Year of Decision on the Trump Presidency

Every day, a fresh revelation, a new indictment, an ever more outrageous, rudderless expression of falsehoods, disdain, and amorality. Nothing is stable, nothing true, whatever was done or said yesterday or an hour ago is inoperative, a passing wisp descending to a graveyard where words go to be drained of all their life-giving blood.

We live in an eternal, impulsive now of rampant, chthonic chaos, of bottomless depravity, of such clear danger to our national identity, our very character as a sovereign, self-examining people, that all else seems to pale in importance.

One summons the angels that still beckon in family, friends, the arts, the comforts of a long walk, a good book or a warming drink on a winter night. But increasingly, those comforts feel if not cold, at least clammy, begetting an intermittent case of vertigo.

One yearns for the normal, for norms that may yet be remembered and reasserted as guiding principles for the common good.

And one thinks: For the love of God and this nation, Robert Mueller, HURRY!

Yes, a thorough investigation it must be, built brick by brick, with plentiful mortar to seal it tight and leak-proof for a jury of 329 million. But that thoroughness must be weighed against the steady, corrosive drips of torture inflicted on our people, our collective consciousness, our institutions that, however robustly they were designed to withstand extreme strain, are not immune to permanent rupture.


It is now the year 2019, and as chaotic and desperate as most every day of 2018 and 2017 felt in American politics, the one near certainty is that this will be the year that something even more dramatic will happen to further deepen our crisis and ask us anew, perhaps like at no time since the Great Depression or the Civil War, about who we are as a people.

And who our legislators are, both as people, and as freely elected guardians of the people’s welfare.

The election of a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in November served as a needed but limited brake on untrammeled power. But the final disposition of Donald Trump’s legacy as president will not be determined by Democrats.

Donald Trump has never fought fair a day in his life, and he would not let an inconsequential matter like the welfare and laws of his country deter him from using every tool and weapon at his disposal to fight for his political and business survival…

Rather, it will be Republicans who are called to face their moment of truth. They—legislators and common citizens alike—have been the great enablers, the excuse-makers, the look-awayers as they abided and excused the depredations of this wreck of a man, transparently devoid of all virtue, of a type few of them would invite to their home for dinner, engage for a business deal or trust with their daughter.

Conning themselves with the help of a con man, they have pretended the damage he has done virtually every minute of his tenure is a small price paid for a larger prize of policy achievements they have convinced themselves will redound to their and the country’s benefit. (They are wrong about every part of that, unless they are wealthy.)

So what will they do, these Republicans, if Mr. Mueller presents conclusive evidence—piled upon the mountains already used to indict an already unconscionable number of the president’s inner circle and fellow travelers—that the president of the United States willfully and repeatedly sought the assistance of and, in return, provided succor to, a longtime nemesis of his own country?

I think I know, absent a meaningful Republican abandonment of their bespoiled standard bearer, what Mr. Trump would do.

He would, following true to the form that has dictated every move of his presidency, fight it for all he is worth, refusing to step aside, blaming everyone else, encouraging his dwindled but still menacing base to take to the streets in protest, defiance and very possibly much more.



And if he were subsequently impeached and convicted? Would he exit, as the Constitution dictates, or hunker down, demanding that the Secret Service protect his inner sanctum while willing members of his base, eternally grateful for their right to bear virtually any and all arms, took to the streets of the Capital, forming a protective ring around the White House and shooting to kill all who would contest them?

Far-fetched? Anyone who thinks so has not been paying close enough attention to how desperately the president has sought to derail and discredit the Mueller investigation, and to what bottomless depths he will sink—and has already sunk—to defend and sustain his transgressions.

Donald Trump has never fought fair a day in his life, and he would not let an inconsequential matter like the welfare and laws of his country deter him from using every tool and weapon at his disposal to fight for his political and business survival, the two of them now joined at the hip as they are.


Several days ago, I awoke to a dream of two giant horse figures moving toward me in the barely dawning light. Maybe 100 or 200 feet tall, they were construction figures, dark, quiet and menacing. They were moving inexorably closer as I gazed at them on the horizon, and I knew they brought terrible portents of danger that would threaten our way of life and very survival.

And I also knew even in the dream, which finally woke me in alarm, that they represented the dark forces of the Trump presidency as it flails in ever more aggressive and desperate ways.

Will we be up to answering the threat they pose with our own inexorable force, moving toward a brighter dawn than we have experienced at any time through this nightmarish presidency? Will we finally render these years as a blemish, a temporary bout of insanity on this country’s jagged but usually well-intentioned trajectory of justice and truth-seeking?

Hard to tell.

The conclusion of the Mueller investigation may well tell us, at long last, “what happened.”

What happens from there will take its cues from the investigation’s key findings, and whether, if they point ultimately to presidential malfeasance, Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans decide to do anything about it.


