It is with great pleasure that I can inform you my dog, Gus, is on the short list to Chief of Staff to President Donald J, Trump.
“This is a singular honor,”Gus told me, when I told him I’d read about it at @realDonaldTrump. He added, “I’m looking forward to serving the president, and to finding all kinds of new places to go pee pee and poo poo in the Rose Garden.”
Trumpsaid in his tweet that he had to choose among “many verry fine cannadates. The choise is hard. It’s all down to 1 persson and 1 dog.”
Trump is not known to be a “dog person,” but a source close to the Oval Office, who did not wish to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with the media, said Trump gets along fine with his daughter, Ivanka’s, poodle, Stormy, and would be fine with Gus. “I don’t foresee any problems, unless Gus poops on the White House floor.”
When this remark was pointed out to him, Gus grew indignant. “I’m a very well-trained dog. My Daddy taught me manners, unlike some humans I could name. Besides, if I poop on the floor, it’s because I’m sick! And you can’t blame a dog for being sick.”
The other candidate said to be under consideration for the Chief of Staff job, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, came under criticism last night when his ties to the Ku Klux Klan were revealed. In 1994, Meadows, then an altar boy, attended a KKK rally led by the group’s then Imperial Wizard, David Duke, and he took an oath to “make America white, straight and Christian again.” Although Meadows has since called statement “ill-chosen…if I offended anyone, I’m sorry,” he has never formally repudiated the KKK. Trump is said to be “concerned” that hiring Meadows would be bad optics for a Republican Party already widely perceived as racist.
Meadows also has struggled with reports that he leads a secret life as a homosexual. Although he and his wife, Debbie, have two children, Blake and Haley, Capitol Hill insiders insist he’s frequently spotted in gay bars, cross-dressing as a curvaceous blonde with a certain similarity to Kellyanne Conway or Ann Coulter.Said one LGBTQ leader in the Washington, D.C. area, “Some of us think Mark AKA Marsha looks more like Kellyanne than Mistress Ann. But I, myself, think he looks more like Mistress Ann. Don’t you? Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, though, does it?”
Meadows is said to be the choice of Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. Kushner’s religion, Orthodox Jewish, is strongly anti-gay, and he himself has professed a “distaste” for homosexuals. When he spoke at a graduation ceremony at Liberty University last year, Kushner said, “I’m not in favor of punishing homos at this time. We’ll wait until Moshiach returns, and then we’ll deal with them.” But Ivanka, who had many gay friends before her father became president, is said to be something of a “fag hag.” One source close to the First Family says Ivanka and Mark AKA Marsha “frequently have intimate luncheons at which they discuss fashion, celebrities and musicals.” More recently, Meadows was implicated in the infamous “pool boy” scandal involving Jerry Falwell, Jr.
As Gus’s father and Guardian, I realize that my life will be changed when and if he accepts the new job. I spent a lot of time in the White House during the Clinton administration, and also visited from time to time when Barack Obama was president, so I’m somewhat familiar with the routine. It can be grueling. Your life is turned upside down; the demands are such that you can be summoned to a meeting 24-7. And, of course, with the likelihood that whoever Trump’s new Chief of Staff is, he or she will have to hire lawyers as Trump’s legal problems drag in the entire West Wing staff, it’s of some concern to me (if not to Gus, who’s pretty ignorant about finances) that my meager savings might be depleted if Gus gets indicted.
Still, it’s an honor for my dog to even be considered for so important a job! By the way, requests are already coming in from the media concerning Gus’s positions on various topics. In general, he’s not very interested in politics, but he does have some views. I’m glad to share them with you.
Border Security and“The Wall.”Gus, who is half chihuahua, has very strong opinions on our Mexican neighbors. “I love Mexico, and I love carne asada.” (As Gus’s Daddy, I can confirm that Gus does indeed love beef, but I don’t give him very much, as I don’t eat meat myself.) Gus also likes walls. “People don’t stop to think about it very much,” he avers, “but walls are very nice places to stop and sniff and maybe go pee pee.”
RussiaGate. Gus doesn’t watch the news at all. To him, it’s just noise coming from a box; he sleeps right through it. But I’m sure that, if Gus were to take a position on the Trump-Russian collusion scandal, he’d be against it.
