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GULLIVER'S TRAVAILS


Poor Gulliver, I feel sorry for him after he washes up on the Island of Lilliput and falls asleep only to awake tied to the ground by stout ropes. The Lilliputians are tiny men barely six inches in height, but smart enough to know how to handle an ominous giant. After he's released by the emperor, he fails to carry out some imperial missions against a neighboring empire and is impeached as a traitor. The original edition of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels came out in 1728 and was an instant hit, a satire on the war against Spanish Catholics waged by Tory Protestants. Everyone knew the point of the parable and had a good laugh. But the book keeps getting reprinted and people keep reading it, because the political meaning has enduring relevance. The illustrations of that original text were in black and white; we can only speculate that the hero might have had orange hair, a copious mid-drift, a long red tie, and an insatiable appetite for double cheeseburgers. You get the point.

On Christmas Eve, Trump took to his Twitter blog and savaged Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, whom Trump had recently appointed. He was raging against the interest rate hike newly enacted, which he believed caused the terrifying sell-off of equities on the New York Stock Exchange. The Dow dropped a whopping 650 points on a night meant to bring cheer and cozy feelings. Christmas would linger like a hangover until the following day, when the markets reopened. DidTrump scare the traders to death, when he raged like a towering Gulliver at his Lilliputian underlings? Not quite. The White House hauled out its spokespeople who assured Wall Street that Powell was 100% safe in his job, and that Trump had no legal authority to dismiss him.

Sound familiar? Anyone think of James Comey's abrupt firing, and the assault on another Lilliput, Jeff Sessions, who hid in the shadow of Trump's long legs until he could safely submit his resignation and skedaddle back to Alabama. He was informed he need not reapply for his old Senate seat; that bridge had already burned in his absence.

When Gulliver comes to the aid of the emperor by putting out a fire at his palace, his manner of extinguishing the flames was to piss on it. That did not sit well with the court, which took offense at his remedy. But he meant to be of service to the throne. Of course, one cannot help but think of the notorious mattress where Trump performed a similar service after learning that this was the bed the Obamas slept on during their visit to Moscow.

Trump keeps stepping into Gulliver's footsteps as he galumphs through his first two years as the US president. The Congress is filled with inept Lilliputians, on both sides of the aisles, who dare not voice their opinions too loudly to this orange-haired giant. They fear him, they quake when he raises his voice. Recall Chuck Shumer's smirking when Trump fairly shouted his non negotiable demand for a vote of five billion dollars to build the Wall, or he would close down the government. The government is now partially closed and he and wife Melania are dining with the troops in Iraq, smiling broadly for the cameras.

The Dems, meanwhile, are waiting for their day in Congress, where they promise to drag every minion of Trump's court through endless hearings. They will convene their committees equipped with vast arrays of documents implicating Trump in his breaches of the Constitution, from the emoluments clause to the usurpation of Congressional power. It will be messy, and will be verbal warfare, it will send the markets through a whole new roller coaster of loop-de-loops, and leave the public exhausted, crying for an end to all political opinion.

Of course, the hidden subtext of all this litigation and revenge is the possibility of impeaching the president. More than a few Republicans are beginning to think they do not need to sacrifice their careers for this man who never keeps his promises and shows no loyalty to those who stick their necks out for him. If he's a one-termer, as many now think, there's no point in ruining one's life to save him.

The next two years will be a study in trying to stall the inevitable, if not for the good of the president, then for the political fortunes of such lesser mortals as Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. If they can keep the Congress begging for more information, more testimony from evermore remote links to Trump, more time to process requests for classified information, more demands for Trump's taxes, and all the rest of the tidbits of the Trump scandal, the more the months will melt away and the time draw near to Trump's termination of his tenure. That's probably all anyone is thinking these days. There are no dreams of more tax cuts, more radical transformations (shrinking) of the federal government. Those are pipe dreams that went up in smoke when Trump decided to fire most of his original cabinet and to amuse himself by taking potshots at all his enemeies through his Twitter account. Everyone hates him; no one trusts him anymore. He's of no use to anyone but those on the far fringes of the lunatic right.

He can be of use to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who seem to be filling the seats of a new cabinet where they can call the shots. And behind them, there is Vladimir Putin, Turkey's Rycep Erdogan, Syria's Bashar-al Assad, all eager to close the gap created by the retreat of the Americans from Syria, now Afghanistan, soon enough from Iraq, and quite possibly from South Korea. China is rubbing its eyes at the vast new opportunities for seizing power in these regions, and Russia can't help but notice there is no opposition to their further advances into eastern Ukraine. The world is falling open like a newly liberated wild life reserve to the ravenous appetites of the oil corporations.

As Thomas Friedman wrote recently in the New York Times, it is time to think about Article 25 (the Constitutional argument for relieving a president incapable of governing), impeachment or some other measure for ending the most disastrous administration in memory. He's the first to cry "Enough!" the only one so far to show courage on the right by declaring Trump unworthy of the office he holds. I don't like Friedman's ideas much, but on this occasion, he impressed me by putting his reputation on the line, demanding action when others, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, hide in the cloak room and dodge the press on their way to the rotunda.

Poor Gulliver towers over us at the moment, a vast inflated figure in blue suit and red tie, casting his watery blue eyes on the hapless masses as he hurls threats and promises destruction to anyone who impugns his motives or doubts his authority to drive the government over a cliff. It's a drab time to be an American, as we watch the stock markets rise and fall like some fragile boat in a storm at sea; to watch the migrants crowded up against the closed gates to the once great hope of those fleeing tyranny. We are made to witness the pernicious neglect of climate change and the terrifying denial of pollution and poisoning of nature in a time of mass extinction of species. America the fortress, a pathetic world power retreating into itself like China in the 18th century, a country whose Statue of Liberty is a mocking reminder of all we have squandered and ignored of our moral responsibilities.

Gulliver was an uncouth, bumbling giant who had no clue how to conduct himself in that tiny island with its quaint, traditional ways. He was little more than Twain's Connecticut Yankee bragging about the wonders of the Machine Age, the utopian future of industry, only to bring about the death of King Arthur and the end of Camelot. Woe to us who think there's a way to hang on while this egomaniac swaggers and consults with his gut on how to run one of the great democracies of the world.

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