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Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact:

Trojan horse by Stowe Boyd, San Francisco, California

“Chaotic Chaos” artwork by Saleh Dinparvar, Iran

19 comments to Year of Decision on the Trump Presidency

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    The last scene in Stanley Kramer’s “Judgement at Nuremberg” painfully evokes what’s going on in America today. Emil Janning (Burt Lancaster), Nazi Germany’s most respected jurist, requests through his lawyer that Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy), who has just sentenced him to life in prison, visit him in his jail cell. Judge Haywood complies. After Emil Janning thanks him for coming, he solemnly confesses, “Judge Haywood,, the reason I asked you to come…those people…those millions of people…I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it.” Without blinking an eye, Judge Haywood replies, “Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.”

    Today’s Republican Party is an Emil Janning.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Chilling scene, Robert, full of moral force and hard questions, thanks…

  • David Moriah  says:

    And still, after all the indictments and convictions (“I only hire the best people”) and the in-your-face evidence of befriending brutal dictators and the steady stream of ugly, mean-spirited tweets aimed at anyone who crosses him . . . 40% of our fellow Americans are unshakable in their devotion to him. That is what truly frightens me in thinking of the future of America. How do we reclaim our decency when millions have committed to pissing on it with a snarling malevolence? Terrible times we are living in here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I just returned from Portugal on a scouting mission for life in exile. I have a short list of countries my wife and I are considering. I don’t want to be like those who failed to leave Europe in time. Meanwhile, I march; I organize; I send money and of course, I vote. Oh yes, and I wait expectantly for Opening Day and the return of baseball. Be well, my friend.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      I see I’m not the only one engaged in conversations about the possibility and potential urgency of leaving this country were things to get much worse, David. A final qualifying event for me could be a number of things, but projecting forward, it would definitely reach full tilt were Trump to be re-elected in 2020. Not at all sure I could face living in a country that voted for such a man twice, especially given what the mere first half of his first term has wrought. Thanks for sharing this, and the reminder of baseball season. The images associated with that act as a potent counterweight to my Two Horses of the Apocalypse, and are most welcome on a drizzly winter day.

  • kirkthill  says:

    Thinking of the horses. Could they be you and your thoughts, your blogs, the outrage we all feel of this corrupt and sinister abhorration. Are they the Trojan horses coming to spill out the moral decencies learned from countless generations of all peoples, into the unconscious court of fear and ignorance, a wave crested, crashed, and dying on shifting sands of chaotic nonsense?

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      I suspect so, Kirk. The horses were daunting and quietly malevolent—unlike the one whom they represented and sent them, all business, no bluster. A doomsday image right out of Jung…

  • Gerry Ausiello  says:

    Andrew, Mueller must make his report now, if he really has something ‘impeachable”. I believe you are also correct that it is the Republicans (especially the Senate “jurists”) that need to speak up in unison. Further, if the presidential election were to be held today, I think there would be far less than 40% of the electorate who would vote for him. I have thought for some time that he is mentally ill; I think he will do or say something soon so egregious (especially as the noose tightens), that the 25th Amendment may come into play. (I’m thinking Dr. Strangelove and The Caine Mutiny). What makes this so confounding is we have no precedent for any of this!

    • David Moriah  says:

      Mental illness is definitely a possibility. I’ve seen video of him being interviewed 20-30 years ago and he was much more coherent. His ability to use the right words and make coherent arguments has diminished dramatically. Hold on! We’re living under a mad king!

  • Andrew Hidas  says:

    Gerry, I have felt for a while now that Mueller should probably step on the gas, or I have at least WISHED that he would do so, with all due respect for his meticulousness and professionalism. I mean, who am I to tell him how to do his job, right? But still…

    As for the mental illness part, Gerry & David, I’m not quite sure what to think. Comparing him on video to decades ago certainly reveals a rather marked difference in articulation, but that could be age and associated creeping dementia/slowing rather then mental illness as such. You both might’ve seen the piece a year or so ago now in the NYT from the psychiatrist who cautioned against any such determination, partly on the grounds that labeling him as mentally ill does a disservice to those who truly do suffer from their condition, whereas Trump’s M.O is to inflict suffering on others with his greed, malevolence and (garden variety rather than pathological) narcissism.

    But on the other hand—a “Mad King?” Certainly seems to fit the part. What would Shakespeare have done with him? (Or would he not have dared to even conjure him for fear he would not be a believable character?)

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    Trump is more of a King Lear, a leader with whom flattery is the end all.

  • Al  says:

    I am torn. Trump frightens me but even more frightening are all of my fellow citizens who support him. Part of me wants to be rid of him as soon as possible by impeachment and part of me wants my fellow citizens to be taught a lesson. Seeing Trump handily voted out of office in 2020 would be ever more satisfying than impeachment which may serve to energize voters for the next Trump in waiting. Can we afford another two years of this idiot? I fear not.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      That is indeed the conundrum, Al. Impeachment is always a dire event, made all the more so now by how utterly divided the country is and how willing Trump is to cause the country great injury in pursuit of his own ends. So I feel like treading very carefully there. But as you suggest: Can we survive two more years of this chaos? No good options here, which is exactly how Trump wants it, but in the end, I come down on letting impeachment proceed full-bore if the Mueller investigation suggests a clear rationale for all the criminal elements of this gang whose chief affections through this whole sordid affair seem to have been showered on Russia rather than their own country.

