No, seriously, Nikki: I’ve been tuning it out, too

My response this morning to a headline about Nikki Haley may have come across as mocking, or at least facetious:

But the truth is, I HAVE been tuning it out. Or at least, not tuning it in.

Last night, I dropped in as usual to check on my parents, and they were doing something I never do — watching network TV news — and my mother said something about Cohen being sentenced to prison, while none of the others in all this mess had to do time… and I said I didn’t think that was right. I thought I’d heard the other day on the radio that someone had just finished serving a brief sentence and was getting out…

But I couldn’t name the guy. And I really wasn’t sure about it. It was something I had half-heard, without actively listening… although I tend to have good retention of stuff I heard without paying attention — it’s the secret to how I got through school.

When I hear the name of the guy who just got out of jail, I picture this guy. So don't go by me on this...

When I hear the name of the guy who just got out of jail, I picture this guy. So don’t go by me…

(For the purposes of this post, I did a little Googling. Apparently, four people have been sentenced to time behind bars. This was the guy who just got out, after a ridiculously short sentence — 12 days. I can’t tell you anything else about him. Whenever I hear his name, I picture this guy, so don’t go by me.)

Here’s the thing: The whole enterprise seems kind of pointless to me. I mean, I think the Mueller investigation needs to continue, for very serious reasons: We need to know all we can about the Russian effort to disrupt our elections — the 2016 one and especially future ones. We need to get a LOT more savvy about that stuff, and stop being so absurdly gullible as a people.

But I’m not terribly optimistic that that’s going to happen in a post-truth America.

And anyway, I sense that the reason other people pay so much attention to this investigation and its resultant prosecutions is that they think it has bearing on Donald Trump’s fate.

It doesn’t, near as I can can see. If you’re counting on, say, impeachment, dream on. Impeachment is a political act, and the Senate is in thrall to Trump. And even if the Dems had succeeded in capturing the Senate, impeachment would not have been a viable option. It probably would have exacerbated the sickness in our body politic that produced Trump.

The political significance of the Cohen prosecution has nothing to do with violation of campaign finance laws. It has to do with him paying off a porn star at Trump’s behest. That’s something we knew before the election, and it had zero effect on the people who voted for him. As it continues to do.

That’s how low we have sunk as a country. And you might say my dropping of names of Watergate figures was an act of nostalgia on my part, a longing for a time when facts mattered, and the nation had standards.

I watched “All the President’s Men” again the other night. Such a wonderful film, on so many levels. The wistfulness I feel watching it goes far beyond remembering the days when newspapers were healthy and vital. It goes to a time when, if the public learned that people in and around high public office did bad things, that was it.

Once it reached the Oval Office, and the non-denial denials weren’t working any more, Nixon was toast. And being the master politician he was, he knew that. So he resigned. And in retrospect we can see that maybe he did so in part because of something missing today — a sense of honor, a wish to avoid putting the country through the trauma of impeachment.

We didn’t lose that all at once. It took time. And Democrats who congratulate themselves on still having standards should remember that 20 years ago one of their own did NOT resign, despite having been caught in impeachable acts, including brazenly lying to the American people.

Things are worse now, of course. Facts at least still mattered a bit in 1998. They don’t now, with a shockingly large portion of the electorate.

I appreciate what Mueller is trying to do, and I appreciate him, as sort of the last Boy Scout, a guy who still believes in the importance of facts.

But I just can’t get interested enough to follow the details. So I’m like Nikki there…



26 thoughts on “No, seriously, Nikki: I’ve been tuning it out, too

  1. Doug Ross

    As I said on Twitter, what we have after two years is a a lawyer who paid hush money a porn star prior to Trump being elected. Yawn… It hasn’t even reached Monica Lewinsky level of transgression yet… where is the big Putin smoking gun.

    I too have lost interest.. we’re two years into what was supposed to be the end of the world and it hasn’t ended. Trump has been exactly who he is: a boorish bloviator — but not a facist, not a mysoginist, not a racist. He’s been actively engaged in trying to achieve his agenda — more energetic than any President going back to maybe Clinton first term. Whether the policies are good or bad to me doesn’t matter – I’d disagree with pretty much anything Hillary came up with as well.

