My mind keeps traveling back to that moment in the second presidential debate when both candidates were asked what they admired about each other. I have to say, sitting at home, the question stumped me. I guess in a pinch I could say I admired Clinton’s tenacity, doggedness, and ambition. They’re all good qualities in a politician. But Trump? Racked my brain. Has he done a single redeeming thing in his entire life? None that I could find in any biographies or news reports. Clinton’s answer — that she admired his kids — was a good try, but also manifestly untrue. Trump’s kids seem to me to have close to no moral compass, are utterly absorbed into the family cult, and follow the same truth-churning, money-grubbing, corner-cutting, ethics-free recklessness of their father. They’re a walking argument for a hike in the estate tax.
Which brings me to Don Jr. Regular readers will know I’ve been determinedly agnostic about the whole Russia-collusion subplot. Now I agree with David French, one of the less tribal writers at National Review: “If you had told me last week that there existed an e-mail chain where a Trump contact explicitly tried to set up a meeting between a purported Russian official and the Trump senior team to facilitate official Russian efforts to beat Clinton, I’d have thought you’d been spending too much time in the deranged corners of Twitter.” And yet here we are.
These are the words that will resonate for quite a while, typed just 17 minutes after Don Jr. was told the Clinton dirt was coming from the Kremlin: “If it’s what you say I love it.” If you’d been tasked with inventing an email chain proving an intent to “collude” with a hostile foreign government, could you have come up with something as water-tight as Don Jr.’s? I don’t mean actual collusion; I mean intent.
This is not about being dumb. It’s not about being ruthless. It’s not about oppo research. It’s not even about dirty tricks. This is about a very basic level of patriotism. It’s about a deep question of how you were brought up and what your values are. And Trump values are foul. Yesterday, as if to prove the point, the paterfamilias revealed his own view of a case in which a foreign despot offered his campaign dirt on his opponent: “If you got a call and said, ‘Listen I have information on Hillary and the DNC,’ or whatever it was they said, most people are going to take that meeting, I think.” Even when it’s coming from a foreign enemy. And so we learn one more time: If it ever comes to a choice between Trump and America, Trump will pick Trump.
There is a reason the Founders made the presidency — alone of all the offices of state — reserved for a natural-born American. There’s a reason every new citizen must swear this oath: “I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.” The Founders were deeply worried that the republic could be corrupted by foreign influence, money, or power. No office was more critical in this than that of commander-in-chief. And it was in part for this exact contingency that impeachment was included in the Constitution. As ultra-right Republican Andy McCarthy just wrote in National Review:
The standard for impeachment, the commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” is not concerned with criminal offenses found in the penal statute books and suitable for courtroom prosecution. It relates instead to the president’s high fiduciary duty to the American people and allegiance to our system of government. Alexander Hamilton put it best in Federalist No. 65. Impeachable offenses are those “Which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
The bickering over collusion ‘crimes’ misses the point. If an unfit person holds the presidency, the danger to our society is that he will abuse the power that he wields. The imperative is to remove him from office.
No crime need be committed. The question is whether we can trust this president to put the interests of the U.S. before himself or a foreign enemy — or some horribly compromised combination of the last two. If there is any doubt about this, the doubt has to be removed. That is what impeachment was invented for. It is to remove an unfit person who has proven himself willing and able to abuse the power entrusted to him.
And so we begin to get the answer to a particularly pointed question: How much do Republicans actually love their country? And when exactly will they prove it?
If the American governing class is beginning to grapple with the greatest electoral mistake in U.S. history, in Britain, democracy is also having its awkward way with Brexit. The clock is now ticking before Article 50 pushes the U.K. out of the single market, and it’s concentrating the minds of those in business — especially if there’s no secure deal before then, as seems increasingly likely.
The biggest business lobby, the CBI, has now publicly argued that the two-year deadline for leaving the single market is already killing investment and confidence. They want the single market extended indefinitely, leaving Britain a de facto EU member way past 2019, if negotiations don’t go well. Some other consequences are beginning to sink in: The divorce bill looks likely to be over $130 billion, with decades of lost future productivity baked into future GDP. The economy is softening. The trade deficit has worsened despite a big depreciation in the pound. Polling on Brexit is still very tightly balanced, but the last couple of months have seen a small but palpable shift toward those who now believe that leaving was “wrong.” In the polls in the first four months of this year, every singe poll showed no regret. Since the end of April, four have been in favor, four opposed. A recent poll showed that 60 percent of the British want to keep their EU citizenship — with all its rights to travel and work anywhere in Europe.
