Short post today, because the family and I went up to Sonoma County for a few days of wine tasting. Yes, even a Trump basher is allowed to take time off for rest and recovery! We went to Matanzas Creek, where we had a fabulous wine-and-cheese pairing, to Longboard, the winery of my old buddy Oded Shakked, and to Verité, which makes red, Bordeaux-style wines that are among the best in the world. For the frosting on the cake, the weather finally changed: After three months of the coldest, rainiest weather in many years, it was around 80 degrees in wine country.
Even traveling, however, you can’t help but hear bits and snippets of the news. I heard that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million Americans will lose their healthcare insurance if Trumpcare passes.
Well, it’s nice that the experts now have weighed in on something many of us predicted months ago, but really, does anyone believe the Repuiblican Party gives a damn about healthcare insurance? They fought it for decades: fought Nixon and Carter, fought Hillary and Bill, fought Obama. They only discovered they cared about it when their enemy, Obama, actually did something about it.
In reply to the CBO analysis, Republicans will bluster their usual falsehoods. CBO is “fake news,” which is ridiculous, of course. The second is a lie that Trump has repeatedly told: that more Americans than ever will have healthcare, at lower cost, under the Republican plan. As lies go, this is even worse that “Obama tapped my phone” or “Hillary had millions of illegal votes” or “Obama was born in Kenya” or “I never groped anyone’s pussy” because the Republican plan to destroy the Affordable Care Act will cause the suffering and death of millions of people.
How the Republican Party gets away with this merde is unbelievable. I imagine some angry, white, laid-off assembly line worker in Indiana—let’s call him “Ned”–who voted for Trump. How is he feeling these days? He probably went to a rally where, when Trump yelled “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?”,” the crowd, including Ned, screamed “Mexico!” I could have told him a long time ago Mexico will never pay for the wall. Now it’s official, and we know that we, the taxpayers, are going to have to pay $2 billion, or $12 billion, or $20 billion, or whatever the hell the damned thing will cost. So what does Ned say? “Well, it’ll be worth it to keep all those rapists out.”
But now Ned’s mother-in-law, Sarah, is going to be thrown off her insurance. How does Ned feel about that? “Well, I didn’t think she would, but…but…” Actually, Ned isn’t sure what to think. He didn’t anticipate this: he just knows that he hated Obama, hence he hated Obamacare, and since he was rational enough—just barely—to realize he needed to justify his hatred on objective facts rather than racism, he believed Trump when he lied that Obamacare was “a disaster.” Now, Ned is faced with having to take care of Sarah. Ned isn’t made out of money; he barely is able to pay the bills; and he tithes ten percent of whatever income he has to the Liberty Baptist Church, where he was born again on August 17, 2005, the day he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. That was easy to do: now, paying for Sarah’s healthcare—she has heart disease and diabetes and painful varicose veins—is going to be awfully expensive. Ned: Was it worth getting rid of the Affordable Care Act in light of the fact that Sarah now is your problem? Ned: “Well, we’ll just do what we did before: take her to the emergency room.”
Sigh. There are so many Neds out there…so conflicted…so confused. It’s easy to vote to cut somebody else’s “free money” but when the gravy train extends to you, your family, your Social Security, your Medicare and Medicaid, your clean water, your clean air, your daughter who gets herself knocked up and can’t get a safe, legal abortion, your queer cousin Al who gets fired because his boss hates gay people and now Al has no recourse in the courts, things are somehow different.
Here’s what I hope and think the outcome will be. In the 2018 elections, the disastrous nature of this Trump regime will be apparent to all but the most benighted of tea party crazies. Americans turn out to vote in droves. Democrats regain the House and Senate. We won’t have the White House until 2020, but at least we’ll be able to properly investigate Trump’s probably treasonous ties to Russia. Until then, my message to Democratic Senators and congressmen is: Hold tight. Resist. We have your back. And do not, under any circumstances, vote for any Supreme Court nominee nominated by this illegitimate president. They wouldn’t let Obama’s man even have a vote: don’t let Trump’s. Tit for tat. The Resistance is succeeding. Do not tire. Do not doubt. We have to purge this current fever blister, Trump, from our collective body, in order to heal and rise to ever greater heights.
