Friday, December 9

Oh, how the powerful wail and whine


Former president Donald Trump is on a tear. He has declared himself a victim of government overreach. He has argued that he’s being persecuted by his political enemies. I have lamented the desecration of his sprawling Palm Beach home at Mar-a-Lago. Poor him.

As the FBI was searching his Florida residence Monday evening, Trump reeled off a missive to anyone who would listen, which is to say millions of people on his email list, that his “beautiful home” was “under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.” He chalked this up to “Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024.”

He peppered his statement with randomized capitalization. He made liberal use of exclamation points. He spoke of himself in the third person. Trump’s description of his persecution of him began with the political: “What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democratic National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States.” Then he shifted to the personal: “They even broke into my safe!”

FBI searches Trump safe at Mar-a-Lago for possible classified documents

The search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence is linked to the long-running investigation of his possible mishandling of classified documents. This year, the National Archives and Records Administration collected more than a dozen boxes of papers and other items from Trump’s home — items that the law required the former president to turn over to the National Archives when he left office.

An unannounced search for evidence of a crime at a former president’s home is highly unusual. But Trump was a highly unusual commander in chief. He was a constant reminder that many of the practices and procedures of American democracy were not a matter of law but rather tradition and civility. Trump torched many of those norms, most notably the one that ensured a peaceful transfer of power.

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Yet he remains the substantive head of the Republican Party and, for some members, its very soul. He remains their president in an alternative reality. And so the notion that he is a powerless man at the mercy of almighty elites is foolery. He is a man with legions of devoted followers, countless office-holding sycophants and the capacity to be heard by the multitudes whenever he chooses to speak. Declaring himself a victim is not just hyperbole or balderdash. It’s mean. It’s a mockery of true struggle. It devalues ​​the good fight.

While Trump may someday be found guilty of a tax crime, a document destruction crime, a crime against the republic, for the moment, he remains unindicted. He sits above the law. The law doesn’t weigh him down. It doesn’t afflict him. It does n’t constrain his ability to move through his life without fear. Trump carries on at his Bedminster golf club.

No one stormed into Trump’s home unannounced with guns blazing, awakening him from a sound sleep and scaring him into paralysis. No shots were fired without regard for human life. His private quarters of him were n’t riddled with bullet holes. No one was carried out on a gurney. His outrage has not gone unheard. That’s what happens when a person is at the mercy of the law. That’s what happened to Breonna Taylor.

She came to mind because last week the Justice Department filed charges against two former detectives and two current police officers for violating her Fourth Amendment rights, which protect a person from unreasonable searches. In 2020, police officers raided Ella’s Taylor’s home in Louisville in the dark of night. They came in with a search warrant—one that is under suspicion. They startled her awake. The law shot her.

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Taylor was under siege. She was a victim. It has been more than two years since Taylor’s death of her, and no one has been held responsible.

Trump has a bird’s-eye view of the law and claims that he is oppressed by it. This fantasy is amplified by elected officials, leaders of the Republican Party and privileged souls who see torment and ridicule around every corner. Even Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, had “concern” that his former boss of him, the one who threw him to the insurrectionists on Jan. 6, 2021, was “subjected to a raid.” Poor Trump. He wasn’t even in Palm Beach when the FBI executed its search warrant. But still, poor Trump.

This is not a new stance for Trump. He is a champion victim. He has countless tormentors. And the men and women who surround him feast on their own grievance. They will happily suffer a little in their daily lives if it means making sure their enemies suffer even more. Still, it’s a remarkable thing to watch the powerful deny what they so obviously possess. It’s quite something to hear a former president, one who is surrounded by legal counsel who negotiate his terms of engagement with anyone who dares confront him about possible wrongdoing, fume about being at the mercy of an out-of-control legal system when lesser men go gray in jail because they don’t have the money for bail.

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Trump holds forth about the endless “witch hunt” that has dogged him: the Russia investigation, impeachment one, impeachment two. He’s like the Wall Street banker who blew up the economy back in the 2000s, made off with millions and never saw a day in jail but who’s still complaining about his legal bills and the fact that some people resent him for his perfidy and deceit of him .

Trump encourages the belief that the government is out to get him and therefore is out to get those who support him. (Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.) wants to “defund the FBI!”) He insists that the law is politicized and weaponized. He tells everyone that he is great and that everything he did as president was great. “The establishment hated it,” his statement read.

But now he’s the Establishment. He’s the one endorsing candidates and watching them win. He’s the shadow looming over Republican presidential hopefuls. He’s the man with the megaphone. His power from him is built on grievance and whining and bellyaching.

He is the victim in chief. His pain from him is all that matters.

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