It reached a crescendo yesterday, and yet there’s no shaking the dread that the worst is yet to come.
I was doing OK for a while there, even though things went South straight away. I kept my cool through Trump’s assault on NATO and subsequent public attacks on Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, which further destabilized the British PM’s government as she struggles to execute the insane scheme of leaving the EU while trying to wreak merely catastrophic economic and political havoc. Such damage control doesn’t suit Putin, and therefore doesn’t suit Trump. Nothing short of an extinction level event will do, you see. Along the way, Donald opined to the British tabloid press that immigrants are ruining Europe, Boris Johnson would be a great Prime Minister, the Mayor of London is soft on crime and a terrorist sympathizer, blah blah blah. I took it in stride. It was all so predictable that it’s no longer possible to be outraged, or even particularly interested. The American President is a low-grade moron, a traitor, a pig of a man, and a Russian operative, and we’ll be lucky to live through this, but that’s hardly news, is it? Ho hum. Oh well, I thought. It is what it is. To dwell on it further is to risk a stroke, and if Piggy-boy Trump isn’t going to have one, it’s just not fair if I do.
Just as an aside, if there are still people out there who aren’t prepared even to entertain the notion that Putin helped orchestrate the Brexit movement – and who aren’t even a little suspicious that Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage might both be compromised by one form or another of Russian largesse – I guess I’m still not surprised. It seems an obvious thought, but at this point one has to expect obvious thoughts to remain stubbornly un-thought. If people weren’t idiots, none of this would be happening.
But it is happening, and a fellow has to get by, right? You can only run so long with all your gauges in the red. You have to chill sometimes. Take a step back, I said to myself. It’s not worth blowing an aneurysm.
Anyway, there was that great big goofy Trump balloon, guaranteed to raise spirits and take some of the sting away.
Having thus resolved to be jaded and imperturbable, I approached yesterday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Committee like a disinterested TV viewer of a World Cup match, content to pass a few hours playing with my iPad while off in the background the players scurried around fruitlessly like bugs on a pool table, and the breathless play-by-play reached a hysterical pitch despite the complete absence of anything at all happening on the field, save the endless fruitless scurrying.
I guess I was able to maintain this spirit of Olympian detachment for about 90 seconds.
Yesterday’s hearing, for those not paying attention – which if you’re not, God damn you, I demand you suffer along with me – was the hotly anticipated grilling of FBI Agent Peter Strzok. He’s the high-ranking counter-intelligence officer who was caught sending despairing opinions about Trump to one of his colleagues via text message, before the unthinkable happened and Donald actually became Commander-in-Chief. An unfortunate but irrelevant aspect of the correspondence was that the recipient was a woman with whom he was then having an affair, laying him open to the sort of smear tactics that the yokels who watch Fox News always fall for.
A while back, Strzok was one of the members of Robert Mueller’s team, investigating Russian interference in the last Presidential election. Prior to that, like most sensible people, Strzok had watched Trump’s ascendance with mounting horror. Suffering through fits of atavistic terror tinged with disbelief, he fired off late night missives like these:
Trump is a disaster. I have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be.
It’s clear he’s capturing all the white, poor voters who the mainstream Republicans abandoned in all but name in the quest for the almighty $$$$
God Hillary should win 100,000,000-0
I am riled up. Trump is a f*cking idiot, is unable to provide a coherent answer.
I CAN’T PULL AWAY, WHAT THE F*CK HAPPENED TO OUR COUNTRY??!?!
Oh, shocking!! Were that I wore pearls, that I might clutch at them!!
A couple of details to add context are in order. First, these texts were the emotional and unfiltered in-the-moment reactions of a man speaking to his lover, not inter-office memoranda or operational instructions.
Second, when the totality of the correspondence is read, Strzok is revealed to have had similarly unfavourable views of most politicians – he was equally contemptuous of Bernie Sanders, for example – and plainly, and quite reasonably, thought that Congress was broken, both parties were to blame, and the whole political process leading up to the election of Trump was dangerously off the rails. His only kind words about anybody in government were reserved, again quite reasonably, for the Obamas, whom he regarded as brilliant and honourable people, which indeed they are.
Third, Mueller removed Strzok from his team about a year ago, immediately upon learning of the texts, and even before that it would have been entirely impossible for Strzok’s supposed anti-Trump animus to have had any impact on the direction or integrity of the Mueller investigation. There are simply too many layers of oversight, review, and joint decision-making for any one agent to hijack the process, and any suggestions to the contrary are utterly preposterous.
Fourth, Strzok is an agent who has always exemplified the enormous skill and professional integrity so typical of the counter-intelligence branch of the FBI, which is an almost terrifyingly effective defender of American security; his personal views would not have influenced his conduct. Everybody knows this, including Mueller, who acted to quell the perception of investigatory bias, not the reality.
