Through the Looking Glass.

There is, these days, an ever more hallucinatory quality to politics. The most powerful man on earth flies to London to a NATO summit, and spends half his time in very public spats with the Canadian and French leaders; calls one nasty and the other two-faced; announces he will “deal with” countries that don’t ramp up their military spending fast enough for his liking; threatens to slap 100 percent tariffs on French luxury items; leaves London in a huff and flies home early… into an impeachment maelstrom in which his unleashed Congressional enablers are demanding of witnesses to know for whom they cast their secret ballots in the 2016 presidential election.

Meanwhile, North Korea repeatedly threatens to deliver a Christmas surprise to the US, presumably in the form of more nuclear tests and more launches of missiles. And Trump’s response is to say that his relationship with Kim Jong UN is “really good,” but that he might start teasing him again by referring to him as “rocket man.” ABC News then reported that the North Korean leader was so offended that he was considering using the nomenclature “Dotard” again when referring to Donald Trump. And so, on the eve of 2020, two spoiled playground bullies might just start taunting themselves into a renewed game of nuclear chicken on the Korean peninsula.

This could be the stuff of a Jefferson Airplane song, about white rabbits and little pills, about the bending and warping of reality, about asking Alice how she felt in her off-kilter wonderland, as she navigated her encounters with a decidedly autocratic, foul-mouthed, and mercurial Queen of Hearts.

One can see Trump in full Red Queen regalia, demanding of Macron during what the press described as their “tense” press conference, that he “look up, speak nicely, and don’t twiddle your fingers all the time.” Or of Trudeau, once he realized that the young Canadian, along with the UK’s Boris Johnson – who had previously begged Trump not to express his support for him in the upcoming general election — and several other leaders, were bonding at a drinks gathering by mocking Trump’s behavior, “Now, I give you fair warning, either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no time!” Shouting aloud “off with his head,” when faced with another round of juvenilia from the North Korean leader, and then, a moment later, suggesting a gentle game of lawn croquet.

There is a petulant, deliberate irrationalism to Trump and to Trumpism these days. Say something, then deny it was ever said; get Congressional supporters and Fox News shills to parrot the denial; then move the goalposts, announce it was indeed said and done, but that there was nothing wrong with the doing; and get the Kool-Aid crowd to embrace this new notion. Present self-dealing as simply concern for the well-being of the Republic.

Intimidate witnesses. Shred constitutional norms. Refuse to cooperate with congressional investigations; and then accuse the congressional committees of playing a rigged game by proceeding without your cooperation. Withhold “fact witnesses” in the face of subpoenas; and then say that all the witnesses who do cooperate are simply peddling hearsay. Refuse to produce requested documents; and then aver the impeachment case is flimsy because there aren’t enough primary documents introduced into evidence. Send out cabinet members such as the hapless Rick Perry to announce their belief that Trump’s election did, indeed, suggest the involvement of the Hand of God, and meanwhile continue to violate pretty much every “thou shalt not” prohibition in the Good Book.

This is chutzpah on steroids. And it is also the strategy of the Big Lie adapted for the social media age. Tweet out falsehoods and misrepresentations often enough and loudly enough, and a goodly part of the population will end up believing them.

It is all designed simply to obfuscate and to confuse, to muddy what are really very clear waters: when it comes to the impeachment allegations, Trump several times, both in private conversations and in public settings, pressured another country’s government to interfere in the upcoming US elections. Everything beyond this is simply icing on the cake of corruption. He released a transcript of a phone call asking the Ukrainian president to “do us a favor though,” held a press conference in which he urged both the Ukraine and China to investigate the Biden family, and had his chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, tell the assembled press corps to “get over it” and to get used to politicking like this when it comes to foreign affairs.

But in this looking glass reality, such events either didn’t happen or, if they did, were entirely above-board. Such is the absurd denouement of cultist rule.

Over the coming weeks, Trump will almost certainly be impeached in the House; and almost certainly this will occur with no GOP backing. The trial itself will then take place, early in the new year, in the GOP-controlled US Senate.

Expect many more Alice-through-the-looking-glass moments as these historic events unfold.

–Sasha Abramsky.

2 Replies to “Through the Looking Glass”

  1. The Republicans need to be forced into a completely embarrassing position. Getting them there requires not rushing the impeachment process. Democrats must allow the subpoena process to run its course, up to the Supreme Court if necessary. Doing so will force some of Trump’s minions to appear or release details. Yes, that means running well into the election, but Nixon’s Republican supporters had to be dragged into seeing the depth of his behavior. Furthermore, voters will have more time to digest the details.

    1. Disagree. The House prosecutors can subpoena the recalcitrant witnesses in the Senate trial. That will put Trump and the Senate Republicans in an awkward position, particularly if there is a final ruling on appeal in one of the cases already on file, such as McGahn.

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