Frank Rich is one of the more savvy political commentators in journalism. As a former columnist for the New York Times, a producer for HBO, and now an esteemed writer-at-large for New York Magazine, Rich is one of the true “elites” that Republicans have taught their base to ignore or despise, depending on how accurate and trustworthy their writing and analysis happens to be. The more penetrating and close to the bone, the more the journalist is to be maligned, according to Republican dogma.
His latest observations in NyMag are likely to evoke a profoundly negative response from Republicans. Which means they are spot-on.
Rich’s analysis for the past few months has been presented in a “Q and A” format at NY Magazine. At times, the actual question is rendered unnecessary as Rich’s response provides adequate context. Those instances will be carefully edited by your humble Diarist, and his responses edited to emphasize their essence, and with a watchful eye towards the strictures of Fair Use.
Asked whether the revelations regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s evident traitorous collusion with a hostile foreign despot constitutes the archetypal “smoking gun” that will pull down an Administration essentially constructed on Silly String, Rich replies:
There will be no single smoking gun that will bring down this White House. It will be death by firing squad — or perhaps a sequence of firing squads — as the whole story inexorably pours out of the administration’s smoldering ruins. This week’s bombshell has the feel of gallows humor. Trump Jr.’s panicked release of the self-incriminating emails is tantamount to picking up a loaded gun and shooting himself in the head.
For all we know, the released email chain may be only a small and relatively minor part of a much larger criminal web that stretches from Donald Trump’s tax returns to his and the Kushner family’s respective real-estate dealings in Russia and beyond. The authorities who matter — the investigators at the special counsel’s office and the FBI — are not telling us what they are up to. They may already know — or may soon know — of evidence far more incriminating than the revelations of the past 72 hours.
Commenting on the curiously reticent behavior of Republican Senators in the wake of revelations of possible Treason by the leader of their Party, Rich is laconic:
Q: Republicans in Congress have been slow to respond to this story, if they’ve commented at all. Is silence an effective strategy?
Rich: It’s not a strategy. It’s desperation. Much like their predecessors in the Nixon era, they keep hoping somehow it will all go away so they can get back to business as usual.
Except it won’t. But Rich takes the time to calmly assess certain Republicans’ responses to the Russian mess that seem, in retrospect, a wee shortsighted:
After all, it was less than a month ago that David Brooks, writing in the Times, reassured them that there was “little evidence” of “any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians” and that “most voters don’t really care” anyway. Prominent Republicans continued to use this script after the release of the Trump Jr. emails, with Orrin Hatch calling the story “overblown,” Peter King characterizing the campaign-hierarchy meeting with the Kremlin-connected lawyer as “a one-off, inadvertent mistake,” and Bob Corker dismissing the whole affair as “politics.”
The fact that we now have stark evidence of collusion and conspiracy by the Trump campaign as well as lying about their collusion and conspiracy through the entire pendency of the Presidential campaign would appear to raise serious questions about the judgment and fitness of all of these people.
Rich also gives us his take on the flailing Republican Senate as it pretends to do its job by cutting into its members’ beach vacations. His verdict is that this is merely theater for the folks back home:
Trapping the Senate in Washington is not going to lead to the passage of the latest rewrite of the Senate health-care bill (whatever is in it). What we are likely to get instead is two weeks’ worth of television shots of Republican senators scurrying down the halls or shutting their office doors to escape reporters. Other things not happening this summer: tax reform, an infrastructure initiative, or the raising of the federal debt ceiling.
Essentially he views the Republican-led Senate’s net legislative output this year as zero. After all, The Beach beckons. But the dunes may not provide adequate protection:
[T]]he closer we get to the 2018 midterms, the faster Republicans in the House — and some of those up for reelection in the Senate — will scramble for the lifeboats. But by the time they wake up and see the looming iceberg, it may be too late to save their careers.
Finally, Rich evaluates this horrendous episode of maladjusted American “governance” through the prism of his experience, concluding that we ain’t seen nothing yet:
For all of us, a little perspective is in order. Little Donald is not the story here any more than G. Gordon Liddy and those third-rate burglars were the story in Watergate. We are likely to reach a point when this week’s firestorm will be remembered mainly as a warm-up for conflagrations yet to come
Rich’s advice is to stay tuned. It’s going to be a long, hot Summer.