I’ve written before how even the Wall Street Journal news section, as opposed to its hideously biased op-ed pages, slants and spins the news in a favorable way towards Republicans and Trump, at the expense of giving its readers the truth. Several of my readers have asked me for proof of this, so here we go.
Headline, weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal: “Trump Didn’t Know of Flynn’s Work for Turkey.”
As soon as I read it, I thought, How does the headline writer know that Trump didn’t know? Can he read his mind? Then I read the first sentence: “President Donald Trump was unaware Michael Flynn had recently been consulting on behalf of the Turkish government when the president picked him to be his national security advisor, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday.”
You see how it works? If you’re a typical reader, you first read the headline, then the first sentence, and you take in the sentence’s information in the order it’s given. In other words, you’ve had it drummed into your head, not once but twice, that “Trump didn’t know.” Only after this dual reinforcement do you come across that spectacular qualifier, “White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday.”
This is a teaching moment in how to package propaganda in the guise of “news.” Let me ask you a question: Do you believe everything Sean Spicer says? Most of it? Some of it? None of it? The Huffington Post (which publishes this blog), recently compiled a list of 100 lies Trump and his team, including Spicer, have dumped on the American people. Spicer has lied on behalf of Trump so many times, it’s become a joke—even to him. At Friday’s presser with the White House media, someone asked him about Trump’s celebration of the most recent jobs report, when Trump had previously complained that previous job reports were “totally fiction.” Spicer’s reply: “Yeah, I talked to the President prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly – ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.’” (Laughter.)
Spicer is Trump’s water carrier, repeating his lies; when he knows that everybody in the room knows he’s lying, he grins and lets it be known that all he’s doing is saying what the President told him to say. (The fact that there was so much laughter in the room following his “joke” is a sad commentary on the White House Press Corps, which is increasingly right wing and hand-picked by Spicer.)
But back to how the Wall Street Journal manipulates even the regular news to get into peoples’ heads and influence how they interpret events. Any objective, truthful, honest paper, in reporting the Flynn-Turkey scandal, would have had a headline that reads something like, “Aide Says Trump Didn’t Know of Flynn’s Foreign Work.” But the Wall Street Journal is not an objective, truthful, honest paper, it’s a shill for the Republican Party. This is also a good time to point out once again, as I did last week, that “Wall Street Journal staffers are increasingly concerned that the paper’s coverage of President Donald Trump is not critical enough and too willing to defend his actions rather than serve a watchdog role.” If I had written the Flynn-Turkey story (which was by Ted Mann, James V. Grimaldi and Gordon Lubold), I would have placed the Spicer connection in the headline; or, of those guys didn’t write the headline (headers usually are written by editors), I would have included something in the article to indicate that I, the writer, am well aware of Spicer’s sketchy reputation of playing fast and loose with the truth, and covering up for his boss. And if I were the actual headline writer—whose name we don’t know–I certainly would have included the “Aide Says” qualifier.
But then, Wall Street Journal headline writers and reporters report to senior editors who report to the Murdoch family. Look, it’s intentionally misleading what the Wall Street Journal does on a daily basis. But that’s precisely why they’re just about the only major national paper that Trump doesn’t routinely criticize as publishing “fake news.” Because, folks, that’s what they do.
Once upon a time, a long time ago—before most people alive today were born—there was a thing called the Nuremberg Trials. This was an international Court of Justice held to try the major figures of Nazi Germany, after Germany lost World War Two. The German city of Nuremberg was chosen, partly because it had one of the few structures that remained intact to house the Court, after most German cities had been destroyed by American and British bombs; but the choice also was symbolic. Nuremberg was a center of Hitler’s rise to power. It was in Bavaria, his stronghold—sort of like a modern Republican red state. Nuremberg was where Hitler held his greatest rallies—it was where Leni Reifenstahl filmed “Triumph of the Will.” And, in the end, Nuremberg was where a major portion of Nazi Germany’s leadership, civilian and military, were hanged.
