Dutch and Ernie were each serving twenty-year sentences at Jojo State Prison in southern North Dakota. For reasons unexplained, neither of them had faces, but that’s not important to the story.
Both guys had gotten quite close to Horace Flimpson, who had served as warden of the prison since 1987. But Horace was getting on in years, so it was time for him to retire.
Even though they were cons, Dutch and Ernie were invited to the party where Warden Flimpson got a big cake and a gold watch. They wished their buddy well, only to discover that his replacement was going to be none other than Skiffles McGee, who had been the vicious and unpopular warden of a prison where both Dutch and Ernie had done hard time for illegally waxing contraband surfboards.
“Skiffles McGee?!” Ernie shouted as he and Dutch walked back to their cells. “Can you believe it?”
“It makes me so mad,” Dutch said. “I hate that guy.”
“Me, too,” Ernie said. ‘And let me say right now that he’s not my warden.”
“Not yet, no,’ Dutch said. “But sadly, he will be.”
“No, he won’t.” Ernie said. “Not my warden.”
Ernie scowled. “He only got this job because he bribed somebody. He has no right to be the warden.”
“Well, okay,” Dutch said, “that’s probably true. Ol’ Skiffles is a real turd, and I wouldn’t put it past him to bribe somebody. But he’s still going to be your warden.”
“Not my warden.”
“Yes, your warden.”
“How can you defend him?” Ernie shot back.
“I’m not defending him,” said Dutch. “I hate him.”
“Then how can you say he’s your warden?”
“Because he’s going to be the warden of this prison, and I’m in this prison. That makes him my warden.”
“But he shouldn’t be the warden,” Ernie said.
“Yes,” agreed Dutch, nodding. “He shouldn’t be. But he is.”
“Even though he cheated?”
Dutch nodded again. “Even though.”
“He eats fried kittens for breakfast, you know,” Ernie said.
“I did know that, yes.”
“Then how can you look me in the eye and say he’s your warden?”
“Because no matter how crappy he is, he’s still my warden,” said Dutch. “And you probably need to accept the fact that he’s your warden, too.”
“Not my warden!” Ernie was getting very angry by this point.
So Dutch decided to take another tack with him. “Okay, fine,” he said. “He’s not your warden. Can you at least tell me what that means?”
“It means that I’m not going to just smile and get over it,” Ernie said.
“Okay. So what are you going to do?”
“I just told you.”
“Not really. I need specifics. Does this mean you’re going to break out of prison? Because if you’re not in this prison, then he’s not your warden.”
“Of course not,” Ernie said. “I don’t want to get caught and add another dozen years to my sentence.”
“Okay, fine. So you’re in the prison where Skiffles McGee is the warden, but since he’s not your warden, does that mean you don’t have to do what he says?”
“He’s NOT MY WARDEN!!,” Ernie repeated, speaking in capital letters for added emphasis.
“But he doesn’t know that. I’m pretty sure he’s going to act like he’s your warden. So when the guards come around at night and tell you that it’s lights out, are you going to leave your light on?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about guards who are working for the guy who is not your warden. When they walk past the cell and say, ‘Lights out, Ernie,” are you going to leave your light on, because these guards are following the orders of the guy who is not your warden?”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Ernie muttered.
“I’ve heard dumber,” Dutch said.
“How can you just sit back and take it?”
“Who says I’m going to sit back and take it?” Dutch said. “I’m going to oppose him every way I can.”
“Good,” Ernie said. “I thought you weren’t going to resist.”
“Resist?” Dutch asked. “I didn’t say ‘resist.’ I said ‘oppose.'”
“What’s the difference?”
“There are a lot of things we can do to show we don’t like ol’ Skiffles. But if we ‘resist’ him that means we refuse to do what he says. And if we refuse to do what he says, the guards are going to kick our heads in. I don’t want to get my head kicked in.”
‘There are other ways to resist,” Ernie said.
“Not really,” Dutch said. “Because as near as I can tell, there are two ways he can not be your warden. One way is for you to get out of prison, and the other way is to shoot him in the head.”
“I didn’t say I was going to shoot him in the head!”
“Then how will you get rid of him?”
“I get him replaced,” Ernie said, as if it were too obvious for words.
“Great! Then get him replaced! I’ll even help you do that! But that takes time. And until he’s replaced, if you don’t shoot him in the head, and you don’t leave prison, then he’s your warden.”
“You’re an idiot,” Ernie said.
“And you smell like farts,” Dutch said.
Dutch and Ernie never spoke again. And when they were released in 2029, they blocked each other on Facebook.
For the past two days, I have had a series of exhausting Facebook discussions about the election results. In order to make my point, I’ve had to defend, albeit halfheartedly, some truly awful people, Donald Trump being the chief among them, but Steve Bannon being a close second.
I do not like Donald Trump or Steve Bannon. They are bad people. I do not want to defend them. I am opposed to them. I think they will do awful things, and I think every attempt they make to do awful things should be met with opposition.
It frustrates me that I even have to say this. It frustrates me that the point I’ve been trying to make over the past few days somehow calls my disgust with Donald Trump into question. It frustrates me that every discussion about Trump is so deeply and relentlessly polarizing and painful that it is impossible to find a rational center where people can address the real problems and concerns of what a Trump administration will actually mean, and where people who passionately disagree can still find ways to peacefully navigate the difficult days ahead.
But my frustration is my problem. The larger problem, and the one that preoccupies me as I consider where our country is and where it is going, is that violence is becoming an acceptable option.
