Barack Obama’s philosophy of life is “be the change you want to see.” Ironically, Donald Trump has a similar philosophy. He indulged his autocratic impulses today and sent an amplified version of the same message that he previously sent with his pardons of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, play ball with me and I’ll set […]
If there is one thing that Rod Blagojevich is not known for, it is subtlety. He famously incriminated himself on a wire-tapped phone call, when he was conspiring to sell Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat in Illinois, when Blago was governor of that state. He is hardly a sympathetic character and even Illinois Republicans are not too crazy about what Trump just did. Rick Wilson, Daily Beast: “I’ve got this thing, and it’s fucking golden. I’m just not giving it up for fucking nothing,” Blago famously said while the FBI was listening in. He was heavy-handed even by Cook County standards, and his career was littered with other examples of the same kind of mercenary zeal. This is not going over well, even with Republicans in Illinois. Representatives Darin LaHood, John Shimkus, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis and Mike Bost—none of them members of the ragged edge of the Never Trump movement, to put it mildly—said today in a joint statement, “As our state continues to grapple with political corruption, we shouldn’t let those who breached the public trust off the hook. History will not judge Rod Blagojevich well.” And make no mistake about why he did it. Let’s get the biggest reason out of the way first: These pardons and clemency decisions are part of a long march by Trump through anything with the fingerprints of Jim Comey or Robert Mueller present. His consciousness of guilt pumping out of every pore means he’s always obsessing over Mueller and the pre-Barr DOJ. Trump knows without Barr to choke out the Mueller Report and defend the Office of Legal Counsel memo he’d be staring at a much different world right now. By the time this is over, Trump will order Betsy DeVos to defund Comey’s high school. It’s all about Trump sending a message flare to the world that if you play ball with him, you’re bulletproof, even as he is bulletproof. This is his post-acquittal mentality. He is drunk on a power high. No, Trump was trying to tell Stone (and Manafort, Gates, Flynn, et al.), and the inevitable chain of aspirational pre-indicted scumbags dragging behind his garbage-barge presidency that if you keep quiet, you’ll be OK. Keep your vow of Orangemerta and he’ll either pardon you or commute your sentence. This was also a message to future campaign staffers, Cabinet members, and everyone else in his orbit that as long as they’re kicking their piece of the vig up to the boss and keeping their mouth shut, they’re good. It’s good to be the king. The next Trump fascination isn’t simply with executive power; it’s with regal power, and the pardon and clemency power itself seems to have a particular fascination and utility for him. It’s because pardons make him feel royal. This is Rick Wilson’s bottom line and it says it perfectly. Finally, and saddest of all, is that Trump sees Blagojevich as a fellow traveler from his real homeland: the world of reality television. He sees Blago as a resident—albeit vastly below his own lordly stature—of what the late Clive James once called “The Fame Planet.” The only thing that matters to Trump is image, and the source of his image is television. If you’re a current Trump staffer looking for that pardon down the line—and odds are, you’ll need one—get […]
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