There’s a cartoon doing the rounds on Facebook which has resurfaced from the first trial of Trump: it shows a picture of the man saying ‘I’m not orange. Im peach.’ The second two words are close together and I was briefly outraged by the absence of an apostrophe before realising that it was a very clever pun. Impeach! was the cry then and now and on Tuesday this week the second trial got under way.
The fate of Trump has yet to be decided but the fate of his deputy is particularly striking. There’s an interesting article about him in The Guardian detailing his rise and fall and giving some interesting insights. I hold no brief for the man whatsoever; I think his religion is Puritanical and joyless and his support of Trump a fatal mistake. For four years he enabled and legitimised one of the worst abusers in modern history like a priest blessing a nuclear missile before it goes off to destroy millions. But however mistakenly, Pence believed that he was doing God’s will. Trump, of course, had no such belief – he probably thought God was doing his will – always assuming he believed in God in the first place. But Pence had at least a core of principle and that came through for him in the end; when the chips were down he couldn’t stomach Trump’s demand that he overturn the vote, and he acted according to his conscience. His reward was to be sent a lynch mob who almost certainly would have killed him if he hadn’t escaped.
The video footage of that day is horrendous, far worse than what we saw on the news. From outside it looked like a ramshackle bunch of weird people breaching the barricades; seen from inside this is a mob with intent, a murderous mob. From inside the Capitol we see police fighting much harder than they appeared to do outside – we still have to get to the bottom of that story – and really pushing back against the insurgents. And why were they here? Because they had been fired up by the rhetoric of one person: Donald J Trump. Sure, they were already fired up but they were tinder and he lit the match.
Trump is basically a gangster with a veneer of respectability; how thin that veneer was is a subject explored in BBC documentary series Trump Takes on the World. We’ve only seen the first episode so far but it was a fascinating watch. We saw footage never normally shown, such as the inside of G7 conferences, the dining-rooms and hallways of state buildings where leaders interact; we saw politics and diplomacy close up. We heard interviews with people who were there at the time; diplomats, advisers, Trump’s staff, European leaders and commentators. We got the low-down on phone conversations and private talks. We found out what Merkel said to Trump over dinner and what he later did in a fit of pique. We heard ex-President Francois Hollande explain to us – en Francais, naturellement! – his difficulties in dealing with Trump. Episode 1 explores the unfolding narrative as world leaders begin to get the picture: that they are dealing with the most powerful world leader who has the instincts of a gangster and the self-control of a toddler. Basically everyone was behaving as though there were an unexploded bomb in the room and one false step would set it off.
So what happens now? We wait and see; in the meantime you can watch the impeachment trial live on CNN via youtube.
Is it Thursday already?