Sometimes I feel like American politics has turned into an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Last week, for the first time in this country’s history, the FBI raided the residence of a former president. And given the wall-to-wall media frenzy that has followed in the wake of that event, I’m assuming you’ve probably heard and seen a little something about it.
Please pardon me for violating accepted speech rules by using the forbidden word “raid” – but, regardless of what you call it, armed federal agents went to Trump’s home/resort at Mar-a-Lago (while he wasn’t home, of course), executed a search warrant, spent about nine hours picking through the place, and ultimately left with a truckload of boxed up documents and other stuff that was allegedly taken out of the White House a year and a half ago.
And depending on which news sources you go to for information, it was a fully legal, justified, and urgently necessary action to keep Trump from sharing vital classified information (like the nuclear codes or something) with foreign powers – or it was a purely political fishing expedition aimed at getting some indictable dirt on Trump to keep him from running again in 2024 – or it was just a matter of federal bureaucrats being annal about the rules and procedures surrounding classified documents and items of interest to the National Archives.
And everybody and their brother with a law degree has been going on cable news shows and giving their expert opinions on the legal ins and outs of all this – but as I can’t honestly claim to be a lawyer or a legal scholar, I’m not even going to try to weigh in on that aspect of it.
AG Merrick Garland didn’t really provide any satisfying answers during his little press conference on Thursday. He just basically said that he personally authorized the search, everything was done by the book, and these actions were fully justified, though he didn’t explain how or why all that was justified or even necessary.
Garland spent much of that press conference scolding anyone who dared question the impeccable integrity of the FBI and its agents – and, right on cue, the liberal side of the media immediately launched a concerted propaganda campaign praising federal law enforcement agencies and denouncing those who criticize them as dangerous threats to our democracy. At the same time, talking heads on the conservative side were saying pretty much the opposite.
Liberals preaching on the stalwart virtues and pure motives of the FBI, and conservatives accusing that agency of playing politics and abusing its power – who would have believed that 50 or 60 years ago? Those who were spied on and persecuted by the FBI back in those days – MLK and John Lennon (just to name a couple off the top of my head) – are probably rolling over in their graves.
But that’s just one example of how upside down things have become in America. Everything is about team politics and creating and promoting narratives to help the home team, regardless of whether there’s any ethical, logical or ideological consistency to any of it. And both anti-Trumpism and pro-Trumpism have become strange new religions, and both sides have their fair share of fanatics.
Looking back, it seems like things have been out of whack and a more than a little surreal since Trump came down that escalator back in 2015. And while I must say that has had a lot to do with Trump himself, I would also say it’s had just as much to do with the extreme and sometimes unhinged way a whole lot of people have reacted and continue to react to the man.
Trump has a real talent for offending and triggering liberals, progressives, and neocon political establishment types – and he does it on purpose. But he also has a way of deeply appealing to a lot of working class Americans who feel they have been dismissed, disenfranchised, and sold out by the political establishment.
Maybe the recent Mar-a-Lago raid or the ongoing Soviet-style show trial (otherwise known as the Jan. 6 Commission) will end up taking Trump down – or maybe not. Who really knows?
If there’s clear evidence that Trump has broken the law, I hope he is ultimately held accountable. And if anyone has broken the law while trying to take Trump down, I hope they get held accountable, as well. But after Russia-gate and the Mueller investigation, two unsuccessful impeachment trials, and a Durham investigation that seems to have fizzled out, forgive me if I’m bit skeptical that either of those things will ever actually happen.
As for myself, I’m not a big Trump fan, nor am I a Trump hater. I try to be as objective as I can manage when it comes to 45. I voted for him once, but I probably won’t vote for him again, not after the shady way he acted following the 2020 election.
And, honestly, I’m hoping he doesn’t run again in 2024 – though that has more to do with the apocalyptic fit that half the country will surely throw if he does seek re-election than with the fear of what he might do with another four-year term. But given Trump’s planet-sized ego, a 2024 bid may already be a foregone conclusion.
Maybe I’m foolish to hope that America’s political situation will eventually calm down and things will get back to normal. But, then again, maybe things were never really normal to begin with, and I just didn’t notice as much before Trump took the stage. Maybe we’ve always been living in The Twilight Zone, and this is just the current episode.