictions—which were profuse last November—that Trump voters would turn on him once he got in office and was unable to deliver on promises like the border wall, bringing back the dying coal industry, crushing ISIS with a snap of his tiny fingers proved woefully wrong. Proved correct were those psychology professors who wrote op-eds about how hard it is to get people to change their minds even when confronted with incontrovertible evidence. Human nature, apparently, is a motherfucker.
Should we really be surprised, though? After all, many Trump voters irrationally cast their ballots for him despite manifest evidence not only that he was a liar, a sexual predator, and a colossal ignoramus (on the contrary: many of them liked him for precisely those reasons), but even in the face of empirical proof that his presidency was likely to hurt rather than help them economically. In that sense it was just a more extreme version of a longstanding, paradoxical Republican/working class alignment. So it should come as no shock that those same people are equally irrational in their continued support for Benito Cheeto, fallacy of sunken costs wise, particularly given how angry and heated tribal loyalties are at the moment. Few of these people are likely to admit that they were suckers and cede victory to the “elitist” liberal community that they have been conditioned to despise.
Why does this matter? It matters because it means we should not spend our time and energy trying to convince these people that they made a mistake, or bank on the idea that we can point to the painfully self-evident failures, malfeasance, corruption, lies, and hypocrisy of the Trump administration to sway any of them into changing sides, or even just staying home. Reason will not work with Trump supporters. Facts will not convince them. Demonstrable reality has no effect on them. They are in the grip of a Jonestown-like mass hysteria that will surely occupy future historians, PhD candidates, and psychiatric experts for generations to come (if the human race survives that long).
The reason the GOP lost so badly in Virginia and elsewhere, despite the fanaticism of the Trump base, is because they were simply outnumbered. An energized progressive (or at least anti-Trump) electorate got out in force and flat-out swamped the right wing. As Bill Clinton memorably said in dismantling Mitt Romney’s tax policy at the 2008 Democratic Convention (the exact same plan Trump and the GOP are trying to shove down our throats again), it all boils down to one little word: “Arithmetic.”
Tuesday showed us the solution, and it couldn’t be simpler. Reasonable Americans do in fact outnumber Trump’s rabid base, so let’s get out to the polls and use that mathematical superiority to enforce the will of the majority, which by the by, is how democracy is supposed to work. If we can’t get our act together sufficiently to do so then we deserve to be ruled by this pustulent boil of a president and his troglodyte minority.
Somewhere PT Barnum Is Laughing – December 8, 2017
Crimes usually happen in the wee hours, and what happened around 2 a.m. last Saturday night in the US Senate certainly qualifies. It was arguably the darkest day we have experienced since November 8, 2016 (and given the parade of horrors over the past thirteen months, the competition for that title is fierce). But there is no need for CSI, Colombo, or any other sleuths to determine the culprit, as the perpetrators committed the crime gleefully and proudly.
Both in its content and in the unconscionable way it was rammed through Congress, the Republican tax bill represents one of the worst examples of political corruption in modern American history. It is accurately described as corrupt in that its intent was sinister—to rob the Republic for the benefit of the very few, by means of paying back political donors—and its passage utterly dishonest.
In many ways, what happened in the dark of night last Saturday was the culmination of what the entire Trump campaign and presidency have been about, but not because Trump led it. What a laugh: Trump doesn’t even know what’s in the bill. A functional illiterate, he knows—at best—that it is an enormous Christmas present to the obscenely rich like him and his despicable clan, and that’s all he needs to know. So for once I am not laying the blame for this latest American tragedy at the feet of Donald John Trump, or focusing my anger and loathing on him, cancer on the American experiment though he is. In this case, he is but a bit player. The rot goes much, much deeper and wider.
As former GOP staffer-turned-sentient human being Mike Lofgren says, cutting taxes for the rich is the only thing the Republican Party really cares about. Even though other matters may get the headlines—guns, abortion, gay rights, Andres Serrano, defunding Big Bird, Islamophobia, hating on the NFL, and on and on—everything else the GOP does is just rube bait to advance its one true agenda. Yes, all that reactionary stuff is appealing to the right-wing mindset. But at the end of the day, for the 1% who are the Republicans’ most important demographic, it is mostly just about their fucking wallets.
