Whenever my phone vibrates it can be anything, from a message from a Nigerian prince looking for someone to share his fortune with, to breaking news. I was reading on the couch in my office when I picked up the phone to learn that it was the latter and that, in a matter of moments, the crap would be hitting the fan.
The New York Times was breaking the news that a Manhattan Grand Jury had indicted former President Trump for some alleged skullduggery that took place in a hush money payment to a porn star over an alleged episode of some rolling in the hay between Trump and the porn-ette. To be clear, a straight hush money payment is not against the law, but to cook the books in order to hush up the hush money is.
My first reaction? “Good.” Finally someone was charging this corrupt scofflaw with something, even though this case is a minor league one compared to the ongoing investigations by a federal special prosecutor and Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County Georgia. I fantasized seeing Trump, cuffed and wearing a jumpsuit that coordinates with his spray on tan, getting thrown in a cell with a 400 pound serial killer sporting a “Born to Lose” tattoo across his neck.
By the next day my fantasy had lost its luster. Certainly it’s a good thing to know that a former president is not above the law. Unfortunately this equal portioning of justice is coming at a high price.
It didn’t take long for the carnival of cynicism to commence. Over on MSNBC, where Alex Wagner and Katie Phang never bother to hide their grins while commenting on news that’s bad for Trump, news of the indictment must have sent them into orgasms. Meanwhile, on Fox, Tucker Carlson and the rest of the right wing fantasy machine was apoplectic.
Those Democrats who chose to comment trotted out the standard “nobody is above the law” boilerplate even though they know that if you have money and standing and influence you quite likely can levitate comfortably above the law. Meanwhile, schlubs like us don’t get to hire an expensive team of lawyers who can stretch out a traffic citation protest into a multi-year court drama replete with motions and appeals.
The battle lines were being drawn before news of the indictment even came down. Republican politicians had already settled into their respective corners.
In one corner you have the non-committals. Mary Pelotola from Alaska and Don Bacon of Nebraska have expressed a ‘let justice play itself out,’ stance. Mitch McConnell and John Thune who, for some time now, have displayed symptoms of acute Trump fatigue, have remained quietly on the sidelines.
In another corner you have the ones who are constantly foaming at the mouth. Steve Scalise tweeted, “one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents.”
Elise Stefanik, who traded her integrity for Trump’s favor and any power, however temporary, that comes with it, called the indictment a “dark day for America.”
Lindsay Graham got his panties in a bunch and went on Fox and begged the Trump flock to donate money because, “They are trying to drain him dry.” It’s not clear who “they” are – it never is. It’s just “THEY.” This is the same Lindsey Graham who after the January 6th insurrection stood before the Senate and the world and proclaimed himself “done” with Donald Trump.
The batshit, white trash princess, Marjorie Taylor Greene, is fulminating and beating the bushes looking for some Jewish space lasers to turn against Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who probably had visions of his de facto boss Greene coming at him with a cattle prod, came to heel and termed the indictment an “unprecedented abuse of power.”
And then there are the Republicans who have announced their candidacy for president and will at some point down the road be targeted by Trump for having the audacity to run against him. This group is walking a tightrope. They would love to see Trump knocked down a few pegs but they can’t hack off the base.
Actually it’s not the whole base they’re courting, just that part of the base that’s wavering on Trump and might be up for grabs once the primaries begin. The other part of the base is the one that will never renounce Trump. For them Trump has joined God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It’s no longer a holy trinity but a holy quartet.
Nikki Haley called the indictment “revenge.” Mike Pence, who Trump once called a “pussy,” for not helping overturn Biden’s election called it an “outrage.”
America’s preeminent fascist, Ron DeSantis, a sort of low rent Benito Mussolini with slicked back hair said, “The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head. It is un-American. The Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney has consistently bent the law to downgrade felonies and to excuse criminal misconduct. Yet, now he is stretching the law to target a political opponent.”
DeSantis made sure to include George Soros in his rant because George Soros, along with Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci are the Republican’s bogeymen. For his part Soros said that he doesn’t know Bragg, nor did he contribute to Bragg’s campaign, but for DeSantis and other Republicans that’s just an inconvenient detail.
DeSantis latest defense of Trump was a strident, full throated denunciation of Bragg, that he hoped would mollify any MAGAts who might have been pissed off by an earlier comment in which DeSantis issued a weak defense of Trump that ended with a classic backhand. “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,” said DeSantis. It was a thinly veiled and polite way of saying, ‘I only bang my wife. If you want to know how to sweep your infidelities under the rug, go ask that perv Donald.’
