Editor’s Note: Questioning your own sanity? Ask your British-butler alternate identity, Mr. Percival. Have any other questions? Ask Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every time I think Donald J. Trump might recede into the background, he cartwheels back to center stage, yet again commanding everyone’s attention, every waking moment. Now that he’s indicted, and facing several more, on top of him being the 2024 GOP frontrunner, I fear we might never be rid of him again. All I want is to have a nice life, raise my kids, and watch my husband count his Saudi billions. How does a simple gal return to normalcy?
O, you poor dear naïf. I don’t know if you’ve seen the obituaries, or if they even carry such things in the Robb Report, but normalcy died around 2014. If Fuller House and high-waisted jeans can come back, I suppose anything can. But you’d better bank on normalcy having gone tits up for the foreseeable future.
I’m old enough to remember when every Twidiot and TV gasbag didn’t begin every other observation with “I’m old enough to remember.” That said, I’m old enough to remember (sorry, but the War On Clichés is an unwinnable one) when stepping out on your postpartum wife (an empathetic Trump did once tell Howard Stern that he’d give Melania a week to lose the baby weight), then getting indicted over diddling a porn star while paying her hush money with dodgy bookkeeping practices over which your personal lawyer has already gone to prison (long breath), would be enough to kill someone’s political viability. If you’re feeling like a smug lib right about now, you’re entitled. Though you’ll have to go back further than the nineties to enjoy my little revisionist history, since I’m also old enough to remember that most of that decade entailed Democrats looking the other way for Bill Clinton’s Little Willie exploits, including allegations of sexual harassment, rape, and befouling an intern’s dress, not to mention what he did to the poor girl’s mouth.
Neither Trump nor Clinton ever posed as paragons of virtue. But of course, my fellow conservatives were the ones who used to play the morality police on TV. (I say “fellow conservatives,” but I’m not sure if I even qualify anymore – since I no longer know what the word means, though in fairness to me, neither do conservatives, unless you define “conservatism” as being a disciple of the Mango Messiah.) Remember all those good-time moral scolds? Ken Starr? Who was ousted as president of Baylor University for mishandling campus rape allegations, and who later became a paid Trump shill on the latter’s (second) impeachment legal team. Longtime House Speaker Denny Hastert? The trusty old wrestling coach who went to prison for getting inappropriately handsy with his high-school grapplers (even on the mat, there is such a thing as “bad touch”). Or Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority? “Moral” was right there in the moniker! Though this was well before Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife got freaky with the pool boy.
Okay, so looking back, it was never a convincing sell. My late friend Christopher Hitchens nailed it quite nicely when he wrote: “Whenever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever, I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch. Sooner rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed upon by some Apache transvestite.”
Even as an old Southern Baptist, that still makes me laugh. Though Hitchens could easily be cancelled for such an observation these days since aside from taking shots at pious types, he took indigenous people’s name in vain, marginalized the Golden Showers community, and ran afoul of our new Bible, ChatGPT, which frowns on using Words That Hurt:
No, it is not appropriate to use the word "transvestite" in modern times. This term has fallen out of favor and is now considered outdated and offensive by many people in the LGBTQ+ community. The term "transvestite" was historically used to describe individuals who cross-dressed, but it has been replaced with the term "cross-dresser" which is considered more respectful and inclusive. It's important to use language that is respectful and affirming of people's gender identity and expression.
But my larger point here is that hypocrisy has become a quaint notion. In order to be a hypocrite, you have to have standards you didn’t live up to in the first place. But now that so many of our political animals are operating principles-free – Trump having coerced so much of the right into abandoning theirs in defense of him, either out of profit motive, fear, or political convenience - that’s no longer a concern. You can’t fail to live up to standards if you don’t have any.
And so, everyone is manning their partisan battle stations, assured of Trump’s guilt or innocence when, as of this writing, none of us have any idea what the sealed indictment even stipulates. Nor do we know how much new evidence DA Alvin Bragg is throwing at the old outlaw. Maybe it’s thin, and Trump skates, as usual. (Though it wasn’t thin enough for Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, who was acting on Trump’s behalf, not to do time in a case in which Trump served as an as an unindicted co-conspirator.)
Fox’s Trump pompom girls, after a brief but seemingly doomed flirtation with Ron “Pudding Fingers” DeSantis (Brian Kilmeade even played catch with him!), are pretty much back to fluffing Trump full-time. As staunch law-and-order types, they can’t very well go around having The People think that The People’s Emperor isn’t above the law. For Trump is no mere mortal, constrained by man-made statutes. And it’s not like he’s one of those grubby, law-breaking Antifites, even if Trump has promised “death and destruction” if he faced criminal charges, kind of like the black-clad anarchist a-holes do. Which is maybe why Sean Hannity hosted Trump for a full hour last week – Trump’s first Fox visit in six months. I hesitate to call it an “interview,” as it was more like batting practice from a slow-pitch machine for the embattled real-estate hustler from Queens. Sample softball from Hannity: “As you know, you're facing a lot of legal challenges. In your opinion, does this help you or hurt you in terms of your chances to win in 2024?”
