We weren’t long into Bruce Castor’s opening speech defending Donald Trump in his impeachment trial before we knew it was going to be special. ‘I don’t want to steal the thunder from the other lawyers’ thunder,’ Castor intoned to a mildly befuddled Senate. ‘But Nebraska, you’re going to hear, is quite a judicial thinking place.’ We never got around to the payoff for that one, but there were plenty of other amusements. We learned about the ‘Greek Republic’, which apparently awaits salvation from the United States Senate. We had a tech update: ‘We all know what records are, right: the thing you put the needle down on it and then play it.’ My favourite: ‘The floodgates will open. I was going to say originally it will release the whirlwind, but I subsequently learned since I got here that that particular phrase has already been taken, so I figured I would change it to floodgates.’
These somewhat weird ramblings were gussied up only in the past few days because the former president of the United States couldn’t get any serious lawyers to represent him for the longest time. They were all instructed that they could never concede for a millisecond that Trump had actually lost the election, which is a bit of a problem if your core — and weak — constitutional argument is that the Senate can’t impeach a private citizen. So we were left with Foghorn Leghorn and a fastidious sidekick who for some reason kept grabbing the top of his head as if a phantom yarmulke was threatening to fall off.
And all of this surreal comedy led to just one Republican Senator, Bill Cassidy, changing his mind from a previous vote and supporting the trial. When asked why he was so dismayed by the ex-president’s defence, he said: ‘Did you listen to it? It was disorganised, random and they didn’t talk about the issue at hand.’ Even Alan Dershowitz, an indefatigable supporter of Trump, was forced to say of the defence: ‘There is no argument. I have no idea what he’s doing.’ But we all know that none of this matters and, despite broadcasting a massive lie about the election and inciting a mob to stop the transition, Donald J. Trump will be acquitted. He’s the O.J. Simpson of white celebrities — the hideousness of his crime turned ultimately into trivia. Only the civil suits will remain.
The last time Washington converged on an unassailable bipartisan policy consensus was the Iraq war. It was a heady time. I bring this up merely to note that there’s a new focus of ‘unity’ and ‘consensus’ in Biden’s Washington. And it’s that debt doesn’t matter any more. The US may be nearing second world war levels of insolvency; the economy may be poised for a post-plague lift-off; household savings may be high, and growth imminent — but all that, we’re told, makes this the perfect time to put another $1.9 trillion on the house. If Republicans whine about it, they’re rightfully booed off the stage, given their fiscal records under Bush and Trump.
But still, it worries me. I’m not an economist, so I’m not an authority on whether adding massive stimulus to a projected hot economy is a great idea. Trump got away with it, to be sure. And maybe the dollar is impregnable and this is the ideal time for long-term infrastructure investment, what with super-low interest rates. Perhaps struggling working families just need more support in a country with spiralling and massive inequality. But there’s been a bit of a self-serving swoon among old-school Keynesians and some reformist Republicans for the whole magic money tree fantasy. Only Larry Summers has had the cojones to issue a few meek reservations and he’s been roundly ratioed on Twitter for it. I just worry whenever DC is unified. The Iraq war happened just as vivid memory of the Vietnam debacle had receded in the American consciousness. And it’s been a few decades since inflation dragged the US economy into the ditch in the 1970s. So have a great roaring 2020s! Hyperinflation included.
People keep asking me if the atmosphere in the capital city has changed since Trump escaped in his helicopter. And the answer is no. It’s the same eerie pandemic wilderness it was in January — but snowier. We’re a docile city, we tend to obey instructions, we’ve had one of the lowest Covid-19 infection rates in the US, and there aren’t any signs of a rebellion yet. Since new viral variants came on the scene, I removed what puny contact I had with the outside world. Spectator diaries, as I recall, are jammed with gossip and socialising and parties — but all I can offer is my three-legged beagle, Bowie. She is now my entire social life. In fact, I’ve walked her so much over the past several months that her back gave out. She just plonked herself down on one of our walks last week and wouldn’t move.
I panicked a bit. Triped dogs are super fashionable — they’re a walking/hopping virtue-signal — but all that twerking with one back leg can come with a price over the years. The vet told me to let her rest. And sure enough, she was soon back to normal. Overall, she’s had a good pandemic. She has me 24/7. With no social or work commitments, she sets the daily schedule, the wake-up, the meals, the walks. Coiled up next to me as I march my way manfully through Netflix and HBO Max, I’ve begun to realise that we are slowly becoming one.
Each morning, the second I remove my sleep apnea mask, she slowly meanders her way up through the sheets to kiss me; licking my bald head with a thoroughness I can only meekly surrender to. She did this, I should add, the very first morning we woke up together seven years ago. I thought then it might have been gratitude for rescuing her from imminent euthanasia (she’d been a working hound and got hit by a truck one day when she went off-trail). But that won’t wash any more. I don’t deserve it, but it occurs to me that this is indeed love.