I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
Read my lips, no new taxes.
If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
I could keep going, but you probably get what I'm doing here. I'm listing presidency-defining bullshit of various forms. Clinton, Poppy Bush and Barack Obama were all basically normal politicians, though, and one of the points I have tried to make repeatedly is the irony that while "politician" is often used as a slur, it is our non-politician President who makes them all look scrupulously honest.
So now, Donnie Trump has intimated that he has recordings of a conversation with the FBI director, whom he has fired for investigating the Russia scandal, and tacitly threatened to release those recordings because they supposedly make Comey look bad and vindicate Trump.
One of two things is the case: either Trump records conversations in the White House, and we are going down Nixonian roads again, or he doesn't. The more likely scenario is that there are no such recordings. This is probably just Trump being a belligerent asshole liar on twitter. Again.
Now, think about how the false intimation of recording the FBI director in these circumstances would rank, relative to "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." For any normal politician, this kind of bullshit would be presidency-defining. We would talk about this one event, endlessly, and it would be the one thing that everyone remembers about President Pussy-grabber. Oh, wait. You start to see where I'm going with this.
If there are no recordings, as is likely, this will fade into the background, and we will forget about it as more and more batshit crazy news continues to come out because politics in the Trump era is a non-stop cavalcade of batshit craziness on a scale so unimaginable before that an incident like this-- an incident that would be presidency-defining for anyone else-- will just fade into the background amidst the din of other lunacy and whatever insane lies Trump tells next week, or hell, maybe he bombs the shit out of some country to try to distract everyone, and I'm not even joking about that.
Yes, Trump made what is probably a false intimation of recording the FBI director, whom he fired for investigating his campaign, in order to threaten to keep him quiet, and that constitutes such a minor level of craziness in this era that it will probably fade into the background by next month. Unless the recordings are real, and we really are going through the first stages of something way worse than Watergate this early in a presidency. Probably, though, this is just par for the course on Mar-a-Lago.
So now, I'm going to try a writer's trick. I'm going to borrow (steal) a trick used by Charles Stross a lot, although I've seen Neal Stephenson and others use it too. Set up a bunch of truly bonkers plot points, where each step makes things crazier and crazier such that you don't necessarily think about just how insane things have gotten until the climax of the sequence, at which point the author (again, frequently Stross) gives you a paragraph or two laying out the WTF. I wish I had the gift of fluid prose that such authors have, but hey, at least I can do math, right? Wait, you mean Stross can do math too? Fuck. That's not fair. Moving on... (What's with these engineer types who can write? Andy Weir? Really? Fuck you. How dare you people be good at all of these things? Oh, yeah, I was moving on...)
The Russian government hacks the DNC's emails, and strategically releases them in order to embarrass Clinton, and help Donald Trump win the presidential election. As this happens, Trump asks the Russian government to do more hacking while suggesting that he wouldn't defend our NATO allies from Russian attacks, despite the fact that they came to our defense after 9/11 the only time the treaty has ever been invoked. The Russian government was making repeated secret contacts with members of the Trump campaign and inner circle, while Trump remained the only presidential candidate in modern history not to release his tax returns, despite his extensive business dealings. Shortly before the election, the Director of the FBI violated DoJ policy by announcing that the FBI was re-opening an investigation into Clinton's campaign despite the fact that policy mandated no public announcements that could affect a campaign too close to an election, and having been warned not to make a public announcement, and despite the fact that the newly discovered "evidence" had absolutely no chance whatsoever of actually changing the FBI's recommendation not to seek charges. The FBI Director thereby found himself working alongside the Russian government to elect Trump, which he did.
Upon Trump's election, his inner circle continued contacts with the Russian government, at least some of which were illegal (Flynn's violation of the Logan Act), and the people surrounding Trump repeatedly lied about their levels of contact with the Russians, under oath, which currently have his AG recused from formal involvement in any related investigation, having been one of the people who lied under oath about contacts with Russia. Trump knowingly appointed a National Security Advisor who could have been blackmailed by Russia for involvement with them, some of which was financial, and Trump had to fire that NSA within three weeks, but only did so because it became public-- Trump apparently didn't care that Flynn was caught lying and was vulnerable to blackmail by Russia. Amid all of this, the FBI director who intervened in the campaign to elect Trump, alongside the Russian government, started to get cold feet about what he had done, possibly because of the "dossier" provided at some point by the former MI6 agent suggesting that the Russians might have actual blackmail material on Trump himself, so he started to investigate the Russia-Trump connections. Trump, "pissed" about this, fired Comey to block the investigation, lied about why he fired Comey, tried to pin the blame for the firing on some lower-level schmuck, and is now trying to figure out how to find other ways to quash the Russia investigation. And Congress won't do anything about this because Congress is controlled by the same party as the President, and they are concerned more about protecting themselves from the electoral losses that would result from uncovering scandalous information than they are about actual treachery.
And this is about a President who got his start in politics by spreading an insane, disgusting, racist, batshit crazy fucking lie that the previous President was born in Kenya in order to appeal to racist, inbred, illiterate fucking hick pieces of fucking shit.
This is where we are.
There is a real place for a coalition that argues rationally for smaller government, consistently. There is a real place for a coalition that argues for "conservatism" in the cautious, Oakeshott sense. We don't have either. We have something that needs the literary skill of an author like Charles Stross to describe just how nuts things have gotten. And we have only just barely crossed the 100 day marker. That likely non-existent tape? You see my point about how it will probably fade into the background, and how we need to understand how insane it is that something so crazy could fade into the background.
In a normal presidency, the false intimation of recording the FBI director and threatening him with that non-existent recording? That would be presidency-defining. For Trump? Pretty soon, we'll move on. Absorb how terrifying that is.
Unless there is a recording. I don't even know which thought is scarier anymore.