Friday, April 13, 2018

An Offer He Can't Refuse?

My next newspaper column:
Dang. I had a nice medical school memory all teed up for publication, and then the feds raided Trump’s consigliere, Michael Cohen. Following which, Donald weighed in, affirming, yet again, how dangerously little he understands or cares about how our constitutional democracy works. Immediately thereafter, Fox “news,” Trump’s policy fountainhead, waved its reciprocal ignorance like a pirate flag. 
“Attorney-client privilege is dead,” Trump said. “It’s an attack on everything we stand for,” he whined. (Like “lock her up,” Donald?) Well, depending on what he meant by “we,” he could be right. There’s “we” America, and there’s “we” his collection of arrant liars and grifters. In Trump’s mind, apparently, anything but deference constitutes an attack on America.  
Attorney-client privilege has never been a shield for criminal activity by an attorney. Nevertheless, the relationship is highly protected, as it ought to be. To have done what the FBI did would have required scrupulous documentation of probable cause, enough to win the approval of a federal judge and the responsible US Attorney. The law was followed. If early reports are true that Cohen had made recordings of conversations and that they were among the items seized, it’s not hard to understand why the Trump gang’s dudgeon is turned up to eleven. 
If there’s a god – and if it’s true He put Trump in the White House, there probably isn’t – you’d think at some point Trump’s words would melt his tongue. “It’s an attack on our country in a true sense,” he declared. No, it’s not. It’s the opposite. It’s the epitome of the founding values of America, of what it has, until recently, always stood for: the rule of law. The idea that no one, not even those in the tallest towers of power, is above it. What it is, is DEFENSE of our country in the truest sense; a reflection that America was established by people who abhorred autocracy, who put in place enduring (so far) mechanisms to prevent it. (Devin Nunes just announced his intention further to tear them down.)   
Trump claims, and Trumpists believe, it’s a witch hunt. (With Trump, the distinction between claims and beliefs is squishy. He still claims, for example, there were millions of illegal votes in his historically immense popular vote loss; who knows whether he believes it, or just figures his excusers will?) It wouldn’t be unprecedented, after all: other than Monica Lewinsky and Clinton’s lies about her, Ken Starr’s $80 million investigation, about which I don’t recall Republicans upping themselves into comparable arms, turned out to be one. 
But none of us yet knows. There looks to be more smoke than was recently pouring out of Trump Tower, and for a guy who claims innocence, Trump is acting pretty nervous lately. If, in his heart or the space typically containing one in primates, he’s certain there’s nothing to fear, and had he found himself a competent capo, one might think he’d quiesce and let the process unfold. Eventually, it will, and at the witching hour we’ll all be there to see.  
If America isn’t about the rule of law, it’s about nothing. Claiming a constitutionally empowered investigation into possible governmental malfeasance is an attack on America, after more than a year of literally attacking America by claiming our free press is an enemy of the people, by attempts to discredit our electoral system, and by facilitating the gutting of public education – that might be Trump’s most blatant gaslighting yet. To the extent Trumpists buy it, they endanger us all, especially themselves.  
In the meantime, here’s some advice for liberals who excitedly comment on various online fora: stop with the prematurely gleeful ejaculations. Stop predicting impeachment if Democrats regain control of Congress. Let facts play out first. Even if there are theres there, impeachment is a long shot, and not something any of us on either side ought to want to see become a purely political process. Besides which, behind Trump is dangerously theocratic, failed governor Mike Pence. 
The electoral objective in November is restraining a Party bent on undemocratic entrenchment, no matter the damage to our institutions, while enriching itself and its bankrollers at the expense of the general welfare. If enlightened voters achieve that, dayenu. I’m unaware of any Democratic candidates running on ex-ante promises of impeachment. The truth is out there. We can wait.
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  1. I think that this is one of your better columns, Sid. Shifting the relative focus away from the 30% and onto Trump and current issues (a good thing), including your added caution for those of us who desperately want Trump out of office, ought to cause your constant detractors to shift towards content and issues.

    I'm probably wrong about them.

  2. Thanks, Doc. Yeah, you're probably wrong about them. But who knows? Maybe the Herald's tighter controls on comments will lead to less personal attacks and -- improbably -- addressing the issues.


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