Fifth, if Strzok or anybody in the FBI wanted to derail Trump’s candidacy, they sure went about it in a funny way, keeping mum about the mounting evidence that the Republican nominee was a Russian tool, while Director Comey doomed the Clinton campaign with his ludicrous and improper public commentary on the investigation into the gargantuan load of absolutely nothing that was Hillary’s emails.
Last, and most importantly, there is no way anyone with half a brain would ever hold any view that is in any way at odds with anything Strzok had to say. All he did was give voice to God’s truth. Those in the liberal commentariat who spout pieties about Strzok’s “lack of judgement” and “failure to conduct himself according to the FBI’s standards” are, frankly, full of shit. The man has spent his entire professional life defending America’s democracy. It would have been scandalous if he didn’t view the rise of Trump, orchestrated with Russian assistance, as an unprecedented disaster for the Republic. The amazing thing is that he held himself in check, and hewed tenaciously to the rules.
Maybe Strzok and others like him were a little too dedicated to playing by the rules. That’s the real finding here. Institutional anti-Trump bias? Give me a break. The truly upsetting thing about this whole affair is that so many people with the power and knowledge to do something about Trump chose not to, and just stood there scratching their balls, watching with something far too close to equanimity as the Hellspawn took over the Republican Party and then the Federal Government. Far from evidencing malice and bias against Trump, the behaviour of the FBI and its political masters was almost inconceivably neutral and detached. So much should have happened that did not. The public should have been fully and officially informed of the Russian meddling before the election. The Republicans in Congress should have launched public investigations. The Republican Party should have prevented Trump’s nomination. When nobody else lifted a finger, Obama should have ignored the obstructionist threats of Mitch McConnell and taken the political risk of outing the whole mess. The FBI should likewise have sounded the alarm. I half expect to find out that the FBI and other intelligence agencies knew enough to have Trump arrested, long before the election.
They all just stood around gawking.
Yet the Republicans, and the quislings in the media who enable them, now want us to believe there was a Deep State conspiracy to stop Trump, and that Strzok’s anguished cries of the heart provide proof that any inquiry into the Russian affair is a baseless witch hunt being prosecuted by a corrupt cabal of rogue FBI agents out to subvert democracy.
That was the whole point of yesterday’s hearing, and so, inevitably, all thoughts of cool detachment took flight as I lost my marbles almost immediately, and started hollering at the TV. It was quite the most awful three-ring circus I’ve ever seen. It was embarrassing. Horrifying. The Republic has never witnessed such a mendacious spectacle of immoral partisan bullying from its elected officials. McCarthy’s hysterical 1950s imitation of the Spanish Inquisition via the House Un-American Activities Committee was a model of mature and even-handed statecraft by comparison. I thought I had some idea of the depths to which I could feel hatred, but after watching Trey Gowdy and Louie Gohmert debase themselves and all of Congress, I now realize that prior to yesterday I had no real clue. If telekinesis was even remotely possible, both of those despicable mounds of scum would have burst into flames from the sheer power of my white-hot rage and contempt. They would have fried like ants under a magnifying glass, screaming and pleading for mercy, right there on TV. It would have made the high school prom scene in Carrie look like an episode of Teletubbies.
Alas, no. Once again, I proved sadly powerless.
It was almost impossible to come away from the fiasco with any remaining shred of hope that we might still muddle through this horror show somehow. Every one of those filthy lying Republicans understands that Russia rigged the Presidential election, and that the November mid-terms are also under covert attack by Putin’s trolls. Every one of them knows their President is not merely an illegitimate clod unworthy to run a Seven-Eleven, let alone the White House, but a puppet of a foreign enemy who’ll destroy America’s standing and imperil the entire Western World. Every one of them knows that Strzok did nothing wrong, there is no Deep State conspiracy, and Trump is a criminal who belongs in a lightless cage in some Arkansas Supermax. Every single one of them understands completely what’s at stake, and what’s on the cusp of being destroyed forever. Yet they sit there spitting venom and jabbering like howler monkeys at the one man in the room who’d die to protect their country. All for what? A tax cut for the rich? That’s all their souls were worth to them? That’s why they’re all complicit in a decades-long effort to hijack American democracy, now reaching fruition with the help of their nation’s most virulent enemy?
Whatever their reasons, they’re in it too deep to back away now. What do you expect them to do? Defend the Constitution? Get real. It probably won’t be long before they try to distract everybody by attacking Hillary again. We’ll be lucky if Gowdy doesn’t kick off another investigation into fucking Benghazi.
The Republic is doomed. Like climate change, it’s inevitable now, and we have to stop thinking about prevention and start planning to cope with the aftermath.
Supposing it’s possible to cope.
Note: by tomorrow I’ll probably be back in the hunt for hopeful signs that the Republic is not really doomed.