WHICH TRUMP OUTRAGE WILL BE THE ONE?
- Option A - Go to the seashore.
- Option B - Go bonkers.
“I picked Option A – Go to the seashore,” I said. “That’s the Problem.”
“How could that be a Problem?” the opossum observed. “Doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes for the Grouchy One to drive you there. And a summer day isn’t to be wasted, especially when it’s not even summer anymore.”
The Grouchy One is one of the two Humans I live with, the other being the Nice One. Had she the time to make the trip from our house in Newport to Ocean Drive, that would have turned a good summer day in fall into a great summer day in fall.
“What was she doing?” Mr. O asked.
“Writing letters to voters in the so-called swing states, urging them to vote,” I said. “There’s an organization called “Swing Left” that identifies voters who might be persuaded to go to the polls, and gives you advice about how to write and send them nonpartisan letters.”
“Which explains why she’s the ‘Nice One,’” Mr. O said. “By the way, what was the ‘Problem’ that made you question whether you should be sitting on the rocks, taking in the rays and watching the waves?”
“The ‘Problem’ was Trump’s latest outrage, at least it was at the time,’’ I said. “And it was a doozy, so terrifying, so depraved, so destructive, that once you heard about it, you knew you should drop everything else you were doing and take emergency action.”
“A bit of advice, Phoebe,” Mr. O said. “You might want to reconsider using a word like ‘doozy.’ It’s outdated and suggests that you are too.”
“Would you rather I say something like ‘Scarier than an opossum’s tail?’ ” I retorted, and regretted immediately that I’d slipped into Trumpodian guttertalk.
“What kind of emergency action were you considering because of this latest ‘doozy’?” Mr. O asked. “Write a letter to your congresswoman? March in September? Demonstrate in Portland? Tweet on Twitter? Take a train to Washington? Pick up the phone? Friend on Facebook? Emote with emojis? Ask Alexa?”
“Exactly,” I sighed.
As the sun went down, the warmth hung in the nearly windless night air, and we talked more about PTSDS (Post-Trumpodian Stress Dismay Syndrome).
Trump will say something horrible; occasionally he actually will do what he says. And what he says and does will demand action.
He’ll make a racist comment. He’ll insult someone. He’ll sign an executive order opening up wilderness areas to logging. He’ll belittle somebody. He’ll break a sacred tradition. He’ll abuse his office. He’ll lie. He’ll commit a crime.
And life will go on.
THIS HAS BEEN the pattern for four years.
It happened in 2016, when a tape emerged on which Trump bragged about how his celebrity status enabled him to violate women. That prompted outrage and predictions of defeat. Trump won.
Trump fired his FBI director, hosted Russians in the Oval Office, separated immigrant children from their parents, put the kids in cages, and outrage followed outrage followed outrage. The result, each time? Nothing.
Trump publicly kowtowed to Putin. Trump was impeached. Trump mishandled the pandemic, trashed climate change regulations, urged "weak" governors to use the military “dominate” anti-racism protesters.
The volume of outrages has become so immense that it’s hard not only to keep track of them, but even to triage their relative seriousness, so that some are barely noticed.
RECENTLY, MR. O and I looked through of a transcript of one of Trump’s campaign rallies, this one in Bemidji, Minnesota, on a Sept. 18th that was so little noticed it might as well have happened in 1720 instead 2020.
Trump crowded supporters into a hangar in Minnesota, putting them in danger of spreading or being infected by Covid-19, then unleashed a two-hour harangue of insults, lies, boasts and taunts, while encouraging and condoning violence, racism and treason.
He began with a warning: Minnesota would be “overrun and destroyed” by refugees if Joe Biden is elected president. Trump mocked a reporter who, months earlier, had been shot in the leg with a rubber bullet while covering a protest: “It was the most beautiful thing.”
He disparaged Somalian-born Congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar: “That’s a beauty. How the hell did she win the election?” At another point, he said: “Look at Omar. She came in here. Did she marry her brother?”
He belittled Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, riffing on the pronunciation of her name: “No, my name is Kamala. Like comma.' I remember that. Like a comma.”
Trump praised Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederacy’s secession from the United States in attempt to preserve slavery, calling the traitor a “great general.”
