July 27, 1979 in comic strips all across America, Charlie Brown lay gravely ill in his hospital bed. The situation is so grim that Charlie’s long-time nemesis Lucille van Pelt looks to the heavens and makes that proverbial deal with the Creator: God, if you will let Charlie Brown get well, I promise to let him kick the football. I really mean it this time, God.
The rest is history. One month later, they gather on the field, the ball is in place, and the magic moment arrives. Charlie Brown is prepared to end years of frustration with a kick to end all kicks. But…… well, here’s how historians described that hot July day 41 years ago: “Tragically he misses the ball and kicks Lucy instead.” After years of anticipation, Charlie Brown blew his do-over.
America we can’t do the same on Nov. 3. We just can’t. The future of our nation depends on it, and that is not hyperbole.
If there were ever any doubts, Friday night, July 10, 2020 should have put them all to rest. Early in the evening, Donald Trump, channeling his inner Vito Corleone, commuted the sentence of long-time crony Roger Stone.
But this story isn’t about Roger Stone. Once again we are being distracted by the shiny object. Is Roger Stone a despicable human being who should be going to jail on Tuesday for the rest of his life? Absolutely.
The charges against him were straightforward and easy to comprehend: He worked closely with Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and the Russian government in 2016 to secure and publish emails to fatally wound Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He lied to investigators. He obstructed justice. He was found guilty by a jury of his peers on all seven counts. But he is not the story.
We can’t forget this: Even as cable news pundits, except of course Fox and OAN, rant on and on with heads exploding everywhere, the real story of this debacle is not Roger Stone. The only story that matters today, tomorrow and the next day is the greatest abuse of power in presidential history proudly announced by Donald J. Trump.
What Trump did on July 10 makes Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” look like a walk in the park. What Donald Trump did endangers the nation we know and love. We used to care about these kinds of things. My bet is that we still do.
I don’t know about you, but my mother said over and over and over again, “Boys, you will be judged by the company you keep.” My brother Mike and I knew just what she meant, and she was always right.
Using that standard for the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue makes it difficult to know where to begin. Michael Cohen, the president’s personal fixer for more than a decade? Under oath, Cohen stated that Trump lied to the public about business interests in Russia, lied about stolen Democratic emails and orchestrated and then lied about hush payments to cover up sexual misconduct.
During his testimony Cohen said, “He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat. I am not protecting Mr. Trump anymore.” However, Michael Cohen is no more responsible for Donald Trump than Christopher, Salvatore, and Silvio were for Tony Soprano. Donald J. Trump is responsible for what has happened his entire life, and he is responsible for running a Mack Truck over the criminal justice system the other day.
And let’s not forget Michael Flynn. You remember him, don’t you? He was the senior adviser to the Trump campaign who was sworn in as National Security Advisor.
Unfortunately, there were one or two hiccups along the way. You see, he was actually working for a foreign government at the same time he was supposed to be protecting the United State, he lied to Vice President Pence about it, and then he lied to the FBI. He resigned three weeks after taking the job, and later pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI. But now of course, Attorney General William Barr, another of the actors in this morality play, has moved to drop the charges against someone who has already pleaded guilty in court. The president has his Roy Cohn, and he is delighted.
Ah, but we’re not done: Paul Manafort — guilty on eight of 18 charges. Rick Gates pleaded guilty of conspiracy against the United States. There’s George Papadopoulis and Rudy Giuliani’s boys, right out of central casting. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. We are bearing eyewitness to the most corrupt administration in the history of our nation.
But once again, these men are not the stars in this mobtown horror show. The story is the Godfather himself, Donald J. Trump. He attracted and enabled this band of muldoons. Loyalty and fealty to the supreme leader is all that matters.
They are his clowns, they are his losers, and they despise you and me and they despise the United States of America. They take their orders from the man who has turned the White House into the Bada Bing. Lining their pockets is the only thing that matters. There is no “outside of the law” in Trump World. It is all about serving the master.
So all of this brings us back to the evening of July 10, 2020. But the drama really began earlier that morning when in an interview Stone strongly encouraged the president to commute his sentence because after all Donald, you know that I know all kinds of stuff, really juicy stuff. And you know that so far I haven’t “rolled over.” But who’s to say that I won’t?
Pretty subtle, don’t you think? The message to the president was clear: if you don’t do this for me, all bets are off, and I can sing like a canary.
The Mob Boss wasn’t about to let that happen. Donald Trump may not speak many languages including English, but he does speak gangster. Stone had the goods, and the goods must stay locked away.
The commutation came a few hours later.
So we can’t forget. It’s not about the cast of characters around this man. It is the man himself. He is the one who dines at the table with Vito, Michael, and Tony.
Which means one thing: Charlie Brown may have whiffed his do-over in 1979. We cannot do that on Nov. 3, 2020. The rule of law — the future of our nation — is at stake. We need to shut down the Bada Bing for good.
In this film, we can’t afford the Quentin Tarantino ending. We need a little Garry Marshall. The nation needs a happy ending.
Don Mohler is the former Baltimore County executive and president and CEO of Mohler Communication Strategies. He can be reached at [email protected].