And on Saturday night those folks achieved their goal.
Herr Drumpf: A Thought Experiment – January 28, 2018
Let us imagine a Donald Trump born in Kallstadt in 1900. Bavaria, of course, was the deeply traditional and politically conservative part of Germany from which the Nazi Party sprung. Likely the youngster would have avoided service in the trenches of World War I with a quartet of student deferments and a fifth for mysterious bone spurs. After the war, his family’s fortune might well have insulated him from the privations of the Weimar years: no wheelbarrows full of worthless reichsmarks to buy a loaf of bread for der familie Drumpf! With the rise of the Nazis young Donald surely would have been among those in full-throated cheer of the hateful, divisive rhetoric of Herr Schickelgruber and his brownshirts. One can readily see him happily sieg heil-ing along at a rally right out of Riefenstahl. (Witness the thuggish tenor of Trump’s own campaign rallies.) Even without relocating his birthplace from Queens to Bavaria, it is easy to imagine Trump as part of the pro-Nazi sympathizers in the US led by Lindbergh, whose “America First” motto he has appropriated quite literally and with no discernible irony.
In fact, one can hardly imagine a more perfect candidate to fall eagerly in line with the goose-step. It is criminally easy to picture Donald von Trump as a successful German industrialist circa 1938, with a swastika pin in the lapel of his business suit, enthusiastically supporting the Nuremburg Laws, gleefully applauding Kristallnacht, being photographed with party leaders at important functions, and—given his oft-rumored predilections—even slipping into private clubs to enjoy a little black leather BDSM with the notoriously decadent machersof the NDSAP. (Ick.)
It isn’t hard to grasp how Trump became the appalling human being that he is. He was a classic poor little rich boy who got no love from his emotionally icy daddy, who—in a toxic combination of contradictory signals—also drummed into him the notion that he was a “king.”As a result, Donny was inculcated with the ruthless lack of empathy that is on display every goddamned day. We can leave it to the psychiatrists and the philosophers to debate how culpable that leaves him, or any of us, for our failings in adulthood. For all we know (and notwithstanding the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test), when Trump finally shuffles off this mortal coil and is autopsied, the pathologists will find a Charles Whitman-like tumor the size of a lacrosse ball pressing on his medulla oblongata.
None of which really makes any difference to the damage he is doing from the Oval Office that he unaccountably occupies and the Resolute Desk behind which he unaccountably sits.
Volumes have been written about how the German people descended into madness. It’s become a cliché, but it remains true that at the turn of the 20thcentury and into the two decades that followed, Germany was arguably the most civilized nation in Europe. It was the land of Goethe, of Beethoven, of Gutenberg, of Wittgenstein. And it was far from the most anti-Semitic country in Europe (ne c’est pas, France?) There were many factors that contributed to that terrible fate—economics, the epochal trauma of the Great War, the stupidly vindictive Treaty of Versailles (see William Shirer for the full account)—but one thing is clear: it was not the result of some genetic abnormality unique to the German people. There was no lacrosse ball-sized tumor pressing on the collective Teutonic brain stem. Buffeted by the aforementioned factors and whipped up by a monstrous demagogue with a bad mustache, they fell prey to the worst impulses of human nature.
Can anyone plausibly say that the American people, subjected to similar conditions, would not go down the same black path? Current events do not provide much credence for that self-flattering view. Indeed, it is all too easy to imagine, for Trump’s rise has shown America at very near our worst.
Surrender of the Hawks – February 22, 2018
For at least seventy years, from 1945 to 2016, no single issue united and inspired American conservatives more than unrelenting enmity toward Russia. (Longer in fact, if you start the clock from the Russian Revolution, suspended only temporarily—grudgingly—in order to join forces against the Nazis.) Even during that brief period of uncertainty from the fall of the USSR in 1991 to Putin’s assumption of power in 2000, the hawks repeatedly warned that Russia was not to be trusted. Hatred and suspicion towards Moscow are the north star of right wing American politics.
