On February 7th of this year, President Donald Trump, having been fully briefed on the danger posed by COVID-19, stepped to the podium in the White House briefing room and warned the American public that the virus was both airborne and lethal.
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For a while there, before things got as unimaginably bad as they’ve gotten, I somewhat enjoyed writing about the unprecedented incompetence, corruption, scandal, and cartoon-like madness of Donald Trump’s chaos presidency. There was mystery and intrigue and reasons galore for me to vent my righteous outrage about the petty, self-obsessed, lizard-brained conman who had ridden a wave of racism, misogyny, ignorance and greed into the most powerful office on earth … and, most compellingly, there was what, on multiple occasions, appeared to be the very real possibility that damning and richly deserved consequences were about to befall him.
It is adorable that Old Me had the capacity for that sort of optimism. I miss him.
You would think that, having spent five decades on this planet, and all of that time as an American citizen, and most of my adult life as a Democrat, I would have, by now, purposely drowned in a bathtub any remaining vestiges of my political optimism and idealism, but here we are.
In the wake of this week’s news that Senator Kamala Harris has restructured her campaign to go all-in on Iowa, I feel compelled to make a case for her candidacy … and even if you’re undecided, or you’ve already made up your mind to support someone else, there are good reasons for all of us to keep her in this race.
It seemed like it was going to be so good, didn’t it? That first “Stupid Watergate” movie? The stolen election, the illegitimate president committing obstruction of justice in public over and over, the Large Adult Son tweeting out evidence of collusion with Russia, the American hero poised to take them all down? Man, I really enjoyed those first two acts.
When I was much younger and didn’t follow politics closely enough to understand what really was going on, I believed that, regardless of who held the office, the president of the United States was mostly a figurehead — more of a symbol than an actual policymaker with the power to steer the country in one direction or another. Having lived through and followed rather closely the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and, unfortunately, Trump presidencies, and having compared the policy positions of those men with those of the opponents against whom they ran, I know now that I, of course, was wrong — mostly.
Time for a thought exercise. (Don’t worry; it’s an easy one.) Imagine, if you will, that there is a criminal in the White House. Investigators know it. Prosecutors know it. The people closest to him know it. And, of course, the criminal himself knows it.
It is human nature to try to make sense of the crazy thing happening before your very eyes by looking at it through the lens of the most similar thing to which it compares, so holding Trump’s aberrant presidency up against that of Richard Nixon is a natural response. The ways in which those two men, their presidencies, and their respective scandals differ, however, are at least as effective at predicting Trump’s fate as are the ways in which they are similar — the most notable difference, of course, being that Nixon was a smart and savvy politician who committed a crime, while Trump is an arrogant fool and dimwitted criminal who accidentally stumbled into the presidency while executing what he thought would be his greatest con.
Well, nice try everybody. I thought we had a pretty good night, but I guess that whole “Blue Wave” thing was just wishful thinking. Turns out there are fine voters on both sides, and the American electorate is evenly split. Half of us are angry, aggrieved, gullible lunatics who believe Hillary Clinton is using George Soros’ ATM card to fund an invading force of leprosy-ridden brown babies from South America, and the other half of us — you know, those who are capable of breathing with our mouths closed — apparently did little more than sort-of cancel out a potential Red Wave. At least, that’s what it seemed like based on much of the Election Night coverage I saw.
For a brief moment last Thursday, as Brett Kavanaugh began his opening remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I mistakenly thought he sounded contrite, and the sound that I mistook for contrition led me to believe for just a split second that he might actually take responsibility for his actions, apologize to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and withdraw his own nomination.
I think we can all agree it is truly adorable that, nearly two years into Donald Trump’s presidency and long after having had the concomitant realization that everyone with whom Trump surrounds himself is profoundly broken and unfailingly awful, I still somehow was capable of such unrealistic optimism.