Social Media. Gus doesn’t have atwitter account, or a Facebook one, or Instagram, or any other social media. Ashe puts it, “Dogs can’t really perceive images on computer screens, so don’t show me a picture of beef, give me real beef!”
Extra-Marital Sex. Full disclosure: Gus was “cut’ when he was a puppy, so he doesn’t have a sex drive. And, as a libertarian dog, he doesn’t really care if Trump smuggles porn stars into the White House for his sexual relief. “As long as they’re nice to me and give me doggie treats, who am I to judge?”
We’re on pins and needles here in the Heimoff household waiting for the final word on whether Gus gets the job. We’re told that the president himself will phone us if the answer is Yes. So exciting! I’d love to meet him, and Ivanka, and Donald Jr. (my favorite Trump, after the president himself), and, of course, Melania and Barron. We’ll keep you posted; I know you’re as anxious as we are to find out what happens!
The French like nothing more than a good riot. Some of us remember May, 1968, when general strikes, university sit-ins and widespread civic mayhem almost brought that country to the edge. Now, they’re at it again.
Whatare the French upset about this time? Just about everything, which makes it hard to Macron to figure out what to do. Some want France to leave the European Union; others want it to leave NATO; others want taxes lowered, or plastic bottles banned. Some, no doubt, are just pissed off at life.
Well, that’s France’s problem, right? Not ours. But there’s a lesson to be learned from France’s travails, and we might be learning it pretty soon.
Thefirst part of the lesson is that if people are stirred up enough, they’re capable of rising up out of their everyday lethargy and behaving in boisterous ways. It’s been a long time since America had an uprising. We have to go back to that same year of the French riots, 1968, for our version. Then, it was Vietnam that, in a very general way, stirred people to something akin to rebellion. (I say “very general way” because Vietnam often provided the umbrella beneath which many other disgruntlements gathered.) In the intervening fifty years, we’ve seen nothing similar. Yes, we’ve had massive outpourings (The Women’s March, for example), but mostly they’ve been peaceful. Still, just below its surface, America bubbles with all kinds of ill-defined seething and resentment. All it might take is a spark of some kind to ignite things to conflagration.
There are many possible scenarios. Might the rioting stem from the Left or the Right? Might it be some kind of weird amalgam of the two? Might it be a clash between the two? My own hunch is that it will arise under the following circumstance:
Trump, cornered, confused, angry, with massive evidence of criminality piling up all around him, decides he’s had enough. Until now, his lawbreaking has been fairly subtle: yes, he’s broken all kinds of laws, but they’re hard to prove, and hard to understand: campaign finance violations are not as readily appreciable by the public as, say, murder. But by and large, Trump has covered his tracks fairly adroitly (adroitly enough, that is, to require a multi-million dollar investigation by dozens of the best lawyers in the country). His crimes have not screamed to high heaven. People who are inclined to give him a pass have found it easy enough to convince themselves he’s being framed.
But with the end-game impending, Trump throws caution to the winds and goes full-tilt boogie. He fires people—a lot of people. He gives orders to his law enforcement agencies to investigate his enemies (journalists, Democrats, Hollywood) and arrest them (orders which his Justice Department may or may not obey). He is capable of some very rash decisions: he might shut down the Congress by surrounding the Capitol with troops and not letting anyone in. He might order martial law throughout the land, suspending civil liberties. He might declare entire sections of the U.S. Code to be null and void. He might shut down the borders, or create a wag-the-dog situation by waging a foreign war or inciting a domestic terrorist act. He might issue an order shutting down the ACLU, or the DNC, and he might detain elected Democratic officials and hold them in “protective custody.” (For a full-scale list of the possibilities, one has only to look at what dictators, like Hitler or the Kims of North Korea, have done to protect their power.)