Somehow, however, that same right wing is now totally cool with Donald J. Trump subordinating the interests and security of the United States of America to the interests of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation.
At the center of all this, and most glaring of course, has been Trump’s refusal to acknowledge—let alone take action to punish and prevent—Russian meddling in the American electoral process. Trump has shown no interest in investigating this matter. None, nada, zero, zilch, bupkes. On the contrary, in fact: he has flagrantly done everything presidentially possible to thwart a proper inquiry into Russian actions, to the point of shameless, almost mind-blowingly overt obstruction of justice. From Flynn to Yates to Comey to Sessions to Mueller, that obstructionism needs no recitation here. (We can just want for the indictment.)
All this should outrage the hawks, particularly the wanton denigration of the US intelligence community and law enforcement, which the right normally fetishizes. (Denigration is putting it mildly—it’s more like an outright attack that would have made Nixon blanch.) Yet it doesn’t. What happened to the Torquemada-like tenacity that gave us the endless taxpayer-funded Benghazi hearings?
Pardon the tedious repetition, and at the risk of stating the obvious, imagine if Hillary had fired the head of the FBI looking into her collusion with a foreign power, tried to fire the special counsel doing the same, got caught repeatedly lying about contacts with the Russians, attacked the Attorney General and the DOJ for not “protecting” her in such deceit, pressured the heads of the CIA and NSA to publicly exonerate her, and on and on, all the while engaging in policy actions and pronouncements that benefited Moscow. (Not to mention refusing to release her tax returns even as evidence mounted of her shadowy financial entanglements with Russian oligarchs, mobsters, and their associated government contacts.)
Dear Republicans: Don’t ever preach to me about patriotism and national security again.
The hawkish right seems to be in a kind of mass denial about what Trump is doing to America’s security. Whatever the reason for that mysterious malady, these people have forfeited whatever claim they once had as hardnosed pragmatists and critical thinkers. And if Trump proves to be actively complicit in a covert Russian coup d’etat in the United States, they will be guilty of something far worse.
In the wake of this deeply ironic Presidents Day, let us stop and marvel at what a tragic distance we have come from leaders who deserve the name to this reprehensible cretin who serves only his own monstrous ego, and goddam the rest of us.
Why Can’t I Own an M-1 Tank? – March 3, 2018
This past Halloween here in New York City, a lone wolf who self-identified with radical Islamism murdered eight people and injured eleven others on the West Side Highway using a rental truck as a weapon, mimicking a technique widely used by terrorists in the Middle East and Europe (and by a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville). Following that attack, as if vindicated, gun nuts were quick to chortle, “See? If you take away their guns, they’ll find something else to kill with! Cars or knives or boxcutters!”
Exactly. Please note that the Halloween terrorist used a common rental truck, not an M-1 Abrams main battle tank. If he’d been driving a tank, he undoubtedly would have killed a lot more people. But he could not get a tank. Because that is illegal. Because it would be fucking nuts if we allowed private citizens to own tanks.
That is the precise analogy we are dealing with in terms of firearms. A mentally ill killer wielding a knife or even a pistol—let’s make it a semiautomatic 9mm Glock—would not be able to kill nearly as many human beings as Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, did with his NINETEEN long guns and assault rifles, some outfitted with bump stocks to turn them into fully automatic weapons, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. So, yeah, if we take guns out of the hands of potential killers it won’t stop every mass murder. But it would stop a lot of them and reduce the number and severity of causalities in most others.
No one is arguing that the common sense gun control laws currently being debated would put an absolute end to firearms deaths. But they would damn sure help, as they would undeniably make it harder for killers to kill. That should not even be a matter of discussion or disagreement, at least not among people with brainwave activity. Because to do nothing because we can’t do everything is not only stupid and self-destructive but actively dishonest and despicable.
Blood On Their Hands: Guns in America (Part 2) – March 10, 2018
How long are we going to let our country be held hostage and repeatedly brutalized and bloodied just to indulge the juvenile fantasies of a bunch of pathetic, overgrown boys who can’t get over their inferiority complexes? How long are we going to let the right wing plutocracy exploit that demographic in order to maintain its chokehold on our republic?
