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"Strange things I have seen. Strange things I have done."
Donald Trump has been indicted. Again.
The Trump era feels both like it has been an eternity and no time at all. On the former, the seemingly daily news dumps were a hallmark of his candidacy and, then, his presidency. This has somewhat dissipated in the time since the Jan. 6 insurrection (more on that in a bit), when he was kicked off social media and briefly deplatformed from major media outlets (that deplatforming didn’t last nearly long enough), but it’s roared back as the big guy has turned out to be the frontrunner in the 2024 Biden-Trump rematch for the presidency. Speaking as someone who used to cover him, the sheer amount of Trump news made – and makes – every day feel like a month and every month feel like a year.
On the other hand, the years lost to the COVID-19 pandemic have made it feel like time has fast forwarded like a VHS tape; the static lines on the screen have obscured a lot of the memories. There are times when I feel like it was yesterday when Jan. 6 happened or the summer of ‘20, when federal law enforcement was sending tear gas (and rubber bullets) into protestors here in D.C. It’s been more than two and a half years since he was in office, but Trump remains the pall cast over our political culture.
Which brings us to the most recent development: Trump having been indicted on several counts in connection with efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Chris Geidner has a great breakdown of what’s happening here:
With the continuing caveat that I’m not a constitutional lawyer nor a historian, I do want to note how weird this all is for the American republic. It’s going to take a while to adjudicate these charges and it’s certainly likely that Trump could be back in the White House and able to pardon himself (read those two words again. They’re deeply bizarre). At the risk of sounding repetitive, the oft-cited claim by Trump and his allies have parroted is not incorrect in these charges are unprecedented, just as his having been impeached twice was unprecedented. There has not been a president like Trump. Perhaps there has never been an American like Trump. Unprecedented people call for unprecedented action.
What that action can and will mean is hard to define, though. The timeline of the court system is never really short and Trump is expert at extending out said timeline.
And Trump remains the main character of American politics, as is his every dream. The pro-Trump (or Trump-curious, in the case of the Baseball Crank, the world’s worst best poster) set is now even using the language of self-help in talking about the big man.
The Crank is not alone. The folks at Reason – who I would also classify as Trump-curious – devoted the top of their newsletter on Monday to a piece highlighting (and thus, platforming) the arguments that Trump’s legal team is making. The magazine is not alone in giving air to this “side” of the story that involves that legal team’s argument, but my hope is that more media outlets are following the New York Times’ coverage. It has mostly laid out the timeline of the Jan. 6 story, Trump’s widespread breaking of norms and the landscape of the legal system Trump faces (note the top rail and its sections). The paper doesn’t convict Trump before a jury does, by any means, but its leadership also has seemingly learned the lessons of the Trump era regarding giving the falsities air.
One thing that I’ve been on since the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6 is the specious notion that Trump incited the violence. This is one of the places where I somewhat fall in line with Trump’s supporters online in that I think it’s going to be awfully hard to prove in a court that Trump was inciting people (more on that in a bit). The charges in Jack Smith’s indictment are more complicated than incitement and get to a more granular criminal conspiracy than the resistance set probably understands, but Trump’s support remains as strong as it has ever been. No amount of charges (“persecution,” in the parlance of Trump supporters) or documented malfeasance (I genuinely don’t know how Trump’s supporters justify his being caught on tape admitting to crimes) will change the polls. Two Americas, indeed.
One final thing about Trump, Jan. 6 and the current political moment: Violence has become a rote part of political speech. “Fight” is a word often held up by candidates, through song and speeches, while the conservative movement’s love of guns is sometimes punctuated with assassination cosplay. Trump used this rhetoric to noxious ends, of course, but I can see how he and his acolytes do not see him as an outlier in the modern political discourse.
A recent case in point is not about a candidate threatening or suggesting violence on a political opponent, but rather on 2 million-plus public servants. Our pal Ron DeSantis (sorry, governor, you can’t ask me to be a consultant anymore) last week said he would “start slitting throats” of “deep state people” as soon as he became president. For the necks of federal employees, it’s unlikely DeSantis will ever become the GOP nominee (no less president) but the fact that everyone’s least favorite slap-hitting outfielder is threatening violence on public servants… that’s very bad.
(It’s important to understand that phrases like “deep state” are euphemisms with a broad enough – as in, plausible deniability – definition as to not actually mean a lot to normal people. But, to people listening… it means a lot. In the Trump era, it has meant “anyone who works in the federal government and doesn’t do what I want,” which is how you get the Cincinnati FBI office attack. To be clear: Federal employees are not trying to hurt the conservative movement in any way, mostly because two million people can’t be mobilized to start or stop anything quickly. The “deep state” stuff is just a way to convince people to keep voting to downsizing government until government is incapable of doing anything.)
It’s quaint to think about the time when a Trump administration official was kicked out of a restaurant because the owner did not agree with the level of humanity expressed by the administration at the time. It’s interesting to see how far we have come to see such quasi-stochastic terrorism become a hallmark of this era against that weird time when it was too mean to tell Sarah Huckabee Sanders that she’d have to have dinner somewhere else.
She’s not DeSantis nor is she Trump (who has called for various forms of inferred violence), but it’s hard to separate the GOP cultural shift toward violence from the now-governor of Arkansas. To bring it back to Jan. 6, DeSantis’ (and Jim Lamon’s and J.D. Vance’s and others’) violent rhetoric is part of the conservative movement.
As mentioned in a parenthetical above, I am no longer unemployed! I accepted a job a few weeks ago at GovCIO Media & Research and I started on July 24. It’s been an exciting few weeks getting back into the workforce and I only had to go into the office one time (my first day, of course, for onboarding stuff).
Don’t worry, I’ve no plans to get rid of this newsletter. I just had to take some time in the early bits of the new job to get used to the schedule again (working all day is hard, even remote, when you’ve been unemployed for six weeks!). So, don’t fret. The Lulu photos will not stop. Speaking of which…
Lulu is less than in love with my going back to work, in that I’m not playing with her nearly enough. She would prefer me to throw the ball whenever she brings it to me, which is often. Sadly, I cannot. We do go to the Arboretum on the weekends, though, and she loves it.
Click on the above to get the actual photo. Here are a few more pictures of elegance.
A Recommendation: Double Threat
I’m probably in the minority in that I came about the Double Threat podcast not by the work of comedy giant Tom Scharpling, but rather through the other host. I’ve been a big fan of Julie Klausner since her book and her podcast How Was Your Week?
Klausner brings out the best in Scharpling and vice versa. Far before Double Threat, she was a guest on The Best Show and produced, in my opinion, one of the best bits of comedy ever.
Double Threat is similarly hilarious. The show has a minor (maybe fake, maybe real) feud with John Kassir (the voice of the Cryptkeeper), loads of hilarious guests and a series of runs like the one above. If the best podcasts are people chatting, Double Threat is even better than that.