Welcome to the Jungle, America. And a farewell note

We are Deep in the Wilderness Now – But Likely Not for Long

 Last week the United States moved into a political wilderness unlike any before. But before discussing this, I, like many of us, feel the need to say something about the late Senator John McCain. His is a passing worthy of our taking note.

Much has already been said in recent days, with more to come for sure. Much of it is worth taking the time to read and reflect. I disagreed with McCain often, on a lot of issues. As I noted in a post not long ago, his elevation of Sarah Palin gave a huge boost to the mess that was to become the Tea Party.

But McCain himself, while not wishing to hurt Palin personally, has acknowledged that this was a major mistake. There were other items as well along the way, but for the moment, it is proper to focus on the best of his history.

Several things come to mind:

  • I never doubted his patriotism or his desire for this country to live up to its potential. He was too quick to go for a military solution in too many places, but his heart was in the right place.
  • He reached across the aisle for major reforms in campaign financing and immigration.
  • He had friends on both sides of the aisle. He managed to respect people he strongly disagreed with, on all sorts of issues.

Three times that I recall he had an easy opportunity to speak ill of his opponent in the 2008 campaign and he elected not to do so. Instead, he spoke with grace and eloquence about Barack Obama (who will speak at McCain’s funeral). On all three occasions, McCain rose to the challenge. He reminded us what civility and dignity are like.

McCain was not a saint, and there is much to criticize in his life. Still, we owe him for these examples, if nothing else. If only he had successors.

Now, onto the jungle we find our country in today. It seems to me we navigate this with 3 time zones in play:

Zone 1- From now until the midterm elections on November 6.

Zone 2- From Nov 7 until the New Congress is sworn into office.

Zone 3- After a new Congress is sworn in until Trump leaves office – by impeachment, by resignation, or the end of his term(s).

To say that the noose is tightening, and that Trump and company are beginning to show desperation would be an understatement. And so, reasonable people are working through a lot of “what if” scenarios. When particular actions take place in one of these 3 zones makes a big difference in what follows.

It seems highly likely at some point Trump will move to fire any number of people. If he telegraphs this to Republican leaders and they FINALLY draw a line, all before next January (Zone 2) , I think there is a real chance he will instead resign “for the good of the country. “

That leaves us with Pence, unless he too is indicted, which is not beyond imagination. More on the Pence question in another blog; for now, let’s call the idea awful but manageable.

There is a good chance that Trump starts this sequence in the next few weeks. No one has a clue as to what his thought process and lack of impulse control will leave us. But my bet is for a better than 50% chance he will not try key dismissals before midterms (Zone 1).

A case can be made that he is more likely to do this after the midterms, when a hostile Congress is on the way in Zone 2. He is likely to try this during the lame duck session of Zone 2, hoping the congressional Republicans will continue their shameless collusion and empowerment.

One can hope that in this scenario the Republicans at last feel they have nothing to lose anymore, except the last thread of their personal and collective honor. I am not holding my breath, but who knows. If this is the scenario that plays out, the stakes are immeasurable.

It is also possible that the resignation scenario plays out here, if Trump knows the lame ducks will not stand with him.

Let’s look at the other players. Much has been written in recent days about a Democratic Plan B to go into effect if Trump strikes at the investigations. There are references to retroactive legislation to protect the investigations and steps to protect files. Over 1,000 mass demonstrations would happen immediately, and more.

All that is well and good, but not enough. If Trump does try to shut down the investigations and the Republicans in Congress acquiesce, nothing less than shutting down the government and the capitol city will be sufficient.

This would be the time for civil disobedience beyond even what we saw during Vietnam and civil rights gatherings. The halls of Congress- all of them- need to be filled with people who will not leave. Congressional galleries and offices should be similarly occupied and every member of Congress and staffer engaged nonstop. Same for government offices.

In areas where people cannot get in, they surround the site, and no one gets out, either. Megaphones ensure they hear the call for justice. The White House is surrounded 24/7. It would not hurt my feelings if people hurled garbage over the fence in symbolic calling out of what we see.

In short, government is shut down. Until the rule of law is honored by those in power, civil disobedience speaks for us as a nation.

All that sounds pretty extreme, I know. I find it rather amazing that I, a 30-year military veteran who has only been to one demonstration in my life, am writing this. But we would be at the decision point. If Trump moves to squelch the justice process, that must be met to safeguard democracy.

