Can Macbeth explain Trump’s impending downfall

I’m actually not the biggest fan of Shakespeare (updating into a language– modern English– humans actually speak would be a great start), but I love this Atlantic column from Eliot Cohen:

But to really get the feel for the Trump administration’s end, we must turn to the finest political psychologist of them all, William Shakespeare. The text is in the final act of what superstitious actors only refer to as the “Scottish play.” One of the nobles who has turned on their murderous usurper king describes Macbeth’s predicament:

Those he commands move only in command,

Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title

Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe

Upon a dwarfish thief.

And so it will be for Trump…

But in the moment of losing power, the two will be alike. A tyrant is unloved, and although the laws and institutions of the United States have proven a brake on Trump, his spirit remains tyrannical—that is, utterly self-absorbed and self-concerned, indifferent to the suffering of others, knowing no moral restraint. He expects fealty and gives none. Such people can exert power for a long time, by playing on the fear and cupidity, the gullibility and the hatreds of those around them. Ideological fervor can substitute for personal affection and attachment for a time, and so too can blind terror and sheer stupidity, but in the end, these fall away as well.

And thus their courtiers abandon even monumental tyrants like Mussolini—who at least had his mistress, Claretta Petacci, with him at his ignominious end. (Melania’s affections are considerably less certain.) The normal course of events is sudden, epic desertion, in which an all-powerful political figure who loomed over everything is suddenly left shrunken and pitiful, a wretched little figure in gaudy robes absurdly too big for him, a figure of ridicule as much as, and even more than, hatred.

This is going to happen to Trump at some point. Of the Republicans in Congress it may be said of most of them: Those he commands move only in command, nothing in love. For now, admittedly, there are those who still court his favor—Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, once the trusty vassal of Senator John McCain, the bravest of warriors and noblest of dukes, seems to have switched his allegiance from his dying lord to the swaggering upstart aged prince. But that is about ambition, not affection.

For the moment, the Republicans will not turn on Trump. They fear a peasant revolt, many of them; they still crave favors; they may think his castle impregnable, although less so if they believe what the polls tell them about some of its tottering walls. But if they suffer a medieval-style slaughter on Election Day, the remnants of the knights of the GOP will know a greater fear than that of being primaried. And at the moment when they no longer fear being swept away in 2020, when the economy may be in recession and Robert Mueller’s probe is complete with revelations whose ghastliness would delight the three witches of the Scottish play, they will suddenly turn on Trump. Act V of this play will also have a nonlinear finish.

This sounds good to me.  I wonder if the 5th avenue shooting scenario isn’t more likely, though.

Shooting on 5th Avenue

I don’t usually expect good political satire out of Thomas Friedman, but he nails it here:

President Trump stopped his motorcade in Manhattan today, jumped out of his limousine and shot a man on Fifth Avenue who was shouting anti-Trump epithets. The shooting was recorded by the White House press pool as well as by dozens of bystanders with cellphones and by security cameras in the area. When asked for his reaction, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, We will need more information than is available at this point.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said through pursed lips that he was not going to comment on every up and down with this president.House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he already had information indicating that the man whom Trump shot worked for the Clinton Foundation and may have been a relative of former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Fox News did not cover Trump’s shooting at the top of its broadcast, which focused instead on the killing of an Iowa woman by an undocumented immigrant. Fox’s only reference to the fact that the president shot a man on Fifth Avenue was that a New York City man died today when he ran right into a bullet fired by the president.

Senator Lindsey Graham quipped that Trump shoots as well as he puttsand that this incident would not cause the South Carolina senator to cancel his coming golf round with the president at his Bedminster, N.J., course.

White House spokeswoman Sara Huckabee Sanders told reporters that she was looking the other way when the shooting happened so she had no comment, adding: I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with the president. I’ll get back to you if I have something. But the president has stated many times that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. So he’s just keeping a campaign promise. He did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. And even though I have no comment, and he has no comment, we’ve commented on this extensively.

Hours later, though, the president tweeted: Actually, some people are saying that a man who looked a lot like Barack Obama did the shooting. I’m not saying that — but some people are. It also could have been somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds who fired that shot. Like Rudy said: Truth is not truth — unless I say so.

Jerry Falwell Jr., a top evangelical leader, announced that his movement would be holding a vigil this evening, praying that the president had not stressed himself too much by having to shoot a man on Fifth Avenue. Falwell added, “This would never have happened if Jeff Sessions were doing his job.”

The day ended with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declaring that the fact that the president could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight only proves again why we need to arm all our schoolteachers.

My biggest challenge in writing all of the above? Worrying that readers wouldn’t realize it was made up.

Of course Trump is a tax cheat

You know, sometimes I mean to write a post, and then forget, and then think, “Well, gee, is this still relevant?  Haven’t we moved beyond this?”  Of course, that makes me just as guilty as the media bias I was writing about yesterday.  With a virtual tidal wave of awfulness from Trump, really problematic news from the previous week can really seem like ancient history.

I was about to just move this excellent Catherine Rampell column on Trump’s likely tax fraud over to the quick hits queue, but then thought, damn it, a little old or not, this is good stuff more people should read:

There’s plenty of precedent for prosecuting those. And the Cohen filings this week raise serious new questions about whether Trump has criminal tax-fraud exposure.

To be clear, we don’t know whether Trump has violated any tax laws. But there’s a red flag in prosecutors’ filings against Cohen regarding the fate of hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes one would expect to have been paid Uncle Sam.

It’s a little technical, so bear with me.

[Or, just trust her, I’m not pasting it all, but it’s solid]

“These are not normal business practices,” said Jenny L. Johnson Ware, a criminal tax lawyer. “None of this is how a company normally does business.” Other tax practitioners I consulted said the same.

Why go through all this rigmarole? Well, maybe to hide something.

Maybe Trump Organization execs were helping hide an excessive campaign contribution, one of the charges Cohen pleaded guilty to. Or maybe, as current Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has argued, it was merely a payment for a personal legal settlement designed to “save” the “reputation” of Trump’s marriage.

Under neither explanation, though, would the $420,000 be a legitimate business expense that Trump or his company could deduct on their tax returns.

And yet: “The reason to go through the shenanigans of making this transaction look like legal expenses, to me, is to make something not deductible look deductible,” said Johnson Ware…

There’s an easy way for Trump to clear up these concerns: He could release his tax returns.

Or maybe Congress could help a brother out and release his returns for him — which it could do by majority vote in any of three committees.

That would, of course, require a Republican or two to “flip” — which I know could pose a problem. As Trump and Capone could both tell you, the family doesn’t care for rats.

Honestly, given everything that is already public knowledge about Trump and how he runs his business, it would be pretty shocking if he were somehow not actually guilty of criminal tax fraud (like Al Capone!).  Collusion or not, Trump is so obviously a criminal.  And, presumably, Mueller is on that case.

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