    It still makes me laugh how people can at the same time hold two opinions of Trump: 1) he’s an idiot barely capable of stringing a coherent sentence together and 2) he’s a mastermind who is simultaneously formulating policies to control the border, coordinating global tariffs, inventing complex financial structures to avoid taxes, running a multi-billion dollar global company, hiring and firing staff at a crazy rate, and on and on. There aren’t enough hours in the day for any human to do all that…

    I do wonder, Brad, about whether you have finally recognized that Lindsey Graham is what I have always said he was: a political weathervane who spins whichever way benefits him the most and offers him the best opportunity to get on television. He’s been Trump’s biggest fan… and will be right up until Trump is gone when he will miraculously figure out he needs to find a new guy or gal to suck up to.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ve said what I have to say about Lindsey, and will probably have occasion to do so again. Yes, I’m appalled at what he now thinks he has to do to hold office as a Republican in South Carolina, and hate that he’s willing to do it. I’m more appalled his assessment of South Carolina is correct. This sickness in our state has many other awful effects, such as embracing Trump being a winning strategy for Henry, when it should have tarred him forever to have so willingly associated himself with him, back when Lindsey was still trashing him. Oh, and don’t say Henry is being consistent. He’s an Establishment Reagan Republican, one of the last people you would have expected to embrace such a slimeball.

      But no, I don’t think you were right all along about Lindsey. You’ve been wrong more than you’ve been right. We’re talking about a man who has, over and over, taken unusual political risks to do the right thing, back when you were trashing him. If he had done nothing more than be the leading proponent in the Senate for years for the idea that elections have consequences, and that qualified presidential nominees should be confirmed, it would mean he has elevated the functions of that body more than anyone else in recent years. And he’s done much more than that in his time.

      Few people can be heroes all their lives. McCain came closer than most, but he wasn’t as consistent as Lindsey on the “elections have consequences” point….

  2. Mark Stewart

    I disagree. The day is coming that people, and then Congress, will begin to see that Trump is a cancer not only on our democracy but on our Republic.

    Trump will be impeached for his emoluments violations. The thing that is going to wake people up though is the understanding, not just the realization, that Trump has continued to put himself and his business interests ahead of the country – in every day of his Presidency.

    Unfortunately, I do think it highly unlikely that Trump ever sees a day in prison, where he has long belonged. But the same outrage that is going to drive Congress to conduct an impeachment trial is going to be the same impulse that will find history looking back on an imprisoned ex-President of the US
    to be a bridge too far.

    1. Doug Ross

      Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating is the same as Obama’s at the end of year two.

      The world hasn’t ended. Most people appear to be getting along with their lives pretty well. I don’t see misery everywhere… not at work, not in stores, not out on the streets. Life goes on..

      1. Doug Ross

        I think the most miserable people I see are those who kept predicting how bad things would be under Trump and have to keep doubling and re-doubling down on their dire predictions.

        But, have no fear, Beto O’Roarke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are waiting in the wings to rescue us… or 80 year old Joe Biden… or maybe Hillary will give it another go and actually try to win this time. So many great options!

      2. Mark Stewart

        You need to wait for lives across the country (or the stock market) to be ruined and the world to end before you would view this as a serious political situation? That ‘s a mighty low bar, Doug.

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        You’re blind, Doug. You keep waiting for the terrible thing to happen, and it’s already happened, and keeps happening every day.

        I hope you won’t be offended if I say that, cynic that you are, you simply don’t think as much of our country as I do. You have a low opinion of the presidents who preceded Trump, failing to see that the difference is like night and day. Therefore you don’t feel the appalling degradation to which it is being subjected, day in and out.

        Here’s an analogy: Imagine seeing a beloved daughter married to a complete sleazebag. Having to witness (and pay for) the wedding was horrible enough, but the appalling spectacle just goes on and on, day after day, year after year, and you don’t know how to rescue her from the situation…

        1. Doug Ross

          I’m not the one who claimed that Trump would start world war 3.. There were plenty of people who actually thought that would happen. They were the ones hoping for disaster. There’s been no disaster. And I don’t expect one or hope for one like you and Mark and Bud. I think what we’ve seen is that who is in the White House doesn’t matter that much.
          It’s those of you who spend every waking hour analysing Trump’s tweets and maybe sure to talk about how terrible the world is who are the problem. Get a life that doesn’t revolve around Trump.. stop being patsies to the media that plays you like a fiddle. They are loving Trump for the ratings he brings by inflaming lemmings.

          1. Harry Harris

            How about Trade War 2? What does the weakening of our ties with most of Europe, mistrust among allies and bystander nations, and a blaming attitude toward anyone who disagrees with or questions his actions foreshadow? The world is dangerous, and we don’t need rookies or perennial troublemakers stirring the pot.

