Donald Trump Isn’t Just “Worse Than Watergate”, He’s Watergate’s “Unfinished Business”

On the one hand, Watergate was merely a cover up of a second rate burglary, the cover up being the crime that brought Nixon down.  But, on the other, Watergate was also a prosecution of the political culture that made the second rate burglary a viable political option – committing an actual crime to undermine your political opponents.

Paul Manafort, Roger Stone & Lee Atwater — in business together in 1980

That “Do ANYTHING To Win” mentality didn’t die with Watergate.  Guys like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Lee Atwater kept it very much alive.  So did Roger Ailes.  Ailes openly said that he created Fox News as a mechanism to prevent any future Watergates – that is, prevent the press from STOPPING the dark, authoritarian politics behind Watergate because the press (well, Fox News anyway) would be stoking the flames that made Watergate possible. 

Fox News was created to foster the culture of Republican political corruption.  And Fox News had an awful lot to do with the rise of Donald J. Trump.

Roger Stone, too, has never been shy about his love for Nixon.  FFS, the bastard even got a tattoo of Nixon on his back. 

The joke will be on Roger though.  I bet inmates are already lining up to meet Roger when he becomes a federal prisoner; they all want bragging rights.  They want to tell their pals that they looked Dick Nixon right in the eye while they shot a load.

The march toward impeachment during Watergate was much more of a slog – took longer – than most people remember.  Then, as now, Republicans dug in their heels, determined to protect their president.  It wasn’t until the reveal that there were tapes – irrefutable evidence that Nixon knew about everything and actively participated in the cover up – that Republicans like Barry Goldwater marched dutifully to the White House to explain to Nixon why he’d be resigning.  Impeachment and conviction were done deals.

We have “tapes” again now.  And, as before, it will be the cover up that brings a president down.  But that, pretty much, is where the similarities end.  Nixon and company were covering up a burglary – committed for political purposes.  Trump is covering up high crimes, misdemeanors and outright treason.  Whereas the rest of the Republicans were pretty much innocent of complicity back during Watergate (they may have suspected Nixon was guilty but they in no way participated in what Nixon did), that’s not the case today.

The reason most Republicans will not – and cannot – turn on Trump is because they themselves are completely complicit in all of the underlying crimes. 

All of the Republican leadership – Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy – knew or suspected that Russia was way up their ass during the 2016 campaign.  Kevin McCarthy famously entered a meeting during the 2016 convention and voiced his concern that “Russia is paying Dana Rohrbacher and Trump”.  Paul Ryan responded: “Let’s keep it in the family”.

Mitch McConnell has taken MILLIONS from Russia into his PAC. Innocent on the surface perhaps (we need to change those laws pronto), not even remotely innocent just below. Moscow Mitch made it his personal business to lift the sanctions on Putin Pal & GRU Guy Oleg Deripaska – the very person to whom Paul Manafort handed the proprietary polling data Russian military intelligence weaponized and turned on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – the tree parts of Hillary Clinton’s blue wall that Trump won by a combined 87,000 votes. Deripaska was sanctioned BECAUSE he interfered in the 2016 election.

We also know now that Russia infiltrated the NRA.  Using its skilled agent Maria Buttina, Russia used the NRA to spread money and influence – and the NRA knew goddamned well that that’s what Russia was doing.

Wayne LaPierre, too, is the right wing finishing what Watergate started.

It’s not a coincidence that the two most damaging assaults on our whole political system came from the right – from conservatives – from Republicans.  It’s not a coincidence because they’re connected.

Bullshit In History — It’s Only “A War On Drugs” If You’re Not White

There never ever was a “war on drugs” in America. There was however a war on drug USERS. Still is.

But let’s be clear — no one ever waged that war because they worried about anyone’s health or any impact drugs might be having on it. The “War On Drugs” launched by Richard Nixon in 1971 was, by its own admission, a war on people — because of who they were, the color of their skin and the ideas in their heads. The drug-taking part was the bullshit justification to go after them.