The madness of the American obsession with guns has always been with us, but the proliferation in civilian life of battlefield weapons made for no other purpose than to kill human beings as fast as possible has lately brought that madness to new depths. It is especially soul-wrenching in the context of the election of the most monstrous and counter-qualified president in American history, and with him, the brazen re-emergence into daylight of intractable racism, the validation of misogyny (even as a backlash arises), the abdication of American leadership abroad; the outright deceit over taxes and wages and labor; the shameful turning of our backs on the poorest among us we lavish further gifts on the richest; the celebration of xenophobia and betrayal of America’s immigrant heritage as we deport Dreamers and talk of building pointless and impossible walls; and perhaps above all, the triumph of propaganda and an increasing lack of concern for objective reality and the simple truth.
These are difficult and complex problems. But gun violence, ironically, for all the passion it inspires, is not really one of them. It ought to be easy. There are common sense solutions about which reasonable people can agree. Will we at last do the right thing and fix this literally life-and-death problem? Or will history look back on us someday and, mystified at our stupidity, conclude: that country got what deserved?
Only Nixon Could Go to China….But Nixon Was, Like, Smart – March 16, 2018
When I first heard that Donald Trump had agreed to meet in person with Kim Jong-Un, I assumed it was just to get parade advice.
In a situation this fraught it’s hard for anyone, especially Democrats and other progressives, to reject dialogue and diplomacy, which after all is what we were asking for in lieu of Trump’s schoolyard bullying and game of nuclear chicken. If Obama had agreed to such talks we would have probably cheered. (And the right would have screamed “weakness!” and “treason!” But of course, they screamed that even when Obama tied his shoes.) So I will be rooting for Trump to succeed.
Did I really need to write that? Should I be rooting for him to fail and for the situation to get worse? Of course not. Only the worst kind of partisan scum would hope for an outcome that hurts the United States (and indeed the whole human race) just out of spite for an opposition president. Know what I mean, Mitch McConnell?
So if this summit results in positive forward progress on defusing the crisis in Korea, I will happily eat crow and give Trump credit. (OK, not happily, but I will do it.) But there are a lot of things to wonder and worry about before that happens, starting with the question of whether this summit will even take place, and if it does, whether it will be a feather in Trump’s red baseball cap or one of the biggest, most unfathomably stupid blunders in the history of American foreign policy, prompted by a certifiable moron who has no business running a popsicle stand, let alone the United States government.
For the moment, I’m leaning toward the latter. This latest development seems not so much a validation of Trump’s reckless style in relation to North Korea as it is another jawdropping example of it.
It scarcely needs mentioning that Trump fancies himself a negotiator par excellence; indeed, that is a huge part of the wool he pulled over the American electorate’s eyes in November 2016. But as we have seen since, it is an utter joke. Trump might actually be the worst negotiator in US political history. He was unable to get his own party to agree on repealing Obamacare, its signature goal for the past nine years. He has mucked up every Congressional negotiation and other legislative action into which he has insinuated himself. Yes, a radical tax bill was passed on his watch, a massive Christmas gift to the 1%, but it passed largely in spite of—not because of—his efforts.
And this guy is gonna get Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear weapons?
“The Modern World Starts Here”—The Birth of Silicon Valley – March 30, 2018
By its very nature, technological innovation always presents itself as beneficial to mankind—what we call “progress.” In Schwarz and Kapany’s series, anthropology professor Jan English-Lueck calls Silicon Valley “almost the crystallization of this dream of progress.” Of course, many observers, from Thoreau to Ted Kaczynski, take issue with that notion.
One salient critique of much of current cutting edge tech is that it represents exactly what privileged, single young people in the industrialized world—that is to say, the chief demographic of developers—would create. Facebook, Tinder, and Uber are applications that benefit that community. (For me, the ATM, GPS, and Shazam alone represent earth-shattering advances that have transformed my life, making me guilty of the same selfishness.) By contrast, fewer resources and brainpower are being applied to thinking up ways to provide clean water for the Fourth World.
But it has always been thus. How many billions of dollars were devoted to developing Viagra and Rogaine instead of curing any number of diseases that cause untold suffering for millions? There is certainly money to be made in a cure for cancer, but probably more in a cure for baldness. (Note: the patriarchy at work.)
