How Much More Absurdity Can You Handle?
The United States government is a shambles.
By Charles P. Pierce July 11, 2017
For your own reasons turn into your bosoms,
As dogs upon their masters, worrying you.
See you, my princes, and my noble peers,
These English monsters!
—Henry V, Act II, Scene 2
I waited all morning, all one rainy and dark Tuesday morning, for the story to slow down enough for me to catch up with it. And, while I was waiting, I wondered what if, on a similarly rainy and dark Tuesday morning in July of 1973, while the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Practices was conducting its hearings on television, Richard Nixon had called a press conference and simply played all the Watergate tapes for all the world to hear. Because, bless me, that seems very much like what Donald Trump, Jr. did on a July Tuesday in the year of our lord 2017. And that was where I finally caught up with the story.
When I went to bed Monday night, the hot revelation from The New York Times in which it was revealed that, back last summer, Junior had been told via email that the Russian government was trying actively to assist his father’s presidential campaign and to ratfck the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton. This was prior to the meeting arranged by Russian power-lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which Junior attended with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, the revelation of which had been Sunday’s hot story. By the time I awoke on Tuesday morning, the Times had the text of the email itself. Wow, I thought. Junior’s going to have trouble slithering out from under this now. I sat down and prepared to write about this latest absurdity. Little did I know that Junior himself had sent the absurdity zooming into the bizarre and beyond.
On the electric Twitter machine, for reasons known only to whatever pagan deity watches over this gang of grifters and fools, Junior had published the entire email chain, the contents of which, in any ordinary time, would have everybody involved being fitted for leg-irons, their room reservations at Leavenworth already booked. From The Guardian:
The emails show music promoter Rob Goldstone telling the future US president’s son that “the crown prosecutor of Russia” had offered “to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father”. Goldstone adds: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.” Trump Jr replies 17 minutes later and welcomes the offer. “If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.”
I might have been cautious about commenting merely on this information, largely because this Goldstone character looks like the mugshot of every two-bit hoodlum capped by Whitey Bulger, but then Junior threw my caution to the wind.
He made a lie out of practically everything that the Trump camp has said on the subject for over a year.
The email chain makes clear that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. Further, it also makes plain that not only Junior, but also Manafort and Kushner knew the campaign had done so because Junior was kind enough to forward the emails to them. He incriminated himself. He incriminated the other two. He made a lie out of practically everything that the Trump camp has said on the subject for over a year. He landed a clean shot below the waterline of his father’s administration. Again, I thought of Nixon, standing behind a podium in the White House, while the tape from June 23, 1972 unspooled to an eager world, and then telling the assembled press corps, “See? It’s just like I said. I’m not involved.” It also was announced that Junior would appear with Sean Hannity on Tuesday night. I fully expected Junior to show up on the set dressed as an evil boyar from an Eisenstein film.
Things pretty much exploded after that. Republicans ran for cover; Orrin Hatch tried to minimize the whole business and failed, utterly. Mitch McConnell canceled a chunk of the August recess, probably because he knows nothing’s going to move in Congress as long as the circus is in town at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The Democrats zoomed into orbit; Tim Kaine even Went There in a big way. From CNN:
“We are now beyond obstruction of justice,” the Virginia Democrat told CNN Tuesday. “This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason.”
But by far the most interesting reaction came from Choirboy Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States. His office put out a statement that was conspicuous in its tap-dancing. Pence, of course, has been all over television for a year denying that the Trump campaign knew anything about Russian ratfcking. He has decided on the modified limited blow-off route for the moment, via The Hill:
“The Vice President is working every day to advance the president’s agenda, which is what the American people sent us here to do,” press secretary Marc Lotter said in a statement. “The Vice President was not aware of the meeting. He is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket.”
At this point, you have to have a mind of bread dough to give either Pence or his nominal boss the benefit of any doubt. (Thanks to Junior’s efforts, Philip Bump had a precise timeline on which to hang this video of the president* delivering a suspiciously clairvoyant victory speech. Wonder how he knew what was coming?) All over the Intertoobz, Trump Kremlinologists—and, hell, actual Kremlinologists—were parsing the events to a fine pulp to try and discover the through line in what now appears to be a writhing ball of snakes pretending to be a government.
Almost all of the recent Times exclusives were sourced to what appeared to be people within the White House or, at least, to people close enough to it to know the details of a very closely held meeting. Is Team Jared out for blood? Is there some sort of weird Oedipal thing playing out with Junior? Is Tiffany behind it all, bred from birth for vengeance like Mordred to Marla Maples’ Morgan Le Fay? The boggled mind further boggles.
The government of the United States is a shambles. An incompetent administration headed by an unqualified buffoon is now descending into criminal comedy and maladroit backstabbing. It is an administration that not only self-destructs, but glories in the process. There seems to be no end to it, and no desire to end it by the people who actually have the power to do so. That, in itself, seems curious, and it probably should remind us all that Paul Ryan’s Super PAC was hip-deep in the borscht itself. Ryan, who really is the person best situated to close the circus down, seems to be afflicted with one of his periodic bouts of invisibility, poor lad.
There’s a great unfolding treason now—not just the precise constitutionally defined treason, but a general betrayal of reason, of self-government, of honesty and of high office. They are now committing treason against themselves, grim betrayal winding around itself in coils ever tightening until there is nothing but the foul exhaling of the final breath of things that once belonged to better people than them.