Today’s conjugation lesson: I am worn out, you are worn out, we all are worn out.
Worn out because for the past three years and more than 218 days we have been smothered by an endless mudslide from the Trump White House and the GOP-dominated Senate, a torrent of smear and abuse, corruption, incompetence, theft, venality, ignobility and lies—as of mid-July in excess of 20,000 falsehoods. Assorted perfidies and acts of irresponsible recklessness flow from this presidency one after another with the drip-drip-drip relentlessness of water torture.
Add to all of this the callous indifference of Trump’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and the rapidly approaching 200,000 American deaths, gross unemployment, a disastrous economy, failing environment and hostility toward racial justice—it wears a body out and threatens your spiritual and mental health.
There’s no longer just a ceaseless news cycle, it’s a news cyclotron, a blur of accelerating and spinning particles attacking us all at once. On top of everything else, just last week alone, we had the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon and others for using the Build the Wall non-profit PAC to skim millions of dollars into their own pockets. That makes at least seven Trump associates who’ve been arrested since his term began.
Our post office catastrophe continues as Trump falsely keeps up his baseless attacks on the validity of mail-in ballots and claims, “If we lose the election, it means it was rigged.” He also told Fox News that he planned to send law enforcement—sheriffs and federal attorneys, among others—to patrol polling places; if true, a blatantly illegal act.
On Wednesday, Trump refused to denounce the crazed conspiracy cult QAnon, listed by the FBI as a domestic terrorist threat, saying “I heard that these are people that love our country” but that he didn’t know much about them, “other than I understand they like me very much.”
Last Thursday, NBC News reported on a May 2018 meeting in the White House situation room, at which cabinet officials and senior staff, with the exception of then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, approved with a show of hands the separation of thousands of migrant parents from their children. Failure to do so, an apoplectic Stephen Miller had shouted, would be “the end of our country as we know it.” (Public outcry, horror stories and images of suffering kids forced an end to this inhuman policy two months later.)
Perhaps most important, August 18, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued the final volume—nearly 1,000 pages—of its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. At The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Nicholas Fandos reported: “It provided a bipartisan Senate imprimatur for an extraordinary set of facts: The Russian government disrupted an American election to help Mr. Trump become president, Russian intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Mr. Trump’s advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary…
“… the report showed extensive evidence of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and people tied to the Kremlin—including a longstanding associate of the onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom the report identified as a ‘Russian intelligence officer.’”
Among others mentioned are Roger Stone, who, the report says, spoke with Trump about WikiLeaks releasing information about Hillary Clinton, something the president has denied. What’s more, according to the Los Angeles Times, the committee was “alarmed by efforts to mislead or stonewall its investigation,” and in a letter to the Justice Department, asked prosecutors to look into Steve Bannon “for potentially lying to lawmakers during its investigation,” and raised concerns about potentially conflicting testimony from “the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.”
Under any other administration, this report would be big news indeed, solid evidence of behavior careening into the traitorous. But in today’s blitzkrieg of crazy, it’s lost in the smokescreen of Trump and his grovelers screaming “Hoax!” and “Witch hunt!” while they spend their time and our money investigating the investigators.
All of the above—all!—is why we’re all so damned tired, and why, in the first of what is promised to be a series of many, The Washington Post noted in a scathing editorial on Sunday that, “beyond the low unemployment rate he gained and lost, history will record Mr. Trump’s presidency as a march of wanton, uninterrupted, tragic destruction. America’s standing in the world, loyalty to allies, commitment to democratic values, constitutional checks and balances, faith in reason and science, concern for Earth’s health, respect for public service, belief in civility and honest debate, beacon to refugees in need, aspirations to equality and diversity and basic decency—Mr. Trump torched them all.”
It’s also why, amidst all this combat fatigue, so many were uplifted with relief last week by the virtual convention events put on at the Democratic National Convention, including that stirring roll call of the states, featuring everyone from the masked calamari chef of Rhode Island and Alabama congresswoman Terri Sewell at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to the parents of murdered gay student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming. Car workers and tribal leaders. This was America again.
Amidst speeches from nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Barack and Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were activist Ady Barkan, increasingly debilitated by Lou Gehrig’s Disease, speaking of how, “Even during this terrible crisis, Donald Trump and Republican politicians are trying to take away millions of people’s health insurance,” and Kristin Urquiza, whose healthy, 65-year-old Republican dad died of COVID—“His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump—and for that he paid with his life.”
And of course, Brayden Harrington, the 13-year-old New Hampshire boy who overcame his speech disorder to tell the country how fellow stutterer Joe Biden helped him and deserved our votes: ”Kids like me are counting on you to elect someone we can all look up to, someone who cares, someone who will make our country and the world feel better.”
As their own approached, the above evidence to the contrary, Trump and Republicans insisted the Democratic convention had been filled with “doom and gloom” and that theirs would be an event of uplift and unity. As noted candy billionaire Willy Wonka would say, “Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.” For in fact, whatever despair that came from the Democrats arose from an accounting of the rampant misdeeds of the Trump era and warnings that four more years of this will bring an abrupt and tragic end to the American experiment.
It was the GOP that thus far has presented a carnival of grievance and gaslighting, bitterness and misrepresentation, a cherry picking of facts so unmoored from reality that the entire putrid pageant feels like a tin hat dictatorship’s depiction of a fractured passion play—Oberammergau with all of the cheesy pomp but none of the piety. Here lies a Republican organization so bereft of constructive programs or a purpose beyond reelecting its Fearless Leader that they’re unwilling—or unable—to even produce an official party platform.
Especially egregious and in blatant violation of the Hatch Act has been Trump and his party’s misuse of the office for politics, turning the White House into a set where, to paraphrase the esteemed bard, the president struts and frets his hour upon the stage. A tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.
A new low was set Tuesday evening when during the convention proceedings Trump used the Oval Office to swear in five new citizens from Bolivia, Lebanon, India, Ghana and Sudan, a travesty considering his unforgiving anti-immigrant policies, and coming at a moment when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been preventing tens of thousands of legally qualified immigrants from being sworn in as American citizens every month, perhaps not coincidentally also keeping them from the chance to register to vote. The agency has blamed the pandemic but so-called “administrative naturalizations” could be done online or by mail or phone.
According to Wall Street Journal correspondent Rebecca Ballhaus, the ceremony was not deemed a violation of the Hatch Act by Republican officials because the White House “publicized the content of the event on a public website this afternoon and the campaign decided to use the publicly available content for campaign purposes.” Incredible.
Under most circumstances a person gets the feeling that you could instantly distract this president just by jangling your car keys in front of his face. In some respects, his lack of attention span may be the only thing saving us from annihilation. But the one thing that truly has the manic Trump focused is his reelection and chokehold on autocratic power. On that his attention is unswerving. He’ll stop at nothing to win.
It’s no wonder Donald Trump has us worn out. But exhaustion exposes us to his virus, compromises our immunity, weakens our defenses, lowers our resistance. Americans must stay alert and be focused, too, pointing with the precision of a laser toward November 3.
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Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer for Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.