For a full view of what I’m talking about, I recommend “Blunt Truths” — the series I wrote for Weedmaps News.

As we wade through more Republican bullshit — lies about everything from racism to treason — it’s important to remind ourselves just HOW bullshitty Republican bullshit is. A particularly telling example is illustrated by the story of how Harry Anslinger — while prosecuting brown and black people for using marijuana — kept Joe McCarthy’s secret that he was a hard core heroin addict.

Joe McCarthy epitomizes Republican hypocrisy, false patriotism and love of bullshit. As the piece puts it: “Because Anslinger agreed with [McCarthy’s] politics, however, he kept the addiction secret for the rest of the official’s life.”

Do as I say, not as I do. Bullshit doesn’t get any more “Republican” than that.

That’s Roy Cohn whispering sweet nothings into Joe’s ear in the photo. Roy Cohn, don’t forget, was one of Donald Trump’s mentors (until Cohn got AIDS at which point Trump abandoned Cohn).

These dots all connect — every one of them. Republican bullshit renews itself like Trumpian swamp water. The supply is as endless as it is eternal.

Memories Of The Moon Landing

Some of the most durable memories from my youth are attached to news events. One of my very first memories was the sadness in the house after JFK was assassinated. I remember watching his funeral cortege move through DC — and John-John’s salute — play on the black & white TV in our living room.

Another enduring memory is watching the Vietnam War play out every night on the TV in our kitchen during dinner.

And then there was the Moon Landing.

In July 1969, I was 10 — spending another summer at sleepaway camp in Maine (I went to an amazing place called Camp Skylemar in Naples, Maine which still exists). The landing took place in the middle of the night but Lee and Herb (the two men who owned Skylemar) set up TVs on the stage in the Rec Hall and set out the chairs as they did for shows and rallies.

My dad was a surgeon — and a plane spotter. We spent hours sitting at the ends of runways watching the planes come and go. The idea of a rocket launch was organically exciting to me. And America was enthralled with the Space Program. Each accomplishment made us genuinely proud to be Americans. We used to feel very proud! The Moon Landing didn’t open my eyes as my eyes were already open. Everyone’s eyes were open — which is why the rec hall was packed in the middle of the night despite the fact that we’d all spent another day playing sports and having a blast.

It was surreal and yet incredibly real. I remember being transfixed — wishing the TV screen were bigger. Wishing the images were clearer, the voices less garbled by the distance they’d traveled. But there were Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong — literally walking on the moon and talking about it in semi-real time.

We knew at the time that by witnessing history, we were, in a very small way, becoming part of it. Does human history actually “happen” after all if there are no humans around to witness it?

Back then, the news cycle kept “bankers’ hours”. It respected the sanctity of the weekend and dinner time. In fact, it relied on the sanctity of dinner time — because they knew they were part of it.

In retrospect, the strongest memories I have from the Moon Landing are less the images and more the way the Landing made me feel. How the Moon Landing still makes me feel. Growing up in an anti-Vietnam War house, I wasn’t a homer. My dad served in the Air Force but our values were Progressive. It is possible, you understand, to hold two conflicting points of view. It wasn’t unnatural to despise, say, Richard Nixon & his war policies (most every one of his policies) and yet feel proud of what Americans could accomplish.

It is absolutely possible to be proud of what this country has been (in brilliant flashes) in the past while feeling mortified by what it has become (especially since it’s a reflection of what it always was). Maybe it’s 50 years and some wishful thinking… I felt pride that night both as an American and as a human being. Look what we could do — we.

That’s the big takeaway all these years later — the things that teamwork could produce. The things that teamwork CAN produce. That’s teamwork spelled “DIVERSITY”.

How Bad Is It? For The First Time, I’m Not Entirely Sure How This Shit-Show Turns Out…

I’ll own it: I over-bet on Robert Mueller and the Mueller Report. I over-bet on his reputation as a soldier and as a law enforcement professional. I over-bet on a career spent inside the box thinking outside the box.

