Shuffleboard in Florida

There’s history. It was the summer of 1781 and things were going badly for our side – the British occupied New York City and a second British army lead by Cornwallis was making trouble down south, capturing Charleston and Richmond, and then heading for the Chesapeake Bay. There were rumblings of mutiny in the American army in New York and New Jersey. Washington was none too happy, but not all was lost. The French had our back. They’d been in this thing since 1778 and had just landed six thousand troops in Rhode Island, and the French fleet was forming up in the Caribbean, getting ready to stick it to the British, which was why they were on our side in the first place.

That helped. Washington had met with the French commander, Comte de Rochambeau, in May 1781, to plan a strategy. Washington wanted to attack the British in New York, but Rochambeau talked him out of that – the place was too well-fortified and the Continental Army was demoralized. Rochambeau recommended marching south to fight Cornwallis in Virginia, and Washington “reluctantly” agreed. Americas find it hard to say that any Frenchman is right, but the combined American and French armies marched south. There was an epic battle between the French and British fleets in the Chesapeake Bay, with the French routing the Brits, and that was it for Cornwallis – the British troops at Yorktown were cut off. They didn’t hold out long. There was no choice but to surrender, which Cornwallis did on October 19 – sort of. Cornwallis didn’t attend the surrender ceremony, saying that he wasn’t feeling well, which is understandable. He sent one General O’Hara instead, who tried to surrender to the Comte de Rochambeau, who smiled and pointed O’Hara to General Washington. Hey, surrender to the right guy. Don’t you know what actually happened here?

That was simple. Cornwallis’ movements in Virginia had been shadowed by a Continental Army force led by the Marquis de Lafayette. Admiral Comte de Grasse had the French fleet parked out in Chesapeake Bay – the British Navy couldn’t swoop in to save Cornwallis – they had to stand out to sea. The French stuck it to the British that day. The French made the United States possible.

There were reports, never confirmed, that during the surrender ceremony a British band played The World Turned Upside Down – which is likely enough. Losing, when you were supposed to win, is disorienting. How could this have happened? This couldn’t have happened. This can’t be the real world, and if it is, the world is upside down.

Of course a man with no experience in government or in diplomacy or in the military – and who doesn’t want any – who says he’s wonderful although no one knows that he is – a reality-television star – is president. He rode a wave of cultural and racial resentment all the way to the White House. He can’t seem to govern by resentment, but he is the president. He can’t seem to govern by resentment, but he tries. It’s a populist thing. Who do you resent this week? He’ll stick it to them. That’s what he does.

The world is upside down again, but no one expected what the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reports here:

He came of age in Queens, built Trump Tower, starred in “The Apprentice,” bankrupted his businesses six times, and drew cheering crowds and angry protesters to Fifth Avenue after his election. Through it all, President Trump – rich, bombastic and to many Americans the epitome of a New Yorker – was intertwined with the city he called his lifelong home.

No longer.

In late September, Mr. Trump changed his primary residence from Manhattan to Palm Beach, Fla., according to documents filed with the Palm Beach County Circuit Court. Melania Trump, the first lady, also changed her residence to Palm Beach in an identical document.

So it will be shuffleboard and the Early Bird Special at Red Lobster from here on out, but not really:

The president confirmed the decision on Twitter after The New York Times reported on the move, saying that he would “be making Palm Beach, Florida, our Permanent Residence” and denouncing New York officials.

“I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state. Few have been treated worse,” he said, describing his decision as the “best for all concerned.”

Some New York leaders shared the sentiment. “Good riddance,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tweeted. “It’s not like Mr. Trump paid taxes here anyway. He’s all yours, Florida.”

But this isn’t about any of that:

In the documents, Mr. Trump said he “formerly resided at 721 Fifth Avenue,” referring to Trump Tower. That has been his primary residence since he moved into the skyscraper off 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan in 1983…

White House officials declined to say why Mr. Trump changed his primary residence, but a person close to the president said the reasons were primarily for tax purposes.