Of course, it was already acceptable for the racists and bigots who were Trump’s most vocal supporters, and now they have been emboldened by a bully’s victory. Everyone, including the vast majority of the tens of millions of people who voted for Trump, can see this violence for what it is. It is squalid and ugly, and it is easily identified as such. This kind of bile has always been with us, and it will likely always be with us. It cannot be tolerated, and it should not be defended. I’m confident that the vast majority of people in this country are people of good will who will not tolerate or defend such things.
What unnerves me is that there is a violence that many otherwise decent people will be willing to defend. It is a violence that cloaks itself in virtue, even though it is as squalid and ugly as the violence of racists. It represents itself as the violence of the righteous, or the violence of the oppressed. This violence is predicated on the principle that Trump’s victory is so completely unacceptable that morality provides no limit on the vehemence of an appropriate response. If you accept that principle, you start with peaceful protests, but you’re not willing to end there. If chants and signs and marches don’t bring Trump down – and (spoiler alert) they won’t bring Trump down – then escalation is not only acceptable, it’s imperative.
This kind of violence was not acceptable before Trump. It is becoming acceptable now.
This is a small handful of examples. There are many, many more. And, if the current overheated rhetoric continues, there will be many, many more after that. People will get hurt, and people will die, and many of those outraged by violence from Trump-supporting racists will turn a blind eye to the so-called violence of the righteous. Some will even applaud.
This is not a good thing. This is a very, very bad thing.
Just as we need to oppose Donald Trump in his awfulness, we need to oppose violence from whatever source it may come. Your anger and frustration over Trump’s victory does not give you the right to punch a Trump voter in the face.
So whenever I post something here and link to it on Facebook, the conversation all takes place over there and not here. For those of you who are not my FB friends, you should know that my earlier post today has ignited something of a firestorm.
“I quit reading after the 4th paragraph,” wrote one friend. “Not marching people into gas chambers made me throw up in my own mouth. Wish you were here so I could’ve done it in yours.”
Another friend told me that my “defense” of Steve Bannon was “close to treasonous.” (I tried to make it clear that I was not trying to defend Bannon in any way, shape, or form, as I describe him as “a thug, a bully, and a bigot.” He seemed unconvinced.) Later, the same friend insisted that “white power is entering the [W]hite [H]ouse, and anyone not enraged is complicit and Vichy.”
Which is precisely the problem and the reason I wrote that piece.
There’s a Doctor Who episode titled “Let’s Kill Hitler!” The plot involves going back in time to off the Fuehrer, but they don’t succeed. That hasn’t stopped other fictional characters from trying. The idea is the subject of movies, literature, and even comedy sketches. Vermin Supreme, the perennial presidential candidate who wears a boot on his head, has made “time travel research to kill baby Hitler” one of the planks in his political platform.
And why not? Who doesn’t want to kill Hitler? Furthermore, who wouldn’t be justified in killing Hitler? The Nazi dictator represents the very embodiment of human evil. There is no punishment he does not deserve, and no response to his evil would be too extreme. Taking out Hitler is not something to be left to chance. You certainly don’t arrest him or put him on trial. You strangle him with your bare hands. If you can’t get close enough to do that, then you lob grenades into his bedroom. Or you bomb the snot out of any building where he might be hiding. Yes, innocents may die, but surely that’s a small price to pay to take out the worst person who has ever lived?
Well, thankfully, Adolf Hitler is long gone. But now here comes Trump Hitler. What punishment does he not deserve? What response to his evil would be too extreme? Are you seriously thinking we should put him on trial and leave it to the system to prevent the horrors he’s about to unleash? Isn’t it time someone strangled him with their bare hands? And if they can’t get that close, wouldn’t blowing up the White House and killing Trump Hitler be an entirely justified course of action? If Trump is Hitler, than a violent response is not only justified; it’s necessary.
That leads to horror very quickly.
Again, and I can’t stress this enough, I think Trump is awful. I think Steve Bannon is awful. I think this campaign played on America’s worst fears and exploited the darkest side of who we are. Nobody should read this and presume than I’m on the side of those who wish to divide us because of what we look like or how we worship. At the same time, I’m not on the side that thinks that violence is an acceptable response to Trump’s election. I stand firmly against rioting, bombing, or any other violent response to President-elect Trump. If Trump really were Hitler, I might think differently. As it stands now, I’m with John Lennon. “When you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.” (“Imagine” is still a sucky song, though.)
America is surely flawed, but we remain a nation of laws, and we have a system of government that is designed to thwart potential Hitlers. I think it will prove quite frustrating to President Trump, and that he won’t be able to be Hitler even if he wants to be. It is important that our response is commensurate with the actual challenge we face instead of acting like Krsitallnacht has just taken place.
I’m going to try and thread a needle here that may not be threadable. So if I fail, it’s Donald Trump’s fault.
Indeed, I want to be clear at the outset that a lot of things are Donald Trump’s fault. I have believed, from the outset of the campaign, that he is wholly unfit to be President of the United States, and I have said so repeatedly and publicly. I officially left the Republican Party after he became the nominee. I have been on national television three times deriding Trump and his candidacy, so I would hate to have anyone read this blog post and assume that I’ve “come around,” that Trump is somehow my guy now, or that what am I about to say should in any way be interpreted as apologia for a president who, in the best case scenario, will largely be an ineffectual buffoon, and, in a more-likely worst case scenario, could do real and permanent damage to the nation.
With that as background, I’m now going to begin my needle-threading. Conceding and recognizing everything about Donald J. Trump that is loathsome, repugnant, and genuinely stomach-turning, I think it also needs to be said that the president-elect is not the moral or practical equivalent of Adolf Hitler.
Hear me out here. This shouldn’t be interpreted as high praise, as “Not Hitler” is a pretty low threshold to cross. One can be all kinds of despicable and still not approach the evil of slaughtering six million people in a deliberate, state-sponsored genocide. One can also be legitimately and justifiably opposed to Trump, frightened by Trump, enraged by Trump, and sickened by Trump even if he doesn’t round up people and put them into gas chambers.
