Put a Tom Clancy twist on the sordid tale coming out of the White House and it smells strongly of malodorous intrigue.
Is the upheaval in the White House a coup-that-wasn’t or a quiet-rebellion-that-is? Clancy would ask why it isn’t apparent that something rather than someone is trying to usurp the power of the presidency.
Conventional wisdom suggests that no person or even a small group of malcontents can successfully take over the reins of leadership without being exposed, so what about this time? Easy! Sometimes reality trumps fiction but never Clancy’s heroic character, the unflappable Jack Ryan.
What a cabal he’d face! In our Clancyesque tale, a band of dispirited Executive Branch power players is joined by members of a shat-upon federal bureaucracy, along with the combined might of select media chiefs and politicians, all ignoring the Constitution in their efforts to derail a madman, himself no stranger to flouting Constitutional norms.
The details were revealed in an anonymous op-ed published in the New York Times that dovetails neatly with a Bob Woodward narrative that the president is absolutely off-the-rails nuts. That’s hardly a revelation — even the family pets know by now that Trump is nuts — but taken together may provide a segue into imposing the untested 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office for mental unfitness.
Is Trump clinically dysfunctional, or is his condition the stuff of a Clancy novel? Here’s one big clue: Former Marine Gens. Jim Mattis and John Kelly have not pushed back with the kind of scathing rebuttals both men are capable of making when defending the truth. Theirs is a very telling bit of behavior in honor-bound Clancyland.
A character like Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a strict Constitutionalist, must be appalled. After all, moving against the president from outside the boundaries of the Constitution is treason, and it doesn’t matter if the motives are pure. The goal of any conservative Supreme Court justice is to protect sanctified constitutional mandates. They believe the 18th Century framers have already spoken the last word.
Once appointed to the bench — and there’s little doubt Kavanaugh will be confirmed — he would become the worm inside the rotting woodwork of our well-intentioned cabal. In the event of a nation-slaying constitutional crisis, he would be positioned to save the Constitution by destroying conspirators already occupied with trying to defend that selfsame document.
If democracy’s nebulous hero ever shows up, will he act like a noble Jack Ryan or will he genuflect to the altar of expediency like that other Ryan — Speaker Paul — the gutless man now leading the House of Representatives’ Republican majority?
Churning in the background are ordinary, hard-working Americans who get their news filtered through an unending procession of talking heads. They have little time to ponder who is right, only who is loudest. They aren’t party to intrigues so profound that their children’s children will be affected.
In the beginning of our Clancyesque saga, our country is wrestling with political apathy, with most citizens wonder why they bother voting at all. Only one-third of eligible voters go to the polls in 2016. Without a strong constituency to protect our democracy from reactionary threats, a madman is elected. Somehow he gains an unbreakable grip on the throat of a paid-for Republican Party and quickly becomes untouchable in his madness.
People in power with the means to change the status quo belatedly identify the problem. Even the dullest among them understands that a carefully contrived plot is afoot to steal America. Chaos reigns.
Inside every sensational story rests another one. It is slowly revealed that the Russians are coming. Then they are here, and not only are they here, they’ve bought their way into the White House. Frozen with fear of political repercussions, spineless Republicans swear fealty to the mad king. They are convinced that without him, they are doomed.
The only characters missing in the cast of shadowed players are the unflinching iron men and women Clancy creates with marvelous wiles to defend the rest of us. Instead of Clancy’s conventional heroes, we are dealt a former Playboy bunny and a porn star wreaking vengeance on a president who seems otherwise untouchable. How gauche!
If only Jack Ryan could show himself. He would never put up with nefarious Russians buying America by offering Congress better deals than Wall Street.
Where are our real heroes, our saviors and our sage? There can’t be a genuine Clancy story without a conspiracy of clever characters for the good guys to destroy. What good is a moral victory unburdened by indefensible turpitude?
Perhaps patience is in order. Given the realities of Donald Trump’s personality disorders, everything is subject to change. It would surprise few if some risqué insider account of beautiful Russian money laundresses surfaces in the White House basement swimming pool where the sainted Kennedy brothers once frolicked. Trump always did admire their acclaimed virility.
In Jack Ryan’s world there is nothing to fear. In America’s present condition there is. Real heroes grab the bull by the horns, demand impeachment, cry for justice, run off the scalawags and slay the bad guys. Real heroes find an honorable mechanism to remove the malignant cancer that is eating American democracy. In a Clancy tale, the country would be safe once again. Sounds good.
Where is America’s real Jack Ryan? Somebody needs to pencil him in.