      4. bud

        “Most people appear to be getting along pretty well with their lives”

        Except for the record number of suicides, shooting victims, opioid overdose victims, kids snatched from their parents and thrown in cages, Muslims banned from entering the US, starving civilians in Yemen, young people struggling with student debt, laid off workers from GM, 401k owners watching their savings drop, thousands of extra traffic deaths. All this along with record debt. Bottom line is simple-life expectancy is down for the third year in a row. Trumps approval is shockingly low for an economy sporting a 3.7% unemployment rate. Yep, all is junket sorry in Dougland.

  3. Bob Amundson

    Impeachment charges (analogous to an indictment by a grand jury) are brought by the House of Representatives, which has “the sole power of impeachment.” The Senate needs a 2/3’s majority to convict an impeached Federal official. So, impeachment is a possibility – conviction is unlikely.

    I hope the Democrats let the voters decide whether POTUS is guilty of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” It would be a political mistake to do otherwise.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Right. And as you say, “impeachment is a possibility” — but not a politically viable course of action. There are two problems:

      — It wouldn’t result in his being removed from office.
      — Even if it did, that wouldn’t solve the problem.

      If I thought impeaching this yahoo would fix the problem, I’d be a happier man. But I don’t. Because the problem isn’t Trump. He’s always been who he is, and was a national joke until 2016, a famous caricature of a sleazy businessman.

      The thing that is WRONG is that enough Americans voted for him to make him president. That’s the problem. That’s the sickness. And I don’t know how we go about curing it…

      1. Bob Amundson

        Wait until 2020 and see how many minds have changed. It seems virtually impossible the Democrats will nominate a candidate as flawed as their 2016 nominee.

      2. bud

        The problem is people that should know better fail to understand that we absolutely must not continue to treat the two parties as equally culpable in the political disaster that has befallen us. No, no, no. A thousand times no! The biggest problem we have in American politics today is people who do not consider political party affiliation when they vote. The GOP is just not a viable option any more that Nazis or Communists.

      3. Mr. Smith

        “If I thought impeaching this yahoo would fix the problem, I’d be a happier man. But I don’t. Because the problem isn’t Trump.”

        I agree with your larger point: the problem is larger than any one man. So I agree that impeachment wouldn’t fix that. But that’s not what impeachment is for. It’s meant to respond to specific abuses committed at the highest level and signal that they will not be tolerated. In that sense, it is the proper tool for dealing with this president’s multiple misdeeds (and general unfitness for the office) and therefore should be invoked. A shrug of the shoulders, a “can’t fix all of it so we shouldn’t try to fix this part of it” attitude is just another way of saying, I give up.

        And to those who feel certain that the 2020 election will fix the this part of our problem, I say: don’t be so sure. As absurd as it seems, the man could very well be re-elected.

        1. bud

          Very well said Mr. Smith. No man is above the law in this country. One man, Mr. Cohen, is going to prison for committing a crime. Another man, individual 1, committed the same crime. He likewise should be held accountable. We can begin fixing our system by using the tools of the constitution to hold individual 1 to the same standard as Cohen. If the senate fails to do its duty by upholding the impeachment charge then shame on them. But that’s no reason for the house to abrogate it’s responsibilty.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Of course he could. Before 2016, his election was unthinkable. Then it happened. If it happened once, it can happen again. Have you seen any signs that the conditions that produced this abomination have gone away? I have not.

          If anything, conditions are worse. In 2016, there were plenty of Republicans standing against him. No more. They’re all terrified of his supporters.

          McCain is dead. Graham has leaped into the gutter to embrace Trump.

          There’s Kasich, but what are his chances for successfully challenged his party’s incumbent? I’ll vote for him — again — but how many other GOP primary voters will?

          These are dark days…

          1. Bob Amundson

            It’s always darkest before the dawn. It is dark, but I sense the beginning of the sunrise. A Democrat actually won a traditionally Republican seat in this State. Yes, your and my “man” did not win the Governorship (and we both invested A LOT into the campaign), but there is always hope. “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              It means next to nothing to me that a Democrat was elected in the 1st District. No offense to Cunningham — he seems a nice guy — but I really don’t care how many Democrats or how many Republicans are in office.

              James was my man because he was the right man. His party had nothing to do with it. In fact, his party was the one impediment to his election. If he hadn’t been a Democrat, he’d have been elected, because all those white voters who won’t consider a Democrat might have paused a moment to take a look at him. And our polling told us that any time a voter did that — actually compared James to Henry (in other words, actually DID THEIR DUTY AS VOTERS INSTEAD OF BEING PARTISAN AUTOMATONS) — they were likely to choose James.

