Trump Remains Free, But Our Sentence Continues
On Monday, a friend breathlessly and sheepishly emailed: “Yes, I admit it: I’m watching the motorcade from LaGuardia to Trump Tower. It’s like O.J.’s Bronco ride! And I swear, the lead car in the motorcade looks like a white Bronco! Could this be an inside joke by the N.Y.P.D.?”
As delicious — indeed, bewitching — a possibility as this might be, I found myself shrugging. I didn’t watch the motorcade, nor could I watch the arraignment, though long have I fantasized about seeing Donald Trump perp-walked, mug-shot, fingerprinted, shackled, summarily convicted and motorcaded directly from court to the South Street Seaport and put aboard a ship for St. Helena.
Why am I not jubilating, wallowing in a deep, warm bubble bath of schadenfreude? Why, instead of humming “Ding, dong, the witch is dead!” am I pressing buttons on the remote control to see what else is on — some politically themed movie, say, where the president more or less gracefully accepts proof of his villainy, resigns and helicopters off to exile in, say, California? Those were the days. Instead, what’s currently on more resembles “Groundhog Day,” a replay of a movie about replay.
Much as I hope to see justice served — if not, at this late point, piping hot — it feels as though we’re the ones who are already in jail. Mr. Trump came down that escalator into the lobby in 2015, making this the eighth year of our sentence in Trump Prison.
Is there hope of parole? Remains to be seen. Despair is a mortal sin, and yet … who knows? We are relentlessly, remorselessly told by some constitutional poobah that even if convicted a person can 1) run for president or 2) be president. Who knew?
Mr. Trump’s fame came largely from a reality TV show, every episode of which concluded with his snarling at someone and telling them they were fired. His genius was to make us participants in this garish melodrama. Though many of us — but, alas, apparently not enough of us — yearn fervently to fire him, he has proved unfireable. Teflon, Kevlar, whatever your metaphor for “unassailable” — he endures. The show is renewed for another season. The concept of becoming ridiculous and tiresome by “jumping the shark” does not apply. The bigger the shark, the higher the jump. On to the Capitol! Hang Mike Pence! — who was last heard bemoaning the “weaponization” of justice. Oh, the humanity!
I didn’t tune in live but I did see the photo of Mr. Trump on Monday, entering the lobby of his eponymous tower, where eight years ago he sentenced us to imprisonment. He didn’t look happy. Who would? Yet one wondered if, deep down inside, he was. Despite the circumstances — WITCH HUNT! — he was exactly where he craves to be: the orange omphalos at the center of our world.
Years ago, a now disgraced network television C.E.O. observed without shame that Donald Trump’s first run for office might not be good for the country but he was sure good for his network. These ratings are through the roof!
Whom the gods would destroy, first they bestow upon them monster ratings. When Tucker Carlson lays his head upon his pillow after another day of bread and circuses, does he reconcile defending a man about whom he confided to colleagues, “I hate him passionately” with suggesting to viewers that now might not be a good time to hand in their AR-15s? If he succeeds at this contradictory jiu-jitsu, he deserves a black belt in cognitive dissonance.
Democrats, it’s said, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It may be time to revise this hoary axiom, for it’s the Republicans who’ve blown one opportunity after another. Not just two impeachments. As the historian Jon Meacham points out in The New Yorker, Republicans in Congress could have invoked the clause in the 14th Amendment that bars from public office anyone who attempts to overthrow the government.
This was the lowest hanging fruit of all, but the party of Lincoln and Reagan didn’t raise a hand. In the same interviewMr. Meacham, author of an admiring biography of George H.W. Bush, also expressed utter bafflement that Mr. Bush’s lifelong close friend and consigliere Jim Baker admits to voting for Mr. Trump — whom Mr. Baker despises almost as much as Tucker Carlson does — not once but twice. Much as I miss Mr. Bush, I’m grateful he’s not around to hear this.
The show will go on, endlessly renewed for another season. There will be more indications — sorry, indictments. The dogs will bark, but thwart the old proverb, the caravan will not move on.
Christopher Buckley is a novelist and a humorist.
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