Notes From Topsy-Turvy Town

By Jamie Stiehm

December 12, 2018 5 min read

WASHINGTON — Since I saw you, a former president was buried with highest honors, and another is being buried alive by diabolical dishonesty. We are living in a world of woe.

President Donald Trump — or "Individual 1" to federal prosecutors who charge that he directed the commission of felony crimes — is front and center in too many anxious conversations. Robert S. Mueller III's Russian investigation is naming names, getting guilty pleas and not over yet.

This town is as miserable as Michael and Jane Banks wishing for Mary Poppins to return. You feel how vexed the air is, with the winter wind whistling early and more trouble straight ahead. Some sages say this is what a crisis in democracy looks like. And they might be right.

One leading expert on the press, Marvin Kalb, writes in a new book, "Enemy of the People," that the true "enemy" is Trump: his stream of invective against American governing institutions and individuals alike. The Justice Department, the CIA and the press are his favorite targets. Time magazine named "guardians of the truth," journalists who died or were imprisoned, as Person of the Year.

With a new blue House coming in, investigation and impeachment of the president is on many tongues. The American people spoke in the resounding November election and sent 40 more Democrats to the House.

Meanwhile, Trump is searching desperately for a White House chief of staff, since few like stepping into a tar pit. Worse, he got jilted by a blonde, Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff. Nobody gets out of Trump's orbit untarnished. Young and smart, Ayers is getting out of town.

Forty-four former senators published an extraordinary op-ed in The Washington Post that counseled senators to heed the rule of law, regardless of party, at this delicate "inflection point." Senators must be guardians of democracy, they say in a sober warning.

There comes a time to put the republic first.

This clarion call comes now because there are no giants in this Senate. Giants rise above it all, to speak and make everybody listen. There may be particular concern with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-Ky., rigid leadership style. He herds his caucus to be team players all the way home on every vote. The Senate is Trump's safe place, for now. Ironically, none of them likes him much.

It's even possible the government could "proudly" shut down over the holidays if Trump doesn't get his border wall billions. Without being buoyed by a cheering, jeering base in full-blown campaign mode, he's in a dangerous sulk. He has no friends in Washington. Yes, our own Ebenezer Scrooge.

Trump's in legal jeopardy now, at risk of being indicted when he leaves office. His campaign payments to silence two women he had affairs with (through lawyer Michael Cohen) and his numerous Russian contacts (through associates, including family) are coming home to haunt him like birds of prey.

On the Russian front, it seems that running for president may have been, for Trump, a means for his dream of building a tower in Moscow. No president in history has had such a rich private plum in mind. Trump may have traded away the integrity of our 2016 election. Was he brazenly in league with Russian interference? We shall soon see.

Trump's departing chief of staff, John Kelly, was a former Marine general with a growling face but no political finesse. New to the job, he stood silently by when Trump declared there were "very fine people" on both sides of the Charlottesville summer race riot.

Things aren't all bad. Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is fast friends with Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, suspected of orchestrating a journalist's murder: Jamal Khashoggi, honored by Time. Nobody elected Kushner the American crown prince, but he's acting the part.

Saudi Arabia bravely stood with us as the United States championed coal in a United Nations meeting on climate change.

London and Paris are unhappy world capitals, too. Is something going around?

At George H.W. Bush's funeral, Trump sat like a block of stone, emanating hate. For that, he gets coal in his Christmas stocking.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the website creators.com

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