Updated: Apr 19
I swore this was the day I’d give up drinking, LOL...
But it just wasn’t meant to be.
That’s because I stayed up late last night watching the impeachment trial via live feed from the US Senate chambers. You see, I wallow in comfortable retirement in the Mediterranean, so when it’s afternoon in Washington it’s nighttime here. And I’m not the only expat glued to his/her television, computer or smartphone. The entire world is on alert and worried. Worried about the inevitable outcome of a sad spectacle signalling the demise of what was once a great democracy.
Then came the vote: 51 to 49 against calling witnesses.
My first thought was what a waste of resources this whole impeachment fiasco has become. Hundreds of millions of dollars squandered on what everyone on both sides of the floor knows will end with acquittal and a much stronger and emboldened Donald J. Trump; or worse, the emergence of a sociopath with criminal intent wreaking vengeance. By last night, I knew for sure that the results of 2020, and with it the fate of the American democracy, were already sealed (see www.francescorizzuto.com/post/why-trump-will-win-in-2020). The logical next step is for Trump to declare himself President-For-Life. And don’t expect any opposition from the GOP.
Many years ago on a similar morning in the USA, I awoke to the inescapable realization that we were living in a society predicated on racism, bigotry and greed. It was one of those rare, pivotal moments when one is forced by conscience to acknowledge that regardless of what he/she thinks of him/herself, that same racism is ingrained in one’s own soul and can never be entirely renounced, and that the so-called American Dream simply boils down to the adoration and emulation of the rich. Most important of all, very few - few White people, that is - are really interested in changing that dynamic. The country’s two centrist parties simply pass the baton in a race to accumulate personal wealth and power while the majority complacently cheer on the sidelines.
Yet somewhere in the back of my brain and the innermost recesses of my heart lurked a faint notion, like a single orphaned moonbeam, that the future might bring signs of real change, a hope that didn’t ripen with emergence of a demagogue in the White House. Things only got worse.
You see, I was a child of the 1940’s and 50’s, a time of relative peace and prosperity in America where there were more jobs than there were workers to fill them, when immigrants were largely welcomed, and when society was still structured around ‘the family.’ Mom and Dad (MIA 1945) had fought for America in WWII, and therefore we children felt entitled to participate in ‘the good life.’ In spite of a worrisome and expensive Cold War, there were shining episodes of inspiration and hope, especially during the Kennedy era with the Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty, Free Speech, and a general assumption that the looming Vietnam War would not escalate into the horrifying debacle that it eventually became. There was a prevailing equilibrium, of sorts. Most folks still believed in the American Dream.
None of those hopes were realized. Why? Because, despite a few inspiring moments, America remained a society predicated on racism, bigotry and greed. Its political leaders could not deliver any other outcomes. Trumpism was the logical and inevitable conclusion to that failure.
So, fast forward to this week’s impeachment hearings.
If a miracle should somehow occur and Donald J. Trump is removed from office, who fills the vacated position until November 2020? That’s right: Mike Pence. Out of the frying pan, into the fire. Absolutely nothing will change because America’s leadership has unveiled new standards and set new precedents, and those constitutional and behavioral guidelines set down by Washington, Jefferson and Adams were officially relegated to the dustbin of history by a margin of two votes in the Senate.
And let’s face it. Even if the American voter could be relied upon to make informed and intelligent choices, the outcome would simply be Donald J. Trump by another name. As the filmmaker Michael Moore pointed out, “Here’s the problem: Joe (Biden) is Hillary (Clinton), Hillary is Al (Gore), Al is (John) Kerry and Kerry is (Walter) Mondale. When we try and play it safe, that's when we lose.” Americans are not known for thinking outside the box.
So, go ahead and pick your poison. The lung cancer that stifles America and threatens to destroy it can’t be cured by smoking more cigarettes. Sure, we’ll quit tomorrow. Like I've pledged to quit drinking. Someday.
That’s why the impeachment trial in the Senate was such a farce. Adam Schiff will go down in history as one of America’s – indeed, the world’s – greatest orators, and Hakeem Jeffries is absolutely brilliant. Nonetheless, and the supremely confident ducking and weaving of Trump’s defense team aside, the acquittal was already announced, in so many words, by the majority leader Mitch McConnell and rubber stamped by every other Republican senator. A new and much lower standard has been set by this President and the majority of America's leaders are onboard with it.
The most alarming and disappointingly dangerous symptom of this cancer was last night’s vote against the admission of witnesses. Every time any criminal is brought before any court, he or she will have the audacity - indeed, the right - to plead for the exclusion of any witnesses or incriminating documents brought forward by the prosecution. It will be carte blanche for organized crime and a green light for unfettered corruption in government circles.
What does this mean for you and me?
