It is long past time to confront the shamefully obvious: Donald Trump is a traitor and members of his inner circle are as well by privately acknowledging his parlous mental state and utter unfitness for the presidency yet endangering all of us by failing to do the right thing. You can add to those enablers the legion of congressional Republicans who are concerned not about Russia having interfered with the 2016 election with the help of the Trump campaign but protecting their lunatic meal ticket by pushing back against efforts to get to the bottom of this unprecedented assault on the bedrock of American democracy.
Scholars will be dining out for years to come on the treachery of these traitors — the Conways, Kelleys and Kushners, the Grassleys, Grahams and Gingriches — who have toiled so hard to be on the wrong side of history. This leaves us, mouths agape and minds blown as the new year dawns, to try to process the realization that the targets of these enablers are not the perpetrators of that assault on democracy.
Instead, they are the objects of Republican authoritarianism:
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the one person who can send King Donald into exile.
Christopher Steele, the author of the explosive dossier detailing the campaign’s collusion.
Hillary Clinton, that hapless and ever reliable conservative Republican punching bag.
But in an exquisite if accidental piece of timing, there is Fire and Fury to pull us back from the brink of total despondence.
Michael Wolff’s incendiary new book — the target of a flailing cease-and-desist order from those West Wing enablers that assures it being a runaway best seller — lays out in exquisite and well-sourced if occasionally flawed detail a reality about the manic dysfunction of the Trump White House that we’ve long suspected.
That is, everyone around Trump knows that he is incapacitated by mental illness fueled by a textbook case of malignant narcissism and possibly the onset of dementia. This manifests itself in his semiliteracy, an inability to comprehend consequences, disinterest in policy and obsession with his physical appearance, golf game, prosecuting political enemies and what the media is saying about him (what Wolff has written squares with multiple accounts in The New York Times, WaPo and Politico), infantile temper tantrums and tweetstorms, some 24 separate tweets on one recent day, including the now infamous boast the size of his “nuclear button.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and former chief of staff Reince Priebus called Trump an “idiot,” according to Wolff. Fox media mogul Rupert Murdoch did them one better by calling him a “fucking idiot.” Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn compares Trump’s intelligence to excrement. He’s a “dope,” according to national security adviser H.R. McMaster and a “moron” in the view of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions,” Wolff wrote last week in a Hollywood Reporter article. “It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes.”
And: “At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.”
Books like Fire and Fury that dish palace gossip often can be criticized for overlooking policy substance, but there is little policy and even less substance in this White House, where decisions just kind of make themselves. Wolff does take an unsatisfactory stab at trying to understand why Trump’s enablers are failing to act on his craziness, explaining unconvincingly that they — or some of them anyway — cling to the fiction that they are helping protect us from the president they serve.
Then there is that darned Russia scandal.
Former chief strategist Steve Bannon, no pillar of probity, further substantiates in Fire and Fury what is by now common knowledge. That the June 2016 meeting brokered by Donald Jr. was a collusionpalooza that called for one reason only getting dirt on Clinton from an intermediary for Vladimir Putin — but goes a step further and correctly calls that “treasonous.”
Presidential scholar Douglas Brinkley opined way back in May that “There’s a smell of treason in the air” after then-FBI Director James Comey called Trump a liar in testimony before Congress confirming an ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow that would soon get him fired because he didn’t take repeated hints from the godfather and his capos and lay off. But the word treason and its sidekick traitor have been a bridge too far for most commentators because of their megatonnage. There may be no more freighted word in English.
But the time has come to cross that bridge, and United States Code 18 U.S.C. § 2381 is unambiguous:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
Trump, for his part, declared over the weekend that he’s a “genius . . . a very stable genius at that.” On Twitter, of course. In yet another bizarre twist, Bannon has now apologized to Trump for . . . telling the truth, which serves to again remind us why no one of consequence is using the T-words and no one in a position to make a difference wants to invoke the 25th Amendment.
This supposes that the clean-up in aisle 1600 will fall to Mueller, who beyond the screechingly obvious — that Russia interfered in the election with the Trump campaign’s eager assistance — hopefully (please, God!) is about to indict more perps, possibly including son-in-outlaw Jared Kushner — as he methodically builds an obstruction of justice case against the Global Village Idiot himself that by itself would be grounds for impeachment in a Democratic-controlled Congress.
All that noted, there is an eerie complacency about the greatest crisis in presidential history, and I am not overlooking Watergate.
The economy is cooking along nicely and the record of Trump’s first year in office is negligible. Except for that massive transfer of wealth to the rich in the so-called tax reform bill and his behind-the-scenes blitzkrieg on everything that has made America special, from welcoming immigrants to eradicating institutional racism to preserving its fragile wilderness lands. Beyond the economic good tidings and phony populism, this complacency is because the enablers have largely succeeded in normalizing Trump’s behavior, which further makes the debate over whether Trump is “mentally ill” a bogus diversion since it has long been obvious that he is.
And all of that is truly frightening.