|"THE NIGHTMARE" © MARK BRYAN|
Forty-five minutes at the barber shop the other day convinced me of what I had already suspected but did not want to admit: We can huff and puff all we want about Donald Trump's wildly aberrant behavior, his extralegal excursions and authoritarian impulses, but there is very little chance of removing him from office unless the Democrats retake Congress in 2018, and we may well have to wait until 2020 when the likelihood of Trump not running for re-election is probably pretty good.
In addition to getting a trim, that interlude at the barber shop included the unrelieved hell of having to listen to Fox News, and therein lies the basis of my angst.
The commentators on the conservative network Trump loves to watch were in high dudgeon over the "liberal news media," which was "picking on Trump," poor baby, "without cause" for his sacking James Comey, that "showboat" of an FBI Director whom he loved before he hated him. Something or other about Russia, I think. This lofty flight of Murdochian fantasy reflected not just the beliefs of Trump's small and shrinking base, but a lot of pusillanimous Republicans in Congress who lap up whatever flapdoodle the White House spins, which in the case of Comey was even more outrageous than usual.
(And spare me the Well, if Hillary Clinton had done half that stuff the articles of impeachment already would be drawn up bloviating. It's just one more example of liberals' penchant for false equivalencies, and I'm sick of them.)
Beyond Trump firing himself, there are only two ways for him to go: Through the 25th Amendment, which allows for replacement of a president who is judged to be mentally unfit, and good old impeachment. There is one other way, but the last thing we need is Trump as martyr.
Yes, Trump is unfit because he is demonstrably mentally ill. But invoking the 25th amendment would require Republican leaders, beginning with Trump's loyal vice president and the duplicity twins -- Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan -- to pull the trigger. That is not going to happen, while impeachment is not going to happen either with Congress firmly in Republican hands despite Trump's mounting list of impeachable offenses and predilection for self incrimination.
The sight of Trump, six months on, continuing to act like he is running for president because he knows that few people who matter consider him to be legitimate is pathetic. Goddammit, he is not legitimate, but he is surviving because America is caught between the rock of his obduracy and the hard place of the reality that our system of checks and balances is failing. At times it seems like that's exactly his intention, and Vladimir Putin must certainly be smiling. But it's dumb luck, with the emphasis on dumb.
This situation is not some abstract liberal vs. conservative point of view.
Trump the campaigner ranted about Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information while Trump the president boastfully reveals top-secret intel on ISIS while meeting with the Russian foreign minister and an ambassador long linked to the Russia scandal slowly eating away at his presidency. This, folks, is not a partisan matter unless you are a Republican lapel pin patriot who is far more interested in protecting his white ass than protecting America.
Trump's craziness has indelibly colored all our lives, as well as our country and culture. It's just that many conservatives are in denial even if an increasing number of the more thoughtful ones (George Will, Bill Kristol, Max Boot, David Brooks and Ross Douthat, to name a few) have fled the temple of Trump idolatry, although the sycophancy at Fox News and the deplorables out on the hustings still waiting for the nonexistent jobs that Trump promised them could give a fig.
"Trump is now a wounded animal, desperate and dangerous," writes Charles Blow in The New York Times with perhaps a bit of hyperbole. "Survival is an overwhelming, instinctual impulse, and one should put nothing beyond a being who is bent on ensuring it."
The suspicion grows that we're in line for another cold shower.
That would be failure to appoint a special prosecutor to pick up the ball from Comey and drive to the basket with the growing evidence that Trump's pals, if not he himself, helped Putin sabotage the Clinton campaign, with an unintentional assist -- yes, unintentional -- from none other than Comey himself.
Following Comey's summary execution, we have been reminded ad nauseam of the Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973.
To recap, most Republicans were reflexively defending President Nixon as the Watergate scandal grew and the attendant constitutional crisis deepened. And they stuck with him even after Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than carry out his order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
But three lonely Republicans -- Senate minority leader Hugh Scott, House minority leader John Rhodes and Senator Barry Goldwater -- had the guts to go to the White House and tell Nixon he had lost the support of his party and country. He soon resigned.
It is impossible to imagine that happening today.