this is what scares me

I’m not particularly concerned that Trump will skate on this impeachment trial. I think we all expect he will. Senate Republicans, after all, are all gutless Quislings completely devoid of honor or integrity. So yeah, Trump will almost certainly walk. I don’t like it, but I expect it — and there it is.

What scares me is this: what comes next? If Comrade Trump gets away with this — if he’s acquitted in the Senate despite all the evidence against him — what will stop him from doing it again? What’s will prevent him from allowing — or flat out encouraging — a hostile nation to attack his Democratic opponent? And what could we do about it?

He’s capable of doing that. You know he is.

What’s going to stop him from doing something even worse? What if, say, he declares a national emergency — what if he announces there’s been a threat to certain polling districts and ‘for the safety of the citizens’ orders those polling places closed? What if he says the voters should go to different polling sites, sorry for the inconvenience? What could we do about it? 

Do you think Trump isn’t capable of doing that?

What if the 2020 election goes against him? What if he loses and claims the election was rigged/hacked/manipulated/fraudulent? What if he refuses to honor the result? What if he just refuses to relinquish power? What if he tells his followers to resist his removal from office? What if he tries to declare martial law? What then?

Do you think that’s impossible? It sounds crazy, doesn’t it. It sounds ridiculous. Because it IS crazy and ridiculous — or it would be if anybody else were president. But do you really think Trump wouldn’t try to pull something like that if he thought he might get away with it? What would stop him? Patriotism? Decency? Respect for the Constitution?

That’s what scares me. Not one more year of Trump, as horrible as that would be. What scares me is this: IF Trump gets away with it this time — and right now that seems a foregone conclusion — what’s going to stop him from thinking he can get away with it again? The answer scares me.

Nothing.

stinks

Just pointing out the obvious here, but Comrade Trump always does what he accuses other folks of doing. There’s this from this morning:

And there’s this from Friday in an interview (on FOX News, which is the only place Trump feels safe enough to give an interview) with Laura Ingraham:

“Here we are, split-second timing, executed like nobody’s seen in many, many years, on Soleimani? Can you imagine they want us to call out and speak to crooked corrupt politician Adam Schiff? ‘Oh, Adam, we have somebody that we’ve been trying to get for a long time. We have a shot at him right now. Could we meet so that we can get your approval, Adam Schiff?’ And he’d say, ‘Well, let’s do it in a couple of days.’ ‘Oh, OK, let’s wait a couple…’ It doesn’t work that way, number one. Number two, they leak. Anything we give will be leaked immediately.”

He accuses Schiff of ‘totally making up a conversation’ but does exactly that his ownself. Hell, he even did it during the interview with Ingraham.

“I think Nancy Pelosi and Schiff — you know, because he’s corrupt. I mean here’s the guy stands up at the United States Congress and repeats a conversation — except it was a fraud, he made up a conversation.”

This Trump guy, he’s a textbook case of psychological projection. Textfuckingbook. Seriously. Here: a defence mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.

Is that not Comrade Donald J. Trump? It so totally is. Even our old friend King James went on about this. “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Okay, somebody would probably have to explain to Trump what a ‘mote’ is, but still.

I am so tired of this guy. It’s going to take a long time to get rid of the stink of Trump. A long time.

we can’t

Y’all already know this, but I’m going to repeat it just so we’re clear. Comrade POTUS Donald Trump ordered the targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani, a high-ranking military officer of Iran — a nation with whom the US is not at war — during the general’s public visit to Iraq, which offered no objection to his visit. The question we have to ask, of course, is this: why in the hell did Trump decide to have Soleimani assassinated?

Trump initially said Soleimani had to be killed because “he was planning new attacks on American targets.” Attacks, plural. He repeated this claim, and got more specific, at his campaign rally in Ohio last night. Comrade Trump said this:

“Soleimani was actively planning new attacks and he was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad, but we stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold. So at my direction, the United States military eliminated Qasem Soleimani and ended his rampage through not only that part of the world but much bigger parts of the world he was all over.”

Multiple attacks on more than one embassy. Members of Congress (in both political parties) who were eventually briefed on the assassination have said there was no mention of any plans by Soleimani to attack any embassy. Still, Trump is making the claim — and the claim makes him look decisive and determined and concerned about the welfare of US embassy staff. It’s almost certainly a lie.

Another take on the assassination is buried deep in a Wall Street Journal article. It offers some uglier insight into Comrade Trump’s decision-making process:

Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

This makes Trump’s decision to have Soleimani assassinated sound like nothing more than an attempt to shore up support in his coming impeachment trial. It’s probably true.

It’s barely making the news. This is the United States we live in now. We have a president who almost certainly had a foreign military leader assassinated in order to strengthen his political situation in Congress, and because Trump is who he is and because Republicans have protected him for so very long, it’s just another day. We were this close to a shooting war…and Republicans just shrug it off.

The United States used to be a fairly decent country. Those days are gone, and sometimes it seems like we’ll never get them back. It makes you want to sit in a dark room and mope. But, of course, we can’t.

