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The Ex-President Who Cried Wolf

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The Ex-President Who Cried Wolf

In 1889, the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov established a timeless principle for drama of all types. This dictum states that if a gun is on the stage during the first act, it must be removed in the second act.

Donald Trump is more familiar with bum checks that Chekhov. Trump is more familiar with drama than any other politician. Trump speeches are not viewed for their eloquence or cogent policy analysis. They are viewed simply as a way to present a compelling rational argument. Trump has enjoyed the drama that he can create with incendiary language and a microphone since the moment he launched his 2015 presidential campaign.

Another aspect of dramatic tension is surprise. In Chekhovian terms it doesn’t suffice for the character who holds the gun in the first act, to then shoot the same person he threatened in act 2. This is exactly the problem facing the ex-president indicted. All the threats Trump has been railing about for months, and in some cases years, are finally coming to fruition. Trump stated last November, when he announced his bid for another term as President of the White House: “Anyone who really seeks to challenge this corrupt and rigged system will face a storm that only a few could comprehend.”

The fire is now out, and it is anti-climactic.

What’s more predictable than a criminal defendant ranting about the injustice of it all, hours after his arraignment? Most people facing a felony charge don’t get the rapturous coverage they deserve on cable TV. However, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago monologue was not something that would surprise anyone who watches cop shows on TV.

Alvin Bragg, Manhattan’s district attorney, was referred to by Trump as a “radical left-backed prosecutor,” although he wouldn’t be hostile to the 92-year old Soros. However, Trump certainly would have shouted at the DA. Trump also attacked Juan Merchan, the presiding judge, in a similar manner. This was part of his self-portrayal of himself as the most maligned figure for 2,000 years. That’s an original complaint. The majority of criminal defendants are concerned about the slammer because they believe the judge is only interested in impartial justice.

Trump is running out of ways to describe his legal woes, adding to the predictability of his attacks on ad hominem. Trump has repeated the phrase “Witch hunt”, which was once a powerful response against the Red-scare tactics used by Joe McCarthy, so many times since his first days in office that it has the emotional power equivalent to the words “parking pass.”

Trump, always sensitive and sensitive to the emotions of his supporters, raised the rhetorical bar at his Waco, Texas rally at the end March. Trump claimed that Joe Biden was responsible to everything Soros missed. He added, “The Biden regime’s weaponization law enforcement against their political enemy is straight out of the Stalinist Russia horror series. We go, Stalinist Russia.” Trump added, “You can go back to Communist China, or look at a third-world banana republic …..” Trump’s banana republic is a combination of our borders, our elections and the weaponization law enforcement. Perhaps Melania and Ivanka, Trump fashion mavens, can explain the president’s stance on the Banana Republic clothing chain.

Trump implicitly likens his plight with that of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. What will the Indicted One do next time he’s charged? An indictment by Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis regarding Trump’s heavy-handed efforts to tamper the 2020 Georgia election count would prompt the ex-president play the Adolf Hitler game. Or is the 2024 GOP frontrunner saving Nazi Germany from his first federal indictment

Trump has always claimed that he is the victim of conspiracies that threaten the entire globe. Until recently, Trump’s loyal followers were also the victims of these evil plots. Trump declared triumphantly in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination 2020: “Together, we have ended the rule by the failed political class and they are desperate get their power back through any means necessary.”

Trump’s pivotal word was once “together.” But as the legal grid tightens, it has become Trump-hating. Trump repeated this in his Mar-a–Lago attack on Judge Merchan and his family.

Trump should remember that self-pitying about legal troubles is never a good idea. Even Lenny Bruce lost his humor in the midst of a sea of obscenity arrests. Trump’s ranting about election conspiracy was only as soporific as his claim at Mara-Lago, that his postelection threats against Brad Raffensperger (the Georgia secretary of state), represented “an absolutely flawless phone call, even better than the one that I made with the president. And Trump will have to spend the rest of 2024 glowering in courtrooms all over the country, from Manhattan to Atlanta.

Boring might be even more terrifying for Trump than bankruptcy. It is not yet in the GOP presidential polls but there is a danger that Trump will become tedious in his legal self-absorption. Trump addressed the “Stop the Steal” incendiaries on January 6, 2020. He thundered, “They attempt to degrade everybody having to do avec us.” It was “us” on the stump, not “me”.

However, the 74 million Americans who voted Republican in 2020 did not authorize hush money payments to porn stars. Donald J. Trump was responsible for this. And Republicans will soon learn that indictment is not about “us”.

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