As the hero croons in that classic old musical Brigadoon, what a day this has been, what a rare mood I’m in.
But that guy was singing that his mood was almost like being in love. On Thursday night, the mood I was in was almost like being in complete frustration and despair, reeling at the feckless, foolish witlessness of the monumental blockhead we have in the White House. He and his apparatchiks despoil the country and democracy like the Vandals sacked Rome.
During the course of Thursday in Washington -- mind you, this one single day:
- After a deal seemed in place to pass a continuing resolution that would keep the government open and running into February, a petulant Trump blew it up because the Senate version doesn’t include money for his ridiculous wall. He was responding to an angry response to the deal from the hard-right Freedom Caucus of the House, criticism from Ann Coulter and the brain trust at Fox News, commentary in the mainstream media that he had caved to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi (OMG, a woman!), or succumbing to his own inner demons. Maybe all of the above. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are about to be forced on unpaid furlough just in time for the holidays. Thank you, Ebenezer Trump.
- Despite some initial confusion perpetrated, intentionally or not, by the Justice Department, it came to pass that acting Attorney General Matthew Whittaker had been advised by the DoJ ethics office that because of earlier statements he had made on TV critical of the Mueller investigation he should recuse himself from overseeing its work. But his pals told him to ignore the recommendation and he agreed to do the wrong thing.
- Meanwhile, AP and The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that William Barr, the man chosen by Trump to replace the acting AG (and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions), wrote an unsolicited, 20-page memo on June 8 attacking Mueller’s investigation of possible presidential obstruction of justice as “fatally misconceived. “So the acting and future attorneys general are each on the record as critical of and potentially injurious to Mueller’s crucial work. Gosh, wonder why Trump chose them?
- Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen revealed Thursday that those legally seeking asylum at the southern border no longer will be allowed to enter the United States while their cases are decided but will instead be held in Mexico. The ACLU tweeted, “This is the latest ruthless move by the Trump administration that offends our commitment to provide protection to those fleeing persecution. Apparently this administration will stop at nothing to keep people of color it deems unworthy out of the country.”
Nielsen’s announcement came a day after dissembling congressional testimony in which she said she had no idea how many have died while in her department’s custody. (Answer: 81 since 2010, according to Rep. Pramila Jayapal.)
- Thursday afternoon, Trump announced he was about to sign the Farm Bill by tweeting a clip of himself singing the “Green Acres” theme song at the 2005 Emmys, I swear to God.
- Although the Farm Bill passed without going after SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program formerly known as food stamps, in another move straight out of the Scrooge playbook, Trump’s Department of Agriculture proposed a rule that would require harsher work requirements for receiving SNAP, thus worsening food insecurity for at least 755,000 struggling Americans. That’s the real War on Christmas, my friend, and decidedly NOT what Jesus would do.
- Then in late afternoon came the stunning news of Defense Secretary James Mattis’ resignation, effective at the end of February. His announcement came the day after Trump declared he was pulling our 2,000 troops from Syria and just hours before word got out that the president has told the Pentagon to reduce our troop presence in Afghanistan by nearly half.
Mattis is fed up with Trump’s impulsive and dangerous behavior and no matter how you feel about the secretary’s tenure, his letter of resignation is a gem of understated spite
Stating his belief in global alliances and opposition to authoritarian governments, Mattis tells Trump, “You have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects.” In other words, we disagree on the fundamentals of democracy and international cooperation, you make intemperate decisions without consultation and I cannot continue to watch you destroy everything to which I have dedicated my decades of service.
Thursday was, as a cabdriver said to me back at the height of the Iranian hostage crisis, a whole lotta chaotic. Yet this seems much, much worse than that disaster. This is a Perfect Storm of ineptitude and malice that is truly frightening. All the grownups have now left the building.
In the wake of the day’s craziness, the Dow closed down 464 points. The market, it’s said, is headed for the worst December since the Great Depression. But intractable in his ignorance, Trump may go on in this shambles of a presidency for at least another 25 months, unless before its official end, he destroys us all.
Mueller will issue his final report, Democrats with a new House majority will ratchet up investigations and maybe even impeach. A greater scandal could be revealed that might shake even Trump’s fanatical supporters to the core. But until the next election rolls around or GOP leadership and Senate Republicans suddenly become patriots, renouncing their putrescent Pied Piper and calling for his impeachment and conviction, resignation or invocation of the 25th Amendment, we are in for it.
It’s pouring here in New York as I write this and even more so in Washington. They reported on the news the other night that the capital is having its rainiest year on record. See, a friend of mine said, the heavens weep in shame.
What a day this has been.