None of that’s on Robert Mueller. It’s all on me. Instead of filling the silence with despair like a Bergman movie, I filled it with hope. I thought all the clear criminality I could see (well, me and a lot of the twittersphere — the detail-oriented, back-it-up-or-it’s-bullshit part of the twittersphere) was sitting there like a ball on a batting T. All Team Mueller had to do was pick up a bat.

Even that was a problem apparently. Robert Mueller felt hemmed in by that Department of Justice memo meant to keep Spiro Agnew from pardoning Richard Nixon. We’re riding the leading edge of an historical ripple effect — an unintended consequence of tragic proportions. Unable to charge a sitting president — and reluctant apparently to anger Trump by charging his children (and risk his work product being destroyed), Robert Mueller pulled his punches. He tipped everything in Congress’ direction.

But — here’s where I over-bet again — Mueller didn’t count on his good friend Bill Barr betraying him by completely mischaracterizing his work product — by telling America that he, Robert Mueller, had just let Trump off the hook. Mueller didn’t count on Bill Barr being there for the express purpose of obstructing the very justice Robert Mueller had just spent 2 1/2 years pursuing. Mueller has raised his voice and complained. He even broke ranks — a little — to insist that we all read his report.

He’s right. Everyone should. A lot of very painful truth sits inside those 448 pages. It defies explanation that the Truth sits there — right in the middle of us — yet the villains of the piece continue to walk free — as if they’ve bamboozled not just us but logic itself.

Personally, I don’t care if Robert Mueller says he’ll only repeat what’s in his report if called before Congress. He’s a private citizen now. No special privileges. You get called, you answer. The questions we have won’t necessarily concern just what’s inside that report. There’s the relationship with Bill Barr that needs looking into. Mr. Mueller will have to answer those questions. He’ll be under oath.

But why should it come to that? Why isn’t Robert Mueller demanding an hour of prime time to speak directly to the American People?

Yeah… I over-bet big time.

I’m an optimistic person by nature. Never Say Die. That’s me. I believe there are enough good people to overcome this shit. I’m not sure what will be left when we get finished pulling it back from the career criminals that used to be the Republican Party. I appreciate that Nancy Pelosi wants to do this by the book. The Rule Of Law is or it isn’t.

Great thought. Noble as hell. But the Rule Of Law takes time — and I’m not sure that time’s on the schedule. Sometimes, you have to work with what you have. If time’s short, Madame Speaker — you need to improvise a little. Just sayin’.

Today, Donald Trump outed himself completely. He must know that Donald Trump Junior is about to get nailed for knowingly taking info from foreign sources. Trump and the republican party are blasting away the obstacles that say that’s not just unacceptable, it’s illegal. Not anymore it isn’t, not anymore.

Rachel Maddow said something tonight that got me thinking. We expected that once all this got out into the light, nature would take its course. Law enforcement would “happen” because that’s how the Rule Of Law works. Except the Rule Of Law’s gone missing.

Today, watching Republicans not respond to Trump’s inviting every foreign country on the planet to have a go at our elections, it struck me how screwed up we are. From the moment it became clear that Trump was going to be the republican nominee, I’ve been yawping that Trump would be the end of the republican party. He absolutely has been.

I didn’t for two seconds imagine however that Trump would be the end of the Republic, too.

A bad outcome isn’t written in stone. But the republicans made it crystal clear today just how ugly this is going to have to get before there’s any chance of it getting better. Trump knows for a fact: the instant he stops being POTUS, his legal nightmares begin. He will go to prison — IF he ever stops being POTUS. The same now applies to the whole damned republican party. They, too, have thrown all in. (Shriveled, old) balls to the wall.

We are going to be subjected to a Bond Movie ending that gets bigger and bigger, louder and more complicated with a Teflon villain who just won’t go down. We The People are the majority. We WILL get to the other side of this.

I just worry about what-all will still be here to save.

We Live In Remarkable Times… That’s Not A Good Thing

I write movies & TV shows for a living (and a book, too, which I just finished!) It’s not the most reliable way to pay the rent but when I do make a buck, I make it by making stuff up, writing it down and selling it. I take great pride in the fact that my imagination can go just about anywhere.

