THE GODFATHERS

 

While we watch the country as a whole break down politically, we are also spectators at the dissolution of common sense at The New York Times.  Its left-hand editorial page seems to have no idea what’s on its right hand page.

On Wednesday, Tom Friedman tried to push younger people into the position of becoming gradual saviors of the Constitution.  “In the long run the only thing that will save us is if more people – no matter what age, color, gender or faith – build moral authority in their respective realms and then use it to do big, meaningful things.  Use it to run for office, start a company, operate a school, lead a movement or build a community organization.  And in so doing you can help put the “we” back in “We the people.”

We would call this approach a soft, gradual one with which to fight an organization like the Republican mobsters in the Senate and House.  It’s thoughtful, safe, civilized.   And of no practical use against an entrenched mafia with no moral suasion of any sort.  To fight people who do not believe in America, or in the Constitution, or in the dictates and directions of history – not to mention the every-day manners and mores of a nation that has thrived for more than 200 years on courtesy, debate, respect and concern for others – it is no longer sufficient to cut them slack.   To suggest that Mom and Pop, or even their single Harvard graduate son, could effectively combat the collapse of the United States by opening a store, organizing a community, teaching…is for armchair politicos.

We’re facing people who care for nothing.   Who have no bottom lines, who read not neither do they reason.  Our president is exhibit number One.   He cares not for religion, nor economic status of others, nor their health, nor their safety, nor the future of a once great nation, no matter his campaign slogan.  What he loves is adoration, unrelenting loyalty and fealty.  We have more than once noted how medieval Trump’s vision of his role is.  He’s the King and You’re not.

Facing the prospect of a ruinous “health care” bill married to an incredibly slightly more sympathetic House “health care bill,” we see – despite the Times’ opposing editorial – how many of the mafia yearn only to be soldiers, not capos.   No Republican (indeed, no member of Congress of either stripe) wants anything more than his colleague next door: safety, stable income, great health insurance, total anonymity in the larger world.  Those who might be inclined to clear their throats and raise their hands to suggest an new idea or more sophisticated proposal – i.e., who might actually have a vestigial memory of what our nation once was – go unrecognized, if not unpunished.

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QUICKSAND

 

The “swamp” has many strata.

The D.C. of old was jammed with bright, young, idealistic kids who worked for not much money but worked together, having fun, expanding their horizons.  Hope lived in prospects for the future and for advancement.   People believed they might make a difference some day to the wealth, power, strength and sensibility of our nation.

These kids grew into their thirties, undeterred by the occasional setback.  There was the world to control, conquer, civilize and improve.   Peace was to be kept at nearly any cost.  Health was to be fostered, and antibodies, vaccinations, food and water were to be the international coin.   Brain power and wisdom began to be accumulated.    Achievements began to seem to be possible.

In their forties and early fifties, this happy band –now accompanied by reasonable and far-reaching results both domestically and internationally – settled into roles for which they would be remembered and revered.   True enough, they were not (most of them) making enormous money, but the satisfaction was great, the sense of having had hands in progress and improvement – in guiding the world to a better place – grew.

We know, because we started there.

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CONSPIRACY THEORY #741

 

“But, Mitch, this can’t go on!   Even my base is beginning to – “

“Mr. President, what do you need more than a win?  A big win, a gigantic win?”

“Nothing, damnit!  You know that!”

“Then stick with us.  Give us just another eight, ten, twelve days.   If Russia calms down, fire Mueller.  If Mueller refuses to go, close the investigation altogether.  Don’t reappoint.  We just need the time, maybe two weeks at best.   Two weeks and we’re home, voted, passed, locked in.   And you finally have a legislative achievement of which you can be proud.”

“What’s in it, the bill?  It’s got to be better than the last one.”

“Trust me, Mr. President, it’s foolproof.   We save billions, we give money to our friends, we reconstruct the safety net so that people who are undeserving have no means of entry at all.”

“You guys think this will work?”

“It doesn’t matter what we think, Mr. President.  No one in Washington understands or can even guess what’s in the bill.  They’ll never read it.  The Dems’ll scream – that’s a given. Your people will just be grateful you’re holding true to your vision, following through on campaign promises. That’s what matters. Not the promises themselves.”

“You only need two weeks more?”

“Probably not even that.   Snoopers and leakers haven’t gotten through our defenses.   No one knows what’s in the bill.   Hell, half the time even I don’t know.”

“Will it make Barron proud?”

“All I can say is that Elaine is standing taller and straighter even now.”

“And it’s a win?  I mean, compared to Roosevelt or Johnson, it’s bigger, isn’t it?   Far better.   More far-reaching, more imaginative.  Better for everyone, for the world!”

“If you can just give us the time…”

“It’s yours!   God, I hate going through this again.   I want to go back out on the trail, be idolized, be adored.  This damned thing is such a downer.”

“Trust me, Mr. President, we get this passed, you’ll never have to worry about it again.”