Which, honestly, he’s not going to do.
Again, understand the needle I’m trying to thread. Trump’s call to keep all Muslims from entering the country is xenophobia at its worst. (He’s backed down to something called “extreme vetting,” but the standards he’s using to accomplish this would essentially accomplish the same goal.) He’s now talking about a Muslim immigrant “registry” that sounds embryonically Hitler-ish, and so I understand the concerns, and I’m not encouraging complacency. As Trump proposes awful things, and he will continue to propose awful things, he needs to be vigorously and unrelentingly opposed, and I intend to be part of that opposition.
Now for the needle-threading. Is cracking down on Muslim immigration a step toward Muslim concentration camps? Is it a precursor to Trump rounding up Muslim-American citizens and authorizing the police to smash their windows, loot their shops, and throw them into ghettos before engineering a “final solution?” And after he’s done purging Islam from America, are we going to see ethnic cleansing against Hispanics or Jews, too?
All these things are possible, I suppose, but they’re also very, very unlikely. And here’s why.
In the first place, Trump is not smart enough to be Hitler. Keep in mind that by the time Hitler came to power, he had already written Mein Kampf and laid out for the world his rancid reasoning for blaming the Jewish people for all the world’s ills. Hitler was evil, vile, and wrong, but he was not a casual or shallow thinker. One of the reasons he was able to rise to power is that the elites didn’t take him seriously, and they assumed he didn’t really mean all the vile things he had said and written. They were horribly wrong. Hitler knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he let the world know well in advance that genocide was at the top of his agenda.
Donald Trump has not only not written a book; he’s never read a book. I don’t think he’s even read his own books. (Read this piece by the ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal to get the full extent of Trump’s ignorance.) A couple of years before running against Hillary Clinton as a pro-life conservative, he was praising Hillary Clinton as “terrific” and reiterating his support for partial-birth abortion. This is a man without any discernible ideology who believes only in his own ego and who’s thinking seems to be a byproduct of his bleached and ludicrously-swirled hair. He is only a racist when it’s convenient to be a racist. He lacks the sustained and bilious passion necessary to codify American genocide.
“Ah,” I hear you say. “But what about Steve Bannon?”
For those of you living under a rock, you should know that Bannon is Trump’s “white supremacist” appointee who will serve as the Karl Rove of the new Trump administration. Ostensibly, Trump will be a vapid and thoughtless puppet having his strings pulled by Wormtongue Bannon, who will sneak into the sleeping president’s bedroom every night with wireless earbuds so he can subliminally expose the Puppet Fuehrer to an iPod looped with Nuremberg Rally speeches.
The problem is that the case the Bannon is a “white supremacist” is hanging on a pretty thin reed. The smoking gun is a single statement by his ex-wife made in the crucible of a heated divorce, wherein she claimed he didn’t want his daughter to go to school with Jews. The fact that the daughter did, in fact, go to school with Jews would suggest that perhaps one statement from an angry ex-wife is not sufficient to convict Bannon of being a 21st-Century Goebbels. Bannon has been the subject of many supportive columns from Jewish defenders who know the man and insist that genocide is not at the top of his agenda, and I’m inclined to believe them.
Once again, do not mistake this as an endorsement, or even a defense, of Steve Bannon, who may well be an anti-Semite. Certainly he’s a thug, a bully, and a bigot. He’s also said a number of things about Mormons that demonstrate conclusively that he’s Grade-A pond scum. My point is that pond scum is pond scum, and, generally speaking, I would prefer that pond scum weren’t in the White House.
But pond scum is still a whole lot better than Hitler.
There’s also the rhetorical problem of the fact that we’ve seen too many instances of the Boy Who Cried Hitler in recent years. We were told that Bush was Hitler; we’re told that Obama is Hitler. Now that there’s someone who’s exponentially more Hitler-esque than either of the previous Hitlers, we need to be really worried, because, well, this one’s really Hitler.
Okay. Maybe this one is. But can we admit, then, that the previous ones were not? And can we also consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, this new Hitler may not be Hitler, either?
Not everyone is asking that question yet. Emotions are still raw, and it will take time for many to heal. I’m grateful to note that my FB feed is almost entirely gloat-free, and last night’s winners seem to have no appetite for adding to the pain of the Hillary supporters. I take that as a good sign. We’ll need a surfeit of kindness in the days ahead. For my part, I’m strangely at ease with last night’s results. Many people I love are not.
Prior to the actual returns coming in, I had resigned myself to the reality of another corrupt Clinton presidency, and to have that possibility eliminated was a genuine relief. It was quickly replaced by trepidation about what a Trump presidency will mean. I don’t think anyone knows, least of all the President-Elect himself.
I think there are several things that it does not mean. In the lamentations of the Clinton faithful, I’ve seen warnings that “women will lose all access to birth control,” that “gay people will be rounded up and put in prison,” and that Trump’s critics will start to mysteriously disappear. I don’t think any of those things are remotely likely, nor do I believe abortion rights or same-sex marriage are genuinely at risk. I also don’t really worry that nuclear war is in the cards, although the battle over the Supreme Court will likely feel nuclear. The Republicans, for over a year, have refused to consider a legitimate SCOTUS nomination by a sitting president, so Democrats in the Senate will have no qualms about filibustering any and all Trump nominees now and forever. Given the wafer-thin Republican Senate majority and the deep unpopularity of the incoming president, gridlock will be the order of the day.