But no writer could possibly have made up the Time we live in. That’s not a revelation of course; I’m hardly the first person or writer to say that. But I might be the first writer to say out loud how much I resent that fact. It’s damned hard to come up with stories these days half as compelling as what’s on the news. A 240 year old experiment in self-government teeters on the brink of destruction. And we’ve got a front row seat.

There’s a famous scene in a great movie called “The Third Man”. Joseph Cotton stars as a Holly Martin, writer who goes to Vienna just after WWII because he believes his friend Harry Lime has died. Vienna is a divided city with a free side and a side behind Russian control. Harry Lime may have committed a crime — which explains the mystery surrounding whether or not Harry is really dead. Turns out (Spoiler Alert!) he’s not dead — he IS a criminal and he did fake his death so that he could hide out in the Soviet sector.

Orson Welles plays Harry who finally comes out of hiding to confront Holly — and to seduce Holly into coming over to the dark side and going into the black market with him. Holly turns him down which sets up the climax later when Holly tries (working with the British authorities) to lure Harry into a trap. But, before Holly says no, Harry delivers a great monologue (written by the book & screenplay’s author, Graham Greene). Write

Chaos seems to produce greatness in addition to chaos. An argument can be made that war itself has inspired some of the greatest statements of human artistic genius. Picasso’s Guernica comes to mind…

War movies, war literature, war art, war music (Beethoven’s Eroica — written with Napoleon in mind, that dedication was later withdrawn however), war everything — it makes us look deep inside ourselves for a few thoughtful seconds before we go back to killing and wholesale slaughter.

Another argument can be made that American comedy hasn’t been this robust since Richard Nixon was president. My point — there are benefits to living in Remarkable Times. There are laughs to be had — bitter ones, perhaps but — laughs all the same. There’s that feeling of “chumminess” we all feel when we hear the latest stupider-than-stupid thing Donald Trump said on TV or via Twitter and we all think “What an asshole!” at the very same time.

I didn’t used to be a news junkie. I was a daily consumer of news product but my diet was a lot more balanced back then before Trump “won” in 2016. I used to be a regular Howard Stern listener. I was hard core. But Trump winning changed everything for me. I couldn’t listen to characters I loved anymore because they were worried about trivial shit (funny but trivial) while the world was ending around us all. I have been news 24/7 ever since.

This is not good for us but the answer isn’t sticking our heads in the sand. The 75th anniversary of D-Day brought Tom Brokaw out into the light again — and his book The Greatest Generation. I grew up in the war’s shadow; my parents were the Greatest Generation’s children. A baby boomer, I grew up in the 1960’s, part of a generation that was, in a way, the diametric opposite of the Greatest Generation. We weren’t fighting a war, we were protesting it (well, to be fair, by the time I got to college, the Vietnam war was 5 years over and done with. We were still deep into our wound-licking phase.

Baby boomers, Gen-X-ers, Millennials — we’ve all lived through interesting times but not very interesting times. Yeah, yeah, the Soviet Union died — but it didn’t die spectacularly like Nazi Germany did. Until Donald Trump ran for president — and “won” (he didn’t — fact o’ life — he lost both the popular and he absolutely lost the EC too.) That’s what Robert Mueller’s report teases us with.

The Donald Trump story — and the corrupt Republicans story — and the we’re under cyber attack right now story — these are all remarkable stories all by themselves. Lucky us for getting gang-tackled by them all. This will get far, far worse before it starts to get better. When we get to the part where ALL the shit starts flying from ALL the nooks & crannies, this will get exponentially more ugly. Never mind the awful, treasonous things the republicans have all done, when the American public get a firm grip on what this story is — how deep, dark & horrible it is — and how the republicans continue to play them for suckers and rubes — this will turn thermo-nuclear.

Bill Barr and Donald Trump have succeeded in muddying a narrative they desperately needed to muddy. The Truth will not set them free. It will however send them to prison for the rest of their lives. It may even expose them to execution — still one of the punishments for treason. And, yes — this IS treason because ARE at war. We’re at Cyber War.

