The Very Unstable Genius
BY RICHARD C. GROSS
“Come not between the dragon and his wrath.”
— William Shakespeare, King Lear
What so many have realized, what so few have refused to recognize and what the like-minded have failed to criticize nearly cost us our country, our democracy, to an obsessed, unhinged man-child who pretends to be president.
We survived that proverbial bullet to the gut, but it wounded us badly.
Trump’s true colors emerged as never before during Tuesday’s blockbuster hearing of the House panel that has methodically been gathering information about the former president’s behavior with respect to the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that disrupted confirmation of Joe Biden as the next president.
Trump has claimed continually that he won his bid for reelection, that the balloting was fraudulent and that the election was stolen from him. He’s lying, simple as that. In last-ditch desperation, he encouraged his followers to storm the Capitol, opening the Pandora’s Box of 7th century B.C. Greek mythology.
It is a series of poems by Hesiod that tell of how a simple miscalculation can create a host of complications. The House committee is trying to unravel those complications to get at the truth of what Trump and his allies might have done to try to overthrow the government.
One or more of those Greek gods may have selected that nine-member House committee to smile down on because Cassidy Hutchinson, the onetime publicly unknown aide to Trump’s final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, gave the panel enough information to tighten the case against the former president.
Under oath — and you’d better not lie to Congress because it could mean perjury with up to seven years in prison, a fine or both — she told of some shocking incidents involving Trump never before heard publicly. He knew far more than has been disclosed.
Perhaps the most alarming disclosure is that Trump knew beforehand that his band of militias and other would-be revolutionaries was armed with guns, knives, spears, flagpoles, body armor and bear spray. Yet he begged the Secret Service to let them pass through security on their way to the Capitol.
Hutchinson quoted Trump as saying, “You know, I don’t even care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here’” — from the Ellipse, near the White House. That’s where Trump held his rally before the march.
So, he knew his mob had weapons.
A mag is a magnetometer that can be used as a metal detector. It is common at airport security stations.
After Trump finished urging his supporters to march on the Capitol, saying “we will fight like hell,” he got into his armored SUV and told the head of his Secret Service detail, Robert Engel, to drive to the Capitol, according to Hutchinson. She based her statement on information she received from Anthony M. Ornato, the onetime chief White House chief of operations.
“The president said something to the effect of ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’ to which [Engel] responded, ‘Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing.’ The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel.
“Mr. Engel grabbed his arm [and] said: ‘Sir, you have to take your hand off the steering wheel. We’re going back to the West Wing. We’re not going [to] the Capitol.’ Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel.”
Hutchinson said, “Ornato motioned to his clavicles to describe a kind of choking motion,” according to The Washington Post. The clavicles are better known as the collarbones.
Trump denied the account and “Secret Service officials said [it] would be rebutted in forthcoming testimony,” The New York Times reported.
What a shame that a country whose admired ideals captured the imagination of a world in need of a savior from crimes, misdemeanors and wars carried out by autocrats seeking power, has come to this — a state for which respect has become questionable and besieged by insider barbarians, some in the highest trusted political rank.
Trump, especially according to Hutchinson’s alarming testimony at the sixth session of the Jan. 6 House committee, should be indicted, tried and, if convicted, should be barred from ever running again for public office, at the least.
There is no space for this hate-filled spoiled brat in the public sphere. He has corrupted our country by bringing it to its moral knees, taking millions of unknowing innocents along with him through tens of thousands of lies, creating a cult that’s missing only the Kool-Aid.
Attorney General Merrick Garland needs the courage to act swiftly, before the midterms and the damage they can cause to the Democrats.
This is a cold-hearted, narcissistic individual who takes responsibility for nothing and cares not a whit about the consequences of his actions at home — totally ignoring the numbers of people dying of COVID-19 — and abroad — the blatant racism, the dissing of treasured allies — during four years of chaotic rule, like a mad king, an evil cancer eating away at a society groping for harmony.
Hutchinson said he threw a plate against a wall in anger when he learned that his attorney general, William Barr, said the election was not fraudulent, not stolen. Such an infantile tantrum was not his first, she testified.
It should be we the people who should be erupting in anger frustration over what we’ve been put through with Trump since he rode down his tasteless gold escalator seven years ago, even if you exclude the ketchup running down the wall.
It meant seven years of bad luck for us, as the ancient Romans believed if you broke a mirror. Trump broke more than that.
It could have been worse. Mike Pence could have been caught by the frenzied mob and hanged, a punishment Trump said he deserved, according to testimony. The gallows already had been set up, the noose waiting.
My younger brother, Don, couldn’t believe that Trump wanted to join the mob at the Capitol, against all advice to the contrary from his aides. He seemed to think that would happen after the mob would achieve victory in overwhelming the citadel of our democracy.
“What were his plans?” he asked in an email. “To walk over the dead bodies in the Capitol, Democrats and Republicans alike? Watch Pence hang and then declare himself emperor of America? Really?”
My brother has a lively imagination. Or was that Trump’s plan?
Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.