Monday, December 17, 2018


What do the 18th and 45th presidents of the United States of America have in common? Donald J. Trump has not been arrested or indicted- yet. However, President Ulysses S. Grant was arrested by a police officer named William H. West, who prior to joining the Washington, D.C. police force had fought in the Civil War and prior to that, had been a slave.

West stopped the incumbent president two straight evenings for speeding in on the streets of Washington, D.C. in his horse-drawn carriage. The second time he was arrested, then released after posting a $50 bond.

In what seemingly, but mistakenly, appears to be a completely unrelated matter, , Steve M. notes that the anti-Trump fight has sometimes been framed as an expression, which is "odd"

because in America it's never considered patriotic to challenge the Republican Party. Ever since 1968, or maybe 1964, or maybe the McCarthy Era, it's been an article of faith in Heartland America that the GOP is the party of patriotism and its opponents are all dissenters and rootless cosmopolitans, if not outright traitors. Right now, the Democrats, anti-Trump Republicans, and non-political investigators seeking to bring Trump to justice really are the patriots -- but much of the country doesn't believe that, and never will. It ought to be the case that Trump's opponents are seen now as the people with the monopoly on patriotism -- but I think the exact opposite is still closer to our political reality. That's why The New York Times keeps interviewing all those old white men in Pennsylvania diners. It's why so much of the political press is concerned about the fate of The Weekly Standard and the possibility of a 2020 primary challenge to Trump. They're rooting for a revival of the American party, as they see it -- the GOP.

As insightful as this is, there is another reason that white people (not only men) are being interviewed in diners in "heartland" (not only Pennsylvania) states. (I know, I know: SM is using old white men in Pennsylvania diners as a metaphor.)  They are rooting for the revival of not only the myth of the GOP as the patriotic party, but also in revival of the myth of the concept of the rule of law.

When President Nixon decided to resign his office rather than face nearly inevitable impeachment and probable removal by the Senate from the presidency, there were sighs of relief across the Establishment. Nixon had "spared" the country the agony of impeachment proceedings and the rule of law had been upheld in a nation of laws, not of men.

In reality, of course, the failure to charge Nixon with obstruction of justice (or any other offense) during or after his presidency demonstrated that the President is above the law and that this is a nation of men, and not of laws. Similarly, the dominant (though by no means unanimous) view currently is that a sitting President cannot be indicted. Surely, he can be indicted after leaving office- if not first pardoned by the president who succeeds him.

In the last of a series of tweets which included a link to the 1908 Washington Post article aboutGrant's arrest, Yoni Applebaum remarks

There was no arrest warrant issued for Grant, as there typically would be for a black man- or a white man,or any woman- who decides to blow off his court appearance. He did not appear in court and merely forfeited his bond.

Grant's transgression was merely speeding- not obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or any one of a number of financial crimes that Donald J. Trump may have committed before he was elected. However, the slap on the wrist for Ulysses S. Grant surely was not a triumph of the rule of law, and neither will it be if the law does not go where the facts are on the sitting President.

Those god-fearing, down-to-earth Trump voters* are interviewed in part, as Steve M argues, because many members of the Establishment (Doris Kearns Goodwin included, below) are pining for return of the American party. They also hope to announce the triumph of the rule of law, if Donald Trump resigns his office or is even merely defeated in 2020, even if crimes uncovered go unpunished.

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