All through the impeachment hearings, I couldn’t help but think of “Catherine the Great” and my grandfather, Nelson.
Maybe it was the HBO series of the same title starring Helen Mirren. (More on Nelson later.) But most likely it was because both the hearings and the miniseries were about Russia invading Ukraine and stealing Crimea. Oh, I know. You’re probably wondering to yourself—depending on your political persuasion—weren’t the hearings about Democrats trying to overturn the 2016 presidential election or saving American democracy from a dictator-wannabe?
I doubt President Trump knows anything about Catherine the Great—either the Russian empress or the miniseries. Does he suspect that Catherine, famous for demanding favor from every bed-worthy male insight, is the title character in “Kiss Me Kate”? Unlikely. Trump was never inclined to brush up his Shakespeare. Maybe he thinks “Macbeth” is a bloody-rare McDonald’s burger he hasn’t tried yet. Or perhaps a broken chicken leg.
You think I’m kidding? Donald is an astonishingly encyclopedic ignoramus. Ask any actual reporter who’s interviewed him. Fake news? Sure. Polar ice caps are not melting, and Russia is not screwing with our elections. Donald’s counting on the latter in 2020.
Name the subject, other than cheating on little people, his wives or his taxes, Donald is clueless. (Of course, he denies it all, though he paid off, or tried to, at least two of his co-fornicators.)
Trump was president for less than two weeks when, on the first day of Black History Month—that would be February following his Jan. 20, 2017 inauguration—Trump responded to a White House staff suggestion that he should acknowledge a notable African-American. Apparently, he forgot the “history” part, proclaiming: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” Trump later “noticed” that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican as if reporting a scoop. “Almost nobody knows that,” he said, assuming collateral ignorance.
At the time, I was tempted to write a commentary proclaiming “Frederick Douglass Was My Neighbor!” Trump clearly had no idea who Frederick Douglass was nor that he was long dead. As for Douglass being “my neighbor,” well, I was a century or so late. I grew up on the 600-acre farm next to Chesapeake Easton Club East on Dutchman’s Lane, where my wife and I moved after retirement two years ago. Just a mile east, you come to Dover Neck Road and a farm (and Choptank Electric substation) that was once among several Lloyd family plantations, one of which claimed Douglass as human property upon his birth along the Tuckahoe River. Nelson, my maternal grandfather, free and white, was born at Lloyd’s Landing, east of Trappe, a former Choptank River port from which his grandfather captained a riverboat similar to one that inspired novelist John Barth’s “Floating Opera.”
Trump has failed, conspicuously, to appreciate the heroism of another former mid-Shore slave, Harriet Tubman. Thanks to him, Tubman’s image will not appear on the 20-dollar bill next year as ordered by President Obama. Trump instead preserves Andrew Jackson’s face on the currency that every ATM in America dispenses. That Jackson was a populist denigrator of people who don’t look like “us”—native Americans in Jackson’s case and Hispanics in Trump’s—is the president’s racist motive, reflected in his obsession with undoing everything Obama accomplished in his two terms, twice elected by a majority.
Trump can’t stand that he lost the popular vote to Hilary Clinton. So, he peddles the ludicrous conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked a DNC server with the help of the California firm Crowdstrike and still hides it somewhere within borders not currently encroached by Russian invaders. That accounts, also, for Trump’s twin demands—“do me a favor”—of newly elected Ukrainian President Zelensky: Publicly proclaim investigations into the 2016 election, which would absolve Russia, and into Hunter Biden’s problematic association with Ukrainian energy company Barisma, which in turn would stain Democratic presidential candidate Joe’s reputation.
This for that. Forget the Latin quid pro quo to which Trump claims exquisite innocence. Does his legal team count on their client’s certifiable idiocy as a defense? Was he too stupid to rob the bank? Is botching a stick-up a defense before Judge Judy? Should would-be bank robbers be acquitted because the getaway driver ran out of gas a block from the target bank? So, never mind that Trump’s sons, oldest daughter and son-in-law are all up to their necks in sweetheart deals with Russian/Ukrainian oligarchs.
