Recent events in Washington inspire nothing so much as sheer disbelief. Is this a government or a sitcom? Impeach Trump? Why not offer him a prime-time gig on Fox News instead?
For the right price, he might take it.
“The Trump Show” could qualify as a brand-new genre: “unreality TV” – whining, boasting, empty threats, laugh track and all.
Recently humiliated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the president of the United States has taken to feuding with far-right insult comic Ann Coulter. Until recently his champion – Trump seemingly shut down the U.S. government because she demanded it – Coulter reacted to its reopening by tweeting:
“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush. As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”
In the real world, the recently deceased President Bush flew 58 combat missions in the Pacific during World War II, before and after being shot down and later rescued by a U.S. submarine. Later in life, however, he was often polite to Democrats, making him a coward by Coulter’s reckoning.
No less an authority than former Speaker Newt Gingrich rose to Trump’s defense, pointing out that the blond ectomorph had no clue how to put together a congressional majority. Because when it comes to shutting down the government and throwing public tantrums, nobody knows better than Newt.
Coulter responded rudely: “To those who would attack Newt, please remember that just as collusion is not a crime, kissing the emperor’s ass violates no federal law.”
Meanwhile, Emperor Trump broke into rhyming couplets that sounded like nothing so much as O.J. Simpson’s late defense attorney Johnny Cochrane.
Cochrane: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
Trump: “Build the wall, and crime will fall!”
But, hey, it worked for O.J., right? Perhaps Trump can come up with a fitting trope for his old pal Roger Stone, busted last week for lying to Congress about his 2016 dalliances with WikiLeaks, Russia and the Trump campaign.
Striking Nixonian poses outside his Florida home, Stone whined that FBI “storm troopers” had treated him more harshly than Osama bin Laden – who, readers may recall, was shot to death in Pakistan by U.S. Navy Seals.
Somebody should familiarize Stone with special counsel Robert Mueller’s won-loss record as a prosecutor. Mueller doesn’t fool around. He indicts you, he’s got you. Better make a deal.
As for the FBI’s pre-dawn raid, that’s what the feds do when they think a criminal suspect might destroy evidence. Stone alibis that if he were guilty of wrongdoing, he’d already have done so. Judging from the indictment, however, that’s far from clear.
After all, what halfway rational person would threaten to kill a witness (and kidnap his dog) in a high-profile federal investigation and do so via text message? That’s what the indictment says Stone did to one Randy Credico. While endlessly duplicitous, the man may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
Although Stone once published a book accusing Bill and Hillary Clinton of sex crimes and dished out payola to Clinton accusers during the 2016 campaign, his own intimate history is colorful. The National Enquirer once revealed that somebody paying with Stone’s credit card had been taking out ads in “swingers’” magazines: ‘Hot, insatiable lady and her handsome body builder husband ... seek similar couples or exceptional muscular well-hung single men.”
Stone denied it at the time, but later admitted to The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin that the swinger was indeed him. He’d lied to spare his grandparents, since deceased.
Naturally, he’s one of Donald Trump’s oldest friends.
What, then, do you think are the odds that he and Trump never discussed Stone’s communications with WikiLeaks regarding stolen Democratic emails, as the president supposedly told special counsel Mueller in written interrogatory? The two spoke on the phone constantly during the 2016 campaign, but never about that? Trump reportedly also denied that he was ever told about the infamous June 6 meeting between his son Donald Jr. and Russian operatives at Trump Tower.
If you believe all that, then you’re probably also taking seriously the president’s latest made-for-TV vows to shut down the government again in two weeks unless Congress funds his nonsense wall. That’s not going to happen, because if he tried it, Congress would override him overnight. The smarter GOP senators have clearly figured out that if Trump goes down to thunderous electoral defeat in 2020, he takes the Republican Party with him.
Somewhat more likely is a phony “emergency” declaration giving Trump the authority to raid the Treasury on behalf of his fixed idea. A congressional majority can reverse that too. So can the federal courts. Again, clever Republicans understand that abandoning the Constitution’s separation of powers for Trump’s short-term political convenience could prove disastrous long term.
How “The Trump Show” ends, none can say; hopefully less in tragedy than in farce.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at [email protected]