BURNING DOWN THE AMERICAN REICHSTAG: Fear and Loathing in the World’s Most Cowardly Deliberative Body
Andrea Mitchell: “I can tell you this … one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump”
Jeff Flake (R–AZ): “That’s not true. There would be at least 35”
In the end — just one of the fifty-three Republican members of the United States Senate voted against the acquittal of the most singularly guilty man in the history of American jurisprudence. A man so transparently, wholly and transcendently guilty, that it took nothing short of OJ and Jeffery Epstein’s legal team to slither onto the defense table and belch out two straight weeks of shotgun contrarianism and a Jackson Pollack fantail of bad faith circular arguments that even a first year jailhouse lawyer wouldn’t use with a straight face as a defense.
It was a task that every single reputable law firm on the eastern seaboard ran screaming from, and rightfully so; which left Trump’s own in-house dung beetles Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow with the unenviable task of exhuming the body of Alexander Hamilton and taking a giant, sewer clogging shit directly into the moldy remains of its powdered wig. History will show it was a task that they alone were up to.
It takes balls the size of a bean bag chair to lie right into the face of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a room full of TV cameras every day, and yet Trump’s lawyers did it with such casual frequency and glib certainty you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that you were trapped in some mirror universe in a fever dream brought on by the near fatal ingestion of spoiled blowfish. Never before has such shameless gaslighting, bullshit concern trolling and victim blaming been elevated to such a high stage. To say the House Managers, led by Adam Schiff pounded Cippolone like a tent stake every damn day would be a gross understatement, that is, of course, you are grading this as a normal exercise of American judicial practice under the standard rules of order. The Prosecution’s biggest singular mistake was in assuming that things like facts, evidentiary chains and well-articulated, clear and consistent arguments mattered here. In the end — it didn’t. What we just witnessed was the world’s first social media comment section flame war trial and Schiff committed the first cardinal sin of the internet — he fed the trolls.
Trump’s fate was never seriously in doubt. It’s practically impossible to get sixty-seven votes in the United States Senate to agree on what day of the week it is — but no one could have anticipated just how low they would sink in this process. While the final vote had the brutal, cold and unflinching certainty of watching a public execution — the nadir of the whole process fell on the Friday, January 31st, when the minority forced a vote on bringing in the documents and witnesses that would have least given these proceedings a candy shell veneer of actually being a legitimate exercise of normal jurisprudence. In particular, the testimony of one John Robert Bolton.
While many people will wear the dark brown stain of the shame of these proceedings for the rest of history, perhaps no one will be so grotesquely linked to them than John R. Bolton.
For those unfamiliar with Bolton’s resume, think somewhere in between General Aldo from the original Planet of the Apes movies and Thanos. Like so many other neoconservative assholes with a war boner, Bolton managed to duck going to Vietnam through a series of student deferments, and when his number finally got pulled, he joined the Maryland National Guard where he bravely fought the Viet Cong from the steaming jungles of Louisiana. From that moment on, there hasn’t been a single geopolitical conflict anywhere across the globe that Bolton wasn’t actively and passionately trying to send some poor kid from an underserved neighborhood to go die horribly in.
Bolton was such an incredible piece of shit that he actually voted AGAINST reparations for Japanese Americans held in WW2 era internment camps throughout the United States when he worked in Reagan’s Justice Department. He managed to dirty himself up a little during Iran-Contra, and when the dumber of the two Bush presidents appointed him to be the United States Ambassador to the UN — it had to be as an unconfirmed recess appointment. Apparently, advocating publicly for the destruction of the first ten floors of the United Nations doesn’t play well in the swing states for a UN ambassador nominee.
Yet despite this paper trail of reptilian partisan fuckery, Bolton actually looked like a rock ribbed patriot when placed against the backdrop of Trump’s crimes. Trump had brought Bolton in as a national security advisor when the last one pleaded guilty to a string of felony crimes against the United States which he almost certainly will go to jail for.
Like most people with an IQ above room temperature, Bolton quickly discovered Trump was too shallow an idiot to even be effectively manipulated into staying focused long enough to execute Bolton’s vision of turning the entire Middle East into a sea of glass; instead becoming narrowly obsessed with trying to strong arm the president of a former Soviet republic to at least pretend he was investigating Joe Biden for some crazy, made up bullshit.
Like most government actions in the era of Trump, armies of people, paper and money must suddenly be mobilized behind some utterly insipid impulse that rattles out of Trump’s giant pumpkin head while watching Fox and Friends in his underwear. This was no exception. Trump saw some blurb about Joe Biden entering the presidential race and outpolling him in the rust belt, and then suddenly the full force of the American machinery of state was lurched into action accordingly. Bolton famously characterized Trump and his vampire TV lawyer Rudolf Gulliani’s cockamamie scheme as a “drug deal” — which is manifestly unfair to drug pushers, users and drugs themselves everywhere. At least drug deals produce a product that even when used irresponsibly has the benefit of making one party money and another high as balls.
