Let’s say you’re a hotshot movie producer and I’m this schlub of a writer who thinks he’s bringing the next blockbuster to our meeting. I’m pitching you A Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue, which has Freddie Kruger invading the nation’s capitol. Of course you guessed it—a clever metaphor!
The pitch: this puffy orange grinch drops out of the sky and commands an army of zombies to march on the capitol. Legislative blood runs in the streets and dreamers are driven out of town. The grinch sits back while the zombies remake the city into an armed camp of millionaires surrounded by the poorer—and often darker—working class.
Oh wait: that last plot point? That’s Washington, D.C. now.
What we’ve got is bad enough: dysfunctional government. What we’re about to get is worse: functional right-wing government. Topped with an icky glob of crazy. This is what liberals like myself have been dreading since the break of dawn on November 9th.
It’s not just Obamacare at stake. My nightmare has the totally-in-power Republicans eviscerating every liberal achievement they can reach, all the way back to FDR’s New Deal. I’m wondering how long abortion will remain legal, or when the few remaining Wall Street regulations will succumb. Then there’s marriage equality. Immigration. The environment. Marijuana. A dozen more things that I can’t recall at this moment. We’re about to witness a real-life slasher flick in real time.
But wait! That movie began morphing as soon as Trump’s nominees for cabinet and advisors slithered out of their oily limos, looking more like The Business Brotherhood than public servants. They’re not about draining the swamp. Suddenly I’m mired in an episode of House of Cards. These applicants must answer serious questions, and all of it must be on display. That’s what “Advise and Consent” Senate hearings are for: we need to observe the results of our election.
But no. Master of the filibuster Mitch McConnell knows very well how the party out of power can slow things w-a-a-a-y down, and often halt them completely. They did it to Obama, starting with his cabinet nominations. Now we’ve slipped into a different horror movie: McConnell’s crammed schedule drops Congress into that under-siege farmhouse from Night of the Living Dead.
Who’s trying to break in? Seven cabinet nomination hearings in a single week, and more the next. Many are simultaneous, a strategy designed to obfuscate and dilute our attention. These nominees haven’t been properly vetted; their histories are incomplete and background checks are still pending. They should sit still for a public examination. Instead, they’re clumping around the farmhouse in a mob—slowly but inexorably beating their way inside our flimsy little liberal fortress.
They’re not alone. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is wandering around out there, his Eddie Munster widow’s peak prominent. There’s a pasty, prissy vampire who looks exactly like Ted Cruz. And McConnell, running a Senate all-nighter called the Vote-a-Rama (really!), is channeling Uncle Fester from The Addams Family.
Had enough? Sorry, all that was just the beginning. President Obama gave his farewell speech on the night of the first hearing (January 10th). That was a tearful, poignant hour. Then Trump gave his contentious first news conference since forever on the next day (January 11th), which was also the second day of Congressional hearings.
But it took just a moment for all that action to disperse like dust in the wind. Obama and his family had barely left the stage in Chicago Tuesday night when Donald Trump did what he does better than anyone: he sucked every atom of oxygen out of the news cycle.
Months ago, a former British Intelligence agent working for Jeb Bush (!) had asked his Russian contacts if Putin had anything on Trump that was worthy of blackmail. They told him yes, with salacious details. The resulting 35-page report circulated through various security and news organizations for months, and then Buzzfeed.com published it.
Suddenly it’s all out in the open. OMG, what movie are we in now? Goldshower!
No doubt you’ve heard the totally unsubstantiated story of Trump’s sexual escapade in Moscow. The tale has him ordering Russian prostitutes to pee on the bed in the Ritz Carlton Presidential Suite, where he knew Barack and Michelle Obama had slept. Funny Or Die also has a wonderfully graphic “reenactment” using Barbie and Ken dolls.
Crazy, even considering the insanity of 2016. Trump has visited Moscow many times and must be aware that cameras are everywhere. He’s also a known germaphobe. So while I don’t believe the tale is true, I can’t say that it’s false, either. And that’s what makes the whole thing so damn wonderful.
We already know that a golden shower story wouldn’t hang The Donald anyway. And that sordid tale occupies a mere couple of paragraphs out of the 35 pages (see point #3 on page 2 of the report). What ought to truly nail the orange president begins on page 7: collusion with the Russians. As in, passing intelligence back and forth with a hostile government. If true, that’s treason.
Suddenly we’re sitting in the middle of Seven Days in May, edging closer to a soft coup where the military, unable to trust their Commander-in-Chief, refuses to obey him.
Friday, Representative John Lewis said in an interview that he does not believe Trump will be a legitimate president. This man has been called “the Conscience of Congress” and his comments came after a closed, classified hearing where FBI Director James Comey testified. If the National Enquirer wasn’t already in league with Trump, that rag would be printing RUSSIAN SPY and ILLEGITIMATE in 100-point type above his name right now.
They won’t, so I’m glad to help out instead. Will President Drumpf be legitimate? A Putin asset? A useful idiot? Should he be impeached and tried for treason? IMO, these questions are equivalent to Trump’s five-year “Obama Is Kenyan” crusade. I hope they shadow every minute of his presidency. He’s earned that distrust, on steroids.