The difference between Hitler’s Germany and the Kims’ North Korea, on the one hand, and America, on the other, are vast and profound. We have in America a proud, glorious history of civil freedom that is not to be taken lightly by those who would muck with it. We have an aroused public, already disgusted with Trump, able to instantly communicate with each other through cell phones and social media; such a group can make fast decisions, such as where to assemble. We have, still, a good chunk of media that has not succumbed to Trumpism, and is able to blow the whistle on his lawbreaking. And we have, importantly, a military and local police departments in which the love of freedom and the hatred of dictatorship overwhelm any tendencies to obey orders at any cost. (At least, I hope we do…)
Therefore, when and if Trump decides in favor of his Gotterdammerung-esque final drama, tens of millions of Americans are prepared to rise up and tell him, “NO.” And the streets of America will look like the streets of France. Of course, Trump will still have his morally bankrupt defenders, but I don’t believe there are more than a fraction of them compared to the masses that will demand the end of Trump and Trumpism.
I don’t want to see violence, destruction and civil unrest. But that may be what it takes to finally stanch this wound and bring about healing. Remember, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.
NINETEEN YEARS AGO Bill Clinton was impeached for saying “I did not have sex with that woman” when everybody knew he did. Now we have Trump insisting “I did not collude with the Russians” when everyone knows he did.
Clinton, famously, was impeached. And Trump?
For three years—one year of primaries and two years of administration—there has been a single overarching question: What will it take for Republicans to turn against Trump? The conventional wisdom is that they never will. We can debate the reasons why (and in fact we have to, because those reasons will determine, in part, the fate of our country), but the sad fact is that his base shows every sign of sticking with him.
Clinton’s base, too, stuck with him. I remember the period well. The overwhelming impression from everyone was, “Who gives a damn about his sex life?”, a reaction which led to Kenneth Starr’s reputational diminishment as a prudish voyeur. This pro-Clinton sentiment (his approval rating actually hit its all-time high, 73%, during the Impeachment hearings) protected him in the Senate, which refused to convict him.
Trump has no such protection. His approvals consistently land somewhere in the 40s, highest in Rasmussen, lowest in YouGov, but generally between 42% and 45%. This is not a number designed to inspire Republican Senators with confidence in their leader, but the statistics, of course, mask individual races, and the voter suppression machine Republicans have created certainly offers many GOP Senators a guaranty despite the popular opinion against Trump. So we can’t look to Trump’s low polling to assure us that, when and if the House impeaches, the Senate will convict.
How much more can Senate Republicans learn about their president’s malfeasance before they start peeling away? The answer appears to be, Plenty. They haven’t peeled yet, not even after Friday’s and Saturday’s revelations about Manafort, Flynn and Cohen. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that poker-face, brazen liar, insists there’s no there there. Trump’s breathtaking lie on Twitter (“Totally clears the President! Thank you!”) continues his maniacal resistance to, and denial of, The Resistance. The coverup goes on at Fox “News”and Breitbart. So there’s very little motive for Republican Senators to turn against Trump at this point.
I do expect the House to Impeach.Impeachment has become an irresistible force within the Democratic Party. More than 60% of Democratic voters “want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings next year [i.e. 2019], and that brings a lot of pressure to bear on the new House. And we’re only at the beginning of the cornucopia of shockingevidence emerging against Trump and his family. As each new bit of informationtrickles out, sentiment for Impeachment inches upward. Slowly, inevitably,pro-Impeachment force will sweep Congressional Democrats as strongly as theBlue Wave brought them into the House majority. Jerry Nadler can fiddle-faddle all he wants, but he’s going to have to “go there”or face a major backlash from his voters in 2020.
Will Impeachment tear the country apart? Not any more than Trump already has. Republicans will howl the moment Nadler announces hearings, but Republicans howl anyway. The far-right media will go ballistic, but they do every day, so there’s nothing new there. The base, or the whiter, poorer, more rural, less educated Christian extremes of it, will snarl and threaten, but then, they do that all the time; a little more will only add to the cacophony on the Right. Aside from these predictable responses, there’s nothing Republicans can do. They’re not about to start shooting, are they?
Clinton’s Impeachment hearings lasted for two months and six days, from Oct. 5, 1998, when the House Judiciary Committee voted to launch the proceedings, until Dec. 11, when the committee approved its first three articles. Let’s say that the new House begins Impeachment hearings against Trump (in the Judiciary Committee) in March, with an end date sometime in June. That gives the House plenty of time to settle down and its new members to orient themselves. It also gives Mueller a few months to prepare and release his Report (assuming there is a report, instead of simply a mass of indictments and sentencing statements). A lot can happen between now and whenever this is over, but whatever happens, two things are clear: there will be no exculpatory facts in Trump’s favor, and plenty of damning evidence against him.
