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Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Burning down the restaurant

by Tom Sullivan

Image via Twitter

You run into them from time to time: dilettantes with more money than sense who want to "play restaurant." It is something they always wanted to do. They like eating out. They enjoy the experience of dining in a fine restaurant. With their years of eating experience, they just know they could do it better themselves. Now that they have some change to spare, they decide to open their own restaurant. They won't make the mistakes others make, no. Their restaurant will be everything they always imagined. Everything will be "just so" — the food, the ambiance, the service. They will get to play host to all their friends and be the talk of the town.

But running a restaurant is a business, not dress-up. They are bankrupt within 18 months, and probably sooner.

Now we have a guy like that playing president. He tried and failed at running casinos. Now he is giving being leader of the free world a go. He always wanted to be leader of the free world. How hard can it be?

The issue before the rest of us is, it is not his money he's playing with, but our beloved country.

With Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee declaring the White House an adult daycare center, Eugene Robinson wonders what the rest of us are going to do about it:

The alarming problem isn’t Trump’s policies, to the extent he has any coherent set of policy positions. This crisis isn’t about conservative governance vs. progressive governance. It’s about soundness of mind and judgment.

The Constitution does not offer much of a playbook for the situation we find ourselves in. Impeachment is reserved for “high crimes and misdemeanors” — a phrase that means anything Congress wants it to mean. Assume special counsel Robert S. Mueller III eventually concludes that Trump obstructed justice or even participated in a collusion scheme with the Russians. Would Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Republican majority in the House actually move to impeach the president? Or would they be too fearful of the wrath of the GOP base? Unless the evidence were overwhelming, would there really be enough votes in the Senate to remove Trump from office?

I’m skeptical on all counts. Impeachment is, and will remain, a very long shot.
The biggest obstacle to agreeing to remove him to save ourselves and our country is how divided we are. Not that there isn't common ground. Michael Gerson writes that the country is divided "between those who think the country is going to hell in a handcart and those who believe the country is going to hell in a handbasket."

The former speechwriter for George W. Bush observes:
Those of us who remember politics in the Reagan era have a mental habit of regarding conservatism as more optimistic about the American experiment and liberalism as more discontented. But representatives of both ideologies — in their most potent and confident versions — are now making fundamental critiques of American society. They are united in their belief that the United States is dominated by corrupt, self-serving elites. They are united in their call for radical rather than incremental change. While disagreeing deeply about the cause, they see America as careening off course.
Both left and right believe "those who are not permanently enraged are not paying proper attention." We simply disagree about who is to blame for what we perceive as America's decline over the past half century. (Except for 60 percent of African Americans and Hispanics who perceive their lots as having improved.) In the left's narrative, the American Dream is "an exploitative myth" in which eventually the rich eat the poor, while the conservative nostalgia for the 1950s expresses "a damning tolerance for oppression" and a "longing for lost privilege."

Put another way, the left demands America live up to its ideals. Conservatives pine for it to live down to its past, averting their eyes from its real blemishes and burying their heads in public idolatry surrounding flags and anthems and iconic "Real Americans."

Gerson's recommendation is "not to sanitize our country’s history or excuse its manifold failures," but to follow the examples of "reforming patriots" from Abraham Lincoln to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He quotes Barack Obama's exhortation to "decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals.”

But to Gerson's sociological admixture and Robinson's concern for a man "dangerously unfit" to be president, add a wild-card, Steve Bannon-led strain that wants to tear it all down. As Alfred tells Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight:
... some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Others just want to play restaurant with other people's country.

The question Gerson never quite states is, if I may paraphrase, with the house on fire, can we put aside our philosophical differences for after the fire is put out?

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