A good part of the Hitler narrative concerns how such a madman rose to power, or was allowed to rise to power. Looking back in retrospect, it’s easy to say that Germany should have gone a different route. Most people, including Germans, knew that he was bonkers. Most of his Generals and Admirals thought he was a blithering idiot. The media—and Germany had one of the healthiest newspapers industries in the world—did what they could, at first, to report on him and his associates and their awful predilections for disinformation and violence. It didn’t matter. One by one, Hitler disassembled them. He bamboozled the people by playing to their fears and hatreds. He went right past his Generals and Admirals by threatening their jobs and appealing to their patriotism, even though they knew he was bad news; and if they continued to resist him, he fired them. As for the legitimate media, they were beaten up by his storm troopers, rounded up by his S.S., and brought to concentration camps if they dared to write anything that might offend Der Fuehrer. In the end, there was nobody to stand up to Hitler. The result: 60 million deaths, the destruction of Germany and its allies, and a major victory for Hitler’s avowed arch-enemy, Soviet Russia.
America stands now at a crossroads and needs to look to history to figure out where to go. I do not think a lot of people read history anymore. I think Republicans know even less history than Democrats. So allow me to explain. The Nazis appealed to their base through an ideology of resentment, race and nationalism. This current President appeals to his base through an ideology of Christian resentment and nationalism that also includes racial, xenophobic and homophobic elements. But the end result is similar. We are witnessing the coming of an authoritarian regime of paranoia and untrammeled lust for power, fueled by untruths that the Republican Party seems unconcerned with. The major charge leveled against those Nazi defendants in Nuremberg—beyond the specific charges, which varied by individual—was that they aided and abetted a criminal regime. They could have done something, but did nothing, to prevent it; hence, they were complicit. And their complicity caused them to swing by the neck from a rope in the courtyard of the Nuremberg Prison.
This is a cautionary tale: to Pence, to Priebus, to Spicer, to Kellyanne, to Ryan, to McConnell, to Trump’s Generals and Admirals, to his CIA director and to the entirety of his cabal, and, perhaps most interestingly, to James Comey. Your time is running out. You still have opportunity to warn us, particularly you, Mr. Comey, who are so afraid to stand up to your boss. Frick, Ribbentrop, Jodl, Keitel, Streicher, Seyss-Inquart, Sauckel—their names are well known to historians—were hanged at Nuremberg. Himmler, Goring, Goebbels and Hitler himself, not to mention his wife, in addition to scores of other Nazi leaders, killed themselves before they could be arrested.
I have no doubt that, someday, America will have its own version of the Nuremberg Trials, to bring before a Court of Justice this rogue regime. Where will it be held? Symbolism is important. My suggestion is to have it at Mar-a-Lago. At 110,000 square feet, it’s commodious enough to house the Justices, the witnesses, the defendants, and the media who will cover it. Perhaps in the future, the Mar-a-Lago Trials will stand beside the Nuremberg Trials as shining examples of how decent world citizens, sickened by criminal regimes, held evil-doers to justice.
Look, I do realize that Republicans hate these comparisons between their Leader and Hitler. So I’ll make this a little easier to swallow. There is a huuuge, major difference between the two men. Hitler worked on behalf Germany, or at least his understanding of what was in Germany’s interests. Trump is working for–whom? We don’t know. Let’s get an independent Special Prosecutor and find out.
I met Oded Shakked years ago when I was writing my first book, A Wine Journey along the Russian River. He had started Longboard Vineyards and I was giving him good reviews. His story—how he got from the Israeli Army to the Russian River Valley—was fascinating. Oded continues at the Longboard helm; I’ll be visiting with him at the tasting room in Healdsburg this weekend. He recently sent me his latest releases, which I was pleased to taste.
Longboard 2013 Mavericks – Chrome Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley): $65. Winemaker Oded Shakked is a surfer (hence “Longboard”); the name of this wine honors the Mavericks surfing competition, held annually south of San Francisco. The “Chrome,” Oded explains, is for a photograph of a big wave; I haven’t seen it, but supposedly it’s quite famous. Oded used to make a Cabernet from the Rochioli Vineyard. I don’t think he still does, but he learned his chops. He’s moved his Cabernet sourcing further east, to the warmer Alexander Valley, on the east side of the valley, where the appellation meets Chalk Hill and Cabernet has no problem ripening. The wine contains a splash of Malbec and Merlot from Oded’s own vineyard, in the northern Russian River Valley, from where the structure and acidity come. It’s quite a good wine, showing lush, plush black currant, teriyaki, anise and chocolate flavors, with a sweet-spicy earthiness that suggests black olive tapenade. I really like this Cab right now. You can probably age it for 5-8 years, but why bother. The alcohol is 14.5% and only 72 cases were produced. Score: 93 points.
