I am seeing a lot of conservatives hailing Mitt Romney, and tossing online tomatoes at Mike Lee and other Republicans who voted to acquit President Trump in his impeachment trial. I think there’s plenty of good arguments for voting either way, but it was obvious from the start that the Democrats had brought show-trial articles of impeachment to gain political advantage in the election. There was never really an attempt to convict the president, which would have required 19 Republican senators signing on.
Speaking of show trials, this whole macabre celebration of victory, and simultaneous heaping of scorn, reminds me of one of the greatest movies, well, ever. The Caine Mutiny is a masterpiece, based on a semi-true Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Herman Wouk, inspired by his experience in the U.S. Navy during WWII. If you haven’t seen the movie, featuring the great Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer, Van Johnson, and Fred MacMurray, go watch it tonight. Then you’ll be able to get the rest of this post.
You see, aboard the U.S.S. Caine, Captain Queeg was not the villain, the mentally ill skipper “Old Yellowstain” whose erratic commands and cracking under the stress of battle endangered his ship and crew. Sure, Queeg probably never should have gotten command of the old ship, but it was his crew who let him down. As Ferrer’s character, JAG lawyer Lt. Barney Greenwald, exposed in the film’s penultimate scene, breaking Queeg was like shooting fish in a barrel. The real villain was the crew, cowed by MacMurray’s character Mister Keefer, who brought Queeg down.
The conservatives screaming that Trump should be impeached were likely the same ones who didn’t vote for him in 2016. They were the core of the NeverTrump movement, who have pitted themselves against the president, even at the cost of their own voice within the party, and some of the good people who stand for their values.
The day Trump was inaugurated, a whole host of embedded government interests, much of the political media, and the entire Democratic Party cum progressive movement arrayed itself against him. He didn’t know Washington. He didn’t know the back-channels, the leaks, the constraints of the presidency where everything is documented and observed by many eyes and heard by many ears. From his first day, Trump’s ham-fisted administration served him poorly, because they wanted a traditional skipper and they got Queeg.
So they tried to manage him, to soothe and sideline, and protect, and educate him. Condi Rice and Robert Gates sold Trump on Rex Tillerson, over Mitt Romney, who Trump said “came straight from central casting.” It was a terrible match and they should have known better. Romney would have served Trump better, even if he disagreed with the president’s style. Now Romney is the hero to Democrats who compared him to Hitler in 2012, and to NeverTrump conservatives who thought Romney was far too liberal in the same election.
There’s a scene in The Caine Mutiny where Mister Keefer convinces Lt. Maryk (the ship’s XO) and Ensign Keith to visit Admiral Halsey to present their case that Queeg is mentally ill. Maryk has been keeping a journal, at Keefer’s suggestion, detailing Queeg’s instabilities. As the admiral’s aide tells them Halsey will see them, Keefer gets cold feet. He knew he would face court-martial for hurling wild accusations against a senior officer. He turned yellow when faced with doing the right thing, the right way.
Then, when Queeg freezes on the bridge during a storm, it’s Keefer who encourages Maryk to relieve his skipper–an act of mutiny. Then it’s Keefer in the courtroom who stabs his fellow crew in the back.
President Trump’s failings have not endangered America, at home or abroad. He has not stumbled us into war. He has not directly incited race riots. At worst, Trump’s penchant for awful tweets and loose-cannon remarks has caused his immigration policy to founder on the rocks.
Trump’s incessant lies have weakened his ability to steer the nation, and his inexplicable words of admiration for certain murderous despots have not inspired liberty around the world. This is the consequence of a transactional “America First” worldview. It’s not my first choice for a president’s agenda for America. But it’s way, way better than the nothing-special-about-America global apologists and the progressive secular social engineers the Democrats have cultivated.
The conservative NeverTrumpers are our Keefers. They root against the man they should be crewing for. When leakers and the mainstream media publish salacious details of Trump’s erratic behavior, the Keefers erupt with joy. But as Lt. Greenwald observed, none of the crew supported Queeg when he tried to reach out for help. They let him fail.
No serious person in politics expected Trump to come in to Washington and be a perfect politician, or in any way “presidential.” He has been a bull in a china shop, and his cabinet has not served to engender his trust to this point. They’ve pushed him into paranoia and isolation, just like Queeg’s crew did to him. They’re praying for him to face a real storm, and then, for him to fail so they can relieve him.
I think it’s horrendous that people who consider themselves children of grace would pray for our president to fail, for the Keefers to win. I think we owe Trump at least the support a good crew gives to a skipper–even Queeg.
Trump has survived this show-trial of an impeachment. He will emerge even more isolated and suspicious than he began his term. It is his election to lose, and he very well may win another four years. It’s time for conservatives who want to “save the country” to support their skipper, even if that means searching for missing strawberries at 1am.
And if you’re going to fault Republican senators for not removing Trump in his show trial, then also go after his cabinet and Vice President Mike Pence who didn’t remove him via the 25th Amendment. Go after the GOP, which let Trump consolidate his political power in 2016. Go after Hillary Clinton, who supported Trump as the nominee for cold, calculating scheming as the most beatable candidate. Go after Hillary for running such a poor campaign that she lost.
Go after the Democrats in Congress, who cynically rushed the entire impeachment, including vacating subpoenas that were being challenged in court, skipping witnesses, and assembling a leak-filled pile of half-investigated facts from which two weak articles of impeachment were drafted according to a political schedule.
Go after Barack Obama, James Comey and the FBI, who set up Crossfire Hurricane to destroy Trump before he took office. Go after the 62 million voters who cast their ballot for Trump because his optimism about America is more energizing than the Democrats’ self-hatred. Go after pro-life marchers who “normalize” Trump by having him address them and speak of the sanctity of unborn babies.
Go after the stock market, which has betrayed America by soaring to record heights and making Trump look good. Go after corporations and small businesses which have hired every qualified worker than can find. All these things reflect too well on Trump, and therefore must be bad for America according to the Keefers who only want the skipper removed.
We’d be better served if those Keefers who only focus on the bad things Trump says or does would either join the Democrats and be done with it, or stand up as conservatives and support Trump at least for the things he does worth supporting.
Or better yet, don’t be a Keefer at all.