Which is fine by me. I’m a big fan of gridlock. The Constitution was written to make government inefficient by design to avoid concentrations of power. Gridlock means that even the worst presidents don’t have the ability to bring down the Republic singlehandedly. I think Trump will soon discover that he can’t do a lot of the crazy crap he thought he’d be able to do, and he is likely to find the presidency a whole lot more frustrating than he anticipated. That’s probably a good thing.
I also think it’s a good thing to see this election as a referendum on the media as much as the candidates. The smugness of the press was smacked down hard, and it was a smackdown that was richly deserved. This election cycle removed even the veneer of objectivity from most of the talking heads, and many of them will find themselves struggling to get their credibility back. It’s impossible to eliminate bias from any human endeavor, so to see the objectivity pretense exposed for what it is was very satisfying, indeed. For my part, I think we’d be better served by a media that is open and honest about who’s side they’re on.
This should also provide a welcome reminder that nobody in politics really knows anything more than anyone else. Everybody, every step of the way, got this wrong. Everyone, that is, except Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, who eerily got every element of this election right. If you’re not reading his blog, you’re really missing out.
Someone asked this morning whether or not it’s time to get rid of the Electoral College, given that Hillary is on track to win the popular vote. Yes, it is. The Electoral College distorts the whole process and leaves out a huge chunk of voters from the campaign. A genuine national election makes much more sense.
EDIT: I’m getting pushback on my Electoral College opposition, and I’m rethinking this to some degree. The idea that elections would then become contests to only persuade huge population centers is problematic and a valid concern.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I don’t know if this helped anyone feel better, or if it only depressed you even further, but I’m no longer willing to let my life be defined by something as squalid as politics. There will always be goodness and virtue in the world, regardless of whether or not there is any in the Oval Office.
EDIT: I’m also seeing some complaints about how third parties somehow made this outcome possible. I don’t think that’s remotely true. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either party, and without a third party option, I probably would have just left the POTUS slot blank. If someone is disgusted enough with the two major nominees that they’re willing to “throw their vote away,” that’s not someone willing to sign on to one of the parties if their other choices are removed.
I have had a number of complaints, online and off, that I have not been living up to my punditious* responsibilities in 2016, and to that I plead guilty. I have spent far less time talking about this dreadful election than I have in previous cycles, but, ironically, far more time talking about it than I would like. But now, on the eve of inevitable disaster, I thought I’d sum up where I am and what I’m thinking. I don’t have a grand plan here, so I may wander into all kinds of tangents and minefields as I try to make sense out of a senseless situation.
First off, I’m not going to tell you who’s going to win. I stuck my neck out in 2012 and insisted that the polls were all flawed and that Romney was going to walk away with it. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate how stupid it is for anyone to presume they know any more about these things than anyone else. With regard to this election, you have the same information I do, and you’re perfectly capable of making as accurate an assessment of the electoral landscape as any of mine. All you need to know is that a psychic Scottish goat has predicted a Hillary victory. So, you know, there’s that.
I will say that this election has conclusively demonstrated that television advertising is all but useless and will have no real impact on the final vote totals. Trump cruised to the nomination with virtually no television advertising, and Jeb Bush and his SuperPACs spent tens of millions and got nowhere. Hillary has outspent Trump by an outrageous factor with regard to her media blitz – I don’t remember what the actual number is, and I’m too lazy to look it up – and, really, I don’t think it will make the slightest bit of difference.
The fact is that people just don’t watch TV ads anymore, so ads don’t move the needle. Social media is changing the nature of the public conversation, and non-professionals become pundits to their friends by forwarding amateur videos that none of the campaigns have created and which they really can’t control. I think the “Hillary Lying for 13 Minutes Straight” video packed more of a punch than anything the Trump campaign put out, and it was produced by a bunch of nobodies. In contrast, can you think of a single ad from either candidate that drove the discussion in any significant way? Me neither.
It makes me think that the whole “ground game” buzz is irrelevant, too. Much has been made of the fact that Hillary has organized a big ground game to get her voters to the polls, and Trump has not. That may prove to be relevant. It may also prove to be an antiquated relic of campaigns past, given that social media, not a phone call, provides the more potent means to mobilize voters. I suspect the latter, but I’m probably wrong.
I do think the “Shy Trump” effect is a thing, although I only have anecdotal evidence to back that up. I have no idea how big it is or if it will provide any surprises in the vote totals. I only know I have several friends unwilling to admit their support for Trump, given that they are largely disgusted with him and don’t want to appear to be in league with Trump’s vocal legion of racists and bullies. The shy folk are good people who have nowhere else to go, and they’re especially worried about the Supreme Court, and they’re willing to back a loathsome man like Trump in the hopes of preventing SCOTUS from devolving into the extraconstitutional Superlegislature the Left so desperately wants it to be.
At the same time, I wonder how much more damage the Court can really do. I’m amazed at how many people think that a repeal of Roe v. Wade is the most pressing problem facing the nation. The fact is that a repeal of that rancid decision is ridiculously unlikely, regardless of what new appointments are made, and, in policy terms, little or nothing would change if it were repealed, given how many of Roe’s principles have been reinforced by a host of state and federal laws. If it were repealed, abortion would remain legal in all fifty states.
And, not to get too abortion-tangential on you, but I really wonder why Mormons are so eager to throw in with a movement that wants to criminalize all abortion from the moment of conception. Our church teaches that in cases of rape, incest, or a serious threat to the mother, abortion can be morally justified. How do you codify that position into law? If you legislate that abortion is illegal except in cases of rape, how does a woman prove she’s been raped? What kind of intrusive legal apparatus would be necessary to make that determination? Wouldn’t that just inspire every woman seeking an abortion to claim she’s a rape victim? Do you really want to turn doctors and nurses into narcs?