Oh — but it’s “undeclared”, you say? Well, it’s just as “undeclared” as the state of war that existed in Japan’s mind when it attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Just because the Americans being bombed by the Japanese didn’t know they were at war didn’t mean the bombs didn’t kill them just as dead. You don’t have to know you’re at war to BE at war.

I used to feel a lot more certain that I knew how this would turn out. I’m a lot less certain now. The pleasures of living in remarkable times have worn thin. I suspect we all long for this to end and for something we used to call “normalcy” to replace it (and reign for a thousand years if it wants to).

There’s a Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times (in other words, may you be inundated with chaos). We’re learning — the Chinese knew what they were talking about.

Maybe Our Takeaway From Trumpism SHOULD Be: We Didn’t Punish Richard Nixon Nearly Hard Enough

There is a direct link between Richard Nixon and Donald J Trump. Or should I say links… There’s the ‘thematic’  one of course — the ‘Country Club Authoritarianism’ personified by Roger Stone…

…that views American political norms and anyone not in their club with disdain and disgust.  This is the ‘Silent Majority’ part of the link — the soft, (VERY) WHITE underbelly of American Racism.  This part of the link — because it could — initiated and now wages Full Out Culture War on the rest of America.

The other part of the link with our Nixonian Past is POLITICAL.  Roger Stone works that part of the equation too.   But he’s just the tip of a monstrous iceberg.

There is a certain ‘class’ of republicans for whom Authoritarianism has always been an irresistible lure.  The Truth is, they’ve never been that ‘down’ with Democracy.  When White, Christian Male Hegemony is your ‘Bottom Line’ — Democracy can only screw up your deal.

As I said — Roger Stone is a DIRECT LINK to Nixon.  But so is PAUL MANAFORT — who was A BUSINESS PARTNER of Roger Stone’s…

Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwate

From the left that’s Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and – bonus – Lee Atwater (yet another ‘partner’ in ‘Crime’).  While it’s not nice to wish people ill, Lee Atwter getting cancer was a literal ‘Dream Come True’ for every American man, woman & child.  The death of American Political Discourse can be laid directly at Lee Atwater’s feet.

Lee Atwater was the Idea Man & Chief Architect of The Right’s ‘Our Way Or Die’ Strategy that found the Great American Talent for Compromise a little too inconvenient. Newt Gingrich was a follower of Lee Atwater’s — and we all know what a fine specimen of Jackal Turd Newt Gingrich is…

And, of course, the whole Nixon Crew were Mega-Fans of Roy Cohn — a nominee for Worst Human Being Ever.

While lots of Nixon’s acolytes did time and were punished (and most of THEM never reared their ugly heads ever again — John Dean being the one ‘exceptional’ exception), a few of the cockroaches got away scott free.

That would be vermin like Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Lee Atwater…

They made it safely to the darker nooks and crannies where they hid out and plotted — till now.  And then they threw all their weight — and Nixonian Darkness — behind Donald J Trump.

Makes one wonder if Trump would have risen so easily (accepting that he had lots & lots of help from Russia) without the Nixon Brigade working the equation from the American side — like the Traitors they are.

And THAT makes one think that maybe they SHOULDN’T have been there at all — either because THEY THEMSELVES had been swept up in an expanded dragnet of political corruption… or because the PRICE to Richard Nixon for his attempting to circumvent and undermine the Constitution was seen as UNPARDONABLE.

Nixon had NEVER been pardoned.  If he had been PROSECUTED to the fullest extent of the Law instead and hounded to his grave — it would have been understood that the COST of screwing with American Democracy IS NOT more money, more attention, more adoration by the twisted Right Wing.  It’s PUNISHMENT and NOTHING BUT.

Alas, we did not do that.  We PARDONED Nixon.  We gave him a Second Act and a bit of a Third Act even.  We resuscitated an image that did  not deserve resuscitation.

We’re paying for it NOW…