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Please Advise! Are These the Worst of Times?

Last week a decent man died while scoundrels thrived, says Dr. Steve. But it can get worse.

Steve Burgess 20 Feb 2024The Tyee

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

What a week. While Donald Trump faced at least a modicum of justice in a New York courtroom, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was finally finished off in a Russian prison, the fate of Ukraine potentially hung on a bunch of Putin apologists in the Republican caucus, and an intelligence report suggested Putin wants nukes in outer space.

What will happen, Dr. Steve?



Dear Crystal,

What will happen? Dr. Steve may look as though he's swallowed a Magic 8 Ball these days — he's let himself go a bit — but his spherical gut can only do so much. Besides, has anyone really been able to peer into the future? Back in the day, did anybody predict vape shops? In 1960 they said, “Someday we'll have flying cars!” And today it's true, but only because of all the extra tornadoes.

Plus, who ever predicted that one day the U.S. Republican party, party of Goldwater, party of Reagan, would become spineless stooges grovelling before a vicious Russian dictator? Who predicted the party that once turned the State Department upside down looking for phantom communists would one day be led by a man who proclaims his intention to welcome a Russian military takeover of Europe? Who predicted that a demented carnival barker turned mango Mussolini would prove the path to winning American hearts and minds led through fraud, treason, mob violence and sexual assault? Never mind flying cars — prognosticators would just as likely have predicted flying pigs.

It is true, though — these days Putin could nuke a satellite on Fifth Avenue and the Republicans would still love him. With their attempts to undermine Ukrainian security even as they downplay the events of Jan. 6, 2021, the Republicans are now established as the enemies of democracy at home and abroad. The party's wholesale abasement before tyrant-loving Trump means modern GOP apparatchiks would happily volunteer for the kind of errands that once sent Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair.

Days before Navalny's death, Tucker Carlson was onstage in Dubai writing permission slips for his Russian dictator pal by saying “Leadership means killing people, sorry.” Carlson also said Moscow was “safer” than American cities, and to be fair, Navalny wasn't in Moscow anymore when he suffered what the Russians called “sudden death syndrome.” Certainly, Moscow was safe for Carlson. It's safe as a sedated pony when you are in town to offer a bow-tied apologia for your host's murder habit.

Contrast the tragic courage of Navalny, returning to Russia even after being poisoned by the regime in order to keep fighting the good fight, while Republican senators like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham revel in cowardice. An inspiration to invertebrates everywhere, Rubio and Graham once attacked Trump before realizing they needed him to keep their own little gravy trains on the tracks. Now they have swallowed their criticisms, their dignity and God knows what else as they fall all over each other to prove their loyalty to Trump of Toad Hall.

Navalny showed us what true courage looks like. You can't expect anyone to do what Navalny did — it's too much to ask. But you can at least expect politicians to understand that you can't schmooze a spider. You can expect them not to caddy for an arsonist.

Happily, Trump continues to discover the American legal system does not respond to fabulist twaddle the way so many voters do. On Friday, New York Judge Arthur Engoron levied a fine of $364 million plus interest on Trump's business. In an attempt to gain more advantageous loans, Trump was found to have massively fattened his assets. Engoron reduced Trump's assets like a party keg of Ozempic.

Among other fibs, Trump had claimed Mar-a-Lago was more valuable than Buckingham Palace. And to think, people have been bitching about inflation under Biden. But to be fair, maybe Trump was including the value of all the nuclear launch codes stored behind the shower curtain.

While most loans require collateral, Trump loans usually result in collateral damage, in this case his sons Eric and Don Jr., who each received $4-million fines. A penalty like that could mean serious lifestyle changes — you don't get much of a kick snorting instant coffee.

Daddy Trump's fine, expected to be well north of $450 million when interest is included, can now be added to the $83.3-million defamation settlement won by sexual assault victim E. Jean Carroll. And yet this weekend Trump was at a rally publicly slagging Carroll once again. And why not? It's like a five-on-three power play in hockey — at that point, more penalties are irrelevant. Trump must figure he is now so broke he can go on defaming Carroll and committing fraud indefinitely.

Or more to the point, until he gets to be president again. At which point it's “sudden death syndrome” for the verdicts, the courts, democracy and who knows what else? As a wise guy once said, “Leadership means killing people, sorry.”  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

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