by Bob Cesca
When I lived in Hawaii, there was a commonly used maxim about the weather. If you didn’t like what was falling from the sky, wait five minutes and, before you know it, it’ll be sunny, clear and breezy. It was kind of shocking how often that it legitimately worked out that way, other times, it obviously didn’t and the rain kept falling. After all, it’s just a saying with the patina of truth and not a meteorological constant.
Thursday and Friday of last week, I collided with what was perhaps my lowest emotional point since Election Night. If you listened to either my Thursday podcast or my Friday subscriber-only After Party show, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Kimberley Johnson, my co-host for both shows, called me the “Crack of Doom,” borrowing from The Lord of the Rings, and she wasn’t exaggerating.
The source of my gloomy attitude wasn’t just the ongoing bombardment of insanity-inducing instability and duplicity — the soul-crushing lies, criminality and utter destruction of everything we’ve always considered to be presidential. My craptastical mood was primarily triggered by President Trump’s behavior during his trip to Europe for the G20, and the subsequent “oh well, there he goes again” normalization of it all.
As a lifelong student of the presidency, including five years in academia where the White House’s chief occupant was my area of concentration, everything we witnessed last week ran contrary to what’s been historically expected of presidents from both parties through and including Barack Obama, and even presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. I don’t mean to sound overly rigid here, but the rules and traditions of the presidency were supposed to be relatively constant, not unlike the rules for being a surgeon or nuclear physicist or even cashiers at convenience stores. This is how it’s done, and those who stray too far from the rules are to be forcefully yanked back to normalcy or removed from their posts.
Donald Trump has been violating these standards for more than two years now, seeming to invent his own deeply weakened rules, as if the presidency is exclusively a matter of personal interpretation and not bound by any constitutional or traditional strictures. Like fingernails perpetually raking a chalkboard is how I can best describe my reoccurring reaction to Trump’s behavior, knowing that any other employee/worker/professional is never afforded the latitude to deviate this much from the mandates of his/her gig.
Imagine your kid’s math teacher suddenly behaving with the unethical, immoral, erratic, obscene, irrational, caustic, obnoxious recklessness of Trump. Or your local police chief. Your doctor. Your boss. We’d never stand for it. No one — absolutely no one in professional circles has been allowed to get away with the abhorrent behavior exhibited by the president on any given day without comeuppance. And it’s constant — the way he likes it. He craves the spotlight and knows that any press is good press, forcing his bloated cartoon face into our lives whether we asked for it or not.
Hell, I had my first Trump dream the other night in which he was trying to have me arrested for asking him questions about Russia in the Oval Office. (I forget exactly how or why I was in the Oval with Trump.) Even my subconscious was trying to be reasonable — I kept saying, “But I’ve always tried to honor the office by calling you ‘President Trump.'” He didn’t care and had me hauled off anyway. It was absolutely a manifestation of what I’m experiencing — here’s me trying desperately to maintain normalcy and yet the president didn’t give a shit. Suffice to say, I’m not thrilled that Trump has invaded my dreams. But these are the times, aren’t they?
I never thought I’d witness a president who stood on foreign soil and accepted the word of a despotic autocrat — a murderous dictator like Putin — over the word of the former president, the entire American intelligence community and the American free press. Worse, he openly ridiculed all three during his joint press conference with Polish President Duda. The next day, we learned that not only did Trump accept Putin’s word that Russia didn’t attack the United States, but we also learned that Trump and Putin might form a joint task force on cyber security — a completely mystifying idea given what’s happened. Again, I felt like I was going crazy.
These events represented everything I despise about Trump and his banana-republican presidency. Frankly, there’s no way I can muster words about Trump’s G20 sojourn any better than what Australian reporter Chris Uhlmann related last week, culminating in this deeply pointed summation: “We learned Mr. Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation and to confuse and alienate his allies.”
Americans of all parties should agree. Yet 35-40 percent of us have become so brainwashed to the point of believing Trump’s behavior is not only presidential, it’s admirable. Any rational American has to see that our president is objectively a monstrously horrendous human being and an even worse president. He fails to satisfy any of the qualities we’ve determined to be acceptable from a national leader, especially the president, much less a patriarch and fellow American. As a man, I’m ashamed to share genders with this whining, preening, misshapen poseur.
On top of everything else, it’s become obvious through the course of the Trump-Russia story that our president is acting as an enemy combatant, conspiring with a hostile foreign power as it attacks American sovereignty and the integrity of our elections. Our president is unequivocally compromised by that foreign power and can’t be trusted to carry out even the basic duties of the presidency without Moscow leaning on the scales.
These are just some of the thoughts and emotions that relentlessly bombarded my sensibilities last week. But not unlike the Hawaii weather maxim, the clouds parted over the weekend and into Monday, thanks to the brave, intrepid and patriotic reporting of The New York Times and the drip-drip exposure of Donald Trump Junior and the Trump campaign’s obvious criminal conspiracy with Russian spies. Thanks to journalists Jo Becker, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, the game has suddenly changed — at least temporarily — and it appears as if the luminescent warmth of justice and accountability has arrived. Perhaps for the first time, Trump and his band of enemy henchmen are one step closer to being held responsible for the fraud and treason they’ve wrought.
The forces of good still exist in America. We’re endowed with an ingenious system that continues to function despite the chaos at the top of the political food chain. Hope still exists. And this dark ride doesn’t seem as inescapable as it did a few short days ago.
Just after the election, I talked with my late friend Chez about how we can best endure the Trump crisis. I mentioned Fred Rogers’ quaint yet applicable advice, and it’s more relevant now than ever. “Look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers once said. The helpers and the heroes are still out there and, at least for now, they’re winning.
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