“Traters, I will here remark, are an onfortunit class of peple. If they wasn’t, they wouldn’t be traters. They conspire to bust up a country — they fail, and they’re traters. They bust her, and become statesmen and heroes.” — Artemus Ward, “The Tower of London,” Artemus Ward in London (1872).
A Tale for a Tail
There’s an elephant in the living room. It looks like an elephant, but it’s not. Elephants have long memories. This beast has none. Like the taxidermist’s safari trophies, only the remains remain. It had a trunk and tusks, but what it once symbolized is no more. The tail that shooed away the fleas and flies has been replaced by a tale.
Some folks who remember the elephant know what happened. But even they are divided on what the elephant was.
This political cartoon by Thomas Nast, taken from a 1879 edition of Harper’s Weekly, was an early use of the elephant and the donkey to symbolize the Republican and Democratic parties. [Photo Credit: Kean Collection/ Archive Photos/Getty Images]
Some remember and weep over the tale now told in its name. Others have no memory or revise their memories to suit the patriot’s tale of the trophy hunter.
How totalitarianism happens, according to Hanna Arendt
Every Violation of Truth is . . .
“The great masses of the people . . . will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one,” wrote Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf in 1924.
“Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Prudence,” Essays: First Series (1841).
“Nine-eleven” is still with us in 2020. But it’s different now. September 11 shook us from head to toe. September 11, 2020 should shake us more.
On this 19th anniversary of 9/11, we remember what we prefer to forget: the scene of highjacked American Airlines passenger planes leveling the World Trade Center twin towers like tidal waves erasing a sand castle.
In Washington, D.C. American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. AA Flight 93 would have struck the U.S. Capitol, if not for the heroic intervention of two passengers who risked everything to stop it.
What we see is horrifying, but it is behind us. That was then; this is now. Al-Qaeda was responsible for 9/11. But only a slash (/) and three hyphens distinguish between the date from the three digit rescue call. Who will answer the 9-1-1 call from the burning house of the American people in 2020?
9-1-1 on 9/11 2020
Fires are sweeping across the U.S.A. Some fires we see. The forest fires in California, Oregon, and Washington are vast and spreading. The governors have sounded the alarm; fire-fighters are responding as best they can. Other fires, like global warming and coronavirus pandemic, are less obvious. Only the devastation they cause can be captured on camera. Those fires have no address. Neither does the arsonist.
Holding the Bag for the President
“He sins as much who holds the bag as he who puts into it,” says an adage from an anonymous source. I had to read that twice. Translation on 9/11 2020: the party that holds the bag for the president’s unconscionable dereliction of duty is as responsible for the president himself.
Bob Woodward’s new book Rage and the recently released recordings of the president’s voice leave no doubt about President Trump’s character and behavior. Republican Party spokespersons can no longer politically afford to ignore what they already knew, but they will find a way, and FoxNews will serve as the party’s public relations firm.
GOP Senators and Representatives are as responsible as the president for his lies, deceptions, misinformation, disinformation, distortions of fact, assault on essential institutions, and the president’s defiance of his Oath of Office to protect the country from all enemies, foreign and domestic. They are as responsible as he for stoking the embers of white supremacist lawlessness, shifting blame for police homicides and street violence to their victims and to Black Lives Matter, pushing infectious disease researchers and climate scientists off stage and out of sight, staying mum and turning a blind eye to the Blue states of the Pacific Northwest, and holding the bag for Vladimir Putin’s agenda of weakening public trust.
Brian Murphy served as the Trump Administration’s Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis in the Department of Homeland Security from March 2018 through August 2020. Now he is a different kind of public servant. He is the whistle-blower whose complaint is a 911 call to save us from fraud by Homeland Security leaders who undercut national intelligence that showed Russia was working to undermine the United States. Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American (9/09/2020) tells a chilling story.
The complaint also concerns the DHS Threat Assessment leaked yesterday to Politico. Wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli—also appointed illegally, according to the GAO—prohibited the release of the threat assessment because it discussed both the threat of white supremacists and of Russian influence in the United States. This, they said, would reflect badly on the president. “Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically modify the section on White Supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent ‘left-wing’ groups.” Wolf wanted to add information about the ongoing unrest in Portland, Oregon.
Murphy refused to sign off on their alteration of the intelligence report, warning that it was “an abuse of authority and improper administration of an intelligence program. Wolf ordered it revised anyway. Murphy warned that the final version of the threat assessment would “more closely resemble a policy document with references to ANTIFA and ‘anarchist’ groups than an intelligence document.” This is the document leaked in draft form to Politico yesterday.
Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, 9/11, 2020
A 9-1-1 Response for a Kidnapped Republic
The Republican Party has some things in common with the terrorists who turned passenger planes into missiles and sent a dark cloud of smoke over America.
The party of my parents’ generation has been highjacked. If we don’t have the wisdom and courage to stop it, the party and country of Abraham Lincoln will disappear like a sand castle.
I have no doubt how my mother and father would have voted in 2020. They knew that “all sin is a kind of lying” (Augustine), and that “the recognition of sin is the beginning of salvation” (Martin Luther). I sense their tears and hear their voices.
“It’s [not] my party, and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to!”
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.
“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.”
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.”
This brief video addresses questions that continue to stump me. Will we ever get it back? Whatever one’s view of Barack Obama, one cannot refute the flagrant juxtapositions between the values the current Republican Party professes and the real life disdain for those same values.
It’s time to stop the White House’s frontal assault on the equality among the three branches of federal government defined under the U.S. Constitution. Time for us, the American people, to tell those in Congress to do what Congress is supposed to do. Contempt of Congress is partisan. It is contempt for the institution itself, and for the Constitution that establishes and protects the American experiment under the rule of law. It’s time for boldness.
Anyone who witnessed Attorney General Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee saw and heard the AG’s disdain for truth-telling. He lied. The next day he refused to appear before the House Committee. This is not time for patience. It’s time for Congress to act swiftly and boldly with arrests for contempt of Congress.