I remember exactly where I was on June 17, 1994. I was in a room a the BOQ at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, catching a short glimpse of the spectacle of a hundred cops chasing a slow-moving Ford Bronco. The country was glued to televisions as the passenger of said vehicle, O.J. Simpson, threatened to kill himself rather than submit to arrest for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson.
Today, America will face a different spectacle: one Donald J. Trump, former President of the United States, will be arraigned on 30 charges—which are sealed—related to payment of $130,000 in “hush money” in 2016, to a porn star with whom he had extramarital sex, while his wife was pregnant with their son, Barron.
Before the Stormy Daniels story broke, nobody outside of porn tape collectors knew who she was (which raises the question of how Trump knew?). Trump had his fixer lawyer Michael Cohen—in a long line of fixers, anchored by the master of all fixers, the horribly great, and fabulously gay, Roy Cohn—offer Daniels the money in exchange for her signing a non-disclosure agreement. There’s nothing inherently illegal about paying off someone to shut up, but this was during a heated presidential campaign, and the specific thing about which Daniels might need to shut up was not helpful to Trump’s cause (or was it?).
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After years of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office poring over Trump’s records, his company’s records, prosecuting and convicting the Trump Organization’s CFO for converting personal expenses without paying proper taxes, and then prosecuting and convicting the Trump Organization itself for the same crimes, finally they were ready to take on the capo di tutti capi. They were out to get him.
So today, Trump will take a slow limousine ride from his 5th Avenue digs at Trump Tower, in a motorcade that would bring back memories of his time in the White House, over to the courthouse on Centre Street, which has been blocked off by the NYPD, which has canceled leave for all its 36,000 officers in honor of the event. It’s a spectacle for this age, not seen since that June day in 1994.
I suspect the events themselves within the courthouse will be quite anticlimactic. There will be some paperwork, a mug shot (Trump may demand that this not be released, and of course it will be), and an arraignment before Judge Juan Merchan. The whole thing might take a quarter of an hour, after which Trump will be released on his own recognizance and I’d expect he’ll make some kind of statement of how this is a political witch hunt.
It is a witch hunt, but there’s nothing wrong with that when you’re actually hunting witches.
I also expect a flurry of motions from Trump’s legal team, challenging the judge selection, the venue, and whatever other details the cult money Trump has collected can buy. He will then release upon the world millions and millions of emails asking for money to fight the illegitimate agents of the Deep State who want to silence him, and by extension, the intended recipients of those emails, who will dutifully send in millions of their hard-earned dollars to pay a silver-spoon New Yorker’s legal tab.
The only spectacle here is how predictable it all is, from the Fox News minute by minute coverage of Trump’s 757 departing Palm Beach and landing in New York, to his exit from Trump Tower, to the motorcade, to the protests (likely for and against Trump), to the glorification of any violence that might occur, to the speculation on how NYPD officers might treat Trump (the slightest nod of respect will be blown up by MSNBC), to the wall-to-wall circus the media has made this.
Trump will revel in the attention, not publicly caring that he will be on trial for multiple felonies, while privately seething that his lawyers didn’t get him off yet. And while he’s fighting, he will continue to run for president.
See, the Constitution does not prevent a convicted felon from running for office. Federal and state laws do prevent some felons from voting, which would mean Mr. Trump might not be able to vote for himself in Florida if he’s convicted and free pending appeal—it’s actually unclear.
The only way to stop Trump would be to jail him, and common sense dictates that’s really unlikely in this case. However, the flood gates are open, the ice is cracked, and every other metaphor for unleashing legal hell upon Trump.
There’s no spectacle beyond shame.
Well, there’s one.
A 9-year-old girl raised a goat in California. Her mom agreed to the terms of the 4-H program, and bought a floppy-eared goat her daughter named “Cedar” for the girl to raise and enter into the Shasta District Fair in 2022. Those terms included that the goat would be auctioned for slaughter. Raising farm animals is for a purpose—to provide meat, or wool, or milk, or some goods. Chickens, goats, and cows can be pets, but if they’re pets, they’re not really farm animals. This is really the lesson the 4-H teaches, but it’s not the lesson Jessica Long taught her daughter.
When it was time to give up the goat (pun intended), the girl balked. Her mom wrote a letter to the fair begging them to allow Cedar to come home, and offering to reimburse the cost. The fair replied that the goat had already been sold, so, no. Then Ms. Long and her daughter goat-napped Cedar and placed him in an animal sanctuary.
Fair officials called the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, and deputies rode 50 miles armed with a warrant to collect said goat. Cedar was taken by the authorities and led to his bloody end.
I told this story to my 13-year-old son, and then asked him: “who’s wrong?”
“Everyone,” he replied.
The boy is correct. Jessica Long was wrong to agree to a contract for her daughter to raise a goat and enter it in the 4-H contest then change her mind about the terms. All the other kids who raise kids know what farming and ranching is about, and it’s not about pets. Long must have thought she was raising an activist, the Cesar Chavez of goats, not a nascent rancher. At least, that’s what she was teaching her daughter. Long was wrong.
The girl, who bonded with the goat, was wrong. But she has the excuse of not knowing any better. Goats can be infectiously affectionate. So can ducks, chickens, cows (not so obvious), pigs, and precocious spiders (okay, the last one is made up). But the lesson of the inevitable end of farm animals should be learned young, or little girls should stick to shopping at Kroger for groceries versus raising them.
The fair officials were wrong. Legally, they were in the right, but morally, and, more importantly, in terms of the spectacle they created, they did far more to harm the reputation of the 4-H than whatever value a slaughtered goat fetched. Upholding the value of a signed contract is not worth the bad publicity of sending the law to condemn a floppy-eared goat named Cedar to its death.
The deputies were doing their duty, so it’s hard to say they were wrong. But they must have known how this looked. Riding 50 miles to pick up a goat and deliver it to its butcher can’t be a fun-filled trip sprinkled with lively conversation. Surely there were better things for these law enforcement officers to be doing, including filing old paperwork, sweeping the holding cells, reorganizing the evidence locker, or serving bench warrants for truant children. Certainly, the Sheriff’s Office could have lost the paperwork, or claimed all deputies were busy hunting for Proud Boi cells planning cross-country trips to New York City.
But no, they all plummeted, like Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert, toward the denouement of misplaced justice and shame.
If only there were some way to transplant a human soul into a goat, we’d all be served by performing this rite upon the 45th President of the United States, and having Cedar become the scapegoat to spare us the wider spectacle which is about to occur.
Instead, we are all about to plummet beyond the veil of shame.
Point of correction: 500 miles (round trip) from Shasta County to Sonoma.
Also, they should have handed the goat over to a court for adjudication.
Great commentary Steve and sadly had there existed even the tiniest degree of common sense and decency in this country, trump would never have been elected in 2016. Then none of us would have been put through this ordeal of all-crazy, all-the-time. Trump could have gone on as your normal everyday con man scamming the rubes and no one would have cared.
I would call that a win/win for all sides. If only the story had broke on Stormy perhaps we all would have been spared the past 7 years. Perhaps this is the exact reason he facing the charges...we'll see eh?