The Never Ending Story

White Whale

(I’m back after a week off including a few glorious days in Tallinn, Estonia. There’ll be an article about that trip over on Nagan of Copenhagen soon, if it’s not already there.)

We begin (as one must) with disclaimers, disclosures, confessions, and context.

I’m grateful for a lot of the things Donald Trump was able to achieve as president. I voted for a head of cabbage in 2016 but gave Trump my vote in 2020. I think his greatest contribution to America was what his presidency revealed about his opponents. I don’t think the 2020 election was “rigged” but I do think the nation was: I think the celebrated “election fortification” described by Molly Ball was the left acknowledging as much to warn against anyone ever attempting to challenge the establishment again. I think the 2020 election broke Donald Trump. I don’t think he has any chance of winning a nationwide general election against anyone. I think it would be best for him, for the Republican Party, and for America itself if he would retire from politics forever.

I’d also be personally grateful. I’m tired of all the drama—his own and that of all the forces arrayed against him. I’d like to think of him as a valiant soldier who volunteered for a dangerous but critically important mission and achieved more than anyone had thought possible, but was tragically broken by the process. It’s time to thank him for his service and retire him.

These are all things I’ve said repeatedly, in many different ways, for a very long time. I say them again here only because I don’t want my contempt for his opponents to be mistaken for any kind of support for Trump 2024.

And my contempt for his opponents is… considerable.

Trump suggests that he may soon be arrested: “He will use any charges against him as political fuel”
Sean Coogan,, March 19

Berlingske’s USA correspondent: Tuesday can be a dangerous day for America
Mikkel Danielsen,, March 18

Trump urges new protests: “I’m going to be arrested on Tuesday”
Marie Jensen, TV2 News, March 18

I don’t have it in me to go through all three articles (let alone those on other Danish media) in any kind of detail, so I’m going to take a big picture approach.

First and most importantly, look at the way the story is being framed by these three outlets.

DR’s headline tells us Trump will use any charges against him as “political fuel,” without any reference to the charges themselves. Berlingske’s headline tells us Tuesday will be a dangerous day for America with no additional context at all: its article identifies Trump as the source of that danger. TV2’s headline emphasizes Trumps call for “new” protests.

In other words, they’re all focused on Trump’s reaction to an event, and the implications of his reaction, rather than the event itself. And they’re all written as clickbait: designed to catch your attention rather than inform you what the articles are about.


(Nothing betokens serious and sober messaging like all caps.)

Even so, one would think the headlines would focus on the legitimacy of his claim that he’s facing arrest, rather than his exhortation for supporters to protest. The articles do indeed touch on that, each in their own way, even though the headlines do not.

According to DR:

At the time of writing, this has neither been confirmed nor denied by the US authorities.


Police in New York City have reportedly already prepared the day down to the last detail: Donald Trump’s Secret Service people will hand him over to the District Attorney in Manhattan. He will have his fingerprints taken. Officers will photograph him for a mugshot… According to American lawyers, Trump is exaggerating when he calls the expected procedure an “arrest”—he will only be arrested if he refuses to appear voluntarily at the district attorney’s office.

TV2 News:

According to NBC News, authorities are preparing security measures around the Manhattan Criminal Court at 100 Center Street in New York, where Donald Trump will appear in court in case he is indicted for bribing former porn model Stormy Daniels.

Donald Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina tells NBC News that the former president will follow normal procedure and turn himself in to the authorities if it ends in an indictment.

The charges against him don’t strike me as anything especially serious: in a nutshell he’s being accused of not having claimed non-disclosure contracts as campaign expenditures when the DA’s office believes he should have. Specifically, he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her mouth shut about his having had sex with her. (A contract she very obviously violated.) There may also have been payments to stripper Amy McDougal—Playboy “models” are also strippers, are they not?—but I’m not clear on that and can’t be arsed to dig into the specifics.

In the words of DR’s Lillian Kretz:

Paying “hush-money” is not in itself illegal. The problem arises if it can be proven that it was to influence the presidential election. This kind of thing should be noted as part of a campaign—it wasn’t, and there are financial limits. The payment here was way over (those limits).