 

NOT HELPFUL

 

It is disappointing to us to have to admit that despite the integrity and believability of James Comey this week before the Senate, in the end (as far as we know: there was a second, classified debriefing before the same committee later the same day) no puzzles were solved, no “smoking gun” found, no straight- forward instance where the behavior of the president was beyond dispute.

Millions of people watched the hearing on television or other devices.  It is fair, we think, to imagine that at least half the audience was inclined to will Comey’s recitation into something greater than it was.  Conversely, Mr. Trump’s well-known base was pulling in the other direction, hoping against hope that Comey would stumble and reveal himself to be a partisan warrior with a personal agenda.

Expectations did not stop there.  From Mr. Comey himself, as well as from several questioning Senate members, what we think of as unrealistic reliance on the wisdom and insights to come from Robert Mueller as he tries to untangle constricting cords in this governmental Gordian knot may be wishfully misplaced.   Very few mortals have ever carried such a heavy load of encouragement and disbelief simultaneously.

Regardless of what Mr. Mueller turns up and shares with the American people, a conspiracy or lack thereof, the arguments over the president’s behavior are going to continue for years, just as suspicion and doubt “clouded” the report from the blue ribbon panel investigating the assassination of John Kennedy.

The partisan divisions of the past few years throughout the country do not allow for calm reflection.   With a president fostering festering discontent with all things governmental, judicial, Congressional, we do not see a moment to come when citizens are allowed respite from doubt, anger, frustration, and violence.

Worse, the president seems determined to continue in ignorance of common civilities and decencies.  Just as he is equally determined to believe that world history began with his inauguration.   Not for him a few moments each day reading about the past and the lessons it has to teach us all.   And forget about sitting with counsel or his cabinet, or “his” generals, even for fifteen minutes a day to learn about what preceded his reign, and what is likely to follow it.   After all, ignorance got him where he is today.  He is reliant on ignorance, confident in believing that no one in America knows anything more than what he, the King, dictates.

Which, of course, goes a long way to understanding the wreckage Mr. Trump produces when travelling or tweeting.  Not to mention his preference for “rallies” and continued campaign commercials that – as during the campaign – are imprecise, full of unfulfillable promises, personal attacks on opponents or disbelievers.   Hints of good times to come, or – as is his wont – good times from the past to which he purportedly yearns to return – are as precise as his limited experience of the world allows.  The plain fact of the matter is that he doesn’t give a damn about other people’s pain, troubles, poverty.   This allows him free rein to exercise what he envisions as his calling:  “Only I can fix it.”   Not for him the value of a cabinet with experience and knowledge.   In the Executive Branch these days there is only one executive, and the faster we all understand that, the easier it will be for us to accommodate ourselves to his world vision.   Whatever that may be.

The press is not helping.   The take-home from this week’s hearings seems to be that Comey is the first man in world history to announce to one and all that the president of the United States lies.   Yet the press have religiously reported every instance of Trump’s myth-making from his descent on that golden escalator onwards.  Having established that we have a leader who reflexively lies as easily as he breathes, what more can it tell us?  It can, has done, and will continue to breathlessly tell us how he has lied, what he doesn’t know, what he cannot seem to understand.  But little of this is new or even newsworthy.

As for Mr. Trump’s ”party,” it seems content to smile and nod and cluck just bit because all this presidential stuff is so new to Mr. Trump that he hasn’t yet had time to learn the ins and outs of D.C. or even the broader world.  Which would seem to indicate that Republicans too think of him as encapsulated in his own ego and image.   (Once again we see the Donald as practicing daily before his mirror.)

There is a contrast between Mr. Comey and his former boss.   Comey ran the FBI as though the US were still flawless in its depiction of democracy and rule of law.   Mr. Trump is barely conversant with the simple idea – although complex in daily exercise – that the US is a nation of laws and that the country is not a business he can bankrupt as he chooses.   One man has a claim to protecting the nation from all dangers; the other invites intervention by our enemies.

Although we think these differences are clear and obvious, millions disagree.   Which is why continued prospecting by Mr. Mueller, the Senate and the House, may be destined to return bags of pyrites.  The glitter is in the eye of the beholder.  Without an assayer of Biblical standards, this may come in the end to disappoint millions.  Among that number, we cannot count Donald Trump.

INEXPERIENCE, GREED, TREASON

One of the problems we in America have just now is what we don’t know.  Fake news?  Real news?  Experience?  Make-believe?  Altruism?  Pocket-lining?

With nearly half-a-dozen investigations afoot – in Congress, in the office of the Special Counsel, in the Washington Post and The New York Times – wires are being crossed and what’s released to a pubic that cares is increasingly confusing.

Our reactions are not singular.   As each day passes with more and more “Breaking News,” anger grows, impatience, suspicion.

