President Trump went bananas after the FBI’s sudden raid of his attorney’s office, home and hotel. “I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now,” Trump said, adding: “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”
There you have it. Trump now equates the nation with himself. “The president’s words were more befitting a mob don when the feds are closing in,” said former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen. “Given Michael Cohen’s role in Trump’s past, perhaps they are.” (Yes, the DONald has long had mob ties. That has mattered to his rabid followers about as much as his racism, misogyny, wife-cheating, bill-stiffing, law-violating, bullying, and so on.)
Jennifer Rubin, one of the few prominent conservatives who has held on to her principles in opposition to Trump, described just how unhinged the man with the nuclear codes became in the wake of the news:
The president, seated alongside his top military and civilian national security advisers to discuss a response to the Syrians’ use of chemical weapons, launched into a rant in which he did not rule out firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, accused law enforcement of bias, whined that Hillary Clinton was not being prosecuted, suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had behaved improperly in signing off on the Foreign Intelligence Amendment Act (FISA) warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, railed again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not recusing himself (and thereby allowing the investigation proceed) and deemed execution of a warrant signed off on by a federal judge and approved by a U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, both of whom he appointed, to be an “attack” on the country.
Such a raid requires the authorization of a federal judge or magistrate, who must be persuaded by highly credible evidence of a crime. That’s all the more so in this highest-of-profile cases. But of course to the lawless president, it is an attack on the nation, meaning himself. As Rubin put it:
Trump in essence declared war on the rule of law. “It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” said the president, who now equates the operation of the criminal-justice system under the rule of law to be an attack on the country. He is the country in his eyes. Those who challenge him are enemies of the country. There is no better formulation of his authoritarian, anti-democratic mindset than this….
Trump’s rambling, unhinged reaction — after his attorneys no doubt counseled him to keep quiet — should shake his supporters. The pressure of the investigation and vulnerability to prosecution and/or impeachment are not going to vanish. His family and his fix-it lawyer won’t stop Mueller. His TV friends cannot keep the FBI at bay. He lashes out like a cornered animal. The angrier and more panicked Trump becomes, the greater chance he will behave in extreme and destructive ways.
Does the Republican Party have anyone left of moral standing? Anyone left with courage? Anyone left who will put country ahead of party? Frankly, it seems as though the answer is no. David Brooks, a moderate conservative who has been resolute in his criticism of the president, now appears to be waiving the white flag:
Over the past year, those of us in the anti-Trump camp have churned out billions of words critiquing the president. The point of this work is to expose the harm President Trump is doing, weaken his support and prevent him from doing worse. And by that standard, the anti-Trump movement is a failure.
We have persuaded no one. Trump’s approval rating is around 40 percent, which is basically unchanged from where it’s been all along.
We have not hindered him. Trump has more power than he did a year ago, not less. With more mainstream figures like H. R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn gone, the administration is growing more nationalist, not less.
We have not dislodged him. For all the hype, the Mueller investigation looks less and less likely to fundamentally alter the course of the administration.
Brooks points out that 89 percent of Republicans have a favorable impression of this most corrupt president and administration the nation has seen since the disgraced Harding Administration of the early 1920s. Brooks points to another recent poll showing that 59 percent of Republicans consider themselves more supporters of Trump than of the party. Trump IS the party now. And he has proven the truth of his campaign brag that he could shoot someone in cold blood on Fifth Avenue and his followers wouldn’t care.
Trump is Exhibit A in the disgraced state of American Christianity. He is the epitome of everything people who actually follow Christ should vehemently oppose, and yet white Christians overwhelmingly voted for him, and still adore him.
A great storm is brewing, and it threatens to become the most devastating storm humanity has ever faced, with the potential to destroy industrial civilization and eventually the lives of most human beings and most of our fellow species. Trump embodies the desperate denial many Americans have embraced, hoping for a savior to bring about prosperity while at the same time living in numb fear of the end that is coming. Grasping for scapegoats in every direction–blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, gays, atheists, liberals, feminists, environmentalists–they completely misread the signs of the times, and their own complicity in the destruction they fear. Brooks is probably right, the anger and fear and denial have gone on for too long and grown too powerful to turn back anymore. But we must try and break through the denial. Only grief can break through such a strong wall, and point toward genuine hope.
“Humanity needs to weep,” says Pope Francis, “and this is the time to weep.” If we don’t, the denial will win out, and the destruction to come will be catastrophic.
Photo: Caricature of President Trump. Creative Commons license; credit DonkeyHotey.