As defence counsel Alan Dershowitz (of Jeffrey Epstein fame) argued, the President can do anything and everything he pleases, including soliciting dirt on his political rivals and foreign intervention in American elections, if he believes it’s in the interest of the American people. Article Two of the Constitution has suddenly taken on a new and dangerous meaning and law students will be debating the 'Dershowitz Argument' forever afterwards. Shoot somebody in the middle of 5th Avenue, as the President has suggested he might, or instruct a subordinate or contract a hitman to do it, and he walks away from the murder charge. The President is untouchable. He's an absolute ruler, a king.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) confirmed that he has no problem with American politicians accepting damaging information on their political rivals from foreign governments. His statement was confirmed by White House Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin who told senators that it was a mistake to believe that any such information amounts to interference in American elections. A vote for acquittal will therefore conform this as a precedent mitigating b future impeachment attempts, on equal footing with principles set out by the Founding Fathers and cited by the House Impeachment Committee as justification for Trump’s removal from office. Here is the new normal.
There can never be free and honest elections in the USA. The fact is that 49% of eligible voters don’t show up at the polling stations, while the American love affair with electronic voting machines and electronic reporting practically ensures hacking, interference and fraud, and is evidence of a sham democracy. Among those who do show up to vote, fully half are looking for what the Roman poet Juvenal characterized as ‘bread and circuses,’ an opportunity to vent their hatred, greed, and malicious ignorance by exercising what they perceive to be a civil right. I’m talking about the MAGAt phenomenon and weaponized voting. Technology combined with widespread ignorance has undone us.
America is a place where those who decry its shameful history of racism, bigotry and greed are ‘taken out,’ as President Trump candidly advised the Waldo-esque Lev Parnas (referring to the dismissal of US ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovich) and did so on tape, no less. Think Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, to name only a few. Threatening by the President or his subordinates is no longer a crime. Everyone is a legitimate target. The purges will soon follow.
Anyone who opposes the status quo should be afraid. Very afraid. And that's exactly what the government wants.
So, go ahead Americans. Celebrate your freedoms and enjoy your democracy, or at least what’s left of it, because you can't turn back the clock. The answer isn’t Joe Biden or the #MeToo movement, or crocodile tears for Hillary, or even the inflated promises of Bernie Sanders. Instead, you - no, WE - are already living in a soft cage in a nation that makes war for profit, with a poor education system, unaffordable healthcare, and held hostage by an increasingly politicized military and militarized police. Do you honestly think that any of the 2020 candidates are going to undo any of that?
Sound familiar? Think soft cage. Think Third World, Banana Republic, corruption, dictatorship, totalitarian, everything that the American experiment was never meant to be. This is no less where the failure to impeach Donald J. Trump and turn over a new leaf has led. And that failure is practically ensured by last night’s vote in the Senate.
A hint for the peddlers of false hope: Like pornography, Twitter and Facebook are not reality, nor are they reliable means for effecting change in the world, unless preaching to the choir is your thing. The social media are private enterprises whose objective is to gain money, regardless of the fallout. Google, Microsoft, Jeff Bezos and the mega-rich are not your friends, however much you may wish to emulate them. They are the tools of the Pentagon, Wall Street, the banks and credit card companies, and all who would enslave you in the name of power and profit.
The impeachment of Donald J. Trump is the country’s one and final opportunity to avoid what will be a most disagreeable future for both Americans and the world. But is there ANY hope at all? Well, maybe.
First, there’s the upcoming State of the Union Address. Odds are that Donald J. Trump will treat this event no differently than any other of his MAGAt rallies. He will barnstorm to his base. He will spew lies and innuendo. He will rage against his own impeachment, throwing out ugly epithets and name-calling. He will use the platform to further his own re-election prospects. He will insult Barak Obama and degrade Hillary Clinton. He will demonize Joe Biden (the new Emmanuel Goldstein). And – God willing – this time he may even go too far.
The best thing that could happen for the country is that he will put his foot in his mouth so far that he can’t get it out. Then, those two crucial Republican Senators needed to impeach him may cross the floor and vote with their Democrat colleagues for his removal. Like Trump’s election in 2016, it’s a long shot, but nonetheless possible. This pre-verdict State of the Union Address could be just the deus-ex-machina the Dems have been praying for.
Secondly, Elizabeth Warren has pledged that if she were elected President, she would release to the public all the documents withheld by the White House during the impeachment process. This floodgate could lead to criminal prosecution of Trump, Pence, Barr, Pompeo and others in the Administration, as well as discrediting many sitting House members and Senators. Her promise would go a long way to vindicating the Founding Fathers and all right-thinking Americans. Nonetheless, she will need a majority in both the House and Senate to make good on that promise. Again, it’s a long shot, but voters could make it happen.
So, there is a prescription cure; or at least a chance to send this cancer that has eaten at the American Democracy into remission. Radical surgery to remove the melanoma (not referring to the First Lady) and chemotherapy to eliminate any remaining cancer cells from the body.
And, of course, America needs to stop smoking.
A reminder: Don’t buy John Bolton’s book!