The reason abortion is not illegal, and extremely unlikely ever to be made illegal, is that the majority of Americans do not see it as immoral, particularly in the cases where the LDS Church makes exceptions. If they were convinced that it is moral to compel a woman to carry a rapist’s child to term, the law would reflect that. Absent any clear moral consensus, abortion will not be criminalized, and single-issue voters who focus solely on reproductive rights are largely wasting their time.
Still, that one issue is one of the few still animating the GOP faithful, many of whom now find themselves members of a party that can’t figure out what the hell it’s supposed to be. That problem will persist even if, or perhaps especially if, Trump somehow manages to win. Last night, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law who sells computer cables. He’s as rock-ribbed a conservative as it is possible to be, and he’s terrified that if Trump were to succeed in starting a trade war with China, he’d be out of business. Now that the Republicans are the Party of Trump, isolationism and protectionism are the banner headline issues of a party that used to champion free and open markets. What the hell does it mean to be a Republican, anyway? I don’t think anyone can answer that question, and I think the answer will become even more muddled if a vapid buffoon like Trump is given the keys to the party’s ideological bus.
I think one thing most everyone can agree on is that Ted Cruz is a whiny and opportunistic jerk. Mitt Romney and John Kasich couldn’t, in good conscience, support Trump, so when Trump’s convention coronation rolled around, they stayed home when Ted decided to take a dump in the Trump throne room. And then Ted jumped on the Trump bandwagon late in the game for completely unprincipled reasons, leaving Cruzer losers like Glenn Beck to apologize for ever thinking he was a man of integrity. If there’s any silver lining in this debacle, and it’s a thin lining indeed, it’s that Cruz will not be the one the party turns to as it digs through the ashes of its disgrace to try to rebuild itself.
As for me, I can think of no outcome, barring a miraculous surge from Gary Johnson, that will lift my spirits after the polls close tomorrow. I will say that I won’t enjoy seeing either candidate win, but I would really enjoy watching Hillary Clinton lose and seeing the corruption of Clintonism finally broomed off the national stage. I would get an evening’s worth of a schadenfreude sugar rush out of that before falling into despair over the prospect of President Trump. Even typing those two words in such close proximity gives me bowel trouble.
I doubt I’ll have much more to say as the returns come in, unless something truly unexpected happens. In the meantime, I’m going to start listening to Christmas music, which serves as a welcome reminder that we live in a universe that is not defined by the squalor of politics.
I define “punditious” as “of or pertaining to punditry; punditioulous.”
When my father first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992, his Democratic opponent was a congressman named Wayne Owens, who had been caught up in the House Post Office Scandal. (You’ve probably forgotten about that. It was a big brouhaha back in the day, but measured against 21st Century political sleaze, it seems almost quaint.) Owens spent the entire campaign playing defense and trying to justify why he had mishandled taxpayer money to his own benefit. His stump speech began with an apology and was followed by a lengthy explanation before he could proceed to any sort of positive message.
For his part, Dad never brought up the issue at all. “I don’t need to,” he said. “Regardless of what I say, Wayne has to explain himself. And when you’re explaining, you’re losing.”
That bit of political wisdom has stuck with me, and it proved to be all too true when Dad ran unsuccessfully for a fourth term in 2010. He had been one of the primary architects of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that staved off a worldwide financial meltdown without costing taxpayers a dime, since all the money was repaid with interest. If you listened to Dad’s very cogent explanation, you would understand what he did and why he did it, and you may actually be convinced that he did the right thing. But the substance of his explanation ultimately didn’t matter. When he was defeated in the state convention, chants of “TARP! TARP! TARP!” filled the hall. The fact that he spent his whole campaign explaining was clear evidence that he was losing.
I offer this as context for a better understanding of how to process the bombshell news that the FBI is looking at emails discovered on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. (Which is icky in and of itself. Who wants to even think about anything that may or may not have been on Anthony Weiner’s lap?!) When the news broke, my FB feed exploded with indignation, followed by explanation.
People were furious that my congressman, Jason Chaffetz, had tweeted that the email investigation had been “reopened.” That single word triggered a great deal of outrage, although I’m still not sure why. Yes, technically, the case hasn’t been reopened, mainly because it was never closed. So how is pursuing a new lead in an open case somehow less troubling than reopening an old one?
Regardless, there was also a bunch of people and articles insisting that this letter was being misinterpreted, and one article went so far as to claim that the scandal “has been killed by a slew of new facts,” including the so-called “fact” that the newly-discovered emails “have nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.” (If that’s true, you’d think someone would tell Hillary Clinton, who very clearly thinks these emails have something to do with her.) One FB friend insisted that Comey’s letter wasn’t referring to Hillary’s case at all, and every media organization was simply reading it wrong. Again, shouldn’t Hillary be informed of this? Because she’s reading it wrong, too, right?
And on it goes. Some of the explanations are cogent; some are silly. But the substance of the explanations is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if what your explanation is sagacious or stupid. What matters is that you’re explaining.
And when you’re explaining, you’re losing.
So here’s how I see the race at this point.
When the Access Hollywood groping tape came out, everyone, including me, assumed Trump was done. (Although I was surprised at the intensity of the public reaction, as all this tape did was confirm that Trump is precisely the sort of misogynist pig he reveals himself to be almost every time he opens his mouth.)
Then came the legion of Trump’s accusers, and Trump went on an explanation tour, trying to debunk the women who were only confirming that Trump did all the things he was bragging about on tape. Again, if you apply my father’s axiom, it doesn’t matter whether or not Trump’s explanations were valid. He was explaining, and he was losing. The media spotlight was on Trump’s squirming, which meant that much of the truly troublesome Wikileaks info we were getting about Hillary was going unnoticed. Sure, Trump would try to get Hillary to explain herself, but nobody cared, so Hillary was winning because she wasn’t forced to explain anything.
