The human tragedy and cataclysmic damage of devastating storms like Florence, Harvey and Maria are natural disasters that mercifully divert the news emphasis, just for a while, from the unnatural disaster that is the American political system. I don’t wish to be flippant about tragic and costly storms, so I’ll spare you the glib analogies, other than to describe an American society that is being overwhelmed by floods of distrust.
The destruction is not just the result of one man — that is, the demagogic, grossly incapable Donald Trump. Instead, it’s an accumulation over the decades of amoral self-enrichment by those in power. It has obliterated any sense of community, the belief that we are all in this together. No longer do we trust our institutions or the people in charge of them.
That’s fertile ground to someone like Trump, whose election was in large part due to millions of people being so angry at being defrauded that they were willing to take a chance on someone who’s obviously unfit, just to spite the system that, in their minds, had betrayed them.
You’d think those opposing him would have learned a lesson from how he took advantage of their hubristic paralysis. And some of them have. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong lesson: Some of the leading lights of the Democratic Party are dimming. They’ve clearly decided to play the same game as he does, to “out-Trump Trump.”
Granted, Michelle Obama’s “When they go low, we go high” remark was naive, at best. Still, with apologies to Michelle, be prepared to mud wrestle in the pigpen. However, “When they get sleazy, don’t be cheesy.”
That’s exactly what Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris did. They’ve both been afflicted by the Democratic presidential bug and were out to make a name for themselves as they aggressively grilled Trump’s Supreme Court wannabe Brett Kavanaugh.
Booker was chomping at the bit at the hearing, and announced that he would risk expulsion from the Senate by publicly disclosing a confidential email. It turned out that he knew full well that the email had been cleared for public consumption. Cheesy.
But no more so than Sen. Harris pathetically trying to intimidate a witness: “Be careful with your answer,” she said to Judge Kavanagh, before asking him if he’d met with a Trump lawyer, which might have raised questions if she presented any evidence of wrong-doing. She did not. What she also did was quote Kavanaugh out of context on his abortion record, totally distorting what he had said. Not even cheesy. Velveeta maybe.
Worst of all, the Democrats, namely Dianne Feinstein, really blew it when it came to handling — make that mishandling — the charge that Kavanaugh might have sexually assaulted a female student when they were both in high school in the 1980s. The accusations are murky and have only recently emerged, extremely late in Kavanaugh’s advise and consent process.
The stakes are incredibly high. Supreme Court justices serve for life, so these serious accusations should have been thoroughly vetted long ago. Score another one for Democratic ineptitude, which is probably the main reason that Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans have any hope of staying in power to continue drowning this country.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.
(c) 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.