We don’t know what Trump will do when Impeachment hearings begin. He might completely freak out and pull some stunt so outrageous (like surrounding “his” White House with troops and daring anyone to come and get him) that even some Republicans, especially in Congress, and especially those up for re-election in 2020, would begin to abandon ship. Or he might go quietly, something he’s never done before and, at 72-1/2, angrier than ever, is unlikely to do now. Meanwhile, Nadler’s Judiciary Committee will subpoena all sorts of interesting people and wrest from them all kinds of juicy details that will further undermine Trump’s patently insulting (to our intelligence) claims of innocence. If you’re a Democrat, this Winter and Spring are going to bring a bumper crop of good news—welcome relief after years of bad news—and, let us hope, the End of this sad, corrupt, evil regime.
There could be a huge, unpleasant surprise at the end of this.
Remember, Trump surprised us all on Election Day of 2016 when, with Putin’s help, and Republican voter suppression efforts, he actually won. Is he capable of surprising us again, by being let off scot-free by the Special Counsel?
Like the rest of you, I’m a pretty good consumer of the news, and I try to figure out what’s really going on with the investigation from the [admittedly scant] pieces of evidence we get from Mueller from time to time.
My latest thinking (aside from the “feeling” that Trump personally has committed numerous felonies) is that no smoking gun has yet emerged. If Mueller has one, we certainly haven’t heard about it. Those individuals who have already been indicted, or have pleaded guilty, committed acts that were relatively minor, or were peripheral to the Trump campaign. Yes, we don’t know what we don’t know, including whether or not Donald Jr. and/or Jared will be indicted. We also have no definite outcome on the Flynn or Manafort cases. But right now–and it pains me to say it–there is some suggestion that Trump is correct when he says he did nothing provably illegal, even if his actions were questionable from an ethical point of view.
So it’s entirely conceivable that when Mueller issues his report (if we, the public, are allowed to see it), his conclusion will be that Trump skirted the boundary of illegality, but never actually crossed it. If that happens, we have to be ready for an extraordinarily violent reaction from the White House.
VINDICATED! will be Trump’s triumphant battle cry. The tweets will be all caps: I TOLD YOU ALL ALONG IT WAS A WITCH HUNT! I TOLD YOU ALL ALONG THERE WAS NO COLLUSION OR OBSTRUCTION! NOW I’M PROVEN RIGHT! As soon as the exculpatory report comes out, we can expect a Tweet Storm of unprecedented magnitude from the tweeter-in-chief, leading to what might be called the Witch Hunt of the Witch Hunters.
And his allies will be right behind him. Breitbart will scream for blood—Mueller’s, Hollywood’s, Democrats’, Hillary’s, anybody whom they deem a traitor. Limbaugh will demand that Democratic heads roll. The Republican Senate, already deeply compromised, will go to war with the Democratic House.
And what of that House? Democratic morale will collapse. The Adam Schiffs, Eric Swalwells, et al., who have been T.V. stalwarts in the anti-Trump Resistance, will find themselves embarrassed, reduced to sputtering protest. With a get-out-of-jail-free card, a victorious and vindictive Trump will be at the height of his powers—bloodied and battered, for sure, but ready to lick his wounds and march back into the arena, intent on extracting vengeance. And his legions of poor, white, rural followers will be emboldened as never before.
This is admittedly a worst-case scenario. But it’s a plausible one. There is of course an opposite one: that the Mueller report is highly condemnatory of Trump. That is what Democrats hope and pray for. And then, as is usual with clashingly different potential outcomes, there is the possibility of some wishy-washy middle ground: Mueller ultimately cannot determine if Trump committed specific crimes, because potential witnesses take the Fifth Amendment, or they live abroad and cannot be subpoenaed, or the documentation has been lost or destroyed or never existed. This would be the most unsatisfactory development of all: neither side would like it, because it would leave the whole issue hanging fire. Democrats would insist on digging deeper (which they would have the ability to do in the House). Senate Republicans would refuse to cooperate with any further investigations, and accuse Democrats of only trying to hurt Trump based on the hatred of “the mob” or a dozen angry Democrats. The end result: more stalemate. And before you know it, we’re into the 2020 election cycle.