What this letter has done is move the spotlight from Trump to Clinton, and now it’s Hillary’s turn to squirm. (And may I say that watching a Clinton squirm gives me a schadenfreude sugar rush.) This means that the person on defense in the final runup to Election Day is Clinton, not Trump. That’s not a good place to be.
Does that mean I think Hillary will lose the election? No, not necessarily. I don’t know or pretend to know the extent of the damage done here, and I don’t think anyone else does, either. I do know that detailed rebuttals, or cries of “This is unfair!” or calls for James Comey’s head won’t make the slightest bit of difference. Those are all just more losing explanations.
I will say that I think this email scandal, as well as all the Wikileaks bombshells currently being ignored, will linger well past November, regardless of who wins. I can imagine voters who despise both candidates looking at the possibility of another Clinton era, complete with old and new scandals bubbling up on an almost daily basis, and thinking a vote for Trump might be the best way to avoid four years of endless and pointless investigations. Clinton fatigue is a rational response to the tiresome antics of a couple who have devoted their lives to normalizing corruption.
You may disagree. Indeed, you may have a host of explanations for why I’m dead wrong. By all means, start explaining, and see where it gets you.
So a couple with two young children is about to go out for the evening, and they call a babysitter service. Since they called with short notice, they only have two potential sitters to choose from. The service sends over a short description of each that outlines their plusses and minuses.
“So who have we got?” Dad asks.
“Hmmm,” Mom says. “The first one is a guy named Jeffrey Dahmer.”
“Okay, is he any good?” Dad asks.
“Well, there are problems,” Mom says. “Says here that he’s killed seventeen people.”
“Yeah,” Mom says, nodding. “Plus he dismembered them and ate them. Pretty gross, actually.”
“Don’t tell me you’re even considering him.”
“Well,” Mom says, “the other choice is Jerry Sandusky.”
“He’s the former assistant Penn State football coach who was convicted of 52 counts of child molestation.”
“A football coach!” Dad says. “Cool! Wasn’t he a good football coach?”
“Well, yes,” Mom says, “but -”
“That shows he’s competent,” Dad says. “Certainly more competent than that Dahmer guy. What, has he ever even held a job? Sandusky was very well-respected. He won awards and everything.”
“He’s a serial pedophile.”
“Well, yeah, but if you set that aside for a moment…”
Mom gasps. “Set that aside?!”
“Well,” Dad says, “wouldn’t you agree that he’d be better than Jeffrey Dahmer?”
“Sandusky molests children! We can’t leave our kids alone with him!”
“Well, molesting children is bad, but isn’t killing them and eating them worse?”
Mom can’t believe what she’s hearing. “Neither one of them is acceptable,” she insists.
“But for the sake of argument,” Dad says, “wouldn’t you agree that you’d rather have our children molested than murdered?”
“What? How am I supposed to answer that?”
“I’m not saying having our kids molested is good,” Dad says. “I’m just saying it’s better than the alternative. I, for one, would rather keep my kids alive, thank you very much.”
“I, for one, would rather make sure my kids are neither murdered nor molested. I’m calling a different sitter.”
“What?” Dad says, shocked. “You can’t call a different sitter. This is the service we always use!”
“But neither of these choices is acceptable!”
“Well, one is clearly more acceptable than the other.”
“No. Both are unacceptable.”
“So you think pedophilia is as bad as cannibalism?” Dad asks, his voice rising. “Is that it? Are you really saying that?”
“I’m saying that the comparison itself is ludicrous,” Mom says. “Both pedophilia and cannibalism are so awful that neither can ever be considered as viable options.”
“These are the choices,” Dad said. “And I, for one, want my kids alive when we come home.”
“I do, too, but..”
“And look here!” Dad says as he checks his email inbox. “The service just sent us a new Mp3. It’s a secret recording of Dahmer where he talks about how much he likes to eat people. He even uses a bad word!”
“So?” Mom asks.
“So? Doesn’t this change your mind? Doesn’t this mean we have to pick Sandusky?”
“Is there any information in there that you didn’t already have?” Mom asks.
“You already know he’s a cannibal. How does hearing him talk about cannibalism make him even worse?”
“I knew it,” Dad says. “You’re a closet cannibal lover.”
Suddenly, the ground opens up and swallows everyone whole.
While going through my father’s papers, my mother stumbled on this shocking exposé from a 1957 edition of the Daily Utah Chronicle, the University of Utah’s student newspaper. I now have to reevaluate my whole life and come to terms with my father’s scandalous past.
Text of the article:
BENNETT HELD; THEFT EXPOSED
ASUU Pres. Bob Bennett has been apprehended and charged with looting the Union Mothers Club fountain. A Chronicle photographer caught the tall, spectacled campus leader pilfering money from the pond Friday, March 29, during a quiet period in the afternoon.
Student Senator John Price has announced that Mr. Bennett will have his financial activities investigated as a result of the recent discovery.
Mr. Bennett was booked at city jail Friday night, and held in lieu of a $25 bond. He has claimed himself innocent of the charges. When informed of the Senate’s intention of looking into his financial records, Mr. Bennett said, “Even though I’m completely innocent, I’ll not have those Senators pawing through my records with their grubby hands. I’ll invoke the fifth amendment. In fact I’ll invoke the second, third and fourth amend-ments, too, while I’m at it.”
Francis Martin Erickson, assistant Union director, states that authorities have several bits of incriminating evidence. They include a sample of water drained from Mr. Bennett’s arm shortly after apprehension. Mr. Erickson said that the water sample, along with several dimes and pennies found in the student body presidents possession, all reveal the presence of certain chemicals common to fish food.
