Author, Lecturer, Ethicist

"What an arrant, rascally, beggarly, lousy knave . . ."

            "Fluellen" by Joseph Noel Paton

            "Fluellen" by Joseph Noel Paton

Another day another disturbing headline; another week another heretofore unthinkable act. This past week began with the firing of FBI Director James Comey.' 45's initial explanation for this bizarre – though perfectly legal act – was that "he had acted on the recommendation of Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein," who had harshly criticized Director Comey for the way he had handled the Hillary Clinton email kerfuffle this past July and then again just days before the 2016 presidential election. Two days later, in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, '45 "undermined his own alibi," flatly stating that he had determined to ax Director Comey long before receiving Rosenstein's memo. Furthermore, in addition to smearing Comey ("he's a Showboat, he's a grand stander") '45 so much as admitted that he was motivated by concerns about the Russian scandal. According to many legal authorities and (Democratic) members of Congress, the President' s statements could lead to serious legal charges and challenges . . . the most onerous of which would be obstruction of justice. (n.b. It will be remembered that both Presidents Nixon and Clinton were charged with obstruction.)  Things have progressed so far and so quickly that just yesterday, in a piece he wrote for the Washington Post, Harvard Law Professor Laurence H. Tribe called for '45's impeachment. 

Add to this '45's reported request that Comey "pledge loyalty" to him and the clear indication that A.G. Jeff Sessions - who had publicly recused himself from anything concerning the FBI Trump/Russia investigation - nonetheless ordered DAG Rosenstein's memo to the president . . . and you have both a political and Constitutional  hornet's nest of historic proportions.  

But wait: there's more . . . and more.

In the hope of diverting attention away from the entire Comey/Russia investigation/obstruction of justice debacle, the President decided to breathe life back into the phony issue of mass, nationwide voter fraud. He did this by launching a commission on 'election integrity' to be co-chaired by Vice President Pence and Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach, who has been described as "an architect of restrictive voting and immigration laws around the country." It will be recalled that shortly after his inauguration,' 45 began insisting that "3,000,000 to 5,000,000 people voted illegally." (Besides being demonstrably untrue, the reality is that one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter-impersonation fraud in the United States.")  Ironically, since '45 began to claim “rigged” elections and millions of illegal voters, public support for the idea of widespread fraud actually has dropped. A recent Politico-Morning Consult poll showed that 43 percent believe fraud is very or somewhat common — down from 64 percent in a 2015 CBS News poll.  

If all this weren't enough, over the past 24 hours, the Dutch television documentary program Zembla (Dutch for "new land") ran two exhaustively researched bombshells entitled The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump - part one subtitled The Russians, and part two, The King of DiamondsShockingly, what these two classic "follow the money" documentaries have painstakingly unearthed is an extraordinarily complex international web of interconnecting corporations, shell companies and international holding firms in which the Trumps and Kushners are active participants. What they all have in common are ties to the so-called "Russian Oligarchs" - the multi-billionaires who, at the time the Soviet Union fell apart, divvied up all the regime's assets - oil, coal, land, buildings, minerals. These oligarchs are, in essence, leaders of the so-called "Russian Mafia."  They have been cited for crimes ranging from money laundering and murder to dealing in Angolan "blood diamonds" and human  trafficking, not to mention prostitution. Since day one, whenever '45 has been asked about his ties to the Russians, he has flatly stated “I have nothing to do with Russia – no deals, no loans, no nothing!”  One thing the Zembla documentary makes crystal clear is that, the press has been asking '45 the wrong question.  Instead of asking "What investments have  you made and/or business dealings do you have in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union?" they should have been asking "What investments and/or business dealings do the Russians have with  you?"  According to the investigative journalists from Zembla, the answer is "a staggering amount."  Do yourself a favor: check out the two Zembla videos and get to know such shadowy figures as Tevfik Arif, Felix Sater, Sam Pa and Lev Leviev as well as such shadowy firms as "Bayrock," "KazBay B.V." and "88 Queensway Group." 

These two YouTube videos are not your run-of-the-mill tin hat conspiratorial garbage; they are works of utterly serious investigative journalism . . . works which over the past 24-36 hours have quickly gained both traction and viewership around the globe.  For anyone who has had the gnawing suspicion that the current administration is quickly turning America into nothing more, nothing less than "the family business," this two-part documentary is a must.

And yet, despite the welter of facts, evidence, Tweets, and bouts of foot-in-mouth disease, '45 still has a solid hold (at least for now) on his base and the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress.  Find it hard to believe?  Asking yourself how in Hell anyone could not find grave fault in the firing of James Comey, the manner in which '45 carries himself or his flagrant lying?  Well consider this:

  • Recent NBC/SurveyMonkey polling shows Republicans find the firing of Comey to be appropriate (79 percent of Republicans said it was, only 38 percent of all adults agreed);
  • Despite the fact that the President has dropped his original  explanation for Comey's axing, 43% of his supporters still believe that  '45 really did fire Comey over Clinton’s emails (43 percent said that, but only 24 percent of all adults agreed);
  • These same folks think that the Russia allegation is a distraction (78 percent of Republicans said so while 54 percent of all adults disagree and say it is a serious issue).
  • Gallup finds '45’s approval is a robust 84 percent among Republicans but an abysmal 41 percent among all adults.

The reasons for this ungodly disconnect are many, and require delving into the fields of abnormal and political psychology, as well as epistemology (the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion) as well as psycho-history.  Regrettably, we have neither the time nor space for what amounts to a cross-disciplinary doctoral dissertation. Suffice it to say that long before '45 took the oath of office, what is now known as the "alt-right" began retraining a large segment of the American public fervently disbelieve anything said, written or concluded by mainstreeram sources like The New York Times, Washington Post, network television or academicians.  They have trained their minions with an almost Pavlovian predictability to see anything going against their predigested beliefs to be the product of a vast left-wing conspiracy.  Shades of Joseph McCarthy . . .

So where are we headed?  To an impeachment?  How about an authoritarian takeover?  Or maybe a revolution?  Sorry, but ever since my crystal ball came back from the cleaners, it's been on the fritz.  Although impeachment at first sounds great and may well happen if enough Republicans begin putting patriotism ahead of party, remember that the next two people on the Constitutional totem pole are named Pence and Ryan; the former an unreconstructed "prayer warrior," the latter a devotee of Randian Objectivism.  

There are no end of nasty words to describe the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue;  characterizations of who he is and what he is doing to our country.  Lamentably, I wasn't raised  to be readily comfortable with profanity.  However, having learned a fair amount of Shakespeare as a lad, I do know a few turns of phrase which, if translated into modern English, are about as filthy as one can get.  And so, we conclude with Fluellen's (that's him in the picture above) base assessment of Michael Williams (whom he believes to be engaged in a traitorous relationship with the French Duke of Alençon) in Henry V, Act IV, Scene 8:

                                                                                                   "What an arrant, rascally, beggarly, lousy knave . . ." 

If the shoe doth fit . . .

117 days down, 1,340 days to go.

Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone