Op-ed: Sad advice from the poet

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

 

We can thank Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and biographer Carl Sandburg for that tidbit of wisdom. It’s standard operating procedure for trial lawyers and certainly for politicians, both of whom could be best described as “anti-poets.” It’s clearly a way of life for the most obscene practitioner of these dark arts. I refer, of course, to the table-pounder in chief Donald Trump, who has gone quite far with it. His accomplishments include winning the presidency and allegedly having sex with Stormy Daniels. (If you don’t know who Stormy Daniels is, check her out on your favorite search engine; you’ll be amazed. Disgusted and amazed.)

But I digress. Notice that I said “allegedly.” There is an even more jarring “allegedly,” this one being the alleged crime that Trump himself may have committed.

Special counsel Robert Mueller appears to be vigorously exploring whether the president obstructed justice as Mueller ratchets up his investigation into whether Trump or figures in Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government in the alleged (there’s that word again) theft of the U.S. election. He and his people have interrogated Attorney General Jeff Sessions and questioned James Comey, who was FBI director until President Trump fired him. Most ominously, Mueller now is negotiating with the White House to set parameters for questioning POTUS himself. It’s fair to point out that obstruction of justice is extremely hard to pin down. What might not be so elusive is a charge of money laundering by Trump and his circle of family and associates. That brings us back to that Carl Sandburg quote.

The Donald Trump variation would be something like: “When the facts are against you, scream ‘fake news.’ If the law is against you, discredit the investigators. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the social media (or in his case, the anti-social media) and tweet like hell.”

He and his protectors are trying to construct a phantom case against those who have probed into his every nook and cranny, arguing that the investigators are so biased against him that they cannot possibly do so credibly. He constantly makes accusations against Hillary Clinton and the Clintons in general, and he insists that this whole charge of Russian collusion is just sour grapes, an alibi for Democrats because Hillary forfeited the election to him (note that I didn’t say “allegedly forfeited.”)

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to act like puppies who roll over on their backs the moment Trump and his pack of Republicans growl or even lift up their legs to mark their territory. Their territory includes all of Washington, and the GOP made that abundantly clear with the confrontation that resulted in the brief government shutdown. It was brief because the Democrats folded the moment there was pushback. Their slogan might be “When the going gets tough, wimp out.”

So now we have this brief respite, a couple of weeks, before another shutdown looms. Between now and then, the drama kings and queens on Capitol Hill will try to unravel the tangled immigration knot, with 700,000 “Dreamers” uncertain whether they will be deported.

Once the Trump administration had pulled the chair back for Democrats, he and the top echelon on his administration headed to Davos to join all the other elite bad guys of the world for fun and frolic and pretending to protect the interests of all the little guys back home who had supported candidate Trump and still do.

Meanwhile, the country is going down the tubes. Quoting Sandburg again, “In these times you have to be an optimist to open your eyes when you awake in the morning.” In these times, an optimist is someone who’s detached from reality.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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