It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

When I was 12 years old my parents took me to see Martin Luther King speak on our village green. The American Nazi Party was protesting there, in brown shirts and swastika armbands — protected by the police. I asked my mom why the police did that.

My mom said it wasn’t because police liked the Nazis; it was because in our country everyone has the right to express an opinion, and people might hurt the Nazis for doing it.

I understood that. It was a simple explanation, in a few words, about a troubling situation.

Kurt Vonnegut liked to quote his brother Bernard, an atmospheric chemist who discovered cloud-seeding. Bernard said that any scientist who knew his stuff should be able to explain it to an 8-year-old child.

One more thing about children and we’ll get to the president.

Any parent knows that her child is lying when the child can’t give a simple answer to a simple question — when he spouts way too many words instead of answering the question, or saying, “Sorry, Mom.”

The number of words spouted to squirm away from a simple answer is inversely proportional to their truth. More words, less truth.

Anyone who is not a moron understands that Donald Trump is lying about why he fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday.

Just follow the lies, and the thousands of words.

First, Trump said he did it because Comey had done a bad thing by throwing him the presidency with his bogus statement about reopening the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server, 11 days before the election — a statement that Trump crowed over at the time.

When that lie didn’t work, Trump’s whipping boy Sean Spicer blamed it on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump had ordered to write something to give him a reason to fire Comey.

“It was all him,” Spicer said Tuesday night.

But Rosenstein is no dummy. He knows what a fall guy is. So Trump has squirmed away from that one.

Trump’s most bilious and transparent lie came in the second sentence of the letter in which he fired Comey. This sentence began: “While I greatly appreciate your telling me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation …”

Oh, please. Comey already had testified to Congress that the FBI was investigating Trump’s campaign ties to Russia’s role in the election.

It is highly unlikely, may be illegal, and certainly is unethical for an FBI agent to inform the subject of an FBI investigation about the course of the investigation. No one — in Congress or in the FBI — believes Comey did that.

Long before Trump’s Tuesday night massacre, his Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III had recused himself from the FBI’s Russia investigation, because Sessions himself had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — with whom Trump met privately the day after he fired Comey.

Yet in firing Comey, Trump released a letter to the president, from Sessions, saying that Comey should be fired.

Wow. What does recusal mean, anyway?

Trump fired his national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying about his contacts with Russia. Actually, that’s not why Trump fired him. He fired him because the press found out.

Trump fired his acting Attorney General Sally Yates for warning the Senate that Russia could blackmail Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn’s dealings with Russia. Trump lied about that too. He said he fired Yates for refusing to defend his unconstitutional executive order prohibiting immigration from Muslim countries.

The FBI and Congress want to hear more from several other Trump operatives, including Roger Stone — one of Nixon’s dirty tricksters — and Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — for their dealings with Russia and the Trump campaign.

California Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, summed it up Thursday: “The decision by a president whose campaign associates are under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia to fire the man overseeing that investigation, upon the recommendation of an attorney general who has recused himself from that investigation, raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter.”

Crimes in the White House. We’ve been here before. But the best parallel to this is not the Saturday Night Massacre that led to Nixon’s resignation in the Watergate scandal. It’s Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1804 Napoleon executed the duc d’Enghien, the last member of a branch of the royal Bourbon family, on suspicion of plotting against him with England.

The execution shocked the crowned heads of Europe, who then allied themselves with the Czar of Russia to bring Napoleon to heel.

And we all know how well Napoleon did in Russia.

In exile on Elba, asked about his order to execute the duc d’Enghien, Napoleon said: “It was worse than a crime; it was a mistake.”

Whether Trump fired the FBI director to cover up his own crimes remains to be seen. But it was a mistake.

The FBI has 35,000 employees. They don’t like the way Trump treated their boss.

Good luck on plugging those leaks, Mr. President.

To close where we began: During Martin Luther King’s speech on the green, so long ago, the village police told the American Nazis that the cops were out of overtime, and had to pull their crew.

And the brownshirts packed up justlikethat and vamoosed.

Brave men. Patriots all, I am sure — in what, for want of a better word, we can call their minds.

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