Like all Trump appointees, the fastest way to the door is to demonstrate even marginal capacity for independent thought, and Bolton was no exception. He washed out of Trump’s inner circle with the last of the adults people in the republican party had nervously deluded themselves into thinking would be some sort of human guard rail against Trump’s breathtaking ignorance and complete lack of impulse control. However, unlike duty-first career military guys like Kelly and Mattis, Bolton has a long memory capable of all manner of petty vengeance and self-serving opportunism.
When the House tried to subpoena Bolton during the House Impeachment hearings, Bolton elected to hide behind the skirts of Don Mcgahn’s ongoing legal attempts to make a judge tell him its OK not to participate in Trumps criminal conspiracy to block every document and witness it could scare away from the fundamental rule of law. (A case which is still ongoing). However, once the case moved to the Senate, Bolton quickly changed his tune. For all intents and purposes, he dropped to all fours and begged to come testify in the Senate, knowing full well the extent to which the Republican party’s knee knocking cowardice was a safe bet.
Virtually every day of the hearing began with Bolton chumming the water with new salacious details buttressing the prosecution and shredding the defense (and teasing his forthcoming book). On the morning of the witness vote, Bolton let slip that not only was he personally in the room when Trump spelled out the aid for investigation scam, so was defense counsel Pat Cipollone, who had just spent multiple days lying through his teeth in front of everyone in the country unemployed or unsupervised enough to burn 2 weeks’ worth of business hours watching this whole sorry exercise unspool on daytime TV. It was the grossest publicity stunt to sell a book in the history of the printed word, and yet it worked like a charm. Bolton fit the profile of many of the people who have actually laid a glove on Trump over the years — which is to say manifestly devoid of the impulse of shame.
The irony of all of this is that both sides in this case exhausted a lot of time in solemn deference to the “genius of the founders” and a near apostolic reverence for the constitution as a holy document written by the hand of God Almighty himself with the blood of patriots, and yet the only thing both sides managed to axiomatically prove was just how weak those things actually are. Or maybe even were.
Our laws are like our money — they rely intrinsically on our shared ability to believe in them to hold any legitimacy or value. A shared and willful suspension of disbelief done in the service of the common good. Our system hasn’t survived for these two centuries because it was strong. It existed because our shared belief in it was. Turns out for all its bluster and dick waving, American democracy has a glass jaw. We just never had anyone dumb enough to take a swing on it from so high a perch.
It should come as no surprise that all it took was one low watt boar with absolutely no ethical north star to plow effortlessly through every flimsy guardrail and paper barrier in his way. This system was always this fragile. At any point, some self-serving egomaniac could have done what Trump has done; shredding every norm and punching through one subfloor after another in an eternal freefall to a rock bottom that seems to never come. It just took the right sociopathic asshole to do it. Sadly — like other groundbreaking human achievements such as the four minute mile, now that it’s happened once, chances are good it’s going to become the new normal.
This is all of our fault. We did not care for and respect our institutions as a shared responsibility. A great tragedy of commons that lead to a diffusion of responsibility leading to their ultimate demise. Fascism does not take root because it is strong, it takes root when democracy becomes weak. And we let ourselves get weak, we exported our violence for so long to far away places that we forgot how to take a punch.
Our weakness was our need to reality shop. To give up on an observable shared set of facts in lieu of a soviet style hyper-normalization in the service of trying to pwn some faceless stranger in a social media flame war. We became a nation of thin skinned bullies and trolls, and it was only a matter of time before the loudest asshole on the internet found a way to turn that into IRL power.
Fifty-three members of the United States Senate just proved the difference between internet bravado and real life cowardice. Rather than provoke the rage of a short fingered vulgarian that turned a shitty reality TV show into an administration being run like a shitty reality TV show, they rolled over whimpering. For all of their misty eyed proclamations of the sanctity of the founding documents, they ripped them to shreds on national TV just to avoid getting a childish nickname from a lumbering oaf with a little bit of money and the working vocabulary of a gorilla that’s been taught sign language.
American exceptionalism has been a lie since they sewed Jack Kennedy’s head back together and buried him in Arlington. We are no longer a shining city on the hill. We are a nation of cowards getting our lunch money stolen every goddamn day by some pre-literate knuckle dragging troglodyte who did nothing more sophisticated than refusing to believe in the same rules we pretended were real.
We’re on some Lord of the Flies shit now, and it’s everybody for themselves, unless we decide to band together and take down the bully together. Unfortunately, today was not that day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good, either.
Nothing short of the fate of the American Experiment, if not the concept of Western Liberal Democracy in its entirety, hangs in the balance.