Just when you think our politics are at a crisis point, somebody moves the goal posts. That’s how it seems right now as the president and his detractors find new ways to butt heads. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs gives his take on where it’s taking us.
I’ll admit, when I first heard a few days ago that Nancy Pelosi said, “We believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up,” I was shocked. Not shocked at the charge of a cover-up; I believe it too. But I was shocked that right before a scheduled meeting with the president on infrastructure, knowing what a vengeful viper he can be, the Speaker of the House would knowingly taunt him.
It’s also why I’ve come to like her.
Because she speaks truth to power. Bluntly, and at least as effectively as any of the 20-some Democrats running for President.
And, because Trump deserves it. Of course the president took offense— big-time offense— that the Speaker was “disrespectful” and had accused him of “horrible, horrible things.” As if Trump isn’t “disrespectful” and doesn’t say “horrible, horrible things” about every human being who looks at him the wrong way.
The roster is too long to record— like disabled reporters, Mexican-American judges, Gold Star parents, overweight women. But the most recent instance is the Republican congressman from Michigan, Justin Amash— a founding member of the super-conservative House Freedom Caucus by the way— who last week had the temerity to tweet after reading the Mueller report, “President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.” Trump’s response? Tweets last weekend that Amash is “a loser,” and “a total lightweight.”
Actually, that isn’t “the most recent instance.” The most recent is Trump’s tweet yesterday morning, after a new report that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called Trump ill-prepared and outfoxed by Vladimir Putin for their 2017 meeting in Poland. It prompted the president to recycle his opinion that Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon, is “dumb as a rock.”
Well, even that isn’t “the most recent.” As of this writing anyway, that came yesterday afternoon when Trump tore into Speaker Pelosi, calling her “Crazy Nancy” and saying, “She’s a mess. She’s lost it.”
You get my point.
Every time the president takes offense that he is being either investigated or insulted, I don’t know whether to consider it hilarious or horrifying. Probably some of both. But the stupefying revelation from Trump’s latest hissy fits is, he deplores disrespect. Go figure.
The trouble is, Pelosi’s charge of a cover-up tamped up Trump’s temper to the boiling point, where instead of negotiating at the scheduled summit about infrastructure, he blew his tinted top and, according to reports, “stormed” out of the room straight to the Rose Garden and demanded that the Democrats stop their “phony investigations.” But he’s been pleading that case for a long time. The surprise was the clincher: Trump won’t work with the Democrats at all, on infrastructure or presumably anything else, until they give in. “We’re going to go down one track at a time.”
Put aside for the moment the appearance of a scripted outburst that Trump was shocked by Pelosi’s broadside, since in the moments it took Trump to travel from the Cabinet Room to the Rose Garden, his staff had already methodically erected a podium decked out with defiant signs saying “NO collusion NO obstruction” (as if saying it makes it so). And put aside the fact that Trump’s channeling of the classic line in Casablanca— “I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here”— is at odds with the fact that critics have been accusing the president of a cover-up since the whole Mueller investigation began.
Put all that aside, and just consider the president’s assurance in the Rose Garden, “I don’t do cover-ups.” (He went on to say to the assembled media, “You people know that probably better than anybody.” He was smart enough not to take a vote on that one.) But in the wake of his inadvertent analog to Richard Nixon’s infamous assurance, “I am not a crook,” it’s only fair and balanced to point out that Trump actually does cover-ups galore. Does the name Stormy Daniels ring a bell? Or how about the president’s total refusal to release any documents, let alone permit any aides to testify, to Congressional committees trying to exercise their Constitutional right to oversee the Executive Branch. What some have the audacity to call checks and balances.
Kind of makes you wonder, if you’ll excuse the incoherence of the question, if this president doesn’t do cover-ups, what exactly is he covering up?
And one more thing: Trump said in the same Rose Garden rant, “I’m the most transparent president probably in the history of this country.” Right off the bat I’d argue that in modern times at least, Jimmy Carter— ultimately to his peril— has him beat. But the bigger point is another question: if this president is so transparent, how come he hides so much? I can’t help but think about all the men who have been allied with Donald Trump either politically, or professionally, or personally, who now are in jail or awaiting their sentences, thanks to their association with him. I had to conclude early this month that there was something wrong with the picture when Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was marched off to prison, while the man he was imprisoned for protecting roams free.
You could argue, all of this is beside the point. What’s important is the nation’s business. And that includes infrastructure, the rare issue on whose importance the two political parties agree. Politically, it’s about as close as anything comes these days to a no-brainer.
Yet President Trump put his ego above his obligation to get it done. Suddenly, an insult— Trump’s own stock-in-trade— is a capital crime for which the nation’s business must grind to a halt.
The day after Trump’s tantrum, Speaker Pelosi called on “his family or his administration or his staff” to “have an intervention for the good of the country.” The goal of an intervention is to change someone’s destructive behavior.
This time I wasn’t shocked by the Speaker’s blunt talk. I was glad. Because Donald Trump’s behavior isn’t just destructive to him. It’s destructive to us all.