My spirit has flagged of late. Not all day. Not every day. Too many though are dithered away compulsively checking news sites, playing anesthetizing computer games, and, worse, scrolling through Facebook. The writing work and French study get short shrift. I find myself unable to focus on more than a couple of pages of Barzun (From Dawn to Decadence) and Pynchon (Mason & Dixon) at a time. Some days I even have little enthusiasm for lacing up the running shoes.
One bright note: I finished Bonjour Tristesse, en français. There is much I missed, but I think I got the gist of a good story. Yesterday I made it through the first chapter of Candide. Okay, maybe that makes one and a half bright notes.
There are weeks that just make your head hurt. And your heart ache. It is not just the plague and the restrictions we are called on to place upon ourselves as a matter of decency. More disheartening are the incompetence and cynicism on display at the highest levels of the federal government. This goes beyond the blundering, ineptitude, and treachery at the heart of the White House response to a health crisis it has treated from the get-go as a threat to the president's reelection. The country would be facing a crisis of historic magnitude even if the virus had never reared its spiky head.
The ante was upped last week when the Justice Department moved to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn, who served briefly, oh so briefly, as national security adviser in the early days of the Trump administration. I refer you to articles by Philip Rotner, Kim Wehle, and Fred Wertheimer (see Related Reading below for full citations) for the case against the DOJ action undertaken at the behest of the impeached president's personal attorney general.
The politicization of the Justice Department has been more than an open secret dating back at least to William Barr's fanciful report on the Mueller report. Now on offer is simply the exercise of naked power on behalf of the president and his friends and against his perceived enemies. When asked by CBS News journalist Catherine Herridge how he thinks history will be written when it looks back on this decision, Barr responded with a straight face, "Well, history is written by the winners. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history."
The president applauded the DOJ maneuver and again lashed out at the FBI and the Obama administration, spewing that they are human scum, treasonous, and calling for a high price to be paid. No matter that an arguable case can be made that the actions of former FBI Director James Comey did more harm to Hillary Clinton than to Trump and contributed to his victory in the electoral college. It is as they say a fine kettle of fish when those of us on the left are compelled to defend the FBI. The world is truly turned upside down.
The murder of Ahmaud Arbery was a despicable act for which the perpetrators should be punished to the full extent of the law. The failure of Georgia authorities to take action until release of a video two and a half months later is maddening. How can this happen? It seems that local authorities determined that Georgia's "stand your ground" law protects two armed white men who fear for their safety at the hands of an unarmed black man wearing a tee-shirt and running shorts but not an unarmed black man confronted by two armed, aggressive white men.
Racism is part of what is at work here, but it goes beyond that to the legitimization of vigilantism and the fetishization of the gun ownership and the second amendment. We see it in the president's support for armed blockheads who invaded state capitols to demonstrate their objection to lockdowns imposed for the sake of public safety. These were not acts of nonviolent protest or civil disobedience. The weapons had one purpose: intimidation. This was close to insurrection.
The president is desperate to win reelection. It goes beyond ego and insecurity, although there is that. Trump needs to retain power so he can protect himself and his family from multiple investigations into all manner of business chicanery and impropriety. The implications for the November election are stark. Trump screeched that California votes should not be counted after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order allowing all voters to vote by mail in the November election to protect themselves from COVID-19. Politico reported that
The Republican National Committee and Trump reelection campaign are doubling their legal budget to $20 million as litigation spreads to an array of battleground states. With the virus likely to complicate in-person balloting in November, Democrats have been pushing to substantially ease remote voting restrictions — something the Trump campaign and RNC are aggressively fighting in the courts. (Isenstadt)
David Cole, National Legal Director of the ACLU, sums up the terror vote by mail inspires in Republican hearts in an article in the current issue of The New York Review of Books:
[Trump] claims that if we were to adopt voting by mail, "you'd never have another Republican elected in the country again." The Republican Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives agreed, predicting that voting by mail would be "extremely devastating to Republicans." That would be the case only if, when more voters' preferences are counted, there are more votes for Democrats than for Republicans. But that's precisely how democracy is supposed to work: it's called "majority rule." If the only way a party can prevail is by suppressing votes, it shouldn't win. (Why We Need Postal Democracy)
RNC chief of staff Richard Walters says they are ready to sue the Democrats "into oblivion." They could prevail in courts packed with his judicial appointees rubber-stamped by compliant Senate Republicans who day after day bend over in the shower to pick up the soap and with glib acquiescence take what Trump has to offer.