In his Twitter posts on Thursday night, the president claimed that he paid “millions of dollars in city, state and local taxes each year.”

There is no way to fact-check his assertion; he has never released his tax returns.

But there may be more to this:

Mr. Trump, who is deeply unpopular in New York, was infuriated by a subpoena filed by Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, seeking the tax returns, the person close to the president said.

Changing his residence to Florida is not expected to have any effect on Mr. Vance’s case, which Mr. Trump has sought to thwart with a federal lawsuit.

That makes this a deeply angry empty gesture, but there is this:

Florida, which does not have a state income tax or inheritance tax, has long been a place for the wealthy to escape the higher taxes of the Northeast.

Changing his primary residence could carry significant tax implications for Mr. Trump, although how much is unclear without seeing his returns. But in changing his residence to Florida, he would most likely be avoiding New York State’s top tax rate of nearly 9 percent and New York City’s top rate of nearly 4 percent.

Leaving New York could also save money for Mr. Trump’s heirs at the time of his death. New York imposes a top estate tax rate of 16 percent for estates larger than $10.1 million.

But something is wrong here:

Since he became president, Mar-a-Lago remains Mr. Trump’s favored retreat. He has a residence on the grounds, enjoys easy access to one of his nearby golf clubs, entertains foreign visitors like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and also plays host to a regular cast of visitors and members.

Still, Manhattan has been like Oz to him.

“I believed, perhaps to an irrational degree, that Manhattan was always going to be the best place to live – the center of the world,” Mr. Trump wrote in his book “The Art of the Deal.”

But now the world is upside down, and this was the day Trump’s world flipped over:

A divided House took a critical step forward in its impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Thursday, approving guidelines for the public phase of the probe as a top White House official corroborated earlier accounts that the president pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

The House approved a resolution, 232 to 196, that formalized the inquiry, clearing the way for nationally televised hearings in mid-November and ensuring Trump’s right to participate in the latter stage of the proceedings unless he tries to block witnesses from testifying.’

There’s no turning back now, and meanwhile:

The near party-line vote came as Tim Morrison, a top official on Trump’s National Security Council, testified in a closed-door deposition. Morrison backed up previous testimony that the president withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country into announcing investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and interference in the 2016 election, according to his prepared remarks and people familiar with his testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door proceedings.

He said he got the information directly from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, the administration official who communicated that apparent quid pro quo to Ukrainian leaders.

Gordon Sondland had been lying in his previous testimony – now two solid folks had shown that – so Trump had to do something:

After the House vote, the White House accused Democrats of having an “unhinged obsession” with impeachment, with press secretary Stephanie Grisham calling the effort a “blatantly partisan attempt to destroy the president.”

Trump, who had no public events on his daily schedule, tweeted: “The Greatest Witch Hunt in American History!”

Is that so? Dana Milbank begs to differ:

That Rep. Devin Nunes serves as the ranking member on something called the Intelligence Committee has always been a contradiction in terms. The California Republican displayed his intellectual heft earlier this year by suing a fictitious dairy cow that was mean to him on Twitter.

Even so, what he said on the House floor during Thursday’s debate to authorize a formal impeachment inquiry was jaw-dropping. He railed about the sort of person who believes in “conspiracy theories” and relies on “defamation and slander,” who spins a “preposterous narrative” with “no evidence” and only “bizarre obsession.”

Devin Nunes turned the world upside down:

Nunes applied these Trumpian signatures to Democrats. “What we’re seeing among Democrats on the Intelligence Committee,” he said, “is like a cult. These are a group of people loyally following their leader as he bounces from one outlandish conspiracy to another.”

It was perhaps the most extraordinary case of projection ever to present itself on the House floor.

It seems that the cult is on the other side here:

Republicans are defending President Trump, who believes windmills cause cancer, in impeachment proceedings literally sparked by his pursuit of a debunked conspiracy theory in Ukraine – and Democrats are the ones loyally following the conspiracy theories of their cult leader, who apparently is Rep. Adam Schiff?

Maybe this is how Republican lawmakers survive the strain of the Trump era. They represent family values but defend Trump through “Access Hollywood” and Stormy Daniels scandals. They represent military hawkishness but acquiesce to his Syria pullout and subservience to Moscow. They represent free markets and fiscal discipline but justify his trade wars and trillion-dollar deficit. They represent law and order but excuse his obstructions of justice.

Republicans, therefore, need a defense mechanism to displace these unpleasant feelings onto somebody else.

And that’s what this is:

The Grand Old Party is grossly projecting. This is Trump’s “No puppet. You’re the puppet!” defense, but now his entire party is doing it.

Trump has repeatedly advanced Moscow’s agenda, pulling out of Syria, siding with Russia over U.S. intelligence on election interference and withholding military aid to Ukraine. But Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) displayed on the House floor a poster of a hammer and sickle and the Kremlin and said Democrats are the ones doing things “Soviet-style.”

Trump put national security second to his political needs when he withheld aid to Ukraine in order to get dirt on Joe Biden. But Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the GOP conference leader, said Democrats are the ones “putting politics above national security.”

Trump dismissed the threat of foreign election interference, while his allies fought off legislation to strengthen election security. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) alleged that Democrats are the ones undermining “the integrity of our electoral process.”

And then there was Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.). “For one man to turn this country upside down,” he said, is something “our Founding Fathers warned about.”

They did. That why they put the impeachment process in the Constitution after all. Michael McCaul thinks that “one man” is Adam Schiff. No, it’s the other guy:

Trump, who made the politics of projection an art form, held his own. His campaign put out a quote from him saying “Democrats have committed themselves to destroying democracy.” And Stephanie Grisham, press secretary for the chaotic White House said after the vote: “I’ve got to say, Nancy Pelosi has lost all control over there.”

Who has lost control? Eugene Robinson sees this:

Trump has groused that his allies should instead be defending him on substance. But how can they? His phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect” only as an illustration of impeachable behavior. And we know that what Trump called a “word-for-word” transcript of the call omitted key elements of the call, according to one witness. How can anyone defend the president without knowing what’s missing?

Moreover, the phone call was just part of a much larger scheme. The evidence that has surfaced thus far indicates that Trump orchestrated a mob-style shakedown, withholding nearly $400 million in military aid and a promised White House meeting in an attempt to coerce Zelensky into investigating – and publicly smearing – Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The play-ball-with-us message was apparently delivered not just by the president himself but also by various emissaries. At the time, Biden was shown by polls to be Trump’s most formidable potential Democratic opponent in November 2020.

In other words, Trump was actively and personally colluding with a foreign government to interfere in our coming presidential election. No wonder Republicans prefer to pound the table about process.

And now that will be useless:

Soon the depositions that the House Intelligence Committee has been taking behind closed doors will be made public. What we have learned of them so far is heartening. Patriotic civil servants realized what Trump was trying to do and were aghast. They saw him putting personal political interests ahead of the national security interests he had sworn an oath to protect, and they tried their best to do the right thing within the chain of command.

And then it gets worse:

More witnesses are coming out of the woodwork. When the public hearings begin, Trump’s defenders will have to decide what tack to take. Keep harping on process? Take the route of character assassination? Pull more sophomoric stunts to disrupt the proceedings?

However Republicans choose to proceed, there’s one thing they must realize, even if they are afraid to say it out loud: The facts are only going to get worse for the president. If they can’t bring themselves to defend Trump on the merits, they’re going to have to explain why not. Process is now just a dodge.

Their world turned upside down, rather abruptly, and Michael Gerson adds this:

I am sinking into cynicism. If the best of the Republican Party is willing to make shallow, shoddy excuses for an unfit president, then the path ahead is disturbingly clear.

The details of the case for impeachment, it seems, will not finally matter. Fearing the revolt of their base – and the retribution of an emotionally unstable president – Senate Republicans (with one admirable exception, Utah’s Mitt Romney) have already chosen their final position: acquittal. And whatever is revealed in the course of the investigation – no matter how vomitous – will fall just short of an impeachable offense. The goal posts will move and move until they are in the next county. And tolerance for corruption in high places will continue to grow.

This will not end well:

Only two eventualities might change Republican calculations on impeachment. First, the Republican base might turn against Trump in significant numbers. This is unlikely to the point of impossibility. No matter what the impeachment investigation reveals, Fox News and conservative talk radio will produce an alternative narrative to which partisans can cling. Even if this involves the defamation of patriots such as Vindman. Even if this involves conspiracy theories and massive revisions to reality.

Second, Americans outside the Republican base might turn against Trump so vigorously and completely that the political incentives for Republican officeholders begin to change. What does it profit senators to keep the base if they lose the rest of the electorate? Such a decisive shift in public sentiment also seems unlikely, but who knows what further ethical horrors a corruption investigation featuring Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani might reveal?

On the other hand:

There is, of course, another factor that might change. Republican senators could actually take the deliberative role of their institution seriously. They could recover a proper outrage at public corruption. They could recall why they entered public service in the first place and choose to pay the cost of conscience.

I still want to believe this is possible.

It isn’t. But things can change. In 2016, Donald Trump turned the world upside down. In 2019, the world returned the favor – his world was just turned upside down. Everything went south, so he did too. He’ll be that angry old man in the Florida sunshine, perhaps playing shuffleboard when he gets too stiff for golf. Then it’s the Early Bird Special and off to bed. That’s where this is heading. He should have retired long ago. Now he may have no choice.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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3 Responses to Shuffleboard in Florida

  1. David says:

    Great post. I really enjoy your writing.

  2. Rick says:

    Re your “In 2016, Donald Trump turned the world upside down. In 2019, the world returned the favor – his world was just turned upside down.”

    I wish.

    In truth, Michael Gerson is right. Unless something like a huge meteor hits the earth, then nothing will stop the GOP dinosaurs in the Senate from acquitting him.

    I think the idea of Trump shooting someone dead on Fifth Avenue, without losing any of his Republican support, is literally the case. It’s a good bet that the truth of whatever the House of Representatives charges him with will take a back seat to the question, “Seriously, who do we want as president — on the one hand, Donald Trump, as hideous as he is, or on the other, whichever so-called way-too-serious ‘woke progressive’ candidate the Democrats offer up?”

    Those Democrats who have been demanding impeachment from way back will all be shocked and disappointed, of course, but they just can’t place themselves inside the head of anyone in the opposition to figure out why we failed. They probably think Republicans are putting party above country, failing to realize that Republicans may actually believe retaining a president who nominates judges of their own conservative persuasion, instead of judges who won’t try to repeal Roe, is putting country first, and that it might be actually EASY for them to see that holding up aid to Ukraine, in exchange for investigating whatever the Bidens may or may not have done, is no big deal — and certainly not worth all the fuss of replacing Trump with Pence.

    And even if the country DOES fall apart? No problem! They’ll just start another one, only this time, one more to their liking!

    We’re doomed. What can we do to change this? Nothing. Maybe pray for a meteor.

    And about that line, “I have been treated very badly by…” Guess who always says that?

    Exactly! President Whiney-face! He seems to use that phrase at least once a day, and sometimes two or three times!

    Is there anyone anywhere who, at some point or other, hasn’t treated him “very badly”? Hardly a name comes to mind, which comes as no surprise since, being such a world-wide jerk, there’s hardly a soul HE hasn’t shit on first.

    He’s the planet’s biggest victim! What’s so weird is that whiners of Trump’s ilk, who are so often heard complaining about being mistreated by others, so often turn out themselves to be the biggest thugs and bullies.

    And why does anyone vote for bullies?

    Because there’s this odd belief, mostly but not exclusively among conservatives, that the world is too rough to be run by nice guys. They seem to forget that the tough guys who attempt to create thousand-year reichs tend to find themselves at the end of their lives in underground bunkers, forced to marry their girlfriend just before putting a bullet in their own head.

    And something else worth noting:

    If you remember the playground bullies from your youth, they were all about process and no substance. It’s not WHAT they say, it’s THAT they say it, and that they say it totally out of any context, and they say it over and over and over, ad nauseam. In fact, their success usually depended on their overpowering reality with their own nasty nonsense. Some things never change.

    Also, much of their power over their victim is derived from the acquiescence of whatever crowd of toadies happen to be nearby. Why are toadies so obsequious to bullies? It may be that they’re afraid of him, or at the very least, they see no percentage in taking the side of some goody-goody who is likely to end up being humiliated.

    A typical bullying session back then might have looked like this:

    Bully: They tell me your mother is a whore.
    Toadies: Whoooa! HA! HA!
    Victim: What?!? My mother’s not a whore! Where’d you hear that?
    Bully: Your mother is a whore.
    Victim: My mother’s NOT a whore!
    Bully: Yeah, she is. Lots of people say your mother’s a whore.
    Toadies: HA-HA! Your mother’s a whore! Your mother’s a whore! HA!
    Victim: No, she’s NOT! Stop saying that!
    Bully: Your mother IS a whore.
    Victim: If you must know, my mother died when I was in kindergarten.
    Bully: Yeah, yeah, your mother’s a whore.
    Toadies: HA-HA! Your mother’s a whore! Your mother’s a whore! HA!
    Victim: In fact, before she died, my mother was awarded a Nobel Prize for finding a cure for some disease that had killed millions of people in Asia! She wrote several novels, all on the New York Times best-seller list! She was famous! She used to date Warren Beatty! She was friends of kings and queens and presidents, was always being interviewed on Entertainment Tonight, and used to spend her holidays with the Beatles!
    Bully: Your mother’s a whore! Everybody says so!

    It could go on and on like that, with the bully and the toadies just repeating some random lie over and over, paying no attention whatsoever to whatever the victim says, until the victim just gives up and walks away, secretly wondering if there’s anything to the rumor that his dearly-departed mother actually WAS a whore.

    But the good news is, years later, the bully will end up in the gutter, with no actual friends and no woman who would ever admit to ever knowing him, much less having slept with him, and finally, the day will come when someone on the school’s Facebook page posts the news that he has fallen on hard times, is penniless, has moved to Florida, and they even post a photo of him, flabby, no longer sporting that phony swoosh of blond hair, struggling with his walker outside a McDonald’s, trying to bully his way to the head of the line, hoping to make it in before they shut down the “Early Bird Special”.

    Or at least that’s my sincerest hope.

    Rick

  3. gtomkins says:

    “There was an epic battle between the French and British fleets in the Chesapeake Bay, with the French routing the Brits”

    This is a point of history that does absolutely nothing to detract from your comments on our present situation, but, if you’re going to use historical events to set the stage for discussing present events, you want every detail you mention to be just right.

    The French fleet under the Comte de Grasse didn’t rout the British fleet. The British failed in their strategic objective of defeating the French and pushing their fleet aside so that they could rescue Cornwallis from Yorktown, so yes, the result of the Battle of the Chesapeake was an important strategic victory for our side. But the battle itself wasn’t a rout. It was a standoff. The British did have to scuttle one ship, to zero ship losses on the French side, but they didn’t have to flee the scene to avoid catastrophic loss of ships. They hung around the Chesapeake for several days after the battle, only returning to their base in New York City after that interval, in order to await reinforcements that would let them overpower the French fleet. By the time they did sail with this overwhelming force, Cornwallis had already been forced to surrender, and the French fleet had cleared out of the Bay to avoid being trapped.

    The fleets fought each other to a standoff. That was good enough for our side to gain the strategically decisive victory of forcing Cornwallis to surrender, but the naval battle itself wasn’t a rout.

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