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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Watching Boss Trump's authoritarian street theater in front of St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, I had three related thoughts: first that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Chaos is Trump's only talent. Empowered by false bravado and Daddy's (and/or Russian Mob) money, Trump blunders into something he does not and cannot understand—the casino business, airlines, professional football, now the US government. He listens to nobody, makes one foolhardy blunder after another, bankrupts or otherwise destroys the enterprise, betrays everyone who trusted him, and blames everybody but himself for the disaster.

However, Trump impersonated a business tycoon on a TV show. Millions bought the con. It's taken him three years and a viral pandemic to bring America to a state of near breakdown, but he's finally got us there.

So now this most Godless of men has taken to posing in front of religious shrines with a Bible. Here's what the Catholic Archbishop of Washington said about his co-opting a shrine to Pope John Paul II:

"Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter, or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace."

Other religious leaders have said substantially the same thing.

My second thought: Is this a man who will submit to a free and fair election? Not if he can help it. Indeed, he appears to have no interest in being president in the traditional sense. He's king of the white people in the red states. Anybody who voted against him is an enemy.

To the extent that MAGA means anything, it means restoring the social conditions of the Deep South in the 1950s, an impossible delusion.

Watching the Attorney General waddling around in Washington's Lafayette Park along with Ivanka, Jared, Kayleigh, and the rest of the Mighty Trump Art Players made this much clear: There is no form of legal casuistry that can't or won't be employed to suppress the anti-Trump vote or prevent its being counted.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see Barr indict Joe Biden on some bogus pretext. Or maybe his son, Hunter. He's always been an authoritarian dirty trickster, William Barr. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions only sounded like one to Trump's ear. Barr is the real deal.

It was Barr who reportedly ordered peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park tear-gassed to clear Trump's path.

Try also to imagine a Secretary of Defense telling state governors, as Mark Esper did over the telephone, of their need to "dominate the battle space" in American cities.

"There is no right to riot," said GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. "But there is a fundamental—a Constitutional—right to protest, and I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop."

Tear gas, clubs and "vicious dogs" failed to quell civil rights protests in 1960s Alabama, and they surely won't work today.

It must also be emphasized that every moron looting or setting fires is Trump's willing accomplice. Whether left-wing adventurers or racist provocateurs—Antifa or Boogaloo Bois--they're all the same to me.

Reckless, feckless fools.

Which leads to the thought that 2020 is shaping up as the worst year in American life since 1968, when the nation felt as if it was coming apart. Nobody old enough to remember can forget.

My wife and I were newlyweds, just back from the Peace Corps, living in a rented cottage on a cattle farm 20 miles south of the University of Virginia. Happy in love, and surrounded by the calming presence of cows. The outside world came to us via Walter Cronkite and a small black and white TV, and everything it brought was unsettling.

It was the year of the Tet Offensive, the My Lai Massacre, and of President Lyndon B. Johnson's stunning announcement in late March that "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president."

And then the killings began: Martin Luther King assassinated in early April, Robert F. Kennedy in June. Following upon the 1963 murder of his brother President John F. Kennedy, it felt as if madmen with guns had undertaken to destroy the USA.

The police riot during the Chicago Democratic convention in August and the mad antics of the anti-war left did much to elect Richard M. Nixon president. (See historian Rick Perlstein's magisterial "Nixonland" for details.)

So no, 2020 hasn't yet matched 1968. But all the ingredients are there: a viral pandemic, economic collapse, outrage and madness in the streets.

If only Trump had LBJ's character.

Or Nixon's, for that matter.


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