  • Jay Helman  says:

    I too often grow impatient with Mueller delay. Then again, I’m not certain that his report will reveal much more than we already know. Further, I am skeptical that any findings will lead to Republican defection from the mad king. I agree with you, Drew, that Trump and followers will battle to the end, even if it means bringing down democracy. I am with Al in my concern for that percentage of people still supporting Trump. They are not necessarily evil, but are blissfully unaware and incapable of understanding the consequences of what awaits, I think.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Yeah, Jay—working via inference, the evidence has grown mountainous by now of Trump as not only hopelessly incapable but also downright hostile to our country and its democratic history, norms and role as leader of the free world. (Today’s revelations of his continued desire to leave NATO are but the latest shocking example.) Clearly, none of this has been enough to move the needle for his base, which now includes virtually all legislators who are either openly supportive of him or, by their silence in the wake of all his transgressions, complicit in them. Seems to me the only possibility left for at least Republican legislators, if not voters, to abandon him would come in the form of an overt smoking gun in the Mueller report. Whether even that would compel enough Republicans to join in efforts to remove him from office remains to be seen.

  • Jay Helman  says:

    At this point I am at a loss as to what “the smoking gun” would be. Now we have news that Trump may, indeed, be operating as a Russian “asset.” Have Republicans decided that we must surrender to Putin?
    There, in fact, may be no smoking gun since virtually all of Trump’s missteps and affronts have been taken in full view. Perhaps he is succeeding in bringing down the U.S. Government, and well beyond the partial shutdown now well along. I am breathless as I write this and have absolutely no sense where it takes us. Referring back to Robert Spencer’s reference to The Nuremberg Trials; this sense of hopelessness and loss began the moment Trump was elected. I’m struggling to understand if his supporters knew he would work to destroy democracy, or if they knowingly desired that outcome. It is hard to fathom that Republican enablers in elected office would knowingly work to destroy our republic, yet equally unfathomable that they could not/do not see it coming.

  • Andrew Hidas  says:

    Well, folks, looks like the Dems are finally coming around, something that should have happened weeks ago, with Pelosi and Schumer standing in front of charts detailing their own preferred border security measures, with dollar figures attached. Haven’t quite gotten there yet, but this is at least a start from the New York Times this morning under the heading: “House Democrats Add $1 Billion in Border-Related Spending to Measures to Reopen Government”:

    “But the ideas amount to a tacit acknowledgment by Democrats that, even as they criticize Mr. Trump’s tactics and demands in the shutdown fight, they have largely allowed him to define the terms of the debate on border security, and that they must be more effective in articulating their own position on the issue.

    “”People want to make sure that it’s clear that the Democrats do stand for border security, and not allow the president to determine how we talk about it,’ said Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California. ‘We can’t cave to his vision for a wall, because of everything that it represents, but we also want to show that we’re for something.’”

    To which I say: “Hallelujah!” Though it’s far less than a sure bet that Trump will accept this and end the shutdown, it at least articulates a proposal from the Dems beyond just saying “nyet” to a wall.

  • Mary Graves  says:

    My New Years resolution was to transform my time spent on complaints into instead creating positive recommendations to be given to people in power.
    On jan 1 I was in the Nassau airport headed home and I saw Maxine Waters who I had been complaining about. We had a great conversation and I found myself liking her for the first time.

    Steve took our photo and others came by to complain about Trump and urge her to impeach him and keep the govt shut down.
    On the flight home there was no WiFi so I had to stew in my New Years resolution, to replace complaints with positive solutions to those in power.
    So during the long flight from Nassau to Calif. with no book and no WiFi, I drafted a letter to both Maxine Waters and Susan Collins recommending they jointly author a new immigration reform bill called the Waters Collins immigration reform and address border security and asylum. It could be called the Collins Waters immigration reform. It can bypass Trump and Pelosi.
    I faxed it to both Waters and Collins Jan 3. If you want I can give you a copy to post on your blog.
    Maybe you can take it the next step via blog!

    • David Moriah  says:

      I’m amazed that people still use fax machines. Good for you for your activism, Mary.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Great approach, Mary. Plunk that letter into the Comments here when you’re ready with it!

      Even with today’s non-starter of a Trump proposal to throw some Dreamer amnesty into the deal, I wish Pelosi & Co. would respond with a detailed counter-offer, more thorough and elaborated than their earlier proposal today and in direct response (“We have a better plan, and here it is”) to Trump’s latest. However misbegotten Trump’s proposal was today, the Dems risk looking intransigent if all they say is no.

      Collins and Waters (or others like them—Klobuchar and Murkowski?) probably could hammer something out if left in a room for a while with smart staff people. But there has to be some goodwill accompanying it—a commodity in precious short supply in D.C. in recent years and made infinitely worse since 2016 by our poisonous president.

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