We Alone Can’t Fix This

I spent the last several weeks reading all 500 plus pages of the #1 NY Times bestseller, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, by the extremely thorough Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Phillip Rucker.

The book is alternately fascinating, disturbing, infuriating, disorienting, dull, sick, perplexing, darkly humorous, scary and long. 

At times I wished it were a little less even-handed and journalistically proper.  But when you write something so exhaustive on a subject and subject matter such as this I suppose the true gangsta move is keeping your reportorial cool.

This is the energy I bring to writing about Trump

It brought back how I felt watching David Lynch’s very straightforward 1999 film, the very aptly titled A Straight Story. 

Why would the creator of cutting edge classics such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, and the director of such oddly entertaining works as Lost Highway and Wild at Heart, make a G-rated movie about the true story of an old man who drives his lawnmower from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his sick brother?

Well, as Lynch himself explained to us (Note:  Okay, me) at the time, it was for that very reason.  By just sticking to a straight narrative of facts, it actually was his most daring, his most experimental film.

Believe it!

In that same way, there was no other course for Leonnig and Rucker to take in chronicling Trump’s last 12 months in office and have it land in any more of a meaningful fashion.

After all, how do you even begin to get any more twisted and salacious than Trump himself? 

And what would be the point in trying? 

This brings to mind the response I received, in various forms, from EVERY ONE OF THE SEVERAL DOZEN PEOPLE I told I was reading this book over this period time.

WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO?

This is an approximation of what they looked like

Of course, not everyone said it exactly that way.  Some just gave me a look, or silently nodded their heads, or explained they couldn’t because they lived it, or apologized they wouldn’t because it was too upsetting and their mental health was already precarious, or responded in person or on the phone with the kind of thick stony silence that tells you the person you’re speaking with has ZERO interest in pursuing this discussion or subject any further (you can hear editor Holly’s reaction on our newest podcast).

In other words, Chairy, BACK OFF!

And then this happened…

Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from sometimes throwing a few tidbits in.

As Stefon might say, this book and that year had everything –

a. A pandemic the Leader of the Free World ignored, downplayed and lied about.

b. A litany of dictatorial edicts spewed by the POTUS himself to send the military out into the streets to take over cities and ARREST (Note: Or worse) protestors that his own military leaders ignored and refused to carry out.

c. A ton of cursing, blame gaming of others and dangerous lies and/or conspiracy theories launched from the bully pulpit and via social media from the resolute desk in the Oval Office all in service of one single cause – his 2020 re-election.

AND

THERE’S MORE??

d. An actual planned mob of many THOUSANDS that #45 personally spurred on in a prepared, fiery speech on Jan. 6 that caused said group to violently attack and rampage though the U.S. Capitol Building, kill and maim a bunch of policemen, as well as hunt and threaten to hang the sitting vice-president before he could actually ratify the Electoral College results that would declare Joe Biden the new POTUS and thus brand Trump now and forever the official LOSER of the 2020 race.

Oh right

No amount of arm twisting, phone yelling, or even frantic yet calm talks from first daughter Ivanka (Note: Referred to by one advisor as a stable pony, as in when the racehorse gets too agitated, you bring in the stable pony to calm him down) would ever get Trump to tell his supporters they were doing ANYTHING wrong. Even as they threatened lives and destroyed objects that had stood the test of time over SEVERAL CENTURIES in the Capitol and through dozens of other presidencies.

In fact, the most he would ever do was tell them to go home while simultaneously reminding them we love you.

Oh, and the other thing he NEVER DID, as the book details, was to call a single Senator, Congressperson, Aide or even Vice President to inquire if they were okay.  Not on that day and, as far as we know, not to this day.

Is this insulting to Thelma and Louise? #sorryCallieKhouri

Of course, none of this is shocking at this point, even as it remains scary and disheartening.  Worse is that, according to the book, Trump not only knew about the virulency of COVID-19 back in Jan. 2020 but totally bungled a phone call at the time to China President Xi Jinping when he attempted to get representatives of the US medical community into China in order to examine, study or in some way help or contain or accrue information to contain and/or treat Covid-19.

Afraid to jeopardize a trade agreement between the two countries that he thought would win him economic points from his supporters, Trump soft-balled his ask to the point where the head of Communist China simply avoided and/or refused to allow anyone from the US medical establishment into his country.  Then he very calmly ended the call.

Missing a comma, but still true

And when the virus raged on for months and months in the first half of 2020, infecting and killing tens of thousands, the book chronicles how not only Trump but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as well as Larry Kudlow, his National Economic Council advisor, refused to the very bitter end to take the obvious steps to close the economy that everyone else in the Trump administration was demanding.

