BIGGER THAN WATERGATE
The Russia-Trump probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the most important criminal inquiry in our country’s history. It’s even bigger than the Watergate investigation, which was prompted by bungling burglars breaking into an office in 1972. In contrast, Mueller is scrutinizing a hostile foreign power breaking into our democracy in 2016.
And yet, the probe is a distraction from something even more significant.
Here’s what’s more significant, as indicated by the title of this January 10 Washington Post op-ed by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin: “Never before has a president ignored such a clear national security threat” – that is, Donald Trump is ignoring Vladimir Putin’s current threat to democracy. The piece is based on a Senate Foreign Relations Committee minority (Democratic) staff report. Though the report focuses on Russia and Europe, it warns that our own democracy is in grave danger.
Here’s my Indian TV interview from Friday, on Trump’s first 100 days in office. This was not the first time the Gravitas program had interviewed me, but it was the first time I’d subsequently seen how I was framing both my skype video and remarks. So lots of room for improvement, I know. My part starts at 2:15.
I found the lead-in pretty illuminating, in terms of one Indian media outlet’s take on Trump. And check out the way the segment closes with a big bang, commencing at 7:40, via a video of a North Korean military/propaganda drill.
Feeling pretty good about the defeat of Ryancare…or Trumpcare…or the Gut-Health-Care-Coverage-for-24-Million-People Act? Hoping this is the start of a long-term slide for the president?
Such hope is helpful and such a slide would be super. But there’s still a respect in which we should watch what we wish for. As Andrew Sullivan speculates, a Trump slump could lead us into a wag the dog scenario:
A president hobbled domestically by his own party’s divisions and the opposition’s new energy may be tempted — Putin-like — to change the subject in a way that vaults him back to popularity. A foreign altercation from which he will not back down? A trade war? A smidge likelier, I’d say, is an over-the-top response to an inevitable jihadist terror attack in a major American city. A demagogue loses much of his power when he tries to wrestle complicated legislation through various political factions, in the way our gloriously inefficient Constitution requires. He regains it with rank fear, polarization, and a raw show of force. Heaven knows what the Constitution will look like once he’s finished.
My wife and I recently returned from a vacation in India, Sri Lanka, Egypt and Israel. My first memorable step in our convoluted trip was actually a movie I watched on the flight out: Frank Capra’s 1946 fantasy drama, It’s a Wonderful Life, in which an angel shows a kind-hearted but suicidal George Bailey (James Stewart) how bad his friends’ and family’s lives would have been had he never been born.
Bailey also learns that in this alternative reality his wholesome home town of Bedford Falls would have been renamed Pottersville, to honor the venal banker who would have dominated life there but for Bailey’s beneficent influence and call for people to help each other through hard times. Pottersville is a debauched place with no sense of community, where it’s all for none and none for all. Not that I mind some debauchery, but the town resembles what the United States of Trump could become: a small-minded, mean-spirited land that lauds selfishness.