I am reasonably optimistic that the resignation will come at some point, perhaps fairly soon. But we all need be thinking of those darker scenarios and ask ourselves NOW: “What will I do when the news breaks?”

If the time comes, we are unlikely to get a do-over. This one will be our personal and collective legacy in the most profound sense.

     Bill Clontz

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9 replies to Welcome to the Jungle, America. And a farewell note

  1. Ready to march. And ready to riot if Mueller is fired. I have my own personal pitchfork.

    • I knew you would be ready! This one would be for real. Seems to me everything would be on the table at once.

  2. Such clear thinking, Bill, which I so appreciate, especially during days when I mainly want to howl into a very large pillow!

    • Me too, Jeanne. Every week I swear it cannot get worse, the standards lower, but every week, I am wrong.

  3. I discovered your blog a few weeks back, occasionally browsing to check out trending comments. Am I correct to assume that you invite opposing, or shall we say somewhat skeptical replies or commentary?

    First, let me thank you for your service to our country. Like you, I also agree the late Senator McCain deserves our respect for his service to our country. Senator McCain was a good-bit more hawkish of foreign entanglements than I would prefer, and seemed unconcerned about whether there were sufficient funds for checks being written by congress. Respectfully, his refusal for early release in Vietnam should bring us all to our knees.

    Having said the above, I do feel it seems your comments regarding “Welcome To The Jungle” are a bit presumptuous and dangerous. I would submit that the potentially equal plausible scenario is that those with the power of the pen, or the digital media cloaked in occasional anonymity, wish for nothing less than for President Trump to lash out with a full range of actions you claim would be wrong. Further, it seems to this citizen, that one could say it may be possible that those opposed to him personally or his agenda are willingly working in concert to bait our president.

    Now, certainly it may be said that his style is something we have not seen in several centuries. I cannot defend his flaws, but I do respect the decision of the people in 2016. If he has betrayed the trust of all the American people then he will have to be called to account for his actions.

    To my point, what would be wrong with advocating for the positive aspects of Trump cooperating with the Mueller investigation, versus promoting borderline unlawful actions and the breaking of the peace in our sacred land. There are many citizens that are concerned about how quickly that scenario could become very dangerous. Who knows what truth may be revealed in due time about our government?

    Just me, urging patience and restraint.

    • I am glad you found the blog, Stan. Thank you for a thoughtful addition to the discussion. You have given us some genuine substance to reflect upon.

    • Ah, Stan, you are far more optimistic than I about the potential of President Trump to work with others or to govern as a president of all the people. A quick note on your observation that his election represented the will of the people: he was duly elected, no doubt about it, but not by the popular vote, which he lost by about 3 million votes. Third time that has happened in recent history, which tells me we do need a serious national conversation about the electoral college.

      I was disappointed to see your reference to “anonymous” writings in the press. There has been only one such major presence in the current environment, and while I would much prefer he or she identify themselves, I am not totally unsympathetic to that not being the case. One could argue that Deep Throat of Watergate fame did as much or more than anyone to save our governance and we did not know who he was for over 20 years. I do agree there are troubling elements in anonymity, and in the functioning of this White House that has been described.

      It certainly would be a good thing for President Trump to testify for the Mueller investigation, if for no other reason than to ensure his mindset and his views are part of the process, but at this point, I don’t think anyone really thinks that is going to happen, least of all his own lawyers. I dont think his testimony is necessary to decide if a case(s) go forward- there appears to be enough evidentiary material and testimony from others to make those decisions.

      I would surely agree we are in dangerous times. I think our difference is that I lay that squarely at the feet of the president and congregational leaders, not the opposition or the press. That could, of course, but partly my own bias about policies and politics but I would close out with two further observations : (1) No one ever worried about “baiting” any president before. This president’s lack of self control is a serious concern. (2) The number of people who trust Mueller over Trump and the number who now think he should be impeached vs those who trust him are striking, and that balance is tipping further daily. Slowly, but surely I think citizens are figuring out this is the wrong man in the wrong place and they are justifiably worried about the future. The good news is that I think eventually, we will get all this right and may be better for the experience. At least I hope so.

      Thanks again for sharing your perspectives. I appreciate it more than you know, even those times we disagree.

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