On the evening of his worst day as commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump went to Charleston, W. Va., where he heard his supporters happily holler, “Lock her up.” They did this with no apparent sense of irony, though it was Trump himself who was now most vulnerable to such an outcry.
The whole thing made me think of Huckleberry Finn.
“Ain’t we got all the fools in town on our side?” Huck asked. “And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”
If you throw in the peculiarities of the Electoral College, and the assistance of the Russians, the Fool Vote was certainly a big enough majority to get Trump into the White House. And if you watched Tuesday evening’s big rally in West Virginia, or listen to the ongoing silence coming out of Republicans on Capitol Hill, fools might be a big enough majority even in this president’s latest hour of chaos.
Don’t these people get it?
In virtually the same hour on Tuesday, we had Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pronounced guilty of financial fraud, and the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty of violating campaign finance law and other charges.
Are there really people out there who don’t get it? Donald Trump played the whole country for fools.
“Violating campaign finance law” is the driest bone-dust way of expressing what Cohen, under oath, swore to before a federal judge. Under Trump’s “direction,” Cohen paid six-figure hush money to a porn star and a Playboy model in order to cover up sexual encounters and win the 2016 election.
Then, we have Manafort, who’s about to trade his ostrich coat for a prison jumpsuit. His trial didn’t directly touch the Russia investigation – or Trump’s alleged attempts to obstruct it – but it’s the first public test of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe while the White House attempts all manner of criticism and juvenile name-calling.
Trump ran for office leading chants of “Drain the swamp” (along with the familiar “Lock her up” chant still being aimed at Hillary Clinton.) But under his brief watch, Washington’s now crawling with swamp creatures.
This president’s response has been a series of distractions. He attempted that in his speech Tuesday evening. He talked about the need for a border wall. He expressed his love for coal miners. He talked about “left-wing haters” and “fake news.” He said Democrats want to bring criminals into the country.
In all of this, he plays Americans for fools.
But as Huck Finn remarked, maybe that’s a majority.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” has just been re-issued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.