What Is Going On? Recapping American Politics in Mid May
I just have one question, and I presume it is the same question we have all been asking ourselves since 20 January: what is going on? In my opening post, I warned about the dangers of giving in to political fatigue. The overwhelming task of keeping up with events in Washington combined with good old existential dread is certainly enough to tempt anyone into a very long nap. So much is happening all the time that it seems impossible (and unpleasant) to be in the know. I am no expert on staying informed; I simply have an addiction to politics and current events that, aside from strongly affecting my anxiety and creating other health issues, keeps me relatively aware of the state of our union. So let’s recap, shall we?
James Comey, the FBI Director, was fired by Donald Trump on 9 May. This is incredible for many reasons. Comey was FBI Director under both Presidents Bush and Obama, making him a bipartisan official – hard to come by these days. It also turns out that Comey is also a meticulous note-taker, and over the course of his short time serving the Trump administration, he took note of two particularly strange requests from the Donald. The first: a request of loyalty, which sounds like something Henry VIII probably asked of his advisors and officials. The second was a less straightforward request for the FBI to take it easy on Michael Flynn, who, in case you’ve forgotten, was Trump’s ill-fated National Security Advisor who was chatting with the Russians before Trump took office. That’s not allowed. Apparently he’s a “good guy” though, which seems like something you might say about your bus driver or barista, not a man tasked with securing the nation who failed swiftly and dramatically. But for Trump to ask the FBI Director, no matter how colloquially, to acquiesce a man in an investigation because he’s nice is the most remarkable lack of disregard for precedent and standard in the Oval Office.
Robert Mueller III
Following in the Comey vein, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (remember, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he too was getting chummy with the Russians before he should have. He also lied to Congress about it under oath, but he didn’t mean to, so it’s fine) appointed Robert Mueller III, a former FBI Director, to Special Prosecutor in the wake of Comey’s release from the job. It is my assumption that Mueller’s appointment was done to make the entire fiasco seem less suspicious; a Special Prosecutor is expected to preside over the investigation as a non-partisan, “unflinching advocate for facts,” as Mueller is described by the New York Times. This whole situation is bananas. First of all, when Trump fired Comey, he actually used the words “I appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.” Amazing – because his campaign still is under investigation, and Trump did himself no favours by firing the person originally tasked with investigating the campaign’s ties to Russia. Second, the fact that the Attorney General was also talking with the Russians and therefore cannot be involved in the investigation sounds like something out of a really bad Wednesday-night political drama. To add a final layer of ridiculousness, Trump is now claiming that he is the victim of a witch hunt – the biggest political witch hunt in American history, apparently. Absurd. We here at the Attic, as a coven ourselves, are fans of witches wrongly persecuted and we do not give Donald Trump one strand of sympathy.
The GOP response to Trump’s troubled week (and entire presidency) has been pretty much what one would expect. Speaker of the House and noted coward Paul Ryan said he can’t worry about things that are outside of his control – you truly have to wonder how the man in charge of the House of Representatives goes to work every day with such a terrible grasp on reality and, it seems, on his own power. While it would be fantastic to believe that a few good Republicans will stand up to Trump and put country over party, don’t plan on it. Paul Krugman, a NYT columnist, writes that the GOP has “no intention of exercising any real oversight over a president who is obviously emotionally unstable, seems to have cognitive issues, and is doing a very good imitation of being an agent of a hostile foreign power.” He’s right. Donald Trump might be an indisputable whackjob, but to the Republicans, he is their only chance at pushing their conservative agenda forward in a relatively short amount of time. As long as Trump’s base continues to support him – and they do – the GOP can safely continue to work behind the scenes on more legislation that destroys affordable healthcare for all and slashes the taxes of the rich. Trump is a proven sexual predator, an abuser of power, and likely an obstructionist of justice. He hides his tax returns from the public eye, spews falsehoods like a fountain, displays no basic understanding of policy, and is a disgrace to the office he occupies. The Republicans have defended him for this long, and will likely continue to do so until hell freezes over – which would prove that global warming is fake, so they’ll be glad anyway.