Still, none of this is even quite as surprising as who Loennig and Rucker position as one of the unlikeliest of heroes of the administration – Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Previously we all knew Milley as that military guy in fatigues who followed POTUS through the street to that Church where Trump held the Bible upside down in some sort of victory over citizen protestors.

Cue world’s longest eyeroll

That was because right before, under Trump’s orders, the National Guard had marched onto the DC streets and used tear gas and pepper spray to clear a path for him and wipe away any traces of the Black Lives Matter protestors that had peacefully demonstrated for several days so he could have a photo op. 

Old history, right?  Except what we didn’t know is that Milley, who felt “used” and publicly apologized some days later in a video for that appearance, then began a full out, shadow campaign to make sure #45 would never again use the military to further his personal political agenda… or worse.

According to the book, from that day forward Milley regularly shot down Trump’s requests for firepower in the streets; at one point told Trump’s ultra right wing chief speechwriter Stephen Miller to shut the f—k up; and enlisted as many present and former cabinet officers and military men as he could to keep the country from imploding.  Or exploding.

Everything was fine

When the events of Jan. 6 happened, it was Milley who had to strong arm the slow-moving acting Defense Secretary and finally order troops to save the Capitol building.  And when his orders weren’t immediately carried out, it took Vice President Pence’s demands for reinforcements to finally cause the powers-that-be to act.

But the one person who never requested any troops, military or otherwise, to defend the Capitol building was Trump.  In a blistering recounting of Insurrection Day, the book chronicles POTUS’ primary post-speech activity to be watching it all unspool live on TV in sheer awe.

What particularly irked a military guy like Milley, who has advanced degrees from both Columbia and Princeton, was seeing right wing fascist groups like The Proud Boys, as well as other Trump MAGA supporters, many of whom shouted racial epithets and were armed with military style weapons, so swiftly and threateningly move into the sacred halls of government without seemingly missing a beat.

Never Forget… really

Several weeks later, after it was all through and it was his responsibility to plan and maintain an ironclad safe and secure inauguration site for Joe Biden, he thus didn’t hesitate to make the same analogy myself and many of my more mouthy, Trump-loathing friends dared to speak back in 2016 the moment it became apparent that Trump et al would actually rule the presidency, the White House and the rest of us along with it for an entire four years.

HITLER.

Yeah, I said it.  It’s been our POV from the beginning and it still is.  It doesn’t have to be yours or those close to you.  But just know that leading up to Inauguration Day 2021, it also began to be the POV of the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. 

And it still is.

Speaking to dozens of military and law enforcement leaders at a large gymnasium as they planned for the ceremony to swear in #46, Milley noted that thousands of Trump supporters were already organizing via social media a return to D.C. for a week of siege that would culminate in the disruption of Biden’s inauguration.  And, he wanted them to be ready.

Here’s the deal, guys.  These guys are Nazis, they’re boogaloo boys, they’re Proud Boys.  These are the same people we fought in World War II.  Everyone in this room, whether you’re a cop or whether you’re a soldier, we’re going to stop these guys to make sure we have a peaceful transfer of power.  We’re going to put a ring of steal around this city and the Nazis aren’t getting in.

Yikes

And they didn’t.

And Milley still chairs the Joint Chiefs.

And Trump’s out of office.

For now.

The Who – “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

It’s the Little Things

There is an interestingly imperfect crime thriller out right now called The Little Things that might help us all process how it is that Donald Trump has once again seemingly gotten away with his crimes scot free.

It stars Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as two guys tasked with meting out some form of justice to a sociopathic, creepy criminal third guy (played by Jared Leto) who has spent a lifetime pushing the boundaries of right and wrong for his own amusement and grizzly personal gains (Note: In this case, fast cars and serial murders) and gleefully getting away with it.

Also getting away with that rockstar greasy hair #onlyJL

It’s a rivetingly weird yet ultimately unsatisfying film you can watch on HBO Max, much in the same way the travails of Trump continue to be a disgustingly compelling yet consistently unsatisfying piece of our history available at any time, day or night, on just about any channel of your choice.

The latest Trump crime of the moment, which can change depending on the time of day, week or month you’re reading this, would be the incitement of the violent, bloody insurrection into the Capitol Building on Jan. 6th by an armed, riotous mob of Trump supporters, some of whom were carrying Trump flags, others of whom were sporting Confederate flags and almost all of whom were shouting things like, Hang Mike Pence, Hang Mike Pence!, as a gallows they constructed for that very deed stood outside the building just mere yards away.

Totally normal stuff… nothing to see here #yikes

While it doesn’t quite qualify as serial murder, it was an event where five people died, including one police officer in cold blood, and hundreds of others were injured or maimed for life (Note: Another police officer will lose an eye, still another some fingers, and still others ____________).

Despite seemingly endless compelling footage that showed Trump bellowing, frothing and egging on his people, many of whom he knew were heavily armed and most of whom had their D.C. trips paid for by his campaign, the Senate could muster only a 57-43 vote in favor of his impeachment (Note: Ten more votes were needed for a 2/3 majority). 

This energy entirely

This despite Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, one of those NOT GUILTY on impeachment votes, proclaiming in a fiery speech right after that Trump was indeed:

…Practically and morally responsible for the events of that day, no question about it…The people who stormed the building, believed they were acting on the instruction of their president.

How Mitch McConnell sleeps at night

To me this seemed eerily similar to the young woman at the top of The Little Things who, when driving her car and gleefully singing to the B-52s Roam late one night on a darkened highway, gets chased down by a guy in expensive boots and a revved up auto.

Sometime later at a police station she knows in her heart of hearts it IS Jared Leto, especially since she, like those senators, was an eyewitness to his criminal attempt.  

Yet somehow, when faced with the prospect of fingering him, she also falls victim to what can only now be referred to as a McConnell moment.

Is that a thing now?

She knows yet she doesn’t know, she wants to step up but hesitates to do so, she commits to speaking out but the imperfections of the legal system allow her to slip out of her civic and, indeed, moral responsibilities.

Though perhaps she, and in turn McConnell, never had any intention of helping to begin with.  And who could blame them?  Because for most humans it is ultimately, and always has been, about SELF-PRESERVATION. 

No matter how many little things land in the column to vote one way, when YOU and yours ALONE are the only thing in the opposite column well, we all know what your final vote will be.

Pretty much!

That is, if you’re THAT kind of person.  But um, how many of us aren’t these days, in a movie or in real life? 

That’s the question the film, and this impeachment trial asks us.  And right now the answer isn’t an attractive one.

Any of the fire Sen. McConnell had mustered in his speech began to quickly flame out, reducing him to an amorphous puddle of word mush when he explained that  legal precedent dictated that the Senate technically can’t impeach a president who was already out of office.

Also.. this

It was pretzel logic at its worst, since the Senate on that Monday had:

a. ALREADY VOTED that they COULD have these hearings in the first weeks of the Biden administration.

b. That the vast majority of conservative and liberal legal scholars proclaimed very publicly in the preceding few weeks there was no such precedent prohibiting it, and

c. That it was McConnell himself who, just weeks before, when he was SENATE MAJORITY LEADER and could dictate such things, was the person who REFUSED to have the Senate hold the impeachment trial when Trump was IN office in the first place.

This guy really thinks we’re stupid, huh?

These pesky little details seem to both serve and haunt McConnell and the other Republican senators each time they opt to NOT hold a multi-criminally accused mastermind like Trump to the spirit of the law and choose instead, to get too caught up in the letters of it.

Each proclamation is a calculation, and every vote becomes a maneuver.  Each piece of evidence is weighed and put in the yay or nay column when at the end of the day the only column that matters is the one that will personally serve EACH OF THEM best.

There is no real truth or justice because all it comes down to is the law that they CHOOSE to see.  This law has nothing to do with the spirit of truth or justice.  It lives only in the shadows of self-preservation.

Denzel… help us understand

In Little Things, Denzel is haunted by a mistake he made in the past that exiled him from respected detective to ordinary beat cop in a non-descript county. 

Rami is a big city detective prime for a mistake because of the pressure on him to solve a big city crime before he puts his wife and two little girls on the front lines of danger OR the feds swoop in, take over his case and steal HIS glory.

Meanwhile, Jared is the dangerous mastermind who taunts them with quick and endless bon mots, breadcrumbs towards would-be VERY high crimes committed in plain sight and counters their backtalk with ominous threats in coded language that everyone can understand and yet no one can seem to legally prosecute.

Not gonna work here

The film asks us to ask ourselves just how much bad we’re willing to tolerate or cover up for or ignore in the name of what WE think is right.

This week Trump’s Senate impeachment hearings once again asked our government and its representatives a similar question:

Just how much can we allow in the name of what WE believe? 

Sadly, in both cases, the answer didn’t have much to do with the law.  Rather, it was about the people or persons tasked with carrying it out and what personally benefitted them.

A bunch of little things that seem to always willfully ignore the BIG THING standing right before us.

Blink 182 – All The Small Things