Longboard 2014 Mystos Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): $55. This is a big, luscious Pinot Noir, the kind that smacks of the summer sun. Oded doesn’t want to reveal the name or location of the vineyard, other than to say it’s “hillside.” That’s a confidentiality agreement, common in wine country. It’s a solid wine, packed with ripe raspberries, persimmons and cherry cola; one-third new French oak for a year adds layers of vanilla and toast. The alcohol is a modest 13.9%. It’s super-drinkable now. I’m thinking of lamb or char-broiled filet of beef, or grilled salmon with wild mushrooms. Score: 92 points.
Longboard 2013 Syrah (Russian River Valley): $30. This is quite a delicious Syrah, easily worth the price. It’s soft and smooth, housing ripe, lush blackberry and blueberry jam, cocoa, crispy bacon, espresso, black pepper and smoky oak flavors, with a glyceriney sweetness in the finish. Glides over the palate like a velvet tapestry. I don’t know the exact grape sourcing; the Russian River Valley is a big place, but it tastes like it’s from the warmer, northerly parts. The wine is 100% Syrah, aged for 18 months in 30% new French oak. Oded, who is of Israeli extraction, says he likes this wine with lamb and kebab dishes. I concur. Drink now-2021. Alcohol 14.5%, production 422 cases. Score: 92 points.
Longboard 2014 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): $50. Oded Shakked is one of the few winemakers fortunate enough to obtain grapes from his old friends, the Rochiolis. The vineyard, in a warmer part of the valley on Westside Road, is, of course, one of the greatest in California for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This fresh, young wine is made in the classic Burgundian way, with 40% new French oak barrel fermentation and aging on the lees. It’s very rich and intricate, with layers of crème brulée, orange custard, golden mango, honey and buttered cinnamon toast. That makes it sound like a dessert wine, but it’s quite dry and racy. Oded predicts that it will age; I don’t think so. So drink it now with the richest foods: Dungeness crab, lobster, scallops, a wild mushroom risotto. Alcohol 14.2%, 186 cases produced. Score: 92 points.
Square Peg is a winery I was unfamiliar with until they sent me these two Pinot Noirs. Both are from the estate vineyard, which is near Occidental, at the junction of Russian River Valley, Green Valley and Sonoma Coast. The vineyard is dry-farmed, unusual in my experience for this part of the world. The owner is a guy named Brad Alper, a former American Airlines pilot who retired in 2012. The winemaker is William Knuttel, who was winemaker at Saintsbury for a long time, and knows Pinot Noir.
Square Peg 2014 SP-SL Vineyard Block 8 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $65. The winery hasn’t made clear what the difference is between their Block 1 and Block 8 Pinots [see below]. The alcohol, 14.5%, is the same. The case production is roughly the same. The acidity and pH are pretty much the same. The difference seems to be that Block 8 was harvested at significantly lower brix than Block 1, and that does seem to be the crucial difference. The wine is lovely, with raspberry, strawberry and cherry fruit, and a tight, taut mouthfeel. I’m giving it two extra points over Block 1 because it has more delicacy and finesse. Score: 93 pojnts.
Square Peg 2014 SP-SL Vineyard Block 1 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $65. No stems in the fermentation of this garnet-colored wine, which despite its alcohol level of 14.5% is silky and delicate, with refined tannins. The flavors tread an interesting line between earthy-mushroomy, with a slight tomatoey greenness, and more generous raspberries, cherries and persimmons. The acidity is just fine. It’s a wine that hints of complexity. Fine to drink now and over the next six years. Score: 91 points.
The Wall Street Journal, predictably, ignored the real point of yesterday’s story about the CIA hacking, in their editorial, “Wikileaks’s New Damage,” when they said, “The country [Wikileaks] loathes and wants to bring low is America.”