Which itself wasn’t as embarrassing as how hard Trump’s fellow elected Republicans, and in some instances, his primary rivals, prostrated themselves. Rand Paul, the gentleman from Loose Screw, Kentucky, suggested Bragg should be imprisoned for indicting Trump before the indictment even came down. (Perhaps he wants to lock up the grand jury, too? Who knows? Paul was an ophthalmologist in civilian life, not a lawyer.) Future failed presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who has said when asked to comment on Trump, that she will only kick forward, not sideways, whatever the f*&^ that means, was suddenly all full of opinions on Trump, whose base she is sucking up to, even though they will never like, let alone love her. She was certain, without having seen the indictment, that the indictment “was more about revenge than it is about justice.”
DeSantis himself took a page out of Ted Cruz’s self-abasement playbook (you’ll recall that Trump suggested Cruz’s wife was ugly and that Cruz’s dad helped kill JFK, which hasn’t stopped Cruz from defending Trump every step of the way since). While Trump has mercilessly ridiculed DeSantis, calling him everything from “DeSanctimonius” to “Meatball,” and has also intimated that the married (to a woman) DeSantis is a gay groomer, well, that didn’t stop the Trump-lite potential presidential candidate from defending his tormentor, suggesting he would break the law on Trump’s behalf if called upon to extradite Florida Man for arraignment. That’ll show primary voters that the only way to beat Trump is to kiss his ring! Or something else.
But saddest of all, as usual, was Lindsey Graham. If Graham were Trump’s canine companion – Trump’s not a dog guy, of course, as most indecent people aren’t – Graham would be his senatordoodle. Loyal, but demeaned as a breed. And in keeping with his lapdog duties, Graham’s eyes actually watered while trying to raise money from the gullible seniors who watch Sean Hannity’s show, in order to help poor Mr. Trump pay his lawyers, even though Trump is laughably famous for stiffing his lawyers. Here’s Graham doing his pathetic Jimmy Swaggart routine. Viewer warning: only watch it if you’re doing so on an empty stomach:
At my advanced age, my memory isn’t what it used to be. But I don’t recall seeing Graham this emotional since Trump let him touch his putter on their golf date at Mar-a-Lago. And yet, I seem to also recall that The Grifter-in-Chief also raised a good $170 million from gullible supporters in just three weeks of pimping his fraudulent election-fraud claims. Not to mention the cool $1.5 million Trump raised in just three days after he errantly predicted when he’d be arrested.
These days, running afoul of the law doesn’t hurt you, but helps you. Since Republicans have decided they’re now the The Bad Boys of American politics – think late-‘80s-era Detroit Pistons, but with lots more golf shirts and body fat - being embattled appears to pay. Both financial dividends, and political ones. I hate to say I told you so (though if I don’t, who will?), but I predicted that DeSantis wresting the party from Trump, as so many short-sighted pundits suggested was happening, was a silly delusion back in November. Pudding Fingers’ poll numbers are dropping like a rock with an anchor tied around it. Maybe if Trump is wearing an orange jump suit by primary/caucus time, DeSantis still has a shot. But there are no Constitutional prohibitions on an inmate getting elected president, even if he might not be able to vote for himself.
And since normalcy died long ago, nothing would surprise me. Least of all, my once-fellow Republicans staying prisoners to their own nihilism and moral cowardice.
Slack Tide by Matt Labash is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Bonus Track: Since we’re talking outlaws, here’s one of my favorite outlaw songs, John Hiatt’s “Trudy and Dave.” The Bonnie-and-Clyde like couple of the song are only guilty of shooting up an automatic teller machine near a strip-mall laundromat. They weren’t trying to steal an election that they lost, while overturning democracy. But you work with what you have. Love that mandolin at the start of it:
Matt, as a subscriber, I really do need to hear from you more about your buddy Tucker. He now has my beloved —NOT— Governor Abbott pardoning people for murder the day after Tucker calls him out and the SAME week the jury found him guilty. This is insanity, and your friend is running the show in the whole country now.
We have lost our minds in this country. As a fellow Christian, and an evangelical one at that, please square our faith with what all these “good Christian” R’s are doing these days. See that paragon of our faith Trump; the TN travesty this week, this pardon and everything else. Franklin Graham is all in on MTG. This is insanity.
It is particularly shameful for believers. God help us. I really do want to hear how you do explain and justify Tucker who is doing his best to turn this country into Russia or at least Hungary by civil war if necessary.
Your are a clever writer but “funny” is not enough these days.
Nice. Love the humor. Found you through Michael Moynihan on 5th Column. I dig the experienced journalists writing on Substack who have thoughtful, nuanced views on what’s going on politically in the nation and globally. Just got a paid sub. Have to admit: I hadn’t heard ‘Mango Messiah’ before!!
Speaking of both sides: Just dropped an interesting take on *George Orwell* and his keen sense of free-thinking both-sides critique: https://michaelmohr.substack.com/p/george-orwell-a-life
‘Sincere American Writing’