Another straw in the wind: The director of the Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings, is worrying about what comes next. In a recent Twitter exchange, picked up by Johnny Freedland, Cummings was asked if anything could now happen to change his mind about the decision to leave the EU. His response? “Lots! I said before REF [the referendum] was dumb idea, other things should’ve been tried first. In some possible branches of the future leaving will be an error.” And the truth is: The “softer” Brexit gets, the more pointless it gets. If you stay in the single-market-and-customs union, you’ll have to keep freedom of movement, and once you’re there, you’re a de facto member of the EU — with no say at all in how it’s run. There’s even less sovereignty in that than the status quo. Cummings, for good measure, has already argued that leaving the EU is the “hardest job since beating Nazis” — and that was way before May’s political implosion. Earlier this week, he opined: “Tory party keeps making huge misjudgments about what REF was about.”
And then there’s the parliament. The Great Repeal Bill — Prime Minister Theresa May’s legislation to incorporate all EU law into British law — is suddenly on the rocks. The Labour Party has now come out against it without its incorporation of all the requirements of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. All they need are a few Tory rebels and the bill is deadlocked. But if she gives in on “fundamental rights,” her own right wing will balk and walk. Actually executing Brexit, like repealing Obamacare, turns out to be much, much harder than the reactionist right believed. For good measure, the leaders of the Welsh and Scottish parliaments, whose consent is also necessary for the bill to pass, have declared their joint opposition. And every delay makes the chance of a breakdown in talks with Brussels more likely, the consequences more economically dire.
Nothing is inevitable in politics. Maybe I’m just wishing my former country would come to its senses, but the Brexit ship seems to have been becalmed. At some point the wind may change direction.
When was the last time you read a story or watched a TV show or a movie that was actually optimistic about the future? I know. I can’t remember either. Maybe the “San Junipero” episode in the latest Black Mirror series just about squeaks through. I finished that with a small if fleeting utopian glow. But that’s only compared with all the other dread-inducing omens of future techno-hell in that series.
This magazine’s cover story predicting Mad Max conditions pretty damn soon on planet Earth wasn’t exactly a guilt-free beach read either. And the best recent Peak TV show I watched, The Handmaid’s Tale, lingered in the soul like some cold compress. The interwebs seem a pale shadow of the individuality and diversity they once promised (and even delivered) and now portend fathomless, anonymous darkness. Technology used to thrill a little, no? Now it’s either a new app that will shred every last middle-class job in the West (this story on the demise of the London cabby ruined my morning) or wonder meds none of us will have access to if Mitch McConnell gets his way. And saturating all of it is Trump, hovering in the humid summer air like the smell of Satan’s Sangria leaking from a New York City trash truck.
But then — out of the blue, lo! — a bright star emerges: “A company called Cannabiniers on Wednesday launched the Brewbudz, which is ‘the world’s first cannabis infused coffee, tea and cocoa pods.’” Brewbudz are available in different dosing strengths, from 10 mg to 50 mg of THC, the compound in marijuana that gets you high, in both sativa (the strain of cannabis that picks you up) or indica (the strain that mellows you out).” Suddenly, there’s a reason to carry on.
It’s long been a theory of mine that the 21st century has been marijuana’s new golden age for a reason: The dystopia demands a mild, uplifting oblivion. No wonder Washington, D.C., is now a veritable hub of muggy dope fumes, per the Washington Post:
… everywhere you go in the nation’s capital, you catch a whiff of weed. And it’s often in the places where you least expect it.
On H Street downtown, as you wind your way between office workers rushing back from lunch.
At 10th and E streets NW, in the shadow of the FBI headquarters.
In the hallway of your apartment building. In the foyer of your gym. In Aisle 9 of the Walmart, wafting in through the beach towels. (Wait, Walmart?)
And now it’s infused with coffee? Maybe they will come up with a bipartisan fix to Obamacare after all.
See you next Friday.