In one Simpsons episode from long ago, Police Chief Clancy Wiggum, inept and lazy to a fault, stumbles across a plane crash with wreckage scattered everywhere and flames shooting high into the air, but assures the people, “there’s nothing to see here.”
Cue Mitch McConnell.
He’s a lot smarter than Chief Wiggum, but the concept is the same. Say something often enough and it becomes part of the vernacular, whether it fits or not.
Oh sure, it looks like a bad thing, and maybe it was, but goldarn it all, we just can’t do much about it. The law, you know, the impeachment rules, the timelines. We all know what happened, but we’ll have to let it go and move on. P.S. Trump did it.
It’s Capone, it’s The Sopranos, it’s The Godfather—it’s a trope as old as the first criminal syndicate that built a fortification around its leader and sacrificed the foot soldiers to ensure his safety. It’s movies and TV shows, novels and short stories—and worst of all it’s real life. And we’re the idiots who let Chief Wiggum decide whether or not there’s anything to see here.
And with wreckage scattered everywhere and flames shooting high into the air, he did. Again.
Admittedly, nobody with a modicum of good sense or political awareness expected the Senate to find Trump guilty, but the irrelevant McConnell coda—his way of putting his imprimatur on the proceedings—was infuriating; and though I can’t speak for others, he was able to transform (as only he can) my disappointment into anger and indignation. It’s a gift he has. Thanks, Kentucky—your bourbon is better than your acumen
McConnell’s smarmy and specious attack on Trump—his declaration of the twice-impeached president’s guilt when the Senate had moments earlier declared the opposite—was nothing even close to remorse, but merely a reminder that he still runs things.
What galls me the most at this moment (in another moment something else will take its place) is that people bought it—actually believed he was holding Trump to account for the insurrection on January 6, and for the lie that preceded it. He wasn’t. Trump was just a visual aid to help us understand why the leader of the criminal organization must be protected, even though he may do something wrong, or immoral, or unethical, or just plain criminal. This was McConnell the stately professor giving us a lesson in corruption at the highest level, one that we need to accept. It’s Jim Crow brought up to date for all colors and creeds:
I sure wish I could do something about your having to use a colored water fountain, but it’s just the way of the world...
...I wish I could do something about letting a criminal go free, but it’s just the way of the world.
Here in mid-February 2021 we need jobs, food, health care, and vaccines more than we need a proscription that Trump never run again. But letting this slide amid all the palaver from the two semi-literate ambulance-chasing hacks who served as the defense team and all the videos of elected official running for their lives—to let that go when people died is an indictment of us as a nation of laws. The Trump team kept calling this a Democratic vendetta. I wanted to ask them if, when a person commits murder, his trial is a vendetta. But I didn’t get the last word—that went to Mitch McConnell.
It usually does.