Regardless of whom one voted for, the results can now be seen to be, in our mind, disastrous.  Hiring a hockey rink jammed with ballet dancers – in effect, calling upon friends, neighbors, and family members – none of whom have any skating experience – is more than ridiculous.  It’s incredibly stupid.   Matching these artistic bozos with tasks to perform for the good of the public is tantamount to handing a six month old a bottle of J&B.   Balance is not improved, and knowledge is nowhere garnered.  Occasionally a good prima ballerina can be turned into a wizard on ice, but this happens so rarely we’d hardly recognize her.  It certainly isn’t happening in Washington today.

Today’s Primary Example: Jared Kushner.

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BEFORE THE STORM

 

Not that the political – world, domestic – weather hasn’t already been chaotic.  But for a few days this week, with the Donald abroad and all fingers crossed, Washington was almost able to get down to doing what it’s supposed to do.  Not necessarily successfully, but familiarly enough so that millions of Americans had a chance to inhale, deeply, and reflect.

Primarily, it seems, D.C. is on an investigational bender.  With good reason.  Robert Mueller, our new eminence grise, has stayed below the radar and, we presume, begun to dig into the files, tapes, correspondence, committee appearances that preceded his appointment.   Whether he will be able, in the end, to demonstrate collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is still an open matter, but what he’s unearthing on the way to that decision is providing a great deal of entertainment for cable news and the newspapers.

After all, for weeks we’ve been asking the same question over and over again: has anyone ever heard Jared Kushner speak?  With Mr. Kushner on our home screens these past few days, we’ve begun noticing that while his mouth moves, no sound emerges.  Delicately he covers it so as not to be lip-read by “enemies,” whether in meetings with the president, walking the halls of Congress, even holding his children.   Whether he allowed his vocal chords to warm while in Saudi Arabia or Israel, we cannot know.  And while we hesitate to celebrate prematurely at his downfall (which may never come, after all), we are learning about Kushner’s “back-story” as a slum landlord and combative (and heartless) plaintiff in courts around the nation.

The similarities between Trump and Kushner’s modus is too pronounced to ignore.  Briefly, they are both still getting “away with it.”  The Donald saunters into Saudi Arabia, does a sword-dance, and sells arms – good for our national GDP.    In Israel, neither man says a word about the two-state solution.  Donald and Bibi have fun together.  Melania looks glamorous.  No pain, no gain.  Donald, as is his wont, beards the lions in their dens.  He flies to Brussels where he refuses to admit the validity of the basic tenet of NATO, Article 5, which specifies that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.   This makes our NATO allies feel loved and protected.  Lest they feel too beloved, he criticizes once again the lack of financial follow-through of our allies, saying “it isn’t fair,” like a six year old.   His German counterpart, Ms. Merkel, has the balls of the 28 nation organization to call out Donald on building walls rather than bridges – warming up for the Donald’s next stop in Rome where he is to meet with the Pope, and with whom he has already had this same conversation.

Donald storms the Vatican, protected by his wife and his daughter.  The Pope is well-behaved.  For our money, we would be willing to put our fates in the hands of the Pope and Melania.  On to Sicily.

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THOSE TEETH!

 

Donald Trump has the most beautiful set of teeth we’ve ever seen.  They may even be his own.  They’re bright, white, even.  We couldn’t take our eyes off them as he spoke Wednesday at the Coast Guard Academy.

While most Americans spend their days – and nights, too – dreaming of doing better, a raise in salary, sending children to college, worrying about their retirement funds, their next job, their FIRST job, the Donald’s dentist is racking in the chips keeping the new president glamorous, welcoming, shining.

The ivories were on wide display before Mr. Trump cried he was the most ill-used new president in the history of the Republic.  Although never an historical scholar, he deserves this distinction.

There’s little point in listing the reasons why Mr. Trump is taking it on the chin from the press and a goodly (bigly?) portion of American voters.   Suffice it to say he has earned it, assuming that being president was a task he could naturally do at the same time he commanded his international real estate empire, such as it is.  How hard could it be?

Although one might think that in his early days he would be discovering an answer to that question, this is man who cannot learn.  Anything, apparently.   Even when presented with unanimous judgments and theories of policy, Mr. Trump still believes only he “can fix it.”   In truth, only he can fix those things he has already fixed, i.e., the tenets of democracy in the United States of America to which he has devoted what spare time (and what a lot of it he must have!) to dismembement.

Life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not getting easier.  The press refuses to cooperate and insists on keeping a daily score of missteps and misdeeds, gaffs, tantrums, ally-baiting, and Mr. Trump’s unique take on American history.   Happily for him, his base is not eager to rectify error and fact.  Which is how Mr. Trump has lasted this long!

Add to an adoring base a quiescent and weak, trembling, fearful House of Representatives – and, to be fair – much of the Senate as well – and we are pretty well able to draw up a list of  “enablers,” apart from his own family who seem no more interested in the welfare of the US of A than their progenitor.

The big question of the day is an old one:  “Why is this man smiling?”

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