Suppose Joe Biden wins in November. Suppose even that it is a romp. Will Trump willingly leave the Oval Office? Or will he claim fraud and with the aid of his personal attorney general contest the results? Will there be blood in the streets as self-styled patriots, with or without encouragement from the usual suspects, take up arms to preserve his presidency? All of this would have seemed the stuff of fiction only a few years ago. Now, not so much.
While the plague rages Trump and his scurvy crew of running dogs, lackeys, and shysters are unstinting in their efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and any other remnants of Barack Obama's legacy, muzzle Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, and others at CDC, and push for a payroll tax cut, long a favorite among Republicans who see it as a way to undermine social security and Medicare.
Now we are beset by Asian giant hornets recently immigrated to the Pacific NW where they are eagerly decapitating our good, American honeybees. Where is a wall when you need it? It is only a matter of time before the impeached president and Secretary of State Mike Pompous are screeching about Wuhan murder hornets bred in a Chinese lab.
There is reason for gloom and despair. On that we should not deceive ourselves. The question for each of us is what we will do in the face of things as they are. I continue to work with Vote Forward and other groups to get out the Blue vote in November. I share my views with elected representatives at all levels and take a public stand where and when I have the opportunity. If fortune smiles we will sweep Trump and his entourage out of the White House and send enough of the other scoundrels packing to flip the Senate while keeping the House. That will be the first step in the long, arduous task of repairing the damage done to our country in the past four years. Nothing is certain. All I can see to do is go forward with as much hope and resoluteness as I can muster.
In the meantime, it is Mom's Day, after all, and a beautiful day out here in the glorious Northwest, where ordinary citizens take a fashion tip from antifa and the fascists and mask up when we go out. My family has some pretty cool mothers, and I bet yours does too. Happy Mom's Day to Candy, Jennifer, Heidi, Rae, and Susan, and Little Lynn too, who is kind of a mom to Bella the adorable pooch. Just thinking about them is good for my spirit.
As for me, I have a Sunday happy hour Apocalypse IPA from 10 Barrel Brewing and a date with Mason & Dixon in my future. That too is good for my spirit.
Keep the faith.
Cristina Cabrera, Trump Livid After California Allows Statewide Mail-In Voting: 'These Votes Must Not Count,' Talking Points Memo, May 9, 2020
David Cole, Why We Need Postal Democracy, The New York Review of Books, May 28, 2020
Stuart M. Gerson and Kristy Parker, Keeping an Eye on the Hand of Justice: Bill Barr and Targeting Joe Biden, Just Security, April 29, 2020
Sean Illing, 11 legal experts agree: There’s no good reason for DOJ to drop the Michael Flynn case, Vox, May 8, 2020 [Memo from the editorial desk: the opinions come from ten law profs and one former federal prosecutor]
Alex Isenstadt, Trump intensifies war with Democrats over voting laws, Politico, May 7, 2020
Ryan Lucas, Justice Department Is Dropping Case Against Ex-Trump Adviser Michael Flynn, NPR, May 7, 2020
Ian Millhiser, Republicans plan to spend at least $20 million to combat voting rights lawsuits in 2020, Vox, May 8, 2020
Philip Rotner, Bill Barr Wants Us to Pretend Flynn’s Lies Don’t Matter, The Bulwark, May 9, 2020
Kim Wehle, Flynn Dismissal: Bill Barr Thumbs His Nose at Justice, The Bulwark, May 7, 2020
Fred Wertheimer, Barr Ignores Settled Justice Department Policies in Run-Up to 2020 Elections, Just Security, May 7, 2020