Trump indictment changes nothing

Those addicted to the brew of lies and self-regard that Donald Trump deals in aren’t about to change their minds.

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Stephanie Lu, of New York, stands in front of the New York Criminal Courts building on Monday, March 20, 2023.

Trump supporter Stephanie Lu, of New York, stands in front of the New York Criminal Courts building on Monday.

Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

In Al-Anon, the organization serving families of alcoholics and addicts, one of the first messages they impart to desperate wives and husbands, parents and children, is to step away from the drama of their loved ones thrashing about in recovery.

You can’t fix them. You might not even be able to help. The afflicted have to figure it out for themselves. Or not. For the time being, rather than argue and grapple with their lies and ego and excuses, just turn away. Attend to yourself.

Approaching the eighth year of all Donald J. Trump, all the time, first as presidential candidate, then president, defeated ex-president, and now, full circle, presidential candidate once again, leading the Republican pack for 2024, I’ve finally reached that step-back part. I can’t fix him. Can’t make him go away. There hasn’t been anything to write about him. Readers don’t need guidance: they either figured out Donald Trump long ago, or never will.

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There’s really nothing new to say. Being an expect-the-worst kind of guy, I simply assume Trump will win in 2024 against a senescent Joe Biden. Of course he will. The whole thing will begin again, the lies and bombast, grievance and cruelty, will roll over the country like a tsunami. Worse this time, because the shock has become blunted, and helpers have stepped up and are ready, with a Supreme Court, a third of whom he picked himself, ready to sing “Amen” to his every overstep. Abroad, tyrants like Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu will be comforted by the success of a kindred spirit, and at home the people who live for this kind of thing will ululate like true believers, clap like seals, salaam in adoration, and the whole madhouse will thunder on for another four years.

I don’t see how any of that changes because Trump now faces criminal charges in Manhattan for his botched attempt to cover-up his copulation — “affair” seems too elevated a term — with porn actress Stormy Daniels. The $130,000 Trump funneled to Daniels through fixer Michael Cohen, days before the 2016 election. Caring about the law, about morality, or even about the outcome of any given election, has become a partisan divide.

OK, Trump has been charged. All the ponderous, lips-pursed, this-never-happened-to-a-president-before gravitas from my solemn colleagues at the New York Times seems like a bulletin from a lost world. Where have they been? The whole lie-spewing, norm-shredding, bawling baby bullyboy act Trump projects every minute of every day has been one continual lurch away from the tissue of dignity and adulthood that once enshrouded the presidency. What’s an arrest for an election law violation after two impeachments and a failed coup? Nothing.

A woman wears a mask of former president Donald Trump during a protest near the New York District Attorney office on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

A woman wears a mask of former president Donald Trump during a protest near the New York District Attorney’s office on Tuesday, in an anticipation of a possible indictment of Trump.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Associated Press

I can’t say I’m glad, or relieved, or particularly care. His supporters certainly won’t care a whit — once you start ignoring reality, as I always say, the specifics of the reality being ignored hardly matter.

He can run while being prosecuted. Heck, he can run from prison, like Eugene Debs.

Okay, I suppose it would be nice if Trump were being charged with stealing government secrets, or canoodling the Russians, or siccing a mob on the Capitol. But anything will do. Al Capone went down on tax evasion. And if I thought Stormy Daniels would bring Trump down, I’d harbor a flicker of hope. But if his adulterous liaison with a porn star didn’t make his conservative Christian allies blink — their standards are for other people — an arrest won’t do anything.

“The far & away leading Republican candidate & former president of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday of next week,” Trump wrote March 18, prematurely, on his Truth Social platform. “Protest, take our nation back!”

The wounded, villainous ruler, crying out for help, like Claudius at the end of Hamlet, “O, yet defend me, friends!”

The first part of Trump’s comment was actually true: he is the leading Republican candidate. They ... still ... want ... him. No addiction is easy to break, particularly not one offering blanket permission to live in your own fantasyland of perpetual grievance and self-assigned victimhood. It’s too powerful a potion for millions of Americans to pass up.

They’ll never quit Trump. As I’ve been saying for years, he is a symptom, not a cause. The Republican reaction to Jan. 6, 2021 should have made that clear. Trump is the whistle on a boiling tea kettle. Take the whistle away and the tea kettle is still boiling. It always has been.

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