This may have been a bridge too far as DeSantis is slipping in the polls. Maybe it wasn’t his weak support of Trump. Maybe DeSantis projecting himself as a low calorie version of Trump isn’t the right tactic. He’ll never win over the true believers, the ones who are so far gone they’re willing to follow Trump over the cliff. Trying to appear Trump-lite might not play with the ones who are fed up with Trumpism, even a version that has a little polish to it.
All of this outrage and indignation has come before, b-e-f-o-r-e, the charges have been unsealed. All the harrumphing by the party that used to be all about “rule of law,” is over something that is, well, a complete mystery. All of the posturing is about saving political skins. The whole quaint notion of love of country has been supplanted by the drive to remain in power for as long as possible before retiring and cashing-in by writing a book, or becoming a lobbyist, or going on the speaking circuit.
And the anger at Bragg? He didn’t issue the indictment. It was 23 Manhattanites, regular citizens who while performing their civic duty, looked at the evidence and said, ‘hmmm, something looks a little fishy here.’
Most of the posturing is born of the fear of pissing off Trump and his base. The exceptions are Greene, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan and the other loony tunes who are true believers. Most other Republicans are wearing a public mask of outrage while privately telling their spouses that it wouldn’t hurt their feelings to see Trump wearing an orange jumpsuit in a prison yard, turning big rocks into small ones.
And then there’s Trump himself. For most politicians, getting indicted for silencing a porn star over a poke would mean political death. The poke all by itself would be fatal. Just ask Gary Hart, whose promising run for the presidency wound up in a ditch because it was revealed that he was dipping his wick outside of the marital bed.
But not Trump. For him, the indictment has become a cash cow. Five million and counting in less than a week.
And then there’s the woe is me tour. Trump wouldn’t be Trump if he didn’t dust off the “witch hunt,” “prosecution,” “it’s unfair,” playbook. “The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to ‘Get Trump,’ but now they’ve done the unthinkable – indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant Election Interference.”
Following the indictment, Trump is going to be making a statement at Mar-a-Lago. As Samuel L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park, “Hold onto your butts.” Or at least have a good stiff drink handy. Make it a double. No, a quadruple. Hell, leave the bottle, barkeep.
Realizing that there’s gold in that there indictment, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), decided to get him some. He’s also fundraising off this mess.
When Andrea Mitchell called Schiff out on it, Schiff did a magnificent two step and babbled something about “accountability,” “defending democracy,” “the rule of law,” and the always necessary, “nobody is above the law.” Schiff stressed that he will “speak out on it (the indictment).” He added, “I’m going to be pushing back against what Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan are trying to do in the House by running interference and trying to stop or somehow impede or discredit this investigation. That’s a continuing and important part of the work I’ve been doing to defend our democracy.”
He never once addressed the issue of fundraising off the indictment and being an MSNBC host, Mitchell let him off the hook. So much for penetrating journalism. It was a big disappointment all around but I’d already decided that I won’t be voting for Schiff for Senate anyway. My vote goes to Katie Porter who, by all accounts, still has a hold on her integrity.
I know plenty of people who share my political beliefs who are just dying to see Trump in handcuffs, doing the old perp walk. They’d love to see him in the stocks in a public square where the citizens can pelt him with rotting produce.
Not me. What purpose would it serve? So I can call my wife over to the TV? “Hey Cora, come look at this. A former president is doing the perp walk. Serves him right.”
And then what. A few seconds of “that’ll show you,” and meanwhile the country gets further divided. Humiliating Trump will serve no purpose other than to gin up more sympathy for a man who deserves no sympathy.
Do I think that Trump should be held accountable? Certainly. And there’s a lot to be accounted for. Ever since that dark day when Trump announced his candidacy we’ve seen a succession of nails driven into the coffin of democracy. He’s fucked up this country six ways from Sunday and he’s going to continue to do so. Turning this drama into a torch and pitchfork spectacle only makes it worse. There’s nothing here to be gleeful about.
All of us, especially those who share my own political beliefs should view this as a sad time in America.
What saddens me the most is the cynicism and all of the self-serving posturing that has been revealed over the course of the past week. Politicians, political hacks, commentators and the media are feeding off of this like the jackals that they are. It’s hard to find someone who cares more about this nation and the preservation of the world’s oldest democracy and less about the riches, power, exposure or position that they can milk from this mess.