Permit me an aside as a roundabout way of getting to the point. It’s another one of those days when I need to write about something that makes me happy, before I get to the stuff that makes me sad.
One of my favourite anecdotes from the world of sport involves professional hockey – yes, I sure am Canadian – and relates to the epochal meeting between NHL pros and the Soviet Union’s Olympic-gold-medal-gobbling “amateur” hockey squad, way back in 1972. It’s referred to these days as the “Summit Series”, and at the time it was, by the reckoning of just about all of us who were there, the most important event in Canadian history. Period. When the games occurred in Russia, and were thus broadcast live in the middle of the day over here, we kids were told we didn’t have to come to school, but if we did, the game would be on in the gym. No fooling.
This was the first “best on best” matchup between the hockey superpowers, and our boys from the NHL were expected to mop the rink with those goofy little upstart Russian twerps with their goofy little helmets, weak-assed protective gear that our guys were too manly to wear. The Commies, accustomed to overwhelming hapless amateur squads from hapless little countries in Europe and then calling themselves the world’s greatest, needed to be taught a painful lesson. It was going to be sad, really. Cruel, but necessary.
It was a bit of a shock, then, when in the first match staged on the sacred ice of the hallowed Montreal Forum, home of the storied demigods of the Canadiens, the Russians pounded the living poo out of our squad to the tune of a 7-3 victory, and did it all on skill, superior play-making, and vastly superior physical conditioning. By the end, our guys were an exhausted, sweaty, pop-eyed rabble of shell-shocked losers, and the Russian who was most brilliantly skating around the best we had to offer like they were pylons stuffed with duck fat was an astonishingly (and horrifically) talented fellow named Valeri Kharlamov.
Ah, Valeri. He was a genius – no other word for him. You saw it the second the puck hit his stick. There was real beauty in the surgical way he sliced us to ribbons, and you had to admire him, even as you were frantically sticking pins in your hastily cobbled-together Kharlamov voodoo doll, watching in mounting horror as he made us look like frickin’ idiots. The only player on Earth who could have neutralized him was Bobby Orr, and he was sitting up in the stands recovering from one of those godawful knee procedures that blighted his brilliant career, looking like he wanted to hang himself. Orr could have taken back control of the flow of play and out-duelled Valeri, and that would have been something to see, but Bobby wouldn’t be riding to our rescue. The rest of our players, all of them superstars in their own right in our league, couldn’t do much but watch the Russian do whatever he wanted, and what he wanted was to give the NHL’s finest what he obviously thought was an overdue spanking.
As the series progressed, our squad gelled, gained stamina, learned the ropes of what was now a different game of hockey altogether, and eventually, huzzah, we won the series, but all the while Kharlamov kept sticking the shiv between our ribs. There are different versions of exactly what came next, but one of them goes like this: during an intermission, Philadelphia Flyer Bobby Clarke, no wilting wallflower, was sitting alone with Canadian assistant coach and former Canadiens star John Ferguson, likewise no weak sister, who mused, to nobody in particular, “somebody’s gotta do something about Kharlamov“. He might just as well have said “will nobody rid me of this meddlesome priest?”, and that’s just how Bobby took it. “There was nobody else in the room” Clarke said later. “I figured he was talking to me”. So, at the next opportunity, Bobby took his stick and with one quick, vicious slash, broke Kharlamov’s ankle.
Ferguson remembers the lead-up a little differently, but anyway, once Bobby was through with him that was pretty much it for Kharlamov, who gamely kept playing in the series, but couldn’t do his magic any more. Look, this was war, OK, this was way beyond hockey, it was Us against Them; Phil Esposito later declared with utter sincerity that he would have murdered the bastards to win, and if we couldn’t have Orr, well then shit, it was only fair that the Soviets spot us their equivalent ice genius, right? Am I right? It had to be done. Just like Orr, Valeri simply couldn’t be contained by mortals struggling within the rules of the game, so – so long, pal. That should probably heal up before the next Olympics, where you can go cheat your way to another gold by pounding the piss out of the actual amateurs.
Well, and I’m not advocating anything illegal here, not at all, wouldn’t do that – I don’t want anybody getting the wrong idea, I don’t need guys in black suits wearing sunglasses and earpieces pounding on my door – I’m just sayin’: after yesterday’s appalling debacle in the Rose Garden, something’s gotta be done about Trump. Not in November, 2020. Now. Like you, probably, I have absolutely no idea what can be done within the rules, not with that f#@&er Mitch McConnell earning his spot in a nastier corner of Hell for neutering the Senate just when America’s 244 year experiment in constitutional democracy faces a peril that only the Senate can thwart, is in fact there to thwart, but Jesus H. Christ, somebody better think of something. We’re not out of thoroughly lawful tools for the job. We’re out of people who understand their responsibilities and have the heart to meet them.
Even after yesterday, it looks like.
God save us. There was the President of the United States, having just stomped out of a meeting with Congressional leadership like a pissy little girl who just found out that she wasn’t getting that new Malibu Barbie for her birthday like Mommy promised, glowering behind a podium festooned with a crude “NO COLLUSION” propaganda poster that was right out of Pravda circa 1950, and declaring that unless those damned Democrats knocked it off with their bullshit Congressional oversight routine, he wasn’t going to allow any more governance to occur. That’s it. No more legislation, no more signing of all the bills that Mitch wouldn’t allow past the gate anyway, nossir, he, Donald J. Trump, Leader of the Free World, Occupant of the Most Powerful Office on Earth, Chief Executive of These Mighty United States, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, was going on strike. He basically put a gun to the American people’s collective head.
Call off the dogs, Chuck and Nancy, or the kid gets it.
Oh my God. Oh my Sweet Jesus. Where do we go from here? Where do we take this? Trump stood there, utterly oblivious to his own Constitutional responsibilities, and shouted that he was not going to fulfill his oath of office unless he got his way. You don’t need anything else. That alone is impeachable, forget the rest of his innumerable high crimes and misdemeanors, including the ongoing obstruction of justice inherent in his effort to make Nixon look like a mere amateur stonewaller. The moron stands there on TV, in front of the White House Press Corps, and swears up and down that he’s now committing yet one more impeachable offence, you bet he is, and he gets away with it. Nothing happens. He even called the reporters liars to their faces, and they didn’t react. Nothing ever happens, there’s never any pushback from anybody for this guy.
Who’s the moron now, huh?
One thing should by now be all too obvious. This idea that the President can’t be prosecuted even for crimes committed while in office, much less the ones he had under his belt when he took the job, and indeed that tearing up the Constitution on live TV shouldn’t result in a couple of Federal Marshals slapping the cuffs on him right there, simply has to go. Madison, Hamilton, Jay et al would be the first to say so, once they realized that their intricate Constitutional machinery, deliberately, nay lovingly crafted for just this emergency, was lying broken on the ground because the Congress was refusing to do its duty. Didn’t see that one coming, did you guys? If they’d been there yesterday they’d have whipped out their personal copies of the Constitution and written up a codicil right there, just as fast as they could scribble it with their big old quill pens:
IF, despite the manifest corruption, lawlessness and unfitness of the President, which to the satisfaction of no fewer than three Justices of the Supreme Court has been demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt, the Congress refuses to fulfill its duty to impeach, duly appointed law officers shall, forthwith upon instruction from those Justices, clap such President in irons, and subsequently and as soon as practicable pitch him into a lightless goal where he may be detained indefinitely on a diet of warm water and stale bread.
Something like that. You know this mess would appall them. You know they’d hasten to draft something up to fix it.
For now I’m out of ideas. Constitutional crisis? What if the crisis is actually already over, and this is the result? Hail Caesar? Can nobody save us? Does nobody with the duty to act have the spirit to act? Don’t they all see?
There was a dream that was America, and this is not it.
Stay tuned, though. I’m choosing to believe that this ain’t over yet. Not yet.
Valeri Kharlamov was killed in a car crash in 1981. In 1972 he was an iron spike that the dreaded Soviet totalitarians were pounding into our hearts. If I could meet him today I’d want to give him a big teary-eyed bear hug.