Here’s an adage first proven to me during Watergate: the crime may be bad enough, but it’s the cover-up that will catch you. In this case, the cover-up is Trump’s steadfast defense of Russia. His insistence that the word of Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange is more reliable than that of our own intelligence agents is not just dangerous, it’s pathetic. And like so much that he says and tweets, total bullshit.
So check out the report on BuzzFeed. There’s lots of spy intrigue in it, conveniently highlighted in yellow.
There’s some old-fashioned irony at work here too, and that lands us in a hand-wringing liberal documentary. Russian interference, while undeniable (by most of us), did not flip the election to Trump. What did?
1. Hillary never once campaigned in Wisconsin, partly because every fucking poll I ever read miscalculated the vote in that state, as well as in Michigan and Pennsylvania. I’ll never look at polls the same way again.
2. Hillary’s massive loss in the Michigan primary taught her nothing. She should have visited every Rust Belt state with Bernie alongside. She should have hired lots of Bernie’s people for the general election campaign. She did listen, a little. Should have listened more.
3. Many voters of color who came out for Obama, stayed home for Hillary. Some were disenfranchised by voting laws. Too many. But many simply no-showed. Why? You can watch a few—and you can find way too many—internet videos of the police shooting unarmed black men. You can read about how they get off in court, or are never even indicted. And then you can try to tell me that we’ve done anything to persuade people of color that voting matters.
4. Who needs foreign influence when you’ve got FBI Director James Comey pulling an unbalanced October surprise? He made a non-story public—the presence of Clinton’s email on Weiner’s computer—while saying nothing about the most worrisome information that was available—the presence and clear intent of Russian hackers on our computer networks.
But the election is over and Vladimir Putin is about to enjoy the most pliant U.S. government since we handed Eastern Europe to Stalin at the end of World War II.
Consider what is Trump’s most likely weak point: that Russia has its hand in his pocket debt-wise, and investment-wise. That Putin has his hand on Trump’s properties. Or perhaps it is even simpler: that Trump recognizes a kindred spirit in Putin, the world’s wealthiest man—at the expense of his own country. A man with similar goals and morals.
That is horrifying and heartbreaking at once: will President Trump’s personal finances be more important that U.S. security? Now we’ve blundered into another bizarro James Bond flick, this time it’s Goldfinger starring only the bad guys. Sing it with me: He loves only gold! Where’s our savior James?
Well, he’s that black guy who survived all night in the doomed farmhouse, fighting waves of zombies in Night of the Living Dead. Spoiler Alert! The next morning he stumbles out of the house, expecting to be saved, only to be shot by the police. That sounds disgustingly familiar.
Trump is the cop with the rifle in that flick. He won’t change. I cannot fathom why anyone is still expecting some magical “pivot” into the respectability and legitimacy that befits a President. “The office will change the man.” What horseshit! To all of those people: Try holding your breath until Trump does what you expect. You’ll either be cured, or killed.
…which reminds me of a comment that followed an online article about Trump’s personality during the campaign. The line has stayed with me ever since: “Either he’ll make America great again or burn it to the ground.” Yow.
Now he’s declared war on the intelligence community—you, know those people that he will rely upon to make world-changing decisions. Those people who risk their lives to gather intelligence, so that our lives here at home are safer?
Yes, those people. Trump compared them to the Nazis.
How soon will we find ourselves back in that Seven Days in May thriller? Trump can’t stop blaming the CIA for the Iraq war, forgetting that the Bush Administration cherry picked intelligence that was known to be iffy, delivered by a CIA Director who uttered exactly what Dick Cheney dictated to him. Slam dunk!
The President of the United States needs these people to work for him, not against him. But if they can’t trust their boss, what do they do? Well, they devise contingency plans for situations when Trump as Commander in Chief makes a bad decision. That’s the “soft coup” I mentioned earlier. Or they find a way to remove him from office. Here’s my idea: find and leak his tax returns. That would lay bare all his illusions.
Going forward—so to speak—we’ll be sinking finally into nasty film noir that’s a lot like 1945’s Detour. The genre usually features a protagonist who makes bad decisions that trigger increasingly dire circumstances. This movie’s star would be presidential apprentice Donald J. Trump, assuming a dangerous identity that he knows nothing about, just like the guy in Detour.
Trump likely entered the race thinking that he would lose but build his brand. Now he’s faced with constant, intense scrutiny and crucial decisions that he was never interested in making, requiring critical thinking that he never mastered. IMO what turns a president’s hair gray is the constant pressure to perform, crossed with the eternal and loud dissatisfaction of at least half the country.
You bought it, motherfucker. Now eat it.
Below: the airport could afford only a “silver shower” for Trump’s plane.
Stephen Colbert explores the “golden opportunity” of Trump’s alleged wet naughtiness.
Alec Bladwin opens Saturday Night Live with his take on the press conference. Be prepared for some pee-your-pants chuckles.
The Political Apprentice #6