Nero or Caligula?

For several years I have been trying to determine whether Nero or Caligula was the worst Roman emperor. This nearly 2,000-year-old question has a direct bearing upon U.S. politics today. And I have reached a conclusion.

Nero was worse, because Caligula was — to put it succinctly — batshit crazy.

Whereas Nero was sane and malignantly evil.

How does this bear upon modern U.S. politics?

Well, I don’t think Donald john Trump is crazy.

The insanity defense, as any defense attorney or prosecutor knows, is a tough one to pull off, even if the defendant is crazy as a barn owl on moonshine.

To prevail — a nice verb for a lot of ugly stuff — the defense must show that the defendant did not understand the consequences of his actions at the time he did them.

(I could say “his or her actions,” but it’s usually him.)

The Cornell Law School informs me that insanity is an excuse defense, rather than a justification defense (such as self-defense), because the insane defendant acknowledges that his crime was impermissible, but should be excused because of his “prevailing condition.”

“He was loony as a hoot owl, Your Honor.”

Any sane literate resident of Planet Earth today — including undocumented aliens from Planet Xylon, some of whom hold seats in Congress — any of these alleged people, I say, understand that Don john Trump would never admit that he is out of his mind. He would say he committed all of his actions in what passes for his right state of mind.

OK, then. Let’s move along to his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who does appear to be out of his mind.

After all, Cohen claims he paid $130,000 from his own pocket to a porn star whom Trump did not have sex with, formed a corporation for the sole purpose of doing so, and drew up and signed a contract about it with her — but never told Trump about the $130,000, or the corporation or the contract.

If that’s what happened, my friends, then Cohen is out of his mind: to pay the money, and to take two significant legal steps for his client — forming a corporation and signing a contract for him — without telling his client about it.

Now I have accurately described, not what happened, but what Cohen and Trump say happened, or did not happen.

Applying basic Earthly logic, I would say that no one here is actually crazy, but that Cohen is lying, and Trump was trying like hell not to lie — and the only way he seems able to do that is to keep his mouth shut — until Thursday, when he told reporters on Air Force One that he knew nothing about the $130,000 bribe to the porn star.

This brings us back to Nero and Caligula, only one of whom was crazy. Caligula did, after all, plan to make his horse Incitatus a Roman consul — though Caligula’s assassination prevented it. He also led his legions from Rome to the English Channel, where he ordered them, not to invade England, but to collect seashells, then marched them back to Rome.

Caligula was crazy, so bad as he was, there may have been some mitigating circumstances for the poor fellow.

Nero, however, was not crazy. He was merely narcissistic, greedy, dishonest, bloody and vicious. And he killed his wife. And his mother. And so on. But he wasn’t crazy.

With no mitigating factors, then — no excuse defense — we must find Nero worse than Caligula.

For the same reason — lack of mitigating factors — we must find Donald john Trump worse than his personal lawyer. For Cohen to do what he said he did, he must be crazy. But with insanity ruled out — and Trump would never resort to that claim — the only alternative is that the man is malignantly evil.

Nero or Caligula?

Cohen or Trump? Or Stormy Daniels?

We report — You decide.

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