Trump speculated that if reporters treated Biden like they do Trump, “He’d melt. If they ever did a number on, this guy would be there, he’d be laying on the floor crying ‘Get me out of here, Darling. Where is my wife? Get me out of here please, Darling.’”
The commander-in-chief veered off into a long discussion of the “Air Force One” jetliners that transport presidents, disclosing one of their most important features: “The great thing about those beautiful planes, they have more televisions than any plane in history. We have televisions in the closet, on the ceilings, on the floors…”
AT THE 1 HOUR, 55 MINUTE MARK, Trump congratulated Minnesotans for inheriting “good genes” from their pioneer ancestors: “They were tough, and they were strong. You have good genes. You know that, right? You have good genes. A lot of it’s about the genes, isn’t it? Don’t you believe?”
Long, long ago, imagine the effect that any one of those comments – praise of superior genes, admiration of a traitorous general, scaremongering immigrants, insulting an opponent’s name, celebrating the shooting of a reporter – had they been spoken by a President Bush, a President Clinton, a President Obama.
But Trump has made outrage routine.
Wake up. Hear the latest outrage on radio or TV. Take a shower. Morning paper’s headline: “Latest Trump Outrage.” Do the dishes. Work (if you have work). Eat supper (if you have food). Six-o'clock News: “Trump’s Latest Outrage Stirs Outrage.” What’s on Netflix? Have we seen that series? It’s a new episode. Off to bed. Final iPad check: “Sources: Secret Memo Details Latest Trump Outrage.” Power down the iPad. Sleep through the night.
"You tell me," I said.
“Incidentally,” Mr. O said, “what was the recent Trump outrage that put you into full I-Can’t-Stand-It-Gotta-Do-Something mode?”
“He wouldn’t commit to accepting the election results – unless he won,” I said.
“Trump’s been saying that since 2016,” Mr. O said.
“This time was different,” I said.
“How so?” he asked.
I told him about the press conference at which Brian Karem, a reporter for Playboy magazine, had phrased the question in a way which caught everyone, except Trump, off guard.
REPORTER: Mr. President, real quickly. Win, lose or draw in this election. Will you commit here today for a peaceful transfer of power after the election, either … transferal of power after the election. And there has been rioting … there’s been rioting in many cities across this country, your so-called red and blue states. Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?
TRUMP: Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.
REPORTER: I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there’s a peaceful transferal of power?
TRUMP: We want to have… Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful… There won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it, and you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.
“So, Mr. O, do you see what I mean?” I asked.
“What really surprises me,” Mr. O said, “is that apparently, there’s still a Playboy magazine, and they have someone covering the White House.”
“Seriously,” I said, “here’s a guy who won’t commit himself to a ‘peaceful’ outcome if he doesn’t win. Nobody in the history of the country – no candidate, nobody who counts – has ever said any thing like that!”
We just sat there, not saying anything, listening to crickets and the other creatures who make late-summer, early fall noises, and every once in a while, breath of air drew a cord out of the wind chimes.
“You're right,” Mr. O said, finally breaking the silence.
“Right about what?” I asked him.
“No,” the possum said, “You made the right choice. The danger to democracy is real, and we have do all of the things just plain citizens can do."
"But there's one thing," Mr. O added, "that you and all the other pessimists always miss in your despair that no single 'bombshell' seems to stop Donald Trump. Call me an optopossumist if you must, but it seems to me that every outrage counts, and that they have a cumulative effect. No outrage ever goes away. Sooner or later, there will be one too many, and the total weight will crush him."
"But why do you say that I should have gone to the seashore instead of going bonkers?" I asked him.
"Because you should never waste an opportunity to enjoy the seashore, especially on a summer day that's happening when it's actually fall," Mr. O said. "No matter what else, we cannot let Trump destroy the precious moments of our lives."
They show him to be a scheming, but bumbling, businessman, who's on the hook for $300 million in coming-due obligations, and a fraud, who excels as a serial tax dodger, paying just $750 in taxes in each of two recent years and no taxes at all in 10 others.
In the meantime, millions of other Americans, who do pay their taxes, have had to pick up his share of the cost of running the government.
It’s an outrage.