You have seen them on high, scurrying with great urgency between columns of marble, the clicks of Armani-heeled favor seekers never far behind. You have heard them in the past few days, saying they are “troubled” or “disappointed” about the latest assault on democracy from the White House.
They know enough history to get this: Donald Trump is the first president in history whose campaign has come under federal investigation for collusion with a hostile foreign power. And now the person heading that investigation, the FBI director, has been fired.
We’re looking for a few good men and women in Congress to understand the gravity of this debasement. We don’t need more parsing about the bad “optics” or “timing” of Trump firing the man who could have ended his presidency. We need a Republican in power to call it what it is: a bungled attempt to obstruct justice.
And the tragic part is that Trump is likely to succeed, at least in the short term. The person he chooses for FBI director will never assemble a prosecutable case of treason that leads to the doorstep of this White House.
The courts can do only so much. They can block orders that violate the Constitution. But they can’t be real-time truth seekers in a moment of real urgency. As for Ivanka Trump, the supposed sane person in an insane White House, she has only so many whispers into Daddy’s ear that will be listened to.
Thus, it falls to a half-dozen or so Republicans to heed the words of a man whose statue they pass every day in the Capitol. “Even if you’re on the right track,” said Will Rogers, Oklahoma’s gift to American gab, “you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
As it is, they’re getting run over. Things that never happened before now happen with such regularity that the numbing and the dumbing down can make a rational human inert. Trump is a tutorial in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation about “defining deviancy downward.” Here is a man who doesn’t share basic democratic values, who uttered nearly 500 lies or misleading statements in his first three months in office, and it has all become mere background – the screen saver of this presidency.
The civilized world was recently appalled at Trump’s outreach to tyrants from North Korea, the Philippines and Turkey. This week, we find out that the family of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, offered Chinese business owners a path to U. S. citizenship if they invested in a Kushner property. And a White House visit of Russian political operatives was closed to the American press. We needed Tass, which is to Vladimir Putin what Fox News is to Trump, to provide official documentation for that meeting.
The Trump White House makes gangsters look more civilized, and organized. With Trump, as with most outsize characters in fiction or real life, character drives action. He’s a lifelong charlatan, a con man, a habitué of bankruptcy courts. He thinks this will blow over – everything always does. He’s off to Europe soon, the rogue man out. And that photo with Pope Francis will surely make people forget the chaos back home.
But the truth will come out. The journalism of the past few days – those labeled Enemies of the People by Trump now doing the people’s work, as envisioned by the founders – has been extraordinary.
It’s obvious that Trump fired James Comey because he was getting closer to the truth of what happened with Russian manipulation of the American election. His advisers say an enraged Trump screamed at the television when this story would not go away. “Russia, Russia, Russia,” Kellyanne Conway said, sounding like a “Brady Bunch” brat complaining about “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”
Trump’s assertion that Comey told him three times he wasn’t under investigation has yet to be backed up and looks like another bogus Trump claim, if not a violation of Justice Department protocol.
So, we turn to a handful of people in Trump’s own party to do something courageous – to do the job they were sworn to do. Trump was at 38 percent approval in Gallup’s tracking poll Thursday and 36 percent in a Quinnipiac survey – both historic lows at this stage in a modern presidency. These numbers may stiffen the spines of some Republicans in Congress.
The Irish Undertaker, Paul Ryan, is a lost cause – and increasingly looks like a bystander to the multiple-car wreck happening before him. The Senate leader, Mitch McConnell – whose wife, don’t forget, is in Trump’s Cabinet – is also sitting this one out.
Call out the names: Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, Richard Burr and Bob Corker, Ben Sasse and Lisa Murkowski. They have committees and investigators at their disposal. Their party impeached Bill Clinton for lying about sex. The least they can do is demand some accountability of a man whose entire presidency is a lie.