Even so, should our species survive, future generations may look back on those of us who lived through this era as having been the lucky witnesses to an epochal change in human history. But of course that same history shows that the very same potential for transformative good can be turned to equally nefarious ends. We feel it every day as we navigate this brave new world: most recently, in the Orwellian issues of privacy, governmental surveillance, and authoritarian control that have been at the heart of science fiction—and science fact—as far back as the Industrial Revolution. As noted above, the very parentage of the Internet—the love child of the Pentagon and California hippies—speaks to that dichotomy.
In closing, I would simply like to say that I wrote this on a computer, and if you’re reading it, you are surely online. You can close the pod bay doors now, Hal.
“Slow Burn” Is the Greatest Takedown of the Trump Presidency Yet – April 21, 2018
It is telling that in attempting to thwart the special prosecutor’s investigation against him, not even the reliably vicious Richard Milhous Nixon dared engage in the kind of overt, hyperbolic attacks that Trump has mounted against Jim Comey, Bob Mueller, and even his own Attorney General. Cox was a tweedy Harvard Law professor who had worked for JFK and invited Teddy to his swearing-in…..as Neyfakh says, a veritable cartoon of a Nixon foe. Yet Nixon never publicly assailed him as a partisan whose objectivity was in question (though he did so privately). Contrast that with Trump’s relentless, wildly dishonest, almost daily public attacks on Mueller—a lifelong Republican—attempting to paint him as some sort of Hillary-loving liberal.
Of course, Nixon did do something worse: he fired Archibald Cox. Listening to “Slow Burn”’s account of the Saturday Night Massacre is especially chilling, though also thrilling in its portrayal of the integrity of Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus. The Saturday Night Massacre functions simultaneously as a parallel to the firing of Comey—the single worst, most self-destructive decision of Trump’s presidency, and the one that has brought all this shit down upon him—and an ominous augury of what might befall Mr. Mueller, with a similar backfiring effect, one hopes. (Rod Rosenstein, take note: history has its eyes on you.)
Likewise, the right wing’s central defense during Watergate was, “Everybody does it; Nixon just got caught!”, and its corollary, “We don’t care!” This resort to cyncicism-as-justification is itself eminently cynical, as neither of those things are really true. Everybody does notsubvert the Constitution, siphon off campaign money for an illegal slush fund, fire special prosecutors, engage in perjury, wanton deception of the American public, intimidation of the press, abuse of the FBI and CIA as a personal gestapo, dirty tricks, ratfucking, and on and on, and certainly not at the level Nixon did. And Republicans damn sure do care that that stuff happens—and indeed, infinitely less egregious transgressions—when it’s done by Democrats or anyone else. Ask the Clintons.
Hypocrisy, thy name is GOP.
As the Butterfield incident showed, it was the Nixon White House’s own clumsy attempts to obstruct the Watergate investigation that led to the president’s eventual downfall. Forget about a smoking gun: with the tapes, the White House handed the Senate committee the loaded gun with which it blew Nixon’s brains out.
OK, I’m mixing metaphors, detective versus assassin wise, but you get the idea.
The comparisons to Team Trump—the gang that couldn’t collude straight—are blatant. From the moment the Very Stable Genius fired James Comey, if not sooner, the wounds this administration has suffered have consistently been self-inflicted, from its hamhanded attempts to squash the investigation into Russiagate, to its relentless denigration of the intelligence and law enforcement communities and a free press, to its vicious attacks on the rule of law and the courts, to its general desperation to cover up….something (stay tuned). The Trump White House is its own worst enemy, which is saying something considering how many other enemies it has.
It was after all, three instances of obstruction of justice that were the first impeachment charges brought against Nixon—triggering his resignation eleven days later— not the inciting crime itself, though let us duly remember that he was implicated in both. That fact ought to be foremost in the minds of Trump and his Kool-Aid besotted followers.
In other words, “What did the President know and when did he know it?”
To me, as a son of a Vietnam veteran and professional soldier in my own right, Nixon’s mysteriously enduring reptuation among hawks as a rockribbed champion of our national defense stands as one of the most stomach-churning swindles in American history.