Not quite true. That doesn’t square with the fact that Wikileaks, in combination with Putin and we-don’t-yet-know-who on Trump’s staff, got Donald J. Trump elected President. So it’s not true that they “want to bring America low.” No, what they want to bring low is American-style liberal democracy, and particularly the Democratic Party. What they want to see is a strong, plutocratic, paranoid, Republican America, led by a looting family run by an authoritarian demagogue—which, curiously, sounds like Russia.
But why? What could possibly be Wikileak’s motive?
First, note the curious timing of this latest dump about the CIA. Why did Assange act now? Well, guess what scandalous series of stories this new news is deflecting attention from? Yes, Trump’s Russia connection and, more importantly, his psychotic accusation against President Obama.
Why Trump invented that one is obvious. He’s desperate to change the subject. His lie about Obama tapping Trump Tower is only the latest example of his watch-the-shiny-object prevarications. Who thinks this stuff up anyway—Trump, all alone in the middle of the might, snorting coke? Or Trump with Bannon, which is pretty much the same thing?
The question of why Julian Assange supports Donald Trump has mystified everyone who’s looked at it. It’s a WTF? moment: Assange, supposedly the champion of open government, siding with a crazy, incompetent fool. One theory is that Assange, who’s holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and is said to be physically and mentally deteriorating, believed that a President Trump might help free him if he, Assange, helped Trump get elected—whereas Hillary Clinton would provide Assange a one-way ticket to Leavenworth, were he to return to America. He clearly hates her; “[O]ur next leak can bring her down because it is something that FBI can’t overlook,” he bragged to Putin’s Russia Today radio show, a little more than a month before the election—a threat that turned out to be true in the sense that the leaks convinced just enough swing voters to vote for Trump.
Another theory is that Assange really, really likes Putin, even more than Trump does. Assange once was a radio talk show host on “Russia Today,” and even requested (but did not get) a Russian security detail to protect him in his embassy confinement.
Why is the Wall Street Journal so naïve about Wikileaks? They want to put Wikileaks out of business, and they’d love to see Assange in jail. But editorially, they have never copped to the curiosities of the Trump-Russia-Putin connection, and they seem blind to the fact that Assange himself might well be a Trump mole. Of course, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is not where you go to find out facts; it’s where you see what the right wing fascists and their paid minions are up to. I make the distinction between the paper’s op-ed pages and their news coverage; the real reporters (unlike the columnists) want to do good journalism. But in this, they are increasingly stymied. An interesting peek into the inner mentality of the Wall Street Journal appeared last month, in which WSJ reporters were said to be “increasingly concerned that the paper’s coverage of President Donald Trump is not critical enough and too willing to defend his actions rather than serve a watchdog role.” For example, an ukase went out from the paper’s editor-in-chief (who obviously got it straight from Murdoch) instructing reporters “to stop referring to the countries targeted in President Trump’s travel and refugee executive order as ‘seven majority Muslim countries’ in news coverage. That was after Trump’s first travel ban went down in flames because the Courts understood it for what it was: anti-Muslim religious discrimination.
I was a journalist for thirty years. It’s demoralizing to be told not to tell the truth because it might upset your boss’s rich and powerful friends. On the other hand, if you’re a Wall Street Journal reporter, you have a pretty good job, and you don’t easily risk it by publicly criticizing your boss, or by engaging in fruitless inter-office complaining that will just get you the reputation of being a pain in the ass. So you do your best, hope that things get better, censor yourself—and hit the bars and maybe the bong after work, to forget how humiliating it all is.
Whenever I hear a Republican use the word “choice” I reach for my gun. Choice, for Repubs, means: We’re taking your rights away, only we’re calling it something that sounds positive. Now, they want to take away guaranteed, affordable healthcare for tens of millions of people and replace it with: “If you can afford it, fine. If you can’t, stop whining.” It’s funny; they hate the notion of “choice” when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, but they love it when they can dismantle a government program that helps real people. Of course, they can’t admit they’re wrecking a popular program, so instead they resort to Orwellian double-speak: “We’re taking away affordable healthcare from you, but don’t worry, you’ll have many more choices than you had under that awful Obamacare.”