The mood of Democrats is key. Despite reports of “pro-Impeachment” versus “anti-Impeachment” sentiment in the newly elected House, Democrats around the country remain enormously angry at Republicans, and especially at Trump. The Blue Wave which captured the House (and it was a Blue Wave, no matter how much Republicans deny it) was fine recompense for nearly two years of slander against Democrats (three years, if you count the campaign and the run-up to it).
But the piper has not yet been paid. Democrats, deeply wounded by and resentful of the non-stop horrors they’ve witnessed from the Republican Party and its president—horrors that continues to this very moment–demand more. They—we—want nothing less than tit-for-tat, karmic payback: Trump’s job and reputation, for starters. We want the prosecution of Donald Jr. and Jared. We want his remaining supporters in the Congress driven from office. We want the Republican Party entirely purged of extremist, evangelical-white supremacist elements. We want to see the McConnells pilloried before the Bar of History. We want to see Republican voters confused, frustrated, lost. We want Breitbart, the NRA, the anti-choice and homophobic wing of the Christian party broken and crushed. That sounds pretty rough, I realize; but what Trump and Trumpism have put America through has been simply terrible. Democrats will not settle for crumbs, not this time.
The Bush family made sure Trump kept his mouth shut at yesterday’s memorial service for George H.W., at Washington’s National Cathedral. Has there been any service for a deceased president in our nation’s entire history, when a sitting president was not allowed to deliver public remarks? I can find none.
And then there was John McCain’s memorial service, which the McCain family didn’t even invite Trump to. And those two men—George H.W. Bush and John McCain—were Republicans!
How will history account for this phenomenon of—let’s call it what it is–complete, utter disrespect? We here today understand that the two families loathe Trump, and consider him a disgrace, not only to the presidency but to American politics. Not inviting him to a memorial service, and not letting him speak at one, are forms of the middle finger given to a thoroughly disreputable bastard. There’s no sugar-coating it.
The Bush and McCain families, of course, have nothing to fear from the infamously vindictive, retaliatory Trump. None of them currently holds public office. Trump can hurt none of them. Isn’t it telling how powerful Republicans who aren’t afraid of losing their jobs (Floyd Flake, for example) stand up to him, while those who have jobs to protect lack the courage and decency to do so? As examples of the latter group, I cite every Republican Senator and representative, every Republican governor, every Republican state legislator, every smalltime Republican elected official across this great land, from D.A. to dog catcher. You can divide Republican politicians into two groups: a small one that speaks the truth, and a big one that lies and covers itself in shame.
It must hurt Trump, this public, undeniable rebuke. He’s a rationalizer, a guy who refuses to recognize reality if it’s in the least derogatory to him, who can convince himself that up is down and day is night, if it helps him look in the mirror without wincing. But in some deep-down place in his mind, he must know how hated he is, how much he has failed in this, the most enormous test of his life. When does this realization strike hardest? In the middle of the night, in his big bed, sans Melania, as he tries to fall asleep and can’t, but tosses and turns, for all the nightmarish thoughts swarming in his head. That would be my guess: the middle of the night, when the ego’s censor is relaxed, and the phantoms of the id slither forth, whispering, in unfiltered honesty, J’accuse. This is when Trump most clearly has to confront his own loathsomeness. This is when, irritable and exhausted, he raises his fleshy bulk from the bed, wanders over to his laptop, and tweets.
By the next morning, of course, he’s back to his old self. Another day, another round of lies, insults, smears, dog whistles to the neo-nazis. Another round of wrecking American institutions, of slandering decent individuals, of spitting on our Constitution.
I spoke in the opening paragraph of the Bush family inviting Trump to the service but not letting him speak. But there’s more to the story. Trump insisted, in advance of attending, that no one say anything negative about him in the public remarks part of the ceremony.
Can you imagine Trump presenting such an insulting ultimatum to a family in mourning? Like a mean little boy, he scolds the Bushes, in essence, “I won’t come unless you promise nobody will say anything mean about me.” The Bush family reluctantly agrees. Suddenly, in the midst of their grief, and amidst the pressures of schedules and organizing this epic service, they now have to reach out to the Obamas, to the Clintons, to the younger Bush family members who read from the Bible, to Brian Mulroney, to Jon Meacham, to Alan Simpson, to all the other speakers and dignitaries, and have that conversation. “Please don’t even mention his name. Don’t refer to him. Just pretend he’s not there.”
