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The President Has Flinched

This is what desperation looks like—and opportunity.

I had all sorts of other essays on healthcare and tax cuts drafted, half-written, or outlined, but they are all shelved for now. Trump has trumped them. He has preempted them and preempted himself. He is the distraction and the distraction from the distraction. He is Machiavelli on meth.

There comes a certain point when you know deep in your gut your boss is lying, your spouse is catching some side action, or your accountant is pocketing money. Due process needs to take place, of course, even if that means taking part in an episode of Cheaters. But the little jury in your head has reached a verdict. Perhaps the judge will declare a mistrial, but the whodunit part of the show is over.

That is Donald Trump’s status in the minds of a majority of Americans as of the evening of Tuesday, May 9, when the President fired FBI Director James Brien Comey with a ghostwritten hand delivered letter standing in for the hand-serpent gesture. From here on in Trump is the 2- 9 NFL team playing out the string; that same team behind by three touchdowns with 53 seconds left on the clock making an onside kick; Saddam Hussein setting oil wells on fire at the end of the Gulf War. 

Yet the contest can be dragged out for quite some time. One thinks of a basketball team down 15 points with 8 seconds to go still fouling the point guard handling the ball in the backcourt. Or a lone king in a game of checkers being chased endlessly by six other kings until he is finally cornered. It’s over for all practical purposes, but the rules of the game dictate we complete the program for appearances, civility, constitutionality, and all the TV sponsors who already paid good money.

Life on the ropes is largely a game of gotcha. Those doing the getting apply pestering, interrogation, provocation and occasionally a joke to illicit one false move from their subject. This was the backbone of every episode of Columbo, and the approach lives on in every local detective squad to this day. Evidence is important, but in a murky case there has to be at least one detective who knows the guy is guilty and just won’t leave it alone. The detective in this case was FBI Director James Comey, and the false move was firing him.

As the aggrieved, we citizens of that onetime democracy known as the United States of America do not possess the same options as an abused employee, a cuckolded husband, or a ripped off client. We cannot quit our position, hire a divorce lawyer, or file a civil suit. We also cannot treat this spectacle like just another episode of The Apprentice. We must be more than spectators, because the President isn’t the only one living on borrowed time. We are, too.

The good news is the pestering, interrogation, provocation and occasional joke have worked so far. They have made the marginally elected wannabe dictator flinch. Another flinch is coming, and another one after that. We can help it along. Write a letter to your congressional representative. Blog. March. Donate. Organize. Post a funny meme. There is a king bouncing around the checkerboard.