Well, we can. But no, we can’t. We can’t. We really can’t.

doesn’t make sense

Somebody explain this to me. On 27 December, a rocket attack on a base in or near Kirkuk killed an American — a contractor for the Department of Defense — and wounded a bunch of US troops. The US responded with air strikes against Iranian-sponsored militias, which killed 25 people. That pissed off Iranian sympathizers in Baghdad, who proceeded to partially overrun the American embassy. And that is apparently what led Comrade Trump to blow the shit out of Qasem Soleimani.

Iranian militants

Okay, that’s all stupid in itself. But that isn’t what I want explained. THIS is what I want explained to me. On 5 January, an attack by al-Shabaab on a base in Kenya (on the border with Somalia) killed three Americans — two DOD contractors and a member of the US military — and destroyed about US$500 million worth of aircraft and high-tech surveillance equipment. The US responded with a strongly-worded commitment “to pursue the perpetrators of the attack.” In other words, the US basically said they’d just continue to do their job.

al-Shabaab militants.

That’s what I want explained. Why one attack by Islamic militants (which resulted in a single US death) sparked such massive retaliation while a similar attack by Islamic militants (which resulted in more deaths and more destruction) resulted in nothing more than a further commitment to fulfilling the mission.

I know the Trump trump administration won’t truthfully explain anything to anybody. It’s silly of me to expect them to explain this. If an explanation exists, I suspect it’s stupid. Like, say, Trump wants headlines; the news media pays attention to Iraq and Iran; nobody really cares who gets killed in Africa; Trump wants/needs/demands more and bigger headlines.

I want this to make sense. I know it won’t make sense. But I still want it to.

what we were afraid of

This is exactly what we knew would happen, what we were afraid of. We knew there’d come a time when Trump would step into a pile of his own shit, and we were afraid he’d ignore any sensible advice from experts and make uninformed and impulsive decisions that would make matters worse.

But Jesus suffering fuck. We actually believed there would BE experts around him to offer that sensible advice. It never occurred to most of us that Trump would scrape away every upper level career professional from almost every federal agency. The ones he hasn’t fired have resigned.

And you guys, they’re still resigning. These are folks who most of us have never heard of, folks who’ve spent their careers doing the hard, unrecognized work of gaining expertise in fields we don’t even know exist, and doing it in order to insure the US makes sound policy decisions. Folks like Tina Kaidanow, a career Foreign Service member who is an expert in Russian and Eurasian affairs. She resigned last week, the fifth senior official to leave in the last seven days. Randall Schriver, a big hat in Asia policy — gone. Jimmy Stewart (yeah, that his actual name), the top guy in charge of personnel and readiness — gone. Steven Walker, a leader in DARPA — gone. Kari Bingen, the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, the second-highest ranking civilian intelligence expert — gone. That’s just in the last week.

In their place, Trump has installed a cadre of evangelical yahoos eager for the Rapture and a bunch of ideological fuckwits who evaluate policy by how much it pisses off liberals. Republicans who ought to be guiding the president have abandoned calm, thoughtful, reasoned policy decisions. That leaves us with an emotionally unstable, willfully ignorant, recklessly impulsive, and easily manipulated president making rash decisions based apparently on a toxic combination of panicked self-interest and a desperate need to feel powerful and in control.

And you guys, I really hate to say this, but an emotionally unstable, willfully ignorant, recklessly impulsive, and easily manipulated president making rash decisions based apparently on a toxic combination of panicked self-interest and a desperate need to feel powerful and in control is the BEST CASE SCENARIO.

The worst case scenario? It sounds like a bad conspiracy novel, but it’s frighteningly possible. The worst case scenario is that Vladimir Putin has some sort of leverage over Trump and is using it to quietly reduce (or eliminate) US influence in the Middle East and Eurasia. That creates a socio-political power vacuum that Russia is happy to fill. That scenario sounds completely fucking paranoid, but the scary fact is that almost every policy Trump has implemented in the region has been detrimental to US interests and beneficial to Russia.

The really bad news? It’s all going to get worse. Maybe much worse. At some point Iran will respond violently to the assassination of Soleimani. The impeachment process is going to make Trump even more emotionally labile, as will the financial investigations into his sketchy business dealings. As will his general anxiety over the 2020 election.

In fact, I suspect by the time he appears before Congress to deliver the State of the Union speech, he’ll be so keyed up anything could happen. He might read a tightly rehearsed speech; he might get angry, go off-script, and deliver an obscenity-laden rant about how unfairly he’s treated; he might refuse to give the speech altogether; he might show up and bite the head off a live chicken.

These are weird, scary times. We expected weird scary times. We were afraid Trump would behave in weird, scary ways. This is exactly what we were afraid of.

you never know, do you.

It’s official. I’m not saying that wearing a ball cap with ITMFA made any measurable difference, but hey, you never know, right? The thing is, it’s official. We’re actually going to impeach the motherfucker already.

I wish I could be happy about this. But I can’t. I’m not happy for two reasons. First, impeachment is an awful thing. It’s an awful thing even if the president deserves it (and Comrade Trump truly deserves it). Impeaching the president is like agreeing to have a gangrenous foot amputated. You don’t really want to do it, but you know it’s necessary in order to survive.