The witness, Union receptionist Marva Rae Goring, said that she overheard Mr. Bennett tell Theron Storer Parmelee that he was merely examining the algae formation at the bottom of the pond. “He seems like such a nice man, too,” said the receptionist.
V. Farrell Thomas, who was present at the time of the preliminary investigation, made one of his typically sage comments. “There’s something fishy about the whole affair,” he said. Senator Thomas then quickly jotted the comment down in a small black book which he was carrying. “Another real gem!” he exclaimed.
Investigating detectives also claim to have samples of a greenish substance removed from beneath the suspect’s fingernails. They have sent the samples to the FBI in Washington.
When questioning Pres. Bennett’s mother about his recent financial dealings, the Senate rackets committee learned that he’s been carousing considerably lately. “Bob’s always been a quiet boy,” Mrs. Bennett said, “but lately he’s been chasing around a lot. Just last week, last Saturday in fact, he took a girl to a show.”
The Chronicle photographer, who prefers to remain anonymous, gave the following testimony to investigators: “I had just returned from seeing the art department about enrolling in next quarter’s Life Drawing class, (it’s already filled up due to a sudden increase in enrollment among faculty members,) and had just said goodby to a dejected Pres. A. Ray Olpin, when I strolled onto the scene. Bob was crouched on the edge of the pool with one arm in the water up to his arm pit. He was so busy withdrawing coins and chuckling gleefully that he failed to notice me. So I snapped his picture.”
Mr. Bennett’s father, Senator Wallace F. Bennett, stated, “I’ll be happy to accept the law’s decision in the case. It just shows what a lack of religious upbringing can do.”
“Please tell me what you find odious about Hillary Clinton,” a cousin of mine asked on FB last week. “She might be dull, but odious? Dishonest? Corrupt? I’m really not seeing it. She is smart, educated, qualified, capable, and even tempered. She has spun things her way, because that’s how one gets into office — it’s called politics. But I just see a public servant, one who is genuinely interested in leading the country, for good. The contest with Donald Trump isn’t even a contest, if we’re talking qualifications or character.”
Why is Hillary odious? It’s a fair question, and one that deserves a substantive response. I didn’t comment on his FB thread, as I think the answer requires a great deal more time and thought than the normal constraints of social media would allow.
I also, at the outset, want to clarify that in this post, I’m only going to talk about Hillary’s odiousness. I am not going to compare and contrast her odiousness with Donald Trump’s odiousness. Which one wins the race to the bottom of the slime-coated Pit of All Human Odiousness is certainly a legitimate discussion, but it’s not one I’m going to engage in here. My cousin, and many other Hillary supporters, see Hillary as “smart, educated, qualified, capable, and even tempered,” but they’re “really not seeing it” when Hillary is labeled as odious, dishonest, or corrupt. So I thought it would be helpful, in a Trump-free environment, to make the case as to why Hillary Clinton is odious, dishonest, and corrupt.
We begin with Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who came forward to allege that Bill Clinton violently raped her in a Little Rock, Arkansas hotel in 1978.
All right, many of you have already tuned out. Perhaps you think Broaddrick is a product of the right-wing noise machine, or that her allegation is nothing more than a “discredited and long-denied charge,” as NBC News called it in a Today Show segment on May 19 of this year. It’s curious that NBC would be the ones to claim she has been discredited, as it’s their network that first introduced Ms. Broaddrick into the national conversation. Broaddrick had told her story to five contemporaneous witnesses shortly after the rape allegedly occurred, but she was reluctant to come forward until the Monica Lewinsky investigation unearthed her claims and compelled her to go public.
If you have not seen the segment where she outlines the charges, you probably should take a look before we take this discussion any further.
In 1999, she described his visit to her hotel room and the sex he forced on her. I sat in my living room watching her describe that rape and I thought: “She’s telling the truth.” My response was not considered; it was visceral. If it’s possible that one woman can listen to another woman tell her story of rape and just sort of know that she’s telling the truth, I had that reaction.
I’m not a woman, obviously, but I had a similar reaction while watching that video. I am convinced, as sure as I am of anything, that Juanita Broaddrick is telling the truth. Which means I am convinced, deep in my bones, that Bill Clinton is a rapist.
It’s also worth noting that Broaddrick’s accusation is not unique. Rape allegations against ol’ Bubba extend back to a woman named Eileen Wellstone, an English woman who insisted that Bill raped her outside a pub when he was studying at Oxford in 1969. (Bill maintains that the sex was consensual.) Arkansas state troopers came forward to say that they helped arrange liaisons with then-Governor Clinton using state resources, and that Bill didn’t always take “no” for an answer. Carolyn Moffet, a legal secretary in Little Rock during this time period, reported the following incident in Clinton’s hotel room in 1979. (Warning: Graphic description ahead.)
“I was escorted there by a state trooper. When I went in, he was sitting on a couch, wearing only an undershirt. He pointed at his penis and told me to suck it. I told him I didn’t even do that for my boyfriend and he got mad, grabbed my head and shoved it into his lap. I pulled away from him and ran out of the room.”
At least fourteen women have made claims of sexual assault by Bill, and most of these accusations were in the public record long before Bill was president or even a candidate for president. These are not allegations of infidelity. They are allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. In my mind, this makes Bill Clinton unfit to walk my dog, much less serve as President of the United States. Bill Clinton, in the wise words of George Will, “is not the worst president the republic has had, but he is the worst person ever to have been president.”
In short, Bill Clinton is odious. Really, really odious.
If you haven’t tuned out already, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve only talked about Bill, not Hillary. I’m pretty sure Hillary hasn’t raped anybody, and the sins of a husband shouldn’t be laid at the feet of a wife. Or, in the words of my cousin, “many problems people have with Hillary are really problems they had with Bill.”
