The Ides of March — Are the boys still there?

JULIUS CAESAR AND THE IDES OF MARCH

Statue of Julius Caesar Via dei Fori Imperiali
Leomudde [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Last Friday was not the Ides of March, but it may have been the day the soothsayer warned Julius Caesar of the consequences of overstepping the Roman Republic’s limits to executive power.

According to Plutarch, on his way to the fateful meeting of the Roman Senate on the Ides of March, Caesar passed the seer, mocking his fortune-telling with a confident sneer: “The Ides of March are come.”

“Aye, Caesar,” said the seer, “but not gone.”

That same day in 44 BCE the soothsayer’s warning was confirmed. As many as 60 senators ended the threat to turn the Roman Republic into an eternal dictatorship.

THE DAY OF THE SOOTHSAYER

Events last Friday echo the soothsayer’s warning:

  • Maria Yovanovich, the nonpartisan diplomat of impeccable character summarily recalled from her duties in Ukraine with no explanation, honored the House Intelligence Committee’s subpoena to appear for testimony at the Committee’s impeachment inquiry hearing;
  • The president who had suddenly dismissed Ms. Yovanovich just as suddenly smeared her reputation with a tweet while she was testifying before the Committee;
  • Roger Stone, the career dirty-trickster and long-term friend and mentor of Donald Trump, architect of the 2016 “Make America Great Again” campaign strategy and tactics, was convicted by a jury on all seven counts of making false statements, obstruction, and witness tampering;
  • President Trump tweeted:

“So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie?”

Donald J. Trump tweet during Maria Yovanovich testimony, November 15, 2019.

ROGER STONE’S RULES

Roy Cohn and Roger Stone are the the political dirty-trickster mentors who who trained Donald Trump in the Machiavellian rules for how to succeed in business and politics.

The following are a few of “Stone’s Rules” as he shared them in the documentary film Get Me Roger Stone:

  • “Hate is stronger than love”
  • “Unless you can fake sincerity, you’ll get nowhere in this business”
  • “Politics isn’t theater. It’s performance art. Sometimes, for its own sake”
  • “White shirt + tan face = confidence”
  • “Hit it from every angle. Open multiple fronts on your enemy. He must be confused, and feel besieged on every side.
  • “Always praise ’em before you hit ’em”
  • “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack”
  • “Attack, attack, attack, never defend”
  • “Never turn down the opportunity to have sex or be on TV.” (attributed to Gore Vidal)
  • “Nothing is on the level”
  • “It’s better to be infamous than never famous at all.”

CONGENITALLY INCAPABLE

Presidential historian Jon Meacham spoke within hours of the president’ latest tweety. “My sense,” he said, “is that we have a president who is congenitally incapable of seeing beyond his own self-interest. And what these witnesses have done is proven that while he wants to build a wall at the border, he has no interest in building a wall around our elections.” (The Beat, Friday, Nov. 15.)

ARE THE BOYS (THE KING’S MEN) STILL THERE?

“A political leader must keep looking over his shoulder all the time to see if the boys are still there. If they’re not, he’s no longer a political leader.” (NYT obituary for Bernard Baruch, June 21, 1965.)

Bernard Baruch Obituary, New York Times, June 21, 1964

The impeachment inquiry is about much more than a sitting president’s continuance or removal from office. It’s about the survival of the Constitution of the American Republic in an era when an entire political party has substituted the habits of Stone’s Rules for the sworn duty of every elected member of Congress “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

“Admit nothing. Deny everything. Launch counterattacks. Attack, attack, attack. Never defend. Distract, distract, distract!” is a heinous violation of the Oath Office.

Is it too much to hope that soothsayer’s warning will result in coming to our senses? If not, we may be left to hope John Arburthnot was right that “political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Nov. 18, 2019.

5 thoughts on “The Ides of March — Are the boys still there?

  1. One more thing. I was with Roger Stone on 2 occasions when we were both speakers at a conference. For the most part he was civil until he just about started a riot just before I was to follow him on the agenda. He played to the Trumpers in the audience by playing to their racism. He accused the Clintons of being hypocrites because the ex-POTUS fathered a Black child. Supporters of Clinton in the audience called for the moderator to control Stone. I did give my talk but was ready to leave to avoid association with Stone’s craziness.

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    • I don’t of your appearance together, but am not surprised. Your appearance on the same dais meant no more kinship between you than the appearance on the same stage, and on the same night, of Michael Harrington, Fulton Lewis III, and William Stringfellow.

      None of the three speakers at the “America: Post-Vietnam” event used the strategy of disinformation. We’ve come a long way (backward) since then!

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  2. Let me play the devil’s advocate at the risk of creating misconceptions about my orientation as a “never Trumper”. First of all Julius Caesar was assassinated by the Roman Senators because he was actually an emperor of the people. He was a threat to the 1% ruling class represented by the senators who conspired to kill him. This scenario is in the book “The Assassination of Julius Caesar” by historian Michael Parenti.
    Now consider the idea, described in the latest PBS “Frontline” Trump analysis, that Trump is a creature of Steve Bannon, Steven Miller & Jeff Sessions whose goal was to shut down 3rd world migration to the US & dismantle the “administrative state”. IOW, Trump is used by not only the Russians but by right wing populist libertarians to achieve their goals. The Russians are attempting to keep the US 1% from destroying the Russians as capitalist competitors. The Russians needed to further corrupt an already corrupt Trump to neutralize the Pentagon’s designs on destroying Russia with first strike nukes sitting on Russia’s borders through an expanded NATO. America’s 1% parades as the people’s party while laughing all the way to the bank. At least right wing populist Libertarianism recognizes this process but still represents everything that is wrong with right wing America. So like the Roman 1% attack on Caesar the American 1% needs to destroy the Bannon/Miller/Sessions machinations tp destroy them. Having said that it still remains that the Trump/Bannon/Miller/Sessions conspiracy needs to be destroyed before they totally dismantle all the accomplishments of the US 99%. The risk of course is that after Trump’s demise the 1% American oligarchy will be able to solidify its goal of eliminating what democracy remains for the 99%.

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