Alden Graves | Graves registry: All the president's friends
You have to give the people standing around Donald Trump when he makes one of his impromptu public announcements some credit even if they are, basically, enablers and fawners. They somehow manage to keep a straight face. I'll bet that you can't do that a lot of the time.
They remind me of Margaret Dumont, grand dame foil of the Marx Brothers in many of their films. She remained stoic and dignified through some of Groucho's craziest antics simply because she didn't think he was funny at all. And, of course, Trump's gaffes aren't really funny when you think that the man making statements about attacks on colonial airports, the "oranges" of an investigation (he meant origins), a wet hurricane from the "standpoint of water," or, his latest idiocy (as of this writing), kidneys having a special place in the heart, is the president of the United States.
It is difficult to believe than anyone could live to be 72-years-old and still be so ignorant about anything not directly connected with personally enriching himself. Given the evidence of half a dozen bankruptcies, he is not particularly good at that either.
It is downright terrifying to realize that this is the same man who has domain over every soul on the planet.
Paul Ryan, the late, spectacularly unlamented Speaker of the House, said recently that he left Washington rather than endure two more years of Trump chaos. (Which, I'll have to admit, implies that not everything involving Donald Trump always turns out badly.) In a passage from "American Carnage," author Tim Alberta quotes Ryan as saying, "I'm telling you, he didn't know anything about government."
That prescient sentiment should be carved over the entrance to the future Trump Presidential Library.
If the rest of us laugh a little at the president's dopey statements, it is a stunned laugh because that's all we can do right now except hope that it is over soon. Even when he is gone, however, the legacy he will leave behind will taint the office of the president for as long as anyone reading this column lives. Fundamental standards that have guided our country throughout its entire history have been sneered at and smashed to smithereens by one chaotic and inept individual abetted by his spineless Republican cohorts in congress. If Donald Trump gets away with all of it, what's to stop the next egomaniacal demagogue who promises big changes to gullible and vulnerable people?
He has demonstrated a complete contempt for the Constitution that is only matched by his open contempt for the law. He used his office to enrich himself and his complicit family. His personal history is littered with evidence of a total disregard for even the most basic notions of morality and decency. In its place, the evangelical movement's reigning pin-up boy has indulged in a lifetime of libertinism. I know that proponents of religious values place the ethos of forgiveness on a high plateau, but there's a difference between a generous capacity to forgive and a total detachment from reality.
To wit, Mr. Trump's association with a demented character who makes Fagin in "Oliver Twist" look positively admirable. Just a few years ago, according to the president, Jeffrey Epstein was, "A terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life." ("Social life." Is that what rich entitled lechers call statutory rape?)
Trump has now relegated Epstein to the same status as John McCain. He is "not a fan" anymore.
Jeffrey Epstein is different from the usual run-of-the-mill registered sex offender. He's a billionaire. And if you were naive enough to believe that money doesn't sway the scales of justice in America, the Epstein case might relieve you of that fantasy. In 2008, Epstein was granted immunity from federal prosecution by Mr. Trump's recently departed (and equally unlamented) secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta, who was, at the time of the Epstein case, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Epstein had been convicted of one count of soliciting a 14-year-old girl for prostitution and was sentenced to a 13-month "custody with work permit" slap on the wrist despite the fact that federal officials identified 36 more victims of Epstein's depravity. Acosta never even bothered to notify the other victims of the sweetheart plea deal — for obvious reasons. That left Randy Jeffrey pretty much free to continue his debauchery.
Alex Acosta, with this sordid bit of dirty dealings in his past, was a perfect fit for Mr. Trump's motley crew of cabinet members. Small matter that Acosta knew nothing about labor issues in the country. Abysmal ignorance or an outright contempt for the departments they were charged with overseeing seemed to be a prerequisite in the Trump administration. Betsy DeVos was a notable exception as his secretary of education. She had spent countless hours trying to infuse the school system in Michigan with her disgustingly rich church lady precepts and almost succeeded in destroying it. I guess that qualifies as experience.
Like a bloated corpse that finally bobs back to the surface, however, the Epstein case washed up on Mr. Acosta's doorstep when Jeffrey Epstein was arrested again in New York for sex trafficking. Acosta hung on for a few days after the outrage over the Florida case reignited and then submitted his resignation. He opted for the "distraction" excuse rather than the "spend more time with my family" political staple.
A "distraction" in the Trump administration? Are you kidding me? That is like singling out a single buffalo in a massive stampede and claiming that it is drawing attention away from the rest of the marauding herd.
Alden Graves writes a regular column for the Banner.
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