In TrumpWorld, hypocrisy and hyper-incompetence apply only to suckers.
We’re asked to believe that Democrats conspired to hack their own server in order to leak emails embarrassing solely to their presidential nominee. Evidence of Ukraine’s perfidy against candidate Trump? A couple of critical op-ed columns. The plot, according to such Trump toads as Rep. Devin Nunes, is that Democrats conspired to lose the election so that they might later impeach and remove him from office. At the cost so far of two Supreme Court nominations—one stolen, both confirmed.
We can be sure now that Trump will be impeached. And unless Rudy Giuliani & Thug Associates do something stupider than usual—physical violence against such impeachment witnesses as Iraqi war hero Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman or courageous and unflappably articulate coal miner’s daughter Fiona Hill—Trump will be “exonerated” in a Senate trial.
Which brings us to still more Maryland links to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Although impeachment is constitutionally sanctioned, Article II (which Trump obscenely claims allows him to do whatever he pleases), Section 4 provided no means for the House of Representatives to enforce its prescribed duty until Oxford shipbuilder and Revolutionary War financier Robert Morris demanded to clear his name against media gadflies charging that he enriched himself on the new nation’s dime. Morris insisted in a letter to George Washington and both houses of Congress that he be investigated, essentially establishing the power of subpoena to which the current White House flips its middle finger. Congress acquitted Morris of “maladministration,” but he wound up in debtor’s prison near the end of his career. Still, I recommend lunch at Robert Morris Inn.
To most observers, with the encouragement of Trump sycophant-in-chief Nunes, who gives dairy farmers—my dad was one—a bad name, the Russia and Ukraine inquiries are separate and serial issues. If at first you don’t succeed, try something else, the GOP see-no-evils say. Hey, he didn’t succeed in shaking down the Ukrainian president, so what’s the problem? But both the Mueller and House investigations into Trump’s assault on American democracy draw directly from the same playbook.
I don’t know what Vladimir Putin has on Donald Trump. I suspect Putin owns him—he and his Kremlin enablers—perhaps explaining why the president’s tax records are, for now, a state secret. But I do know, and everyone who pays attention knows, that Trump bows to Putin’s every wish, most likely owing to a time when no U.S. bank would loan to bankrupt-prone Donald. Is that why he’s subverted our NATO and European Union commitments? Not yet accomplished though Trump does his best. How about abetting Russia’s Mideast ambitions in Syria? Mission accomplished. And how about betraying U.S. ally Ukraine so Putin can start fulfilling his perceived destiny—to re-establish the Soviet Union? That begins with Ukraine. It was Catherine’s greatest ambition more than two centuries ago at the time of our own independence—securing a warm-weather port on the Black Sea with direct access to the Mediterranean. Such hegemony persists in Moscow today, though if Putin is patient enough—his re-election fix is guaranteed—global warming avails thousands of miles of navigable ports on the Arctic.
But I digress.
If Ukraine falls to Russian aggression, what’s to stop Putin from taking over Georgia—no, not you guys in Atlanta—or Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Armenia? You get the picture. Donald’s at Vlad’s service. He is compromised, somehow. Not an agent so much as a useful and semi-literate idiot.
Just after Robert Mueller stumbled haltingly in his testimony before Congress, Trump took it as a green light. Our president tried the very next day to extort political favors from the Ukrainian president facing existential threats engineered by Putin’s global ambition.
In his closing remarks after the final witnesses testified, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff quoted the late Oversight Committee Chairman and Baltimore champion Elijah Cummings: “We are better than this.” Not since Francis Scott Key wrote “O’ say can you see” in the harbor within cannon-fire of Fort McHenry has American resolve been better articulated.
Steve Parks is a retired journalist and lifelong patriot now living in Easton.