Another favorite Republican word is “innovate” Now, they want to destroy Obamcare to let the states “innovate.” What it really means is: We’ll let states discriminate against minorities, instead of having a common national standard of fairness for all Americans. Let North Caroline “innovate” in deciding who’s free to use which bathroom. Let Mississippi, one of the poorest, unhealthiest states, “innovate” by cutting the amount of money they spend on rural healthcare. Let Texas make it harder for people of color to vote by “innovating” on the Voting Rights Act. Same thing when Repubs, like HHS secretary Price, talk about “empowering Americans” with Trumpcare. What a load. To them, “empowering” means taking away current rights and then forcing the disenfranchised to figure out how to do without them.
Imaginery conversation. Here’s HHS’s Price to Poor Person: “I’m taking away your healthcare subsidy.”
Poor Person to Price: “Then how can I afford healthcare?”
Price: “I’ve empowered you, dude!”
Repubs are touting “a broad set of plans Americans can actually use” as their rationale for Trumpcare. Interpreted, that means “You’ll be able to have the plan you can afford. And since our new law is going to make healthcare a lot more expensive, that means more of you will not be able to afford coverage at all.” Repubs also are hell-bent on killing Medicaid; they are about to yank insurance away from millions of the poorest Americans. In eliminating the Medicaid expansion part of Obamacare, they are making it nearly impossible for cash-strapped states to come up with the money to provide insurance to their poorest citizens.
But hey, that’s choice! Innovation! Empowerment!
The chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, when asked yesterday if he earnestly believes Trumpcare will increase quality and coverage while decreasing costs, replied, “Not only do I think that but President Trump believes that.” Well, that’s reassuring no? Donald J. Trump, the fount of truth and credibility, who never told a lie. Doesn’t that make you feel better?
Similarly, when I hear Repubs talk about “access” to healthcare, I hear: “Dear Americans, each of you will be able to get a healthcare plan, in theory. Whether or not you can afford it is a different story. But, hey, that’s not our problem, it’s yours!” It’s like saying, “You have access to the Moon.” True, dat—in theory. But I can’t get there on my own.
As for those “health savings accounts,” major problems! First and foremost, you can only put money into an H.S.A. if you have discretionary income, just like with an I.R.A. or 401(K). And a lot of people don’t have that extra $50 a month. Secondly—again like a retirement plan—it takes years to build up enough capital in a health savings account for it to do any good. If you’re facing a mastectomy or stent procedure, you need the money now, not in five years. Do you have any idea how long it would take for the average $50,000 a year wage earner to save up for a stent? The Affordable Care Act gave people that money now, through subsidies and the Medicaid expansion. This replacement is a con job that will cost lives; tax exemptions will do nothing for poor people who barely pay taxes anyway. But then, Republicans don’t care about poor people.
Look, there was never anything wrong with the Affordable Care Act that some congressional tinkering couldn’t fix. Obama himself so acknowledged. But Repubs were never interested in fixing it. They wanted to insult President Obama, personally and politically. They wanted to humiliate a man they hated, because he was a Democrat…because he was articulate and respected…because he was kind and smart…because they’re afraid History will adjudge him to have been a great President…because he is black…because he has a beautiful, black wife and two beautiful black daughters, thus lending the lie to the Republican meme that “The blacks” (as Trump calls them) are “thugs” who have “no spirit.”
Now, they’ve done what they wanted. I’m sure Obama is sitting in a dark room someplace, nursing his wounds and feeling resentful. Not! I think he’s getting ready to come out any day now and take some kind of active leadership of The Resistance. He went overboard to be respectful of Trump and, post-election, Obama did everything he could to remain above the fray and be helpful. But imagine how he must feel. Most everybody I know loathes Trump. Obama has special reasons to hate him—not so much personally, for Obama is above that sort of petty emotion, but to hate him for the disgrace with which Trump has stained the American Presidency.
