RHINEBECK, New York—USA
We are halfway through 2019 as members of the United States Congress are scurrying en masse back to home districts across the land, in accordance with one of their numerous recesses from important business we voters elected them to attend. Per the previous two years’ periodic recessionals, they abandoned Washington having done zilch about the most important business at hand: a one-man crime wave named Donald J. Trump.
Upon his inauguration as president, in January 2017, the ridiculously coifed Mr. Trump set forth to consolidate power. In this regard, he is an echo of the buffoonish Arturo Ui, gangster protagonist of the eponymous parable by German playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956). Whereas the fictional Herr Ui—a small-time Chicago hoodlum and vulgarian, as cautionary stand-in for Adolf Hitler—cornered the city’s cauliflower market by intimidating grocers, the vulgarian Donald Trump refashioned the once respectable Republican Party as a political cult, fearfully loyal to its master.
Ach der lieber! I needn’t recite Mr. Trump’s rap sheet of scandals and lies and felonies and all-to-evident incompetency, nor recount his starry-eyed praise of murderous thugs in Moscow and Pyongyang and Riyadh. Like sands upon a shore, these offenses are beyond number now. I must, however, pose a question: How is it so few in Congress dare heed the resistible rise of der amerikanisch Führer? How is it the leadership of the opposition Democratic Party dithers over the use of its power to impeach an increasingly authoritarian president who poses a clear and present danger to the U.S. Constitution?
—God of Irony: Of all five hundred and thirty-five members of Congress, merely one Republican has seen fit to demand the impeachment of our un-American American president. More on Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan later herein.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has returned to these shores following a junket in Japan, during which time he embarrassed America by insisting on cheeseburger meals—the proximate cause of his inability to button the coat of a suit built for two—and disgraced himself by appropriating a North Korean tyrant’s juvenile taunt against a former U.S. vice president and potential Democratic presidential candidate to oppose Trump in next year’s election.
“Kim Jong-un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that.”
The American embarrassment also took in a bit of sport: the Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium. There, he viewed the huffing and puffing of his fellow oddly coifed obesities—sweaty, barefoot men in loincloths with hair done up in top-knots, weighing in at an average three hundred and fifty pounds (158.8 kg). Physically unable to squat on a tatami mat like others in the traditional male-only audience, the notoriously germophobic Mr. Trump was fitted into a chair with a low back, sufficiently distanced from ringside so as to avoid the possibility of being splashed with wrestlers’ perspiration.
The long awaited 448-page report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller—constituting a two-year investigation of Donald Trump’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink-say-no-more collusive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin intelligence operatives—was released to Congress and the public on April 18. The document had been held captive for four weeks by Attorney General William Barr, a Trump lackey and the special counsel’s boss. Thus was Mr. Mueller obliged to first deliver the report to Mr. Barr, strictly confidential.
On receipt, Mr. Barr conducted a televised press conference to explain how he was honor-bound to sit on the report for a while in order to ferret out any unintended breaches of “national security.” But look here, the attorney general offered—I’ve written a summary of the findings. It was, of course, a pitifully inaccurate summary that allowed Mr. Trump to bray, “No collusion, no obstruction, total exoneration,” to which Republican congressional leaders added, “Case closed.”
Journalists and others who actually read the Mueller report disagreed. True, the report’s first half uncovered no evidence (though plenty of implications) that Mr. Trump and his campaign henchmen were complicit in “multiple, systematic efforts” by Russian cyber warriors to “interfere in our [2016 presidential] election.” But the second half listed ten damning occasions in which Mr. Trump obstructed justice by interfering in Mr. Mueller’s investigation—serious offenses, e.g. witness tampering, creating false evidence, sotto voce threats to fire Mr. Mueller—that moved more than nine hundred former federal prosecutors of both Republican and Democratic persuasion to sign a letter stating that Donald Trump, were he not president, could be criminally indicted and very likely convicted.
Too late. Mr. Barr’s “summary” played at the top of television news in a TV nation. Having grossly mischaracterized the Mueller report, especially as pertains to the second half, Mr. Barr’s erroneous frame was in place. As he undoubtedly (and cynically) knew, few Americans besides pesky newspaper scribes—and who reads newspapers anymore?—would bestir themselves to read the original source. Andy Borowitz, satirist for The New Yorker magazine, explained:
Among the report’s handful of non-journalist readers was the aforementioned Congressman Justin Amash, a conservative Republican who bluntly labeled the attorney general, a fellow Republican conservative, a “liar.” His statement, in part, to legislative colleagues in support of an immediate impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives:
“Contrary to [William] Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment. In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice…Impeachment [requires] a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.
Back in his home district last week, Mr. Amash held a community meeting with his constituents. Many, if not most, are vociferous supporters of Donald Trump. The cultists shouted impolite wishes for their congressman’s political future. Had they read the Mueller report—at least the second half, or at least the executive summary published as forward to the second half? Well, no, they answered the congressman. To which an exasperated Mr. Amash responded, “Call me when you’ve read it.”
Failing at least the official “impeachment inquiry” requested by Mr. Amash—along with a handful of House Democrats and several Democrats now campaigning for their party’s nomination for the presidential election of November 2020—I offer a modest proposal to address a true matter of national security: the need to oust Donald Trump from the White House.
If Congress will not act, it is time to call out the cavalry, so to speak; time to call on elder statesmen to set things aright; time to ask our living former presidents, one Republican and three Democrats, to pay a call on the White House; time for this delegation to confront Mr. Trump with an invitation to leave forthwith with some semblance of dignity—
The tactic worked back in 1974, when a troika of powerful Republican insiders—Senator Barry Goldwater, Congressman John Rhodes, Senator Hugh Scott—marched to the White House on August 7 to tell President Richard Nixon, in the midst of an impeachment inquiry regarding the infamous Watergate scandal, that it was time to go. Which prompted Mr. Nixon to announce his resignation on August 8, effective at noon August 9.
Whether or not my proposal could take effect, or even somehow attract consideration by the quartet of ex-presidents, the end of Mr. Trump’s presidency—peaceably or otherwise—is unlikely to kill the cult that put him in office, for that is an unholy assemblage of sixty-three million American voters. An end to the Trump era is unlikely to redeem a prostituted Republican Party, or inspire some newfound integrity among establishmentarians of the Democratic Party.
And of course, few will read the wisdom of Andrew O’Hehir, executive editor of Salon, the online magazine of political news and commentary. Mr. O’Hehir recently wrote of “grotesque contemporary figures” such as Donald Trump and his Republican allies:
“[They] have performed a vital public service by pushing beyond the boundaries of normalized corruption into bacchanalian self-parody. They have lifted the curtain and shown us the leering goblins that lie beyond.
“The public drama of impeachment is about 99 percent unlikely to result in Trump’s removal from office, but it could have immense symbolic and therapeutic importance—although not, I suspect, if it is understood as an end in itself.
“Impeachment is only worth pursuing as one facet of a larger…strategy to rebuilt democracy from the ground up, not as a medical miracle that by itself can cause the patient to spring up from his deathbed, flush with vigor.
So we Americans will have much to do when Mr. Trump leaves us, whether by impeachment or resignation at the behest of a four-man cavalry or a resounding defeat in next year’s election. (There is, of course, the possibility of his being frog-marched out of the Oval Office in a straightjacket.)
By whatever means necessary, he will be gone one fine day. But he is merely one man absent.
Consider a cursed line from Bertolt Brecht, regarding the demise of Arturo Ui: “Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.”
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag