Donnie Darko (Jr) and the deathly tweet

Donnie Darko (Jr) and the deathly tweet
5 min read
14 Jul, 2017
Comment: Donald Trump Junior's tweets this week took the Trump presidency to a new level of absurdity. Only the ballot box can save us now, writes Andrew Leber.
Many in the anti-Trump camp originally viewed the Russia collusion allegations as a distraction [Getty]

There are few questions I dread these days as much as "Did you see Trump's latest tweet?"

This week was certainly a change of pace - I was in Washington DC rather than Cambridge, and the Trump in question was Junior, not the elder.

It is already surreal enough visiting Washington DC, in the time of Trump.

Televisions set to CNN in government offices and cafes warn of ongoing investigations and upcoming hearings. Off-the-record conversations with folks in the national security complex range from bewilderment to deep, bitter, contempt.

Likewise, at least one bar in DC's Foggy Bottom neighbourhood preys on the disillusionment in the beleaguered State Department, posting a sign for drink specials next to a poster-size Washington Post front page about looming cuts to the Department's activities.

Yet the universe seems on a quest to take the US political scene to Dadaist levels of absurdity. As you are likely aware, Donald Trump Jr responded to press allegations that he met with Russian officials in the hope of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton… by tweeting out the email exchange that lead up to his meeting with Russian officials in the hope of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Rob Goldstone, music producer: "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but it is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr Trump."

Elected officials from the Republican Party have restricted themselves to the mildest of remarks

Donald Trump Jr, wealthy scion: "If it's what you say I love it."

The original New York Times story mainly reinforced the beliefs of those who already suspected collusion with Russia. Donald Trump Jr's tweet has made it impossible to avoid such suspicions for anybody willing to entertain criticisms of the president.

Many in the anti-Trump camp (myself included) who have long viewed the allegations of collusion with Russia as a gross exaggeration or a meaningless distraction, are now going back on our words. 

Disillusionment in the beleaguered State Department makes for good marketing in Washington [Leber]

Given Donald Trump Jr's gleeful sharing of the email chain and his family's muted reaction, it is clear they would have jumped at the chance of intel on the Clinton campaign, no matter who obtained it or how.

The deeper and darker question, though, is whether it will matter - certainly, former FBI Director Robert Mueller's investigation chugs along behind closed doors.

Yet where no justification is possible, obfuscation ensues.

Supporters of the president can always retreat into whataboutism rather than think critically about what Trump and his family are willing to do in pursuit of wealth and power. Hillary should be the one facing charges! I don't see what the big deal is - any politician would do anything to dig up dirt on their enemies. Who cares?

Meanwhile, elected officials from the Republican Party have restricted themselves to the mildest of remarks, if any. Most congressional representatives and senators from the GOP have perfected the art of ducking reporters as they focus on more important matters, like gutting the Affordable Care Act and ensuring the wealthiest among us get more take-home pay.

Donald Trump will advance his agenda (if we can call it that) not by convincing the majority of Americans of the rightness of his views, but by so saturating the airwaves with scandal after misstep that people simply turn off the television in disgust.

Read more: : US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes unexpected return to Qatar for blockade talks

Or, depending on their partisan leanings, dismiss any negative stories out of hand as "nothing-burgers" served up by a biased liberal media who can't stand to see the president succeed.

In one of the more meaningful and moving op-eds of the past few weeks, Iowan radioman Robert Leonard highlighted "a collective yawn at the Washington maelstrom" in counties far beyond the DC Beltway - all but pleading with Fox News to clue its viewers into the damage President Trump was doing to the country and to the Republican brand.

I remain deeply pessimistic that anything save defeat at the ballot box will restrain the president and his coterie of under-qualified advisors and hangers-on

Much as I believe there is far more to democracy than winning elections, I remain deeply pessimistic that anything save defeat at the ballot box will restrain the president and his coterie of under-qualified advisors and hangers-on.

Sadly, this will have major implications for the world, if the administration's schizophrenic response to the present Gulf dispute is any indication.

As long as Republicans in Congress continue to excuse anything and everything the president does, and conservative media outlets do likewise, the Trump family and its voter base will continue to justify whatever comes out of this administration.

Apathy and disgust are understandable responses to the above nonsense, underscoring as it does that just outcomes in life are hardly automatic. Yet withdrawing into drink or despair will do little to restore a sense of personal agency in the midst of the maelstrom - so let's roll up our sleeves, chuckle at Andy Serkis reading Trump's tweets in Gollum's voice, and get on with it.


Andrew Leber is a PhD student in the department of government at Harvard University.

Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLeber


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.