Day 29: Sicko

Hospitalized with a contagious disease, the president continued to behave recklessly.  Yesterday, he demanded that his Secret Service detail pile into a hermetically sealed car with him to parade him past a few well-wishers congregating outside.  Trump’s macho spree, which needlessly compromised his agents’ health, marked a nadir in his relations with Americans already disgusted and fed up with his grossly irresponsible, inconsiderate ways.

It is terribly demoralizing to realize that someone so ungoverned and ungovernable will be returning to the summit of American power. Last week, the New York Times’ expose of Trump’s finances showed cheating to be one of Trump’s lifelong passions, whereas Tuesday’s debate showed Trump to be deeply unreliable when truth and trust are needed most.  Trump is like a faithless husband to the US, his bride.  His love of lying and threats toward voters and other segments of the American population are abusive traits, which, in a marriage, no self-respecting spouse would tolerate.  Yet no one in America can rein in Donald Trump or call him to account.

As Trump returns to the White House from Walter Reed, the nation braces for the next episode of this excruciating charade.  Even though Biden is ahead in the polls, whether the US is on the verge of being rid of Donald Trump or Republican control of the Senate is still very uncertain.  The people in Trump’s administration, his allies in the Senate and elsewhere, donors and capitalists who support Trump for cynical reasons: their actions threaten America’s very being.  Today, I wonder whether the US can survive as a republic if they pull off a win.  In any event, it will take years of effort to build back better, to check the destructive forces that Trump has summoned.  American voters have the power, if only they will wield it, to stave off further disaster, so that reform can begin.

Mr Mueller and the Central Crime

Period drawing of puppet-master (putin) and his puppet characters (the Trumps)

And I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments: That there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American.

Such were the parting words of special prosecutor Robert Mueller, as he announced the end of the so-called Russia investigation.  Since the bulk of his team’s report was released to the press and public on April 18th, its central allegation regarding Russia’s infiltration of American media and politics has attracted much less attention than the unsatisfyingly big questions Mueller’s investigation leaves.  “What did Trump have to do with it?” and “Can’t Congress impeach him?” continue to be uppermost in many American minds.

Will Democrats raise their sights and train them on protecting American politics and media from foreign infiltration?  Will they accept the paradoxical truth that, because impeachment is politically impossible, they must channel all their energies into having a “clean” election in 2020 and defeating Trump unequivocally at the polls?

As if Trump were the only president fishy shenanigans aided!  In the end, his election resulted from an ordinary electoral majority, notwithstanding all the dubious preliminaries.  This distinguishes his victory from other, more dubious outcomes such as Bush v. Gore (2000), Hayes v. Tilden (1876), and Adams v. Jackson (1824).  In those cases, the winners gained office only after strenuous post-election day maneuvering.  Given the power of the presidential office, every flaw and vulnerability in our manner of presidential selection should be boosted to the top of our political agenda and eliminated.

Mr Mueller’s remarks were peppered with finality.  Calling the report that bears his name “his testimony,” he expressed unwillingness to comment further on matters involved in the investigation, declaring flatly, “we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the president.”  No hypotheticals.  For those looking to prove that President Trump is a criminal, no further help can be expected from Mr. Mueller.  What hope is there that American officials will instead turn their attention to the central crime he found?

I . . . close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments: That there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American.

 

Up Salt River

It was a dreaded nineteenth-century destination, a fabled snare where presidential candidates ended up fighting for their lives: Salt River was a tantalizing, semi-mythical waterway whose treacherous shoals were synonymous with the ruination of great leaders and their parties.

In this election season, do we not owe a moment’s recollection to the legions who have met defeat and disaster on the way?

Cartoon showing Zachary Taylor rowing his opponent Lewis Cass up Salt River

Salt River was, to begin with, a real place: a small, winding tributary of the Ohio River originating in the wilds of Kentucky.  Before railroads, the Ohio was the main cross-country route for reaching the eastern cities.  To go up Salt River was to leave a broad waterway, which steamboats plied daily carrying hundreds of passengers, and end up in the middle of nowhere on a dead-end stream.

Add in the fact that the state of Ohio was even then known as a “king-maker,” and you can understand how the Salt River became synonymous with political oblivion.  Judging from these old prints preserved at the Library of Congress, political cartoonists had a field day with this theme.  Salt River became the setting for betrayal and folly of all kinds.  Above, we see Whig presidential candidate Zachary Taylor rowing his Democratic opponent Lewis Cass up Salt River.  The expression on Cass’s face shows that he knows what fate awaits him.  He is resigned.

Political cartoon showing Martin Van Buren and others attempting to cross Salt River

Here, presidential candidates of 1848 attempt to cross Salt River to reach the White House.  Martin Van Buren (who often figures in these Salt River fantasies) is shown piggybacking on the shoulders of his son, John, a popular figure whom many expected to equal his father in fame one day.  And the other men, submerged and in danger of drowning?  These are Van Buren’s rivals, including Horace Greeley.  On the bank sits a Greeley ally, who declines to save him.

Cartoon showing James Polk and his Democratic allies sailing up Salt River

This 1844 cartoon shows candidate James Polk and his Democratic Party allies.  Polk was a dark-horse candidate who many sensed would cause trouble for his party. (They were right.)  Perched on the edge of a dingy that a steamboat is towing, he towers over his party’s elders, who are oblivious to the disaster looming.  They believe that they are still on the Ohio.  Polk, knowing the truth, isn’t worried.  Equipped with the body of a long-legged wading bird, he’s perfectly capable of reaching safety.  Alone.  While Van Buren blithely expresses delight at being near “the headwaters of navigation,” Polk, noting the water growing shallow, prepares to take off.

At times, Salt River could become positively crowded with victims, as in 1854, when the Democrats routed the Whig Party, a defeat that spelled an end to the party for good.  Here, the Democrats drive their Whig opponents into the briny river with malicious glee.

Looks like fun, doesn’t it?  Salt River, anyone?

Cartoon map of Salt River showing its hazards and un-navigability(Courtesy Library of Congress))


All images courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division
of the Library of Congress

(top to bottom):
Rowing Him Up Salt River (1848)
Fording Salt River (1848)
Polk & Co. Going Up Salt River (1844)
Terrible Rout & Total Destruction of the Whig Party in Salt River (1852)
A Correct Chart of Salt River (1848)
Click on any title for more information.