Okay. Time to pivot here. Because I promised to make the case that Hillary Clinton is, herself, odious, not just that she stood by an odious husband. But the preceding facts need to be in evidence before we can proceed.
She came directly to me as soon as she hit the door. I had been there only a few minutes, I only wanted to make an appearance and leave. She caught me and took my hand and said: “I am so happy to meet you. I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do for Bill.” I started to turn away and she held onto my hand and reiterated her phrase — looking less friendly and repeated her statement — “Everything you do for Bill.” I said nothing. She wasn’t letting me get away until she made her point. She talked low, the smile faded on the second thank you. I just released her hand from mine and left the gathering.
She later said, ““I could have passed out at that moment. . . . Cold chills went up my spine. That’s the first time I became afraid of that woman.”
Broaddrick believed Hillary was threatening her. And there is every reason to believe that assessment was correct.
Every time Bill has been (literally) caught with his pants down, Hillary has come to his rescue. When the audiotapes of Bill with his mistress Gennifer Flowers surfaced, it was Hillary who stood by his side to denounce Flowers and give cover to Bill. (Both were lying, which Clinton was later forced to admit under oath.) When the Lewinsky affair surfaced, the first person to go to the press was Hillary Clinton, who insisted that there was nothing to the charges other than the efforts of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to bring her husband down. Multiple people close to both Clintons have stated that it was she who led the effort to destroy the “nuts and sluts” – Hillary’s phrase, not mine – who came forward to denounce her husband.
So it’s not just that Hillary was an “enabler” in the sense that she was wearing blinders when her husband strayed. It’s that she proactively went after the victims of his sexually predatory behavior to shame them into silence, to make them hurt until they went away.
That’s odious. And that’s why lifelong Democrat Caitlin Flanagan “won’t vote for a candidate who helped ‘destroy’ the credibility of women who came forward to report that they had been preyed upon sexually by a powerful man.”
Really, Hillary? Every survivor? Then why doesn’t Juanita Broaddrick have a right to be believed?
It’s not just right-wingers who find her credible. Shortly after Donald Trump reminded America of Juanita Broaddrick, Vox.com – not a house organ of the right-wing conspiracy Hillary was talking about – wrote a thoughtful piece titled “The rape allegation against Bill Clinton, explained.” They referenced Hillary’s statement about how survivors deserve to be believed and concluded that “[t]here’s no easy way to reconcile that view with her allies’ dismissal of Broaddrick’s allegations.” They also maintain that “the allegation is serious, and should not be easily dismissed.”
My cousin also mentioned dishonesty and corruption, insisting there’s nothing there. That’s simply not accurate. Hillary is demonstrably and provably dishonest, even about things she has no decent reason to lie about. Why did she repeatedly tell people she ran for cover getting off the plane in Bosnia to avoid sniper fire? (Video has surfaced proving that she stayed on the open runway for a greeting ceremony that lasted over an hour.) She told the four families of those killed in Benghazi that their loved ones died because of a spontaneous demonstration spurred by an anti-Islamic YouTube video, and that she would put the filmmaker in prison. Hillary now says that she said nothing of the kind and that all four families are lying. (Although she did put the filmmaker in prison, even though he had nothing to do with the Benghazi attacks, and Hillary knew that from the outset.) She lied repeatedly about her email server, and then she lied when she insisted that the FBI Director said she didn’t lie. There’s plenty more where that come from.
Put simply, she is a first-degree liar. This isn’t just off-the cuff misspeaking or ignorance. She lies with premeditation, in cold blood.
Is she corrupt? Well, you tell me. Do you believe that all the six/seven-figure donors to the Clinton Foundation with business before the State Department got favorable responses from Clinton’s office when she was Secretary of State out of sheer coincidence? Do you believe she turned $1,000 into $100,000 in cattle futures virtually overnight because she “read the Wall Street Journal?” I don’t. I think she’s demonstrably the most corrupt person to run for office in the history of the republic.
Of course, you can look at all this and roll your eyes and say, “Really? Benghazi again? He’s even bringing up that old saw about cattle futures? Give me a break. Old news. Right-wing smears.”
I wrote about this before on my blog when I described the “Clinton Discount.” I noted that whenever a new scandal emerges, the Clintons, especially Hillary, begin a process of “tirelessly grinding away at the nation’s patience” until what was shocking at the outset is old news after the electorate is exhausted. It was genuinely troubling to the vast majority of voters in January of 1998 that a president might have been having sex with an intern in the Oval Office. But the story became tiresome and boring by August after eight long months of stonewalling and rationalizing. Eventually, the grind ran its course, and the nation’s standards were permanently lowered in the process.
See, by August, we all knew that everyone lies about sex, that everybody does it, and that a middle-aged president carrying on with a barely-of-age intern wasn’t anyone’s business but Hillary’s, even though such behavior in the private sector would have gotten any CEO fired. (I say “would have gotten” because, post-Clinton, those standards don’t exist anymore.)
And who led the grind to the point where the abhorrent became acceptable? Hillary. Even more than Bill. It was Hillary out front at the beginning, Hillary guiding strategy mid-grind, and Hillary providing cover at the end. And now the nation no longer expects a president to be straightforward, faithful, or even honest under oath as long as the economy is in good shape.
I cannot vote for her. And no, I cannot vote for Trump, either.
I’m sure there will be plenty of people who will want to argue with me as to why one is way more odious than the other, but in my mind, both of these odious people have crossed a line of basic human decency that makes such comparisons utterly worthless. Both should be shunned, spurned, and cast out of polite society. My conscience will not allow me to sustain or support either of these horrible human beings, even in the smallest degree.
Could I change my mind and vote for Hillary to stop Trump? Only if Juanita Broaddrick gives me the okay.