The other reason I’m not happy is because it looks like there’ll only be two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. They’ll focus entirely on the Ukraine mess. I understand this as a strategic decision; I get why Congressional Democrats have chosen this approach. I know it makes sense to streamline the process in order to limit the ways Republicans can fuck with it — because they will. The fewer the moving parts, the less that can go wrong. I get it.

But I’m not happy with it. I’d like to see more public hearings in the House — hearings on topics like criminal obstruction of justice, emoluments violations, or campaign fraud. I’d like to see some focus on Trump’s domestic crimes, which are just as troubling as his foreign fuck-ups. I think there’s also strategic value in that. I suspect there are a lot of voters who don’t much care what happens in Ukraine; it’s a long way off, in a place they’re never going to visit, and where they don’t know anybody. They may be sorry Ukrainians are fighting a war, but they don’t feel it’s got anything to do with them. On the other hand, a lot of those same voters would likely be pissed off if they felt Trump was using his office to pad his own pockets like a cheap crook.

I’d like to see an impeachment process built around the massive scope of Comrade Trump’s corrupt practices, but I’ll take what I can get. I’ll take it because I know how highly improbable it is that the Senate will fulfill their constitutional duties and convict. Still, impeachment is the right thing to do.

TMF who is going to be IA

And you never know, do you. I’m certain there are Republican senators who would like to see Trump gone, but have been too cowardly to do anything about it. Maybe one or two of them will find some courage. Maybe if one or two of them decide to vote to convict, others will take heart and step up. Maybe it’s actually possible that Trump will be tossed out of office.

It could happen. I wouldn’t bet my paycheck on it, but it could happen. So I’ll continue to wear my ITMFA cap, even if it doesn’t have any measurable effect. I mean, you never really know, do you.

craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history

Okay, a quick heads up. I’m going to write a really long sentence. Really long. The kind of sentence writing instructors warn students never to write because readers will either lose interest in the subject and decide to go see what’s on television, or get massively confused halfway through and have to start again at the beginning. It’s going to be longer than the sentence you just read. It’s a long sentence because the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history demands long sentences. So you’ve been warned.

Yesterday, at the same time Congress was holding the first public impeachment hearing to determine if Comrade Donald J. Trump is fit to continue to occupy the office of the President of the United States, Trump was meeting with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, who last month launched a military offensive that bore all the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kurdish forces who had been the chief ally in the U.S. fight against ISIS for years until they were suddenly, unexpectedly betrayed by Trump’s inexplicable decision — which came immediately after a late-night phone call with the president of Turkey — to remove U.S. military forces from the Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria.

This was an extraordinary conjunction of events, even by the loopy standards of the Trumpverse. As I said earlier, it’s the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history. While two patriotic career civil servants (one of whom is actually a deputy assistant secretary of state specializing in anti-corruption efforts) were testifying under oath that Trump had betrayed his oath of office by engaging in corrupt activity, Trump was publicly celebrating a different corrupt betrayal — and doing it with the corrupt dictator who directly benefited from the betrayal. Not only that, Trump openly confessed to a war crime. Although he’d claimed he pulled U.S. forces out of Syria to bring them home, yesterday he said this:

“We are keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil.”

This is a clear violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Conventions, which categorically states pillaging (taking something of value from a location seized in a time of war) is prohibited. It’s also perfectly on-brand for Trump, who argues that corruption committed in the open doesn’t count.

This is the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history. Democrats and civil servants are systematically and methodically demonstrating the corrupt practices of the Trump administration while Republicans are spouting insane conspiracy theories and mocking Congressional witnesses for drinking water (I am NOT making this up) and POTUS is calling himself a ‘big fan’ of a foreign dictator who a few weeks ago had openly insulted him by saying he’d thrown Trump’s threatening letter in the trash. What the actual fuck is happening here?

How can all this crazy shit be happening at the same time? It almost makes you want to believe in astrology, because it would be nice if we could explain it all away by pointing to some lunatic arrangement of planets. That would actually make it less crazy; that’s how goddamn crazy this moment is.

And don’t even think about pulling me aside and whispering, “Forget it, Jake…it’s Chinatown” because it’s NOT CHINATOWN. This is NOT a Chinatown situation. Sure, Kurdistan is as dead as Hollis Mulwray, and Trump is treating the Constitution the way Noah Cross treated his daughter, but this isn’t policing in Los Angeles in the 1930s. It’s actually possible for us to know whether our foreign interventions are helping victims or exploiting them.

Okay. Okay, I got a tad carried away and veered off into a tangent that probably won’t even make sense to folks who’ve seen the movie. Sorry. That’s what living in the craziest goddamn moment in U.S. history will do to you.

There’s another public hearing schedule for tomorrow. Maybe it’ll be less crazy. Or maybe Comrade Trump will hold a press conference with Ming the Merciless. I’m not going to rule it out.

Somewhat Related Editorial Note: If you haven’t seen Chinatown, WTF is wrong with you? Go watch it. It’s brilliant. Cynical, yeah, but one of the best films ever made, even if it was made by Roman Polanski — and there’s a tangent I’m going to avoid while I still retain some semblance of self-control.