About 14 months ago, American politics began to resemble a B-level Washington, D.C. novel. A former secretary of state was revealed to have endangered U.S. secrets and possibly sold aspects of U.S. foreign policy to the highest bidder. Will she face indictment? No. But the FBI director acknowledges that the only way she could possibly get around security clearance is through her election as commander in chief.
The writer might have come up with a more compelling character. Hillary Clinton is robotic, shamelessly money-grubbing, calculating, secretive and promiscuously deceitful — to the degree that if she has any discernible principles at all, they're the wrong ones. When she raises her voice, which is often, it sounds like screetching tires. She represents the status quo in a year of change.
As deep as the hole that Democrats have dug is, the Republicans have bested them with a full-on suicide that not even a novelist would have imagined. A mob of self-styled "conservative" activists, jumped-up talk radio and TV hosts and Republican Party apparatchiks (oh, does that word have new relevance), and a plurality of primary voters and spineless elected officials across the fruited plain have signed on with a repellent demagogue who will destroy the party at its moment of maximum opportunity.
Now that it's too late, the rats are asking to be rescued from the sinking ship they helped launch. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich hailed Trump's convention speech a "revolutionary moment" and reinforced Trump's reckless suggestion that NATO might not come to the aid of countries like Estonia in the event of a Russian invasion — among countless other lickspittle bits of analysis. But since Trump's terrible post-convention week Gingrich has discovered that candidate Trump is "unacceptable." He and other lackeys like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus are reportedly planning an intervention to get Trump to stop being Trump. Ha. Why now? Trump's ignorance, malevolence and instability have been on spectacular display for more than a year. Yet, men and women of honor and sanity boarded his cliff-destined train and buckled up.
There is no doubt that Trump has been his Trumpiest lately. He committed outrages against decency, truth and even his own best political interests at about twice his normal rate. In addition to dishonoring and insulting a Gold Star family and keeping up the feud for days (when he might have been discussing our dismal economic numbers), he vocally fantasized about punching out speakers at the Democratic National Convention; lied about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin (though video footage shows otherwise); threatened to fund challengers of Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich to punish their disloyalty; claimed that he had received a letter from the National Football League complaining about the presidential debate schedule (the NFL denies this); assured an interviewer that "(Putin's) not going into Ukraine, OK" only to issue a corrective tweet later, when he "learned" (remembered) that Putin is already in Crimea; and claimed that he turned down a meeting with the Koch brothers — false.
Now, Trump has batted eyelashes at House Speaker Paul Ryan's primary opponent and mused that he would not support Ryan or Sens. Kelly Ayotte and John McCain. There's your party leader, Republicans. Well done.
In the Claremont Review of Books, Martha Bayles reminds us of the adage of two barrels, one containing sewage and the other wine: "Add a cup of wine to the sewage, and it is still sewage. But add a cup of sewage to the wine, and it is no longer wine but sewage."
Trump is a pathogen, a man who heedlessly promotes conspiracy theories (vaccines cause autism, Obama was born in Kenya, Bush lied us into war in Iraq, Rafael Cruz was caught up in the JFK assassination). He is either not fully sane or at least indifferent to the demoralizing effect that such lies have on our social cohesion. A man whose confidence is so shaky that he must attest to his own intelligence, malign even the most insignificant critic, scapegoat minorities and threaten the free press is to be pitied — maybe — but not trusted with power. He is very, very comfortable stoking mobs and threatening violence. His warning that there would be riots in Cleveland if he failed to get the Republican nomination — to cite just one of the thousands of ways he has transgressed basic norms this year — ought to have been enough to activate the antibodies of a healthy electorate.
Every single Republican with influence, from the local sheriff to the speaker of the house, should have stood up on their hind legs and denounced this fraud (Where are his tax returns, again?), condemned his ugly methods and scorned his flood of lies, at every stage of this process. Every Republican should have lined up for Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Gov. Chris Christie's endorsement was the first tablespoon of sewage. Sen. Jeff Sessions' was the second. The list of defilers is too long to itemize now. R.I.P. GOP.
Photo credit: Max Goldberg