And they obeyed. But, fortunately for the sake of truth, their references to George H.W. Bush’s humility and spiritual grandeur spoke more loudly about Trump’s vileness than any words could have.
It’s come to this: the President of the United States, at a memorial service for a former President of the United States, is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, whose name none dare speak. Good job, Donald J. Trump, outlier, outcast, outré among presidents, ordure of American history.
The White House today released details of the upcoming Trial of Republicans for Sedition, to begin on June 1.
The Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice, from where so many momentous announcements have been made, has been selected as the Trial Courtroom for the prosecution of Republicans who aided, abetted and enabled the criminal presidency of the now-impeached President Donald J. Trump.
Seated in the Chief Juror’s seat will be former Vice President Joe Biden, flanked by Associate Jurors Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.
The accused defendants are Donald J. Trump; his son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, his chief spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his Special Counselor Kellyanne Conway, Mitch McConnell, the former Senate Majority Leader, Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, Gen. John Kelly, Trump’s former chief-of-staff, Mike Pence, the former Vice President, Stephen Miller, a former senior advisor to Trump, twenty former and current Republican Congressmen and women, and fifteen former and current Republican Senators, including Ted Cruz and Chuck Grassley.
All are charged with various counts of defrauding the American public, sedition, treason, corruption, violating election laws, conspiring with a foreign power, and conduct unbecoming to an American official. The penalties they face range up to life in prison.
The Chief Prosecutor will be former President Barack Obama, assisted by Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, Congressman Adam Schiff and N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo. Attorneys for the defense include Trump associate Alan Dershowitz, Fox News commentator Joseph DiGenova and former Senator Lindsay Graham. Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City Mayor, who was expected to be chief defense counsel, abruptly took himself out of consideration, after his disbarment last week.
The Trial is expected to draw tremendous attention from the world’s media. The White House announced that 74 news organizations, from 56 countries, have registered for press credentials. All pending business of both houses of Congress, as well as major Cabinet departments, is likely to be put on hold, as observers from both parties gather around television sets to watch what is likely to be the Trial of the Century.
At the center of it all is Trump. Since his Impeachment he has relentlessly proclaimed his innocence on all charges, attributing his prosecution to “the Witch Hunt of Angry Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton.” Dividing his time between Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, and his penthouse in Trump Tower, the former president has not been shy about appearing in public. Dinners at restaurants and golf are his pastimes of choice, often accompanied by one or more of his children, but seldom by former First Lady Melania Trump, who is said (by at least one entertainment outlet) to be considering divorce. Trump has aged visibly in the year since his Impeachment, gaining a considerable amount of weight, and growing his hair almost to shoulder-length.
His favorite hangout in New York is Club Bimbo, on Broome Street, in Soho, a haunt of prostitutes, upper East Siders out slumming, and rich European heiresses—strange company for Trump, who seems to be reverting to his late 1970s-era Club 54 lifestyle. He has a reputation as a big tipper, a gladhander who knows everybody. But Trump still doesn’t imbibe alcohol. Those close to him suggest that a certain white powder occasionally finds its way up his nostrils, but there’s no proof of that, other than his night-owl hours. Club Bimbo has some good bands, but Trump has never been a dancer. He sits there in his favorite booth, watching benignly over the scene, a paterfamilias lording it over his clan. Every so often, a rumor circulates in his circle, to the effect that he likes to dress up in pantyhose and leather chaps, and there are the perhaps inevitable tales of water sports. But little is known of this side of Trump’s new life, except for the prostitutes, a known quantity for him.
Some who know him say that he’s a different man now, chastened, more humble after the disgrace of Impeachment, and the looming possibility of jail time, not only for himself but for his family. He’s even been seen in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. But for the most part, Trump seems unrepentant, as angry as ever, determined to clear his name. He is not going away anytime soon—unless, that is, it’s to jail.
Frontline, the pioneering PBS documentary series, recently aired an episode, New American Nazis, that shows in terrifying detail how white supremacist-fascist-neo-nazis are attempting to infiltrate the U.S. military and domestic law enforcement agencies.