This is a man who, after building an entire political career on rabid, borderline McCarthyite anti-communism, promised an end to the war in Vietnam during the 1968 presidential campaign. But subsequent research has shown that at the exact same time he was sabotaging the peace processthrough backchannel messages to the Saigon regime in order to keep the war going and help his prospects at the polls. (It worked.) Once in office, he continued to wage war for five more years, subverting negotiations to end the fighting, extending the war into Cambodia, and carrying out an unconscionable campaign of carpet bombing, among other travesties. We would do well to talk about the number of Vietnamese he slaughtered, but I’ll confine myself to a single emblematic indictment of his actions as they affected the American side:
Of the 58,000 US dead in Vietnam, 41,000 came on Richard Nixon’s watch….well after the national security apparatus had concluded that the war could not be won, as revealed in the Pentagon Papers. When it finally suited Nixon and Kissinger to make peace with Hanoi in 1973, they got the exact same terms LBJ had been offered in 1968.
For that I will never forgive Richard Nixon and neither should anyone else who ever wore the uniform of the United States military, or lives under the flag for which it fights.
What They Will Say When He’s Gone – April 27, 2018
But in the same way that even now there remains a small subset of Americans who think Nixon was a great man, it’s clear that for Trump’s most extreme dead-enders, nothing that their hero is eventually revealed to have done will make them turn on him.
Not evidence that he conspired with Russia to steal the election.
Not evidence that he stiffed every blue collar contractor who ever worked for him.
Not evidence that he has been cheating on his taxes for decades at the expense of those same honest, hard-working people.
Not conclusive proof that he had physically assaulted and even raped numerous women, some of them underage.
Not revelations that he eagerly laundered money for the Russian mob, or handed top secret intel over to the Kremlin on a silver platter.
Not a decision to start kneeling during the National Anthem along with Colin Kaepernick. (Oh, if the NFL’s ownership wasn’t conspiring to keep Kaep out of the league, that is.)
Not video of him slapping on knee pads and a French maid’s outfit and pleasuring Vladimir Putin.
Not a photograph of him wiping his ass with the American flag.
Not even the admission that he regularly dines with Hillary Clinton and seeks her advice. (Though of all those hypotheticals, this is the one with the best chance of alienating his fans.)
No no no no no no no no no. If the events of the past two years proven anything, they have proven that Trump’s staunchest supporters will rationalize anything and everything he does….and the GOP leadership will provide them cover.
So we should be under no delusions of what these Trump supporters will say when their hero is gone—even if he run out of office, impeached, forced to resign, or frogmarched off to prison in chains.
They will say he is a martyr. They will say he was the victim of “the liberal media” which propagated “fake news” designed to destroy him, and of “out-of-touch East Coast elites” who are not real Americans and conspired to use their wealth and power against him. They will say that the so-called “Deep State” marshaled all its secretive might to undermine him, that the CIA and the FBI and Department of Justice were all out to get him, notorious hotbeds of liberalism that they are. They will say that the Mueller probe was a kangaroo court riven with corruption. They will say that the evidence against him—no matter how incontrovertible or convincing to sane observers—was manufactured. They will say that Rod Rosenstein is a secret Muslim, that Jim Comey is actually only five nine and walks on stilts, that Hillary orchestrated it all from her secret lair inside a fake South Pacific volcano.
In short, the far right will wallow in the warm, comforting bath of victimhood, which they will use to deny objective reality, an honest assessment of the facts, and the truth about the morally bankrupt, utterly disgusting meatsack of Kentucky Fired Chicken and Diet Coke that was the 45thPresident of the United States. He will join Nixon, Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy, and a few others in the pantheon of indisputable villains who are somehow lionized in right wing Bizarro World. Theirs will be a minority view, but it will be resilient within certain circles, like the contention that Pete Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, or that Aerosmith should have made any records after 1977.