Wouldn’t it be something if Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush held a joint news conference in which they warn America about the dangers of this man and his regime? We know how George W. feels about Trump: Trump not only insulted him repeatedly but was personally offensive towards George’s little brother, Jeb. I was not a big George W. fan, but let’s give him credit for being a decent human being, with an interest in preserving the dignity of the Oval Office, and in seeing only honorable men or women occupy it. Which is not the case now.
President Bush? President Clinton? President Obama? Talk to each other. The quaint old practice of ex-Presidents retiring into a shell of silence is over. Your country needs you!
There’s been so much back-and-forth tail-wagging-the-dog in this so-called administration that we’re getting sore necks from watching it. First the ridiculousness of the “Obama tapped my phone” lie, and then, as American started realizing how absurd that was, yesterday’s launch of version 2.0 of the Muslim ban.
This is all meant to distract the public from the single, ongoing issue that will probably bring Trump down: his Russia-Putin connection and the conspiracy to cover it up. It’s fun watching Republican politicians deal with that one. They know there’s something really troubling out there. Moreover, they know their constituents are worried about it. They know they have to hold investigations in the Congress that pass the duck test, which is to say, they have to be seen as non-partisan and thorough. Thus we have Trump surrogates, including those he insulted like Little Marco Rubio, promising to follow the facts wherever they lead. “We’ll be guided by the truth,” he promises.
The obvious problem with this current regime is, of course, something Pontius Pilate asked two thousand years ago. “What is truth?” No matter what investigative body finally releases a full report on the Trump-Putin ties, Trump will question its validity. And with multiple reports likely, there will be just enough discrepancy of facts to allow Trump to question them. He will always be able to take advantage of the singular fact that parts of the reports will have to be redacted. The intelligence communities will say this is to protect sources and methods. Trump and his surrogates will say that we can’t trust anonymous quotes from individuals who don’t want this President to succeed. In the middle will be the American public, who predictably will be divided along the same ideological lines as always. Forty percent will believe Trump. Forty percent will think he’s lying. And that squishy twenty percent in the middle won’t be sure.
So how will we get ourselves out of this impasse? It’s going to come down to Republicans. After all, they got themselves, and us, into this mess, by allowing their party to nominate a crazy person. Democrats warned them all along; they wouldn’t listen; their leaders, like Ryan and McConnell, tucked their tails between their legs and went into submission mode. Now that they’re in it for a dime, they have to be in it for a dollar—in other words, to the bitter end.
But do they? At some point, when things get bad enough—and they’re pretty bad now—these senior Congressional Republicans are going to have to go public with their doubts and fears. Who will be the first? We have the McCain-Graham dynamic duo, true; but these Senators so far have been all hat and no cattle, talking a good game but doing absolutely nothing to stop this train wreck. So forget about them.
Who else? Forget about McConnell, too. That guy has been in the tank for so long, he wouldn’t know good government if it bit him on the ankle. Which leaves Ryan. Now, admittedly he’s a long shot. He could have denounced Trump well before the election. He should have. He knew—knows—that this President is mentally unstable and dangerous. A lot of people were hoping, last summer and fall, that Ryan would give them a sign it was okay to resist. But he never did. He choked.
Still, it has to be him. Who else has the power, the platform to come out and say that this President has to go? Democrats can say it over and over and over and it won’t matter to the teabaggers who like Trump, or at least are willing to overlook his mental illness because he’s their guy. It has to be a big Republican who steps up to the plate—a profile in courage. Does Paul Ryan have what it takes? He probably dreams of being President someday. Which path forward leads him closer to that goal—to remain a shill for a disastrous administration led by a paranoid, pathological liar who doesn’t care about destabilizing America and the world if it furthers his own lust for power? Or to stand before the American public and tell the truth, even if it means alienating large numbers of Republicans and possibly even losing his next election?
If you’re Paul Ryan and you foresee a political future for yourself, the only honorable path has to be to tell the truth: on warning America, and on taking the reins of the Republican Party and leading it back to sanity. Speaker Ryan, you know what I say is true. Your family understands it. Your friends understand it—not your fake friends, those sycophants who attach themselves to your power, but those who truly love and care about you. I know they’re whispering in your ear to distance yourself from this President, from his nepotistic family, and from the lunatics they surround themselves with. Listen to them. For once, Mr. Speaker, do the right thing.