              The reason I say Cunningham’s election means “next to” nothing rather than nothing is that the campaign ran an appalling Trump-centric campaign, making Joe easily the better candidate. And it’s always nice to see the better candidate win.

              But I don’t look at it and feel better about the country or anything….

              1. bud

                Ok. Setting party aside for the moment Smith was a bit better candidate than McMaster. But Smith was hardly my ideal candidate. Specifically I was bothered by Smith’s abandonment of his office to volunteer for the infantry. That really was a negative for me.

                But that pretty much is the case everywhere. Democrats just generally reflect my values and policy thinking. But the political world we live in screams out for team consideration. Numbers matter when it comes to good policy. It is just better to have more Democrats in elective office. That would be true even without the brazen actions by Republican shenanigans to stymie duly elected Democrats. We vote for a team now rather than just an individual. So yes party very much matters.

            1. Bob Amundson

              I don’t see the Bush 43 Presidency as darkly as you do bud, but let’s concede it was dark. The dawn was President Obama. We’ve just cycled back into darkness.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              “Almost as dark as 2004 when we re-elects a man who lied us into war.”

              Which of course did not happen. But Bud persists in believing it did, so he completely lacks the perspective to see clearly how truly and uniquely awful this moment is in our history…

  4. Bart

    Well, the Senate handed Trump a rebuke today and now we wait for the fallout from Trump. They rejected continued funding and participation in the Yemen War with Saudi Arabia and are holding the ruler responsible for the killing of the reporter/dissident. When the Republican led Senate votes to hand him a double rebuke, that says a lot or at least IMHO.

    Trump will be impeached by the House, no doubts about it but will he be convicted by the Senate, no, no doubts about that either. Too bad he can’t take a page from Nixon and just resign and spare the country from further humiliation.

    But I don’t agree with you bud about comparing the Republicans with Nazis or Communists. No need to take it that far. Ideological differences yes. Comparing the Republicans to regimes who condoned mass slaughter, no. Try something else that is more realistic.

    1. bud

      Bart it’s not about policy differences. No the GOP is not the Nazi party. Yet. But the are dangerous to our democracy. Just look at what’s happening in NC, WI and MI. Republican losers in these states are thwarting the will of the people by changing the rules in lame duck sessions so that Democratic winners have less power.

  5. Bart

    This is from my perspective and yours is what it is. From my perspective, neither side is actually doing anything about the divide in this country and each side will use any issue that arises that is in opposition to the other side until it is a skeleton and then they continue until the bones are ground into dust. Neither side will let go once they sink their political and party affiliation teeth into an issue. Doesn’t matter if the country is split on the issue because it is a signal of weakness to the side that finally does give in a micro on it in order to work out something realistic.

    Everything said or done offends someone no matter which side it comes from and once someone is offended or disagrees, it becomes news 24/7 and is just another means to keep the atmosphere of conflict alive and well. Damn, even Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and a few other traditional Christmas themed stories from the past have suddenly become inappropriate because Frosty has a pipe in his mouth and Rudolph was bullied just to name two.

    Hatred once allowed to infiltrate the heart is difficult if not impossible to let go. An example is bud and I am not picking on bud. Bud absolutely hates GWB and makes no bones about it. Yet, Michelle Obama and GWB are very close and have great affection for each other. They are almost polar opposites when it comes to many political and ideological issues but they have overcome their differences and are close friends now. Clinton and GWHB became close friends over the years even with their differences. In days of yore, politicians from both sides were for the most part civil to each other and enjoyed each others company. I saw it first hand years ago while dining at a few places in DC and Georgetown where elected representatives sat at the same table and the fellowship and laughter was genuine.

    I can’t find it in my heart to hate anyone or dislike them to the point of total contempt but will confess that Trump comes very close but that is a different story altogether. What is needed again IMHO is a new class of elected politicians who are supposed to serve all of us not just a specific demographic who can sit down and come to a reasonable solution to the problems we face.

    I am still hopeful that this country can come together as a majority and still protect the minority who differ or don’t agree. I still believe there is room for all at the table and I resent either side that tries to deny a seat at the table when they have a legitimate concern or possible solution. We cannot always get everything we want and sometimes none of what we want but we can still try and still listen to the other side with civility and common sense. Name calling and negative connotations are the last refuge of those who have no other argument, debate, or ability to reasonably discuss an issue. I refuse to continue to engage anyone who will not be reasonable and respectful even though we may disagree.

    Anyway, that is my hope and wish for the holidays and the upcoming new year. Otherwise, I am out of here until next year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the ones who are receptive to an old fashioned holiday greeting and Happy Holidays to those who prefer a different greeting.

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