If you have read about the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s, you know the same thing happened: violent, angry young men who joined militias in order to learn weaponry skills they intended to utilize to undermine the legitimate State, install their own authoritarian Fuhrer, and impose their racist-nationalist views on Germany—a plot at which they succeeded.
As the Frontline story shows, these white nationalist groups are active in small cells across America. There is not a single, over-arching person or organization running them (unless you see Trump in that position, a unreasonable conclusion). There are hundreds of hate groups; the Southern Poverty Law Center currently tracks 953 of them, of which one of the most dangerous and clandestine is the so-called QAnon, whose “posts at message boards, wildly popular with [the] far right, sprout [a] huge web of fantastic theories about Trump, an imminent ‘Deep State countercoup,’ and arrests aimed at liberals’ supposed ‘pedophilia ring.’”
The origins of QAnon are obscure. NBC describes its main objective as “leak[ing] intelligence about Trump’s top-secret war with a cabal of criminals run by politicians like Hillary Clinton and the Hollywood elite.” With no known structure or leadership, QAnon brings to mind the 1999 Brad Pitt-Edward Norton movie, Fight Club, a similarly loosely connected, underground organization whose anarchist members recognized each other through their bandaged wounds and oblique references to the group’s [semi-fictional] leader, Tyler Durden.
QAnon, for all its anonymity, has its own Twitter hashtag, #QAnon. Among other tweets are one showing that Fox News’ propagandist and Trump supporter Sean Hannity reported that “at least 6 #DeepState spies made entrees to key figures in the Trump org/campaign…in an attempt to set up candidate/President Trump with a concocted Russia narrative,” a “concoction” that now is being shown by Robert Mueller as being entirely too true.
Another, from SassyTallBlonde, states “Mueller will face charges re: U1,” a reference to an insane, discredited theory linking the Special Counsel to a secret uranium-smuggling deal; U1 also has its own hashtag, and a reading of its tweets shows how extreme these rightwing neo-nazis are: “Mueller delivered the sample for uranium one [U1]…the dirty old bastard should be marched up the 13 steps to the rope.”
QAnon members also have a way of recognizing each other: by wearing or displaying various forms of the capital letter Q. Here, for example, is a sergeant in the Broward County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department, name of Matt Patten (on the left), wearing just such a Q, situated chest-level on his full combat uniform.
That elderly, white-haired gentleman in the blue suit in front of Patten, to whom Patten is giving a broad, toothy smile, is none other than the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence.
How does a sergeant in the Sheriff’s Department of a major American county get to wear a white supremacist/conspiratorialist symbol in uniform while performing the official functions of his job—and at the same time greeting the sitting Vice President of the United States? Did Pence know about the symbol? Did Patten’s superiors know? Did they authorize it? Do they share the same rightwing, neo-nazi views as Patten? Will Patten be disciplined or fired (as I think he should be)? The Washington Post asked the Broward County Sheriff’s Department and Pence’s office these questions, but was blown off. I too would like to get in touch with Sheriff Scott Israel; his office apparently is not emailable, but here’s a general information phone number, if you want to call them yourself: 954-765-4321.
We really need to get to the bottom of the facts. Is there a plot by professional militarists for an armed, rightwing insurrection in America? Let the Congress hold investigations, particularly now that the Trumpist cabal has been overturned in the House of Representatives. These neo-nazis may be small in number, but the opposite may be true: they may be metastasizing. It’s good that the public is becoming increasingly aware of them through the efforts of such civil rights groups as the Southern Poverty Law Center and brave investigative reporting by civics-minded journalists. But we need to thoroughly understand this phenomenon, if we are to prevent it from overtaking us.
In California’s Sacramento Valley, the northern part of the great Central Valley, lies the little city of Dixon. With a population of just under 20,000, Dixon in many respects is a typical agricultural community, although its relative proximity to San Francisco, 62 miles away, makes it increasingly an exurban home for workers willing to brave a grueling daily round trip on the freeways.