If you’re going to arrest a former president for the first time in history—even if you’re just going to drag him into processing for fingerprints and a mugshot—you’d better have a damn good reason. “We think he paid these women to be silent not as a prominent businessman and celebrity, which would have been fine, but as part of his run for the presidency” doesn’t strike me as a damn good reason. It strikes me as one of those things that falls in the gray area of prosecutorial discretion.

One wonder what James Comey might respecting what a “reasonable prosecutor” would do in this case of a campaign finance regulation dispute, given his conclusion that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against Hillary Clinton for jeopardizing American national security with her “extremely careless” (and illegal) “handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

The Ahabs of the Manhattan DA’s office are determined to have their Moby Dick at any cost, however, so here we are.

The hysterical tone of these headlines has nothing to do with these facts, however, even though all three articles do a fairly decent job of laying out the facts and playing down Trump’s own hysteria. Instead, of course, the headlines are all about the last few lines of Trump’s post: “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”


At Truth Social, he calls on his followers to gather in the streets.

“Protest, take back our nation.”

The call resounds like an echo of January 6, 2021.

“Come on, it’s going to be crazy,” Trump wrote at the time, before his supporters gathered in Washington, DC and stormed Congress.

According to NBC News, authorities are preparing major security measures near the Manhattan Criminal Court at 100 Center Street in New York, where the former president will appear in court if he is indicted.


Should there be charges against the president, it is something he will use actively in his attempt to become president in the 2024 election, assesses Lillian Gjerulf Kretz, DR’s USA correspondent.

“Trump still has a significant part of the voter base, and he will use any charges against him as political fuel,” she says.


“Nonetheless, the prosecutor’s office in New York, where the case may have to stand, is in the process of security preparations,” she reports.

TV2 News:

According to NBC News, authorities are preparing security measures around the Manhattan Criminal Court at 100 Center Street in New York, where Donald Trump will appear in court in case he is indicted for bribing former porn model Stormy Daniels.


The post with the call (for protest) from Donald Trump comes a few hours after he posted new content on Friday on Facebook and YouTube, from which he has been banned since the storming of Congress on January 6, 2021.

On the one hand, one would think that having lived through the political consequences of his having called for (peaceful) protest at the Capitol on January 6, Trump wouldn’t be fool enough to step on the same rake again. On the other, one also has to remember that in that funny little realm we refer to as Reality, Trump never actually called for Congress to be stormed or endorsed violence of any kind. Calls to “take back our country!” have been made by candidates and office-holders of every political party in America, at every level, for as long as I’ve been following politics… and having just celebrated the 29th anniversary of my 29th birthday, that’s saying something.

Nor are calls to protest unusual from either side of the political divide.

The Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters explicitly called for Americans to harass members of the Trump administration, and their supporters, whenever they set foot in public—and they did. And the establishment only smiled.

At the end of the day, this whole story is sad and stupid, just one more verse in the epic saga of the Establishment versus the Dread Tyrant Trump.

The saga isn’t going to end until Trump realizes he’s lost. He’s served his purpose, he’s shown the way, he’s forced the enemies of American consitutional republicanism to break cover. The fight against authoritarian crony capitalism certainly needs to be fought, but Trump has to acknowledge that he himself is more of a liability than an asset to that fight at this point. His only remaining value to the larger struggle is to draw fire: to keep the establishment’s guns trained on him so advances can be made from other quarters.

Is that what he’s doing?


But his narcissism argues against it.

A growing number of people in American and around the world seem to recognize that our systems are badly broken and need mending. It may not yet be a majority, but it certainly seems to be approaching a critical mass. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Donald Trump for bringing the extent of the damage and the depth of the rot to our attention, but it’s past time he let us get on with the larger struggle instead of making it all about him.

And it’s also past time for his most loyal supporters to ask themselves whether they’re more interested in the man or the things he was fighting for. Do they want to fight the endemic corruption and crony capitalism and creeping authoritarianism? Or are they only interested in the showmanship of Donald Trump?

This week may give us an answer.