Whatever the mitigating factors, if Republicans and other Trump supporters cannot open their eyes and recognize the lies and the deceit and the pandering and the demagoguery…..if they shut their minds to the distortion of the values that they claim to hold dear…..if they are willing to throw out the rule of law and ignore or explain away the transgressions of their own tribe and its would-be leaders while depriving others of equal, fair, and just treatment…..if they give in to humanity’s worst impulses out of willful blindness, denial, and shameless rationalization…..if they cannot recognize neo-fascism, xenophobia, racism, and misogyny when they see it, then they are culpable. And so are we all.
Kakistocracy and the Iran Deal – May 11, 2018
We can have a substantive debate over the merits of the JCPOA. But the decision to pull out of the deal was not driven by a substantive debate.
It was driven by the juvenile impulses of a willfully ignorant, wildly unqualified fourth-rate game show host…..a pathological liar with borderline dementia and a set of values and temperament that could not be more ill-suited to the presidency if they had been deliberately designed that way…..a vindictive, petty manchild who is by all accounts consumed with rage 24/7 and on a permanent hair trigger to lash out at anyone who displeases him (Gold Star parents, civil rights icons, war heroes, the Pope) and anxious to behave like a human wrecking ball just for the sheer nihilistic pleasure of breaking shit.
It was driven by an irrational, all-consuming hatred and envy of Barack Obama, and a damn-the-torpedoes desire to undo anything and everything he did simply because he did it. (See also Trump’s efforts to undo the TPP, the Paris climate accord, and Obamacare—the last of which at least failed.)
It was driven by a man who surely hasn’t read the agreement and doesn’t begin to understand even its broad strokes let alone its minute details. Remember Trump’s comment (made to AIPAC, not coincidentally) that “I’ve studied this issue in great detail—I would say actually greater by far than anybody else.” Even the audience at AIPAC guffawed. It’s beyond laughable in a man who is well known to lack both the literacy and attention span to read even a one-page briefing paper. But it’s also tragic. It’s a kind of sixth grade boyish boastfulness that suggests that the boaster is terrifyingly detached from reality in thinking that anyone would ever believe that (Donny: please at least learn to lie better), but even more terrifying because millions of Trump-loving Americans do believe it.
That we as a people saw fit to make this man our leader (to the extent that we did, notwithstanding Russian troll farms and the anti-democratic mechanism of the Electoral College) will never cease to amaze me. It will be left to future historians to parse how that came to be, and whatever you might think of Hillary Clinton or the extent of Trump’s mysterious fealty to the Kremlin, there is no version in which the American people come off looking good.
Truth or Consequences – May 3, 2018
No one outside the Fox Nation bubble doubts that Spanky is in serious legal trouble. Even if Trump goes pardon crazy, he is not going to be able to stop the punishing scrutiny of his family crime syndicate that has inexorably begun. People will be going to jail. Even if he personally manages to limp through four (or even—gulp—eight) years without being impeached, forced to resign, or implicated in a historic criminal indictment of a sitting president, Trump very well may be prosecuted once he is out of office.
Again, Watergate is an instructive lesson. In the end, Nixon resigned because he knew he was going to be impeached and probably convicted…..in other words, because—after almost two years of staunchly standing by him—his own party had finally seen the incontrovertible evidence of his appalling and illegal actions and was going to hold him accountable.
But what if they hadn’t? What if Nixon had been been blessed with a Republican Party that stood by him despite all the incriminating evidence that eventually came out, particularly the so-called “smoking gun” recording from just days after the break-in, on which he is heard directing H.R. Haldeman to shut down the FBI investigation into the matter, proving definitively that he was in on the coverup from the very start.
With a compliant Congress like that, he might well have survived. Hmm.
If Trump lies under oath to Robert Mueller and Mueller proves it, even beyond the shadow of a doubt, will enough of the American people care? Will the GOP leadership hold the President to account? If he tells the truth about his actions, but shrugs and says “So what?”, will we do anything about it?
If he takes the Fifth, or refuses to abide by a subpoena and submit to an interview at all, or asserts that he is lord of the Earth and the Heavens, master of all the beasts that fly and fish that swim and can blow us a raspberry and do whatever the hell he jolly well wants, including shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, will we give a shit?
This may be the ultimate test of our democracy, to say nothing of the character of the American people.