Dixon is located in Butte County, a “red” area as are most of California’s interior counties; it went for Trump by 48% to Hillary Clinton’s 44%–not nearly as lopsided for Republicans as, for instance, Butte’s next-county neighbor, Glenn, where Trump scored an overwhelming 61.7% of the vote. Democrats trail Republicans in voter registration in Butte County, but only by a relatively modest three percent, which testifies to a certain streak of moderation.
Ted Hickman, 75, is a local Dixon politician, a Republican, who’s been in and out of office since 1968. Since 2014, he’s been on the City Council, and most recently was the city’s vice mayor. He publishes an opinion column, “That’s Life,” on his personal website as well as in Dixon’s local paper, Independent Voice.
This past summer, Hickman posted a column he headlined “Don’t Forget July 1, 2018 Starts SPAM…SPAM…Straight Pride American Month,” which was a celebration of, and call to, the most blatant homophobia. Among its other nuggets:
“[I] support the rights of grown men to wear skin tight short-shorts and go-go boots and don tinker bells…and prance down the streets of San Francisco.”
“Now before anyone gets their pantyhose in a knot, this is not really legally anti anything; instead, it’s pro-family, and proud to be a straight American.”
“We honor our country and our veterans who have made all of this possible (including for the tinker bells) and we can do it with actual real pride, not some put on show just to help our inferior complex ‘show we are different’ type of (crap).”
“We ARE different from them … We work, have families (and babies we make) enjoy and love the company (and marriage) of the opposite sex and don’t flaunt our differences dressing up like faries (sic) and prancing by the thousands in a parade in nearby San Francisco to be televised all over the world…”
There was a lot more along those lines, including this reference to Peter Pan:
“So, right now, if you don’t want any faries (sic) to expire, you can clap your hands. See, I do have a heart, I just can’t type and clap at the same time… so I had to make a hard choice didn’t I?”
In many small cities and towns across rural America, a local politician might have gotten away with this stuff. But Dixon—perhaps due to the arrival of the new workers, who lean liberal or at least libertarian—wasn’t buying it. Intense reaction quickly set in against Hickman. Letters to the editor mounted in opposition:
“Ted’s opinion is absolutely allowed for in this free country, but his use of his title of vice mayor in such an obvious homophobic tirade is nothing short of disgusting,” wrote a woman, in comments that were repeated many times. Residents began putting up yard signs: “We stand with our LGBT neighbors.” Within days, a “Recall Ted Hickman” page went up on Facebook.
Hickman got some support from the usual crowd, Christian “pro-family” individuals and groups, such as “Save California,” which describes itself as a “campaign for children and families.” A rightwing local politician, Dan Grudmann (whose website “Fight the Power” features a photo of Caitlyn Jenner with the caption, “They will start recruiting your child in kindergarten”), told the City Council, “When you break down the family unit, you’re hurting the children and it’s only a matter of time before you produce psychotic broken children, which is the whole idea of the so-called LGBT movement.”
The homophobic right did its best, but to no avail. In the Nov. 6 election, “Dixon voters give antigay councilman the heave-ho,” headlined the San Francisco Chronicle. Hickman got just 27% of the vote in his bid for re-election. (Grudmann, too, lost his bid for the U.S. Senate as an independent candidate.)
The shameful Hickman episode gave Dixon a black eye; a Planning Commissioner was quoted in the Chronicle article as saying, “A lot of people felt Dixon was being mischaracterized.” But with the election now more than three weeks in the past, “Dixon is recovering from a gay-bashing controversy,” writes a reporter for (of all places) the local Fox News affiliate. She quoted a woman who was one of the creators of the anti-Hickman Facebook page: “Dixon is moving forward. Hickman’s loss proves that. It’s time for Dixon to unite and rebuild the wonderful sense of community that makes us love the town.”
It’s too much to hope that the millions of homophobic people, most of whom call themselves “Christian,” will learn any lessons from Dixon’s experience. Obviously, LGBTQ rights are now firmly established in the United States of America. Obviously, LGBTQ people are not going back into the closet. Obviously, even most Republicans who identify as “conservative” have accepted that LGBTQ rights are supported by the majority of Americans of all political stripes, and that gay-bashing is not the way to win elections.
Still, we’re going to have losers like Hickman and Grudmann around for a long time. They can’t be silenced. But, thanks to good and decent people like the voters of Dixon, they can be marginalized to the point where they’re just pissing on themselves in the wind.