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BY MAX BURBANK | At this festive time of year, I find myself wondering just how certain major power players square their moral values with the widely accepted standards embodied in the Christmas classics.
Does Mitch McConnell figure Mr. Potter’s big mistake in “It’s a Wonderful Life” was not running for Senate and using raw legislative power to crush George Bailey under his boot like a Socialist roach?
Does Paul Ryan role-play King Moonracer from the Rankin/Bass version of “Rudolph,” establishing an Ayn Randian objectivist paradise on the Island of Misfit Toys, furtively pleasuring himself while imagining stripping Charlie in-the-Box and Spotted Elephant of Obamacare?
When the specter of Richard Nixon is standing right behind Trump, doing his best Marley’s Ghost imitation by rattling the chains he forged in life and moaning about how all mankind should have been his business, Trump is all, like, “Where the hell is my Diet Coke? I hadda push the button twice!”
“No, NO!” Nixon wails. “I’m Marley. You’re Scrooge! Metaphorically! Don’t you get it?”
“Not me,” says Trump. “Scrooge might have been rich, but he didn’t live rich. I got my own courses to play golf on every weekend. I get two, maybe three scoops of ice cream on the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen in a restaurant with my name in big letters on the door! I don’t need a change of heart.”
It has got be downright hard to be a Republican at Christmas. It must require a mental à la carte menu featuring choice helpings of cognitive dissonance, mental compartmentalization, deep-seated selfishness, evil, and side dish of good old American “I don’t give a crap.”
That well-known bastion of liberal pearl-clutchers, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, recently suggested there was only one way Trump and the Republican Party could reclaim that shiniest of all Christmas stars, the moral high ground: “Disown” their sexual harassers, as the Democrats are in the process of doing. I have a sack full of epithets for the Wall Street Journal, but “charmingly naive” is a new one.
How do you “disown” a few congressmembers, but not the Harasser-in-Chief? And are they suggesting that a refusal to admit an institutional penchant for sexual abuse is the only morality problem they have? That’s adorable! Do they have some evidence I’m unaware of that “the moral high ground” is still even an operable concept for the Republican Party? The party currently “too busy” to even hold a hearing about renewing CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), the bipartisan safety net that provides health insurance to over nine million low-income children and pregnant women? The party whose leader took a moment out a ceremony honoring World War II Navajo code talkers to remind them he enjoys calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas?”
Meanwhile, Trump’s personal lawyer, desiccated-pig’s-head-on-a-stick-god-from-“Lord of the Flies”-impersonator John Dowd recently stated the president, in his role as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, literally cannot obstruct justice. If this line of reasoning seems somewhat familiar, it might be because it’s one of the aforementioned Richard Nixon’s greatest hits. Remember him? Our proud nation’s 37th president? A very moral gentleman who was forced to resign his office before being impeached for, among other things, obstruction of justice?
This arguable interpretation of the president’s constitutional powers might seem somewhat shaky (owing to the fact it’s in every way wrong), but no lesser a legal light than Alan Dershowitz has endorsed it. You might remember him as the stalwart defender of the rule of law who successfully defended Claus Von Bülow (who almost certainly murdered his wife), and being a part of the legal “dream team” that successfully defended O.J. Simpson (who also almost certainly murdered his… you know what, screw it, they TOTALLY murdered their wives; I can say that, this is an opinion column, and also everyone knows it.) So kudos, I guess, to the Republican Party for locking down the WIFE MURDERER vote in the finer neighborhoods of Moral High Ground Hills!
It’s not that the idea of the president being incapable of obstructing justice places Trump entirely above the law, it’s that the argument makes the entire question irrelevant. Let’s extrapolate, and indulge Trump’s favorite fantasy, where he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody. No one would argue that he wasn’t guilty of murder, right? So he’s not above the law. But, according to his lawyers, he would have the constitutional authority to prevent any law enforcement agency from investigating the crime, arresting him, or bringing him to trial! There’s an essential trick to making this argument work, requiring one of two things: Either you are a tremendously bad lawyer (any of Trump’s lawyers) or you are a human-shaped, leather sack of amoral weasel bile stuffed into a lawyer suit (Dershowitz).
You have to ask: What is the moral high ground worth if it’s at the top of a mound of scorched earth?
I wish we could all just remember this is the season of hope, and that an omnipotent, loving being watches over us at all times. So you better watch out. ’Cause he’s got two lists. He knows if you’ve been bad or good. It’s no accident that in the last election, one of the candidates said they were bringing back coal in a big way.