Desperate Ploys for Desperate Losers
Fuming over dire polling, Trump’s latest tantrum forces relief checks to show his name. Big Deal! So he pisses again on the Hatch Act, that invisible law prohibiting overt, blatant misuse of official government business to advance overt, blatant partisan politics. Far more ominous, and unpunished: Ukrainian blackmail. Or disguising his garbage-dumping campaign rallies as “pandemic press conferences.” Or forever hawking his own hotels and resorts – driving endless emolument mayhem. It took a global pandemic to shred prohibited Trump, Inc. profits for winning office and becoming a “public servant.”
After all, doesn’t every president outdo all others in some curious regard? Trump, more than most. To echo the imperious producer (played by Dustin Hoffman in the piercing satire “Wag the Dog”), I say about Relief-Check Gate: “This is nothing.” More outrages loom, as WH desperation grows, and thus a few modest projections below. Following the Trump blueprint, “Don’t say something can’t be done until it’s done.”
Trump hatches more Hatch Act corruptions in a fortnight than any sleazy president in four years (with nine months to go). Staff and relations add to the merriment: say, the (unpunished, short-lived) scandal when senior lackey Kelly Ann Conway brashly promoted Ivanka’s clothing line during official duties. Or when that icon of nepotism, Jared “the slumlord” Kushner, leveraged political heft to gain high-risk loans that saved him from NY real estate debacles. Talk about a chip off the old blockhead!
So, is one minuscule scandal worth a headline, paling beside oceans of lawlessness? Well, the Washington Post thought so, however ludicrous, “These lawyers say Trump’s name on stimulus checks might be a crime.” “These” worthies being one Republican (Bruce Fein, worked for Reagan and party), one independent (Louis Fisher, for four decades the Library of Congress constitutional scholar) and Ralph Nader (gadfly, progressive and presidential candidate). Really, who short of God Almighty overrules the plaint Treasury secretary or commands this Justice Department to handle Hatch violations? The Pelosi-Schiff House aside, who or what dare indict the “perfect” Donald, the slipperiest snake ever to slink into the White House basement?
By stridently pushing drugs that prompt heart seizures – or poison cleansers to dispatch more Americans, the Vanity-in-chief commits a crime against humanity, impeachable or not, once an hour when awake. Slightly less when asleep or mesmerized by FOX State TV. What else drives Trumpism but abusing “official business” for one, selfish, overriding obsession: re-election? Nada. Not what in the good old days qualified as public service, nor restraining the pandemic, nor missing a beat to enrich the rich with new tax welfare. Take the latest bailouts: $500+ billion in corporate “loans,” dished out by Treasury alone, without transparency. Now that’s a scandal.
Trump has no chance without yanking every underhanded tactic – and would it matter if he were behind or not? If current doomsday polling holds, Biden widely ahead, even manipulating the Electoral College may not work. Yet, if he repeats, so does the horror of illegitimacy rear its head – and he gets undressed by the popular vote, again. “Man-nip-pul-la-tion” is the only mantra left to the struggling strongman, searching for the magic, symbolic bullet that will change increasingly untenable reality to his will.
So, admitting the vagaries of prophecy, let’s imagine what’s next. Executive Orders are a dime a dozen so why won’t Trump rename Washington, say, Trumpville or Trump City, or even Trumpington, to finish the rhyme? Why not command a substitute, like the Really Really White House or the White House of Trump or Trump Tower White House? Grifters are shameless but they understand symbolic power plays, and Trump could well imagine civic names as one remaining legacy ploy. Names outlast both criminality and the competition, even failed insurgents: recall treasonous Confederate heroes still worshiped with prominent statues in town centers and museums.
Unless of course instructing the sick to ingest deadly disinfectants – because tough cleaners kill germs – doesn’t memorialize Trump for eons. Thanks to his pandemic strike-out, with the bases loaded, he faces blame for inevitable, enduring economic misery. Thus Trump amplifies his record-breaking run, adding to reams of deception, battering the middle-class, climate-worsening deregulation and winning hypocrisy gold when anointing himself “disinfectant” to all noxious elites.
As with overweening Roman conquerors, should not public nomenclature mirror perceive heroic winners? Hail to Caesar still in office, despite rushing to offend Congress and break once inviolate Constitutional limits. Will Trump ever stop basking in the dubious glory of escaping only our third impeachment fiasco? Wonder to behold: Trump remains after three unimaginable years – something our great-grandchildren will find as inexplicable as the Abominable Snowman or men from Mars.
To paraphrase, “To the spoiled victors go the victorious spoils.” Here was the least prepared candidate ever, on par with the sleaziest used car salesman or motel manager. And yet this phenom wriggled his way to highest office, only to incite a never-before-experienced cataclysm of criticism. Doesn’t that deserve some permanent memorial, if not for being the “best president still Lincoln”? If not a monument, then “Trump” tarnishing someplace or artifact – absent a flea circus or asylum in D.C. As Trump keeps saying, “what do you have to lose”? He shows just how much we lost. Under duress, malignant narcissists grab whatever “positivity” they can – anything to deny being disgraced and skunked in one season.
Postscript: The Good News
Many of us dread that neither America, nor democracy, will soon overcome Trump’s bad example for winning elections. How many ruthless politicians, whatever their stripe, won’t consider permanently lying through their teeth? How many wannabes get away with defying all criticism as “fake news” – demonizing anyone or anything as the “enemy of the people”? For how long can any demagogue succeed by reducing everything to mud-wrestling between them (the angry majority) and us (the shrinking minority know-nothing base)?
When Trump collapses, a matter of time, how many savvy rightwingers (pardon the contradiction) won’t conclude Trump was simply a lucky, one-off, celebrity phenomenon – just the timely reactionary to dumb down the aggrieved rubes? No doubt, other unprincipled knaves won’t resist “trying a Trump:” root out the dirtiest means, corral the most scurrilous allies, banish fear of the press, and stomp on the least informed and most pliant white “victims.”
And yet there is hope: Sunday night Trump pitched this election as a referendum on his unbelievably “successful” pandemic governance, showing off his obvious genius (especially as TV doctor) throughout this crisis. If that tactic works, America’s standing (and prosperity) will fall like the March stock market collapse. Only an arrogant, fixated dotard, who believes his sycophantic yes-men on staff and at FOX, would make a series of monumental Covid-19 calamities as his hill to die on. Getting off scot-free from inflated death tolls and expanding pandemic infection is the ultimate Trump delusion.
Frankly, such nonsense sounds like desperation. Trump slammed his own campaign manager when told about dreadful polling, likely to get worse. This election ill be less about the flawed Biden, or suspect Democrats, than mounting mortality totals (through October), Trump fatigue and his well-deserved blame – capped by his self-destructive brew of empty bravado, medical blarney and upwards of 20000 lies by November. WH insiders Monday projected for Doctor Death double the viral U.S. deaths by June — and testing remains minuscule.
Eventually, either reality will out or a once significant country will dive headlong into an Alice-like fantasyland of our own making. I am optimistically, even safely betting that the reality of three years of infamy will trump the worst president ever to win, let alone run for re-election. If this is Trump’s fiction of making America great, I bet more than enough voters will understand by November what is manifestly, exactly the opposite.