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The Trump Mutiny

By  |  February 16, 2017, 03:51pm  |  @stevengberman

It wouldn’t surprise me if, behind closed doors and absent any electronic devices, intelligence community members call President Trump something like “Old Yellowstain.” There’s a mutiny brewing, one that’s being incited by the real cowards who hate Trump but hide whispering in the shadows.

If you’re familiar with the 1954 movie “The Caine Mutiny,” based on Herman Wouk’s Pultizer Prize-winning novel, you’ll know where I’m going here. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, read or watch it.

Here’s a quick synopsis for the unfamiliar, or those who need a refresher. Scroll down to skip my ersatz Cliff’s Notes, or you can read about it on Wikipedia.


In the movie, Humphrey Bogart plays Lt. Commander Phillip Francis Queeg, a regular Navy officer who served faithfully pre-World War II, who is now serving in wartime in a role for which he’s not accustomed. Van Johnson plays executive officer Lt. Stephen Maryk, and Fred MacMurray excellently portrays the intellectual novelist Lt. Thomas Keefer, the ship’s communications officer.

Keefer, seeing himself as an educated man, develops a healthy disgust toward Queeg. The more he observes his captain, the more he hates him and takes note of his personality quirks. He becomes convinced that Queeg is unfit for command, and is in fact a dangerous paranoid.

After a series of incidents that earn Queeg the derisive moniker “Old Yellowstain,” Keefer convinces Maryk and Ensign Willie Keith to accompany him to see Admiral Halsey to report the captain and have him relieved. As the officers were waiting to see Halsey, Keefer realizes that their actions could be interpreted as an act of mutiny, and cancels the visit.

In the midst of a typhoon, Queeg freezes as the ship is in distress. Finally, Keefer prevails on Maryk, who relieves Queeg under Navy Regulation Article 184 for mental incapacity.

Upon return to San Francisco, the Navy conducts a court-martial against Maryk and Keefer. José Ferrer plays Lt. Barney Greenwald, their court-appointed defense attorney. During testimony, Keefer denies everything he did to discredit Queeg and hangs Maryk out to dry. Queeg is found fit for command by Navy psychiatrists.

Greenwald calls Queeg to the stand, and proceeds to goad him into a fit of paranoia regarding the missing strawberries. The telltale sign of Queeg’s breakdown is the clicking of steel ball bearings he clutches when he is under stress.

Maryk and Keefer are acquitted, but at their celebration, a drunk Greenwald shows up and lets everyone know who the real coward is, throwing champagne into Keefer’s face.


Let’s review.

Trump is Queeg. Former President Obama and his social organizers is Keefer. Government employees who are leaking like a sieve to a hungry press is Maryk.

There’s a whispering campaign going on in the intelligence community. It’s a mutiny in the making. Withholding intelligence from the president because the IC doesn’t trust the man is not part of their job description.

Leaking highly classified material to the Washington Post which results in the resignation of the national security adviser to the president is not part of the job description. The whole “loyal to the Constitution” thing is the same choice faced by Keefer and Maryk in Wouk’s story. The captain is in charge of the boat, in a storm or on calm seas.

The Keefers are just waiting for a storm–it will come–when Queeg can be made to appear frozen in indecision or cowardice. Then they will encourage Maryk to relieve him. They will make it seem reasonable that Trump should be removed from office, by either impeachment or the 25th Amendment.

But the Keefers and Maryks will have created the crisis because they didn’t support their commander-in-chief. Just like Maryk, the whispering campaign erodes their confidence not just in the man, but in the system that put him in charge. We have to see through the ruse like Greenwald did.

Greenwald said he “had to torpedo Queeg” because “the wrong man was on trial.” It’s Keefer alone who should have been on trial. It’s Keefer not Queeg who should have been destroyed, because Keefer hated the Navy and the institutions of discipline and order it used. He hated that men like Queeg spent their lives in service while he himself wrote novels while serving halfheartedly in wartime.

The Keefers in Trump’s nascent mutiny should be the ones under scrutiny here. Before Jan. 20, they were in charge; they had the intelligence files. Now they’re leaking everything to discredit Trump, when they had their best chance to make a real case before the election. They don’t so much care about the institutions and checks and balances of American government, as long as they get to be in charge.

We might not like the way Trump governs. We may think he’s everything Queeg was: paranoid, indecisive, and focused on self-preservation. But Trump is president. Isolating him, creating an atmosphere of distrust and paranoia, then using that to entrap Trump during a crisis is mutiny.

Instead of torpedoing Queeg to get Maryk off the hook, we need to take out Keefer before it gets to that point.

I agree with Reps. Chaffetz and Goodlatte. We have to cut this off now and root out the source of the leaks. If there’s a mutiny, it must be put down.